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Posted July 8, 2009
If you're a liberal, progressive, independent or just plain middle-of-the-roader in the game of politics, you will adore this book. You really, really should NOT miss it. It will make you laugh and cry. It will inform you. It will entertain you with a face-paced love story about a romance between a young liberal and a young conservative.
The author very realistically and unobtrusively peppers her book with a rainbow of all the different kinds of people sheltered under the big beautiful wing of the Liberal Way of looking at the world: black Americans, lesbians, the elderly, a biracial couple, a liberal activist who takes on Fixed Noise (aka Fox News), and a female university Classics professor and ardent supporter of the Democratic Party (mother of the main character, Pandora Duncan).
The author also, however, manages to pull in - again, unobtrusively - a set of sterling representatives of the Other Side - the Neo Cons: a Christian fundamentalist; a hack for one of Dubya's henchman; and a main character whose family is so close to the Bushes that George Herbert and Barbara attend his mother's (this character is Jerry, the physician turned soldier who is also Pandora's fiancé).
All this makes for a rollicking good read as well as a view straight from the American trenches - with lots of humor pitched in to soften the blows -- of the horrors of Dubya's first four years as the pResident who managed to occupy our White House for a time. This book will walk you down memory lane, through that battleground that was America from 2000 to 2004, and will help you make sense of that indescribably horrific period in American history.
And last but not least, this book will treat you to some darn good writing, writing that will knock your socks off in places with its fresh, new and exciting descriptions of people, places and things.
Get your hands on a copy of this book; you won't be sorry you did (unless of course you are a Neo-Con, or one of the remaining five people in the country who still think George Dubya smells like roses).
Posted August 29, 2006
Unlike other ¿coming of age¿ novels, My Liberal Education is a rollicking tale with an unusual literary twist. In this debut book by Elizabeth James, truth and fiction are inextricably entwined as real-life political figures and world events mix with fictitious characters going about the rather messy business of living their lives. But before you reach the end of this engaging, thought-provoking novel, you will be convinced ¿ without a shadow of a doubt - that truth really is much stranger than fiction! Pandora Duncan, the 25-year old protagonist of the novel is a self-proclaimed ¿good girl¿ who goes through many changes that parallel the changes also taking place in America. Thrust into a conservative southern culture far-removed from her Northeastern progressive roots, Pan must look inward to discover who she really is ¿ what she believes in, values and loves ¿ as she struggles to make sense of a world gone awry after the events of September 11. Part of this process of self-discovery is shaped in reaction to the world policies of the George W. Bush administration part is shaped by the diverse characters that people Pan¿s life. During the course of the novel, Pandora falls in love with two very different men ¿ Ethan Ernest, an idealistic, pacifist, left-wing journalist and Jerry Dobbs, a Harley-riding surgeon turned medic/soldier. Along the way, she also must put her own theories about prejudice to the test when she moves next door to an African-American family, becomes best friends with a young Hispanic woman, and takes a crash course in the meaning of same-sex love from a pair of committed lesbians. By the end of this novel, readers will see that Pandora, much like her own country, has undergone a vast transformation in four short years. No matter on which side of the political fence you may sit, all readers will agree that My Liberal Education will make us think about the future of this country ¿ and may even challenge us to take a good, long unwavering look at ourselves¿Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2006
Combining the engaging story of a young woman's head first plunge into a new and alien environment, (e.g. The Red State of North Carolina) with insightful commentary on our culturally and politically polarized country-- Elizabeth James has woven a narrative tapestry that could not be more relevant or revealing. Pandora Duncan is a green 20-something in the inchoate stages of self-discovery, who finds herself writing for a local newspaper in year 2000 North Carolina. The real editorial here is Pandora's self-realizations as she interacts with a wealth of exotic creatures, her new friends, neighbors and nemeses. In the process, she reevaluates her values and preconceptions of everything from environmentalism to her own eroticism (which James explores in sweltering detail). All this is carefully interleaved with the unending parade of political and social issues that emanated from the first four years of the Bush administration and James examines how these issues infuse themselves into the lives of Pandora and those around her, often creating frictions or cementing friendships. James has done here what few can, with grace and reserve she's allowed her protagonist to grow and change, contradict herself and 'flip-flop' her allegiances, in short, she's allowed Pandora to be a real person and at that, a truly engaging character. Never does she merely serve as a proxy for her author to pontificate or advance her own political doctrine. But she is fascinating to watch as she confronts circumstances and their fallout, whether in her tumultuous personal life, or circumstances on the world stage, both of which we can easily relate to, especially those we've all lived through in the not so distant past. My Liberal Education is not only the story of one woman's coming to self-understanding within a world spiraling out of control, but also a penetrating and terse time capsule of one of our country's most volatile eras. This is a great 'fish out of water' story, where Pandora, a self-professed 'liberal' Northeastern transplant, learns how provincial she really is as she starts breathing in her new heavily Republican community. But as those four years elapse, and she navigates the unfamiliar currents stirred up by the geopolitical turmoil that characterized Bush's first term, a new Pandora emerges... And while Bush is still president after those years, Pandora is hardly the same person at all.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2006
Elizabeth James' novel is unlike anything I've ever read. Her use of fiction to forward a political theme is unique and effective, especially since the engaging characters transcend contemporary concerns, making the story timeless. The story features 25-year old Pandora Duncan, who leaves her progressive family in Baltimore to work at a small town newpaper in North Carolina. As she experiences the first four years of the Bush Administration, Pan evolves from an apolitical, self-absorbed woman to a mature, committed activist. Along with the very diverse people who enter her life, Pan learns first-hand how flawed policies can impact the lives of decent, ordinary folks who are simply trying to live in peace and make ends meet. Pan interacts with her idealistic, invironmentally-responsible young boss and a conflicted Texan warrior/surgeon... both compete for Pan's love. The Walton family, Pan's black neighbors, take Pan under their wings and teach her about inclusiveness, while a conservative Hispanic couple and Pan's religiously Fundamental office mate offer opposing viewpoints. A committed lesbian couple teaches Pan the meaning of love, while a quirky prostitute/ labor organizer at Wal-Mart adds much to the often satirical tone. The book is funny, sexy, tragic, but mostly it urges readers to take a stand on vital issues, honor citizenship, and safeguard democracy with the same passion one brings to personal relationships.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.