Varagur wisely allows many voices to be heard—and shows how Saudi influence is now more transparent but still insidious.

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THE CALL

INSIDE THE GLOBAL SAUDI RELIGIOUS PROJECT

An award-winning journalist follows the money to track the pervasive spread of Saudi Arabia’s particular brand of ultraconservative Islam.

Varagur, who reports on Indonesia for the Guardian and other South and Southeast Asian countries for a variety of publications, scrupulously lays out three case studies in which Saudi Arabia has managed to export Wahhabism, often in violent ways. The author looks at vibrant Salafi (the global brand of Wahhabism) communities in Indonesia, where her work took her in recent years; northern Nigeria, which has produced numerous states run by strict Sharia law and given rise to Boko Haram; and Kosovo, a small country of 1.8 million people that has nonetheless “contributed more foreign fighters per capita to ISIS than any other country in Europe.” The leaders of these “thriving Salafi ecosystems” were originally trained (indoctrinated) in Saudi Arabia, specifically at the Islamic University of Medina, which was built in the early 1960s by King Faisal and has become one of the most significant instruments of Saudi “dawa,” or call to Islam that “refers to proselytization more generally.” With the injection of oil money in the 1970s and the perceived threat of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the kingdom endowed several powerful charities—e.g., the Muslim World League, which developed into a violent “intolerance factory.” In her three riveting, thoroughly researched case studies, Varagur investigates why the Saudi brand of Islam is so appealing: It is radical in its simplicity, clearly instructs behavior, provides direct access to important texts, and offers a sense of community to its believers worldwide. The author also chronicles how Faisal personally sponsored delegations from IUM to African nations and how Saudi charities were key elements in the effort to rebuild Kosovo after the 1998-1999 war. Varagur wisely allows many voices to be heard—and shows how Saudi influence is now more transparent but still insidious.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73362-376-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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