Rain: A Natural and Cultural History

rain

by Cynthia Barnett

Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive.
 
It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world’s water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain.

Cynthia Barnett’s Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River. It offers a glimpse of our “founding forecaster,” Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey’s mopes and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume.

Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is a book for everyone who has ever experienced it.

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Freedom, Inc. and Black Political Empowerment

freedom

by Micah W. Kubic

Much has been written about black urban empowerment and about the candidates—particularly the winning candidates—who are the public face of such shifts in power. Authors invariably mention the important role played by black political organizations in electing black officials or organizing communities, but Micah W. Kubic goes further, making, for the first time, one such organization the focus of a book-length study. Kubic tells the story of black political empowerment in Kansas City through the prism of Freedom, Inc., the nation’s oldest existing black political organization.

Using interviews and observation of participants as well as archival research, Kubic offers historical and political analysis of Freedom, Inc. from its founding in 1962 through its role in municipal elections of 2007. Kubic asserts that strong local organizations are living, dynamic organisms and that they, rather than charismatic candidates or interracial alliances, are the crucial players in both determining political outcomes and advancing black interests in urban areas.

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From #BlackLivesMatter to Black liberation

blaklives

by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The eruption of mass protests in the wake of the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have challenged the impunity with which officers of the law carry out violence against Black people and punctured the illusion of a postracial America. The Black Lives Matter movement has awakened a new generation of activists.

In this stirring and insightful analysis, activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and persistence of structural inequality such as mass incarceration and Black unemployment. In this context, she argues that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation.

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Alexandrian Summer (EBOOK)

summer

by Yitzhak Gormezano Goren, Yardenne Greenspan (Translator), Andre Aciman (Introduction)

Alexandrian Summer is the story of two Jewish families living their frenzied last days in the doomed cosmopolitan social whirl of Alexandria just before fleeing Egypt for Israel in 1951. The conventions of the Egyptian upper-middle class are laid bare in this dazzling novel, which exposes startling sexual hypocrisies and portrays a now vanished polyglot world of horse-racing, seaside promenades, and elegant night clubs. Hamdi-Ali senior is an old-time patriarch with more than a dash of strong Turkish blood. His handsome elder son, a promising horse jockey, can’t afford sexual frustration, as it leads him to overeat and imperil his career, but the woman he lusts after won’t let him get beyond undoing a few buttons. Victor, the younger son, takes his pleasure with other boys. But the true heroine of the story—richly evoked in a pungent upstairs/downstairs mix—is the raucous, seductive city of Alexandria itself. Published in Hebrew in 1978, Alexandrian Summer appears now in translation for the first time.

Yitzhak Gormezano Goren was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1941 and immigrated to Israel as a child. A playwright and novelist, Goren studied English and French literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University. In 1982, he cofounded the Bimat Kedem Theater.

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