Documenting family history is incredibly important. If you don’t, your family’s history will disappear and you may never discover what happened or what led you to where you are in life. Emei Burell examines her mother’s past in We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories, a graphic history of life during China’s Cultural Revolution and the impact it had on lives after it ended.
At the beginning of this graphic biography, Burrell notes that this is the story of her mother’s experience and is her mother’s story – her story doesn’t speak for everyone. She was an adolescent at the time, just 14-years old, about to graduate from 7th grade when her life suddenly and drastically changed. First her school was shut down with the teachers forced to stay in the school and not allowed to return home. She and her fellow students still had to come to school, but there was no actual learning taking place. Flash forward to 1968 when Mao ZeDong launched the Down to the Countryside Movement. That meant that all educated youth were forced to go to the countryside to be reeducated by the poorest lower and middle peasants so they could learn what China really is. They didn’t have a choice not to go, but she avoided leaving until 1969 when she ended up in Yunnan and was stuck there for ten years until the end of the Cultural Revolution. Her mother was officially a rusticated youth in Yunnan.
Throughout this book, Burell pairs her drawings with her mother’s words and photographs from that time. Those photographs add a connection to the story that readers may not have otherwise had with the drawings alone. Her mother’s stories depict how she ended up as one of the few truck-driving women during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Her life growing up in mid-1960s Communist China was rough, yet she managed to survive and thrive while living in a time of massive political upheaval. Determined to get her fair share, she wasn’t afraid to fight for what she wanted. She found ways to work the system, get an education, and eventually leave China like she always planned.
I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic biography. The Cultural Revolution in China was not something I had much knowledge of before I started reading this, but this book has pushed me down a rabbit hole to learn more about this time period and the millions of lives that were lost.
What could you give an impromptu speech on with no time to research? This is a question that was debated much among my friends. My answer: cults. Well, anything true crime related, but specifically cults. Imagine my delight when I found American Cult: A Graphic History of Religious Cults in American from the Colonial Era to Today edited by Robyn Chapman sitting on the new graphic novel shelves at the library! I couldn’t wait to give it a read.
American Cult is edited by Robyn Chapman and is compiled by numerous artists who each dedicate a section of the book to a different cult. All in all, 18 different American cults are dissected in this anthonology. The introduction discusses how readers have to take a human approach to the people who were sucked into these movements/cults – We need to treat them with ‘50% empathy and 50% justice’. Some of the chapters are pretty straightforward, while others take a wrap-around approach and really force readers to think about the difference between cults and religion. Each chapter is short – working to avoid the sensational information that was portrayed in the tabloids, but at the same time, the chapters don’t go very deep into the histories. Think of this book as sections of short histories designed to get your appetite wet and to give you enough information to do research on your own! Some of the cults presented may be somewhat controversial regarding whether or not you personally think they are a cult, but it’s a good read.
The content of this book starts in the late 17th-century with mystics that followed Johannes Kelpius in the woods outside of Philadelphia all the way to NXIVM and its leader Keith Raniere in present day. This book definitely focuses more on the more current American cults, but I was surprised to find mention of a couple cults that I had known nothing about. For example, did you know that Louisa May Alcott’s father dragged their whole family into a supposedly utopian sect called the Fruitlands? Also did you know that the Cheesecake Factory chain was founded by a member of Sufism Reoriented, a cult still running in California? There were so many random facts that I learned while I was reading this book that caught me off guard, so much so that I actually took notes! I was definitely left with more questions than answers at the end of this book, but luckily I’m in the right place to answer my questions!
The Infiltrator starring Bryan Cranston, as well as several other well-known actors and actresses, is an American crime drama film that is based on the book, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel by Robert Mazur. Its basis on Mazur’s autobiography lends this movie a compelling fact-based story with a cast that both resembles the real-life characters and their mannerisms. This movie tells the story of the 1980s bust of Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering organization.
The Infiltrator recounts the story of Robert Mazur’s discovery of a massive money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Mazur, a U.S. Customs special agent, is up for retirement after being injured during his previous operation. He instead finds himself back undercover as “Bob Musella”, a wealth mob-connected businessman who becomes a pivotal player for a lot of drug lords who need help laundering their dirty money. He eventually infiltrates the Medellin Cartel, the world’s largest cartel, and discovers the vast money-laundering organization of Pablo Escobar, a massive and well-known drug lord. Mazur also succeeds in taking down the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, aka the BCCI, for their involvement.
This movie shines a light on the ethics of big banks and government, as well as all of the different players, organizations, and activities necessary to keep a massive undercover investigation from being discovered. Mazur’s journey to discovering Escobar’s money-laundering organization and its eventual takedown did not happen overnight. He started small and had to gain buy-in and trust from lower level drug dealers and suppliers in order to prove his worth. Mazur befriended dirty bankers, businessmen, and drug lords across the world as he spent years infiltrating the Medellin Cartel’s criminal hierarchy. This movie tells the story of how Mazur brought these criminals to justice and destroyed the bankers and businessman who were manipulating world-wide finance systems in order to benefit the drug lords, terrorists, and politicians who gave them their money.