Washington Bullets by Vijay Prashad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"This is the way of the camp of the coup. It wants to steal the soul of the people so as to reduce people into zombies who must bow their heads down and work, putting their precious labour towards the accumulation of capital for the tyrants of the economy."
Vijay Prashad's Washington Bullets is one of the most powerful bodies of work that I've read all year. This collection of essay-like chapters guides the reader across nations and throughout time, giving us a birds-eye view of the variety of methods that Washington has used to violently squash attempts at self-determination. Washington's decades-old imperialistic quest to acquire and control the resources of nations across the globe has left an endless stream of bodies in its wake - and most Americans are none the wiser.
Utilizing powerful and poetic prose, Prashad presents us with a bloody mosaic illustrating the truth behind Washington's crusade to bring "freedom" and "democracy" to "uncivilized" nations across the globe. In telling their stories, Prashad pays homage to the freedom fighters, to the indigenous and the marginalized peoples who have dared to resist the stranglehold of U.S. imperialism. This is a chilling and gripping narrative driven by the empathy of someone who dares to bear witness to struggle, who seeks to bring into the light the truths that have been purposefully obscured and pushed into darkness.
While this work will inevitably attract readers of particular political leanings, it is necessary reading for all - especially for Americans who still buy into the standard propagandistic good guy/bad guy narrative that is presented in schools and in the media. Though it isn't a very long book (around 150 pgs or so), the material might be dense and heavy for some. It may require reading bits and pieces at a time, even if only to take a moment to breathe and absorb it all.
However one decides to read this book, it is worth reading in its entirety. The information contained within these pages puts both history and current events into perspective, challenging informed and uninformed readers alike to center the oppressed in their view of international politics.
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Plagued: Pandemics from the Black Death to Covid-19 and Beyond by John Froude
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Plagued: Pandemics from the Black Death to COVID-19 and Beyond, Dr. John Froude takes us on a historical and scientific journey through the world of pathogenic diseases. On its face, such a description may cause some eyes to glaze over, but this book isn't simply a list of facts about plagues. Nor is it simply a scientific exploration of how pathogens interact within bodies and throughout populations. We're given a little bit of everything, which makes this a book that readers from a variety of backgrounds can enjoy.
Froude does get into the genetic and biochemical intricacies of each pathogen, and while some may find this information to be easy to follow, other readers may feel a bit bogged down by it. However, this doesn't characterize the book in its entirety. Froude presents himself as scientist, doctor and storyteller all once, painting a narrative that in its totality is quite accessible. He deftly transports the reader to the places and times where viral and bacterial plagues ravaged populations, tracing each pathogen from its source and taking us along its journey from cell to full blown pandemic.
Froude also does a great job of illustrating how plagues themselves shape culture. He includes poetry, art, anecdotes, and excerpts from letters to give the reader an on-the-ground perspective of just how different peoples and nations dealt with plagues throughout time. I also appreciated the thread he weaved throughout the centuries, showing the intimate connection between war, colonialism, and the spread of pandemics around the world. This gave the book a more well-rounded narrative that makes it more enjoyable than your average science-based book.
This book was informative, entertaining, and terrifying all at once. I would recommend it to anyone hoping to expand their knowledge of how pandemics start, spread, and sustain themselves across spaces and throughout time.
Thanks to NetGalley, BenBella Books & John Froude, MD for an ARC of this book.
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Niv Mullings is a writer, poet, and plant-based health coach hailing from The Boogie Down Bronx.