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In his nearly two terms as president, Barack Obama has solidified his status as something black people haven’t had for fifty years: a folk hero. The 1960s delivered Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, forever twinned as larger-than-life outsiders and truth tellers who took on racism and died in the process. Obama is different: Not an outsider but president, head of the most powerful state in the world; a centrist Democrat, not the face of a movement. Yet he is every bit a folk hero, doing battle with the beast of a system created to keep people like him on the margins. He is unique among presidents and entirely unique among black people, who never expected to have a president so soon.
In I Heart Obama, journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan offers an unapologetic appreciation of our highest-ranking “First” and what he means to black Americans. In the process, she explores the critiques of those in the black community who charge that he has not done enough, been present enough, been black enough to motivate real change in America. Racial antipathy cloaked as political antipathy has been the major conflict in Obama’s presidency. His impossible task as an individual and as a president is nothing less than this: to reform the entire racist culture of the country he leads. Black people know he can’t do it, but will support his effort anyway, as they have supported the efforts of many others. Obama’s is a noble and singular story we will tell for generations. I Heart Obama looks at the story so far.
The Epic Voyages of the Polar Adventurer Fram
In the golden age of polar exploration (from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s), many an expedition set out to answer the big question—was the Arctic a continent, an open ocean beyond a barrier of ice, or an ocean covered with ice? No one knew, for the ice had kept its secret well; ships trying to penetrate it all failed, often catastrophically. Norway’s charismatic scientist-explorer Fridtjof Nansen, convinced that it was a frozen ocean, intended to prove it in a novel if risky way: by building a ship capable of withstanding the ice, joining others on an expedition, then drifting wherever it took them, on a relentless one-way journey into discovery and fame . . . or oblivion.
Ice Ship is the story of that extraordinary ship, the Fram, from conception to construction, through twenty years of three epic expeditions, to its final resting place as a museum. It is also the story of the extraordinary men who steered the Fram over the course of 84,000 miles: on a three-year, ice-bound drift, finding out what the Arctic really was; in a remarkable four-year exploration of unmapped lands in the vast Canadian Arctic; and on a two–year voyage to Antarctica, where another famous Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, claimed the South Pole.
Ice Ship will appeal to all those fascinated with polar exploration, maritime adventure, and wooden ships, and will captivate readers of such books as The Endurance, In the Heart of the Sea, and The Last Place on Earth. With more than 100 original photographs, the book brings the Fram to life and light.
The Secret History of Monsieur de Beaumarchais, the French Playwright Who Saved the American Revolution
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was an eighteenth-century French inventor, famed playwright, and upstart near-aristocrat in the court of King Louis XVI. In 1776, he conceived an audacious plan to send aid to the American rebels. What's more, he convinced the king to bankroll the project, and singlehandedly carried it out. By war's end, he had supplied Washington's army with most of its weapons and powder, though he was never paid or acknowledged by the United States.
To some, he was a dashing hero--a towering intellect who saved the American Revolution. To others, he was pure rogue--a double-dealing adventurer who stopped at nothing to advance his fame and fortune. In fact, he was both, and more: an advisor to kings, an arms dealer, and author of some of the most enduring works of the stage, including The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville.
Violence Comes to One Small Town
On the afternoon of August 19, 1997, John Harrigan—owner and publisher of the News and Sentinel newspaper in Colebrook, New Hampshire—arrived at his building to find the woman he loved lying dead in the parking lot. Lawyer Vickie Bunnell had been shot and killed by an itinerant carpenter wielding an assault rifle. By then, three more people were already dead or dying. More mayhem was to ensue in an afternoon of plot twists too improbable for a novel. The roots of the incident stretch back twenty-five years, with tendrils deep in the history of New England’s North Country.
These bloody events shocked America and made headlines across the world. Hundreds of local citizens became unwilling players in the drama—friends and colleagues of the dead, men and women who were themselves real or potential targets, along with their neighbors in law enforcement—but the town and its inhabitants were never passive victims. From the first shot fired that day, they remained courageously determined to survive. This is the story of that town, those people, and that day. In the Evil Day is a moving portrait of small-town life and familiar characters forever changed by sudden violence.
The Russian-Chechen Wars, the Al Qaeda Myth, and the Boston Marathon Bombings
In 2013, the United States suffered its worst terrorist bombing since 9/11 at the annual running of the Boston Marathon. When the culprits turned out to be U.S. residents of Chechen descent, Americans were shocked and confused. Why would members of an obscure Russian minority group consider America their enemy? Inferno in Chechnya is the first book to answer this riddle by tracing the roots of the Boston attack to the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia.
Brian Glyn Williams describes the tragic history of the bombers’ war-devastated homeland—including tsarist conquest and two bloody wars with post-Soviet Russia that would lead to the rise of Vladimir Putin—showing how the conflict there influenced the rise of Europe’s deadliest homegrown terrorist network. He provides a historical account of the Chechens’ terror campaign in Russia, documents their growing links to Al Qaeda and radical Islam, and describes the plight of the Chechen diaspora that ultimately sent two Chechens to Boston.
Inferno in Chechnya delivers a fascinating and deeply tragic story that has much to say about the historical and ethnic roots of modern terrorism.
The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet
Climate change. Finite fossil fuels. Fresh water depletion. Rising commodity prices. Ocean acidification. Overpopulation. Deforestation. Feeding the world's billions.
We're beset by an array of natural resource and environmental challenges. They pose a tremendous risk to human prosperity, to world peace, and to the planet itself.
Yet, if we act, these problems are addressable. Throughout history we've overcome similar problems, but only when we've focused our energies on innovation. For the most valuable resource we have isn't oil, water, gold, or land - it's our stockpile of useful ideas, and our continually growing capacity to expand them.
In this remarkable book, Ramez Naam charts a course to supercharge innovation - by changing the rules of our economy - that can lead the whole world to greater wealth and human well-being, even as we dodge looming resource crunches and environmental disasters and reduce our impact on the planet.
"Most books about the future are written by blinkered Pollyannas or hand-wringing Cassandras. Ramez Naam--Egypt-born, Illinois-raised, a major contributor to the computer revolution--is neither. Having thought about science, technology and the environment for decades, he has become that rarest of creatures: a clear-eyed optimist. Concise, informed and passionately argued, The Infinite Resource both acknowledges the very real dangers that lie ahead for the human enterprise and the equally real possibility that we might not only survive but thrive." --Charles Mann, New York Times bestselling author of 1491 and 1493
"An amazing book. Throughout history, the most important source of new wealth has been new ideas. Naam shows how we can tap into and steer that force to overcome our current problems and help create a world of abundance." --Peter H. Diamandis, MD, chairman and CEO, X PRIZE Foundation; chairman, Singularity University; and author, Abundance--The Future Is Better Than You Think
Since 1969, Ethan Allen has been the subject of three biographical studies, all of which indulge in sustaining and revitalizing the image of Allen as a physically imposing Vermont yeoman, a defender of the rights of Americans, an eloquent military hero, and a master of many guises, from rough frontiersman to gentleman philosopher.
Seeking the authentic Ethan Allen, the authors of this volume ask: How did that Ethan Allen secure his place in popular culture? As they observe, this spectacular persona leaves little room for a more accurate assessment of Allen as a self-interested land speculator, rebellious mob leader, inexperienced militia officer, and truth-challenged man who would steer Vermont into the British Empire.
Drawing extensively from the correspondence in Ethan Allen and his Kin and a wide range of historical, political, and cultural sources, Duffy and Muller analyze the factors that led to Ethan Allen’s two-hundred-year-old status as the most famous figure in Vermont’s past. Placing facts against myths, the authors reveal how Allen acquired and retained his iconic image, how the much-repeated legends composed after his death coincide with his life, why recollections of him are synonymous with the story of Vermont, and why some Vermonters still assign to Allen their own cherished and idealized values.
A Shaker's Journey
Issachar Bates (1758-1837) was a Revolutionary War veteran in rural upstate New York who, at the age of forty-three, abruptly turned from his family life to become a celibate Shaker. He immediately became instrumental in Shakerism's westward expansion, and his personal charisma, persuasive preaching, and musical talent helped stimulate the movement's growth. Bates drew "western" converts in abundance, profoundly changing the character of Shakerism by increasing its geographic reach. He also helped shape the Shakers' unique theology and hymnody through his many influential texts and songs.
Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College
This book examines the historical presence of Jews at Williams College, a small, selective liberal arts college in New England where Jews were uncommon until well after World War II. By examining changing patterns in American higher education, the exclusionary practices of college fraternities, and the changing face of Jewish America, this book asks why so few Jews once went to Williams and explores the college's struggles with diversity.
Jews at Williams will appeal to readers interested in the history of higher education, the history of Jewish life in the United States, the history of American Judaism, the history of fraternities, and of course the history of Williams College itself.
An American Idealist
This first-ever biography of John William Ward, the fourteenth president of Amherst College, explores the roots of his idealism and covers his presidency, his later success in Massachusetts politics, and the events leading up to his eventual suicide.
President from 1971 to 1979, Ward served during a tumultuous period in the history of the elite liberal arts college, and in the history of the nation. He presided over the once all-male college’s transition to coeducation, worked to support African-American students in their fight for equality and justice, and was arrested for civil disobedience in protest against the Vietnam War. Ward was emblematic of his time. Idealist that he was, he tried to make Amherst College a model of a democratic society.
Defeated in ugly battles with the faculty, Ward resigned as president but went on to great success in the rougher world of Massachusetts politics. He made headlines for his leadership of a state commission that spent more than two years investigating corruption in the awarding of building contracts, resulting in the passage of laws that guaranteed reforms.
This long-overdue volume is the first complete study of Ward—a self-made man, proof that the American Dream could come true, but who ultimately saw his personal and professional life collapse. It sheds light on Amherst College, on higher education more broadly, on suicide, and on the United States in the 1960s and ’70s.