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Book Nook - 28-05-2018

Monday, May 28, 2018

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

The Unfairness Of It
This book is not hot off the press, but better read late than never.  Jodi Picoult’s brilliant novel takes its title from the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Small Great Things confronts racism head on, even the hidden prejudices often ignored by those who think they are not racist like those Neo-Nazi skinheads. The white lawyer who takes up the case of a black woman wrongly accused, never noticed that when she exits a store, she is not searched, but her client bags are always examined. The implication being that black people are more likely to be shoplifters.

The protagonist, Ruth Jefferson, the daughter of a maid who worked all her life for a white family, believes she has risen above her race and social status when she studies hard to become a labor and delivery nurse. She is proud of her efficiency and never questions why there are no other black nurses at the hospital where she works.

Ruth’s husband was killed while serving in Afghanistan, but she sees to it that her son, Edison, goes to college and concentrates on his studies. They live in a white area of Connecticut and Ruth is sure she earned the privilege of equality by the sheer dint of her education and achievements. But the edifice she has built for herself and Edison proves to be fragile.  First white supremacists Turk and Brittany Bauer refuse to allow Ruth to touch their newborn son, and the hospital agrees. Ruth is hurt and shocked, but worse is to come. When as per orders, she hesitates just for a moment in looking after the infant, he dies. The angry parents accuse Ruth of murder. She is arrested and dragged from her home in her night clothes, like a common criminal and her home trashed by vindictive white cops.

Ruth cannot afford to hire a lawyer so she is assigned a public attorney, Kennedy, an earnest and well-meaning white woman, who, till she takes up Ruth’s case, never realised how deep racism runs in America. Ruth herself balks at taking the support offered by a black power group, but when she is increasingly isolated, it is a kind of solace to know that somebody cares—even if they are media-baiting strangers.

Turk Bauer is a total creep, who hates blacks because brother was killed in an accident involving an African American driver.  He joins a white power group and turns into a hardliner. But his grief over the death of his son and the fear of losing his wife are genuine. Picoult does not discriminate between black emotions and white.

Small Great Things tends to be too preachy, sags after a point and has an overly melodramatic climax. But it is an important novel in a continuing dialogue about contentious race relations in the US.
 
Small Great Things
By Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Ballantine
Pages: 480

Excerpt of Small Great Things
The miracle happened on West Seventy-fourth Street, in the home where Mama worked. It was a big brownstone encircled by a wrought-iron fence, and overlooking either side of the ornate door were gargoyles, their granite faces carved from my nightmares. They terrified me, so I didn’t mind the fact that we always entered through the less-impressive side door, whose keys Mama kept on a ribbon in her purse.

Mama had been working for Sam Hallowell and his family since before my sister and I were born. You may not have recognized his name, but you would have known him the minute he said hello. He had been the unmistakable voice in the mid-1960s who announced before every show: The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC! In 1976, when the miracle happened, he was the network’s head of programming. The doorbell beneath those gargoyles was the famously pitched three-note chime everyone associates with NBC. Sometimes, when I came to work with my mother, I’d sneak outside and push the button and hum along.

The reason we were with Mama that day was because it was a snow day. School was canceled, but we were too little to stay alone in our apartment while Mama went to work—which she did, through snow and sleet and probably also earthquakes and Armageddon. She muttered, stuffing us into our snowsuits and boots, that it didn’t matter if she had to cross a blizzard to do it, but God forbid Ms. Mina had to spread the peanut butter on her own sandwich bread. In fact the only time I remember Mama taking time off work was twenty-five years later, when she had a double hip replacement, generously paid for by the Hallowells. She stayed home for a week, and even after that, when it didn’t quite heal right and she insisted on returning to work, Mina found her tasks to do that kept her off her feet. But when I was little, during school vacations and bouts of fever and snow days like this one, Mama would take us with her on the B train downtown.

Mr. Hallowell was away in California that week, which happened often, and which meant that Ms. Mina and Christina needed Mama even more. So did Rachel and I, but we were better at taking care of ourselves, I suppose, than Ms. Mina was.

Short Takes
Best-selling author Dr Mark Hyman has written “a no-nonsense guide to achieving optimal weight and lifelong health,” and it quite an eye opener. Says the summary, “Did you know that porridge isn't actually a healthy way to start the day? That milk doesn't build bones, and eggs aren't the devil? In WTF Should I Eat? - Dr Hyman looks at every food group and explains what we've gotten wrong, revealing which foods nurture our health and which pose a threat. He also explains the crucial role food plays in functional medicine and how food systems and policies affect our environmental and personal health.

“With myth-busting insights, easy-to-understand science, and delicious, wholesome recipes in every chapter, WTF Should I Eat? is an invaluable resource for cooking, eating and living well.”
 
Food: WTF Should I Eat
By Dr Mark Hyman
Publisher: Hachette
Pages:  388
 
Ramya Ramamurthy’s well-researched book is about, “What happens when prominent brands: Send faulty products into the market? Defy governmental regulations? Back the wrong marketing message? Have management spats in public? Or simply fail to anticipate a major trend? Over the years, prominent brands in India across product categories, both home-grown and multinational, have tackled crises – some unexpected and some self-inflicted, but each a defining factor in shaping a company’s future. In a first-of-its-kind narrative, Rebuild brings together the stories behind some of India’s biggest businesses that dealt with potential disaster and emerged on the other side – either victorious or wiser. Digging deep into the crisis management strategies adopted by companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Kingfisher, Tata Sons, Indian Premier League, Facebook, Uber, Nokia, Nestlé Maggi Noodles and several more, it analyses the steps that different organizations have taken to minimize damage to their brand, and describes how (if at all) they recovered. Featuring interviews with top management executives as well as expert brand-watchers, Rebuild closely examines the circumstances that cause brands to falter – faulty products, leadership changes, disastrous sales cycles and competition activity, among others – and provides invaluable insights that may serve as cautionary tales for organizations, both small and large.”

Rebuild
By Ramya Ramamurthy
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 420
 
Vijay Kumar, writes a fan tribute to Dev Anand. According to the summary, the book is, “A journey which resonates with millions of aspiring actors and artists. Vijay Kumar meets and shares the screen with his childhood hero The Legend Of Indian Cinema Dev Anand. Taking you on an adventure from his humble beginnings in New Delhi, India, later immigrating to London, England, before returning to Mumbai, India to pursue a career in the largest film industry on the planet. Vijay takes us on a passionate, personal and enthralling journey of perseverance. Through persistence and sheer ambition, Vijay ultimately established a trusting relationship and close personal bond with the legend Dev Anand. An insight into the life in front of and behind the camera, their friendship spans over 30 years and has endured the test of time and continues today with the Anand family. Vijay closely tell us of his accounts through an emotional journey as he documents the sacrifices it takes to make it in an unforgiving and fast paced film industry. Highlighting the ups and downs of his own journey while giving an insight into the film and media industry that claims the dreams of many each year. Profoundly moving, insightful and ultimately full of hope, Dev Saab gets to the very heart of what it means to visualize, believe and receive. A phenomenal memoir - the first of its kind. It is both a heart-rending tribute to the man Dev Anand once was, and a brave account of the passions and determinations that can take you from continent to continent to follow your dreams.”

Dev Saab: A Journey With The Legend
By Vijay Kumar
Publisher: Notion Press
Pages: 217

According to a note on Safran, Aishwarya Nir’s book of poems, “Safran is a book after one’s heart. It is not just any anthology that speaks about the myriad matters of the heart. It is the heart of the matter. The book of verse is calledSafran, as it is an anglo-phonetic enunciation of the exotic saffron that is not only rare and priceless, but also has a distinct personality of its own…

“The book has been divided into three sections- Love, Live and Imagine. Each section speaks of the raw emotions attached to these words. Love borrows from the various perspectives that add a layer to the emotion that is called Love. It is a collaborated voice of different experiences and emotions that people have attached to Love. Some happy, some not so happy. But true in its very essence.” Safran

By Aishwarya Nir
Publisher: Leadstart
Pages: 88

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