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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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Understanding the world

DEBBIE JACOB

WHEN I READ or watch the international news, a light bulb goes off in my head – like one of those you often see in comics – all because I have read a book that casts light on an international figure or issue in the news.

Here are some of my favourite books that explain much of what is going on in the world today.

1. Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete by William C Rhoden – Colin Kaepernick has been in the news lately for narrating and starring in the Nike ad celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign. Many people have taken a stand on whether the former American football quarterback is a hero or a heel for taking a knee during the American anthem, but there is a side issue as well, which is whether the National Football League (NFL) has colluded to keep Kaepernick from playing again. Rhoden’s book examines just how American sports controls freedom of expression in athletes. This is a fascinating look at how sports uses athletes for their benefit and tries to stifle players when they take on individual causes.

2. Show Dog by Phil Knight – If you read this autobiography by one of the Nike co-founders, you will have a better understanding of why Nike would make an ad with Kaepernick. Knight’s autobiography is a light read, chockful of interesting tidbits about taking chances in life and business.

3. Rise and Kill First by Ronen Bergman – This chilling book chronicles the official development of Israel’s policy on Palestine, a policy that condones genocide because Israeli politicians have always believed that it is impossible to have a Jewish state in an area that is predominantly Muslim.

4. Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel by Dan Ephron – Every time I see an Israeli crackdown on Palestine, I think about this book, which shows how Israel’s policy towards Palestine solidified after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. When Rabin softened his stance on Palestine and entertained thoughts of a peaceful settlement, he was assassinated by an extremist. What is most shocking is how Israeli citizens later came out in support of the assassin.

5. The World Is What It Is by Patrick French – The internet is filled with interesting and controversial obituaries on the late Trinidadian Nobel laureate VS Naipaul. Most of those obituaries did not paint Naipaul in a positive light. Was the media unfair? French’s biography – the only authorised one— helps readers to understand Naipaul better.

6. The Naipauls of Nepaul Street by Savi Naipaul Akal – We are lucky to have this fascinating inside story of the Naipaul family and its family homes written by VS Naipaul’s sister. This book shows just how much setting affected Naipaul’s development as a person and a writer.

7. The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality by Justin Gest – If you’re wondering about the emergence of right-wing politics in the US and England, then read this book, which compares two industrial towns, one in Youngstown, Ohio and Dagenham, England, which share a common industrial history. Here is where disgruntled, disappointed people wait to reclaim the past.

8. Bolivar: American Liberator by Marie Arana – You can’t understand what is going on in Venezuela without understanding the history of the continent or the life of Simon Bolivar, all presented in this startling, sweeping saga of South American politics seen through the eyes of the Liberator.

9. Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright – What is fascism and how does it rise? Former US secretary of state Albright examines fascism. It is a dire warning to all who are complacent about politics.

10. Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain by Trevor Phillips and Mike Phillips – The Windrush scandal began with threats to deport and actual deportations of Caribbean immigrants, who had roots stretching back to the HMS Empire Windrush, a ship that brought British subjects from the Caribbean to England to work. This book presents the history of the Windrush generation.

11. Brit(ish): On Race Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch – This book creates an understanding of how multiculturalism and racial diversity impacts on Great Britain both politically and socially.

There is nothing like the feeling of being in the know when it comes to issues or people popping up in the news, and these books certainly provide a better understanding of the world today.

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