Sunday, 14 January 2018

A Marriage of Drama and History: The Crown

The following television review originally appeared in Critics at Large and is reproduced on this site because some of the material  does explore the consequences of crossing the line both in historical and aesthetic terms.

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II with Matt Smith as Prince Philip in The Crown.

The elements of good drama based on real people – believable three-dimensional characters, conflict, and an engrossing plot – often do not make good history. Historians and biographers must sift through documents and interviews with people who knew the subjects and fashion a portrait that adheres to the record. They may speculate, but speculations must be grounded in an evidentiary base. Screenwriters and directors have more creative freedom to imagine what might have been, to reassemble chronology, and to create dialogue and motives for their characters as long as they are plausible. Based on my viewing of two seasons of The Crown (on Netflix) that covers the 1950s and early 1960s, I would argue that a smooth synthesis of history and drama has been achieved.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Changing the Anti-democratic Dial: Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny

This review, originally published in Critics at Large is reproduced on this site because the On Tyranny offers helpful thoughts on how citizens can avoid crossing the line into darkness and becoming complicious with a president that has no clue that there is a line.

Historian Timothy Snyder speaking in 2016.

"Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so."

“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.”

“Post-truth is pre-fascism.”
 Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny.

Recently, I was fortunate to hear in Toronto a stimulating talk by distinguished Yale historian, Timothy Snyder, author of acclaimed monographs Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and StalinBlack Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning and his latest, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Tim Duggan Books, 2017). His talk was followed by a Q&A with CBC correspondent, Susan Ormiston. It turned out that his presentation was more an expansion of the epilogue in On Tyranny that explores two paradigms leading to worldviews that founder on an insufficient knowledge of history, while the interview with Ormiston directly related to the lessons Snyder posits in that slim (a mere 126 pages) but substantive volume.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

The Grammar of Refuge: Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone

This review that originally appeared in Critics at Large is reproduced here because the author through her central protagonist  does not cross that line of darkness and descend into bigotry and xenophobia.

Author Jenny Erpenbeck.

“It is accounted a sin to turn any man away from your door.”
– Tacitus, quoted by a character in Go, Went, Gone.

As I write, German politics is on the cusp of a political crisis. Angela Merkel has provided a beacon of stability and pragmatism, if not vision and eloquence, for the last dozen years in governing the economic powerhouse of the European Community. Earlier this autumn, her centrist Christian Democrats lost sixty-five seats in the Reichstag while the extreme far-right party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), gained ninety-four seats – with thirteen percent of the vote – primarily in the former GDR. The AfD, which chillingly speaks about the Volk that evokes a dark period in German history, capitalized on voter fear of immigrants after Merkel allowed over one million migrants in 2015-16 to enter Germany, even though the people who voted for AfD were relatively untouched by the flow of refugees. Merkel’s inability so far to forge a coalition that sidelines the AfD may result in Germans heading back to the polls – perhaps giving that xenophobic, anti-Islam party more seats.

In this dispiriting time, a tonic that I would offer is the originally fresh novels of Jenny Erpenbeck, The Visitation, End of Days and the latest in her loose trilogy, the extraordinary and timely Go, Went, Gone (New Directions, 2017, translated by Susan Bernofsky). Erpenbeck, who was born and grew up in the former East Berlin, is attuned to the turbulence of German history in the twentieth century. The Visitation narrates that history through the lives of the successive inhabitants of a grand house by a lake who end up being dislodged because the changing political environment renders their continued presence dangerously precarious, a novel reminiscent of Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room. End of Days is a cleverly constructed novel that spans a century from Galicia at the turn of the twentieth century to the united Federal Republic of Germany that is perhaps refracted through the long life of one woman. I say “perhaps” because Erpenbeck repeatedly kills her off then revives her, the first time just after her birth by slightly changing the circumstances that led to her death, later as a desperate teenager who commits suicide, then as a middle-aged victim of a Stalinist purge.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Later Life Learning: Week Ten: Responses to Populism


"The greatest threat to liberal democracies does not come from immigrants and refugees but from the backlash against them by those on the inside who exploit fears of outsiders to chip away at the values and institutions that make our societies liberal."

Sasha Polakov-Suransky, Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy, 2017

"Populists in power tend to undermine countervailing powers which are the courts, which are the media, which are other parties."

Cas Mudde, Populism: A Very Short Introduction, 2017


"In  the CBC program The Fifth Estate in March, Trump is shown as a bellowing demagogue, a purveyor of personal insults and a panderer to his supporters by reviling Mexicans and Muslims as the racial other. The former are equated with rapists and drug dealers, and the latter are associated with terrorists. Trump's bumptious vitriol even suggests that the vast majority of American Muslims are complicit to the acts perpetrated by a tiny number when he says,"they know where the bad ones are." His simplistic solutions to these hot-button issues are bombastic promises to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans, calling for a ban on Muslims entering America and rounding up and deporting eleven million undocumented immigrants. That he has retained a raucous and unthinking cohort of loyal supporters is evidence that he has tapped into an existing cache of psychosis and he’s exploiting it for political gain. Todd Gitlin has perceptively written: “the dog whistles have been superseded. What we hear now is the raw thing itself, the old-time irreligion, the rock-bottom roar of a sewage stream that always lay beneath the surface but now has erupted.” More recently, Trump has tried to equate immigration in general and free trade with fear of both homegrown terror and the new global economy. What this rank demagogue has made unambiguously clear is that he will transgress any boundary of decency or truth to win power."


From an essay I wrote "Through the Mirror Darkly: The Gothic Dimension of the 2016 Presidential Election

Selection from "It’s not just Trump. Authoritarian populism is rising across the West. Here’s why."

By Pippa Norris, March 11, 2016 Washington Post
We’re seeing a deep and strong a cultural backlash against changes in social values
Here’s why. Populist authoritarianism can best be explained as a cultural backlash in Western societies against long-term, ongoing social change.
Over recent decades, the World Values Survey shows that Western societies have been getting gradually more liberal on many social issues, especially among the younger generation and well-educated middle class. That includes egalitarian attitudes toward sex roles, tolerance of fluid gender identities and LGBT rights, support for same-sex marriage, tolerance of diversity, and more secular values, as well as what political scientists call emancipative values, engagement in directly assertive forms of democratic participation, and cosmopolitan support for agencies of global governance.
This long-term generational shift threatens many traditionalists’ cultural values. Less educated and older citizens fear becoming marginalized and left behind within their own countries.
In the United States, evidence from the World Values Survey perfectly illustrates the education gap in these types of cultural values. Well before Trump, a substantial and striking education gap can be observed in American approval of authoritarian leaders. The WVS asked whether Americans approved of “having a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with congress or elections.” The figure below shows a consistent education gap and growing support for this statement since 2005.
Most remarkably, by the most recent wave in 2011, almost half — 44 percent — of U.S. non-college graduates approved of having a strong leader unchecked by elections and Congress.
This deeply disturbing finding reflects attitudes usually observed in states such as Russia.


A powerful oped in The New York Times about public ignorance 
that  explains why a large percentage of people do have the tools to distinguish truth from falsehood. 

Screenshot from Experimenter
In 1961, social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the "obedience experiments" at Yale University. The experiments observed the responses of ordinary people asked to send harmful electrical shocks to a stranger. Despite pleadings from the person they were shocking, 65 percent of subjects obeyed commands from a lab-coated authority figure to deliver potentially fatal currents. With Adolf Eichmann's trial airing in living rooms across America, Milgram's Kafkaesque results hit a nerve, and he was accused of being a deceptive, manipulative monster. EXPERIMENTER invites us inside Milgram's whirring mind, beginning with his obedience research and wending a path to uncover how inner obsessions and the times in which he lived shaped a parade of human behavior inquiries.



In Could It Happen Here?, Environics founder Michael Adams digs into this spirit of "Canadian exceptionalism." For Adams, the election of Trump and the Britain's shocking vote to leave the European Union aren't mere flukes of "xenophobic populism." Rather, they constitute a "vertiginous global reordering" unseen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. By analyzing decades of Environics public polling and research data sets, Adams sets out to investigate just how immunized Canadians really are from "the malaise affecting other Western democracies." It takes him just 67 pages.

After indexing recent instances of violent Islamophobia (such as the massacre at a Quebec City mosque in January) and the marshalling of anti-immigrant sentiment by Canadian politicians copping Trumpist rhetoric (see former Conservative leadership boogeywoman Kellie Leitch), Adams wonders if such occurrences constitute "evidence of a real shift in social values in Canada?"

"The answer," he says, "is 'no.' " And his data prove it. Generation after generation, more Canadians embrace equality and immigration. Canadians have become increasingly tolerant, not only relative to our American neighbours but to previous Canadians. Canadians statistically prefer compromise, where Americans err toward hardline partisanship. The numbers show that "Canadians and their governments have managed, over a period of decades, to prevent or mitigate the accumulation of corrosive social forces that finally surfaced angrily in the populist politics of the Trump/Brexit era."

For anyone who is complacent about  Canada's tolerance should read oped in the Globe and Mail about the election of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi

 With shocking evidence, hilarious anecdotes, heart-wrenching personal stories, and brilliant insights into world events, Dr. Shafique Virani urges us to confront the Clash of Ignorance between the West and the Muslim World, replacing walls of misinformation with bridges of understanding. Appealing to the best in human nature, Dr. Virani presents a visionary path forward, and inspires hope for a better future.







Thursday, 16 November 2017

Ryerson Life Institute Week Eight Responses to Populism


"The greatest threat to liberal democracies does not come from immigrants and refugees but from the backlash against them by those on the inside who exploit fears of outsiders to chip away at the values and institutions that make our societies liberal."

Sasha Polakov-Suransky, Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy, 2017

"Populists in power tend to undermine countervailing powers which are the courts, which are the media, which are other parties."

Cas Mudde, Populism: A Very Short Introduction, 2017


"In  the CBC program The Fifth Estate in March, Trump is shown as a bellowing demagogue, a purveyor of personal insults and a panderer to his supporters by reviling Mexicans and Muslims as the racial other. The former are equated with rapists and drug dealers, and the latter are associated with terrorists. Trump's bumptious vitriol even suggests that the vast majority of American Muslims are complicit to the acts perpetrated by a tiny number when he says,"they know where the bad ones are." His simplistic solutions to these hot-button issues are bombastic promises to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans, calling for a ban on Muslims entering America and rounding up and deporting eleven million undocumented immigrants. That he has retained a raucous and unthinking cohort of loyal supporters is evidence that he has tapped into an existing cache of psychosis and he’s exploiting it for political gain. Todd Gitlin has perceptively written: “the dog whistles have been superseded. What we hear now is the raw thing itself, the old-time irreligion, the rock-bottom roar of a sewage stream that always lay beneath the surface but now has erupted.” More recently, Trump has tried to equate immigration in general and free trade with fear of both homegrown terror and the new global economy. What this rank demagogue has made unambiguously clear is that he will transgress any boundary of decency or truth to win power."


From an essay I wrote "Through the Mirror Darkly: The Gothic Dimension of the 2016 Presidential Election

Selection from "It’s not just Trump. Authoritarian populism is rising across the West. Here’s why."

By Pippa Norris, March 11, 2016 Washington Post
We’re seeing a deep and strong a cultural backlash against changes in social values
Here’s why. Populist authoritarianism can best be explained as a cultural backlash in Western societies against long-term, ongoing social change.
Over recent decades, the World Values Survey shows that Western societies have been getting gradually more liberal on many social issues, especially among the younger generation and well-educated middle class. That includes egalitarian attitudes toward sex roles, tolerance of fluid gender identities and LGBT rights, support for same-sex marriage, tolerance of diversity, and more secular values, as well as what political scientists call emancipative values, engagement in directly assertive forms of democratic participation, and cosmopolitan support for agencies of global governance.
This long-term generational shift threatens many traditionalists’ cultural values. Less educated and older citizens fear becoming marginalized and left behind within their own countries.
In the United States, evidence from the World Values Survey perfectly illustrates the education gap in these types of cultural values. Well before Trump, a substantial and striking education gap can be observed in American approval of authoritarian leaders. The WVS asked whether Americans approved of “having a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with congress or elections.” The figure below shows a consistent education gap and growing support for this statement since 2005.
Most remarkably, by the most recent wave in 2011, almost half — 44 percent — of U.S. non-college graduates approved of having a strong leader unchecked by elections and Congress.
This deeply disturbing finding reflects attitudes usually observed in states such as Russia.

Screenshot from Experimenter
In 1961, social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the "obedience experiments" at Yale University. The experiments observed the responses of ordinary people asked to send harmful electrical shocks to a stranger. Despite pleadings from the person they were shocking, 65 percent of subjects obeyed commands from a lab-coated authority figure to deliver potentially fatal currents. With Adolf Eichmann's trial airing in living rooms across America, Milgram's Kafkaesque results hit a nerve, and he was accused of being a deceptive, manipulative monster. EXPERIMENTER invites us inside Milgram's whirring mind, beginning with his obedience research and wending a path to uncover how inner obsessions and the times in which he lived shaped a parade of human behavior inquiries.



In Could It Happen Here?, Environics founder Michael Adams digs into this spirit of "Canadian exceptionalism." For Adams, the election of Trump and the Britain's shocking vote to leave the European Union aren't mere flukes of "xenophobic populism." Rather, they constitute a "vertiginous global reordering" unseen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. By analyzing decades of Environics public polling and research data sets, Adams sets out to investigate just how immunized Canadians really are from "the malaise affecting other Western democracies." It takes him just 67 pages.

After indexing recent instances of violent Islamophobia (such as the massacre at a Quebec City mosque in January) and the marshalling of anti-immigrant sentiment by Canadian politicians copping Trumpist rhetoric (see former Conservative leadership boogeywoman Kellie Leitch), Adams wonders if such occurrences constitute "evidence of a real shift in social values in Canada?"

"The answer," he says, "is 'no.' " And his data prove it. Generation after generation, more Canadians embrace equality and immigration. Canadians have become increasingly tolerant, not only relative to our American neighbours but to previous Canadians. Canadians statistically prefer compromise, where Americans err toward hardline partisanship. The numbers show that "Canadians and their governments have managed, over a period of decades, to prevent or mitigate the accumulation of corrosive social forces that finally surfaced angrily in the populist politics of the Trump/Brexit era."

For anyone who is complacent about  Canada's tolerance should read oped in the Globe and Mail about the election of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi


 With shocking evidence, hilarious anecdotes, heart-wrenching personal stories, and brilliant insights into world events, Dr. Shafique Virani urges us to confront the Clash of Ignorance between the West and the Muslim World, replacing walls of misinformation with bridges of understanding. Appealing to the best in human nature, Dr. Virani presents a visionary path forward, and inspires hope for a better future.







Sunday, 12 November 2017

Reconstruction and Deconstruction: Ta-Nehisi Coates's We Were Eight Years in Power

This review that originally appeared in Critics at Large is reproduced on this site because Ta-Nehisi Coates' We Were Eight Years in Power explores how the ideology of white supremacy expressed itself during the Obama years and the election of Donald Trump

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates. (Photo: Stephen Voss)

“We were eight years in power. We had built schoolhouses, established charitable institutions, built and maintained the penitentiary system, provided for the education of the deaf and dumb, rebuilt the ferries. In short, we had reconstructed the State and placed it upon the road to prosperity.”
– Thomas Miller, South Carolina Congressman, 1895.
“The beauty in his (Baldwin’s) writing wasn’t just style or ornament but an unparalleled ability to see what was before him clearly and then lay that vision, with that same clarity, before the world.”
– Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power.

The Congressman quoted in the first epigraph was an African-American who in a futile effort was attempting to make the case that blacks in the legislature had provided competent government so why should whites attempt to disenfranchise blacks with poll taxes and literacy tests. It was not necessary for him to add the terrorist attacks from the Klan against blacks who attempted to vote. A few years later the civil rights icon, W.E.B. Du Bois, offered an insightful response: “If there was one thing that South Carolina feared more than bad Negro government, it was good Negro government.’’ These two quotations provide the title and the thesis of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest offering, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (One World, 2017). The good government that Obama provided generated a racist backlash in which Donald Trump was the major beneficiary. Coates’s book is structured around eight essays, one for each year of the Obama presidencywritten originally for The Atlantic, for which he is a national correspondent, and concludes with a blistering epilogue on the white supremacist ideology of Trump in all its “truculent and sanctimonious power.” 

Later Life Learning Week Nine: Challenges faced by Women in Public and Private Life

Alice Paul
 American suffragist Alice Paul (1885-1977) was born into a prominent Quaker family in New Jersey. While attending a training school in England, she became active with the country’s radical suffragists. After two years with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), she cofounded the Congressional Union and then formed the National Woman’s party in 1916. Drawing on her experience, Paul led demonstrations and was subjected to imprisonment as she sought a voting amendment, but her actions helped bring about the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Paul continued to push for equal rights and worked from National Woman’s party headquarters in Washington, D.C., until her later years.
Eleanor Roosevelt


Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy stands on two pillars. She was an unabashed feminist, refusing to be silenced in the traditionally male world of politics. And she became a symbol of what caring for the downtrodden in society — including the poor, minorities, women, youth, and refugees — should look like. Through these two pillars, Eleanor transformed the role of the First Lady from ornamental to activist....


Eleanor faced a lot of public backlash during her time as First Lady. When she wrote magazine articles and expressed her opinions, she was likely to cause uproar. The Los Angeles Times newspaper called for her to be forced to retire from public life, because of her public criticism of the discrimination that Japanese Americans were facing. She was outspoken on the issue of racial discrimination and declared her support for civil rights. She invited hundreds of African American guests to the White House during her time as First Lady — another controversial move at the time. Her stance on racial discrimination created angry ripples across the country, especially in the South. But the critics never deterred her. Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out for those whom society cared less about at a time when women were not supposed to be speaking out at all.
LATER LIFE AND LEGACY
Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945, and his successor, President Harry S. Truman, appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She became the first chairperson for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and played a key role in helping to form the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Against a backdrop of sex, politics and race, Academy Award winning filmmaker Freida
Mock's Anita reveals the intimate story of Anita Hill, a woman who dared to speak the truth. This powerful documentary traces Ms. Hill's life from her early years through her legacy today, offering fascinating insight into her experiences testifying before the Senate just over 22 years ago in the weekend of shocking television that made her a household name and smashed the door open on the issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.
Anita Hill

The New Yorker asked Anita Hill what has changed since she contended in 1991 that Clarence Thomas was not fit be a Supreme Court judge because he sexually harassed her.


Read a shocking article in The New Yorker   about how Harvey Weinstein  used private security agencies to discredit the women who accused him of sexual improprieties and to ensure their stories never became public. Individuals posing as journalists or human rights activists for women sought to gather information on these women

I recommend two pieces a strong   op ed in The New York Times  on the culture of complicity and a historical profile of sexual harassment from The Times


“In 1991, I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Clarence Thomas, who had repeatedly harassed me when he was my boss, was unsuitable to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Hill. “The outcome of my testimony was not what I’d hoped, but in no way was it the final word. In the five years after I testified, sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC more than doubled. Legislation against harassment slowly but surely began to pass. And I saw that we had a chance to shift this narrative.”


Maya Angelou at President Clinton's Inaugural

 The film Maya Angelou and Still I Rise from co-directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack does have the credit of being the first documentary made about Angelou's life. That sounds hard to believe at first, given Angelou's popularity and importance to American art, but also makes more sense when one considers that she also wrote seven autobiographies, along with numerous amounts of personal pieces. The film seeks to become the ultimate biography, while offering Angelou on camera, sharing her side of life stories that have become American lore in books like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Told in mostly chronological order, the documentary touches upon many chapters of Angelou’s life, starting with her upbringing in Stamps, Arkansas. While painting a picture of her upbringing in a poor, racist part of the country, it focuses on the growth of her voice, particularly when she was mute for a long time after a traumatic event. As a clue to her later brilliance without intense schooling, Angelou shares how she memorized full Shakespeare plays and read everything she could get her hands on during her formative years of silence. But as she says herself, “When I decided to speak, I had a lot to say.” 
As the documentary charts the course of how her creative voice blossomed across mediums, Angelou is a fascinating open book, with her perspective coming in between smiles during a talking head interview. In an incredible journey, she started as a dancer then singer (known as Miss Calypso), and then went onto write songs and short stories, before getting to personally know the like of Langston Hughes or James Baldwin. She established an importance that spread to other areas, like political activism, which led her to friendships with Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, among many others. “Maya Angelou and Still I Rise” provides an in-depth picture of how prolific she was, the connections that led from one artistic opportunity to the next, and strong examples of how those she interacted with influenced her work. Hercules & Coburn’s film celebrates the importance of others on our creativity, and with a brilliant example; a woman who gave back a voice to numerous communities, while helping the life of a black woman become more visible on a cultural scale. 
What the documentary adds to the Maya Angelou legacy can be found in various little gems, as it covers nearly every major form of artistry that she tackled, including songwriting (with Quincy Jones) and directing (the 1998 film “Down in the Delta”). Its talking head interviews are in particular a great find, including some beautiful words by Alfre Woodard and Cicely Tyson, or figures like President Bill Clinton, who speaks about why he chose her to write a poem (On the Pulse of Morning) for his presidential inauguration, which hadn’t happened since Robert Frost: “I knew she would make an impression. She was big and had the voice of God.”


"Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls. Capture them in that fleeting window between the ages of 10 and 14, give them an education, and watch a community change: Per capita income goes up, infant mortality goes down, the rate of economic growth increases, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection falls. Child marriage becomes less common, as does child labor. Educated mothers tend to educate their children. They tend to be more frugal with family money. Last year, the World Bank reckoned that Kenya’s illiterate girls, if educated, could boost that country’s economy by $27 billion in the course of a lifetime.
Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.”
Nowhere is that lesson more evident than in the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pashtun girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who was born of an illiterate mother, grew up in her father’s school, read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time by age 11 and has a gift for stirring oratory. And nowhere did that lesson go more rebuffed than in the verdant Swat Valley, where hard-line jihadists swept out of the mountains, terrorized villages and radicalized boys, and where—one muggy day last October—a Taliban fighter leapt onto a school bus, shouted, “Who is Malala?” and shot her point-blank in the head for speaking out about her God-given right to attend school.


Malala tells of that life-shattering moment in a riveting memoir, I Am Malala...a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls.
The story begins with Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the son of an imam (a preacher of Islam), who was instilled from boyhood with a deep love of learning, an unwavering sense of justice and a commitment to speak out in defense of both. Like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, Ziauddin was convinced that aside from the sword and the pen, there is an even greater power—that of women — and so, when his firstborn turned out to be a bright, inquisitive daughter, he raised her with all the attention he lavished on his sons...."
 —Marie Arana in The Washington Post