Posts Tagged 'Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees'

July BAND: Upcoming Nonfiction

This month at the Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees, Zohar of Man of La Book asks, what upcoming nonfiction books are you excited about?

My answer to this is brief because I’m not that up on what books are coming out soon. (Related question for nonfiction devotees: how do you know about new or forthcoming books? Is there a secret world of book trailers/previews I don’t know about?)

Coincidentally, I just started following the blog of Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings and by doing so, I learned that he will have a new book out in January 2013. Because I Said So! will debunk myths and warnings that adults pass on to children over generations. As someone who works with kids and tries to avoid “because I said so,” comments, this book sounds like a fun read to me!

June BAND: Bias and self-reflexivity

This month’s Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees is hosted by Marilyn of Me, You, and Books. She asks,

When is an author’s subjective response to a subject not a bias but a legitimate perspective? What non-fiction have you read where an author’s feelings enhance your understanding?

This is a strange question for me to answer, because I don’t consider any written text to be unbiased, though I don’t use the term biased all that much.

In the early days of academic anthropology, when researchers went to colonized lands to “observe the natives,” anthropologists wrote as if they were the Authority on their subject. They described and analyzed so-called primitive cultures as static units, not acknowledging the influence of their own presence on what they observed, much less the effects of colonialism on the societies and lives they analyzed.

Continue reading ‘June BAND: Bias and self-reflexivity’

April BAND: Quirky Nonfiction

After a break in March, the Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees is back, and I’m happy to chime in on another of these conversations! This month’s question comes from Care’s Online Book Club:

I like to read nonfiction on odd subjects. I define quirky as a book about a single subject that at first thought might prompt a question of how anyone could find enough stuff to write an entire book?

Who are your favorite quirky titles and authors?

Continue reading ‘April BAND: Quirky Nonfiction’

February BAND: Nonfiction dislikes

Happy Leap Day! Thank goodness for an extra day in February that I could get my BAND post in. BAND is a monthly discussion for nonfiction book lovers. February’s question is from Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness. She asks, what is one type of nonfiction you dislike and why?

This one was hard for me. Like Kim, I don’t love to read books by pundits or politicians. In fact, to anyone else who feels that way, I recommend the book, Why America’s Top Pundits are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back.

Trying to come up with my own answer, though, I visualized the Barnes & Noble I worked in last summer. I asked myself which sections drew my interest the least. I tended to linger in the cultural studies section (surprise surprise) when re-shelving, but not far from that was the military studies section, which I would’ve ignored altogether if I could have. Unfortunately it was a section always in need of what booksellers call “recovery.”

I don’t like reading nonfiction that recounts wars from a glorifying perspective, or even from status quo historical interest standpoint. Books devoted to weapons hurt my soul. I am willing to, and often do, read about violence when it’s written about through a political lens, but those types of books don’t end up in the military studies section of a bookstore.

Is there a type of nonfiction you won’t read? Leave your answer in the comments!

January BAND: Don’t let your resolutions be fictions

Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees is a monthly discussion among “advocates of nonfiction as a non-chore.” This month, Joy of Joy’s Book Blog asks, “What books have you used or are you using to support a goal, resolution, or project?”

I like this question because some people responded with books that help them fulfill their reading resolutions, while other folks shared books that help them accomplish non-reading goals, like healthy eating or learning web design.

I already noted that my New Year’s resolution is to read the Qu’ran so that I understand the religion off many of my friends around the world. I have a few other goals that reading nonfiction will support.

1. One of the many worlds I inhabit is a politicized one focused on organizing and movement-building. As an anthropologist and journalist, I’m pretty good at understanding and writing about conditions and power in situations of injustice, but I lack experience with the strategies for changing those situations. To help me better understand community organizing, this winter I plan to read Autobiography of La Causa by Cesar Chavez and The Long Haul by Myles Horton.

2. I’ve felt like I reached a plateau in my photography for a while now, so I’d like to start reading some digital photography books. It’s a broad topic, though, and I haven’t figured out what I want to focus on yet.

What about you? Got any book-related new year’s resolutions or goals that you’ll use books to help you achieve?

November BAND Discussion: Reading for a cause

Amy of Opinions of a Wolf, asks this month’s BAND question: Do you read nonfiction to support a cause?

Similar to what Amy writes in her response,  the phrase “doing it for a cause” immediately evokes my college life. I went to a school full of idealists and do-gooders, in a city brimming with non-profit organizations. Pick your cause and you could find an outlet for it on campus or off. Attend a speaking event about any social issue and you were sure to hear audience members ask, “What can we do?”

In my experience, the answers to that question are more complex than the “action steps” model suggests, but understanding a problem you’re aiming to change is always necessary. That’s where I think the idea of “reading for a cause” can be considered. Study must inform social struggles; It’s vital to understand the conditions people are experiencing and the powerful forces that shape those conditions. Action without these components is fighting without a weapon.

In college I read lots of nonfiction on political violence in Palestine and Guatemala, though I can’t say I was particularly connected to the actual causes associated with those issues beyond awareness-raising and college-y activism.

Nowadays, I’m reading a range of materials to get a sense of what problems are affecting Pennsylvania, who’s benefiting from the way things are, and who’s organizing to change things. I’d also like to read any books I can find on movements that have existed in Pennsylvania (most likely ones being labor-related), because knowledge of the past can be a tool for engaging people and strategizing.

October BAND Discussion: Nonfiction Anthologies

Ash of the English Major’s Junk Food blog is hosting this month’s BAND (Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees) discussion. She asks, What are your favorite nonfiction anthologies?

Like Ash, I appreciate anthologies because they allow the reader to be enticed by a short nonfiction piece without committing to an entire tome. That’s valuable for people intimidated by nonfiction but I also enjoy it as a way to learn a bit about unfamiliar places or phenomena.

I don’t usually like the “Best American Essays”-type collections,  because I prefer anthologies focused on a theme. I’m not sure I’ve read enough anthologies to pinpoint my absolute favorite, so I’m going to write about the one that made me realize how great anthologies are, as well as a few I’m reading right now.

  1. Violence in Times of War and Peace, edited by Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Phillippe Bourgois. Though there are a few fictional pieces, the majority of essays in this book are nonfiction excerpts or articles covering a global range and grouped into sections such as Communal Violence, Violence and Political Resistance, Everyday Violence, and Torture. The anthology served as the primary text for the anthropology of violence course I took while studying abroad. I remember reading ahead for the class, while my roommates watched bootleg DVDs. Though the subject matter is often stomach-turning, the theoretical frameworks offered by the authors and implied in the organization of the collection took me beyond a a simple condemnation of violence to a critical understanding of how it is produced and reproduced in society at different places and times.
  2. Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, edited by Elizabeth Marshall and Özlem Sensoy. This anthology gathers articles from Rethinking Schools magazine analyzing popular culture and media’s effects on students and schools. What I love about this book so far is that many of the authors are teachers and thus they offer examples of active ways they’ve responded to the changing relationships of media and corporations to youth—in their own uses of technology and in encouraging critical media literacy among students. My main complaint is that most of the articles don’t have notation on when they were originally published.
  3. Telling True Stories, edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call. This guide for narrative nonfiction writing currently resides on my kitchen table, since I’ve been reading its short essays with breakfast for the last few days. It’s delightful to find a book full of suggestions from other people who get as much fulfillment from discovering and sharing human stories as I do.
  4. Spellbound: Women and Witchcraft in America, edited by Elizabeth Reis. When a feminist archaeologist professor of mine retired she told me to select a book from her shelf so she wouldn’t have to take them all home. I chose this one, and it’s sat on my own bookshelf ever since. I read the introduction last week as I worked on my Witchy Women post for Canonball. Writing that post made me realize how vast the topic of witches and culture is and reading Spellbound reminded me the importance of contextualizing subjects in time and space when writing nonfiction. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the articles in that anthology for the depth and specificity of their analyses.


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