Five Books with a Fresh Perspective on Modern America

February 26, 2018

I think we can all agree, things have changed politically and it’s hard to know what to think. During these uncertain times, it is necessary to listen to each other’s stories despite gender identity, race, sexual orientation, and upbringing; the experience of each American matters. Yet, it can be almost impossible to discern what the real issues are and the implications they may have for us amid a mirage of media spins.

 

I read often; I visit Goodreads to see what others are reading. It is wonderful as an author to log in and see others who are reading my books, providing reviews, or otherwise engaging in conversations. Imagine how happy I was to see that someone included my book, Betrayal of Justice, in her list of must-read thought-provoking books.

 

On February 20, under Social Justice Book Club Discussion (Social Justice Thought-Provoking Books), Claudia wrote:

 

I have always been interested in thought-provoking books, ones that that I believe provide a fresh perspective on the real issues facing our country. In the past year alone, I have read several from best-sellers and Indie authors. Among my recent favorites have been The Handmaid’s Tale, The Unknown Americans, and Betrayal of Justice. So I thought I would pick my top 5 and provide a brief synopsis for those that aren’t familiar with some or all of them, as well as a brief perspective.

I’d love to engage in discussion with other readers on the topic, whether from one of these five or similar books you have read/can recommend. Thanks.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of Offred, a servant living in what was once the United States. A new theocratic regime called the Republic of Gilead has come to power and changed life as she knew it.

Once, Offred had her own name and a loving family—a husband and daughter—both of whom were taken from her. Now, she lives in a world where women are forced to be “handmaids”, or sex-slave-child-bearers, for America’s white and wealthy males due to widespread infertility across the country. There is no such thing as abortion and men have all the power. Handmaids are not permitted to resist their commanders nor the government in any way.

A woman’s life and body should not be the property of anyone but herself. The removal of women’s rights through restrictions and lack of funding for Planned Parenthood and other international health groups is a form of enslavement in itself. Offred is given no choice; today the right to make one’s own choices is actively pursued. Furthermore, the book’s dystopia is propagated by religious extremism. In a story where radicalism is the law, The Handmaid’s Tale is a chilling warning about what can happen when extreme ideas are taken to their logical conclusions.

2. The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick
The Penultimate Truth is set in 2025, thirteen years after the end of World War III. The bulk of humanity is kept in large underground shelters. They are being told that World War III is being fought above them when, in reality, the war ended years before. 

When Nicholas St. James, president of one anthill, is forced to return to the war-torn world in search of spare organs, he uncovers the greatest conspiracy of all time. The war has been over and an elite group has conspired to maintain wealth and power by giving the illusion it is ongoing. Having created an idealistic, though non-existent, leadership figure, they produce false daily broadcasts to the underground population. St. James joins with rebels among the elite to find the conspiracy leader and bring him down.

Though fortunate we have yet to face WWIII, this 1964 novel epitomizes the inherent danger of allowing a powerful few to control the media and perceptions of the mass public. It comes not from a place of villainy, but from a desire to maintain power and to impose their vision on the world. It is only when individuals willing to challenge the status quo come together that change becomes possible.

3. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
We’re the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us.”
Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful, fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible brain injury, one that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same. The family comes to America with a single dream: that this nation of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better. However, it isn’t easy. Every task seems to confront them with linguistic, racial, and cultural obstacles.

When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, meets Maribel, he sees something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a kindred spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over their future in America, as well as for their families.

Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. The Book of Unknown Americans is a story of hope and dreams, and of guilt and love. It offers a new definition of what it means to be American.

4. Jennifer Government by Max Barry
The U.S. has taken control of most of the Western Hemisphere, eliminating the need for international trade. The world is now run by for-profit corporations and the government has very little power. Taxes are abolished, the government has no funding with which to implement law, and crimes are only investigated if the victim or their family pays for it. 

People are born with no last names. Their identity is entirely associated with the corporation for which they work, and the company name becomes their surname. They un-employed, or self-employed, are left with no name and no identity. One’s life is entirely dependent upon being consumed by a corporation.

The novel illustrates a future where, rather than business simply influencing government, business is the government – political influence is worse than proportional to wealth; it is entirely based in wealth. When the regulating and service functions of federal government are dismantled, there is no overarching source of protection for citizens. With authority and functionality privatized, there is no hope for the people to regain control.

5. Betrayal of Justice by Mark M. Bello
Betrayal of Justice begins with the presidential inauguration of Ronald John, whose campaign promise was "Make America Pure Again." 

Meanwhile, in Dearborn, Michigan a white supremacist fire bombs a local mosque. Soon thereafter, the bomber is murdered, and all the evidence points to Arya Khan, a young Muslim woman who took it upon herself to investigate the crime. As she is formally charged with murder, her parents are facing deportation. Attorney Zachary Blake is retained to represent the young woman. The local police department continue to investigate the murder while a white supremacist group attempts to cover up its involvement.

This is a highly topical and gripping legal novel that shines a light on our First Amendment right to religious freedom, the negative effects of the government's participation in religious bigotry, and the devastating consequences of such government behavior. For a country built by immigrants and established through the pursuit of religious expression, nearly all seems lost when the future builders and dreamers are being sent away.

 

 

 

#TheHandmaid'sTale #TheBookofUnknownAmericans #ThePenultimateTruth #JenniferGovernment

 

 

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