Coolie Woman by Gaiutra BahadurIn 1903, a young woman sailed from India to Guiana as a "coolie"--the British name for indentured laborers who replaced the newly emancipated slaves on sugar plantations all around the world. Pregnant and traveling alone, this woman, like so many coolies, disappeared into history. In Coolie Woman--shortlisted for the 2014 Orwell Prize--her great-granddaughter Gaiutra Bahadur embarks on a journey into the past to find her. Traversing three continents and trawling through countless colonial archives, Bahadur excavates not only her great-grandmother's story but also the repressed history of some quarter of a million other coolie women, shining a light on their complex lives. Shunned by society, and sometimes in mortal danger, many coolie women were either runaways, widows, or outcasts. Many of them left husbands and families behind to migrate alone in epic sea voyages--traumatic "middle passages"--only to face a life of hard labor, dismal living conditions, and, especially, sexual exploitation. As Bahadur explains, however, it is precisely their sexuality that makes coolie women stand out as figures in history. Greatly outnumbered by men, they were able to use sex with their overseers to gain various advantages, an act that often incited fatal retaliations from coolie men and sometimes larger uprisings of laborers against their overlords. Complex and unpredictable, sex was nevertheless a powerful tool. Examining this and many other facets of these remarkable women's lives, Coolie Woman is a meditation on survival, a gripping story of a double diaspora--from India to the West Indies in one century, Guyana to the United States in the next--that is at once a search for one's roots and an exploration of gender and power, peril and opportunity.
Scatter, Adapt and Remember by Annalee NewitzIn its 4.5 billion-year history, life on Earth has been almost erased at least half a dozen times: shattered by asteroid impacts, entombed in ice, smothered by methane, and torn apart by unfathomably powerful megavolcanoes. And we know that another global disaster is eventually headed our way. Can we survive it? How? As a species, "Homo sapiens" is at a crossroads. Study of our planets turbulent past suggests that we are overdue for a catastrophic disaster, whether caused by nature or by human interference. Its a frightening prospect, as each of the Earths past major disasters--from meteor strikes to bombardment by cosmic radiation--resulted in a mass extinction, where more than 75 percent of the planets species died out. But in "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember," Annalee Newitz, science journalist and editor of the science Web site io9.com explains that although global disaster is all but inevitable, our chances of long-term species survival are better than ever. Life on Earth has come close to annihilation--humans have, more than once, narrowly avoided extinction just during the last million years--but every single time a few creatures survived, evolving to adapt to the harshest of conditions. This brilliantly speculative work of popular science focuses on humanitys long history of dodging the bullet, as well as on new threats that we may face in years to come. Most important, it explores how scientific breakthroughs today will help us avoid disasters tomorrow. From simulating tsunamis to studying central Turkeys ancient underground cities; from cultivating cyanobacteria for "living cities" to designing space elevators to make space colonies cost-effective; from using math to stop pandemics to studying the remarkable survival strategies of gray whales, scientists and researchers the world over are discovering the keys to long-term resilience and learning how humans can choose life over death. Newitzs remarkable and fascinating journey through the science of mass extinctions is a powerful argument about human ingenuity and our ability to change. In a world populated by doomsday preppers and media commentators obsessively forecasting our demise, "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember" is a compelling voice of hope. It leads us away from apocalyptic thinking into a future where we live to build a better world--on this planet and perhaps on others. Readers of this book will be equipped scientifically, intellectually, and emotionally to face whatever the future holds.