"He She and It", by Marge Piercy. Graphics Arts Center Pub. Co., c1997

In the future world of the 21st century, global warming has reduced Earth to mostly deserts and the cities on the east coast of the United States are underwater. Ozone depletion has caused solar radiation to be a life-threatening hazard for unprotected individuals who leave their domes to venture into the "Raw." Information and "The Net" are commodities valued by individuals and multinational corporations to the extent that information pirates are infiltrating and killing programmers. Against this background, two parallel stories are told.

Avram has spent his life creating robots. Although there are rules against creating humanoid cyborgs, he has broken them to create Yod, who's job will be to defend the independent city of Tikva against the information pirates. Shira and her grandmother Malkah, who are artificial intelligence experts, have been working - also illegally - to program Yod to be as humanlike as possible, and to socialize him so he fits in with other humans. As part of this socialization, Malkah recounts to him the story of a golem, created in similarly dangerous times during the 1600s in Prague.

This book was recommended to me by a librarian classmate as a prescient example of how the boundaries between the real world and virtual worlds have become blurred, as more and more people join social networking communities and virtual worlds like Second Life.


"Go Tell It On the Mountain" by James Baldwin. Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2000, c1953

This novel, unabashedly autobiographical, explores Black life in Harlem during the early part of the 20th century. In particular, Baldwin probes the influence of autocratic religious beliefs on family relationships, daily life and the hopes and fears for a better life in the future. It was an interesting window into the pre-civil-rights era, and at the same time, spotlighted those elements that have still not changed, even today.

John, the 14-year-old protagonist, is the son of a preacher. He, unlike his brother Roy, is a good boy, but is apparently despised by his father and beaten often. He is expected to become a preacher, though he expresses a deep hatred of his family and a wish to escape. Much of the novel deals with the tension caused by this hatred and the need to accept family members as they have become, whether by personality or circumstance.

This is not an easy book to read, because it does not follow the traditional "floor plan" of a novel. It reads so much like a social case-study or a biography, it is difficult to NOT get involved in the justice - and injustice - of the characters' lives.