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Keep Calm - Taking world events in stride.

Good Reads: On America's limits, Middle Eastern feminism, Indian authors

Some of the best long-form journalism this week deals with America's foreign policy limitations, sexual politics in the Middle East, African stereotypes, and an Indian publishing boom.

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But Ms. Tahawy writes that it’s time to stop making excuses.

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“First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You -- the outside world -- will be told that it's our "culture" and "religion" to do X, Y, or Z to women. Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman. The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man -- Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation -- but they will be finished by Arab women.”

African stereotypes

Islamic societies certainly do get a bad rap, but few societies suffer at the hand of stereotypical foreign coverage the way that the 54 countries of Africa do. In a tough-but-sardonic column on the BBC’s website, Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina plays with the stereotypes, before giving them the trash-bin treatment they deserve.

“The truth is, we have only started to see what we will look like.

The truth is, with the rise of China, we do not have to take any deal Europe throws at us that comes packaged with permanent poverty, incompetent volunteers and the occasional Nato bomb.

As the West flounders, there is a real sense that we have some leverage.

The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.

But that's fine - we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.”

India's publishing boom

And in a final note of hope, it will come as no surprise to fans of Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry, and that Salman Rushdie guy that India’s billion-plus population produces a fair number of amazing authors. In the past, these folks had to shuffle into literary agents’ offices in London or New York to get published, but today, book publishers are moving some of their operations to India itself. Not only are a handful of Indians excellent writers; millions of them are also avid readers.

David Davidar, head of Penguin India, says this to a New York Times blogger: “India is the only country currently where the English-language market is growing in double digits. Everywhere else is it either flat or registering a negative growth. Unlike North America, eBooks have not penetrated to a large extent. Here they make up less than 1 percent of sales, compared to nearly 25 percent in the United States.”

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