After a friend recommended the novel to me, I decided to read Funny in Farsi for two main reasons: my Indian heritage and responses to terrorist attacks in recent months. I moved from India to America when I was 7 years old. Although I don’t remember much from that period of my life, I recall it being a difficult transition. Thus, I felt that I could connect with the experiences of the main characters. Additionally, an anti muslim and anti immigrant sentiment has traversed the nation after terrorist attacks by extremist organizations. By reading this novel,which is largely set in the late 20th century, I felt that I could see a historical perspective on the issue.
Funny in Farsi, a funny and thought provoking novel about an Iranian family that moves to America, explores the meaning and importance of identity. In the novel, we are introduced to Firoozeh, her quixotic father, and elegant mother. As Firoozeh shares the family's experiences relating to school, inter racial marriages, the Iranian hostage crisis, you learn about and enjoy the complexity of the family and the larger issues at hand. Of course, It doesn’t hurt that the author powders the novel with humor.
I would recommend Funny in Farsi to practically all high school students living in America. With campaigning for the 2016 Presidential election in full swing, we can expect to hear lots of emotionally charged statements about the role of immigrants( specifically muslim immigrants) in America. Before we make judgments about this issue, it’s important for us to understand both sides of the debate. Reading this book can provide students with a piece of the puzzle.
9/11 in 2001 was America’s first encounter with Islamic terrorism. Since then, our country has lived in fear of terrorist attacks occurring in American cities. Little did we know of the horrific crisis unfolding in the Middle East, specifically in Pakistan, the heart of the Islamic terrorism phenomena. In the book I am Malala, 11 year old Malala Yousafzai tells the story of her first hand experiences of life changed forever by Islamic extremism, and the extremists’ attempt to deny girls the right to an education. Malala shares the unforgettable story of her young life filled with insurmountable odds, her fight with extremism, and how she overcame those odds to become a beacon for the right of all girls to an education.
Malala’s life began in the peaceful Swat Valley in Pakistan. Malala idolized her valley and loved everything about it! It was the place where she went to school, where all her friends lived: it was her home! She played happily with her brothers, went to school, and did her homework. The first few years of her life were just like any other small child’s. Malala’s describes the Swat Valley as very scenic, green and simply beautiful. The vivid imagery makes you feel as though you are in the Swat Valley yourself. She was born into a Muslim family that valued women’s rights more than most other Muslim families did. From the second she was born, Malala was seen as the lucky child; she was seen as the girl that could change the world. Her father, an educator, saw great potential in her. From an early age, Malala was passionate about going to school and learning. With the help and support of her father, Malala began to speak at various conferences about women’s right to an education. Slowly as she grew up, she began to face some of the harsh realities of being a Muslim girl, and how some did not view girls as equal to boys.
The idyll was broken when the Taliban, an extremist Islamic organization invaded their valley and the regions around it. Basic rights such as the freedom of speech and the freedom to practice religion that we take for granted in the West, were under attack. Malala and her father’s school for girls, and their promotion of education for girls in society attracted the Taliban’s attention.
Under the Taliban’s radical interpretation of Islamic, women and girls were not treated as equal to boys and men. Muslim women and girls were not allowed to sing or dance,watch television, leave the house unaccompanied by a man who was a relative or even go to school. They were required to cover themselves from head to toe. Malala and her father refused to give in to these harsh rules, and spoke at hundreds of conferences to inform and influence the public on the importance of female education and equality. By just 10 years old, Malala’s name was known all across Pakistan. At the age of 11, Malala had even written her own journal, published under a screen name to keep her safe from the Taliban. This young girl was strongly supported by the public. Although there were threats from the Taliban, no one believed that the Taliban would attack a sweet, innocent 11 year old girl. But boy was everyone wrong!
The Taliban demanded that Malala’s father stop educating girls and speaking up for girls’ right to an education. When Malala’s father and Malala did not give in to the Taliban’s demands, the Taliban shot Malala. 11 year Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head on October 9, 2012 by the Taliban on the backseat of a school bus. Unexpectedly, the whole country of Pakistan and the whole world rose to support Malala as a result of her shooting. In America, President Obama gave speeches about how wrong and inhumane these actions of the Taliban were. The Pakistani people and the people of Malala’s homeland prayed and spoke in support of Malala. Children and families from all around the world sent letters of praise and admiration to “Malala: the girl who was attacked by the Taliban”. Malala was flown to a hospital in the United Kingdom, where she underwent life saving surgeries. After a long fight for her life, she survived and got better. On getting better, Malala continued to speak out against extremism, and for the right of girls everywhere to an education. Her courage and efforts resulted in her being named the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.Malala became an icon for equal rights for girls, an advocate for girls’ rights and education, and an opponent of fundamentalist terrorism.
“I am Malala” is a book written with a very authentic voice. It’s language is clear, simple and yet effective.She creates a vivid contrast between the life before the Taliban, and how her world changed with the rise of islamic terrorism and the Taliban. Malala’s writing provides an unique insider’s perspective of the impact of Islamic terrorism on the lives of ordinary people, especially children. Malala writes very passionately about her determination and courage to keep speaking out on the issues that are near to her, even though she was just a child when she wrote the book
I am Malala is a story about strength, perseverance, courage and conviction. I would strongly recommend this book to people of all ages; everyone has something to learn from Malala. Malala’s story is truly inspirational.
Review by Ria Joshi
Anyone that has recently gone to school in the United States knows a thing or two about slavery and it's history in America. We've all heard about the Jim Crow laws, and the sit-ins, and the cotton plantations. However there isn't really too many pieces of literature from the perspectives of slaves that went on to be successful in the rest of their lives after they had conquered slavery. That's the main reason for why I chose to read a first hand account from one of the most famous slaves turned abolitionists, Frederick Douglass. Douglass wrote the piece from his point of view, and didn’t really hold back when it came to describing the truth and horror of what it was like to be a slave. However the piece is also about his journey with education and the various situations hat he comes upon with slave masters.
There is no doubt that Douglass wanted his book to be remembered, and for people to respond to the various situations described by Douglass. He even talks about how, at 5-7 years old, he saw a girl get beaten over and over and over just because she was unable to use her hands. He talks about the various murders that went uninvestigated, almost as if they weren’t crimes. Douglass vividly describes the savagery displayed by his various masters, and how his response to one in particular completely changed his broken attitude and motivated him. Perhaps one of the most key features of the book is Douglas’ desire for knowledge, It all starts because of an initially kind master in Baltimore, but progresses as Douglass’ desire to read and write grows and grows.
Although this may be a graphic and raw piece, it is certainly one of great importance and I highly recommend that anyone interested in the subject read the book, as it is quite short but packed with truth and information.
Gustav Rossner is a long-haired student at Novi High School that is involved clubs like Deca and Hosa is a lover of film, and fences on his own time.
The book goes back and forth between the scientific research, discoveries, and accomplishments of Henrietta’s immortal cells, referred to as HeLa, and how her family responded to the disclosure of them. The cells were removed from a biopsy without permission in an all black hospital named Johns Hopkins and had such a big importance to science that the lab assistant for her autopsy stepped back and realized, “Oh jeez, she’s a real person”. Henrietta’s cells had been used in more than 60,000 scientific studies including cancer, AIDs, gene mapping, and numerous other scientific pursuits. Her children were in shock when they found out their mother’s cells had been through so much, they had even been to outer space! One of Lacks’s sons asked Skloot, “If our mother is so important to science, why can’t we afford health insurance?”
Why It’s NOT Worth The Read
Although the book made me feel empathy towards Henrietta’s children, the amount of science writing was not to my liking. The switch between science and the family left me irritated. The book had no cliffhanger or surprise. I felt if I were to stop reading the book halfway through, I wouldn’t miss anything important. By the first 100 pages, I noticed that I knew enough about the book and there was not going to be any story line. Skloot did a quality job researching and writing the book, however, it was just not for me.
HeLa cells. I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of them, but these cells were the basis of countless medical advances. Imagine it- the first line of cells that could grow in any medium! Don’t be discouraged if you don’t want anything to do with cells and science however; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is much more than a science textbook. It is the story of the woman behind these famous HeLa cells- Henrietta Lacks.
Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer just trying to get by and support her family. She was known for being kind and caring by all, so when the cancer set in, no one knew what she had done to deserve such a cruel fate. She had cervical cancer and it spread and spread and doctors could do nothing to help her, nothing at all. One lucky doctor however got a sample of a tumor- without her knowledge- and grew it in his lab. Soon the cells could grow, almost like magic and were as unstoppable as the cancer in Henrietta herself. Soon Henrietta passed away, but her immortal cells continued to grow. They became a medical anomaly and were soon packaged and sold to researchers all over the world and were used in all kinds of research. Yet her family had no idea this was going on- they were left in the dark completely until one day they heard of the wonders Henrietta’s cells.
This story is told in a very creative way; it jumps back and forth in time, from Henrietta’s time when researchers worked with her cells and to modern day as the author searches for information about Henrietta’s life. This juxtaposition of views gives the reader an insightful view into the real story, and into how hidden the story of Henrietta truly was. It pushes the reader to question what they thought they knew about the ethical issues surrounding race and class in medical research.
I initially picked up this book because I found the science aspect of it interesting, but found that it was truly a masterful blend between fact and story telling. It explored the impact of race on medical treatments in a very interesting way, as it showed just how little information was given to the patients about what was happening to them. I found it intriguing because I had never thought about issues like this before. I would recommend this book to anyone with even a slight interest in science.
Sona Raju is an eleventh grader at Novi High School. She enjoys reading and music and hopes to pursue a career in the medical field.
My daily schedule has remained largely unchanged over the course of my life. Mostly, my day simply consists of fighting with my alarm clock in a struggle to sleep for an additional five minutes, dragging myself to school in a race against time to avoid another tardy that would certainly give me detention, returning home six hours later exhausted and in need of a nap, waking up in time for dinner, and then spending the rest of the night finishing homework that I neglected until 6:00. Rinse and repeat, day after day.
I barely ever spent time outside discovering my surroundings or watching the news to learn about events occurring in the world. I was, as my English teacher often likes to say, living under a rock. Thus, when the year was coming to a close and my English teacher asked the class to make a reading resolution, I was determined to change my ignorant lifestyle. With the new year, I decided that I was going to read an informative book that would teach me about the world around me.
Unlike many other Americans, I stuck with my resolution and picked up Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation”. What better way to learn about my surroundings, I thought, than to read a book that describes in great detail one of the most prevalent icons in American culture: fast food restaurants.
Everything You Need to Know About Fast Food Restaurants, and More!
Throughout the book, Eric Schlosser covers every aspect of the fast food industry, from its humble beginnings to its recent practices. He starts off by describing Carl N. Karcher and the McDonalds brothers, the two pioneers who defined the industry as it is today by developing highly-efficient restaurants that allowed customers to quickly purchase foods for cheap prices. Ray Kroc, another significant figure highlighted in Schlosser’s book, would later further the industry with advertising techniques targeted towards children. After reviewing the initiation and spearheads of fast food restaurants, Schlosser adapts more of a critical tone when analyzing the behind-the scenes actions of the industry. From the use of chemical substances that give the food an artificial taste to poor working conditions that require employees to operate dangerous machines for little compensation, many aspects of the fast food business are notably flawed and harmful to both the employee and the customer. Schlosser’s disclosure makes it clear that fast food restaurants have much to improve before becoming an acceptable workplace or place to eat.
Through detailed research and examination of fast food restaurants, Schlosser presents a complete picture of everything that occurs behind the counter of a typical Taco Bell or McDonald’s. Although instances of bias toward liberalism are evident at points, the amount of investigation Schlosser puts forth is nothing short of commendable as he travels across the country to examine the inner workings of the industry. Anyone looking for an analytical, informative read will not be disappointed.
Even though it is no secret that fast food is unhealthy, readers will also gain a better sense of exactly how harmful the food actually is. The issues the book addresses go beneath the surface of the food system, underscoring its impact on obesity and health issues across society. Readers, who have never considered the production of the food they put in their mouths, will certainly never look at a Big Mac the same way again.
Daniel Yu is a high school student at Novi High School. His favorite classes are English and Psychology, enjoying to read and write in his free time. He hopes to pursue a degree dealing with Linguistics or management.
In all honesty I chose to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks because it was the book I learned more about during the book circles. I looked at the back and found it somewhat interesting. I wanted a book that wasn't difficult to read and Henrietta Lacks was that judging from the first page. My way of choosing my independent book was careless and lazy but it was meant to be that way I guess because this book was great. From the format of alternating from present day back to when Henrietta was alive, to giving so much detail on each character this book was very well written. It made me think critically and view a complicated situation from multiple perspectives. While the story was based on real life events, it was how the information was presented that made it different than any previous non-fiction book I had previously read. It contained a lot of scientific research which provided complexity to the book but still simplistic enough to be understandable and intriguing.
The Plot: The book discusses Henrietta Lacks’ life from her early years to the end of her mortal life and beyond through her cells. After her cells are used, the reader follows how they changed science forever and why by providing the views of researchers and doctors. But most importantly, the book follows the Lacks’ reaction to not knowing for 20 years that a part of Henrietta was still alive. Specifically the story of the author, Rebecca Skloot and Deborah Lacks. This book opens the discussion of the opposing sides of privacy and science while presenting both views.
Why you should read it:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. You will chuckle and cry along with the characters because they are so relatable. But what truly makes this book so enjoyable is that it questions your own views. Rebecca Skloot does an incredible job of immersing the reader into the story and allowing them to be intrigued by the difficult situations. Throughout the whole book I was always questioning myself on what I would have done and who I agreed with.
Reviewed by Anahi Orozco
While we, the general public, typically see the calm, cool, and collected President Obama on all the TV stations, we tend to forget that there are times when the most powerful man in the world and his entourage get frustrated, desperate, and confrontational. The Promise is an insider’s account of the campaign, election, and first year of President Barack Obama’s first term. The author, Jonathan Alter, uses his unique access to tell the stories behind some of the new President’s highs and lows. From candidate Obama breaking up a fight between Finance Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Joe Biden’s gleeful profanity being caught on a hot mic after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the author does a great job of detailing the inner workings of the executive and legislative branch.
One of the most important things the book did for me personally was remind me that President Obama had some huge legislative victories before Obamacare, which tends to overshadow almost every other achievement of his first term. I also enjoyed the focus put on the role of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, who was willing to ignore his own gut instinct in order to accomplish his boss’ goal of health care reform. A third aspect that stuck out to me was the inner drama that took place within the bureaucracy, such as Hillary Clinton swallowing her pride as secretary of state and the unseen arguments between the Pentagon and the White House on the debacle in Afghanistan.
While there were some lulls as far as action, the book as a whole is a learning experience, especially in the workings of the bureaucracy and what it takes to get things done in Washington. I learned a lot about the difficulties of whipping votes and the congressional process of getting something for their own district, as in the case of Ben Nelson’s infamous “Cornhusker Kickback” on the Affordable Care Act. If those two things don’t at all sound interesting to you, this probably isn’t the book for you. If the topic interested you but you don’t have much background knowledge, I’d recommend learning a little about the inner workings of Washington or at least having Google handy while you read. If you have a great interest in the political process, I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you have a great admiration for President Obama’s legislative agenda and achievements.
As a guy who is normally confused to the point of migraines by anything involving anything related to science, it was only the amazing writing talent of Rebecca Skloot and the mind-boggling story of the never-ending life of Henrietta Lacks that intrigued me beyond comprehension that allowed me to finish The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about Henrietta Lacks, a poor, African-American woman living in Virginia, and her life following her diagnosis with a very malicious case of cervical cancer. Although SHE may have died, she still is alive and well today. Confused? So was I. As it turned out, the cancer cells were multiplying so rapidly that even after she died, they survived and still reproduce today, creating the strand of cells known today as HeLa. This information was taken without consent of her family, who didn’t find out about this until nearly 20 years after Henrietta died.
Skloot presents her own story, alongside Henrietta’s, as she digs through the past trying to find out who Henrietta Lacks was, with the only databases being Lacks’s family and friends, who prove to be elusive and unwilling to share anything with her, due to anger at the white doctors for ‘stealing’ Henrietta from them.
In all, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an amazing story, highlighting racial issues that many people never knew existed, and showing us that no matter what, life will always find a foothold in this world, even after death.
Book Review by Brenden Cotter
How should you face death?
It’s a question many of us try to avoid, but Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, acknowledges this very topic in great depth. This book skillfully explores the intricacies of medicine, aging, and death in a very personal way that feels like Gawande is right next to you, telling his encounters and experiences. It’s filled with touching anecdotes of many different situations ranging from the happiness and success of living well to the despair and inevitability of death. Mixed with all of these emotions, there is a learning aspect in this book. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, teaches how the advances in medicine have improved the quality and longevity of life.
By blending all of these elements into a harmonious narrative, Gawande raised questions regarding what it takes and what it means to have a quality life: To what extent are we fortunate to be alive with new and improving medicine and healthcare? To what extent are we willing to sacrifice our last years of life to be glued to a hospital bed, hoping for a cure? To what extent are we going to keep pushing for more drugs, more surgery, more care until we finally have to accept the inevitability of letting go?
This is by no means a light hearted book. It requires a curious and open mind that can handle stories about the ups and downs of aging. And may I add, there are plenty more of the downs than the ups.
So this book may not sound appealing to you in the slightest, but perhaps you should give it a shot. You may find a new interest such as I. Considering that I’m new to reading this genre of scientific nonfiction, I was surprised at how much I loved reading this book! It truly was a fantastically written book that has inspired me to learn more about the field of geriatrics. I highly recommend this read to anyone that is interested in exploring a possible healthcare field or likes to learn new things about life and death.
Lastly, let me leave you with a major life spoiler: death is inevitable, so how should you face it?
Book Review by Jessica Koh