The Heart of Everything That Is tells the little-known story of Red Cloud, a ruthless Lakota chief who brought together the warring tribes of the Great Plains to fight the US government and halt its relentless westward expansion.
In her deeply personal account of life in post-earthquake Haiti, journalist Amy Wilentz looks at how outsiders' distorted views of the country have misrepresented its culture and history and encumbered its progress.
South Africans found the unlikeliest of musical heroes in their struggle against apartheid: a Detroit-born, Mexican American guitarist named Sixto Rodriguez. The documentary Searching for Sugar Man traces Rodriguez’s rapid ascent from obscurity in Motown to mythology in Cape Town — and the equally sudden oblivion that followed.
Conservative inflexibility and liberal apathy have endangered the dream of a democratic, secure Jewish state, a prominent American Zionist argues in a new book. But for all his ideas to salvage the two-state solution, Peter Beinart seems really to be documenting its demise.
In a poignant family memoir, veteran journalist Mark Whitaker describes his long road to truth and reconciliation with his parents, a biracial couple brought together by a shared faith and torn apart by their separate frailties.
The Truongs and the Vos escaped war-ravaged Vietnam, but years later, the wounds of unspoken trauma and regrets have not healed. In a story that spans three decades across three countries, Aimee Phan’s debut novel describes the secret history of two families and the shared pain that both unites and divides them.
Best of In The Fray 2012. Long before he was a dissident or president, Václav Havel was a playwright. His plays offer the fullest picture of the late Czech writer’s moral vision, which cast aside ideology in favor of a more authentic, more personal “truth and love.”
I participated in Marshal Zeringue's Page 99 Test at the Campaign for the American Reader. The blog is based on a quote by the writer Ford Madox Ford: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." New authors talk about the ninety-ninth page of their book and what it says about its larger themes. Here's what I wrote about my book Cut Loose:
Page 99 talks about how the unemployed deal with the depression and anxiety that come from losing part of their identities. Work is central to our sense of self—it’s often the first question we ask someone we meet—and during the workday we build friendships that sustain us throughout our lives. Many of the people I interviewed felt isolated. Friends could no longer relate. Relationships with spouses and children became strained. Unable to provide the way they used to, they found themselves mired in blame and doubts.Read More →
This week, after 167 years, the futures trading pits in Chicago closed down. Computers now handle the work that shouting traders flashing hand signals used to do. I was struck by this part of the story:
“What’s also disappearing is a rich culture of brazen bets, flashy trading jackets and kids just out of high school getting a shot at making it big. The pits were a ruthless place, but they were also a proving ground where education and connections counted for nothing next to drive and, occasionally, muscle.…”Read More →
In the United States, where I was born and raised, our relationship to food today seems more distant from our surroundings than ever. We Americans consistently lead the world’s wealthy nations in obesity. Have we forgotten how to nourish ourselves? Where and when did we lose our way?
The co-owner and executive chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Dan Barber, offers one theory on America’s problem: it doesn’t have a cuisine. “All cuisines evolved out of a negotiation that the peasants were making with the landscape,” Barber explained in an interview. “Now what could the landscape provide? And how could they make it nutritious and delicious in terms of a diet? That’s the genesis of every cuisine.” In other words, a cuisine is not just a style of cooking; it's “a pattern of eating that supports what the landscape can provide.”Read More →
Here is a short piece I wrote recently for a Zócalo Public Square discussion on the question "Is Rising Inequality Slowly Poisoning Our Democracy?" The discussion included experts from the Brennan Center for Justice, Cato Institute, Economic Policy Institute, and Georgetown University Center on Poverty and Inequality.
When Michael Young coined the term “meritocracy” half a century ago, he meant it to be an insult, not an ideal. In his view, a society where only the best and brightest can advance would soon become a nightmare. Young predicted that democracy would self-destruct as the talented took power and the inferior accepted their deserved place at the bottom.
Of course, the world we live in today is still no meritocracy. If most Americans are expected to go it alone, without the help of government or unions, elites continue to block competitors and manipulate the rules—as Wall Street did in spectacular fashion in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis.Read More →
When an unarmed black man dies after a confrontation with police, there is a natural tendency to focus on racist police officers or racist police departments. We saw this after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and we saw it, too, after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Walter Scott in North Charleston. Without a doubt, there are plenty of bigoted bad apples to be found, as seen in the shockingly racist emails unearthed in the Department of Justice investigation into Ferguson’s police department. But we also need to consider that big picture, or what sociologists call social structure: institutions like the economy and political system and the roles that people take up within them. After all, the modern-day factors pushing down poor African American communities—and pulling them into hostile encounters with police—involve more than just racial discrimination (or at least discrimination of the plain-vanilla variety).Read More →