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13 posts from December 2010

December 07, 2010

Books as Gifts

Five Reasons Why Books Make Excellent Nondenominational Winter Holiday Presents

Books As Gifts

(from the state library of New South Wales)

1. Books come in many colors, shapes, and sizes.  Everyone will be so pleased to have a new book in their favorite color!

2. If you give them to small children (dependent on the smallness of the children), they may help them learn to read!  This is a good thing, as it turns out that knowing how to read is pretty essential in this modern era.  Also small children generally enjoy gnawing on books, so your gift can double as a delicious snack.  Books are better than zwieback any day. 

3. If you find just the right book, it will have a map to Blackbeard's hidden treasure.  At this point, you will win the award for Best Giver-of-Presents Ever.

4. Books are good to give to people who you would like to encounter in the future with a conversational topic already primed.  Depending on the book you give them, conversation topics can range anywhere from anarchy to zoology.  (Please be sure to note the topic of the book you gave to a person before initiating conversation with said person, as trying to talk to someone about abecedarianism when they have been given a book about ziggurats will probably not be successful.)

5. Books are biodegradable.  You may feed an already-used book to your goat!  Or compost it!  Or even make it into confetti, if that is your kind of thing!


First Second is a publisher (as you might have guessed), so this list is a relatively self-serving exercise.  But it's a pretty worthy one.  We publish books by authors and artists whose work we respect and enjoy and support, so we hope that this holiday season you'll consider going out to your local indepedent or chain bookstore and buying books that we've made, and maybe even some books that other creators and publishers you respect and enjoy and support have made (or staying in and ordering books online from your not-so-local independent or chain bookstore). 

December 03, 2010

Cat Burglar Black


(from everyone's favorite Jen Vaughn)

December 01, 2010


(some words about the latest chapter of the online comic Zahra's Paradise, from the author, Amir)


What happened inside Kahrizak prison we may never know.   And we may never want to know. 

The stories came out in bits and pieces.  So did the prisoners.  It was hard to connect the fragments.  To see the faces. 

Mehdi Ruholamini died after being tortured in Kahrizak.  So did the Kahrizak doctor, Ramin Pourdaranji.  He refused to falsify medical reports and dared to testify about what he had seen before a parliamentary committee.  The Supreme Leader ordered Kahrizak closed. 

But the stench remains.  And the stench is inescapable. 

Kahrizak's Iran 's Abu Ghraib.  Islam's Guantanamo.  It's a place where faith and trust in the promise of revolution and religion, a fundamentalist idea of man and ideal of humanity, have collapsed.  Perhaps forever. 

Thirty years after the Iranian revolution, the dreams of Iran's youth are literally sinking into the ground, buried in a human landfill where Iran's bravest and brightest guardians are discarded and disposed of as if trash. 

It's a twilight zone where the boundaries separating heaven and earth have collapsed to form a single blackhole -- an underground labyrinth of dungeons and coffins where law, religion, politics and crime get etched into the satanic body of Iran 's rebellious women and youth.

Kahrizak's a squalid, dirty and disgusting secret.  It is where falsehood and facts about rape, torture and murder collide, where the Islamic Republic stands exposed in the name of the prophets, religion, history and people it claims to represent. 

Kahrizak is not a prison.  It's a code -- the code of the beast.  The beast desires what it wounds, worships what it consumes, devours what it loves -- the flesh and blood of his own children. It can't resist temptation. Tormented by desire, the religious predator has no choice but to destroy and devour the object of devotion. Since it can only prey on the corpse of life, the beast cannot distinguish between the spiritual, the sensual, the sexual and the criminal. 

And so it can only sink lower and lower, deeper and deeper, into darkness and death. Whether it inhabits a morgue, a republic or an empire, it preys on its victims in a tomb that conceals its reflection.  And so, having exchanged life for death, it is banished into the realm of the dead, locked in the gravity of its own shadow. 

Kahrizak, the chapter, takes us into the shadow. 

Kahrizak, the story, as opposed to the prison and the code, is about the authority and capacity of life to break into and out of the shades of death.  In this chapter, Zahra learns that her son Mehdi is being held in Kahrizak.  Ali, who has just been released from Kahrizak, after being raped by his interrogators, tells the story of how he and Mehdi got caught in the protests and of the friendship formed in prison. Dismissed as dust and dirt, these two fictional characters join their hearts and hands to the millions of Iranians who have dared to defy a President who has stolen their vote and an Ayatollah who has usurped their faith to sanctify fraud with force.

The Ayatollah's Iran  is not their Iran.  And it not their Islam.  And it is not mine.  And it is not Khalil's. 

The battle inside Kahrizak is the battle for the future of Iran -- Zahra's Paradise.  Far from being lost, it has just begun.  Won't you join us in the search to find and free Mehdi? 

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