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Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker

Bookmobile: Human Smoke By Nicholson Baker

If you're browsing the bookstore this weekend, take a peek for this new one. It's called Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II: The End of Civilization. OK, I know it sounds heavy, but bear with! The book is set up in series of short anecdotes, newspapers clippings, and diary entries like this one that nabbed my attention pronto:

The Congresswoman Who Spoke Her Mind: Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, voted against declaring war on Germany. It was April 6, 1917 ..."‘I want to stand by my country,’ Rankin said. ‘But I cannot vote for war.’ … ‘I felt,’ she said later, ‘that the first time the first woman had a chance to say no to war she should say it.’”

Wow. That event was not captured in my US History class, at all. Now I'm excited to pick up the book. Baker is an acknowledged pacifist, so seeing the stories and artifacts he pulled together about a war that still remains pretty unblemished (by US standards anyway) stands to be wildly engrossing.

Join The Conversation
rpenner rpenner 9 years
I will definitely be checking this book out. Thanks
stephley stephley 9 years
I've been looking around the internet about this book - I definitely plan to pick it up after reading an interview with the author. Many thanks for the heads up.
stephley stephley 9 years
Just got home from a lecture on a peace project in the Palestinian territories and saw this - will check out the book tomorrow.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
I never heard about the controversy concerning declaring War in WW2 or about the late Senator Rankin until my "US History from 1876" class in college. It is disturbing how much of our history is whitewashed over in our K-12 public education system.
minaminamina minaminamina 9 years
Oh yeah there were huge objections to declaring war, especially from American socialists, communists, and anarchists who objected to the rhetoric that Presidents Wilson through Truman were using about democracy and equal rights and all that since African Americans and Native Americans were facing their Nadir - the highest period of racial violence yet in this country outside of slavery. Black communist groups such as the African Blood Brotherhood and Harlem writers such as Claude McKay were attempting to arm black citizens against this violence - we didn't go into war peacefully, then.
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