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Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

19 Jun

Say Nothing
Growing up in the 1990s, I had a vague awareness that there was a conflict in Northern Ireland between the Irish Catholic and British Protestant populations, but my understanding of what is called “The Troubles” didn’t go much deeper than that. It was hard for me to understand why Belfast was one of the most dangerous cities in the world when the rest of western Europe had entered a sustained period of peace following World War II. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe is not just a great true crime story about the unsolved crime of a mother who was abducted and murdered during this time period. It is also a great introduction to a history of the brutal violence that rocked Northern Ireland for decades and the complex historical reasons why that violence was so intractable for so long.

Most of the main characters in Say Nothing are members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), a group who became known for their violent tactics after a peaceful civil rights movement in Northern Ireland had failed to bring about change. Many IRA members weren’t even out of their teens when they joined paramilitary gangs and helped carry out bombing campaigns against the British. Although they faced ruthless discrimination by the British, there is no doubt that the IRA was responsible for a wave of terror that killed civilians. While they were seen as folk heroes to some and terrorists to others, Keefe is less interested in condemning or praising the IRA than in exploring how people turn to violence, how we justify continuous cycles of violence, and how people reckon with their violent pasts.

The Troubles is very recent history and many of the people who participated in the violence are still alive and active in public life. Although the violence in Northern Ireland has decreased tremendously since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the country continues to cope with its past. The death of Jean McConville in 1972, whose unsolved murder is woven in throughout Keefe’s history of the Troubles, presents a compelling example of how extreme violence from the past can continue to effect a society decades into the future. What does truth and reconciliation look like in a country recovering from a history of deep sectarianism and paranoia?

Besides being available in print you can also borrow Say Anything as an ebook and digital audiobook from eLibraryNJ.

Interested in learning more about Ireland?  You can find documentaries with a variety of perspectives on Irish history on Kanopy including Together in Pieces: Street Art & Politics in an Evolving Northern Ireland and Collusion: The IRA Against the British Army.

Written by:
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

Six Books I’ve Read So Far for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

21 Feb

There are 24 tasks in the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and as of this writing I have finished 6! I have written before about taking on past Read Harder Challenges, and haven’t finished one yet. For 2017 I read 13 of 24 books, the best I’ve done so far. My approach this year is to aggressively tackle the challenges early on as life happens, which can impede my reading. So far the cold winter has inspired me to stay indoors and read lots of books.

These are the six completed tasks and the corresponding books.

The Task: A children’s classic published before 1980.

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Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

I chose Julie of the Wolves as one I can read with my nieces to discuss–I’m still waiting for their thoughts! The story is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Julie who is escaping an unstable home situation. Her goal is to travel from Alaska to San Francisco and live with her pen pal. In the frozen tundra she struggles to survive by observing wolves and eventually becoming part of the pack by mimicking their behaviors. I appreciated how deeply passionate Jean Craighead George was about this book: the story grew from a rejected proposal for a magazine article she wrote about wolves and the Alaskan tundra. 

The Task: A celebrity memoir.

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Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

This task was pretty easy to accomplish as I lead the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books, and have read plenty of celebrity memoirs as part of the group and on my own time. I picked Year of Yes for the January 2018 discussion as the premise was how Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Shondaland, changed after she committed to saying yes to opportunities that scared her, a good theme to start off a new year. The book was fun to read and has a positive message about making the most of our lives. 

The Task: A book of social science.

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Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The premise of Option B is how Sheryl Sandberg coped after her husband’s sudden death in 2015. Adam Grant provides solid research about grief and resilience that are masterfully woven into Sheryl’s story (this is why I consider Option B social science) and those of others who have faced tragedy. This book has incredibly sad moments–Sheryl’s retelling of finding her husband unconscious, and having to tell her children that their father died are heartbreaking–but is ultimately hopeful and encourages people to not retreat from life’s hard moments. From this book came the Option B organization.

The Task: A one-sitting book.

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The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz

At first I was stymied by this task. But then I found The Four Agreements in my TBR (to-be-read) pile. This book clocks in at 138 pages, and I blew through it while at my dad’s bedside as he waited to go in for a recent surgery. Ruiz uses Toltec wisdom to frame the four agreements around which people should live their lives to be happy. This is a good book to buy and refer to when needed–in particular for the reminder that other people’s behavior is not about you.

The Task: A book of true crime.

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Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History by Maureen Orth

I planned to read Vulgar Favors, the source text for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, last summer but didn’t get around to it until January. While a lot isn’t known about Andrew Cunanan’s motives (he committed suicide before authorities could capture him) this heavily reported book includes stories from Andrew’s friends, as well as authorities from multiple jurisdictions that pursued him during his 1997 murder spree. What stands out in this book was how misunderstood gay communities were by police in the 1990s, which negatively impacted the investigation into Cunanan’s crimes.

The Task: A romance novel by or about a person of color.

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Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

I considered describing Hate to Want You by using like 10 fire emoji–it’s that steamy. Author Alisha Rai and her heroine Livvy Kane are women of color, so this book doubly completes the task. The book blogs I read highly praised this title. In addition to the sexy stuff, this book has a compelling story about a long-running family feud. I am now obsessed with Rai’s work and will soon read the next book in the Forbidden Hearts series Wrong to Need You, which features Livvy’s twin brother Jackson and her sister-in-law Sadia. Note: If you prefer your romance novels chaste then this series is not for you.

I feel quite accomplished being one-fourth of the way through the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Hopefully I can maintain this momentum! I will update you when I finish another six books.

Are you following any reading challenges? Tell me in the comments!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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