One of the notable features of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been its disavowal of the locution, if not necessarily the policies, of the “war on terror” declared by George W. Bush in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
These days it’s a rare novel that addresses disturbing social issues without flinching and treats religious faith as a force for good, without denying the complexity of either. That combination makes Rachel Simon’s book, newly available in paperback, a pleasure to read and a fine choice for book clubs.
There are probably few reference books that vacationers will drag down to the beach this summer. And though I make a living in academia, there aren’t many works of reference that I want to read from cover to cover. I love history because I love stories, storytelling and engrossing narratives—not because I’m taken with the facts, figures and dates that populate reference books.
Alex, a six-year-old boy from Scarsdale, New York, wrote to President Obama, asking him to send a Syrian refugee to live with his family. “We will give him a family, and he will be our brother,” Alex wrote. He told the president that he has a friend at school from Syria. In his request Alex was referring to five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, whose picture was widely circulated after he was rescued from his bombed-out house in Aleppo. The White House published Alex’s letter, and the president read it at a UN Summit on Refugees (Independent, September 22).