PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS YOU TO BE EMPATHETIC LIKE ATTICUS FINCH. DON'T.

PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS YOU TO BE EMPATHETIC LIKE ATTICUS FINCH. DON'T.

In his farewell address, President Obama invoked the glorified version of To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch who has been incorrectly read as a civil rights hero for decades. 

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ALIGNED READING, DECEMBER 2016

THE SILENCING OF WRITERS IN TURKEY by ELIF SHAFAK

"Silence is a strange thing, a gooey, sticky substance that sours the longer you keep it inside your mouth, like a gum gone rotten without your being aware. And it carries a contagion: strangely, silence loves company. It is easier to remain silent when others, too, do the same. Silence hates individuality. Silence hates solitude."

AFTER BREXIT, WILL THE NOVEL SUFFER? BY TIM PARKS

"Like the jackal, the writer feeds on corpses. Our literary culture begins with the carnage of the 'Iliad.' It proceeds with such savage tales as Aeschylus’ 'Oresteia,' the 'Aeneid,'  'Beowulf,' with the sins and torments of Dante’s 'Inferno,' the violence of 'Tamburlaine' and 'Macbeth.'  'War and Peace' speaks for itself. Likewise 'Crime and Punishment.' Where would Hemingway be without his World War I experiences, without the bullfights and the hunting parties? How could Curzio Malaparte have written the extraordinary 'Kaputt' without his time on Hitler’s Eastern Front? Even where the conflict is less bloody it can nevertheless be extremely cruel: 'Madame Bovary.' 'The Good Soldier.'  'Women in Love.'  'The Trial.' Long before funding, fiction feeds on strife."

ON THE DEMOCRATS’ FAILURE AND OUR FUTURE by VIET THANH NGUYEN 

"Here’s what I have to say to American liberals and leftists: instead of listening to the strategists, who don’t believe it’s possible to dramatically change our society, can we finally be bold and listen to the artists and the outsiders and the radicals and the freaks and the avant-garde and the base and the youth and the anarchists and all those who don't want to do business as usual with the limousine liberalism of both the elite Democrats and Republicans? Can we listen to the dreamers instead of the doubters?"

EGYPTIAN NOVELIST AHMED NAJI, JAILED OVER CONTENT OF HIS NOVEL, TO BE TEMPORARY RELEASED 

“An appeals court in Egypt on Sunday ordered that novelist Ahmed Naji be released pending appeal of his two-year sentence for ‘violating public modesty’ after excerpts from his book that were printed in a state-funded magazine gave a complainant ‘heart palpitations, sickness, and a drop in blood pressure.’”

STILL PUZZLED BY THE ELECTION? AUTHORS PRESCRIBE FICTION FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING

"'It's really the best technology we have to get inside another person's mind,' Jennifer Haigh says. 'There is no better way to see through somebody else's eyes than by reading fiction. So I think in a moment like right now, after we've just experienced this very divisive election, which seems to me like the ultimate failure of empathy, that now more than ever it's important for us to read searchingly, to read about people who are nothing like ourselves.'"

JADE CHANG: ‘I WANTED TO WRITE A DIFFERENT TYPE OF IMMIGRATION STORY’

“‘I remember thinking there’s another story here that I really wanted to tell – a story set at a point when it was all going to change. I wanted to write about fracture, but I also wanted to write a different type of immigrant story: one that I hadn’t seen before.’”

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FOR ZADIE SMITH, THE CLOUDS HAVE ROLLED IN OVER MULTICULTURALISM

FOR ZADIE SMITH, THE CLOUDS HAVE ROLLED IN OVER MULTICULTURALISM

“On November 10 The New York Times reported that nearly seven in ten Republicans prefer America as it was in the 1950s,” Smith said, “A nostalgia of course entirely unavailable to a person like me, for in that period I could not vote, marry my husband, have my children, work in the university I work in, or live in my neighborhood.” 

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IN REMEMBERANCE OF A NOVELIST WHO TAUGHT ACROSS RACIAL LINES

IN REMEMBERANCE OF A NOVELIST WHO TAUGHT ACROSS RACIAL LINES

After a year and a half of unemployment, E.R. Braithwaite decided to try teaching and is posted to one of the worst schools in London’s East End -- and even there was confronted by the specter of racism. The experience became the subject of his novel, To Sir, With Love.

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FOUR POEMS FOR YOUR POST-ELECTION FEELINGS

FOUR POEMS FOR YOUR POST-ELECTION FEELINGS

The election that declared Republican Donald Trump president-elect on Tuesday has been the most divisive in recent history. Here are four poems that cut across some of the main issues that have emerged in the face off between he and Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton. 

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TRUMP, TRUTH, AND ALL THE KING'S MEN

TRUMP, TRUTH, AND ALL THE KING'S MEN

Like the rising demogogue at the heart of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All The King's Men, Trump understands that he is liberated from the burden of fact just so long as he continues to depict a reality that renders as True. 

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HOW A STEINBECK NOVEL FORETOLD TRUMP'S AMERICA

HOW A STEINBECK NOVEL FORETOLD TRUMP'S AMERICA

The Winter of Our Discontent is marked by the same sort of nationalism that has been given pride of place on the electoral stage. At the close of the first black president’s tenure, there has been a heightening of hate. The staggering reinvigoration of white supremacy--let’s call it like it is--is a response what some commentators have observed as a pushback against President Obama as a symbol for racial advancement. The racist underpinnings of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign are, for some, a way to set back the “rightful” order of this country -- you know, to “make America great again.” 

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(3+7) (Q&A) ON LANGSTON HUGHES' SONG FOR AMERICA, SEXUALITY, AND IMPACT ON BLACK LIVES MATTER

(3+7) (Q&A) ON LANGSTON HUGHES' SONG FOR AMERICA, SEXUALITY, AND IMPACT ON BLACK LIVES MATTER

As outrage over the killings of unarmed black men by white police hours plays again rattles the nation, Langston Hughes’ poetry of protest has become only more prescient. 

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IS 'THE HANDMAID'S TALE' A PROPHESY FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE?

IS 'THE HANDMAID'S TALE' A PROPHESY FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE?

Margaret Atwood's 30-year-old novel sheds a dark light on today's attacks against women from how rape cases are handled to allegations against Planned Parenthood.

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(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET DUNYA MIKHAIL ON THE WOMEN HELD CAPTIVE BY ISIS, REFUGEES, AND CENSORSHIP

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET DUNYA MIKHAIL ON THE WOMEN HELD CAPTIVE BY ISIS, REFUGEES, AND CENSORSHIP

Dunya Mikhail returned to her home country of Iraq after 20 years in the United States to understand the lives of women who were held captive by ISIS. Their stories are the subject of her latest book. 

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PEAK OF GREATNESS: ON THE AFTERLIVES OF OLYMPIANS

PEAK OF GREATNESS: ON THE AFTERLIVES OF OLYMPIANS

With so much focused on the time between the opening ceremony and the podium, how could becoming a regular person again feel like anything but failure? 

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FOR QUEER MUSLIMS, ISLAMIC POETRY REPRESENTS SOLACE AND ACCEPTANCE

FOR QUEER MUSLIMS, ISLAMIC POETRY REPRESENTS SOLACE AND ACCEPTANCE

Given the prevalence of queer perspectives and homosexual references in Islamic poetry, it’s hugely ironic that LGBTQ Muslims around the world struggle to live out their sexual and gender identities.

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JOY HARJO, NATIONAL PARKS, AND THE 'BEGINNING AND END' OF RECOGNIZING TRIBAL HISTORIES

JOY HARJO, NATIONAL PARKS, AND THE 'BEGINNING AND END' OF RECOGNIZING TRIBAL HISTORIES

Although every National Park was once inhabited or used by Native people, their stories are glaringly absent in this year's centennial celebrations of the National Parks Service as “America’s best idea.” Poet, musician, and member of the Mvskoke Nation, Joy Harjo takes the United States' limited account for tribal histories to task in her poem, "Someone Talking." 

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5 NOVELS THAT SHOW WHY ATTACKS ON GAY CLUBS ARE SO DEVASTATING

5 NOVELS THAT SHOW WHY ATTACKS ON GAY CLUBS ARE SO DEVASTATING

The attack on the Orlando, Florida gay club Pulse was not just a violation of a safe space, but a desecration of a place of celebration for a community still engaged in very real battles against marginalization, discrimination, and all out violence. These five novels show the importance of such venues to the LGBT community and offer a glimpse of just what was lost along with 49 lives in the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history.

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ALIGNED READING, FEBRUARY 2016 EDITION

"ONE MAN'S IMPOSSIBLE QUEST TO READ THE WORLD," BY KARAN MAHAJAN

"LAHORE LITERARY FESTIVAL -- A SAFE PLACE FOR DANGEROUS IDEAS," BY CLAIRE ARMISTEAD

"COVER STORY: THE HEADSCARF, MODERN TURKEY, AND ME," BY ELIF BATUMAN 

"POP IDOLS," BY KAMILA SHAMSIE

"FRIDAY NIGHTS WITH BOKO HARAM," BY ELIZA GRISWOLD 

"IS LAGOS ABOUT TO 'SPOIL?'" BY CHIGOZIE OBIOMA 

"TOTAL SOLAR," BY LUKE MOGELSON

"FIFTY SHADES OF 'MEIN KAMPF,' THE NEW GERMAN BESTSELLER," BY NANETTE DE VISSAR

"HARPER LEE AND THE MYTH OF A POST-RACIAL AMERICA," BY KATE JENKINS

"A GAY IRANIAN POET IS SEEKING ASYLUM IN ISRAEL," BY RUTH EGLASH

"A SALVADORAN WRITER GOES INTO EXILE," BY DANIELLE MARIE MACKEY 

INGRID BETANCOURT, AUTHOR OF THE BLUE LINE, IN CONVERSATION WITH ALICIA PARTNOY

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(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET RICHARD BLANCO ON THE 'MATTERS OF THE SEA' BETWEEN CUBA AND AMERICA

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET RICHARD BLANCO ON THE 'MATTERS OF THE SEA' BETWEEN CUBA AND AMERICA

Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, who read an original work at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony in 2013, was asked to write and share a poem for the historic re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana in August. THE ALIGNIST’s Beenish Ahmed spoke to him about the challenges of composing a poem for such a personally and politically significant occasion, and about Cuba – and America – have changed for him since amid renewed ties between the two countries.

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ALIGNED READING, JANUARY 2016 EDITION

(3+7) (Q&A) ON A FRENCH MEMOIRIST WHO BELIEVED THAT 'TO WRITE IS TO PROSTITUTE ONESELF'

(3+7) (Q&A) ON A FRENCH MEMOIRIST WHO BELIEVED THAT 'TO WRITE IS TO PROSTITUTE ONESELF'

Although a new film and documentary about Violette Leduc’s life have added to her popularity in recent years, the groundbreaking writer remains largely unread outside of France. THE ALIGNIST’s Beenish Ahmed called up New York University professor Elisabeth Ladenson to talk about Leduc’s troubled life and unsung legacy -- but mostly, about her unsparing prose. 

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