Category Archives: Group Read

Midnight’s Children Group Read

Arti’s post reminded me that March 1st marked the beginning of the Midnight’s Children Group Read.  If you are intrigued please join her,  Bellezza, Mrs. B and those of us who have signed on, in this slow and flexible read-along.


Filed under Booker, Group Read, Salman Rushdie

A People’s History – Drawing the Color Line and beyond…

Thanks to Jill and Jenners for hosting this group read.  This is my third reading of A People’s History.  I plan on posting every few weeks.  If this book inspires you please read the books in Zinn’s bibliography.  I will add links to other resources.

When I first read this book I became angry.  I was also disappointed that the teachers I had trusted in high school and college had not been curious enough to dig deep into the history of the United States.  Later, when I returned to school, things had changed.

Now I know this had to do with our  educational system, with textbook publishers, with class, race and political power.  I believe we are undergoing a historic change,  and hope that more people will be curious enough to learn about our history as a country and as a people, but there are indications of a back-lash.  Witness the recent book removal  from Tuscon, Arizona, classrooms.

If this book makes you angry or frustrated or discouraged, please keep reading.  Our posts and discussions are invaluable.

Chapter 2: Drawing the Color Line.  A discussion of the beginning of the African Slave trade in North America and the beginnings of “racism” in the United States.

Some good books:

Rough Crossing – Simon Schama
Many Thousands Gone – Ira Berlin
Narrative of the The Life of Fredrick Douglas
 The Classic Slave’s Narrative – Charles Davis and Henry Louis Gates
Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl – Harriet Jacobs

Racism from modern white (leftist) perspective:

Race Traitor – Noel Ingatiev
The Wages of Whiteness – David R. Roediger
White Like Me – Tim Wise

Tim Wise is one of the best speakers on racism I have had the privilege to see in person.   I find his web site educational and inspirational.

Chapter 3: Persons of a Mean and Vile Condition.  Bacon’s Rebellion ( did you learn about this in high school?) and the conditions of the poor in the colonies.  For me this period marks the beginnings of class divisions in the Colonies.

I’ve read several of Zinn’s chapter 3 references including:

America at 1750: A Social Portrait by Richard Hofstader
Red, White and Black: The Peoples of Early North  America by Gary B. Nash

Here is a link to an online addition of A People’s History of the United States.  And an image passed on by a Facebook friend this week.


Filed under Group Read, History, United States

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer.

Picador, New York, 2008

Originally published in Spain by Editorial Anagrama as Los dectectives salvajes in 1998.

From my TBR shelf.

Wow.  Reminds me a bit of the old days.  A four-day weekend, a beach house, lots of wine and plenty of weed.  Loud music, creative energy, you get the idea….

The Savage Detectives runs to over 600 pages and is divided into three sections.

The first, Mexicans Lost In Mexico, is told through the diary entries of  Juan García Madero.  Juan is a 17-years-old  law school student who dreams of becoming a poet and is suddenly invited to join the Visceral Realists.  Who are the Visceral Realists?  A group of poets and want-to-be poets striking out against the mainstream and spending a lot of of their time stoned, drunk and changing lovers like musical chairs.  The two poets who head this movement are Arturo Belaño, a Chilean of questionable character and his best friend Ulises Lima, the quiet one.  Are these two poets or small-time thieving dope dealers?

The middle section of the novel, The Savage Detectives, is made up of brief interviews with more than fifty characters.   Belaño and Lima are on a search for the vanished poet, Cesárea Tinajero, the “mother of Visceral Realism” and travel to many places tracing her history.  Or are we actually tracing their history?  The timeline runs from 1976-1996, the characters run the gamut from poets to police detectives.  I found myself constantly moving back and forth within the text tracking who knew whom, who slept with or fought with whom.

In the last section, The Sonora Desert, we return to García Madero’s diary.  Juan,  Arturo, Ulises and their friend Lupe, a prostitute from Mexico City, are zeroing in on the mysterious Cesárea.  They are being chased by Lupe’s pimp, Alberto.  It is a wild road trip through Sonora that ends in Santa Teresa, the city based on Ciudad Juárez, that plays such a vital part in the 2666.

The Savage Detectives is a Chinese puzzle box of a novel.  Like one of those old desks with a multitude of drawers, cubby holes and hidden spaces,  I would open it and find something new, sometimes enticing, often frightening.  Autobiographical,  containing people, events and bits of history from 1970’s Mexico, The Savage Detectives is a rant and a love letter, filled with rebellion and with regret, I think, for lost loves and lost friendships.  Frustrating at times, as I found the writing in 2666, I am astounded at Bolaño’s creative energies, the multiple voices, places, the literary and political arguments.   It is a very moving, funny and terrifying look at youth, love and violence.

I am not a literary critic or Latin American literary scholar.  There is really no way that I can summarize or analysis this novel.  All I can tell you is my personal experience with Bolaño’s words and that they have an effect on me, both intellectually and emotionally.  His words and the way he puts them together, as translated by Natasha Wimmer, and the short stories and interviews I have read, have me wanting to read as much of Roberto Bolaño’s work as I can find.

Thanks to Rise and Richard for organizing this group read.   Maybe we can do it again.  I tried to read Hopscotch once, would be willing to try it again.


Filed under Group Read, InTranslation, LiteraryFiction, Roberto Bolano

A People’s History – Columbus, The Indians and Human Progress

For those who are interested in reading along but do not have access to a hard copy of the book   History Is A Weapon has the entire A People’s History of the United States online.

And some relevent breaking newsRethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, a resource book for teachers by Bill Bigelow,  has been banned in Tucson, Arizona schools along with many other books and The Tempest by William Shakespeare.  More here,  here and here.

When I read that Jill and Jenners were doing a group read of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States I thought great, more folks reading Zinn and finding out things they didn’t learn in school.  Then I saw some of the comments and figured I had to jump in.

I felt like I had missed something since I last read this book.  When had people started referring to Zinn as “revisionist”?  Aren’t revisionists those folks who deny the Holocaust or deny the Armenian Genocide?  Then I did a bit of digging and found out there are now two kinds of  revisionism.  Negationism and Historical Revisionism.  I’m not going to define those terms here.  If you are interested follow the links.  My only concern is that people confuse them.

Jill and Jenners have done a wonderful job of writing about the first chapter and quoting from the book, focusing on  Zinn’s reasoning for writing A People’s History and his thoughts on history and education.  I want to do something different.

When I first read this book, 25 years or so ago,  I made every effort I could to read other sources, those that Zinn had suggested and those I found on my own.  For me it was important to find books written by Native Americans,  along with those written by white people.  What follows is a list of some of them, along with a list of  my favorite poets and authors of fiction.  If A People’s History of the United States has peaked your interested, you will find these books invaluable.


All Our Relations by Winona LaDuke

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

Custer Died For Your Sins by Vine Deloria

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen

The Memory of Fire Trilogy by Eduardo Galeano

Killing Custer by James Welch

Lasting Echoes: An Oral History of the United States by Joseph Bruchac

The Founders of America by Francis Jennings

Voices of Wounded Knee by William S. E. Colman

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Authors – Fiction and Poetry

Sherman Alexie

Jimmy Santiago Baca

Louise Erdrich

Joy Harjo

Thomas King

N. Scott Momaday

Simon Ortiz

Eden Robinson

Leslie Marmon Silko

Gerald Vizenor

James Welch

I hope you have a wonderful  Martin Luther King Day.


Filed under Group Read, History

A Midnight’s Children Group Read

Mrs. B. at The Literary Stew, Arti at Ripple Effects and Meredith at Dolce Bellezza are organizing a group read of  Salman Rushdie’s Booker of Bookers prize winning Midnight’s Children starting in March.  I’ve been meaning to get back to this novel for years and find this a perfect opportunity.

From The Literary Stew post:

Since Rushdie won’t be an easy read we decided to take this very slowly so this will be a long and relaxed group read. We don’t want it to interfere with other reading plans. The book has 533 pages and is divided into three parts with the second part being the longest. We’ll begin in March, and for four months at the last day of each month we’ll post our review.

Here’s the exact schedule for postings:

  • March 31 — Book One
  • April 30   — Book Two (Part A ending with ‘Alpha and Omega’)
  • May 31   —  Book Two (Part B starting with ‘The Kolynos Kid’)
  • June 30   —  Book Three
As you can see we’ll have more than enough time to get through the 533 pages. If you’d like to join, please let us know and take note of the schedule above. We’ll do a reminder post in early March.
I am excited to be reading this novel with others and look forward to some lively discussions.  If you are interested in joining in please visit any of the links to these wonderful blogs.


Filed under Booker, Events, Group Read, Salman Rushdie

The Savage Detectives Group Read

Coming in January.. a group read of Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives.  Thanks to Richard of Caravana de recuedos for organizing this event.  Many of the people I shared the 2666 read-along with, way back in 2009, are joining in.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while and  I am happy to be reading along with a great group if book lovers.  Are you interested?  Here is a link to Richard’s post.

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Filed under Events, Group Read, Roberto Bolano