genre history

Harem

“This is a serious history, yet an immensely readable one—informative, gossipy, and grand fun.” - The NY Times

“A fascinating illustrated history of one of the strangest, and cruelest, cultural institutions ever devised. A worldwide best seller, translated into 25 languages.

’I was born in a konak (old house), which once was the harem of a pasha,’ writes Alev Lytle Croutier. ‘People around me often whispered things about harems; my own grandmother and her sister had been brought up in one.’

Drawing on a host of firsthand accounts and memoirs, as well as her own family history, Croutier explores life in the world’s harems, from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, focusing on the fabled Seraglio of Topkapi Palace as a paradigm for them all. We enter the slave markets and the lavish boudoirs of the sultanas; we witness the daily routines of the odalisques, and of the eunuchs who guarded the harem. Here, too, we learn of the labyrinthine political scheming among the sultan’s wives, his favorites, and the valide sultana—the sultan’s mother—whose power could eclipse that of the sultan himself.

There were the harems of the sultans and the pashas, but there were also ‘middle-class’ harems, the households in which ordinary men and women lived out ordinary—albeit polygamous—lives. Croutier reveals their marital customs, child-rearing practices, and superstitions. Juxtaposing a rich array of illustrations—Western paintings, Turkish and Persian miniatures, family photographs, and even film stills—Croutier demystifies the Western erotic fantasy of ‘the world behind the veil.’”

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Midnight's Furies

"Named one of the best books of 2015 by NPR, Amazon, Seattle Times, and Shelf Awareness.

A  few bloody months in South Asia during the summer of 1947 explain the world that troubles us today.

Nobody expected the liberation of India and birth of Pakistan to be so bloody — it was supposed to be an answer to the dreams of Muslims and Hindus who had been ruled by the British for centuries. Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s protégé and the political leader of India, believed Indians were an inherently nonviolent, peaceful people. Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular lawyer, not a firebrand.  But in August 1946, exactly a year before Independence, Calcutta erupted in street-gang fighting. A cycle of riots — targeting Hindus, then Muslims, then Sikhs — spiraled out of control. As the summer of 1947 approached, all three groups were heavily armed and on edge, and the British rushed to leave. Hell let loose. Trains carried Muslims west and Hindus east to their slaughter. Some of the most brutal and widespread ethnic cleansing in modern history erupted on both sides of the new border, searing a divide between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many evils. From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation, the searing tale told in Midnight’s Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today."

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44 Months in Jasenovac

"An eyewitness account of a prisoner in Jasenovac, a concentration camp in the former Yugoslavia [now Croatia] during WWII. 

For every 100,000 people in the Jasenovac camp during its horrifying four-year existence, there was only one—literally one—who survived. Those were the odds in the balance of life and death: 100,000 dead and one alive.

And there is a witness who found the strength to reminisce, to go back to the place of his torture, to break the psychological barriers, and to lead us step by step through his nightmare, through waves of terror that exceed every notion of horror. From the beginning of his time at Jasenovac to the end, Egon Berger was witness—and victim—to a rampage without limit. Of those who survived, he is the only one who told the story.

Berger does not bring us a literary masterpiece—he brings us only the experience, a story about 44 months of his life in a camp, told simply. The story is enough—a story that calls images to mind and makes us tremble with the thought, 'Are such things possible?'"

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Escaping the Fire

"During the height of the Guatemalan civil war, Tomás Guzaro, a Mayan evangelical pastor, led more than two hundred fellow Mayas out of guerrilla-controlled Ixil territory and into the relative safety of the government army's hands. This exodus was one of the factors that caused the guerrillas to lose their grip on the Ixil, thus hastening the return of peace to the area.In Escaping the Fire, Guzaro relates the hardships common to most Mayas and the resulting unrest that opened the door to civil war. He details the Guatemalan army's atrocities while also describing the Guerrilla Army of the Poor's rise to power in Ixil country, which resulted in limited religious freedom, murdered church leaders, and threatened congregations. His story climaxes with the harrowing vision that induced him to guide his people out of their war-torn homeland. Guzaro also provides an intimate look at his spiritual pilgrimage through all three of Guatemala's main religions. The son of a Mayan priest, formerly a leader in the Catholic Church, and finally a convert to Protestantism, Guzaro, in detailing his religious life, offers insight into the widespread shift toward Protestantism in Latin America over the past four decades. Riveting and highly personal, Escaping the Fire ultimately provides a counterpoint to the usual interpretation of indigenous agency during the Guatemalan civil war by documenting the little-studied experiences of Protestants living in guerrilla-held territory."

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Modernity on Endless Trial

"Leszek Kolakowski delves into some of the most intellectually vigorous questions of our time in this remarkable collection of essays garnished with his characteristic wit. Ten of the essays have never appeared before in English.

'Exemplary. . . . It should be celebrated.' —Arthur C. Danto, New York Times Book Review

A Notable Books of the Year 1991 selection, New York Times Book Review—a Noted with Pleasure selection, New York Times Book Review—a Summer Reading 1991 selection, New York Times Book Review—a Books of the Year selection, The Times."

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