Brooke Parsons is a Senior Publicist at Penguin Press. She enjoys documentary films, Lydia Davis stories, Broad City, and aimless walks around Manhattan.
Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen
The story of the Russian feminist political punk group Pussy Riot was unbelievable to the West. What’s so exceptional is not the group’s existence but rather the fact that three young women were on trial for an act of artistic political outrage: a performance piece staged inside the Russian Orthodox Church that vilified the newly reinstated President Putin. The arrest and trial of Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich became an international story full of questions demanding answers. Journalist Masha Gessen was on the front lines in Moscow and brings us the entire story in Words Will Break Cement. Published after the documentary release of Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, which focuses on the trial but ends before time served, this book takes readers deep inside the story of Pussy Riot: their origination, the personal lives of the women involved, and their thoughts on Russian feminism and Putin’s dark reach. For bonus points, check out the documentary Ukraine is Not a Brothel, a profile of Femen (the feminist protest group founded in Ukraine).
Journey without Maps by Graham Greene
Graham Greene is perhaps best known for his novels The Quiet American and The End of the Affair. However, his travel writing is not to be missed—particularly Journey without Maps. This is the story of Greene’s first visit to Africa in 1935 when he walked some 350 miles from Sierra Leone to Liberia. At the time, Liberia was a new country intended to be settled by freed slaves from America. Greene’s sense of discovery and self-discovery is thrilling. And, as the reader, I like learning more about a place I know little about—especially when news concerning Liberia seems to be negative. In recent years, Liberia has suffered civil war, extreme poverty, and a recent Ebola outbreak. (To learn more about this West African country, check out VICE’s Guide to Liberia).
No, this is not a biography on Galileo Galilei; the title refers to his encased digit, mounted on display in Italy. It was too ironic: the man condemned by the Catholic Church for teaching that the Earth revolves around the Sun was now flipping everyone the bird. Author Alice Dreger, a medical historian and patient rights activist, discusses modern instances where scientists, like Galileo, revealed inconvenient truths about the world, truths met with outrage and personal attacks from political activists. She travels the country to interview people like anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, who was falsely accused of committing genocide against a South American tribe; the psychologist Michael Bailey, whose research into sex and gender identity led to accusations of abuse by transgender women; and the famous evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson, whose theories about sociobiology resulted in accusations of racism. Dreger herself was at the forefront of advocating for intersex rights in the late 1990s. But through the course of research for this book, she unexpectedly finds herself in the midst of her own controversy. Dreger’s argument? We must be more open-minded and not deny the scientific facts, even when they challenge our identity. (This might sound like heavy stuff, but Dreger has a wicked sense of humor that makes this book quite the page-turner!)
The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III
Crazy Horse is a legend. The world remembers him as the Lakota warrior who, along with Sitting Bull, aided in the defeat of the U.S. Army under Colonel George Armstrong Custer, or what we now refer to as Custer’s Last Stand. Marshall’s book is the definitive biography of Crazy Horse. His portrait of the man behind the myth is unforgettable. What makes this biography even more compelling is Marshall; Lakota himself, he preserves his people’s rich history of oral tradition. This book is a celebration of Crazy Horse, the man who helped save his people—their culture, community, and way of life.
Find more books on the Current Events & History page!
See Staff Picks for all our categories!