Hazel Croft

Outsiders' Affair

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Review of 'Shooting Dogs', director Michael Caton-Jones

In April 1994, at the Ecole Technique Officielle - a secondary school cum UN army base in Kigali, Rwanda - Belgian UN troops, school children, NGO workers and over 2,500 Rwandans, mainly Tutsis, took refuge against genocide. A baying Hutu militia danced menacingly with machetes outside the perimeter fence. After just five days the UN troops left the school, taking the whites with them and abandoning the Rwandans to their fate. Within hours almost all of the Rwandans were dead.

Bookbriefs

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Book clubs - new novels

Why have you launched a Socialist Review book club? This is a question I've been asked over and again over the summer. The rise of book clubs is still making headlines, with an estimated 15,000 groups now in Britain. Many articles take a sneery tone - they're just gossiping circles, a literary guise for a dating club, an excuse for one too many glasses of red wine. Of course these stereotypes are far from the truth. People join book clubs not to escape from the world but because they want to engage with it.

Book Briefs

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Small Island - The Mermaid and the Drunks - Anti-Bush books - Anti-Zionist reading - Book Club - Marxism 2004 get-together

Andrea Levy's Small Island (£14.99), which won the Orange Prize last month, is a brilliant read. Levy captures the racism, both overt and subtle, faced by West Indian immigrants in post Second World War Britain in a moving and often funny way. She weaves together the lives of four characters, black and white, and in the process gives a fascinating picture of life in Britain before, during and after the Second World War.

Women on the Front Line: Altered Images

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As the media panic about a 'nation of fatties', Hazel Croft looks at the pressures on women to conform to an ideal shape.

It's hard to pick up a newspaper or watch the TV news without being told that we are all getting too fat. Obesity has become the major health issue in both Britain and the US. Food, diet and body image are political issues. Whether or not we're overweight or get a nutritious diet is not down to our personal quirks of choice or our own culpability when we choose to eat a cream cake rather than an apple. On the contrary, our diet and how we feel about our bodies are intimately bound up with the structures and organisation of the capitalist world we live in.

Book Briefs

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Ned Kelly - Top Tens - Footballers Recommend Good Reads - New Books on Blake, Shakespeare and Che Guevara - Book Club - Review a Book!

Gripping adventure. Raw class politics. A tale that will move you to tears. What better antidotes could there be when you get home from a stressful day at work. You certainly won't find it on the TV. I've been bowled over listening to Peter Carey's fictionalised account of the life of the outlaw Ned Kelly, The True History of the Kelly Gang, on audio tape. It is the perfect way to unwind and at the same time get some inspiration. I had already read the excellent novel by Peter Carey, but the tape brings the story alive in a new and gripping way. Highly recommended.

Book Briefs

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Helen Keller - Monica Ali - Margaret Atwood - Annie Proulx - Mark Haddon - Books on Demand - Book Club

Did you know that Helen Keller, renowned throughout the world for her blindness and deafness, was also a passionate socialist? Now a brilliant new book has collected together many of her inspiring, but hard to obtain, socialist writings. Here too you can find her writings and speeches on women's liberation, her class analysis of disability, and her denunciation of the First World War. I defy you not to be moved when she writes, 'Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings.

Interview: Fame and the Famine

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Star of the Sea, a great political novel set at the time of the Irish famine, has been a runaway bestseller. Author Joseph O'Connor spoke to Hazel Croft about its success and why he wrote the book.

Have you been surprised at the success of Star of the Sea? Why do you think it's been so popular?

I've been amazed at its success. I wouldn't have thought a book on such a subject would have been successful on a commercial level. I'd go so far as to say that I thought it would have been a book my career would have to recover from in sales terms. It was a book I wanted to write, but I didn't expect it to do well.

Women on the Board of a Noxious Presidency

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Review of 'Bushwomen' by Laura Flanders, Verso £15

'The sisterhood of women, like the brotherhood of men, is a hollow sham to labour,' the great American radical Elizabeth Gurley Flynn wrote at the beginning of the last century. The existence of the Bushwomen - the Republican women George W Bush has paraded in his government - sums up why the idea of a sisterhood of all women remains just as much a sham today.

Poor State of Affairs

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Review of 'Rethinking Welfare', Iain Ferguson, Michael Lavalette and Gerry Mooney, Sage £16.99

When Tony Blair got into Downing Street, he threatened to 'think the unthinkable' about welfare. For Blair, this phrase was a code for launching an assault on the fundamentals of the welfare state itself through tuition fees for students, NHS privatisation, cutting single mums' benefits and a host of other attacks.

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