Relevant Reads for Progressives

By Rebecca (Becky) W


Title: After the Fall: The Rise of Authoritarianism in the World We’ve Made | Author: Ben Rhodes | Publication Date: Random House, 6/1/21

  A former White House aide to Barack Obama, author Ben Rhodes wanted to find out why the United States is now teetering on the brink of losing its democracy. To do so he traveled to dozens of countries around the world, speaking to their politicians and activists who are confronting the same type of nationalism and authoritarianism that is tearing apart the U.S.

     Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping are the most high-profile leaders discussed in this book. The foremost opposition leader in Russia, Alexei Navalny, discussed Putin with the author. Navalny was subsequently poisoned and imprisoned for his opposition work. 

     Rhodes also interviewed several dissidents in Hong Kong who related how their movement was totally snuffed out.

     The author explains how our society has slid backward from the Obama era of hope and inclusivity to the spread of disinformation and bigotry that endangers our democracy. 

     However, Rhodes believes that looking squarely and clear-headedly at what is happening can result in solutions that can save our democracy.



Title: The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals | Author: Becky Mandelbaum | Publication Date: Deckle Edge, 8/4/20

  It’s fall of 2016 and the Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals in rural western Kansas is in trouble. Its owner and operator, Mona, has put it up for sale after a series of anti-Semitic hate crimes put her at the brink of financial ruin. The overzealous Trump backers in the area are everywhere, making it distasteful, if not downright dangerous to go into town. Their lies and innuendos about Mona, the only Jewish (and liberal) person in the county are spread not just by the rougher element but by the pillars of the community, as well.   

     Ariel, Mona’s daughter, lives miles away in the more progressive city of Lawrence. When Ariel hears about her mother’s predicament, she feels compelled to return home and help her--even though they have been estranged for six years. After all, Ariel helped her mother establish the sanctuary and it is near and dear to her heart, too.

     With poignancy and humor, this novel explores the unique combination of love and tension between mothers and daughters, as well as the meaning of family and forgiveness. These age-old themes are played out amid the backdrop of a community in upheaval.