What I’ve Been Reading, February 2017

It’s been awhile since I did one of these, partly because I’ve been reading more short stories than novels, partly because I’ve been reading A Series of Unfortunate Events. So, other than those books, here’s what I’ve been reading:

The Reeducation of Cherry Truong by Aimee Phan – This novel is a family epic, which surveys the lives of two families of Vietnamese immigrants—the Truongs and the Vos. The families are linked by the marriage of Tuyet Vo and Sanh Truong, but there is plenty of bad blood between them, revealed throughout the book. Cherry Truong is the daughter of Tuyet and Sanh, and the main character of the story—though really, the book is an ensemble work.

Each chapter is told from a different perspective, giving a broad scope of the families, and their lives as immigrants—one family in Paris, the other in Orange County, California. Every character is intriguingly flawed, and watching them interact, and seeing how small conflicts beget bigger conflicts is fascinating. The scope of the book is satisfyingly large, and all the backstories of the characters memorable. The book doesn’t have much of a coherent through-line, and I felt Cherry’s arc was a little rushed, but I still enjoyed it overall.Read More »

Political Analysis: Condorcet Jury Theorem

Last post I introduced the concept of aggregation in political analysis, and how you can’t always make inferences about members of a group based on the character of the group as a whole—or visa versa. This post will go further into that, and also why democracy works.

In college, it’s easy to forget how much smarter you are than everyone, because you’re surrounded by people as smart or smarter than you—but really, a lot of people are highly ignorant. [NOTE FROM THE NOTE-TAKER: This is how Professor Dion introduced the topic, not me just throwing in my own color. But it is kind of true.]

For example, only 74% of Americans believe that the Earth orbits around the sun. As for politics, in 2010 only 54% knew the controlling party of the House of Representatives.

So, is democracy doomed? The idea with democracy is that an individual is the best judge of their own interests, and will elect a good representative for themself. But if people are ignorant, will they really?Read More »