Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

Women’s anger is complicated, dating back to the days before they were allowed to vote and when all but a few careers were available to them. Even in the last generation or so, women have fought against discrimination in pay, employment—consider that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor could at first only get a job as a deputy county attorney even though she graduated from the prestigious Stanford University and what they wore (up until the 1970s even pantsuits were considered inappropriate in the workplace) among many other things. On a personal level, when my father returned from serving overseas during World War II, at least one of the men on the East Chicago Public Library board demanded that my mother resign because she was taking a job away from a man. Fortunately, other board members disagreed and she worked there until she was in her 70s, retiring after 50 years. Other women weren’t as lucky—many were asked to leave or fired so that men could be re-employed.Rebecca Traister_credit_Victoria Stevens

For New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Traister, a National Magazine Award winner for her coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandals, writer at large for New York Magazine and contributing writer for Elle, the long-simmering anger women have felt is now brimming over. This is shown by the ever growing #MeToo movement and also what she sees as women’s reaction to Donald Trump and his policies that hurt women. In her newest book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger (Simon & Schuster 2018; $27) Traister wants to let women know their anger is potent.

“It’s consequential, it’s meaningful, valid and rational,” says Traister who discusses how women’s anger is often held against them and used to invalidate their feelings. “I think those are things that women are told are not true about their anger all the time. This book sort of serves as a guide and a reminder–to let women know that their anger is powerful, that it has historical precedence.”

Indeed, Traister argues that anger, when used to make changes, is a potent force.

“It’s the bottling up of anger, rather than the anger itself, that raises our blood pressure and makes us grind our teeth,” she says.

Though her book was written before the recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Traister says the  reaction to how the women who came forward were treated will also reverberate into the future—just as they did 26 years ago after the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

“#MeToo was an examination of how often sexualized harm was actually a tool of inequality within workplaces and within power structures where women faced all kinds of economic, professional, public forms of discrimination,” she says noting the harm being done wasn’t just sexual—it was also economic and professional. “What was being exposed were fundamental inequalities.

Ifyougo:

What: Chicago Humanities Festival, in conversation with Dr. Brittney Cooper

When: Sunday, October 28 at 3:30 p.m.

Where: Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston, IL

FYI: (847) 467-4000; chicagohumanities.org/events/207-rebecca-traister-good-and-mad

 

 

 

Who Murdered the Supreme Court Candidate: Mental State, a mystery novel by Law Professor M. Todd Henderson

The murder of a good friend and fellow law professor inspired M. Todd Henderson to write Mental State (Down and Out Books 2018; $17.95), his first mystery novel.

“He was a professor at Florida State University and had just dropped of his kids and was pulling out of the driveway when he was shot,” says Henderson who teaches at the University of Chicago’s law school. It turns out the friend, Dan Martel, was murdered by two hitmen hired by his ex-wife’s family to gain full custody of their children. Henderson considers himself a storyteller and using those skills he channeled his feelings into an immensely readable mystery involving the deadly political machinations put in place to hide the past of a sexual predator in order to secure a place on the  Supreme Court. It’s an interesting premise and certainly timely though this book was written well before the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and besides, Henderson’s judge is liberal.

“My interest in law at a policy level is about power and what people are willing to do to achieve their ends,” says Henderson.

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In Mental State, Professor Alex Johnson, a professor at a renowned law school on Chicago’s southside (think University of Chicago) is murdered before he can reveal that the man being considered for the Supreme Court sexually abused him when they were both young. The death is first thought to be a suicide but FBI agent Royce Johnson, the victim’s brother, doesn’t believe his self-centered, narcissistic sibling would do such a thing. Once Royce proves it was murder, the next frame-up goes into place (the bad guys are good at backup plans) pinpointing the murder on one of the professor’s law students. But Johnson’s inability to quit trying to solve the crime soon puts himself on the wrong side of the law,  his comrades at the FBI and an array of federal officials determined to make sure the president’s pick for the highest court in the land goes through without a hitch. If that means a few murders and ruined lives to achieve this, well, it’s for the greater good.

Ifyougo:

What: M. Todd Henderson discusses “Mental State.” He will be joined in conversation by Jeff Ruby. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

When: Thursday, October 18, 2018 – 6:00pm – 7:00pm

Where: 57th Street Books, 1301 E 57th St., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 752-4381; events@semcoop.com

Muse of Nightmares: Second in the Epic Fantasy Series Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer, the epic fantasy series written by Laini Taylor, began as a dream. Now Taylor, a National Book Award finalist, has just released Muse of Nightmares  (Little, Brown 2018; $19.99), the second book in the series.Laini Taylor_Author Photo_AliSmith credit

“The story has been in my mind for 20 years or more,” says Taylor, whose author photo shows her with a shock of long seriously pink hair.  “I think I dreamed Sairi, the character that came to me, who lived high above the city and I thought of her as the Muse of Nightmares. I started writing about her for my first book but then that became Lazio’s book.  But this is about Sairi, the way trauma changes us and if it is possible for a person to overcome this. Sarai doesn’t know what she’s capable of and she feels helpless, but is she?”

The journey of Sairi and Lazio is one of intrigue and mysteries (what was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? where did the gods come from, and why? and  how do they defeat a new foe?) and it’s interesting to note that as we follow Taylor’s story-telling, we often are only a few steps behind her as the story plot evolves. That’s because as much as she wants to shape her story, it often, as she builds her characters and scenes in her mind, takes on a will of its own.

Taylor says she always hopes to get to the ending she has in mind.

“But it doesn’t always work that way,” she says.

Immersed and—dare we say—co-dependent–with her characters, Taylor is sad when they make a bad choice though she can understand why they did so.

“It just give me so much empathy for them,” Taylor says.  “I ask what causes people to do that. When my characters don’t survive, I really wish I could save them, but I can’t.”

But though she doesn’t often know how her books will end or save a character, she did know that she wanted to eschew the typical epic ending of a massive battle between good and evil and instead resolve it by asking and answering a powerful question “must heroes always slay monsters or is it possible to save them?”

Ifyougo:

What:

When: Thursday, October 11 at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 West Jefferson Avenue Naperville, IL

Cost: Free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Muse of Nightmares, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville (630) 355-2665.

FYI: (630) 355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

A Cloud in The Shape of a Girl

Intrigued by the passage of time, the choices we make and the constraints life forces upon us, Jean Thompson, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist author, let a swirl of happenings and thoughts combine to create her latest novel, A Cloud in The Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster 2018; $26.00).Jean Thompson_c_Marion Ettlinger“The inspiration for the book came at me from different directions,” she says. “I was interested in how different generations pass on their memories, what the context of our day-to-day life is and how we choose to remember our past. At the time I was putting this all together, there were all these violent family episodes in the news and that played a part too. As a sidebar, so did the unearthing of my grandmother’s 1922 Rockford College yearbook and my grandfather’s from Lombard High School in 1912.”

Using one family in a time span from World War II to now, Thompson follows the changing American culture over the years as seen through the lives of three women—mother, daughter and granddaughter living in an unnamed Midwestern college town (note: Thompson lives in Urbana, Illinois), dealing with the cards they’ve been dealt and yearning for so much more.

“For some of these women, the choices are made for them,” says Thompson. “Evelyn, the grandmother can’t achieve what she wants and so settles. Laura, the mother, always wanted to be have a family, but as she says, ‘just not the family I have.’ And Grace has endless options, but still struggles.”

It’s a melancholic novel at times but exceptionally well-written, showing the ties and love binding three generations of women together and the need for all of us to avoid repeating the past by studying the history of those we love as well as ourselves and making decisions including what to leave behind and what we need to go forward to achieve what we desire.

Ifyougo:

What: Jean Thompson in conversation with award-winning author Beth Finke about Thompson’s new novel, A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl. This event will also include a reading and book-signing.

When: Thursday, October 11 at 7pm

Where: Women & Children First, 5233 North Clark St., Chicago, IL

FYI: 773-769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst

 

Not for Long: The Life and Career of the NFL Athlete

Robert Turner II was the first member of his family to go to college, attending James Madison University on an athletic scholarship.  But he did so because of his love of football and a desire to play at a professional level.

“I majored in communications because that’s what the other players did,” says Turner who played football professionally in the now nonoperational United States Football League, the Canadian Football League, and briefly in the National Football League until his career abruptly ended.

Consider Turner one of the lucky ones. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and is an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Research and Leadership at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Science and also holds a position as a Research Scientist in the Center for Biobehavioral Health Disparities Research at Duke University.

One of his areas of interest is what happens to athletes when their playing days are done and, after amassing more 140 interviews with current and former NFL players and extensively researching the subject, he’s written OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Oxford University Press 2018; $24.95). It’s a look at what is the most popular professional sports league in the U.S., one where some athletes at the height of their physical prowess can boast stratospheric salaries in the multimillions  but then, often in just a few years, are no longer working.

“The stories of many of these players is heartbreaking,” says Turner. “I love these men and they’ve gone through a lot of pain and sorrow and it hurts to hear that but what kept me going was the awesome gift of being able to tell their stories.”

Turner describes his book as being about what happens upstream, the path that players take from high school and sometimes ever earlier through college and into professional sports. As for what happens after that, Turner says that society turns a deaf ear to their lives after college and the pros.

“People say well, they got their college education, they got all that money,” says Turner, who serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, D.C.

But many players don’t make millions.  Without guaranteed contracts, the majority of players are forced out of the league after a few seasons with few health and retirement benefits.

Statistics show that more than three-quarters of retirees experience bankruptcy or financial ruin, two-thirds live with chronic pain, and many find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Turner believes that’s no accident. The powerful the labor agreements between the NFL and players doesn’t provide much in the way of job security. And because players dedicated to their game and dream of becoming a professional have little time to prepare for what to do when their time on the field is over and have little in the way of marketable skills.

“It doesn’t just start at the NFL,” he says. “Universities and colleges should make sure all these players have the resources they need. Many of these kids come from environments where they haven’t learned many basics in terms of finances, planning ahead and all the other tools they need to be successful after sports. The League generates $15 billion a year and yet players are treated like disposable commodities. We need to help them learn how to transition effectively.”

Turner is currently a technical advisor and consultant and is making an on-screen appearance in Student Athlete, a documentary which looks at “the exploitative world of high-revenue college sports” and features four current and former college athletes, including Kentucky basketball player Nick Richards. Co-produced by NBA star LeBron James, Student Athlete debuts October 2 at 10 p.m. on HBO.

“The documentary is an important story about this subject,” he says. “We need to take care of all the players not just the 300 Hall of Famers.”

Ifyougo:

What: Robert W. Turner II discusses Not for Long: The Life and Career of the NFL Athlete. a Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

When: Oct. 14TH from 3-4 p.m.

Where: The Seminary Co-Op Bookstore, 5751 S Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, Il

Cost: Free

FYI: 773-684-1300; semcoop.com

 

 

Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

As a Christian evangelical and an American historian, John Fea, chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, sought to understand why 80 percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump and have deeply aligned themselves to one political party.

“I wanted to explore what that means and how we’ve arrived at this time in our history,” says Fea, author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump (Eerdmans 2018; $24.99).Fea2 (1)

Besides race, much of it has to do with age. The average American trump voter was 57 years old in 2016 and Fea believes that the average white evangelical voter might have even been older, forming their views during the time of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority.

“Trump is delivering to a certain type of evangelicals—the Christian right and their vision of reclaiming/restoring Christian values,” he says, noting that this is portrayed as a return to an almost mythical golden age—a nostalgia for what never really existed. “If that’s your playbook, then Trump is the trade-off. And the power of that playbook is so strong they would turn their back on all the other things that are happening now.”

Trading on fears changing demographics and encouraging anti-intellectualism, anti-immigration, anti-gay and anti-abortion, Donald Trump is seen as the person to do something about all this,” says Fea, who previously taught at Valparaiso University in the early 2000s.

Noting that many far right politicians, who are very well educated themselves as well as wealthy or at least very financially secure, disdain colleges and higher education and the “liberal elite,” Fea believes that by encouraging people to be less educated, it helps perpetuate the sense of being overtaken and displaced.

“Four-years of college teach you to think,” he says. “If you understand history and political science, you can see what’s happening. But when you have evangelicals with a faulty view of history, they’re going to be fearful and anxious. They think of themselves as the guardians of American culture but that culture seems to them to be changing so there’s the sense that they need to fight against what’s happening. When people feel this way, they turn to someone they see as strong who will protect them. Too many are trading their Christian ministry for a few federal judges. I conceive of it as being like horse manure ice cream—you think you have ice cream but it tastes and smells like horse manure because that’s really what it is.”

Fea, who teaches young evangelical students, sees changes in the upcoming generations.

“They’re pro-life but their views on immigration, the death penalty, the environment and so forth are broader,” he says.

As the old guard feels surrounded, their world too rapidly changing, there’s a last gasp, says Fea.

“I live near Gettysburg and have walked the battlegrounds many times,” he says. “In history, when there’s change and now as older evangelicals see this generation shift, there’s this last rush.”

Fea compares the adherence to Trump to Pickett’s Charge  at the Battle of Gettysburg when 15,000 Confederate troops fought against 6500 Union soldiers on what was the third and last day of the battle. Their loss led to the  end of the Civil War.

“It was the final push of the Confederacy and they almost made it,” he says. “In some ways, this is the last rush of the Christian right.”

 

Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New Profession

Author Photo. Andrew Friedman. Photo Credit Evan SungAndrew Friedman calls himself a chef writer because, as much as he loves food, he’s passionate about the stories chefs have to tell.

“My point of view is writing not so much about the food but about the chefs, that’s why I say I’m a chefie not a foodie,” he says. “I think too many well-known chefs are almost portrayed as cartoon characters and in a broad stroke. I wanted to spend time with them and really get to know their stories, who they really are and their impact on how we eat now. Like Wolfgang Puck. He’s a tremendous cook but people call him the first celebrity chef. He’s so much more than that.”

To accomplish this, Friedman interviewed over 200 chefs and food writers and others who were leading the food revolution against processed and packaged foods.

“I’m such a geek I would spend three hours with someone just to get a nugget or two,” he says.

The results? An accumulation of tens of thousands of transcript pages and his latest book,  Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New Profession (Ecco 2018; $27.99), where he recounts how dedicated and imaginative men and women in the 1970s and the 1980s, who were willing to challenge the rules, revolutionized America’s food scene.

Now chefs are like rock stars, often known just by one name, commanding their own empires of cookbooks, TV shows, restaurants, cookware and food products. But Friedman points out that up until 1976, the United States Department of Labor categorized cooks as domestics. It took lobbying by the American Culinary Federation, at the urging of Louis Szarthmary, the late Hungarian American chef who owned The Bakery in Chicago and wrote The Chef’s Secret Cookbook, a New York Times bestseller, to change the classification into a profession.

“I wanted to show how this became a viable profession,” he says. “I was talking to Jody Buvette, owner of Buvette in New York and she remembers sitting her father down and  saying ‘I have two bad things to tell you. I’m gay and I want to be a cook.’ It was like telling your upper middle-class parents that you wanted to be a coal miner.”

Friedman, whose knowledge about restaurants, culinarians and food seems delightfully endless, chose three cities to focus on—San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. What does he think of Chicago’s food scene?

“It’s great,” he says. “I love dining in Chicago and you have some brilliant chefs but I think much of the beginnings started in those three cities.”

Besides, he has those piles of transcripts. There’s surely more than a few Chicago stories in all those pages.  In the meantime, Friedman gives us a wonderfully written read about a defining time—one that in some ways separates frozen TV dinners and what many restaurants are serving today.

Ifyougo:

What:  5 course 80s-era dinner inspired by Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll with wines selected by Sommelier Rachael Lowe and conversation at Spiaggia Restaurant

When: Tues. October 2, 7 pm

Where: Spiaggia Restaurant, 980 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL

Cost: $150 per person

FYI: 312-280-2750; spiaggiarestaurant.com

 

What: Talk with Andrew Friedman about Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll

When: Wed, October 3, 6:30 to 8:30 pm

Where: Read It & Eat, 2142 North Halsted St., Chicago, IL

Cost: Purchase a ticket and book combo for $36.45 or 2 tickets and a book combo for $46.45

FYI: 773-661-6158; readitandeatstore.com

 

 

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