Thursday, September 23, 2010
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
About the author: Jeffrey Kent Eugenides (born March 8, 1960) is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer. Eugenides has written two acclaimed novels, The Virgin Suicides (1993) and Middlesex (2002). Middlesex, written in 2002, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. Eugenides currently teaches at Princeton University's Program in Creative Writing.
The book touches upon many important historical events in the background of the character's lives, but there were two that affected the characters the most-the burning of Smyrna in Greece, and the Detroit riots.
The Great Fire of Smyrna was a fire that destroyed much of the port city of Smyrna in September 1922. Eye-witness reports state that the fire began on 13 September 1922 and lasted for several days. It occurred four days after the Turkish forces regained control of the city on 9 September 1922; thus, effectively ending the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) in the field, more than three years after the Greek army had landed troops at Smyrna on 15 May 1919.
According to one witness, the Greek army withdrew troops one day ahead of the Turks' arrival, having had advanced warning. The city was completely destroyed, and thousands perished. Refugees topped 400,000.
The 1967 Detroit Riots began in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, on the corner of 12th and Clairmount streets on the city's Near West Side. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit's 1943 race riot.
To help end the disturbance, Governor George Romney ordered the Michigan National Guard into Detroit, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in Army troops. The result was forty-three dead, 467 injured, over 7200 arrests, and more than 2000 buildings destroyed. The scale of the riot was eclipsed only by the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Other Books to Consider:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, East of Eden by John Steinbeck