BOOK REVIEW: Nine Palestinian refugees tell Shatila’s stories in this innovative book

BOOK REVIEW: Nine Palestinian refugees tell Shatila’s stories in this innovative book
Updated 17 July 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Nine Palestinian refugees tell Shatila’s stories in this innovative book

BOOK REVIEW: Nine Palestinian refugees tell Shatila’s stories in this innovative book
  • “Shatila Stories” is a collaborative work of fiction written by nine refugees from the Shatila camp in Beirut

CHICAGO: A novel born in extraordinary circumstances, “Shatila Stories” is a collaborative work of fiction written by nine refugees from the Shatila camp in Beirut that was commissioned by Peirene Press.

The authors, ranging from the ages of 20 to 43, captivate the reader by painting a picture of muddied walkways, crumbling walls and desperate faces.

From beginning to end, the phenomenal words of Omar Khaled Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safa Khaled Algharbaqi, Omar Abdellatif Alndaf, Rayan Mohamad Sukkar, Safiya Badran, Fatima Omar Ghazawi, Samih Mahmoud and Hiba Mareb take the reader on a powerful journey. 

“Shatila Stories” begins with the character of Reham, who is leaving Damascus for Beirut. She and her family look to Shatila as a refuge from the strife at the Yarmouk camp in Syria. Reham’s story is embedded in spirituality and faith, a strength that drives many of the book’s characters. After Reham, the reader is told the story of Jafra, named after the revolutionary Palestinian fighter who was killed in an airstrike in 1976. 

Evil lurks within the boundaries of the Shatila camp — children are exploited, disease is rampant and the methods used to safeguard residents are sometimes more harmful than helpful.

The writers have done a brilliant job of conveying the constricted yet vibrant lives led by many in the camp, as they wander alleyways that are “narrow yet wide enough to hold a thousand stories.”

The effort to publish nine refugee writers began with Mieke Ziervogel, publisher of Peirene Press, who journeyed from London to Beirut with editor Suhir Helal after getting in contact with an NGO that runs a community center in the camp. 

After handpicking the writers during a three-day workshop, the manuscripts were received and translator Nasha Gowanlock got to work. It was a Herculean effort that reminds us that storytelling may be an art, but everyone has a story to tell.


What We Are Reading Today: First Steps by Jeremy DeSilva

What We Are Reading Today: First Steps by Jeremy DeSilva
Updated 23 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: First Steps by Jeremy DeSilva

What We Are Reading Today: First Steps by Jeremy DeSilva

 

Jeremy DeSilva writes First Steps with a good sense of humor and a conversational tone.

First Steps examines how walking upright helped us rise above all over species on this planet.

“Moving from developmental psychology labs to ancient fossil sites throughout Africa and Eurasia, DeSilva brings to life our adventure walking on two legs. First Steps examines how walking upright helped us rise above all over species on this planet,” said a review in goodreads.com.

First Steps includes an eight-page color photo insert.

Rebecca Wragg Sykes said in a review for The New York Times: “DeSilva proposes that “our bipedalism is at the root of our uniqueness as a species, and the book is carefully structured, neatly braiding his own research with the wider narrative and history of human evolution.”

The review said that First Steps “is not just a big-picture chronicle. It’s full of very human, intimate details, in the past and present.”

The critic is the author of Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art — a New York Times Notable Book in 2020.


What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense

What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense
Updated 22 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense

What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense

Edited by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler

In Dollars and Sense, bestselling author and behavioral economist Dan Ariely teams up with financial comedian and writer Jeff Kreisler to challenge many of our most basic assumptions about the precarious relationship between our brains and our money. 

In doing so, they undermine many of personal finance’s most sacred beliefs and explain how we can override some of our own instincts to make better financial choices.

Exploring a wide range of everyday topics—from the lure of pain-free spending with credit cards to the  pitfalls of household budgeting to the seductive power of holiday sales — Ariely and Kreisler demonstrate how our misplaced confidence in our spending habits frequently leads us astray, costing us more than we realize, whether it’s the real value of the time we spend driving forty-five minutes to save $10 or our inability to properly assess what the things we buy are actually worth. Together,  Ariely and Kreisler reveal the emotional forces working against us and how we can counteract them.


What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Updated 21 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

In “Rationality: From AI to Zombies,” Eliezer Yudkowsky explains the science underlying human irrationality with a mix of fables, argumentative essays, and personal vignettes. 

These eye-opening accounts of how the mind works (and how, all too often, it doesn’t!) are then put to the test through some genuinely difficult puzzles: Computer scientists’ debates about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), physicists’ debates about the relationship between the quantum and classical worlds, philosophers’ debates about the metaphysics of zombies and the nature of morality, and many more. 

In the process, the book delves into the human significance of correct reasoning more deeply than you’ll find in any conventional textbook on cognitive science or philosophy of mind.

This book compiles six volumes of Yudkowsky’s essays  into a single electronic tome. Collectively, these sequences of linked essays serve as a rich and lively introduction to the science  — and the art — of human rationality.


What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan

What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan
Updated 20 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan

What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan argues in “The Case Against Education” that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity — in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. 

Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Caplan shows how the labor market values grades over knowledge, and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers.  He explains why graduation is our society’s top conformity signal, and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. 

Romantic notions about education being “good for the soul” must yield to careful research and common sense — The Case against Education points the way.


What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Updated 19 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Minor Feelings is a thought-provoking, insightful, smart collection of essays that delve into Asian American history, identity and psychology. 

“By blending history and cultural criticism with stories from her own past, this book highlights the complexities of being Asian in America,” said a review published in goodreads.com.

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. 

The book “traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and art-making, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth,” said the review.

Park Hong “wrote this book with courage and all her heart — exposing her feelings with honesty and wit. Her writing is incredible and this is a true masterpiece,” the review added. 

“She reckons with her identity as an Asian American while exploring larger themes of unity, art, friendship, mental health and much more. Her poeticism comes through in the beautiful writing.”