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Good Reads: From Nelson Mandela, to Islamic feminists, to pliable robots

This week's roundup of Good Reads includes a call to finish the work Nelson Mandela began, the plight of the working homeless, a look at a new wave of Islamic feminists, how parent mentoring helps school children, and how squishy robots can help disaster aid efforts.

By Staff writer / December 21, 2013

A boy walks past a mural of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa

ben Curtis/AP

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Nelson Mandela’s death on Dec. 5 brought the world to its knees both in sorrow and in praise. In the days that followed, British journalist Musa Okwonga reminded the world in a blog post republished by The Independent that though Mr. Mandela is gone, his fight is far from over.

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Staff writer

Noelle Swan writes for the national news desk at the Monitor. She previously worked on the Business and Family pages as a writer and editor.

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Apartheid was not “just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us...,” writes Mr. Okwonga. “Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human....”

Okwonga warns that deifying Mandela ignores the global culture that bred the apartheid regime, minimizes his suffering, and glosses over the racial inequality that persists around the world.

The real housing crisis

Take a walk through most any American city and the panhandlers, the hustlers, and the checked-out are hard to miss and easy to dismiss. However, less visible are the growing number of working men and women who have been squeezed out of the housing market and forced into the emergency housing system.
In the 1970s, the United States had more affordable housing units than people to fill them, Emily Badger reports in The Atlantic. Today, however, only one-quarter of households that qualify for a rental subsidy actually get one.

“As a result, it’s estimated that about half of the homeless in the U.S. today work in some form. The problem is that their income doesn’t cover housing,” Ms. Badger writes. “In part, what’s happened is that families who used to be middle-class are increasingly looking for cheaper affordable rental housing, crowding out the most low-income from the units they have the best chance of affording. Housing aid also hasn’t kept pace with the size of the population that needs it.”

The rise of Islamic feminists

A new wave of feminism is sweeping the Muslim world, as women seek “to reclaim Islam and the Koran for themselves,” Elizabeth Segran reports for The Nation. The new Islamic feminist movement known as Musawah – Arabic for “equality” – started gaining traction four years ago, when 12 women from Malaysia, Egypt, Gambia, Pakistan, and Turkey presented a framework for action based on the belief that the Quran does not dictate the subjugation of women, contrary to centuries of male interpretation, at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Since then, women around the world have begun to challenge the belief that sharia (Islamic law), which dominates the courts of many Islamic nations, is divine and infallible.

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