Posted by Yanna on 08.22.2008 at 10:26 am
[The following is one of the accounts from Better World Books' trip to Brazil to tour schools with our Latin American literacy partner: Worldfund. Stay tuned for more!]
Women are the teachers, women are the mothers, women share what they know and lead by example. Unfortunately many women in Brazil don’t have the education or skills to support themselves. They turn to prostitution or low paying, obtuse work to support themselves and their families. While Brazil’s economy is booming, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. As I traveled Brazil visiting schools and community programs with our partner organization Worldfund, I noticed many injustices. What struck me most was the role of women in society.
Bebedour is a community outside the beach town of Maceio. Bebedour is like many Brazilian communities. Homes are run down, unemployment is high, waterways are polluted, streets are littered, and the public education system is deplorable. This particular town has an estimated 115,000 human beings living in it and of those 11,000 are school age children NOT attending school. Bebedour may be a typical Brazilian city, but it has one school that is not typical, it is a progressive school that nourishes not only the student’s minds and bodies, but their hearts.
Bebedour, Brazil – Greater Maceio Area
One of the volunteers at the starfish school said something that really impacted me; he said, “For many of the girls in this neighborhood their dream job is to become a maid in a hotel.” These girls have had few positive female role models in their lives to show them that there is more out there than marriage and bearing children. The starfish school is trying to change this by bringing in female professionals monthly. This is an important program because now these girls have dreams of being educators, doctors, and business professionals. Even at the ripe age of nine, these young girls are seeing a bright future and one of independence.
Starfish School – Greater Maceio Area
Entirely too many of the woman of Brazil depend on men to support them. Too often women are left alone because her husband abandons her or he dies. These women are often unprepared to feed their children and care for their home. Thankfully initiatives like the Mao Amiga Women’s Center are available. On the outskirts of the sprawling city of Sao Paulo, this particular program teaches women skills that can provide income for themselves and their family. Classes include computer skills, baking, cooking, hair styling, and many more. These classes last for one year and the women that complete the program leave with more than knowledge; they leave with a self confidence they didn’t have a year before. They can now go out into their communities and earn a living wage.
Mao Amiga Women’s Center – Greater Sao Paulo Area
Thankfully, educational initiatives are changing in Brazil. The government recently made some changes that will help the failing public school system. Within the last year they have increased teacher’s salaries, and standardized the public school curriculum. The change may be slow coming, but thanks to organizations like Worldfund, there are already exceptional programs in place like the Starfish School and the Mao Amiga Women’s Center. These programs not only educate people’s minds, but provide them with a respect for their bodies and self. Self respect and confidence are the fundamental tools to success. Success breeds success and with more positive women role models, the future of Brazilian women and education is hopeful.
Mao Amiga School – Greater Sao Paulo Area
Posted by admin on 08.21.2008 at 11:35 am
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about dating and books, and it certainly won’t be the last, but this is totally blog worthy. Apparently, Penguin, the famous publisher of orange and black signature awesome looking classic editions, has started a dating site. No longer will you languish in your Great Expectations-esque unrequited love, reader. No longer will you Quixotically wander waiting for your Dulcinea. No longer will you read The Notebook and cry alone (ok, you might do that still, but we can only do so much!).
Penguin teamed up with Match.com and they’re trying to make it happen for you literary types out there who haven’t seen much action at the library lately. This is especially good if you’re not using your local bookstore as much and instead you shop at Betterworld.com (that is until we install a virtual reality version where you can see all the other customers “in the store”). This will have to do for now.
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, books, dating
Posted by Jack on 08.20.2008 at 2:49 pm
Hey all, today I’m with the other betterworld.com guys at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose. I’m rocking the “social media” track and sitting through hour after hour of lectures about twitter, facebook and all the like. A certain book keeps coming up though and everyone I’ve spoken with says it’s a social media bible of sorts: Groundswell by Charlene Li.
I haven’t read it yet but consider it ordered. Anyone read this one?
Posted by Jack on 08.19.2008 at 11:04 am
I knew there should be a way to tie the last post into books and here it is: J.K. Rowling. The author of the Harry Potter series was the most recent speaker at Harvard graduation and I was sent a copy of her speech (best parts below).
Personally I don’t care much for her writing but I do love those type of books (I can’t imagine how many times I’ve read Lord of the Rings and I read literally just about every piece of literature related to Star Wars in my youth). It’s just her unimaginative prose that leaves me cold. Her deft story crafting is undeniable and I won’t say I haven’t seen the movies (and read the first two books when I was baby-sitting) but I can’t embrace the books (don’t throw anything at me, please, Harry Potter lovers).
In any event, in the face of her success, she was invited to give this address and managed to be fairly average for the most part but at least saw through through the (literal) pomp and circumstance to what was important:
The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I’ve experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world’s best-educated Harry Potter convention.
Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.
You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.
The rest of it dodders along through thoughts on “failure” and “success” and is interesting to read, check out the full text here. I recall Bob Wright, CEO of NBC and a Holy Cross grad, talking at my graduation and honestly I can’t remember a single word he said (no offense Bob, I just wasn’t there for you) but Rowling’s effort isn’t too bad… maybe I would’ve listened harder in light of mere bemusement about the true nature of “success” that she was the speaker at Harvard’s graduation.
Have your say » | Tagged Book & Author News, authors, harvard, jk rowling, speeches
Posted by Jack on 08.19.2008 at 10:42 am
Oscar Wilde crafted some of the best bon mots out there, but there is none that I try to live by more than “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
In honor of such advice, here’s a great blog from an average cool guy. OK, so it’s not explicitly book related, but I suspect that you readers are all mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, and being a person of worth is a task we endeavor to succeed at each day.
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, off-topic, oscar wilde
Posted by Jack on 08.18.2008 at 1:06 pm
[Continued from the last post]
In my quest I even went so far as to read One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish, The Aeneid in Latin and tried to muscle my way through Dante‘s Inferno in Old Italian (this, admittedly, proved to be too difficult). I was ready. Armed with my library card and Half.com I plowed through books on my hour long train ride and subway commute to and from school each day and in classes and at lunch, but eventually, an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, and that object was Jane Austen.
Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was simply too much to bear. As a 17 year old boy, commuting to school everyday with thousands of others on their way to New York City, I couldn’t make the jump to that era and persona. I could struggle to breathe with Vonnegut in Dresden, I could tackle an enormous beast (and play the cuckold) with Sir Gawain and I could even serve in a field with a Jesus-esque slave, but I could not for the life of me wear jodhpurs and muscle down the clandestine courtship of a big house novel. This would prove my undoing as I would later be derailed by Hardy‘s Far from the Maddening Crowd.
So I ask you reader, at what point do you know to put down a book? I feel that there are too many great books to be read to suffer bad literature, but when is the point where you say “I give up?” Or do you soldier on, looking for the redemptive qualities as your eyes cross and head turns to mush?
Posted by Jack on 08.18.2008 at 12:40 pm
When I was in high school I got on a plane and looked in a SkyMall catalog to see an offer for “digests” of the “Greatest 100 Books of All Time.” The copy said that “you can’t read all these books in a lifetime, now get them delivered to you in an easy to read form and finish them in just a year! Offended highly by this grand display of ignorant idiocy and endeavored on a quest that would change my academic career forever, I was going to read the actual book, all 100 of them, in a the time they said it would take to do the digests: one year. Not only would I prove that it could be done “in a lifetime” but that it could be done with diligence throughout a year.
On the plus side, my education up to that point (it was about halfway through my senior year) had been solid on the literary front and I loved books so I didn’t actually have to cover all 100, probably only about 70 of them. The quest enraptured me though, so I found other lists, differing in selection, to make sure that I had truly read the greatest 100 and not just a crude selection made by a team of marketers and all of the sudden I was up to more than 100. Yikes.
I started taking out 7-10 books each month and soon became well known to the librarians who gave me help with inter-library loan and quizzical looks when I offered my quest.
I was coasting through senior year and the help came from teachers as well. I had gotten into Holy Cross and was killing my classes so most of them let me read whatever book I was working on instead of listening to the lectures in exchange for hearing how it was going or talking with me about the books (thanks Doc Kennedy!).
For the most part the effort was amazing, I opened books I never would have thought to read that I loved (Call It Sleep by Philip Roth, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Federalist Papers, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and others that I loved anyway (Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand) and books with some of the most troubling and engaging characters of all time (Humbert Humbert of Nabokov‘s Lolita, Raskalnikov in Dostoevsky‘s Crime and Punishment, Odysseus in Homer‘s Odyssey).
[Continued in next post...]
Have your say » | Tagged Book Reviews, book reviews, the quest
Posted by Jack on 08.18.2008 at 10:17 am
Hey all, I’m back in town, expect more frequent updates and some good stuff after I’m recharged from a grand vacation. While away I had the chance to go back to my old role as “in-person ambassador” as opposed to digital evangelist and it felt great. Suffice to say that the Jersey shore has some new Better World Books lovers.
Coming up soon:
-Commentary on NYT article re: “Il Gattopardo”
-Author video interviews
-A new poll so you can help me decide where to go next
-An ARC update
-Talking the “State of Education”
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, blog
Posted by Jack on 08.14.2008 at 7:10 am
I don’t know about you, but since the Olympics started you can’t pry me away from the TV for anything. I’m camped out in my parents house on vacation, diligently watching everything from the swimming (wow, Michael Phelps, seriously) to the basketball (Redeem Team? Meh, not that cool of a name), to WAY too many hours of women’s beach volleyball even to water polo (can anyone understand what’s going on? They need to bring out the old Fox glowing puck technique from hockey cause I can’t see anything…).
I realized in my viewing fervor as they repeatedly mentioned old greats or referenced Olympic glories or disasters that my own knowledge was limited at best. Sure I remember Barcelona, Atlanta and Athens just fine, I even have my thoughts about Nagano, Lillehammer, Turin and the others (Oslo maybe?). But if I’m going to spend this much of my life on this, I need to educate myself better. Come along:
Owning the Olympics First things first we need to know about this one. After watching the CRAZY opening ceremonies, I want to know more about this Olympics and about China as it appears they’re coming into their own as the world’s superpower. 1.3 billion people and a massive martial arts/explosives presentation with lighting up war drums. Yikes.
Get Talking Chinese This simply couldn’t be a bad idea.
A Century of Olympic Posters This is perfect, I love graphic design and you can tell so much from the promotional material of any event. Besides, is this not a supreme coffee table book?
Triumph No history of the Olympics would be complete without information about Jesse Owens. This particular is written by Jeremy Schaap, who also wrote Cinderella Man, the book that became a movie starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zelweger (directed by Ron Howard I believe). Jeremy is not as sharp as his father, Dick, but I trust that this account will be excellent.
Rome 1960, the Olympics that Changed the World I keep hearing about this book as it’s rather new. I’m inherently reluctant to read something with a decidedly histrionic title, but if this Olympics truly changed the world and I have no idea what happened there, sounds like I had better get reading.
Pre As a runner and lover of athletic lore, there is no better story than that of Steve Prefontaine. He was the first athlete to ever wear Nike shoes (his coach was building them by hand) and he was an all-around running stud that made Oregon into the track powerhouse it has been since. His story is both invigorating and tragic, but totally worth reading.
Have your say » | Tagged Book Reviews, book lists, book reviews, olympics
Posted by admin on 08.11.2008 at 9:23 am
So, I’ve spent a good bit of my spare time this summer with my nose in a book—nothing new in that. Generally, my luck in picking good reads isn’t as good as it has been the last few months. I’ve read no less than six great books in a row:
- Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Zeus and the gang from Mt. Olympus , this book is a must read. In addition to being very clever, it’s wicked funny.
- Hell to Pay by George Pelecanos. Gritty, smart, edgy. One of the best pieces of detective fiction I’ve read in awhile.
- Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole. This might be one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Take that, intellectual elitists.
- White Noise by Don DeLillo. Another smart, funny ready. If you’ve ever experienced an airborne toxic event, had a twenty minute conversation about what rain is, or thought about death, this book is for you.
- Dubliners by James Joyce. Simply amazing. I think I might have to go back and read all of the books that were assigned to me in high school and college that I didn’t read.
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginides. Lovely, romantic, and incredibly creepy all at once. And I’ve loved every word of it.
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, ATL office, book reviews, erin gerber
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