Valuable books about land use, history, and poverty

First, a note about three books that serve as helpful resources for making sense of poverty. The books offer particular ways of seeing.

A previous post about poverty is entitled:

Matthew Desmond (2023): Poverty persists in America because while those in poverty struggle, many who are not poor benefit from the poverty of their fellow citizens

Of related interest are two books about poverty in Mumbai, India: Such Big Dreams: A Novel (2022) and Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012).

Such Big Dreams is written by a Toronto lawyer with a good grasp of the subject matter. It is a book of fiction, a compelling read which took a decade to write. It’s an admirable study of poverty and related matters. The characters in the novel come to life. There is good pacing. Text messages are set in italics and play a key role moving the story forward at a good clip. The locations come to life. The book provides insights about society, about the choices and functioning of people in society. There is freshness from page to page. The story is told in accordance with a particular point of view – a particular way of seeing. A key variable in all such books concerns how closely does the text connect with the actual lives of persons living in poverty? This is a fundamental question to ask. One can also ask: What life experiences does the reader bring to the task of reading?

The second book Behind the Beautiful Forevers addresses the same subject matter from a different perspective, by which I refer to the fact it is a book of reportage, a work of non-fiction. It is a valuable study. In this case the point of view is of the omniscient observer. The author is a New Yorker writer which means the New Yorker point of view and commentary is a part of the mix. When you look at these two books you are looking at different ways to package a narrative. We are dealing with clarity of language and with ways of seeing. Both of these books give rise to valuable insights.

Napoleonic Wars (2015)

To a previous post I have added a reference to a book I have been reading recently about the Napoleonic Wars.

After his defeat in Russia (1812), Napoleon Bonaparte lost for a final time at the Battle of Waterloo (1815)

A good resource regarding these aspects of history is The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History (2015). The study is of interest because it places the Napoleonic Wars in a global perspective as does The British Empire: A Legacy of Violence (2022) with regard to history of the British empire.

The Falling Sky (2013)

Of related interest is The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman (2013) by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert. Studies in which Indigenous perspectives regarding pressing global issues are expressed in the words of Indigenous peoples themselves, in conversations of their own choosing, in contrast to being purportedly explained by non-Indigenous observers, are of value.

Also of interest: A Cree Healer and His Medicine Bundle: Revelations of Indigenous Wisdom (2015) by David E. Young, Robert Dale Rogers, and Russell Willier and Plant Teachers: Ayahuasca, Tobacco, and the Pursuit of Knowledge (2021) by Jeremy Narby with Rafael Chanchari Pizuri.

History of agriculture

For many years I have been reading about the world history of agriculture. A useful resource for considering ways of seeing related to this topic is a study entitled: Canadian Agricultural Policy: The Historical Pattern

I came across the book reading Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy, Second Edition (2019).

Of related interest is a PhD dissertation by Hayley Goodchild entitled: “Building ‘a natural industry of this country’: an environmental history of the Ontario cheese industry from the 1860s to the 1930s” (2017).

Reckoning (2020)

Reckoning: Journalism’s Limits and Possibilities (2020) is an additional valuable resource.

An excerpt (p. 172) reads:

There is no single, unified Indigenous point of view that might answer these questions. Watts provides some insight when she suggests that “colonization is not solely an attack on peoples and lands; rather, this attack is accomplished in part through purposeful and ignorant misrepresentations of Indigenous cosmologies.”

Rule of Darkness (1988)

Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1930-1914 (1988) is one of many studies which explore the history of the British empire through a study of British literature – for example, during the Victorian era.

An excerpt (Preface, pp. x-xi) reads:

Imperialist ideology was quite simply the chief enabling factor that made the political support for and expansion of the Empire possible. I have more to say about ideology, and especially about the ideological properties of various kinds of writing, in individual chapters. Here I note only that the retrospective critique of ideology cannot alter or improve upon the past, of course, but perhaps it can help change patterns of domination and racist thought in the present by revealing that the past is, for better or worse, our inheritance.

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