Monthly Archives: November 2012

Napoleon’s Other Complex: Hidden History Uncovered in The Black Count

The Black Count

by Tom Reiss, author of The Black Count (Broadway, May 2013) which was recently awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in biography.

I’ve always loved exploring history. It’s like an uncharted hemisphere, and when you look at it closely, it has a tendency to change everything about your own time. I’m also drawn to outsiders, people who have swum against the tide. I often feel like a kind of detective hired to go find people who have been lost to history, and discover why they were lost. Whodunnit?

In this case, I found solid evidence that, of all people, Napoleon did it:  he buried the memory of this great man – Gen. Alexandre Dumas, the son of a black slave who led more than 50,000 men at the height of the French Revolution and then stood up to the megalomaniacal Corsican in the deserts of Egypt. (The “famous” Alexandre Dumas is the general’s son – the author of The Three Musketeers.) Letters and eyewitness accounts show that Napoleon came to hate Dumas not only for his stubborn defense of principle but for his swagger and stature  – over 6 feet tall and handsome as a matinee idol – and for the fact that he was a black man idolized by the white French army. (I found that Napoleon’s destruction of Dumas coincided with his destruction of one of the greatest accomplishments of the French Revolution – racial equality – a legacy he also did his best to bury.)

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Occupying Wall Street: Stephanie McMillan’s experience with the movement

by Stephanie McMillan, author of The Beginning of the American Fall, from Seven Stories Press.

The first major protest movement in decades—a response to austerity measures, rising food prices and unemployment—sparked into life in North Africa and Europe, circled the globe, and finally came to the United States in the fall of 2011.

With the economy in deep crisis, the population was seething. It finally erupted with the launch of Stop the Machine and Occupy Wall Street.

I participated in protests in several locations, not only as a journalist or cartoonist, but also as an organizer. The book that resulted is an account of the first few months of the movement.

It goes beyond dry observation to provide a genuine insider’s perspective.  The text and drawings combine interviews, dialogue, description, political struggle and personal observation, to present a well-rounded picture of a unique historical moment. Continue reading

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The 21st Century’s Opening Chapter: A Modern Narrative

by Loretta Napoleoni author of 10 Years that Shook the World (Seven Stories Press, 2011)

10 Years that Shook the World was originally intended for young people, those who were children or adolescents on September 11, 2001. My aim was to show how the decade that began in 2001 has profoundly changed the world, setting in motion what Steve Jobs called the “digital lifestyle.” Young people are growing up in such a fast-paced and media-savvy world, and I want them to see that they are coming of-age in a dramatically changing time. I want to show them some of the challenges they face as the pace keeps increasing.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, are considered to have been the main event of the first decade of the 21st century, but the changes of this decade actually go far beyond the menace of terrorism and the War on Terror. Continue reading

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