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Beyond the Book Articles
Society and Politics

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Farmer Suicides in India (10/15)
The Lives of Others begins with a shocking murder suicide. A farmer, Nitai Das, kills his children and wife and then himself, out of sheer desperation resulting from abject poverty and hunger. The book's protagonist, Supratik Ghosh, decides to move to rural West Bengal, to help the plight of farmers caught in an endless cycle of debt and ...
The Shame of the Fathers (10/15)
In A Killing in Zion, Salt Lake City deputy sheriff Art Oveson is charged with apprehending and arresting members of a Mormon fundamentalist sect who commit the crime of polygamy. But fealty to the law is only part of what drives this Mormon's professional zeal. In his more thoughtful moments Oveson has to admit to himself that he has a ...
Boarding Schools in the UK (09/15)
The Secret Place is set on the grounds of an Irish boarding school, an educational institution where children live on campus while they attend classes.

Boarding schools have a rich history in Ireland and neighboring UK (The Republic of Ireland was part of the UK through the 19th century and up to 1922). It is believed The ...
Ping Pong Diplomacy (08/15)
In A Map of Betrayal, Gary Shang is always looking for ways to bring the two countries he loves, China and the United States, together. He claims to be one of the prime drivers for a coup that has come to be called Ping Pong diplomacy, a series of table tennis (ping pong) games between the two countries that signaled a thaw in relations. ...
Diving into the Spy's Psyche (07/15)
Inasmuch as most of the spies that have been interviewed, researched, quantified and statistically charted are those that have been caught, perhaps the psyche of a good spy is as elusive as spies themselves. Not to mention the fact that a 'good spy' is not so easily defined. There are many types of spies and many reasons for becoming one....
Law Enforcement and Retirement (06/15)
What is more stressful for a law enforcement officer? Facing a bunch of drunk, angry, armed motorcycle gangsters or facing retirement? The Storm Murders' protagonist, retired Montreal Sergeant-Detective Émile Cinq-Mars would think the latter.

Most who enter the field of law enforcement do so with intentions of public service and ...
Anti-Miscegenation Laws (06/15)
According to the 2010 census, the number of mixed-race and mixed-ethnic couples in America grew by 28% from 2000 to 2010. At one time marrying outside one's race was considered, at best, controversial, but a 2007 Gallup poll cites 87% of Americans as approving of the practice. Such levels of acceptance were not always apparent, however, ...
A History of Child Welfare Policy (04/15)
During the 19th century many children in the United Kingdom and the United States suffered from hardship, neglect, and abuse. Poor children in Victorian England had to work, frequently long hours and in dangerous conditions (in coal mines or textile mills, for example), in order to help financially support their families. In the U.S., the...
The Roots of American Environmentalism (04/15)
As Fagin shows readers through the specific events in Toms River, environmental and ecological concerns began to receive attention in American politics in the 1960s and 1970s. The creation of the Department of Environmental Protection (now the Environmental Protection Agency) was heavily encouraged, in part, by individuals across America ...
There is Nothing Like a Motherless Child (04/15)
According to an article in The Washington Times: 'In America, the number of single fathers has risen from 600,000 in 1982 to over 2 million in 2011, partially because of mothers leaving their families. In the UK, it is estimated mother (sic) are abandoning their children at a rate of 100,000 annually.' Although mostly anecdotal, that ...
Sabriye Tenberken and Braille Without Borders (03/15)
In her nonfiction book For the Benefit of Those Who See, Rosemary Mahoney recounts her experiences at Braille Without Borders, an international development organization that helps blind and partially sighted students gain independence, workplace skills, and professional training.

Founded in Lhasa, Tibet, the organization is the ...
The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (03/15)
'In the mess of Central Asia there are as many sides as there are opportunities to steal a march,' Rahman writes in In The Light of What We Know. 'There are no sides to tell us who is doing what, for whom, and why, only exigencies, strategies, short-term objectives, at the level of governments, regions, clans, families, and individuals: ...
Smallpox and Xenophobia (03/15)
Frog Music is set in San Francisco in 1876, during a summer notable not only for its record-setting heat waves but also for its smallpox epidemic, one of many that plagued the United States during the nineteenth century even as efforts were being made to eradicate the disease through vaccination and inoculation. According to Donoghue's ...
U.N. Committee Presses Vatican Regarding Pedophile Priests (02/15)
In 2014, the Catholic Church took heat from a United Nations committee investigating its compliance with practices outlined in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The Convention, which establishes international standards for the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children, was ratified in...
Key to a Long, Healthy Life: Friendship (01/15)
It turns out that the secret to enjoying a strong immune system, all but impervious to such annoyances as the common cold, inflammation and even heart disease, is 100% natural, organic, chemical-free, with no nasty side effects and – best of all – it's free. According to a New York Times article, numerous studies have ...
Systematic Euthanasia (01/15)
In Motherland, one of the brothers, Ani, is a patient at a hospital in Hadamar, which was notorious for implementing the Nazis' systematic euthanasia program.

Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection had the unintended consequence of giving birth to Social Darwinism – determining the course of human evolution through...
The Storied Death of the Independent Bookstore (01/15)
We heard it when Borders Books began to appear. The Independent Bookstore is going to die. And then when Barnes and Noble Bookstores began popping up in many cities and suburbs. And when Amazon hit the scene. And then ebooks. The Independent Bookstore is all but dead. But is this true?

Headline, November 28, 2012, The Atlantic: The ...
Living With Someone With Autistic Disorder (12/14)
For parents, siblings and partners of people who have been diagnosed with autistic disorder, something as simple as stopping at the quick mart for milk can be a challenge. Depending upon the person's level of tolerance for changes in routine, and conditions on the day, his/her response could range from nothing out of the ordinary; to ...
Teens and Feminism (11/14)
In an interview at Book Riot, A. S. King (Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, 2014) says:

I am still a believer in the original feminism. You know the one - the one that simply wanted equal social, political, and economic rights for women. I love men. I love other women. I love people. I don't think feminism means we have to ...

Take A Book, Leave A Book—The Little Free Library Movement (11/14)
In Lorrie Moore's story 'Wings,' the main character K.C. goes for a walk and meets an elderly man building what looks like a little bird feeder at the end of his driveway. He tells her it's a Book Nook, that he's going to put books inside for people to take, like a little library. A little free library.

These Little Free Libraries are ...
The Raw Food Movement (11/14)
One of the avant-garde trends in American cuisine explored in Anything That Moves is the growth of the raw food movement. Raw foodists believe that cooking destroys critical enzymes from food needed for good health and digestion. So everything - milk, meat, vegetables, grains - is consumed raw. Special co-ops around the country deliver ...
Vocational Rehabilitation (09/14)
Part of what brings together the characters in Tumbledown is their participation in a vocational rehabilitation program—in this case, training in an assembly-line setup designed to teach them to work on an actual factory floor. As portrayed in the novel, this type of work not only offers patients (modest) financial compensation, it ...
The U.S. Military-Industrial Complex (09/14)
In The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, you can see the United States' complex diplomatic and espionage mechanisms at work. As the cliché goes, freedom is expensive. The vastness of this network is complemented by a parallel one, the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex, a term coined by President Eisenhower to cover the many industries, ...
White Flight (08/14)
In We Are Not Ourselves, Eileen Leary moves to a three-family home in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, which, even as she watches, becomes increasingly diverse. 'Supposedly it was the most ethnically diverse square mile in the world. Someone more poetically inclined might find inspiration in the polyphony of voices, but she just ...
Evin Prison (07/14)
Children of the Jacaranda Tree plants its story firmly in the tumultuous landscape of Iran in the 1970s and '80s. The Shah was overthrown in the late 1970s, and political activists were full of hope for a new kind of Iran. But it was to be a fleeting hope. The new Islamic Republic of Iran threw dissenters in prison, charging them with ...
The Naxalites in India (06/14)
In The Lowland, Udayan Mitra, one of the two brothers in the story, gets pulled into India's nascent communist movement that kicked into high gear in the 60s, especially in the state of West Bengal where a fair portion of the novel is set.

The world's largest democracy has had brushes with communism for decades now, the origins of ...
The Scopes Trial (06/14)
Biology professor Andrew Waite (the protagonist in The Explanation for Everything) had a predecessor in John Scopes, a 24-year-old high school teacher who decided to teach the theory of evolution in his Dayton, Tennessee high school classroom defying a then newly implemented state law banning this practice. The year was 1925, a time when ...
Food Waste (05/14)
Food waste, one of the key issues underlying Jonathan Miles's Want Not, is a problem that is beginning to draw more attention worldwide. Every year American households and retailers throw away 40 million tons of usable food. In early 2013 the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers issued a report, entitled 'Global Food; Waste Not, Want ...
Food Deserts (05/14)
In Save Yourself, Patrick Cusimano works at Zoney's, a 24-hour convenience store in a small fictional town in Pennsylvania called Ratchetsburg. He finds his candy-striped uniform and the sterile atmosphere of the place stifling, yet work here is one of just a few options for town residents. From what Braffet describes, it seems like Zoney...
Parental Child Abduction (05/14)
According to the U.S Dept of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, about 200,000 children are reported missing each year as a result of parental abduction. 53% of family abducted children were gone less than a week, and 21% for more than a month.

In many parts of the U.S. there is uncertainty about how ...
The Missing (04/14)
According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, 678,860 people were reported missing in 2011. The suspected cause of a disappearance was only recorded in about half of all cases. Of these, 3% were adults; 96% were juvenile runaways, about 1% were abducted by a non-custodial parent, and 0.1% abducted by a stranger. It should be ...
Slums (04/14)
According to the UN, the percentage of urban dwellers living in slums dropped 10% to 37% in the 15 years leading up to 2005. But before you break out into celebration, there's just one tiny catch - because of the rising population, the total number of people living in slums has actually increased substantially, and is expected to continue...
Animal Rights and Activism (03/14)
People have debated the rights of animals since early times. The relationship between people and animals has generated many different and widely varying perspectives. Here's a quick trek through some of them, following in animals' footsteps – whether four-footed or two:

In the 6th century BCE, Pythagoras taught that both animals ...
The Irish Economy, Boom and Bust (03/14)
Although the 2008 financial crisis that provides the background to Donal Ryan's The Spinning Heart had worldwide repercussions, the effects were felt particularly heavily in Ireland. The crash was preceded by a time of great prosperity in the country, such that the booming economy was given the nickname of the 'Celtic Tiger,' comparing it...
The Sickness of Denial (02/14)
Helga's Diary is an important book because it protects the truth of our human past, and truth has often been in danger. 'In war, truth is the first casualty.' Any great conflict brings us to the same confrontation with distortion, lies, and historical reconstruction.

In 2000, a libel trial took place in Great Britain. David Irving, a...
Prison Pen Pal Programs (01/14)
In Annabel Pitcher's YA novel, Ketchup Clouds, the protagonist, a fifteen-year-old English girl who uses the pseudonym 'Zoe,' tells her story through secret letters she writes to a death row inmate. Mr. S. Harris lives thousands of miles away in Houston, Texas and is one of the only people who might understand Zoe's situation; he knows ...
Dignitas (12/13)
At the center of Me Before You is an intensely emotional and ethical debate about assisted suicide; and in particular, of the assisted-death organization, Dignitas, which plays a primary role in the story. Dignitas, founded near Zurich, Switzerland in 1998, has as its motto 'to live with dignity – to die with dignity.' The ...
Restitution and Restorative Justice (11/13)
Tara Conklin's novel The House Girl weaves two stories together: 17-year-old Josephine, a slave who flees a tobacco farm in West Virginia in 1852, and Lina, a lawyer seeking reparations for the descendants of African American slaves in 2004. While the idea of reparations is not new, it has gained more of a spotlight within the last decade...
Contemporary Movements Based in the Past (10/13)
Jared Diamond's question, 'What can we learn from traditional societies?' is one Westerners have been asking in a Utopian spirit for generations, looking for ways to revivify our cultural practices and trying revisionist experiments to reverse the damage civilization does to our health and psyches. It's a tricky exercise, since there are ...
China's One-Child Policy (10/13)
The scavenger in The Scavenger's Daughters adopts many unwanted Chinese girls and adds them to his growing family. The casting away of girls has been noted as one of the many devastating impacts of China's one-child policy.

More than 30 years ago, China implemented a program where couples were allowed to have only one child with some ...
Ashley X (10/13)
One of the stories Solomon tells in Far From The Tree is about Ashley X (the last name is to protect identity), a disabled girl whose story generated a lot of controversy about disability and its treatment.

Ashley X, born in 1997, was diagnosed in infancy with static encephalopathy, a brain disorder that is similar to cerebral palsy. ...
The Tenets of Communism (09/13)
Communism is an economic and philosophical theory that can be summed up by a phrase made popular by the 'father of communism,' Karl Marx: 'From each, according to his ability, to each according to his need.'

In its ideal form, all property is held in common; there is no private ownership. There are also no class divisions, and equal ...
America's Commercial Bail Bond Business (09/13)
In The Prophet Adam Austen is a licensed commercial bail bondsman. It is a profession unique to only two countries in the world, the United States and the Philippines (a former U.S. colony).

Other countries use a variety of methods to ensure that defendants will show up for a court date. For example, in the UK, in the case of ...
The West Country & Council Estates (07/13)
J. K. Rowling grew up in England's West Country, which is an informal term used to embrace the southwestern part of England, the peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The West Country doesn't have any rigid borders but generally includes the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. A looser definition also includes all...
The Women's Refugee Commission (06/13)
Mary Anne Schwalbe was a woman of many careers. She was a high school teacher; head of admissions at Harvard; and a founder, and later, director of the Women's Refugee Commission. Her work with the WRC was something she was passionate about through the end of her life.

Founded in 1989 (and initially called the Women's Commission), the ...
Morocco's Fossil Industry (06/13)
The Forgiven is, in part, a wonderful travelogue which explores deep into the heart of Morocco, in particular into the lives of the Moroccan fossil diggers.

Morocco is rich in a variety of fossils and because parts of the country's Anti-Atlas mountains (a part of the Atlas mountains also called Lesser Atlas or Little Atlas) date back ...
Conversion Therapy (06/13)
Two thirds of the way through The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Cam's aunt sends her away to God's Promise: a Christian School and Center for Healing. Its mission is to help 'adolescents yearning to break free from the bonds of sexual sin and confusion by welcoming Jesus Christ into their lives.' How does God's Promise achieve what it ...
Improvised Explosive Devices (04/13)
An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is an inexpensive, low-tech weapon designed to cause death or injury to enemy forces. The British Army was the first to call such homemade bombs IEDs in the 1970s, referring to the fertilizer and Semtex explosives used by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Although IEDs have become a ...
The Young Pioneers (04/13)
Memoirist Wenguang Huang was once a member of China's communist youth organization, which, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), was known as The Little Red Guard. The group was originally formed by the Communist Party of China in 1949 as The Youth and Children of China Movement, but in 1953, it was renamed The Young Pioneers - the ...
Human Trafficking in North Korea (03/13)
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 'Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transfering, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them. Every year, thousands of men, women and ...
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