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The Summerland Disaster on the Isle of Man (02/24)
In the novel Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli, photographer Quentin Morrow was scheduled to go on a photography retreat on the Isle of Man before his death. In the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is an island with its own parliament, customs, history and a population of over 80,000. While technically a Crown Dependency (owned by ...
W. E. B. Du Bois and the Talented Tenth (02/24)
Throughout The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family, historian Kerri K. Greenidge repeatedly refers to the postbellum "colored elite" to which the Black Grimke family members belonged, using the term "the Talented Tenth." Made famous by the American sociologist and writer W. E. B. Du Bois in his 1903 ...
Townsizing: Trendy or Timely? (02/24)
The city versus country trope is as old as Aesop's fabled mice, yet the debate continues to warrant new narratives. In Jas Hammonds' We Deserve Monuments, the protagonist, Avery Armstrong, puts this very debate to the test when she moves to the small fictional town of Bardell, Georgia. Raised in the cultural mecca of Washington, D.C., ...
The Failure of Plastics Recycling (02/24)
Most of us are familiar with the mantra 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' and the effectiveness of this slogan inspired a generation of Americans to put plastics of all kinds into recycling bins rather than their trash. The problem is that, as contributor Nina Schrank points out in The Climate Book, 'this narrative is perhaps the greatest example...
The Uphill Climb for Sub-Saharan African Girls' Education (02/24)
In the short story 'Dark Matter' from Gothataone Moeng's collection Call and Response, which takes place in Botswana, childhood friends Tumo and Nametso love swimming in the river and they love school. Daughters of teachers, they are inseparable until Tumo's mother is transferred. The girls meet up again at university in Gaborone. In her ...
Missing People in the U.S. (02/24)
The number of active missing persons cases in the U.S. has declined steadily since 1997. This is due in large part to improvements in connectivity and communication, with cell phones and other handheld devices making it considerably easier to track a missing person's potential whereabouts. While this decline is cause for celebration, it ...
A Quick Tour Through South Australia's Wine Region (02/24)
Jane Harper's third novel in the Aaron Falk series sees the Federal Police agent returning to the fictional town of Marralee, located in South Australia and home to an annual food and wine festival where a woman went missing the previous year. Harper is known for providing evocative descriptions and details for her Australian settings, ...
Moon Art (02/24)
When you look at the Moon, what do you see? Since ancient times, the Moon has ignited our imaginations, as Rebecca Boyle demonstrates in her history of Earth's relationship to its closest neighbor. In mythologies and legends, it has been seen as a canvas depicting a rabbit and a jovial man's features, among other things. It has been with ...
US Military Mules in World War II (02/24)
One of the characters in Derek B. Miller's novel The Curse of Pietro Houdini is a limping mule named Ferrari. The author notes that mules were used extensively during World War II in the Italian theater, in areas where trucks couldn't go, such as mountain passes and forests.

Mules are remarkable creatures that have been used as pack ...
Margaret Cavendish and Vitalist Materialism (02/24)
In her biography of 17th-century author Margaret Cavendish, Pure Wit, Francesca Peacock shines light on often-overlooked aspects of Cavendish's life and work, including her contributions to Western philosophy. From the beginning of her philosophical career, she believed in materialism. Simply put, this is the theory that everything that ...
Trail Names (02/24)
In Kristin Dwyer's The Atlas of Us, Atlas and her friends are given trail names by their program director; these nicknames allow Atlas (trail name Maps) to create a new identity and forge a new beginning, one unencumbered by her personal history. Names in Dwyer's novel serve a symbolic purpose, but there's a very real phenomenon of trail ...
The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 (02/24)
In Muriel Barbery's novel One Hour of Fervor, her characters watch the television in horror as news breaks of a huge earthquake in Japan's Tohoku region and its resulting tsunami. Though they are safely on high ground far from the impacted area, they are immediately fearful for loved ones, and reminded all too starkly of just how quickly ...
Infamous Prison Insurrections (02/24)
In The Ascent, Adam Plantinga imagines what it would be like to climb through six levels of a prison in utter chaos: cell doors opening, guards hiding or dead, inmates murdering each other and so much worse. It does not require fiction, however, to imagine these hellscapes: history has many examples of such mayhem. Below are two of ...
Books of Stories Centering Black American Life (02/24)
Diane Oliver's Neighbors and Other Stories is a collection delving deep into the corners of Black American life in the 1950s and '60s that were not and are still not usually part of the public conversation. Historical and academic writing that discusses the situations of marginalized people often does not touch on the intricacies of their...
Civil War in the Republic of Georgia (02/24)
In Leo Vardiashvili's Hard by a Great Forest, young Saba and his brother and father flee their home in Tbilisi, Georgia, when the city erupts in violence. "We heard gunfire by night and saw brass twinkling on the pavement in the mornings, as though it had rained shell casings all over Tbilisi," Saba says. "[W]hen a ...
Escape and Evasion Maps (02/24)
In Lea Carpenter's Ilium, some of the spies have escape and evasion maps. Also known as escape maps or silk maps, these are scarves imprinted with maps that intelligence officers and soldiers have historically used when they've ended up behind enemy lines. They offer information about how best to escape or at least find somewhere safe to ...
Polycystic Kidney Disease (02/24)
In her collection of essays Transient and Strange, Nell Greenfieldboyce shares how her husband's diagnosis of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) affected their lives, especially as they decided to start a family. PKD is a genetic condition involving the growth of high numbers of cysts—fluid-filled sacs—in the kidneys and ...
The Vietnam Women's Memorial (02/24)
In Kristin Hannah's The Women, nursing student Frances "Frankie" McGrath joins the Army Nurse Corps and is shipped overseas to serve as a combat nurse in the Vietnam War. Upon returning home, Frankie spends years running from her trauma until she eventually finds a way to share her experiences. At the end of the novel, she ...
The Djinn in Islamic Folk Culture (02/24)
In Shubnum Khan's debut novel The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years, set amidst the Indian diaspora of South Africa, fifteen-year-old Sana and her father move into a dilapidated house by the sea that is haunted by a djinn. The djinn is the link between past and present, a connection between the 21st-century tenants and the immigrant family who ...
Consensual Non-Monogamy in Literature (02/24)
Recent research suggests about 4-5% of Americans are currently in relationships that break the convention of monogamy. While there is some fluidity to the terms used for different types of non-monogamy, an open relationship often refers to a couple being romantically and emotionally, but not sexually, monogamous, while polyamory often ...
How to Build an Emotional Safety Net (02/24)
Tessa Ensler wants her mother. The heroine of Suzie Miller's Prima Facie is in a panicky mess after a sexual assault, and, like many of us when things go sideways, she wants her mother's arms wrapped around her. She wants her mother's acceptance and kindness. When she confides that she 'had a bad experience' and has 'been to the police to...
Emergency Powers (02/24)
In Paul Lynch's novel Prophet Song, the enactment of an Emergency Powers Act sets in motion a sequence of destabilizing events that will eventually lead to societal dissolution and civil war. The Act provides the legal justification for an authoritarian government, through its newly formed secret police force and military, to bypass ...
Midwifery in Colonial America (02/24)
Martha Ballard, the heroine of Ariel Lawhon's The Frozen River and a real-life 18th-century midwife, left behind a diary that remains one of history's best sources on midwifery in late colonial America. In addition to this work of historical fiction, Ballard is the subject of historical monographs and of a PBS special on her life. Along ...
A Moby-Dick Reading List (02/24)
Whether you love Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, hate it or have never read it, you may find yourself unable to escape it. Even for a classic, it shows surprising reach, having inspired and influenced numerous authors, artists and scholars, historical and contemporary. Published in 1851, it continues to be deconstructed, reconstructed, ...
Adoption Outcomes for Birth Mothers (02/24)
Lola, the likeable and resilient protagonist in Bisi Adjapon's Daughter in Exile, finds herself in multiple difficult situations over a matter of years. At one point, pregnant without a partner after her husband dies, she is left to manage a toddler, her grief and an unborn daughter.

An active member of a parish community, Lola looks ...
The Ramayana and Vijayanagara (02/24)
The Ramayana, which translates from Sanskrit as 'Rama's Journey,' is one of the two great epic poems of India and a foundational text of Hinduism; the other is the Mahabharata, which is longer and means 'Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty.' The Ramayana was composed by the poet Valmiki, probably around the 5th century BCE, though sources ...
The Freedom Summer Murders (02/24)
In Nyani Nkrumah's novel Wade in the Water, set in the early 1980s, one character's father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan who participated in the (real-life) murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner on June 21, 1964.

The 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, purportedly guaranteed Blacks the right to vote. The ...
Naloxone (Narcan) (02/24)
In Tracy Kidder's Rough Sleepers, the drug naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, saves the lives of multiple people in the throes of an overdose from opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone.

A relative of morphine, naloxone was first patented in 1961 by American scientists looking for a medication to treat constipation ...
Little Vienna, a Jewish Haven in Shanghai (02/24)
In Aleksandar Hemon's novel The World and All That It Holds, Rafael Pinto is a Sephardic Jew in Sarajevo at the beginning of the 20th century. When World War I erupts, he's flung east—first to Galicia, in what is now Ukraine and Poland, to fight for the Austro-Hungarian Empire; then to Tashkent, in what is now Uzbekistan, into a ...
The Life, Work and Trial of Oscar Wilde (02/24)
Born in 1854 Dublin to a pair of writers — a father who was a well-known surgeon but also published works on architecture and Irish folklore, and a mother who wrote poetry under a pseudonym — Oscar Wilde went on to himself become an acclaimed poet, playwright and novelist, though his tragic fate overshadowed his literary and ...
Phoolan Devi: The Real-Life "Bandit Queen" (01/24)
In Parini Shroff's The Bandit Queens, Phoolan Devi (pronounced POOH-lann DAY-vee) is a feminist symbol of strength, poise and honor to abused women, her portrait hung high in main character Geeta's home. Devi, known as India's 'Bandit Queen,' is the only real-world figure highlighted throughout the novel. So who exactly was she?

Devi ...
A Brief History of Korean Relations in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries (01/24)
In EJ Koh's The Liberators, Insuk's friend Robert is an activist passionately in favor of the reunification of North and South Korea. Korea was occupied by Japan from the early 20th century through 1948; when the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II, Korea was split along the 38th parallel by the United States. The northern ...
North Korean Immigrants in the United States (01/24)
In City Under One Roof, some characters living in the small town of Point Mettier, Alaska are hiding their status as undocumented North Korean immigrants. If their secret is discovered, they will face deportation. Their fear of being found out, and their general situation, is based in real-life troubles of North Korean immigrants in the ...
The Legacy of Sappho (01/24)
Selby Wynn Schwartz's debut novel After Sappho reimagines the lives of early 20th century lesbian authors and artists. The novel tells the story of how these women ignited a radical feminist movement inspired by the ancient Greek poet Sappho, broke free from conventions to pursue their own desires and creativity, and flourished within...
Operation Long Jump (01/24)
The Nazi Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch centers on an alleged plot by the Germans during World War II to kill or kidnap the three major world leaders representing the Allied powers: American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill and premier of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin.

The plan, ...
Jacob Riis Beach (01/24)
In the essay 'We Swarm' from their debut collection How Far the Light Reaches, Sabrina Imbler reflects on their experience finding comfort and kinship in New York City's queer community. The primary setting of this essay is a part of the beach at Jacob Riis Park in the borough of Queens, which, they explain, 'had been a gay haven as early...
The Camp Logan Mutiny (01/24)
Before he was hanged for his alleged role in the Camp Logan Mutiny, Army Pfc. Thomas Hawkins wrote a letter to his mother and father. It was both poignant and simple. 'When this letter reaches you, I will be beyond the veil of sorrow. I will be in heaven with the angels…I am not guilty of the crime that I am accused of but Mother it...
Black Jockeys: The Foundation of American Horse Racing (01/24)
On its face, the end of the Civil War should have marked a time in which African Americans would be afforded freedom. But the end of slavery did not mean the end of Black oppression. Many white Americans built their fortunes on, and were heavily entrenched in, slavery's infrastructure. These individuals, as well as others, bore great ...
Barikamà: An Italian Workers' Co-operative (01/24)
A radish farm worker in Celina Baljeet Basra's Happy relays a tale of injustice at his previous job: a group of exploited immigrants, an attack, and an uprising. This story is one we might imagine to be derived from a compilation of worker mistreatments, but the specifics are based on a true story of immigrant fruit pickers in Rosarno, in...
Iran Air Flight 655 (01/24)
On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes, a Navy missile cruiser stationed in the Persian Gulf, saw on its radar an Iranian aircraft. This aircraft was a passenger airplane, flying from Tehran to Dubai with 290 civilians on board, including 66 children. But the crew of the USS Vincennes identified the airplane as a fighter jet and fired two ...
Glassworks by Philip Glass (01/24)
In Marie-Helene Bertino's Beautyland, the protagonist, Adina, has a visceral reaction to a song that plays at the end of a movie she sees at the planetarium. 'At the end of the film, they pan through the universe. A song begins. Made out of choppy, repetitive phrases, sturdy in the middle and fragile around the edges, so ...
Leopards and Secret Societies in Nigeria (01/24)
In Chikodili Emelumadu's Dazzling, Ozoemena inherits the ability to transform into a leopard from her uncle, a power that comes with certain obligations and responsibilities. Her father's side of the family belongs to a secret society that maintains this tradition, a plot detail inspired in part by real-life phenomena. In an interview ...
Abortion in Ireland (01/24)
In 2018, in a culturally and historically significant move, the Irish public voted in favor of overturning the country's long-held ban on abortion, with more than 66% supporting the repeal. This victory for improving access to healthcare for millions was by no means an overnight success, however.

On the contrary, the fight to legalize ...
Mark Twain's Publication of Ulysses S. Grant's Memoirs (01/24)
As recounted in Jon Clinch's The General and Julia, Samuel Clemens (who wrote under the alias Mark Twain) met President Ulysses S. Grant in the White House, introduced by a senator from Nevada. When the men crossed paths again after the end of Grant's presidency, they developed a friendship. Clemens frequently encouraged Grant to ...
What Is Moral Injury? (01/24)
Ian Fritz's memoir, What the Taliban Told Me, chronicles the author's difficulties processing his role in events that resulted in death and injury to others. Not officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Fritz discusses a category of non-physical harm that military experts denote as "moral injury,"...
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) Navy (01/24)
The plot of Mark Helprin's novel The Oceans and the Stars imagines the United States at war with Iran. At one point the heroes of the book end up in the Indian Ocean searching for an Iranian vessel, ultimately battling a force the US captain refers to as the NEDSA, the naval arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e ...
East Germany's Secret Police: The Stasi (01/24)
The main character in Dan Fesperman's spy thriller Winter Work is a colonel in East Germany's HVA, a unit of the infamous East German security service commonly referred to as the Stasi.

After World War II, the United States and the USSR vied for influence over Europe, with most countries in the western half of the continent joining ...
The Freedom Swimmers (01/24)
May Chen, the main character in Joanna Ho's The Silence That Binds Us, explores her identity through her family heritage, including the experiences of her paternal grandmother, who arrived in Hong Kong as a young refugee from mainland China. Faced with formidable hardships during the Cultural Revolution, she left everything behind and ...
The Four Yugas (01/24)
Deepti Kapoor’s novel Age of Vice takes its title from the Hindu term Kali Yuga. In Hindu scripture and mythology, humanity is destined to cycle repeatedly through four great eras, known as yugas. Opinions as to the length of a single cycle (Kalpa) vary greatly — from around four million to four billion years — suffice...
American Involvement in Korea During and After the Korean War (01/24)
The novel Skull Water by Heinz Insu Fenkl is divided between the experiences of the character Big Uncle during the Korean War in 1950 and his nephew Insu's adolescence in the 1970s. It shows how alliances and protections formed during the war gave rise to familial ties and cultural integrations in the postwar era. Insu's identity as the ...

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