Review: A Rainbow in the Night

  This isn’t going to be an elaborate entry but I wanted to mention that I finished Dominique La Pierre’s A Rainbow in the Night: the Tumultuous Birth of South Africa. 

I found the first 150 pages gripping, but as the 20th Century dawned it seemed like a shift happened in La Pierre’s storytelling. I don’t think that is the case, but that is how my brain perceived it.

La Pierre tells his story by choosing significant figures in South African history and using their story to build a national story. The tale seems to build and reflect on apartheid, whereas the title seems broader than the interior content. 

My knowledge is somewhat limited on South Africa and I thought La Pierre’s easy style would give me a quick basic review of key items in South African history, and it did. I guess it brings up the question of how does an author or scholar deal with a topic that is heavily overshadowed by something distasteful or tragic? 

Now I’m on to a book about war in Somalia, the Sudan and Rwanda so I don’t expect anything uplifting soon…

Good surprise, bad surprise

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This hardly getting any sleep and doing a lot of walking and traveling takes a toll. I was so exhausted on the RER into Paris.

Luckily M knows we’re not as young as we used to be so he booked us a hotel room at Mercure-Gare de Nord. We always stay in this neighborhood, but usually in little m0m-and-pop establishments deeper in the side streets. This hotel is across the street from Gare de Nord.

That was a great surprise. I flopped onto the bed and took a nap.

But… speaking of small establishments… the coffee shop where M and I have taken coffee for the five years we have been traveling together has changed hands and it’s now a STARBUCKS. Sigh. So sad.

But… more news… We are here during the January sales! France only has sales twice a year. And I managed to show up during the sales. Went shopping already.

And since I am interested in youth disenfranchisement, immigrant politics in France and French rap, I bought Diam’s two books.

Holiday Upheaval

The events of the last few months have rendered my life unrecognizable, even to me.I have a suspicion that 2016 may come together in ways I never imagined or be the year that leaves me bankrupt, homeless and destitute in more ways than one.

So far I’m leaning toward and working for the former, but the worrier in me can’t help but fear the latter.

Between my broken ankle and the medical bills I incurred (who knew physical therapy was THAT expensive?) and the fact that I paid for graduate school, car repairs and a euphonium on my American Express, I was forced to ponder refinancing the house. The appraiser comes Sunday, but, again, I’m nervous because the appraisers are never generous in my experience. Last time I did this, they wanted to loan me exactly what I need now. So we’ll see. This new mortgage would shorten the length of our current loan, pay off the car and the American Express AND not add to the cost of our monthly payments.

With this and winter and travel looming, I have decided to defer enrollment at West Chester until next semester. I won’t have to commute in the snow. I can get my finances in order and proceed responsibly and not worry about classes interfering with my travel schedule.

Speaking of travel: January 7 I leave for France; I believe it’s January 8 I leave for Djibouti and January 12 I arrive in Mogadishu. Plus a trip to Lebanon may be in the works for spring.

I’m also working on some book reviews in some World War II era memoirs for Hippocampus.

Now the good news…

My poem “This Paris” has been accepted by StepAway magazine. I don’t consider myself a poet, so it’s a tad funny that I’ve placed a poem.

I believe I got an A in my grad school history class and my professor would like to see me continue some of my work, specifically on the Horn of Africa. That’s the topic, not that she wants me to go far, far away.

Publication and acceptance

  
I got an email earlier this week that I was accepted into West Chester’s MA program in history.

Today I received an email with information on how to get temporary access to the article on poverty inDjibouti I co-authored with Annette Varcoe for the Sage Encyclopedia on World Poverty, volume 2.

And my husband and I are finally going to see the new James Bond movie Monday.

This post is short, but full of fun news.

Oops! I think I start grad school next week

  
As a former journalist, I have a passion for research, current events and packaging information. 

When I earned my second bachelors degree, I did it to show my daughter the value of education. I wanted to start grad school, but I didn’t know how feasible that would be with a job, a child, a household and several volunteer commitments. So I committed to a new undergraduate career instead. Cheaper & faster than grad school. A way to test the water. A way to increase my academic credentials to better match my professional experience.

But I do really want my Ph.D. I applied to a prestigious program last year and did not get in. The whole process taught me a lot and when I reviewed it this winter I talked more in depth with my former advisers.

Here’s the thing about advisers: you have to consider their advice within a framework of who they think you will be. I’ve discovered that my former professors have visions for me that don’t necessarily match my goals. Frankly, some of their plans are quite flattering and sometimes overwhelming.

One adviser had suggested the MA program in history at West Chester University. At first I didn’t take him seriously because they don’t have a Ph.D. program.

They sent me an email, coincidentally, advertising a grad school open house. Here’s the kicker… If you attended, they waived your application fee. 

 And then I reviewed their faculty. I noted at least five professors whose interests intersect with mine. The program was flexible, part-time or full-time, affordable and has some scholarship/graduate assistantship available.

At the same time, I was trying to contact another prestigious school about taking a class in their African studies department this fall. They had a professor who might have an interest in East Africa that might suit me.

It took two weeks to get an email that told me to call them or come to one of their “walk-in” events. The email merely asked if the class I wanted to take could be enrolled in as a non-matriculated student. 

Frustrated by the prestigious school, I emailed West Chester. I received a delightful response the next day that encouraged me to contact anyone in the department. I also got an email from the person who would be hosting for the history department at the open house.

And then the open house happened. Wednesday August 12. The graduate coordinator was enthusiastic and portrayed the strengths and weaknesses of her department. She thought I might like a class they were offering this fall, suggesting the professor would be a good fit, and indeed it was one of the people who intrigued me originally.

I came home. Thought. Chatted with friends. Worked. On Monday I entered my name into the system as a potential non-degree student in the history graduate department.

Monday night I received a student number. I also received an invitation to the history meet-and-greet today. I declined. It’s a 90-minute drive one way.

Tuesday morning I initiated my account and went into the registration system to see what I needed to do to gain approval for the class.

Nothing. Just click. So I did.

Turns out classes start next week.

I have gone from floundering to enrolled in a graduate level class in less than a week. Provided this works out, and I suppose paying tuition is the main next step, I will go from undecided about my next step to sitting in class in less than two weeks.

What have I done? Grad school sneaked up and bit me! Gulp.

To Siberia for Pizza

My traveling companion and I started planning our next adventure. Mauritania was on the table, as was a brief discussion of Egypt. We wanted to combine where ever we went with a unorthodox trip to France. (This was before the Charlie Hebdo debacle, not that terrorism influences our decisions.)

Our version of France would include a bad suburb and potentially some immigrant heavy areas… And the military medicine museum at Val-de-Grâce. And the sewers.

My friend prefers to use Moscow as his transport hub. Long story. Involves displeasure with Air France. So I went to his apartment in D.C. to fill out a Russian multi entry visa application. A year or so ago, I discovered a pizza place in Russia that has the most amazing looking pizza, PizzasInIzza. I asked if we could visit it. Turns out it’s in Siberia. That doesn’t deter my friend. When my application was accepted my the Russian embassy, we started serious planning.

Paris for two days. Then Moscow. But we’d land in Moscow on May 1. So we’d have to stay in Russia if it was May Day. History of communism and all that. We opted to stay in Russia instead of heading to Africa. The visa came in, and my traveling companion booked plane tickets. He included an evening in Siberia so I can get my pizza.

He had his doubts. I have an outstanding application for a Ph.D. program in history and he wondered if we should head to Africa in case we couldn’t go in the future because of my schooling. I reminded him that my interest lies in 20th Century French history, African colonialism, and Muslim Africa. In all likelihood, I wouldn’t have another opportunity to visit Russia any time soon.

Of course, neither of use speak Russian. I’m trying to teach myself basic Russian in four months.

Should I not be accepted into my first choice Ph.D. program, this trip could help demonstrate my breadth as a future European history. Let’s face it, the history of Communism and the Russian influence made not only modern Europe but the United States as well.

The Russians are letting me in!

The Russians are letting me in!

Reviving an old abstract…

I noticed that the link to my abstract on the NCUR 2013 web site no longer worked so I went on a search…

I found the abstract on the NCUR web site and opted to copy it so it survives.

I presented at NCUR my final year at Lafayette. The introduction to my thesis is listed under academic writing on this site.

The Abstract:

CIVILIZING MUSLIMS: HOW THE FRENCH PERPETUATE ALGERIAN COLONIALISM IN THEIR FIGHT AGAINST THE VEIL
Angel Ackerman, (Angelika von Wahl) International Affairs, Lafayette College, Easton, PA

France today struggles with the presence of a highly visible and growing Muslim population in a society that considers public secularism a founding institution. Many Muslims in France today have roots in colonial Algeria. Without the rise of Algerian nationalism and the subsequent war that led to Algerian decolonization in 1962, the Fifth Republic would not exist as it does today.

Many scholars have criticized and studied whether or not France should integrate Islam into its society better, but fewer people have studied how French colonial-based stereotypes proclaiming the inferiority of Muslim Arabs linger in the treatment of Muslims in France today. The treatment of colonial Algerians, particularly the denial of equal citizenship because of their religion, provides an interesting case study that can be compared to a contemporary case, the attempt to strip Muslim women of their right to wear the veil.

French efforts to legislate whether or not women can wear traditional Muslim veils serve as a continuation of the “civilizing mission” undertaken in the Algerian colony. Using a variety of French language and English language primary and secondary sources, this project looks at the intersection of citizenship and religion from the 18th through 21st centuries.

Chapter One establishes the roots of laicite and the persecution of the Catholic Church after the 1789 revolution. Chapter two explores the role of religion in the colonization of Algeria, the creation of stereotypes of the inferior Arab, and how religion led to the denial of citizenship to the indigenous Muslims. Chapter three chronicles the rise of Algerian nationalism, the war of “liberation” and how the various French populations interacted with the Algerians. The fourth chapter takes the stereotypes of the colonial era and shows how Fifth Republic France has perpetuated these ideas of the Arab Muslim as an inferior that still needs to be civilized. The final chapter offers political theory covers what it means to wear the veil in France.