Monday, February 27, 2017

Documentary: What is Philanthropy?

In the award-winning documentary, What is Philanthropy?, Salvatore Alaimo explores and analyzes the history and meaning of "giving"—what and why we give. Alaimo--a professor at the school of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University (Grand Rapids, Michigan)--sheds light and dispels myths surrounding the idea of charitable giving. The film demonstrates how philanthropy is not just about donating money, nor does it solely apply to the wealthy. In fact, in the USA, lower and middle-income earners actually give the most to charity as philanthropy is also about giving time, volunteering and advocating for social change.  

A wide-range of information is presented through Alaimo's lens depicting the role of how the federal government, the states, the private sector and individual citizens engage in philanthropy and how philanthropy touches everyday lives. The film offers a historical perspective of how, over the course of centuries, people--from Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie, among others--have pursued philanthropic causes. Interspersed throughout are interviews with learned scholars, academics, civil rights leaders, politicians and religious charity chairpersons from Judaic, Christian and Muslim backgrounds who offer their own insights, research and opinions about the role philanthropy has--and continues to--play in society at large. Also included are interviews with notables in current American culture who have used public platforms to promote larger philanthropic causes such as Estee Lauder and her work with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; environmentalist Nell Newman--the daughter of Academy Award-winner, Paul Newman--and how her foundation, Newman's Own products, advocates for organic, sustainable agriculture; and NFL quarterback Alex Smith and how his foundation provides foster teens with resources and support as they transition into adulthood. 

Alaimo highlights those who work selflessly to promote causes such as Angel Flight, an organization where private pilots transport patients for medical care and treatments, and the efforts of people like Derreck Kayongo, a Uganda native, who started the Global Soap Project in the US, which collects used soap bars from American hotels and reprocesses them for shipment to impoverished nations such as Haiti, Uganda, Kenya and Swaziland. 

The most heartfelt aspects of the documentary showcase how smaller philanthropic foundations are often established after a person has suffered a deeply personal struggle and loss such as the Josie King Foundation, which advocates for a culture of patient medical safety. This foundation was established by the parents of Josie King in an effort to combat their personal grief after losing their 18-month-old to medical errors on February 22, 2001. Rounding out the film are moving stories of individuals who participate in giving via the likes of sewing circles and those who donate blood, platelets and even breast milk to charitable causes.

Along the way, Alaimo cleverly ties in clips from contemporary TV programs and movies to the theme of philanthropy. A portion of the film also depicts how social activism--including the pursuits of American Indians, the disabled, Gay Pride, Occupy Wall Street, voting rights, the death penalty and healthcare--also falls under the umbrella of philanthropy.  

What is Philanthropy? is well-balanced, lively and informative and is sure to stimulate lively debate, discussion and reflection for those--academics, students and social activists--who wish to more thoroughly understand the history and ideas of philanthropic "giving" in its many unique forms.

What is Philanthropy? a documentary (written/produced/directed) by Salvatore Alaimo
86 minutes; DVD $15.99; Blu-Ray $22.99
Distributed by Indiana University )
Also available via - link HERE 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


The marriage of a couple on the cusp of middle age comes undone by a beautiful Thoroughbred horse.

Multi-layered domestic dramas are Margot Livesey's specialty. In her novel, Mercury, she again probes contradictions in human relationships, this time orbiting the often perilous abyss of middle age and casting her gaze on matters of perception in both literal and figurative terms.

Donald Stevenson is a staid, 39-year-old surgical ophthalmologist-turned-optometrist who lives and works in a Boston suburb. In humble, intimate prose that percolates with impending tragedy, Donald recalls his life and tells how a chasm developed between him and Viv, his wife of nine years. A restless and impulsive former mutual fund financier, Viv gave up her unfulfilling professional life to pursue her earlier life's passion for horses, co-managing a stable called Windy Hill. There she cares for Mercury, a five-year-old, dapple-gray Thoroughbred, and forges such a deep bond that she pins her affections, hopes and dreams of winning a horse-riding championship upon the horse. After Windy Hill sustains a mysterious break-in, Viv--whose myopic, first-person account is sandwiched between Donald's telling of events--conveys how she secretly took security matters into her own hands to keep her adored Mercury from danger. The consequences of this decision become far reaching, life changing and soul shattering.

Livesey (The Flight of Gemma Hardy) is a reflective, insightful writer. She offers a well-drawn supporting cast and skillfully unravels details that heighten the suspense and surprise of a sobering story. She delves into divisive aspects of deceit, desire, regret and ideals, and how the choices people make can affect and torment innocent lives in extraordinary ways. 

Harper, $26.99 Hardcover, 9780062437501, 336 pages
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (September 30, 2016), link HERE 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dinner with Edward

A middle-aged writer and a 93-year-old widower, both facing changes, become friends through the satiating comfort of food.
Two lost souls bond over gourmet feasts in Dinner with Edward, a memoir by investigative journalist Isabel Vincent (Gilded Lily: Lily Safra). Isabel--a middle-aged newspaper reporter transplanted to New York City as her marriage comes undone--meets a dear friend for dinner. The friend's 95-year-old mother has recently died, and she fears her father, Edward, is giving up on life. She asks Isabel to check in on him occasionally, touting Edward's culinary prowess. Isabel's loneliness in a new city ultimately propels her to show up at Edward's apartment on Roosevelt Island, armed with a bottle of wine.
One meal turns into a weekly, culinary rendezvous where meticulous and debonair Edward, a self-trained cook, whips up savory and sweet feasts, paired perfectly with cocktails. "Edward was neither a snob nor an insufferable foodie. He just liked to do things properly." Over dinner, he conveys heartfelt details of his life, his creative pursuits and his enchanted marriage, ultimately becoming something of a teacher and protective father figure to Isabel. He offers wisdom and perspective as Isabel shares her adventures working for the New York Post, her crumbling marriage, difficulties in raising her daughter and her return to dating. 
Dinner with Edward emerges as a beautiful, passionate love story--wholly platonic--about two people whose lives are have undergone change, but who learn how to adapt and truly appreciate life again. Isabel Vincent's rich, perfectly paced narrative is served with as much wonder and gratitude as the deliciously conveyed indulgence of each satisfying, lingering meal. 

Dinner with Edward: A Story of Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent
Algonquin Books, $23.99 Hardcover, 9781616204228, 224 pages
Publication Date: May 24, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (June 3, 2016), link HERE