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Happy Monday! If you’re a fan of fantasy fiction, you might have noticed how incredibly white most key characters are — whether in The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Today you’ll meet an emerging fantasy writing star from Sierra Leone who’s changing the very color of the genre, visit an unlikely country where feminist co-living is taking off, decode why the oil industry is on a particularly slippery surface and get nostalgic with the best TV show reunions beyond Friends.
Isabelle Lee, Reporter, and Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor
News in a Minute
1. Joe Blow to Voting Rights
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he will vote against an ambitious and wide-ranging voting rights bill proposed by his fellow Democrats because it could deepen the political divide within the country. Manchin, a moderate, holds what’s practically a veto in a divided Senate, and his decision effectively kills plans for the law aimed at strengthening voter rights protections. Do you agree with Manchin’s decision? Vote here or on Twitter. (Sources: NYT, CNBC)
2. African Shot in the Arm
Senegal is teaming up with a Belgian pharma firm to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine doses beginning early next year. It’s a move that could substantially boost Africa’s immunization drive, which is currently lagging far behind other parts of the world. Meanwhile, the U.S. is struggling against a sharp fall in vaccination rates. (Reuters, WaPo)
3. The Chips Are Down
And they’ll likely stay down for a while. A global shortage of semiconductor chips could last until mid-2022, Singapore-based manufacturer Flex has warned. The crunch could hobble a range of manufacturing industries, from electronics to automobiles. (Source: FT)
4. Andean Cliffhanger
Marxist schoolteacher Pedro Castillo took a slim lead over conservative Keiko Fujimori in early counts after Peru’s presidential runoff on Sunday, though the outcome was too close to call. Fujimori is the daughter of autocratic former President Alberto Fujimori and faces corruption charges. Yet she’s a favorite among investors worried by Castillo’s plans to raise taxes on giant corporations to fund education and health. (Sources: WSJ, Al Jazeera, AP)
5. Royal Baby Tribute
Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have named their newborn daughter Lilibet “Lili” Diana in a nod to Queen Elizabeth’s pet name (Lilibet) and Harry’s mom Diana — arguably the two most influential women from the British royal family over the past century. (Source: Guardian)
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As a child, she would beg her parents for green bean popsicles. Today the world of fantasy is begging her for more. Want a trip through modern Chinese history via a series of fantasy novels? That’s the journey Kuang takes you on with The Poppy War, her award-winning trilogy where the protagonist is modeled on Kuang’s musing, “What if Mao Zedong was a teenage girl?” It’s Game of Thrones crossed with Star Wars. And 25-year-old Kuang, whose family moved from China to the U.S. when she was 4, is rapidly building a body of work that could hold its own against both those classics.
2. Namina Forna
She grew up bingeing on The Lord of the Rings, walking through Sierra Leone’s countryside fantasizing that she was in Middle Earth. But when J.R.R. Tolkien’s classics were turned into movies, she saw that no one — not even the bad guys — looked like her. So she decided to carve out her own fantasy world ... one that’s now taking the genre by storm. Relying on the legends of ancient African goddesses and warriors told to her by her grandparents, Forna is creating an alternative Black history narrative outside of slavery that’s challenging the Eurocentric lens that dominates the fantasy world.
3. Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Imagine a coming-of-age Regency drama not very different from Bridgerton, but where the characters of the Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton had magical telekinetic powers? Welcome to a Mexican landscape far removed from anything you’ve seen before. Garcia’s books will transport you to a world of supernatural love, very real racism and Mayan folklore. When she was young, the author buried herself in books and films. Today her books are being made into films.
Sneak Peek Into ... Cambodia
It’s ruled by an authoritarian regime but depends on openness to tourists from around the world. Dive deep into the curious contradiction that is Cambodia.
1. Martial Master
As a young teen,San Kim Sean wanted to be an action star. Six decades later, you likely haven’t heard of either Sean or his preferred martial art, bokator. That’s the world’s loss. This ancient Khmer fighting form inspired muay thai but was nearly killed off by the Khmer Rouge. But Sean’s outlived their brutal regime. Now he’s reviving bokator so that it outlives him. Read more on OZY.
2. Feminist Co-living
Could the key to getting more women in the workforce be feminist dormitories? It’s certainly working in Cambodia! Young women can apply to live in a burgeoning number of dormitories that house only females as they complete their education or work in Phnom Penh. The unofficial slogan in the dormitories? “If not now, when?” We couldn’t agree more. Read more on OZY.
3. Sacred Tattoos
Ancient script, religious deities and mythological creatures come together on your body when you get a traditional Khmer tattoo. This millennium-old tradition, passed down by monks and soothsayers, is believed to endow you with good fortune. Read more on OZY.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
From the moment he was conceived to John Coltrane, music has always been in Moby’s life. Today the musician with 20 million records sold shares his difficult rise from a childhood on food stamps living in an abandoned factory to fame and difficulty with sobriety. Watch later today.
What’s Going On With Oil?
Few commodities capture the state of the economy better than oil. So what should we make of the dramatic seesaw in its recent fortunes?
1. On a High
After OPEC and its allies relaxed restrictions on the production of crude last week,oil prices soared to a two-year high. The oil industry clearly believes it is set for a return to pre-pandemic demand levels.
If you’re still thinking about the ‘Friends’ reunion show from two weeks ago, we’ve got the perfect start for this week with some of our other favorite reunion shows.
1. ‘Parks and Recreation’
Ever wondered how Leslie Knope would react to a pandemic? Or just how good Ron Swanson would be at social distancing? Look no further than AParks and Recreation Special. They even raised money for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
2. ‘Reunited Apart’
This Josh Gad YouTube series reunites the casts of some of your favorites, including Frozen, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Ghostbusters. Each episode is a perfect dose of nostalgia and comfort. It’s also a fundraiser for the charity Action Against Hunger.
3. ‘The Sound of Music’
But if you want to get really misty-eyed and fall in love with the unmatched beauty of Salzburg, Austria, all over again, watch this 50th-anniversary reunion of some of the cast of The Sound of Music as they recount memories of their time with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer … and the tricks they played while on set!
A great question can ignite the innovative thinking that is essential in our globalized, digitized and disruptive world. This online six-week Inquiry-Driven Leadership course from the MIT Sloan School of Management teaches you to adopt a questioning approach to effectively identify and solve organizational problems. Find out more about the program here.