This non-review of Ray Raphael's A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence can also be found on Goodreads.
Like most of the "People's History" catalog, Raphael's 2001 dive into the American Revolution is not an easy read, but it's an important one for anyone who knows that history is truly shaped by the masses and only focused through the actions of vanguards and élites. Major spoiler: Working people, women, and non-whites suffer a lot, and the aristocracy mostly benefits.
The legendary Sons of Liberty who planned and executed the Boston Tea Party were mostly upper- and middle-class Bostonians. They and the aristocrats in the Continental Congress and the officer corps, took major gambles to uphold certain principles of freedom and democracy. It took ten years for the gamble to pay off, during which time less fortunate folks in the colonies suffered various forms of privation, violence, and treachery. The People at Large, including millions of darker-skinned people, didn't get their share of the spoils. Freedom and democracy are much nicer if you have adequate food and shelter.
There's something I've been meaning to tell y'all. I just haven't got around to it, because I'm having trouble getting around to much of anything lately. On top of my chronic depression, I now have a bad case of unemployment, combined with the nagging feeling that I have failed at life.
My job, along with a dozen others' at our small private university, has been outsourced to a company that takes over information technology functions for institutions of higher learning seeking to save some money. Only half the IT crew at the University of St. Thomas remains, all as contractors for Ellucian. The IT help desk is now a 24-hour operation, with calls re-directed to Ellucian personnel in New York and India.
Without going into too much detail, let's just say that UST has been struggling financially for several years. For a while, its graduate education and counseling programs were its steadiest sources of revenue, but then even that started to drop off. Eventually you run out of classroom teachers willing to fork over $100K for a relatively easy masters degree to become counselors and principals, especially when there are no more openings for counselors and principals.
UST is certainly not alone in the struggle: Private colleges and universities all over the US have had trouble making all their ends meet their means, with the exception of the extremely well endowed institutions like Rice and Harvard. Four-year colleges and universities as a whole are losing market share to community colleges and those dreadful for-profit degree mills with no admission standards other than willingness to incur mountains of debt.
NOTE: This not-quite-a-review of Arundhati Roy's long-awaited second novel first appeared two weeks ago on Goodreads.
Like a lot of novels I have loved, this one requires patience and persistence. It is decidedly worth the effort. My impression of the negative reviews for TMoUH is that the reviewers chose not to expend the necessary effort.
Non-Desi readers unfamiliar with the culture of post-independence India will find some of the vocabulary baffling—and I don't refer here to the brief passages of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, etc., which the author kindly translates into English for us. Roy sprinkles in words like tiffin, not widely known in the Americas, and leaves it to the reader to figure out their meanings from context. It can be alienating to readers not willing to step outside their own Euro-American cultural boxes.
As it is, the India that Roy paints for us is so different from the US that the story may as well take place on another planet. The book itself may as well be stocked in the Science Fiction section of your local book emporium. It probably doesn't help that the first part of the story involves a character's (Anjum's) transition from boy to hijra, who switches gender presentation at convenient times like a character from Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.