Wednesday, May 10, 2006

NEW: Nexus of Assholery Book Club!

Irshad Manji, Risking Utopia: On the Edge of a New Democracy

Oprah Winfrey sure does hate James Fry, doesn't she?
Yeah, we all know the story. Oprah's embarrassed, she feels "decieved", and there will be "consequences" for James Fry.

So, naturally, the topic is: book clubs!

And lately I've been thinking to myself: why would anyone start a book club. It's really just one person dictating to any number of other people what they'll read, pretty much arbitrarily. Then I thought to myself: why? Fuck, why not?

So, yes, before you even ask it, I'll answer that burning question in the back of your cortex: yes, I'm going to start a book club. Once a month, I'm going to tell you what to read -- certainly I don't expect you to read it. Hell, I won't even sell you the book.

Most of the books for this particular book club should be available at your local library -- if you happen to attend a College or University, or even have access to one, I damn near guarantee you you'll find the book in question there. The books in question will cover a wide variety of topics, and I'll do my best to ensure they include many different -- perhaps often conflicting -- points of view.

Perhaps then it is fitting that I announce the first book for the Nexus of Assholery book club: Risking Utopia: On the Edge of a New Democracy by Irshad Manji.
Irshad Manji is known by many as one of the foremost critics of Islam today. The New York Times dubbed her "Osama bin Laden's Worst Nightmare". Right now, she's making all kinds of noise with her book The Trouble With Islam Today. She's also facing her fair share of critics, many of whom refute her claims to a desire for "dialogue with Islam", saying she is more interested in a monologue.

Long before making such a big splash with her current book, Manji tackled the contentious issue of identity politics in Risking Utopia. Risking Utopia is largely a collection of the life stories of various people who have been labelled as belonging to certain racial, ethnic, sexual or ability-related groups. The book is largely two fold: first, about the struggle of these people to define their own identities despite the stigmatization that accompanied the aforementioned labelling, and their determination to take the bull by the horns and solve their own problems.

Risking Utopia is a book that is first and foremost about building a more inclusive -- but, more importantly, less divisive -- society in which people are encouraged to be not only more indepedent, but more cooperative with one another. In a sense, Manji envisions a society that is in many levels interdependant, but within which no one is a burden on anyone else. Furthermore, everyone is welcome.

Sadly, if you're like me, you may find it frustrating that Manji herself may not be ready for the utopia she envisions. Like many writers of leftist stripes she singles out those dreaded "neo-conservatives" for special criticism, and makes it clear there is no place for them in the society she claims to envision.

Nonetheless, the book enshrines a glorious idea, and is a true winner from a gifted writer.

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