So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Femen by Galia Ackerman
Femen tells the story of the Femen radical feminist group that originated in Ukraine and has become an international movement based in Paris. Told by French historian Galia Ackerman this brief history also includes many sections written by the four major founders of the movement Anna Hutso, Oksana Shachko, Alexandra Shevchenko, and Inna Shevchenko. The result is both an objective look and a personal statement.
Femen is a nonviolent radical group opposed to women's oppression that uses the tactic of appearing at public meetings of major sexist patriarchal political figures with flower crowns on their heads and bare chests covered in brief feminist slogans like "Ukraine is Not a Brothel." They are radical in that their purpose is to disrupts events, so as to be arrested and removed forcibly by police, creating publicity for their cause.
The book tells the story of how these women met, became radical feminists, and built a movement in five years that drew world-wide attention. It explains how they developed their ideology and their methodology. There is an Afterword entitled One Year Later that tells of events in 2013 after the completion of the book. The book is one-sided telling Femen's history from the perspective of its leaders. While conflicts and criticisms are mentioned, the leaders are portrayed as they see themselves.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Out of Oz

Out of Oz, by Gregory Maguire
I wanted to like this book more because there are a lot of really good plot elements. However, for a final book of a series, it feels like Maguire was just trying to tie up loose ends rather than making some grand closing statement.
His first book Wicked inverted the L. Frank Baum's Oz story making it about Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West, and telling the story from Elphaba's point of view. He presents an Oz troubled by civil war and social injustice that is much different than the benevolent fairyland of L. Frank Baum. Dorothy is now only a minor character who succeeds in killing both wicked witches but does little else. The second book of The Wicked Years series, Son of a Witch, tells the story of Liir, a boy Elphaba raised who may be her son. The third book, A Lion Among Men, tells the story of Brrr, the Cowardly Lion.
Out of Oz claims to be the final volume in the Wicked Years, but its ending leads me to believe that a new era may follow the Wicked era of these four books. It tells the story of Liir's daughter Rain who is born green like her grandmother Elphaba as she and Liir struggle to stay alive being hunted by both sides in the ongoing war. Some of Baum's most famous characters like the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are only mentioned in passing, and others like Jack Pumpkinhead, Tiktok and General Jinjur make the briefest of cameo appearances. Dorothy, Tip and Mombi have roles to play but they seem to be inserted into Maguire's world as an afterthought rather than integral parts of the story. Only Brrr the Lion has made the transition naturally from Baum's Oz to Maguire's.
While some elements of the plot seem contrived, the basic story of Rain and her parents negotiating their own familial relationships while trying to find peace in a troubled country at war is a strong and fitting end to the series.