Sunday, April 3, 2011

Genre Reading Group recap - Women's History/Issues

I believe each of us truly felt the power of women at last week's GRG meeting. Our topic was Women's History and Women's Issues and group members really stepped up to the plate with their selections! Next month's topic is audiobooks, fiction or nonfiction. If you are new to audiobooks, feel free to stop by and chat with me! I'm confident that together we can find something enjoyable for your listening entertainment!

I usually create a bookmark each month for participants to ponder as they make judgements about their selections but I let it slip by me for the March topic. Since I'm not certain that everyone noticed the bookmarks I prepared for the last meeting, I'm including the quotes here as well!

For our women's history/issues meeting:

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." - Marie Curie

To ponder for our April 26th meeting on audiobooks:

"Words are the voice of the heart." - Confucius

Also, I had two suggestions to add to our next ballot for genre picks: YA books and women tycoons. I'm eager to keep this group fresh and interesting so I'm always open to ballot suggestions! Send them my way!

Now, on to the list!

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.

Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and--after his murder--three more with his protégé. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra's supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff 's is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian's bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.

Inspired by her generation's experiences juggling career and home life, journalist Andrea Gabor set out to define the unique stuff of which great women are made and chart the often tangled territory in which love and ambition intersect. Among the women she profiles are Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, architect and urban planner Denise Scott Brown, and Mileva Maric Einstein, the scientist whose marriage to Einstein ended in tragedy.

Condoleezza Rice has excelled as a diplomat, political scientist, and concert pianist. Her achievements run the gamut from helping to oversee the collapse of communism in Europe and the decline of the Soviet Union, to working to protect the country in the aftermath of 9-11, to becoming only the second woman - and the first black woman ever -- to serve as Secretary of State.
But until she was 25 she never learned to swim.
Not because she wouldn't have loved to, but because when she was a little girl in Birmingham, Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor decided he'd rather shut down the city's pools than give black citizens access.
Throughout the 1950's, Birmingham's black middle class largely succeeded in insulating their children from the most corrosive effects of racism, providing multiple support systems to ensure the next generation would live better than the last. But by 1963, when Rice was applying herself to her fourth grader's lessons, the situation had grown intolerable. Birmingham was an environment where blacks were expected to keep their head down and do what they were told -- or face violent consequences. That spring two bombs exploded in Rice’s neighborhood amid a series of chilling Klu Klux Klan attacks. Months later, four young girls lost their lives in a particularly vicious bombing.
So how was Rice able to achieve what she ultimately did?
Her father, John, a minister and educator, instilled a love of sports and politics. Her mother, a teacher, developed Condoleezza’s passion for piano and exposed her to the fine arts. From both, Rice learned the value of faith in the face of hardship and the importance of giving back to the community. Her parents’ fierce unwillingness to set limits propelled her to the venerable halls of Stanford University, where she quickly rose through the ranks to become the university’s second-in-command. An expert in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs, she played a leading role in U.S. policy as the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated. Less than a decade later, at the apex of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, she received the exciting news – just shortly before her father’s death – that she would go on to the White House as the first female National Security Advisor.
As comfortable describing lighthearted family moments as she is recalling the poignancy of her mother’s cancer battle and the heady challenge of going toe-to-toe with Soviet leaders, Rice holds nothing back in this remarkably candid telling. This is the story of Condoleezza Rice that has never been told, not that of an ultra-accomplished world leader, but of a little girl – and a young woman -- trying to find her place in a sometimes hostile world and of two exceptional parents, and an extended family and community, that made all the difference.

A Mouthful of Rivets: Women at Work in World War II by Nancy Baker Wise and Christy Wise
A Mouthful of Rivets is the oral history of the women who took part in World War II on the homefront. In more than one hundred interviews, Nancy Baker Wise and Christy Wise create a textured portrait of the challenges and triumphs these powerful women experienced. Each woman vividly describes how she overcame discrimination, harassment, emotional and physical challenges, and inadequate training to successfully meet the needs of defense production while bringing the American economy to its height.

Discussion of this book, and of the group member's friend who was one of these women who went to work during WWII, brought to mind a great documentary film, Fly Girls! During WWII, more than a thousand women signed up to fly with the U.S. military. Wives, mothers, actresses and debutantes who joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) test-piloted aircraft, ferried planes and logged 60 million miles in the air. Thirty-eight women died in service. But the opportunity to play a critical role in the war effort was abruptly canceled by politics and resentment, and it would be 30 years before women would again break the sex barrier in the skies.

In a natural follow-up to her national bestseller Front Row at the White House, the dean of the White House press corps presents a vivid and personal presidential chronicle. Currently a columnist for Hearst and a former White House bureau chief for UPI, Helen Thomas has covered an unprecedented nine presidential administrations, endearing herself with her trademark "Thank you, Mr. President," at the conclusion of White House press conferences. Thomas has amassed many wonderful tales about her personal interactions with and observations of the presidents and their families that can all be found in Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President.

In nine riveting chapters -- one for each administration -- Thomas delights, informs, spins yarns, and offers opinions on the commanders in chief, from Kennedy through George W. Bush. In these accounts, Thomas reveals Kennedy's love of sparring with the press, the unique invitation LBJ extended to Hubert Humphrey to become his running mate, and Reagan's down-home ways of avoiding the press's tougher questions. This book is as entertaining and compelling as Helen Thomas herself.

Bold, brilliant, and utterly ruthless, Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden spawned the modern beauty industry and forever changed the way women think about cosmetics, salons, and wrinkles. Along the way, they rubbed elbows with many of the greats in the worlds of the arts and fashion and helped launch several brilliant careers. Yet, other than official press releases and autobiographical accounts that tend to be more fluff than fact, little has been written about the two. Now, nearly forty years after their deaths, War Paint goes behind the gloss and glamour to tell the riveting true story of these remarkable women and their epic achievements–and no less epic rivalry.

In the late nineteenth century, good girls didn’t want careers–and they certainly didn’t paint their faces. Business, like politics and every other field of serious endeavor, was considered inherently unsuited for a member of the fair sex. In War Paint, Lindy Woodhead reveals how two unlikely young women, Chaja Rubinstein and Florence Nightingale Graham, both born into poverty–one in the Krakow Ghetto, the other in rural Canada–and lacking any formal education, defied nineteenth-century notions of class and gender and went on to become two of the twentieth century’s most powerful business tycoons.

A story of unquenchable ambition and unbendable wills, of bitchy turf wars and grand obsessions, and, above all, of true business genius, War Paint reveals how "Madame" and "Miss Arden" (or "that woman!" and "the other one," as each was known to the other, respectively) transformed the piddling toiletries trade of the 1890s into today’s insatiable, multibillion-dollar market for dreams in creams–and how, in the process, they pioneered modern advertising, product packaging, consumer public relations, and direct marketing.

From the Montparnasse of Hemingway and Picasso and the Greenwich Village of E. E. Cummings and Djuna Barnes to the ballrooms and boardrooms of New York, Paris, and London, War Paint weaves a vivid tapestry of intersecting lives and warring ambitions in the early decades of the twentieth century.

An engrossing dual biography set against the grand sweep of two world wars and the birth of the modern consumer culture, War Paint is at once a master stroke of scholarship and a good, old-fashioned, juicy tell-all about the supremely talented, deeply flawed doyennes of the modern culture of beauty.

The member who read this book informed us that a documentary film had been made based on this book. The title is The Powder and the Glory and you can only get it here at Emmet O'Neal!

When Hillary Clinton announced her 2008 bid for president she was the Democratic front-runner. Despite this, she received less coverage than Barack Obama, who trailed her in the polls. Such a disparity is indicative of the gender bias the media has demonstrated in covering women candidates since the first woman ran for America’s highest office in 1872. Tracing the campaigns of eight women who ran for president through 2004--Victoria Woodhull, Belva Lockwood, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisholm, Patricia Schroeder, Lenora Fulani, Elizabeth Dole, and Carol Moseley Braun--Erika Falk finds little progress in the fair treatment of women candidates. A thorough comparison of the women’s campaigns to those of their male opponents reveals a worrisome trend of sexism in press coverage--a trend that still persists today.
While women have been elected to the highest offices in countries such as England, Germany, and India, the idea that a woman could be president of the United States provokes scoffs and ridicule. The press portrays female candidates as unviable, unnatural, and incompetent, and often ignores or belittles women instead of reporting their ideas and intent. Since voters learn most details about presidential candidates through media outlets, Falk asserts that this prevailing bias calls into question the modern democratic assumption that men and women have comparable access to positions of power.

This book has been updated. The new edition has the same title but the subtitle is "Media Bias in Nine Campaigns." Newly updated to examine Hillary Clinton's formidable 2008 presidential campaign, Women for President analyzes the gender bias the media has demonstrated in covering women candidates since the first woman ran for America's highest office in 1872.

This book details the lives and careers of fifteen women whose crimes have, at one time or another, stained the pages of history. Parricide, fratricide and, most terrible of all, infanticide; murder under trust; serial murder, including the stalking and killing of men; torture, persecution, massacre and judicial murder; sexually motivated killings; murders for gain or to conceal other crimes- all these and others are detailed in this fascinating study of the manifestation of true evil in women over some 2,000 years. From Roman empresses to jealous daughters and bored housewives, they have all been responsible for terrible crimes.

Blithely flinging aside the Victorian manners that kept her disapproving mother corseted, the New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Her newfound freedom heralded a radical change in American culture.

Whisking us from the Alabama country club where Zelda Sayre first caught the eye of F. Scott Fitzgerald to Muncie, Indiana, where would-be flappers begged their mothers for silk stockings, to the Manhattan speakeasies where patrons partied till daybreak, historian Joshua Zeitz brings the era to exhilarating life. This is the story of America’s first sexual revolution, its first merchants of cool, its first celebrities, and its most sparkling advertisement for the right to pursue happiness.

The men and women who made the flapper were a diverse lot.

There was Coco Chanel, the French orphan who redefined the feminine form and silhouette, helping to free women from the torturous corsets and crinolines that had served as tools of social control.

Three thousand miles away, Lois Long, the daughter of a Connecticut clergyman, christened herself “Lipstick” and gave New Yorker readers a thrilling entrée into Manhattan’s extravagant Jazz Age nightlife.

In California, where orange groves gave way to studio lots and fairytale mansions, three of America’s first celebrities—Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Louise Brooks, Hollywood’s great flapper triumvirate—fired the imaginations of millions of filmgoers.

Dallas-born fashion artist Gordon Conway and Utah-born cartoonist John Held crafted magazine covers that captured the electricity of the social revolution sweeping the United States.

Bruce Barton and Edward Bernays, pioneers of advertising and public relations, taught big business how to harness the dreams and anxieties of a newly industrial America—and a nation of consumers was born.

Towering above all were Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, whose swift ascent and spectacular fall embodied the glamour and excess of the era that would come to an abrupt end on Black Tuesday, when the stock market collapsed and rendered the age of abundance and frivolity instantly obsolete.

With its heady cocktail of storytelling and big ideas, Flapper is a dazzling look at the women who launched the first truly modern decade.

Barbara Washburn never set out to become a mountaineering pioneer, but she wasn't content to be a stay-at-home wife, either. In 1947, defying social convention, the mother of three became the first woman to climb Mt. McKinley.

What are YOU reading?


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