Sunday, October 15, 2017

Home Fire

Home Fire
by Kamila Shamsie
Published: August 2017

A British-Pakistani retelling of Antigone that cuts deeply into one of the most divisive and charged political issues of our day: Muslim immigration in a time of ISIS. Various characters offer their perspective in unraveling the story - a devout Muslim studying sociology, a secular, hawkish political conservative, and a naive rebellious youth are but a few.

4.5 out of 5: The layering of personal narratives and insight was masterfully crafted and I really enjoyed the meta-story that arises from it. Just goes to show how easy it is to judge someone before you know their motives, their story. What's the old adage - "we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions"?

As for the ending, **SPOILER ALERT** while there is definitely room for debate here, I do not think the ending was lazy or hyperbolic. It perfectly captures the intense theatrical downer that is greek tragedy (though I definitely wouldn't have caught the Antigone parallels on my own) but it also fits unsettling well into the chaos and violence of the ISIS narrative. This is exactly the sort of situation that terror organizations take advantage of.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A World of Three Zeros

A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions
by Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus was actually the commencement speaker at my graduation ceremony and even though the whole day is a bit of an emotional blur, his speech (which I'm trying desperately to find somewhere online) stuck with me. It was the first I had ever heard of microfinance- his revolutionary movement creating entrepreneurial opportunities for the impoverished by offering small loans. In A World of Three Zeros, Yunus expands on his vision for the future - one in which economics is shaped by and reliant on social and environmental policies. He imagines a world with zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions and this book expands on the framework that will help get us there.

One main focus is on the concept of a "social business": the idea that businesses can exist in a realm between nonprofit and for-profit. These businesses serve the community by satisfying a present need and funnel all profits back into the business itself, allowing for expansions and improvements rather than lining the pockets of investors or executives. Social businesses rely on the principle that humans have both selfish and altruistic impulses: the self-propelled nature of this model encourages the distribution of wealth by offering employment, goods and services, and community engagement without relying on donations or charity.

4.5 out of 5 stars: This was a very interesting book to read and catch up on what Muhammad Yunus has been up to, especially since I haven't thought much about microcredit in the last decade. Yunus' passion for this mission is tangible. Though there were times where the book felt a bit like an advertisement for Grameen Bank, I don't feel that it detracts from the message since (by definition) he doesn't personally stand to gain from a more widespread adoption of this model. All in all, this book can be summed up by the age-old adage: "give a man a fish and he is fed for a day; teach a man to fish, give him a small loan to start up his own small company where he is able to hire others to work with him to sell fish to the poor at a price they can afford and you help bring a community out of poverty. Or something like that.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.