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BLIND IN EARLY MODERN JAPAN

DISABILITY, MEDICINE, AND IDENTITY (CORPOREALITIES: DISCOURSES OF DISABILITY)

A thoughtful, deeply researched contribution to disability studies.

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Tan, an associate professor of history at Holland, Michigan–based Hope College, explores the unique status of sightless people during Japan’s Tokugawa shogunate (1600-1868).

The debut author, intrigued by features meant to aid people who are blind and living amid the infrastructure of modern Japanese cities, was inspired to research the status afforded to these citizens during the Tokugawa era. Centering the work on the concept that disability is a social and political identity as well as a physical impairment, Tan examines how blind people chose to accept or reject their disabled status based upon their financial circumstances: “Their disabled identities were often understood through public perceptions that linked physical disablement to the entitlement of aid.” In a lengthy introduction, Tan explains how the governing structure of the shogunate, organized into occupation-based status groups, afforded blind people their own group ruled by the Kyoto guild: a medieval lineage of blind musicians. Guild membership allowed men to train not only as musicians, but also as acupuncturists and masseurs, gaining patronage from the aristocracy as they ascended the guild’s hierarchical ranks. Tan also effectively uncovers how the fees required for guild membership and promotion, as well as the gender discrimination that barred women from membership, meant that some blind members of Tokugawa society faced significant barriers to self-sufficiency. The author presents all this in a straightforward structure, devoting each chapter to a different topic covering how blindness was perceived by Japanese ophthalmologists, the choices available to the visually impaired in Tokugawa society’s popular medical culture, and the options open to blind women and to men who chose not to join the guild. Along the way, Tan creatively uses resources such as medical histories, travel gazetteers, and the writings of people with visual impairment to ably supplement the general paucity of firsthand accounts regarding the topic, drawing important insights into how society shapes the self-perceptions of disabled people.

A thoughtful, deeply researched contribution to disability studies.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 9780472075485

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Univ. of Michigan

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2022

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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