Wednesday, May 25, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt three)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Nagasaki mayor Okada Jukichi had spent the night of August 9 atop a hill on the eastern border of the Urakami Valley, waiting in a panic for the fires below to diminish. At three a.m. on August 10, he made his way down the hill. In darkness lit only by scattered embers, he stumbled through debris and bodies to the place where his house had stood the day before, just a few hundred feet from the hypocenter. The soles of Okada’s shoes burned as he frantically combed through the hot ashes for his wife and children. Finding no trace of them, he hurried to the air raid shelter beneath his house to discover at least ten dead bodies, including those of his entire family. Simultaneously crazed and clearheaded, he proceeded to the next neighborhood over, where he identified the deceased family members of his deputy mayor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt two)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

The five-ton plutonium bomb plunged toward the city at 614 miles per hour. Forty-seven seconds later, a powerful implosion forced its plutonium core to compress from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a tennis ball, generating a nearly instantaneous chain reaction of nuclear fission. With colossal force and energy, the bomb detonated a third of a mile above the Urakami Valley and its thirty thousand residents and workers, a mile and a half north of the intended target. At 11:02 a.m., a superbrilliant flash lit up the sky—visible from as far away as Omura Naval Hospital more than ten miles over the mountains—followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of twenty-one thousand tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt one)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Fifteen-year-old Do-oh Mineko was, in her own words, a bit of a “wild child.” Her boisterous energy and strong competitiveness worried her mother, who warned Do-oh that the gods were watching her and would become angry if she didn’t demonstrate more feminine behaviors. “But I couldn’t see the gods, so I thought that maybe they didn’t exist,” Do-oh explained. “In Japanese, we have a word wanpaku [impertinent]. That was me.”

Do-oh’s family followed traditional Japanese gender roles, giving higher esteem and priority to men and boys. Her father, who had served in Manchuria, now worked as a high-level employee at Mitsubishi Shipyard. At home, he was a strict authoritarian who demanded absolute obedience from his children, including two hours of study a night. At dinner, he sat at a separate table in the front of the room, and even during the most dire wartime deprivation, he was given an extra serving of food. Do-oh thought men were pretty lucky.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt twelve)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

“No,” the judge repeated. “And, quite honestly, I don’t know that it got any better after that time, maybe a little worse, based upon what’s occurred and the fact that she’s kicked around and moved around.”

What the judge was saying, in essence, was: We all agree that you were poor and scared when you did this violent, hurtful thing, and if you had been allowed to go on working five days a week at Old Country Buffett, refilling soup pots and mopping up frozen yogurt spills, none of us would be here right now. You might have been able to save enough to move to an apartment that was de-leaded and clean in a neighborhood without drug dealers and with safe schools. With time, you may have been able to get Bo-Bo the medical treatment he needs for his seizures, and maybe you could have even started taking night classes to become a nurse, like you always wanted. And, who knows, maybe you could have actually become a nurse, a real nurse with a uniform and everything. Then you could really give your kids a childhood that would look nothing like the one Shortcake gave you. If you did that, you would walk around this cold city with your head held high, and maybe you would eventually come to feel that you were worth something and deserving of a man who could support you other than by lending you his pistol for a stickup or at least one who didn’t break down your door and beat you in front of your children. Maybe you would meet someone with a steady job and get married in a small church with Kendal standing proudly up front by the groom and Tembi as the poofy-dressed flower girl and Bo-Bo as the grinning, toddling ring bearer, just like you always dreamed it, and from that day on your groom would introduce you as “my wife.” But that’s not what happened. What happened was that your hours were cut, and your electricity was about to be shut off, and you and your children were about to be thrown out of your home, and you snatched someone’s purse as your friend pointed a gun at her face. And if it was poverty that caused this crime, who’s to say you won’t do it again? Because you were poor then and you are poor now. We all see the underlying cause, we see it every day in this court, but the justice system is no charity, no jobs program, no Housing Authority. If we cannot pull the weed up from the roots, then at least we can cut it low at the stem.

Friday, May 20, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt eleven)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

D’Sean was Bo-Bo’s father, and Vanetta thought she loved him. He was a good dad when he wasn’t drinking. The police had picked him up six months earlier for a parole volation linked to a drug-possession charge. As the judge weighed the facts of the case, he cited several 911 calls Vanetta had made when D’Sean got rough. “And then on October 10, a call from Vanetta Evans. And then on October 19, another call from Ms. Evans.” Mortified, Vanetta put her hands in her face and cried. She remembered those calls and what had happened after she kicked D’Sean out. He returned later, drunk, smashed the door down, and beat her. After that incident, Vanetta remembered the landlord taking her rent money with one hand and handing her a twenty-eight-day “no cause” eviction notice with the other. At the re-confinement hearing, the judge gave D’Sean eighteen months. Vanetta almost never drank, but that night she bought a bottle of New Amsterdam gin and passed out next to her children.

She slept through Crystal’s phone call. So Crystal hung up and dialed her cousins and foster sisters. Her arrangement with Patricia had come undone. Patricia’s fourteen-year-old daughter had taken Crystal’s cell phone to school and either lost or sold it. Crystal demanded compensation, but Patricia refused to pay. “I’m gonna get you out of my house!” Patricia yelled, drunk on wine mixed with E&J Brandy. Crystal called her people for backup. They waited in the car. The women took their argument outside, and Patricia lost her balance and fell to the ground. Staring down, Crystal lifted her foot and brought it down on Patricia’s face—again and again. Seeing this, one of Crystal’s sisters ran up and hit Patricia with a hammer. “Bitch, try it again!” she yelled before pulling Crystal away. In pain, Patricia lay still on the sidewalk, in a fetal position. Crystal asked to be dropped off at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she spent the night.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt ten)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

In the early decades of the twentieth century, African-American families seeking freedom and good jobs participated in the Great Migration, moving en masse from the rural South to cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. When they arrived in those cities, they were crowded into urban ghettos, and the vast majority depended on landlords for housing. Ghetto landlords had a segregated and captive tenant base and had nothing to gain by improving their run-down houses. They began dividing their properties into small “kitchenette” units, throwing up so many plywood walls their apartments resembled “rabbit warrens.” Many houses lacked heating and complete plumbing. So black families cooked and ate in winter coats and relieved themselves in outhouses or homemade toilets. They came to know well the sound of the tuberculosis cough. In 1930, the death rate for Milwaukee’s blacks was nearly 60 percent higher than the citywide rate, due in large part to poor housing conditions. For the first time in the history of America, New Deal policies made homeownership a real possibility for white families, but black families were denied these benefits when the federal government deemed their neighborhoods too risky for insured mortgages and officials loyal to Jim Crow blocked black veterans from using GI mortgages. Over three centuries of systematic dispossession from the land created a semipermanent black rental class and an artificially high demand for inner-city apartments.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

the last book I ever read (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, excerpt nine)

from Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:

Arleen’s children did not always have a home. They did not always have food. Arleen was not always able to offer them stability; stability cost too much. She was not always able to protect them from dangerous streets; those streets were her streets. Arleen sacrificed for her boys, fed them as best she could, clothed them with what she had. But when they wanted more than she could give, she had ways, some subtle, others no, of telling them they didn’t deserve it. When Jori wanted something most teenagers want, new shoes or a hair product, she would tell him he was selfish, or just bad. When Jafaris cried, Arleen sometimes yelled, “Damn, you hardheaded. Dry yo’ face up!” or “Stop it, Jafaris, before I beat yo’ ass! I’m tired of your bitch ass.” Sometimes, when he was hungry, Arleen would say, “Don’t be getting in the kitchen because I know you not hungry”; or would tell him to stay out of the barren cupboards because he was getting too fat.

You could only say “I’m sorry, I can’t” so many times before you began to feel worthless, edging closer to a breaking point. So you protected yourself, in a reflexive way, by finding ways to say “No, I won’t.” I cannot help you. So, I will find you unworthy of help.