Books to Watch | March 2, 2021
March 02, 2021
This week, our choices are:
Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
There always seems to be a good lineup of inspiring, women-centric books published throughout Women's History Month every year, and I'm so glad to see that despite the pandemic setbacks, there are still a few really exciting books being published this month that celebrate women from various corners of history.
This week's pick is a look at a small group of unacknowledged women heroes of the Vietnam War era. Not on the ground as soldiers or nurses but in the sky as flight attendants for Pan American Airways.
Come Fly the World begins with a portrait of Biology major Lynne Totten as she comes to understand the part she could play as the country's politics shifted during the Vietnam War. What, exactly, about pointing out exit doors and squeezing a rolling cart between aisles of elbows appealed so strongly to Lynne and other aspiring stewardesses? In the 1960s, international travel itself was enough to attract interest of women who were otherwise unlikely to work outside the house or travel alone.
The women applying for stewardess positions in the 1960s had in the 1950s been forbidden to wear pants in high school and sometimes even college. Now during layovers, a stewardess could pull off the skirt of her uniform, put on slacks, and, chaperone-free, sashay around the museums of the sixteenth arrondissement; she could wear jeans and wander through Mexican markets.
Come Fly the World rounds up a cast of stewardesses from very different backgrounds: a well-traveled California girl named Karen, a small-town Ohioan named Clare who had dreamed of working as a stewardess since she was a teen, a young Norwegian woman named Tori who joined Pan Am allured by the prospects of a tan, and a college senior named Hazel who would later become one of the airline's first Black stewardesses.
The book is a behind the scenes portrait of the Vietnam War and the rise and fall of Pan Am, both of which were a blessing and a curse for women of the era: At first, it's exciting to see the freedoms these women experience from a life in the air over the stale expectations on the ground, but the story becomes more worrisome as the Vietnam War picks up speed and their jobs become more dangerous. Come Fly the World spotlights women that, in many contexts might be called “unlikely heroes,” but who I think should deserve to simply be considered heroes. (GMC)
Engine of Inequality: The Fed and the Future of Wealth in America by Karen Petrou, Wiley
Karen Petrou is a financial policy analyst. But she is not just any policy analyst; she is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Federal Financial Analytics, a perch from which she advises some of the world’s largest corporations, major financial institutions, and central banks. American Banker has called her “the sharpest mind analyzing banking policy today—maybe ever.” So when she speaks, people usually listen. Unfortunately, they don’t always act.
As she writes in the Introduction too her new book, Engine of Inequality, about the “acute inequality and resulting risk to both growth and financial stability” that arose out of the response to the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008:
In 2016, I told a group of central bankers that income inequality is the battlefield casualty of post-crisis reform, urging them to clean up their own mess, not count on changes to taxation, spending, technology, or other policies somehow to do it for them. The central bankers were receptive, but none acted.
The pandemic has only made matters worse, and more urgent.
The problems may seem intractable, over our heads, and above most of our paygrades, but the changes we need to make in our monetary and financial policies to enhance economic equality and overall financial stability are understandable, achievable, and politically feasible. Petrou lays out how we get there, taking us beyond the purview we usually ascribe to policy wonks who have the ears of those at the highest levels of business and government—suggesting things closer to the ground and in our communities like postal banking, equality banks, and other ways to reach un-banked and under-banked households. Rather than more reactionary calls to “End the Fed” or abolish central banks, she knows the data, and its power, and how policymakers can make change that makes our economy work for more people.
Because my nature is one of an analyst, not an advocate, I dove into the data. As you’ll see from all of it in this book, the more one knows the hard facts of financial policy’s inequality impact, the angrier one becomes. I thus switched into advocate mode.
We need more advocates like Karen Petrou, and we need to not only listen to her advice but to heed it by acting on it. She offers us reforms that would not only save us once again from the brink of financial disaster but would help stop the cyclical pattern of policies that repeatedly brings us back to that brink. (DJJS)
How to Communicate Effectively With Anyone, Anywhere: Your Passport to Connecting Globally by Raúl Sánchez and Dan Bullock, Career Press
It's no secret that making genuine connections with others is good for our own health as well as the health of our businesses and communities. Even when we're social distancing and not traveling for business or for pleasure, being able to communicate effectively with a wide audience and across cultures is a valuable skill—one that Raúl Sánchez and Dan Bullock know a little something about having worked on these issues at NYU for ten and eight years, respectively.
Many of us in the twenty-first century often encounter dozens of cultural contexts every day—often in a single day, at work, socially, or online.
Authors Raúl Sánchez and Dan Bullock make navigating any communication situation—online and off—less stressful and more effective. This book makes it clear that "effective communication" and "inclusivity" are one-and-the-same. The more we understand about those we communicate with, the easier it will be to treat them respectfully and speak with them genuinely and with an open mind. (GMC)
Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives by Michael Heller & James Salzman, Doubleday
In 2008, Michael Heller opened my eyes to a still persistent problem in a great book entitled The Gridlock Economy. It is about how, “When too many people own pieces of one thing, cooperation breaks down, wealth disappears [and] everybody loses.” He wrote about how the difficulty in assembling property rights (intellectual and otherwise) inhibits everything from the development of life-saving drugs to how information is shared over our airwaves, extending even to large infrastructure projects like easing congestion at our airports. It is the reason we’ve only built one new airport in the U.S. since 1975—the one in Denver. His new book, written with James Salzman (author of the intriguingly titled Drinking Water: A History, which I now absolutely need to read now), begins by taking us into a smaller space in aviation, one that is still very much in dispute in Denver—as evidenced by the tale of James Beach and his use of a device called the Knee Defender on a flight from Denver to Newark. It is the dispute over the space taken up by a reclining seat back. So, who has the right to that space, and why? As the authors relate:
Ira Goldman, the inventor of the Knee Defender (whose website traffic increased five-hundred-fold after the Denver flight incident), described the problem simply: “What the airlines are doing is, they’re selling me space for my legs, and they’re selling you the space—if you’re sitting in front of me—they’re selling you the same space to recline. So they’re selling the same space to two people.”
The debate over ownership rages and shifts over time. With seat backs, it grows more contentious as airlines shrink the space we’re vying for. With the advance of digital technology, it now extends into entirely new everyday categories, from the usually pedestrian implications of sharing our newspaper subscription with others, to the more profound questions around ownership of our personal data online. It also influences our public debates “from the rise of America’s new aristocracy to solutions for climate change,” and therefore shapes our future together. “What’s mine,” it turns out, is actually up for grabs, open to interpretation, and depends on who is asked, what story is told, and what version of it we believe in. (DJJS)