Cannabis : The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown

I recently saw a local news story in which Illinois state senator Toi Hutchinson said that the legalization of cannabis in her state came as a result of the differing sides “hashing it out” to come to agreement. I don’t know whether or not the pun was intended, but as a librarian interested in languages, I appreciated it.

Soon after, I spotted the graphic novel Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America on display at the library and figured it would be a good way to better educate myself on the topic right at our doorstep. I was not disappointed. This graphic novel has four pages of sources cited at the end! It is equal parts interesting and informative.

It starts with what is known about early humans’ use of cannabis sativa from biology and mythology. It outlines how the plant has been cultivated for its various uses across the world (think: textiles & oils too). It traces the etymology of the many different words we use for it: hash, Mary Jane, reefer, weed, to name just a few. I learned that the word marijuana is believed to be derived from slang usage in Mexico near Catholic missionaries, where the priests condemned its use. Locals would tell the priest they were just spending time with Maria Juana!

The graphic novel delves into the “Reefer Madness” era during which commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger worked to criminalize its use by making false, racist claims about its use and users. It discusses how cannabis has been regulated through legislation and how its reputation has been manipulated. The graphic novel concludes with present-day uses and a bibliography listing sixty sources readers can seek out for further learning on the subject.

I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading Box Brown’s other titles, including Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman and Tetris: The Games People Play.

You can also learn more on this topic from Illinois Policy, an independent organization that seeks to educate and engage Illinois citizens.

 

Salt and Silver: Travel, Surf, Cook by Johannes Rifflemacher

salt and silverSalt & Silver traces the journey of Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski as they travel through Central and South America – reporting on all the best surfing locations, chronicling the stories of local surfers and restaurant owners, and compiling recipes representative of each area.

The narrative begins in Cuba with beautiful images of the city and the beaches, as well as stories related to the Cuban surfing community and a discussion of popular Cuban dishes. Next is a tour of Mexico–first with street tacos, a trip through Mexican markets, and day spent in the urban graffitiscene of Guadalajara; then with Tostadas de Pulpo (Octopus Crackers), Shrimp and Portobello Burgers, and glimpse into small town life in the remote surfing town of San Pancho. The Mexican leg of the journey draws to a conclusion with 7-meter-waves, BBQ, and Tajine in Rio Nexpa, as well as “a perfect righthander barreling of a point” in the scenic La Ticla. After Mexico comes a long list of sites and sounds as the two men make their way through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and finally Chile, exploring the beaches and waves, as well as the kitchens of each location.

Interspersed throughout the pages of the trip are more than 90 regional recipes, over 250 stunning photographs, and a wide array of tips and stories ranging from social commentary on the Cuban surf scene to pointers on how to rent a “Hamaquera” in La Ticla for $3 a night. (description from publisher)

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

lacuna

Lacuna: 1)an empty space or a misssing part  2) a cavity, space or depression.

This new novel by Barbara Kingsolver was worth the wait — it’s been nine years since her last novel, the very popular and acclaimed Poisonwood Bible.

The Lacuna takes place in both Mexico and the U.S. with most of it written in journal format.  Kingsolver also throws in some actual newspaper articles and other documents which add credibility to the time period (the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s).  The main character, Harrison William Shepherd, is the son of a dull Washington bureaucrat and a flamboyant Mexican mother, who has left her husband to live with a current lover on a Mexican island.  Without school or friends to occupy his time, Harrison spends many hours swimming, where he discovers a lacuna in a sea cliff which leads to a secret,  hidden pool.  As Harrison matures, his particular set of skills gains him employment with the famous artists, Diego Rivera and his wife, Frida Kahlo.  Since they later harbor the exiled communist Leo Trotsky, Harrison ends up working as a secretary for him as well.  This part was especially interesting —  perhaps because of the real personages in the book, it was easy at times to forget that this was a work of fiction!

After Trotsky’s murder, Harrison comes back to the United States (accompanying some of Frida’s paintings) and settles in North Carolina, where he finally realizes his dream of writing romantic adventure novels.  He becomes a hugely popular author, but his luck turns sour when he is later cited as a Communist sympathizer.

It’s not until the ending that we discover the significance of the title.  As both Kahlo and Shepherd are fond of saying, “The most important part of the story is the piece you don’t know.”  Read it and enjoy finding  out for yourself.