I know what you’re thinking!
Amanda, it isn’t exactly time for Wednesday Links yet. And you’re right.
Today is a slower post day and we didn’t want to leave you with nothing to read this morning on SBTB. Why not do Links a little early to have with your morning tea or coffee or gin?
Look, I won’t judge.
Fantasy author Tara Sim wrote about “reclaiming fantasy.” She also mentions her latest book, which is a queer retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, which sounds all sorts of fantastic.
Author/essayist Elizabeth Wurtzel passed away earlier this week. The Dogist has a lovely profile of her and her dog, Alistair. Did I cry? Yes.
Sarah is on 2 Girls, 1 Podcast to discuss (what else?) romance novels! Give it a listen!
Author Camryn Garrett was surprised to find she’d been invited to a Facebook Messenger group of Garretts. It may be one of the most wholesome things I’ve seen in a while. All the Garretts are supportive of one another and so respectful.
If you’re on social media, you may have seen Romancelandia discussing the Netflix adaptation of The Witcher with the hunky Henry Cavill. Regardless of whether you watch the series, you have to listen to this song from the show. Jaskier/Dandelion the bard has some pipes.
Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!
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This HaBO comes from Florence, who is hoping to find this paranormal/fantasy romance:
The story is about a woman who is trying to escape something or someone, I think her evil family who wants to marry her off. She gets caught by a group of cursed horsemen (quite sure they had black, scary, truly devilish horses with red eyes). These horsemen are traveling the world like reapers, either collecting souls or killing people that should have died. I believe the horsemen were cursed to this fate because of their evil deeds in the past, such as killing many people at war. The heroine travels along with the group and woos the leader in a heartwarming romance.
Sorry my memory is vague! I read so many books that I might have some parts confused with other stories. Please, if you have even the slightest of ideas I will worship you forever
We clarified that is is not the Thalassa series and it was read more than a year ago.
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Women Rowing North
Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher is $1.99 at Amazon! This is a bestselling nonfiction about the difficulties women face as they age. It’s a bestseller and has been rather popular at the bookstore where I work part-time. However, reviews say it’s obviously written from a place of privilege.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Reviving Ophelia, a guide to wisdom, authenticity, and bliss for women as they age.
Women growing older contend with ageism, misogyny, and loss. Yet as Mary Pipher shows, most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life. Their struggles help them grow into the authentic, empathetic, and wise people they have always wanted to be.
In Women Rowing North, Pipher offers a timely examination of the cultural and developmental issues women face as they age. Drawing on her own experience as daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, caregiver, clinical psychologist, and cultural anthropologist, she explores ways women can cultivate resilient responses to the challenges they face. “If we can keep our wits about us, think clearly, and manage our emotions skillfully,” Pipher writes, “we will experience a joyous time of our lives. If we have planned carefully and packed properly, if we have good maps and guides, the journey can be transcendent.”
The Price of Grace
The Price of Grace by Diana Munoz Stewart is $2.99! This is the second book in the Black Ops Confidential romantic suspense series, which follows a group of vigilante sisters. Readers say it’s pretty high in action and suspense, but wish the romance were more developed.
Who can you trust
Gracie Parish knows the true cost of trust. Rescued as a child by the infamous Parish family, she became a member of their covert sisterhood of vigilantes. Gracie saw her most precious relationships destroyed by secrecy. She learned long ago to protect her heart as well as her family’s secrets.
Special Agent Leif “Dusty” McAllister will do anything to uncover the truth about the Parish family’s covert operations. Dusty knows Gracie is his ticket in. He’ll use everything he’s got—fair, unfair, and just plain wrong—to break through her defenses. But the more he gets to know Gracie and her family’s mission, the harder he starts to fall. Neither one is sure they’ll get out of this with their lives—or their hearts—intact.
The Billionaire Game
The Billionaire Game by Lila Monroe is 99c! This contemporary romance seems really cute and fun, but I’m also tapped out on billionaires right now. This romance was originally released in three parts, but they’re all compiled into one full-length romance in this edition.
All’s fair in love, war, and lingerie… Discover the steamy romantic comedy boxset from USA Today bestselling author Lila Monroe! Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Christina Lauren.
Sexy playboy billionaire Asher Young goes through girlfriends like he goes through bottles of Moët. I would know — he brings them all to get fitted for my luxury lingerie designs. I guess that’s one way to avoid awkward conversations when they find another girl’s panties in his Maserati.
Now he has a proposition for me: he’ll invest in my design business, and I’ll finally open the boutique of my dreams. There’s just one problem: I can’t stop kissing him. And he looks REALLY good naked.
Make that two problems….
Fierce & Fabulous
Fierce & Fabulous by Elizabeth Varlet is 99c! This is the first book in a M/M erotic contemporary series. I’m not 100% on if it’s an erotic romance or not, but a lot of reviews mention the high amount of sex and sexual content. Readers also note this is a “gay for you” romance, if that is or isn’t you thing.
The first in a scorching new male/male series by Elizabeth Varlet. Behind the Sassy Boyz’s seductive smiles and sinful dance moves are desires that will leave readers breathless.
Fitch Donovan never thought a lap dance could change his life, but from the moment the gorgeous dancer’s lips touch his, his world comes screeching to a halt. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t shake the desire that rocks him to his core. He’s longed for this passion all his life—he just never dreamed he’d find it with another man.
Sharing a soul-shaking kiss with a straight boy is the kind of drama Ansel Becke just doesn’t need. Spotlights aren’t made for two and Ansel prefers to keep things on a one-night-only basis. So when Fitch shows up asking for an encore, Ansel knows he should send his gorgeous ass packing.
Though Ansel tries to pretend that what’s between him and Fitch is far from fabulous, there’s something about the big, burly contractor that makes Ansel’s world sparkle in a way no amount of glitter ever could. And Fitch will do whatever it takes to convince Ansel that when the thing you need most in the world falls right into your lap, you’d be a fool to let it go.
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Although the part Jordan has played as a war refugee destination has been less publicized, its contribution among Syria’s Arab neighbors has been extremely significant. Some estimates put the number of Syrian refugees there at 1.3 million. Here, then, is the future of Syria: the children in the big refugee camps and in the tented migrant communities, though too many of them are growing up without enough education, support, or even food. Yet in this constrained present, the parents’ hopes are invested in the future of their children. They want their children to study, maybe go to university, get professional qualifications, but there is a haziness about their ambitions for the next generation. It’s like getting to the West: a dream, perhaps a mirage.
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It’s funny how durable the figurative is in art—it’s a reassuring presence, hovering protectively over the wilder exploits. The artist Rachel Harrison makes sculptures that are grounded in figurative forms but that are not representational in any traditional sense.
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It’s a new year and with that comes a new season of The Bachelor. If you’re new to my recaps, please understand that I have exactly zero faith in the show’s ability to produce true love between its contestants.
No, I watch The Bachelor under the premise that the last thing any of the contestants want to do is actually win.
So why go on the show?
Think about it: you get to live in a mansion with a bunch of other cool women, drink an unlimited supply of alcohol, and travel the world on ABC’s dime. Shit, I’d go on The Bachelor and I’m married. I’d just walk around the whole time with two bottles of wine, one for drinking and another tucked protectively in the crook of my arm like a little baby. I’d do all the fun adventures and sight seeing and any time I maybe had to spend alone with the Bachelor, I’d just say I needed to go have diarrhea. No one questions diarrhea.
I watch this show solely though the lens that no one actually cares about the Bachelor himself, the women are all having the best sleepover ever, and Chris Harrison is possessed by a Lovecraftian creature known as The Rose God.
For those of you who have been following these recaps, you know that I am occasionally assisted by my husband, Rich, and our cats Dewey and Fish. Let me introduce you to the newest member of Team Bachelor: Chips.
This season’s Bachelor is Peter Weber, who if you remember, had sex with Hannah (last season’s Bachelorette) four times in a windmill. If you want to get black out drunk, take a shot every time they mention the windmill. Personally, I’ll be slamming some neon blue cold and flu meds half an hour from the end of this mess.
We open with Peter and Chris Harrison driving through LA and talking about Peter’s dream woman. It’s completely natural and not even a little weird…not. Honestly the conversations I have with my OBGYN during my pap are less awkward than this.
Peter is a commercial pilot, but ABC is doing this kind of Top Gun thing in their video montages of him.
Anyway, tonight is the parade of limos, when the women show up to the McMansion and try and make a good impression on Peter. They start filming at sundown and go straight through till dawn, at which point everyone seems drunk and exhausted. One season, Corinne basically said “fuck this” and just went to bed and I’ve never cheered for anyone harder.
BTW, Peter keeps saying “I’m looking for my copilot,” which…
So anyway, there’s a bunch of awkward first meetings, and I’m not going to recap them all because most of them are super forgettable.
We have three flight attendants: Eunice, Megan and Jade.
Then a baggage attendant rolls a cart up to the mansion and one of the suitcases starts moving. It is not a large suitcase. Peter unzips the suitcase and a woman, Kiarra, unfolds herself and stands up. It’s hard to describe how unnatural this is. It’s like when people crawl around in horror movies with their limbs bent backwards.
Also, also, did they have a plan for her to breathe if filming got delayed? Jesus.
Even Chris Harrison mutters, “That’s like some David Copperfield shit.”
He then adds, “We should cut her in half later.”
Then we have Deandra who actually dresses up like the windmill.
Then we meet Kelley, who Peter met previously at a hotel. She was at a wedding and he was there for a reunion.
Then a limo pulls up and Hannah Brown steps out.
“Is she competing?” One of the women asks. “Is that legal?”
Having extensively studied Bachelor Law, I can tell you that yes, it is legal.
Hannah returns a pin Peter gave her during her season. She says he’s going to do great and gives him a hug.
Then Peter joins the party and spends some time with the women, and a lot of it is boring.
One of the women, Hannah Ann, is super drunk to the point where she’s slurring her words and referring to herself in the third person. She also painted Peter a landscape and the flowers all look like vulvas. I love it. I want to hang it over my desk at work so the vulvas stare down anyone who comes over to ask me a question.
Sometimes I like to imagine what I’d do if I was on this show. There’s like three fireplaces burning in the McMansion, and I guarantee drunk Bachelor contestant Elyse would get bored and start burning shit. When you grow up in a rural area where bonfires are a big part of being a teenager, “burning shit” is an actual activity, if not a hobby, and if it were my friends and I, I could see us trying to wedge some of the patio furniture into the outdoor fireplace while cheering. Some of my most fond teenage memories include the words, “What color will this make the flames?” Hashtag Wisconsin.
At one point Hannah Ann interrupts Peter with another contestant and tells Peter she wants to end the night with a kiss, except it sounds like GIFS and Peter is suitably confused. Hannah Ann has now interrupted another contestant three times, and it’s pissing the other women off.
We get the first exhausted, drunk tears of the evening when Peter admits that he forgot what Victoria F said to him when she first arrived. The other women comfort Victoria F. In Peter’s defense, there are three Victorias on this season and I’m confused too.
Peter picks up the First Impression Rose and gives it to Hannah Ann.
Then it’s time for The Dreaded Rose Ceremony. Victoria F slams an entire glass of wine without stopping to breathe. You drink ABC’s liquor, girl.
Tammy says, “If I get a rose, I’m going to be so friggin happy. I’m going to do cartwheels, I’m going to twerk, and I’m going to eat all the cheese that I friggin can eat.”
I’m Team Tammy.
I actually pause the show to get up and make myself crackers and cheese.
In the end Victoria F could have saved her tears because she gets a rose. Weirdly, Chris Harrison did not show up to tell us we were down to the final rose, making me wonder if the power of the Rose God has diminished?
We go to commercial and then we get this incredibly stupid montage of Peter washing an airplane while shirtless. Why is it stupid, you ask? Isn’t there an allotted amount of shirtless Bachelor time in this franchise?
It’s stupid because Peter, unlike previous Bachelors, is not especially hunky or frankly comfortable in a beefcake type shot. He’s hot but an earnest puppy-dog type, which is completely fine. But rather than recognizing this, the producers make him aim the hose at himself, which he dutifully does, and make him open his mouth “erotically.”
The thing is, there’s this moment where Peter’s eyes bulge and you can tell the water just went directly up his nose and into his sinuses, and it reminds me of when our Boston Terrier would attack the sprinkler. It’s just panicked rolling eyes, water, and regret everywhere.
Click for shirtless Peter.
Anyway, it’s time for the first group date. Some of ladies arrive at an airfield where the first female Blue Angels pilot, Captain Katie Higgins Cook, and Marine Corp Pilot Alisha Johnson put the women through “flight school.”
They put the women on a gyroscope and Victoria P recounts the traumatic moment when she threw up on the teacup ride at Disney as a kid. Because they’re ridiculous, ABC shows a blurred shot of the teacup ride over menacing music, like it’s a Dateline Weekend Mystery reenactment, and I cackle so hard I scare the cats.
Can Keith Morrison replace Chris Harrison? Please?
Click for possibilities
Victoria P makes it through a brief ride and then immediately runs to the bathroom to throw up.
Then there’s an obstacle course, but I’ll be honest, I’m not paying a ton of attention at this point because I’m super into my crackers and cheese. These are brand new, fresh out of the cellophane, buttery-crispy crackers. I’ve paired them with a local port wine cheese. I like to think Tammy would be proud.
In the end, Kelley wins a sunset flight with Peter along the coast. She also gets the group date rose.
We cut to the McMansion where all the women are in their jammies, cuddled up together on the sofas, hanging out. They look relaxed and happy and like this is the best slumber party ever. Then they get a note telling Madison that the next one-on-one date is hers.
Peter is from SoCal and takes Madison to his parents’ house where they are renewing their vows.
The look Madison gives Peter
WHAT THE FUCK PETER.
That’s… that’s a lot of pressure for a first date. I don’t do great at events with my own family. Sometimes I hide in the bathroom. If I were Madison I’d nope the fuck outta there. I’d be scaling the fence and making my way back to the McMansion on foot.
Madison survives the horror of her first date basically being Peter’s parents’ wedding, but then has to endure the pain of a dinner where they don’t eat and a pop up concert by a band I’ve never heard of.
Make it stop
Frankly she deserves to spend the rest of the season with Tammy eating cheese in her PJs. That was the most shit date in the history of this dumb show.
Chips expresses his dismay by trying to eat plastic wrapping out of the trash.
And we’re not even done, folks.
We have 20 minutes left. Time does not exist normally in The Rose God’s dimension.
There’s another group date. A bunch of the ladies go to a theatre where Hannah Brown is waiting.
She starts telling the women the story of their night in the windmill. I am…deeply confused about what’s happening. Hannah tells the women they are going to tell a story about sex onstage to an audience. Then she goes to a side room and cries.
What is happening RN?
Did I take the neon blue cold medicine early? Is this a decongestant fueled hallucination?
Peter goes to talk to Hannah and gives her a hug while she cries.
“This is so weird,” he says.
YOU FUCKING THINK?
“I’m really happy for you,” Hannah says, “but it’s just a lot.”
If you didn’t watch The Bachelorette last season, Hannah and Peter had great chemistry (hence 4 times in the windmill), but she picked Dog Food Jingle Jed who promptly cheated on her.
Hannah says she didn’t know what she was doing when she let Peter go. Peter admits he’s confused too, and then abruptly stands up and says, “What the fuck am I doing right now? I don’t know what I’m doing.”
So then Peter asks her to come on the show as a contestant.
Hannah and Peter keep going back and forth about whether or not they still have feelings for each other. Peter admits to the camera that he just wants to kiss her and have it all work out, but that he feels like a jerk because there’s a house full of women competing on the show. Guess what Peter? No one actually cares about you. Let them enjoy the booze and travel and they’ll be just fine.
And that’s where we leave it.
Is Hannah B coming back on the show? Will she and Peter just run off together? Are you watching?
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A Fashionable Indulgence
A Fashionable Indulgence by KJ Charles is $1.99! This is a Kindle Daily Deal. This is a m/m historical romance about class differences. Readers loved the start to a new series, though some felt the romance took a backseat to setting up the next books. It has a 3.9-star rating. Charles fans, what’d you think of this one?
In the first novel of an explosive new series from K. J. Charles, a young gentleman and his elegant mentor fight for love in a world of wealth, power, and manipulation.
When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a Radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.
After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.
The Orchid Throne
The Orchid Throne by Jeffe Kennedy is $2.99! This fantasy romance was released in September and is the first book in the new Forgotten Empires series. I always get excited about new fantasy romances, but Kennedy’s books are usually hit or miss for me. Have you read this one?
Welcome to the world of Forgotten Empires from award winning author Jeffe Kennedy that begins with The Orchid Throne.
A PRISONER OF FATE
A PRINCE AMONG MEN
Fierce Justice by Piper J. Drake is $2.99! This is the fifth book in the True Heroes romantic suspense series and can work as a standalone. Drake is a great choice if you ever want some competence porn in your romances. However, some readers wished the main characters had more chemistry.
As a K9 handler on the Search and Protect team, Arin Siri needs to be where the action is–and right now that’s investigating a trafficking operation in Hawaii. When an enemy from her past shows up bleeding, she’s torn between the desire to patch Jason up or put more holes in him. Then again, the hotshot mercenary could be the person she needs to bust open her case.
Jason Landon’s team had always been about taking the contract, getting paid, and not asking questions. But after his last mission went south, he started to get curious. His questions quickly drove him out of his mercenary group and off the grid. Now, the only people he can think of to help him are the Search and Protect team — and the dark beauty who is as ready to kill him as she is to bed him. And he’s totally ready to risk the former for the chance at the latter. But he isn’t the only person with a target on his back. Arin’s in danger too, and he’ll do everything he can to keep her safe.
Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole is $1.99! Carrie reviewed this book in April of 2015. Former reviewer, Redheadedgirl also said, “Based on a rec from Courtney Milan, this is set during an apocalyptic event with a we-all-need-to-work-together and try not to go nutty from the isolation plot – it’s tight, tense, and really good.”
No one expects the apocalypse.
Arden Highmore was living your average postgrad life in Rochester, New York, when someone flipped the “off” switch on the world. No cell phones, no power, no running water—and no one knows why. All she and her roommate, John, know for sure is that they have to get out, stat. His family’s cabin near the Canadian border seemed like the safest choice.
It turns out isolation doesn’t necessarily equal safety.
When scavengers attack, it’s John’s ridiculously handsome brother, Gabriel, who comes to the rescue. He saves Arden’s life, so he can’t be all bad…but he’s also a controlling jerk who treats her like an idiot. Now their parents are missing and it seems John, Gabriel, their kid sister, Maggie, and Arden are the only people left alive who aren’t bloodthirsty maniacs.
No one knows when—or if—the lights will come back on and, in the midst of all that, Arden and Gabriel are finding that there’s a fine line indeed between love and hate. How long can they expect to last in this terrifying new world, be it together or apart?
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Though scholars may continue to disagree about who most deserves the credit or the blame for popularizing the idea of historical incommensurability, at least one thing seems certain: if this idea is right, then analogical reasoning in history becomes an impossibility. If I sincerely believe that a given event in the past belongs not just to a foreign country but to a world so different from my own as to break all ties of communication between them, then I have no license to speak about the past at all. If I am bound by the rules of my own time, then the past and all its events become in effect unknowable. A past that is utterly different is more than merely past; it has no claim on my knowledge and it might as well blink out of existence altogether. This is more than merely a matter of logic; it has political consequences. If every crime is unique and the moral imagination is forbidden from comparison, then the injunction “Never Again” itself loses its meaning, since nothing can ever happen “again.”
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Despite causing mayhem, Home Minister Amit Shah has promised to take the citizenship register process piloted in Assam nationwide—in order to rid the nation of its largely imaginary “infiltrators” before the next general election, scheduled for 2024. Thousands have already been detained in protests against the citizenship laws across the nation, with police responding on occasion with deadly force. The very act of protesting, along with certain religious identities, have seemingly become anathema to the country’s rulers in what was once the great liberal hope of South Asia.
The post Why Hindu Nationalists Trialed India’s Citizenship Law in Assam appeared first on NeedaBook.
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The first time I met an aspiring white supremacist was during a class trip to a county career center in southwest Ohio. He was tall and had buzzed hair and told my friend Niquelle and me that he loved the movie American History X. He wanted to be like Edward Norton’s character, he told us, “but before the part where he turned all pussy.” Norton’s character is an American neo-Nazi who is sent to prison—where he undergoes his aforementioned conversion—after forcing a black man to place his mouth around a curb and then executing him by stomping on the back of his skull. I remember looking over at Niquelle, who is black. I remember feeling my breath catch in my chest, upon which my Star of David necklace dangled, outside my shirt.
Growing up in southwest Ohio, I was aware of the way I could become more or less invisible—more or less white—based on whether I tucked in my necklace or wore it out. (A soggy sort of superpower: Jewboy to the rescue?) I often wore it out in new places, perhaps with an edge of defiance, seeking some sort of confrontation. But then when it came, like on that day--
I didn’t say a word.
I asked Niquelle about this incident recently, and she told me she also remembered the day and the guy vividly, but couldn’t recall the context: “Did he just look at us and let out this terrible thought? Did someone say something that made him angry?” We both remembered being whisked away by the teacher or staff person who was leading the tour, and then that was that.
Later, for a period of a few weeks, a group of kids at our high school started cracking jokes that centered around “curb stomping.” I remember one guy grabbing my shoulder right after making one such joke. Don’t be so sensitive, dude.
This was 2004. Exactly four decades earlier, a bit farther south in Ohio, a full-fledged white supremacist made a speech that would fundamentally change what can legally be said in these United States of America. The date was Sunday, June 28, 1964. A journalist and cameraman from the Cincinnati-based TV station WLWT Channel 5 made their way to a Hamilton County farm just outside the city, where they had been invited by a local Ku Klux Klan leader named Clarence Brandenburg to cover his group’s rally.
Three weeks earlier, on June 5, 1964, in my hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio, a barber named Lewis Gegner decided to sell his shop and leave town rather than desegregate his business, after facing a years-long nonviolent campaign that culminated with the arrest of 108 activists. The Ku Klux Klan would later invite him to speak at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, in recognition of his “steadfastness.”
That same month, on June 22, in nearby Oxford, Ohio, Freedom Summer volunteers learned that three of their colleagues had gone missing while investigating a KKK church bombing in Mississippi the night before: a black civil rights activist named James Earl Chaney and two Jewish activists named Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. According to the historian Taylor Branch, a Mississippi sheriff responded to their disappearance by saying, “If they’re missing, they just hid somewhere trying to get a lot of publicity, I figure.”
Their bodies were found on August 4. According to an article by the civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman, James Earl Chaney had been chained to a tree, tortured, and castrated before being shot thrice. Michael Schwerner cradled Chaney’s body in his arms before being shot in the heart. Andrew Goodman tried to run and was shot. An autopsy showed that he had red clay fragments in his lungs and fists, indicating that he was likely buried while still alive.
On the Hamilton County farm near the end of June 1964, forty-four-year-old Clarence Brandenburg gave a speech to an assembled group of a dozen men clad in white robes and hoods. In a later part of the news channel’s footage, the Klansmen are seen marching in circles around a burning cross, some of them carrying guns, shouting things including “Freedom for the Whites” and “Bury the niggers.”
“We’re not a revengent organization,” declared Brandenburg, who was wearing a red hood over his white robe. “But if our president, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken.” In a second clip, Brandenburg is seen repeating a similar speech, and adding, “Personally, I believe the nigger should be returned to Africa, the Jew returned to Israel.”
And then that was that.
The group dispersed, and everyone went home for supper, or a nap, or a beer, or a game of gin rummy, or whatever one does after attending a Ku Klux Klan rally.
This word revengeance was later mocked, and Brandenburg’s remarks were labeled “self-evidently stupid and silly”—by his own defense lawyer. But that’s the thing about white supremacists: their rhetoric is mostly self-evident stupidity and silliness nestled between bursts of horrific vitriol. As cathartic as it can feel to mock, said silliness doesn’t make their rhetoric any less deadly serious. Or less deadly.
Which brings us back to the central question of Brandenburg v. Ohio, a question that is as relevant in our current era as it was in the sixties: How deadly is such rhetoric?
Deadly enough that it should be illegal?
The answer given by the State of Ohio was yes.
Following the broadcast of his speech at the KKK rally, Clarence Brandenburg was arrested on August 6, 1964, two days after the bodies of the murdered activists were found in Mississippi, and charged under Ohio’s criminal syndicalism statute, which, like other similar statutes around the country, was originally put on the books primarily as a bludgeon against communist sympathizers and which criminalized advocating “sabotage, violence, or … terrorism … as a means of accomplishing … political reform.”
Brandenburg was convicted, fined a thousand dollars, and sentenced to one to ten years in prison. His appeals were rejected by lower courts and by the Ohio Supreme Court. Brandenburg had been laid off from his job at GE in 1958 and had filed for bankruptcy in 1959. So when the ACLU offered to appeal the case, pro bono, to the United States Supreme Court, Brandenburg accepted. His lawyer? A forty-eight-year-old Jewish ACLU volunteer named Allen Brown.
Brown died in 2004, but his friend and colleague Norman Slutsky said of him: “If ever there was a Jewish saint, it was Allen. He was an absolute mensch. One of the most beautiful men I knew.” Brown was short, a little on the hefty side, and had a raspy voice, accentuated by his constant smoking. Once a judge reprimanded him for his constant motion during a trial and threatened to hold him in contempt of court if he didn’t keep his hand on the podium at all times. During his closing arguments, Brown stuck one finger out, placed it on the podium, and then danced as far as he could, in every direction, with his fingertip still touching the wood. In another case, an obscenity case, Norman Slutsky told of Brown, the Jewish saint, picking up a giant dildo brought as evidence by the prosecution and waggling it in the faces of the jury members, growling: “This may disgust you, and this may disgust you. But it is not obscene.” Allen Brown was not a religious man, but he was a true believer in the First Amendment. When he died, his family asked that donations be made to the ACLU.
Also representing Brandenburg on behalf of the ACLU was one of the organization’s two national lawyers: a thirty-two-year-old African American attorney named Eleanor Holmes Norton, now the congressional representative for the District of Columbia. Norton had graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. A 1960 article in the Antioch Record describes how Norton, known then as Ellie Holmes, coordinated efforts between the Antioch chapter of the NAACP, the local ACLU, and other activists to desegregate all of the still-segregated businesses in town. (The only holdout by the time Norton left Yellow Springs was Gegner’s barbershop.) In 1964, Norton traveled to Mississippi as legal counsel to the Freedom Summer. She was, in short, no stranger to American racism and no friend to its proponents. In a 1969 interview, reprinted in the Record, she said: “If you look closely at the color of my skin and the texture of my hair, you will see that I could only be in this for the principles involved. Self-interest becomes an absurdity.”
And so the case in which a Klansman, represented by black and Jewish ACLU lawyers, faced off against the State of Ohio got underway.
In the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the lawyer representing Ohio, Leonard Kirschner, made the following argument as to why Brandenburg’s speech should be illegal: “If I were to run down Harlem, shall we say, and say ‘Bury the Negro,’ ‘Send them back to the black Africa’—”
Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, interrupted: “He wouldn’t last that long.”
Laughter in the otherwise somber courtroom.
Six minutes later, Allen Brown began his rebuttal by stating that the massive violation of the First Amendment found in the State of Ohio’s laws can in fact be illustrated by Justice Marshall’s response to Kirschner’s hypothetical situation. “Justice Marshall,” Brown said, his gravelly voice rising, picking up speed, building to something important, “is safe for the moment because the venue is in Washington, D.C., but in Ohio, could be indicted for suggesting a violent reaction by the Negro community.”
And then that was that.
The Court’s decision was unanimous: Ohio’s criminal syndicalism statute, and others like it around the country, was unconstitutional. Advocacy of violence in the abstract is not sufficient grounds for the government to prohibit speech. In order for the First Amendment to be curbed, according to the Brandenburg ruling, advocacy of violence must be “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and be “likely to incite or produce such action.”
In other words, the State of Ohio cannot arrest an aspiring white supremacist in a county career center who says, “I believe in killing blacks and Jews.” Government officials could intervene only in a case in which he said, “Let’s kill this black and this Jew, right now.”
A word, here, on white American bigotry and the identities of its obsessions. Baldwin, in 1967: “One does not wish, in short, to be told by an American Jew that his suffering is as great as the American Negro’s suffering. It isn’t.” He’s right, of course. Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman weren’t shot because they were Jews—except in the roundabout, romantic, fictional sort of way that links their Jewishness with their conscientious activism. The recent synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh did have a handful of American precedents—the lynching of Leo Frank, the murder of Alan Berg, the Jewish Community Center shootings in LA and Kansas City, and some others—but only a handful, not thousands. Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative estimates that 4,075 black Americans were murdered in racial terror lynchings between 1877 and 1950 alone. White supremacists are obsessed with both groups, but their murderous frenzy has been almost entirely directed toward only one. Perhaps this discrepancy is partially due to Jewboy’s aforementioned soggy superpower—the ability to blend into American whiteness. At its worst, we have Charles Leb, the owner of a kosher deli in Atlanta who, in 1963, when faced with nonviolent sit-ins calling on him to desegregate his establishment, enlisted the help of none other than the KKK; at its worst, we have Stephen Miller, who has helped give voice to an agenda of white supremacy in the Trump White House. But this discrepancy is also certainly due to the fact that one of the foundational pillars of the United States of America—and one that has never truly been renounced—is the dehumanization, murder, torture, persecution, and wild hatred of black people.
Thanks to Brown, Norton, and the ACLU, Brandenburg walked free. (Though a few years later, this pleasant fellow would be jailed for sixty days for harassing his Jewish neighbor by repeatedly telephoning to berate him with anti-Semitic tirades.) Was the ruling in Brandenburg a victory for the forces of revengeance and hatred in this country?
In 1977, the Nazi Party of America sought a permit to hold a parade in Skokie, Illinois, a majority-Jewish village that was home to thousands of Holocaust survivors. Under the standards set by Brandenburg, such a parade was obviously permissible: the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to allow the march. The permit-seeking American Nazis were represented in court by the ACLU, as was the case in Charlottesville, forty years later. But we’ll get there.
In the meantime, the other side of the coin: after facing pushback from fellow activists for her work in Brandenburg, Eleanor Holmes Norton made a statement, reprinted in the Antioch Record in 1969, in which she argued that such cases were more likely to benefit radical activists than Brandenburg’s colleagues, and that her defense of racists’ right to express their views did not conflict with her “black militant philosophy.”
“Actually,” she said, “The right wing cases are real plums. When I defend a left winger’s right to dissent, I am not saying very much to the increasingly larger body of people in this country committed to repression of extreme ideas. But when I’m defending a racist’s rights, the object lesson is dramatically clear.”
In the 1973 case of Hess v. Indiana, based on the standards established in Brandenburg, the Court unanimously ruled to overturn the conviction of the antiwar protester Gregory Hess, who was arrested for declaring something along the lines of “We’ll take the fucking street later” within earshot of a cop. And in a 1982 ruling, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., the court unanimously ruled that the First Amendment, as interpreted in Brandenburg, protected a 1964 speech given by Charles Evers, the brother of the murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers, in which he warned black residents of Port Gibson, Mississippi, against violating a local NAACP-led boycott of segregationist merchants. “If we catch any of you going into these racist stores,” he said, “we’re going to break your damn neck.” Even though some residents were indeed later met with violence after violating the boycott, the Court ruled, under the standards set forth by Brandenburg, that Evers’s speech could not reasonably be construed as intentionally and directly inciting imminent violence.
So where does this all leave us?
Probably in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with hundreds of self-evidently silly and stupid white men and boys bearing Walmart torches and chanting about “Jews not replacing us.” The right of the Unite the Right rally to take place had been supported, in line with Brandenburg and Skokie and Hess and NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, by the Virginia chapter of the ACLU.
The argument that the horrific violence that took place that day—including a group of white supremacists savagely beating and stomping on a black man named DeAndre Harris as he lay splayed out on the ground of a parking garage, and one white supremacist, from Ohio, ramming his car into a crowd of leftist counterprotesters and murdering Heather Heyer—had far more to do with failures on the part of law enforcement than with any sort of speech that day is, to my mind, a basically sound one. Still, it bears mentioning that after what happened in Charlottesville, the national ACLU did draw up a list of guidelines for case selection that, while decidedly not repudiating the Virginia ACLU’s decision to defend the white supremacist rally’s right to take place, did foreground the tension inherent in defending such speech and clarified that the ACLU will “generally not represent protestors who seek to march while armed.”
A few months after the rally in Charlottesville, my wife and I moved back to southwest Ohio. A few months after that, our daughter was born here: tiny, curious, adventurous, brilliant, Jewish.
Our town, Yellow Springs, still feels imbued with Antioch College’s progressive spirit and the legacy left by Eleanor Holmes Norton and other activists since. But there are Confederate flags flying in the rural stretches around us, and I’ve read article after article about white supremacists (around my age) living in the area: the Hitler-admiring white nationalist from Huber Heights; the founder of the website The Daily Stormer, whose main pages include “Race War” and “Jewish Problem,” based near Columbus. While Jews are not at the very top of American white supremacists’ list of bloodlust, these questions, questions of speech and threat and assembly and safety, do not feel purely academic or theoretical to me. There is no flippancy or cavalier intellectualization in my fingertips as I write, here in southwest Ohio, my tiny Jewish daughter napping in the other room, that even after Charlottesville, I think that Eleanor Holmes Norton and Allen Brown and the ACLU were right in their defense of Clarence Brandenburg.
Because in truth, the ideologies of Brandenburg and the Tiki torchers are not as divergent from the core ideologies of the American political regime as many think they are. In truth, throughout American history, government suppression of speech and expression has been far more frequently and viciously directed against leftists and radicals, against black militants and Jewish communists, than it has against the various Brandenburgs of this nation. In that light, the Brandenburg case appears as a form of aikido, in which Norton, Brown, and the ACLU harnessed the force of American white supremacism itself as a means of ultimately defending those who would seek to undermine American white supremacism and its cousins: bigotry, xenophobia, imperialism, and bellicosity. In other words, in challenging the government’s right to punish Brandenburg for saying heinous things, a counterintuitive but profound sliver of freedom was wrested from this deeply unfree country.
And for that, here in southwest Ohio, I am grateful.
Moriel Rothman-Zecher was born in Jerusalem and raised in southwest Ohio. His first novel, Sadness Is a White Bird, was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the National Jewish Book Award, and was the winner of the Ohioana Book Award for Fiction. He is the recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Honor and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship for Literature. His work has been published in the New York Times, ZYZZYVA magazine, Runner’s World, Haaretz, and elsewhere. He lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with his wife and their daughter. He is currently working on his second novel, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2021.
From Fight of the Century, edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. Reprinted by permission of Avid Reader Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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