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George Takei to Appear at B&N at The Grove, Vroman’s

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Actor, activist and New York Times bestselling author George Takei will sign copies of “They Called Us Enemy,” a graphic novel based on his experiences during World War II,

Join George Takei – actor/author/activist – to celebrate the release of THEY CALLED US ENEMY at Barnes & Noble at The Grove at Farmers Market on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m.

He will appear at Vroman’s in Pasadena the day before, on Tuesday, Aug 20, from 6PM to 7:30PM

In this stunning graphic memoir (a New York Times bestseller), Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of 120,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon — and America itself — in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

One ticket grants one person admission and one copy of THEY CALLED US ENEMY. The author will sign only THEY CALLED US ENEMY (one copy per ticket). No memorabilia will be signed. Candid photographs are only allowed from the signing line. No posed photos or standing behind the table.

From a childhood spent with his family wrongfully imprisoned in Japanese American internment camps during World War II, George Takei became known around the world for his founding role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the Starship Enterprise, in the acclaimed television series Star Trek. He has since become a strong voice in the fight for social justice, LGBTQ rights, and marriage equality.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

What does it mean to be American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do? To answer these questions, George Takei joins co-writers Justin Eisinger & Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker for the journey of a lifetime.

They Called Us Enemy is truly beautiful — moving, thoughtful, important, engaging, and stunningly rendered. I am so excited to see this book’s impact on the world.” — Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming

“George Takei’s story reveals the important lessons of the WWII Japanese American Incarceration that still need to be learned today. They Called Us Enemy is a compelling must-read for all ages.” — Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute

“Moving and layered… Takei challenges Americans to look to how past humanitarian injustices speak to current political debates. Giving a personal view into difficult history, [They Called Us Enemy] is a testament to hope and tenacity in the face of adversity.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A compelling blend of nostalgia and outrage… this approachable, well-wrought graphic memoir is important reading, particularly in today’s political climate. Pair with John Lewis’ acclaimed March series for a thought-provoking, critical look at the history of racism in American policies and culture.” — Booklist (starred review)

“This evocative memoir shares stories of the nation’s past, draws heartbreaking parallels to the present, and serves as a cautionary tale for the future. For all readers old enough to understand the importance of our collective history.” — School Library Journal (starred review)

“Riveting… Takei has evolved into an increasingly powerful voice for oppressed communities, and They Called Us Enemy finds him at peak moral clarity — an unflinching force in these divisive times.” — The Washington Post

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Mister Rogers Told Co-Star Don’t Come Out as Gay, and Marry a Woman

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Mister Rogers Told Co-Star Don't Come Out as Gay, and Marry a Woman

(TMZ) — “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was no place for gay people … so says one of the stars.

Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons from 1968 – 1995, says in his new memoir, Fred Rogers got wind of the fact Clemmons was gay, pulled him aside and said, “Franc, you have talents and gifts that set you apart and above the crowd. Someone has informed us that you were seen at the local gay bar downtown. Now, I want you to know, Franc, that if you’re gay, it doesn’t matter to me at all.”

And, then the other shoe dropped … “Whatever you say and do is fine with me, but if you’re going to be on the show as an important member of the ‘Neighborhood,’ you can’t be out as gay.”

Clemmons told People Rogers told him secrecy was the only way … “You must do this Francois … because it threatens my dream,” adding, “I was destroyed. The man who was killing me had also saved me. He was my executioner and deliverer. But, at the same time, I knew that he would know how to comfort me.”

According to Clemmons, whose memoir is titled, “Officer Clemmons,” Rogers also told him the audience didn’t care who he was sleeping with … “especially if it’s a man.”

And, there’s more … according to Clemmons, Rogers urged him to marry a woman, and he obliged. Clemmons married La-Tanya Mae Sheridan. They divorced in 1974 and later Clemmons came out.

He says he forgives the legendary TV host … “Lord have mercy, yes. I forgive him. More than that, I understand. I relied on the fact that this was his dream. He had worked so hard for it. I knew Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was his whole life.”

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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From Homer to Stephen King: Pandemics in Literature

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Pandemics from Homer to Stephen King: What we Can Learn
Western literature begins with a plague: the Iliad.

by Chelsea Haith for The Conversation

From Homer’s Iliad and Boccaccio’s Decameron to Stephen King’s The Stand and Ling Ma’s Severance, stories about pandemics have – over the history of Western literature such as it is – offered much in the way of catharsis, ways of processing strong emotion, and political commentary on how human beings respond to public health crises.

Literature has a vital role to play in framing our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is worth turning to some of these texts to better understand our reactions and how we might mitigate racism , xenophobia and ableism (discrimination against anyone with disabilities) in the narratives that surround the spread of this coronavirus.

Ranging from the classics to contemporary novels, this reading list of pandemic literature offers something in the way of an uncertain comfort, and a guide for what happens next.

Homer’s Iliad, as the Cambridge classicist Mary Beard has reminded us, opens with a plague visited upon the Greek camp at Troy to punish the Greeks for Agamemnon’s enslavement of Chryseis. US academic Daniel R Blickman has argued that the drama of Agamemnon and Achilles’ quarrel “should not blind us to the role of the plague in setting the tone for what follows, nor, more importantly, in providing an ethical pattern which lies near the heart of the story”. In other words, The Iliad presents a narrative framing device of disaster that results from ill-judged behaviour on the part of all of the characters involved.

COVID-19 is certain to shake up economic systems and entrenched institutional processes, as we’re seeing with the shift towards remote learning in universities around the world, to give just one example. These texts give us an opportunity to think through how similar crises have been managed previously, as well as ideas about how we might structure our societies more equitably in their aftermath.

The Decameron (1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio, set during the Black Death, reveals the vital role of storytelling in a time of disaster. Ten people self-isolate in a villa outside Florence for two weeks during the Black Death. In the course of their isolation, the characters take turns to tell stories of morality, love, sexual politics, trade and power.

In this collection of novellas, storytelling functions as a method of discussing social structures and interaction during the earliest days of the Renaissance. The stories offer the listeners (and Boccaccio’s readers) ways through which to restructure their “normal” everyday lives, which have been suspended due to the epidemic.

Authority’s failure to respond

The normality of everyday life is also the focus of Mary Shelley’s apocalypse novel The Last Man (1826). Set in a futuristic Britain between the years 2070 and 2100, the novel – which was made into a movie in 2008 – details the life of Lionel Verney, who becomes the “last man” following a devastating global plague.

Shelley’s novel dwells on the value of friendship, and concludes with Verney accompanied on his wanderings by a sheep dog (a reminder that pets may be a source of comfort and stability in times of crisis). The novel is particularly scathing on the topic of institutional responses to the plague. It satirises revolutionary utopianism and the in-fighting that breaks out among surviving groups, before these also succumb.

Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death (1842) also depicts the failures of authority figures to adequately and humanely respond to such a disaster. The Red Death causes fatal bleeding from the pores. In response, Prince Prospero gathers a thousand courtiers into a secluded but luxurious abbey, welds the gates closed and hosts a masked ball:

The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure.

Poe details the sumptuous festivities, concluding with the incorporeal arrival of the Red Death as a human-like guest at the ball. The plague personified takes the prince’s life and then those of his courtiers:

And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall.

Modern and contemporary literature

In the 20th century, Albert Camus’ The Plague (1942) and Stephen King’s The Stand (1978) brought readers’ attentions to the social implications of plague-like pandemics – particularly isolation and failures of the state to either contain the disease or moderate the ensuing panic. The self-isolation in Camus’ novel creates an anxious awareness of the value of human contact and relationships in the citizens of the plague-stricken Algerian city of Oran:

This drastic, clean-cut deprivation and our complete ignorance of what the future held in store had taken us unawares; we were unable to react against the mute appeal of presences, still so near and already so far, which haunted us daylong.

In King’s The Stand, a bioengineered superflu named “Project Blue” leaks out of an American military base. Pandemonium ensues. King recently stated on Twitter that COVID-19 is certainly not as serious as his fictional pandemic, urging the public to take reasonable precautions.

https://twitter.com/StephenKing/status/1236782826911150080?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Ftheconversation.com%2Fpandemics-from-homer-to-stephen-king-what-we-can-learn-from-literary-history-133572

Similarly, in his 2016 novel Fever, South African author Deon Meyer details the apocalyptic fallout of a weaponised, bioengineered virus that results in enclaves of survivors besieging one another for resources.

In Severance (2018), Ling Ma provides a contemporary take on the zombie novel as the fictional “Shen Fever” renders people repetitive automatons until their deaths.

In a thinly veiled metaphor for the capitalist cog-in-the-machine, the protagonist Candace drifts daily in to her place of work in a future New York that is slowly falling apart. She eventually joins a survival group, assimilating culturally and morally to their violent attitudes towards the zombies, “embodying the atomization of late-capitalist humans in a society stripped to its bones”, as reviewer Jiayang Fang suggests.

For some the end has already come

Consider also that “indigenous futurisms” – a term coined by First Nations cultural and race studies theorist Grace L Dillon to refer to speculative fictions by indigenous peoples and writers of colour such as NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth seriesClaire G. Coleman’s Terra Nullius, and Carmen Maria Machado’s short story Inventory – have long since treated colonialism and the diseases spread by the colonisers as the source of what is currently experienced as an ongoing apocalypse. For many people in formerly colonised places, the apocalypse has already come – pandemics (both literal and metaphorical) have already obliterated their populations.

The catharsis that some of the above-mentioned texts may offer is troubled by the realities of pandemic and apocalypse conditions depicted in much fiction by indigenous peoples. If we used our own likely forthcoming periods of self-isolation to theorize alternative social structures, to tell one another stories about how we live, what stories might we tell?


Chelsea Haith is a DPhil Candidate in Contemporary English Literature at the University of Oxford.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.


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Woody Allen Memoir Canceled by Publisher Following Staff Walkout

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Woody Allen Memoir Canceled by Publisher Following Staff Walkout

(TMZ) — Woody Allen’s been officially canceled … by the publishing company that was going to release his memoir next month.

Hachette Book Group announced it will no longer publish the famed, but controversial, director’s memoir, “Apropos of Nothing,” which was originally scheduled to hit bookshelves in April.

The decision comes on the heels of a staff walkout at one of HBG’s imprint companies, Little, Brown and Company … which is Ronan Farrow ‘s publisher. After Ronan voiced his disappointment HBG was working with Allen … employees at Little, Brown and Co. staged a walkout Thursday, saying … “We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow and survivors of sexual assault.”

As you know … Allen was accused in 1992 by Dylan his adoptive daughter, of molesting her when she was 7. He’s repeatedly denied that.

HBG says, “The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one. At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly.”

The publisher adds … “Also, as a company, we are committed to offering a stimulating, supportive and open work environment for all our staff. Over the past few days, HBG leadership had extensive conversations with our staff and others. After listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible.”

HBG will return all rights of the memoir to the author.

We’ve reached out to Woody’s team — so far, no word back.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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