New York CityPASS: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World” (October 6, 2017–January 7, 2018)


Use your New York CityPASS and check out Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World at the Guggenheim in New York City.  It is a major exhibition of contemporary art from China, featuring works from 71 artists and collectives employing a vast range of experimental mediums, including film and video, ink, installation, performance, as well as painting and photography. Spanning the years 1989 to 2008, arguably the most transformative period of modern Chinese and recent world history, the exhibition focuses on the work of Chinese contemporary artists responding to seismic shifts in their country and around the globe.

https://www.guggenheim.org/

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Vacation Reads: “It’s All Relative” By: A.J. Jacobs, “Manhattan Beach” By: Jennifer Egan and “Could it Happen Here?” By: Michael Adams

I’m packing up to leave on holiday in the next few days. What’s going in my duffle bag you ask? The following reads of course from my friends at Simon & Schuster.
“It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree” By: A. J. Jacobs

New York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs undergoes a hilarious, heartfelt quest to understand what constitutes family—where it begins and how far it goes—and attempts to untangle the true meaning of the “Family of Humankind.”
A.J. Jacobs has received some strange emails over the years, but this note was perhaps the strangest: “You don’t know me, but I’m your eighth cousin. And we have over 80,000 relatives of yours in our database.”
That’s enough family members to fill Madison Square Garden four times over. Who are these people, A.J. wondered, and how do I find them? So began Jacobs’s three-year adventure to help build the biggest family tree in history.
Jacobs’s journey would take him to all seven continents. He drank beer with a US president, found himself singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and unearthed genetic links to Hollywood actresses and real-life scoundrels. After all, we can choose our friends, but not our family.
“Whether he’s posing as a celebrity, outsourcing his chores, or adhering strictly to the Bible, we love reading about the wacky lifestyle experiments of author A.J. Jacobs” (Entertainment Weekly). Now Jacobs upends, in ways both meaningful and hilarious, our understanding of genetics and genealogy, tradition and tribalism, identity and connection. It’s All Relative is a fascinating look at the bonds that connect us all.
Review:
I’m looking forward to learning about genealogy and perhaps take a moment to read into what I always love to watch on the television show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?”. A.J. Jacobs is a wonderful writer bringing politics, timely commentary and his family’s genogram tree into view. A truly wonderful book to read on holiday to delve further into how we are all indeed linked and giving us that extra boost of a sense of belonging en route. I’ll be indeed touching upon and living in my own social network as I pass between cities. I wonder who I will pass on my journey that I could be possibly be related to? I’m looking forward to perhaps bumping into my own far reaching relatives out and about – tiny moments that may never happen again in my lifetime.


“Manhattan Beach” By: Jennifer Egan
Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.
Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.
With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.
Review:
What better way to get truly lost when I come back to the hotel from wandering around a city with a great book from Jennifer Egan. “Manhattan Beach” maybe a bit intense as a holiday read but it could make a good one as my mind will be at its most silent. No distractions and I can truly learn more about Anna and her war time tale. Jennifer Egan is an amazing Pulitzer Prize–winning author of “A Visit from the Goon Squad”. Pack this one in your purse for the flight and hotel lounging.

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“Could It Happen Here? Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit” By: Michael Adams
From award-winning author Michael Adams, Could It Happen Here? draws on groundbreaking new social research to show whether Canadian society is at risk of the populist forces afflicting other parts of the world.
Americans elected Donald Trump. Britons opted to leave the European Union. Far-right, populist politicians channeling anger at out-of-touch “elites” are gaining ground across Europe. In vote after shocking vote, citizens of Western democracies have pushed their anger to the top of their governments’ political agendas. The votes have varied in their particulars, but their unifying feature has been rejection of moderation, incrementalism, and the status quo.
Amid this roiling international scene, Canada appears placid, at least on the surface. As other societies retrench, the international media have taken notice of Canada’s welcome of Syrian refugees, its half-female federal cabinet, and its acceptance of climate science and mixed efforts to limit its emissions. After a year in power, the centrist federal government continues to enjoy majority approval, suggesting an electorate not as bitterly split as the ones to the south or in Europe.
As skeptics point out, however, Brexit and a Trump presidency were unthinkable until they happened. Could it be that Canada is not immune to the same forces of populism, social fracture, and backlash that have afflicted other parts of the world? Our largest and most cosmopolitan city elected Rob Ford. Conservative Party leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch proposes a Canadian values test for immigrants and has called the Trump victory “exciting.” Anti-tax demonstrators in Alberta chanted “lock her up” in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, an elected leader accused of no wrongdoing, only policy positions the protesters disliked.
Pollster and social values researcher Michael Adams takes Canadians into the examining room to see whether we are at risk of coming down with the malaise affecting other Western democracies. Drawing on major social values surveys of Canadians and Americans in 2016—as well as decades of tracking data in both countries—Adams examines our economy, institutions, and demographics to answer the question: could it happen here?
Review:
I always feel a bit tense when I pass through customs going into the U.S.. How can you not? It is truly a different time in the wake of Trump being in power. The last time I was in the U.S. was under Obama. I’m looking forward to reading this book whilst on U.S. soil and perhaps looking through my own lens of what the change in the political climate currently looks like. I’ll get back to you on that.

Book Review: “Endurance a Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery” By: Scott Kelly


A stunning, personal memoir from the astronaut and modern-day hero who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station—a message of hope for the future that will inspire for generations to come.
The veteran of four spaceflights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly hostile to human life. He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both life-threatening and mundane: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the catastrophic risks of colliding with space junk; and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home–an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on a previous mission, his twin brother’s wife, American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space.
Kelly’s humanity, compassion, humor, and determination resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging, step in spaceflight.
In Endurance, we see the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the infinite wonder of the galaxy.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/549529/endurance-by-scott-kelly/9781524731595/

Book Review: “Uncommon Type” By: Tom Hanks


A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.
A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/252911/uncommon-type-by-tom-hanks/

Book Review: “The Road to Ever After” By Moira Young


Davy David is a thirteen-year-old orphan, who lives in the bushes in a town ruled by a strict minister, Reverend Fall. A talented artist, Davy loves to draw pictures of angels in the dirt, in the early hours of the morning before the townspeople are awake. He spends his days on his own, except for a small dog, who has attached himself to Davy, often going to the library to find inspiration for his pictures of angels. One day, after chasing after a ball for some of the town’s boys, he finds himself in the yard of the old boarded-up museum, now rumoured to be the home of a witch. The witch is Miss Elizabeth Flint, an elderly woman who has a proposition for Davy: drive her to her childhood home, where, it turns out, she has made the decision to die.
https://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/546961/road-ever-after#9780385687447

Book Review: “All We Leave Behind” By Carol Off

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In 2002, Carol Off and a CBC TV crew encountered an Afghan man with a story to tell. Asad Aryubwal became a key figure in their documentary on the terrible power of thuggish warlords who were working arm in arm with Americans and NATO troops. When Asad publicly exposed the deeds of one of the warlords, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, it set off a chain of events from which there was no turning back. Asad, his wife, Mobina, and their five children had to flee their home.
The family faced an uncertain future. But their dilemma compelled a journalist to cross the lines of disinterested reporting and become deeply involved. Together, they navigated the Byzantine international bureaucracy and the decidedly unwelcoming policies of Stephen Harper’s government until the family finally found a new home.
Carol Off’s powerful account traces not only one family’s journey and fraught attempts to immigrate to a safe place, it also illustrates what happens when a journalist becomes irrevocably caught up in the lives of the people in her story and finds herself unable to leave them behind.
https://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/539798/all-we-leave-behind#9780345816832

Book Review: “Strangers with the Same Dream” By: Alison Pick

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This spare, beautifully written, shocking and timely novel whisks us back to 1921 Palestine, when a band of young Jewish pioneers, many escaping violence in their homelands, set out to realize a utopian dream: the founding of a kibbutz on a patch of land that will, twenty-five years later, become part of the State of Israel. Writing with tightly controlled intensity, Alison Pick takes us inside the minds of her vastly different characters–two young unmarried women, one plain and one beautiful, escaping peril in Russia and Europe; one older man, a charismatic group leader who is married with two children; and his wife, Hannah, who understands all too well the dark side of “equality”–to show us how idealism quickly tumbles into pragmatism, and how the utopian dream is punctured by messy human entanglements.
This is also the story of the land itself (present-day Israel and Palestine), revealing with compassion and terrible irony how the pioneers chose to ignore the subtle but undeniable fact that their valley was already populated, home to a people whose lives they did not entirely understand.
Writing with extraordinary power, Pick creates unforgettably human characters who, isolated in the enclosure of their hard-won utopian dream, are haunted by ghosts, compromised by unbearable secrets, and finally, despite flashes of love and hope, worn down by hardship, human frailty, and the pull of violent confrontation. The novel’s utterly shocking but satisfying conclusion will have readers flipping back to the first page to trace patterns and wrestle with the question of what is, or is not, inevitable and knowable in the human heart.
https://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/529533/strangers-same-dream#9780345810458