shani-o: Sometime early in the year (or was it last year?), I heard a radio interview on Philly’s public radio station with a man named Joel Berg. Berg was discussing ‘low food insecurity’ (also known as ‘hunger’) in the U.S. His energy and candor made me take note of his book, which came out just before Barack Obama was elected. All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America was the name of it, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Berg, who worked in the Clinton administration on antihunger initiatives, gives a thorough history of hunger — which was later reclassified in grades of ‘food security’ by the USDA because that doesn’t sound as bad — and poverty in the U.S. He touches on the role racism played in starvation of both whites and blacks in the 60s, notes the varying policies presidential administrations have enacted to fight hunger, and gives an excellent primer on food stamps and welfare reform. He goes on to challenge the notion that individual and organized charity is a viable solution, and insists that government programs are the only way to give poor people the stability they need to focus on education and work, so they can eventually enter the middle class. Berg concludes his book with a multiprong solution to ending food insecurity, and challenges the then-unknown future president to take concrete steps; and he lists actions individuals can take. The book is fantastic and engagingly written (despite the tons of statistics), and you should read it.
blackink: As an owner of satellite radio for the past four years, I have learned not to get too attached to particular channels, shows or hosts. Things change quickly and often without explanation. I’m thinking about the demise of Wax 42, a channel dedicated to airing relatively obscure hip-hop remixes and freestyles. As you might imagine, it was a sanctuary of sorts from rappers named “Yung” and songs elaborately produced by Pharrell or Timbaland. Well, against my better judgment, I have once again found myself jonesing for a reliable “progressive hip hop” outlet: the weekly Subsoniq show on the old school-devoted Backspin channel. Hosted by Doc and KB, the show comes on every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. eastern. On Subsoniq, the hosts almost never resort to cheap radio gimmicks or regular spins from “106 and Park”-type fare. A regular listener might hear artists ranging from Outkast to Blackalicious to Big L, reasoned critiques of a new Kanye release or a thoughtful debate about Inspectah Deck’s best verse – “Triumph” or “Above the Clouds” with Gangstarr. If you love hip hop and the people who love the music, you won’t be disappointed.
slb: Though I haven’t gotten around to reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest, a collection of short stories called, The Thing Around Your Neck, I’m nearly finished with her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. Set in 1960s Nigeria, the book focuses on five characters–twin sisters, their lovers, and Ugwu, one of the sisters’ house servant. It chillingly recaptures the Biafran struggle for independence and the bloodshed that followed. It’s a thoughtful, unflinching read. Other recommendations: “The Road to the Altar,” a silly Bridezilla webisode-parody, from the perspective of the groom, played by Jaleel White and, at the risk of obnoxiousness, I’d like to recommend my own blog, where I’m writing and posting new chapters of a tentative novel, daily.