Category Archives: history
I received a copy of Wayward Son through Librarything’s Early Reviewer giveaway and I’m glad the initial blurb caught my attention enough to make me enter to win a copy. It was a complex, inventive novel and will certainly fall into the narrow category of books that I remember well after I finished reading it.
Wayward Son is, at it’s core, and epic journey through time and ancient history, seen through the eyes of one of the Bible’s most notorious characters- Cain. Interestingly, the Bible never tells of Cain’s fate after being exiled, but this author did a brilliant job of building on the fable and turning it into something highly improbable, yet wholly believable at the same time. At the end of reading the novel, I felt as if I too had live through some of the most important events in human history.
At present day, the story begins with an archeological discovery and an ambitious employee of the Getty Museum’s, Amanda James. Through her the reader is taken on an unforgettable journey into the long, tumultuous life of Cain. Mostly, the present-day story line is used as a device for the historical backstory, and I did fine the modern line a little thin and not nearly as compelling as the rest of the book.
But make no mistake, this tale is a must read, and not just for people who gravitate towards epic, historical fiction. Wayward Son can’t be pigeon-holed that easy. It has mystery, murder, mayhem, religion, mysticism, love found and lost, interesting characters and and is superbly written. Check it out, you won’t be sorry!
Imagine battling infertility for years – hoping, praying – anything to have the baby you so desperately desire. Then, imagine your doctor says that he can help you have that long-hoped-for child. There is a new procedure that can circumvent all those pesky reproductive problems that have been plaguing you.
You are ecstatic. You begin the procedure and all goes well – until, that is, another doctor passes judgment on the procedure, calling it unethical, and essentially kills your developing embryo. You would sue, right?
That is just what happened to Doris and John Del-Zio in 1973. All they wanted was a child, but what they got was a place in debate over in vitro fertilization.
Woven throughout Pandora’s Baby is the story of the Del-Zio’s heartbreaking, moving and precedent-making ordeal. At no other time could their struggle with infertility have made such headlines, becoming fodder for both sides of the scientific argument.
While this real-life story is both poignant and evocative, it is only a portion of Pandora’s Baby. The author, Robin Marantz Henig, has chronicled every step of the scientific advancements, research experiments and controversies. She fairly shows both sides of the moral coin, and allows readers to draw their own conclusions.
For the history, this book is worth the read, but there is another lesson lurking between the pages – one more relevant than you might first think. I’m talking about cloning. Yes, cloning and in vitro are relatively similar procedures, with only a few major differences. In fact, many of the same arguments made against cloning today are the carbon-copy diatribes of the in vitro debate, verbatim. And those same detractors were proven to be mere speculation by the further research of reproductive endocrinologist, scientists and the like.
Imagine if they had not been allowed to continue studying the intricacies of human egg fertilization and embryonic development. For the couples that have gone on to have children courtesy of in vitro, that research has made all the difference in their lives.
It has been said, that people are most afraid of what they cannot understand. The Civil Rights movement, the Woman’s Suffrage movement, and the Artificial Reproduction debate can be held as testaments to that fact.
Pandora’s Baby offers up truth, facts and the pros and cons of in vitro and, by default, cloning. This book is ripe for readers who want to understand the scientific, moral and ethical arguments of genetic, reproductive, and biological developments. Although laden with medical and scientific techniques, this book is written for the average reader, in a clear, concise manner.
I would recommend Pandora’s Baby to anyone interested in artificial reproduction, cloning, or the furthering of science. It is insightful, thought-provoking and very well written.
“The famous query by feminine artist and art historians goes, ‘Why haven’t there been more great women artists throughout western history?’ The Guerilla Girls want to restate the question: “Why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout western history?’”
The Guerrilla Girls Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art is chock full of witty insights, stories behind the stories, and relevant facts about women artists of days gone by. Broken down into chapters according artistic eras (Classical, Middle Ages, the Renaissance, etc.), this book chronicles the continuing plight for recognition of women through the history of art all the way to the twentieth century.
While this book is broadly based on feministic theory, it is interesting enough to appeal to all art history buffs – men and women alike.
And the Guerrilla Girls are not just blowing smoke, either. Sprinkled throughout the text are supporting quotes, insights and actual records from observers and artists alike, plus a heaping-helping of “altered” art works from history that have mysteriously had gorilla masks added to them – a trademark of the Guerrilla Girls.
The Guerrilla Girls, who several years ago anonymously published Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls, which exposed bigotry in the art world, are back at it. Smattering the pages are numerous pithy, pop-art style posters and graphics with their own minute captions, like: “Why did so few art historians mention me in their survey books?” (Artemisia Gentileschi) or “Why is the museum of Modern Art more interested in African Art than in art by African-Americans?” (Alma Thomas).
Quotes abound in this slim yet comprehensive tutorial. The Guerrilla Girls chose wisely among their references, highlighting bigotry, sexism and beliefs as they pertained to the discussed era. The supporting information is woven seamlessly into context, and the book on the whole is a compelling read.
There is a several-pages-long section on the rape of Artemisia Gentileschi and the subsequent trial of her attacker (who was also her father’s apprentice), with quotes from actual trial documents in 1612, which is quite interesting. As is the Guerrilla Girls take on why Tintoretto suddenly stopped producing works of art after the sudden death of his daughter, Maria Robusti, in 1590. The Ladies don Gorilla masks and proclaim that, “Since the works of Tintoretto and Robusti are indistinguishable, and he signed them all, we don’t think he lost his will (to paint), we think he lost his secret weapon! (Robusti, an exceptional painter herself).”
Personally, I was moved while reading this book – sometimes even outraged at how an artist was treated (or ignored) merely on the basis of her sex. What is worse, though, is that many men from history would publically proclaim women artists inferior, then go home and steal their daughters’ paintings, sign their own manly names, and take all the praise for being such a great “master” artist. Truly disgusting.
I started this book thinking, “Oh, I hope I can get past all this feminist chanting and enjoy the history within the pages.” (Yes, I am a woman!) But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book – feminism and all. In fact, radical viewpoints often don’t feel as “preachy” when it is so obvious that they have very firm ground to stand on.
One particular poster reproduction that graces the back cover is of a nude, reclining woman who is wearing the trademark gorilla mask. Beside her in bold print is the question, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” and smaller print below that states, “Less than 5% of artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.” Enough said.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read the “other side” of history – the events little-known and talked about – as well as for anyone remotely interested in uncovering the great women artists from Western history. Enjoy!