Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia

Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia
Brave, humble and compassionate, Harriet Sandys touches our hearts in this moving true story. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 October 2018

Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia

Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia

BEIRUT: This evocative title, which conjures up images of the iconic Silk Road, is only a foretaste of what you experience in the book. “Beyond That Last Blue Mountain” recalls the extraordinary journey of Harriet Sandys. At 19, realizing she was completely unqualified, she wondered what a girl from her background could do. Hearing about her brother’s trip to Afghanistan and reading Wilfred Thesiger’s “Desert, Marsh and Mountain” and Eric Newby’s “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” fired her imagination, and she decided to make that journey.
Four years later, in 1977, a letter inviting her to visit the archaeological sites of Afghanistan changed the course of her life.
After learning how to repair oriental carpets, she worked for the Afghan Refugee Information Network and decided to assess the situation of Afghan refugees at the North-West Frontier. Touched by their extraordinary stoicism, she organized exhibitions of Afghan embroideries and carpets and opened a shop.
However, many of the NGO carpet-weaving programs produced rugs of inferior quality which were unsellable. Harriet wanted to find an alternative project that women could do at home. The Ikat silk-weaving project was born. Over 12 years, she traveled through Pakistan, setting up the project despite problems and setbacks. She miraculously recovered from bacterial meningitis and pursued her humanitarian aid projects in Iraqi Kurdistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After her departure, the silk-weaving project, contrary to all expectations, thrived thanks to the courage of Saleh, a 17-year-old boy she had trained in Peshawar. He brought the project back to Afghanistan and became a master weaver. The Afghan fashion event held in London in 2011 highlighted one of his creations, a stunning dark-green silk evening dress decorated with calligraphy.
“Oriot,” as she was affectionately called, defied danger, traveling in and around war zones with almost no financial support.
“Had I pondered too long and too hard on all the dangers and difficulties I might have encountered … I would have remained a secretary, regretting missed opportunities,” she said. Brave, humble and compassionate, Harriet Sandys touches our hearts in this moving true story.


What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade
Updated 28 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

What We Are Reading Today: Winners and Losers; The Psychology of Foreign Trade

Author: Diana C. Mutz

Winners and Losers challenges conventional wisdom about how American citizens form opinions on international trade. While dominant explanations in economics emphasize personal self-interest— and whether individuals gain or lose financially as a result of trade — this book takes a psychological approach, demonstrating how people view the complex world of international trade through the lens of interpersonal relations.

Drawing on psychological theories of preference formation as well as original surveys and experiments, Diana Mutz finds that in contrast to the economic view of trade as cooperation for mutual benefit, many Americans view trade as a competition between the United States and other countries—a contest of us versus them. These people favor trade as long as they see Americans as the “winners” in these interactions, viewing trade as a way to establish dominance over foreign competitors. For others, trade is a means of maintaining more peaceful relations between countries. 

Just as individuals may exchange gifts to cement relationships, international trade is a tie that binds nations together in trust and cooperation.

Winners and Losers reveals how people’s orientations toward in-groups and out-groups play a central role in influencing how they think about trade with foreign countries, and shows how a better understanding of the psychological underpinnings of public opinion can lead to lasting economic and societal benefits.


What We Are Reading Today: Hoax by Brian Stelter

What We Are Reading Today: Hoax by Brian Stelter
Updated 27 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Hoax by Brian Stelter

What We Are Reading Today: Hoax by Brian Stelter

In Hoax, CNN anchor and chief media correspondent Brian Stelter tells the twisted story of the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News. From the moment Trump glided down the golden escalator to announce his candidacy in the 2016 presidential election to his acquittal on two articles of impeachment in early 2020, Fox hosts spread his lies and smeared his enemies. 

Stelter spoke with over 250 current and former Fox insiders in an effort to understand the inner workings of Rupert Murdoch’s multibillion-dollar media empire. 

At the center of the story lies Sean Hannity, a college dropout who, following the death of Fox News mastermind Roger Ailes, reigns supreme at the network that pays him $30 million a year. 

Including never before reported details, Hoax exposes the media personalities who, though morally bankrupt, profit outrageously by promoting the President’s propaganda and radicalizing the American right. It is a book for anyone who reads the news and wonders: How did this happen?


What We Are Reading Today: Better to Have Gone by Akash Kapur

What We Are Reading Today: Better to Have Gone by Akash Kapur
Updated 26 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Better to Have Gone by Akash Kapur

What We Are Reading Today: Better to Have Gone by Akash Kapur

Better to Have Gone is a nonfiction book about the human cost of our age-old quest for a more perfect world.

Author Akash Kapur was very articulate, and it was clear that he spent a great deal of time researching this book. 

He also has a number of photographs in this book about a village in India called Auroville as well which were a real delight. 

“This is a haunting, heartbreaking story, deeply researched and lucidly told, with an almost painful emotional honesty — the use of present tense weaving a kind of trance,” Amy Waldman said in a review for The New York Times. 

Better to Have Gone “ends with an unexpected lightness, even transcendence, as Kapur helps us see what Auroville has given him, gives him still, despite the pain,”  Waldman said.

“In his descriptions of its landscape, made so lush by those early pioneers, as well as of the sphere at its heart, he conveys the internal concord and harmony, the peace, that he finds there.”

Waldman is the author of two novels: A Door in the Earth and The Submission.


What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham
Updated 25 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

What We Are Reading Today: Beethoven Hero by Scott Burnham

Bringing together reception history, music analysis and criticism, the history of music theory, and the philosophy of music, Beethoven Hero explores the nature and persistence of Beethoven’s heroic style. What have we come to value in this music, asks Scott Burnham, and why do generations of critics and analysts hear it in much the same way?

 Specifically, what is it that fosters the intensity of listener engagement with the heroic style, the often overwhelming sense of identification with its musical process?

Starting with the story of heroic quest heard time and again in the first movement of the Eroica Symphony, Burnham suggests that Beethoven’s music matters profoundly to its listeners because it projects an empowering sense of self, destiny, and freedom, while modeling ironic self consciousness.

In addition to thus identifying Beethoven’s music as an overarching expression of values central to the age of Goethe and Hegel, the author describes and then critiques the process by which the musical values of the heroic style quickly became the controlling model of compositional logic in Western music criticism and analysis.


What We Are Reading Today: Theory and Credibility

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Updated 24 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Theory and Credibility

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  • This authoritative book covers the conceptual foundations and practicalities of both model building and research design, providing a new framework to link theory and empirics

Authors: Scott Ashworth, Christopher R.Berry and Ethan Bueno de Mesquita

The credibility revolution, with its emphasis on empirical methods for causal inference, has led to concerns among scholars that the canonical questions about politics and society are being neglected because they are no longer deemed answerable. Theory and Credibility stakes out an opposing view—presenting a new vision of how, working together, the credibility revolution and formal theory can advance social scientific inquiry.
This authoritative book covers the conceptual foundations and practicalities of both model building and research design, providing a new framework to link theory and empirics. Drawing on diverse examples from political science, it presents a typology of the rich set of interactions that are possible between theory and empirics. This typology opens up new ways for scholars to make progress on substantive questions, and enables researchers from disparate traditions to gain a deeper appreciation for each other’s work and why it matters.