Review The Hippie Trail: A History, Sharif Gemie & Brian Ireland

The Hippie Trail: A History by Sharif Gemie and Brian Ireland is a rollicking and riveting read, chock-full of vivid anecdotes and insights. It is perfect for armchair travellers dreaming of happier times. How gentrified and commodified the world seems today!

“You can’t trust anybody who’s wearing a tie,” Jefferson Airplane

Gemie and Ireland appraise the broader social and political context, alongside the psychological and cultural worlds of the famously hirsute travellers. The resulting narrative is a blend of analysis and dialogues with eighty authors and interviewees who went on the trail in the late 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s on a quest for adventure, spirituality and escape from monotony, ending up – though not always – in Nepal. By the 1970s, Kathmandu was known as “the Benidorm of the dope trail”. (p. 104) 

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Review Turf Wars (2) Olivier Norek

Turf Wars is the second of Olivier Norek’s Captain Coste trilogy, set in the banlieues of Paris.

Spiralling Upwards

Norek has an unusual C.V. Born in Toulouse in 1975, he worked for a humanitarian charity in in the 1990s, and contributed to the re-construction of hospitals and refugee camps in Guyana and the former Yugoslavia. He then joined the French marines for two years, before becoming a policeman in 1997. After working in the police force in Paris for eighteen years, he started his fourth career: crime writer. To date, he’s published six novels and he was one of the writers for the sixth series of  Engrenages (Spiral).  Continue reading Review Turf Wars (2) Olivier Norek

Review Beirut 2020: The Collapse of a Civilization, a Journal – Charif Majdalani

Remember the Great Fear of March 2020? Remember the empty supermarket shelves, stripped bare of pasta, loo-rolls and flour? Many Brits feared that this was the End of Civilization as We Know It, like in a horror film.

Charif Majdalani’s book is a useful corrective to such needless panics. Last year, people living in Beirut really did see the collapse of a civilization, and Beirut 2020 is a gripping, perceptive account of the process. Continue reading Review Beirut 2020: The Collapse of a Civilization, a Journal – Charif Majdalani

Review French Muslims in Perspective, Joseph Downing

The French Muslim community numbers nearly 6 million, and is growing. French Muslims in Perspective: Nationalism, Post-Colonialism and Marginalisation under the Republic by Joseph Downing is rich in detail for curious minds, with copious end notes following each chapter. Although written for an academic readership, there is plenty for the lay reader. The largest Muslim community in Western Europe, it has more often than not been under a harsh spotlight following years of terrorist attacks, national debates over the hijab, the burkini and the right to offend and blaspheme.

Most are modest Muslims leading normal lives, appreciative of laïcité (secularism) and its freedoms, while the number of violent extremists is estimated to be only in the few thousands – “less than 1% of the French Muslim population become jihadists” – though this reality is not that which is portrayed by the mainstream Media. Many are fashioning new Islamic institutions and developing new ways of listening, reasoning and teaching.

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Review Wicked Enchantment selected poems, Wanda Coleman

The selected poems of Wanda Coleman, edited by the American poet Terrance Hayes, and published in the UK under the title Wicked Enchantment, has brought her back into the spotlight. Considered to be the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles, she died in 2013 age sixty-seven.

Wanda Coleman, like Gwendolyn Brooks before her, has much to tell us about what it is like to be a poor black woman in America,” Tony Magistrale, Black American Literature Forum Continue reading Review Wicked Enchantment selected poems, Wanda Coleman

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