Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What rhymes with vacation?


What do you get when a woman who's obsessed with death and U.S. history goes on vacation? This wacky, weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Vowell (The Partly Cloudy Patriot), a contributor to NPR's This American Life and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in The Incredibles, takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln's skull are on display.

An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each — and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect.

Vowell also draws frequent connections between past events and the present, noting similarities between McKinley's preemptive war against Cuba and the Philippines and the current war in Iraq. This is history at its most morbid and most fascinating and, fortunately, one needn't share Vowell's interest in the macabre to thoroughly enjoy this unusual tour."

Please join us on Sunday March 16 at 2pm to discuss the book Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell at Maxfield's House of Caffeine in the Mission district.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Story of Survival

We all seem to agree that this book was an easy read in spite of its heavy topic and that the simple yet compelling writing facilitated our access to Cambodian history, awareness and to a story of basic survival. We raised the question of how does a country survive and heal itself after going through what Luong Ung went through in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over.

Her story and of her family was full of courage at the same time unpredictable. We already know what will happen to the father (thanks to the title), so we're already getting prepared for that event when we start reading the book. Unfortunately, her father's death is only one of the many tragic turns Luong faces as she finds her own way to survive this war.

The author wrote her memoir to share her experience as a way to bring awareness and expose what many Cambodians went through during this time. We felt we needed to continue this awareness, as something we can take away from this book.

One of our book club members has shared an article that brings an update of some justice coming to Cambodia. Please read the following article:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tough Love in February?

This month WOW Exchange Book Group is choosing to read the story of Loung Ung through her memoir "First they killed my father; A daugther of Cambodia remembers."

Here's a brief description of the book:

In 1975, Luong Ung was the five-year-old child of a large, affluent family living in Phnom Penh, the cosmopolitan Cambodian capital. As extraordinarily well-educated Chinese-Cambodians, with the father a government agent, her family was in great danger when the Khmer Rouge took over the country and throughout Pol Pot's barbaric regime. Her parents' strength and her father's knowledge of Khmer Rouge ideology enabled the family to survive together for a while, posing as illiterate peasants, moving first between villages, and then from one work camp to another.

Her restrained, unsentimental account of the four years she spent surviving the regime before escaping with a brother to Thailand and eventually the United States is astonishing--not just because of the tragedies, but also because of the immense love for her family that Ung holds onto, no matter how she is brutalized. Skillfully constructed, this account also stands as an eyewitness history of the period, because as a child Ung was so aware of her surroundings, and because as an adult writer she adds details to clarify the family's moves and separations. Thirty-three years after the rise of the Khmer Rouge, this powerful account is a triumph.

Come join the discussion at Javaholic in the Inner Richmond neighborhood (Balboa St. on the corner of 6th Ave.) on Sunday February 24 at 2pm.