The English Journal


Nightmare of Italy’s Crisis: Man shares bedroom with 27-yr-old sister

By Laura Grangemar  Posted Dec. 13, 2011

(ROME) Marco Verzeroli is a 25-year-old, angry, recent university graduate in Rome, Italy. He feels desperate about the financial situation in his country.

“Young graduates are the first to suffer from the lack of job offers. Increasingly, students try to give an international perspective to their studies and this phenomenon is very recent in Italy. It did not exist just five or six years ago.”

To illustrate this situation, he gives the example of his friend who is a lawyer and only makes $1,300 a month after many years of studies and spending $50,000 at university.

This attorney can not afford to live on his own. He is, therefore,  forced to live with his parents and share a room with his 27-year-old sister.

For Marco also, daily life is very hard because he spends half of his income on rent. Day-to-day spending represents a growing proportion of his income and prices have never been so high.

The young man doesn’t feel confident about his future.

“Only a revolution will change the way of things are.”

Marco is not alone in his horror stories of living under austerity. But as the growing protest movements show, neither is he alone in his belief that things can change for the better.


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A ‘Banana Man’ finds no way out

By Lea He

Banana people” is a term used by the Chinese who live in China. Without any insult, it refers simply to those who are born or grow up in western countries, but have Chinese origins. A banana is yellow on the outside and white inside. Hence when someone is called a banana, he or she is white inside – thinking like a westerner, but yellow outside-- looking like a Chinese person.

“I came to France when I was 9 years old; now I am 23. If you force me to say that I am Chinese, I will do it. However deep in my heart, I am thoroughly French,” confirmed Phillipe Chen, our hero.

He belongs to this special banana group. Why call it special?

Because it’s stuck in the crevice of two cultures and cannot integrate into either one easily.

“Frankly, I speak better French than Chinese. As far as reading, I can barely read any Chinese words. I don’t share any ideas of life with my parents. To me, there is nothing but working in their whole life. They always think that I like to advocate my personality, while I feel that they are too prudent,” said Phillipe.

It sounds like the typical generation gap that can occur within any family, regardless of ethnicity. But this banana phenomenon is different.

These bananas try so hard to mark their differences with their parents’ generation because they want to certify the belief in their minds: they are French! Nevertheless they are not totally admitted into the mainstream of the society in which they live.

To many of his classmates, Phillipe is simply Chinese, no matter how many perfect scores he gets in French or how fluently he speaks it.  Entering college, the social circle of banana is sadly limited to several bananas. The glue is that they share practically the same culture: the strange one.

“Funny it is. But several times on the street, when I see a person who needs help, who is lost, for example, when I try to help him, he doesn’t look at me. Like I am invisible. And I think, after so many years, some original French still take us – the immigrants as those who steal their bread.”

Stepping out into society, some of them would like to try their chance back in China. It would be a time for them to cross the fingers because the mercy of the Mother Country can not be guaranteed, either.

Sports Over the Line

The course taken by runner Makhloufi, was it a shortcut around the rules?

By Vincent Petitpez

Taoufik Makhloufi, an Algerian athlete, won the gold medal in the 1500-meter race at the Olympic Games in London. But, he was initially disqualified after a heat of a different event: the 800 meters.  Makhloufi had decided to register in the two middle distance races. But, during one of the heats for the 800 meters, he ran for a few seconds and stopped. He went to the officials and abandoned the race.

For the IAAF, this was a behavior that ran outside of the rules of fair-play. The sanctioning body excluded Makhloufi from further Olympic competition, unless he could present a medical certificate proving injury.

So, the next day, the 24-year-old provided the documents signed by two doctors.  The IAAF could then reinstate him to race in the 1500. This certificate showed that Makhloufi suffered an injury, but that it was possible to treat it in 24 hours.

Makhloufi could then line up in his country's green and white and chase the gold.  In 1500 m final, he separated from his opponents to finish in 3 min 34.08 sec. American Leonel Manzano (3:47.79) claimed silver and Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider took bronze.

“It's the will of God. Yesterday I was out; today I'm in,” he said.  “This is a gift for the Algerian people and for the whole of the Arabic world.”

Just the will of God? 

Did Taoufik Makhloufi behave in a sportsmanlike manner?  Why did he register for the 800 meters if he didn't intend to  run the race?  Was he really hurt?  Are there lots of  injuries that heal quickly? Many questions arise and they’re all difficult to answer.

“Yesterday I was out; today I'm in.”

 The performance of thankful gold medalist Makhloufi leaves many to question his tactics.   Photo: AFP

The Wonder gymnast By Pauline Gilgemann


In the spring of 2013, gymnastics spectators could have seen Oksana Chusovitina performing during the 19th French Internationals. Going on 38, a venerable age in the world of gymnastics, she decided to keep competing after the 2012 Olympics. It was a choice that time, a luxury in a life and athletic career that had been challenging.

“I have not ended my own sportive career. I am planning to continue until 2016 in Rio de Janeiro!" she explained at the international forum of “Peace and Sport” in Sochi, Russia. 

This means that she has now planned her 7th Olympics though she will be 42 years old. By contrast, Beijing’s homegrown gymnasts, with the average age of 16, won the 2008 team event gold medal.  Another proof, if one was needed, of the incredible spirit that drives her.

The three-time world champion is unique: a veteran in a sport where youth rules and she is the extraordinary combination of a gymnast and a mother. Until recently, her son, Alisher, now 13, represented the reason why she was competing.

"If I don't compete, then my son won't live. It's as simple as that," said Chusovitina back in 2002. "My son underwent an operation today, and the only reason he managed to get that treatment is because I am earning money. I have no choice."

She had to not only compete, but also change her nationality from Uzbek to German. Her family had no health insurance and Uzbekistan no facilities to treat Alisher’s leukemia.  She represented Germany, her new country, for the first time in the 2006 World Championship.

Her little boy is now recovered and the indefatigable athlete can fully enjoy her sport. She can boast having three eponymous skills -- maneuvers that carry her name.  Her hop-full pirouette, full-out dismount on the uneven bars, and layout full-out in floor exercise (1991) were added to the Code of Points.

The mom-gymnast placed in 5th in vault in the London Games and still can be a threat for the youngsters whom she inspires. “She is a model for a lot of us,” declared American gymnast Alicia Sacramone right before the Games in Beijing.

Above left Sy’s movie doesn’t show that there’s never a day less hard than others   Above right   The mom-gymnast won silver in Beijing. Pictured with son Alisher, the reason she continued competing. Scroll below to read

Booked: US Politican up from Newark to Capitol Hill

By Rémi Pesme

A look back at the political career of

Cory Booker, from his failed mayoral

campaign in Newark, New Jersey, to

the United States Senate.

In 2002, the 32-year-old ran for mayor

in Newark, but lost.  He suffered a lot

of personal attacks, for example,

challenging whether he was “black

enough” to relate to the African-

American community of Newark.

It was an attack on not only his light

brown complexion, but also his wealthy background and Ivy League education. He graduated from Stanford and went on to study at Oxford and Yale Law School.

Coming from a well-off family (his parents were the first Africa American high-level executives at IBM) and growing up in the suburbs of Harrington Park, Mr. Booker committed himself to the poor populations of Newark. He moved into Brick Towers, a public housing complex, and lived there 8 year - a direct contrast to the political rhetoric. 

The pre-election discourse became so virolent that observers were sent to monitor the elections. Gov. Chris Christie, who was then-US Attorney for the district of New Jersey, was one. He lost the battle, but he won name recognition because the campaign was documented in an Academy award-nominated film, Street Fight.

During a campaign rally, author and philosopher Dr. Cornel West predicted: “This is not just about Newark now. This is about the nation. What you are beholding here is a new vision.”  Then addressing  Booker privately, he said: “This is just the beginning for you... In the next five, ten, fifteen years you're gonna .... ,’’  (Dr. West interrupted himself and mimed a rocket launching in the sky). The young Mr. Booker replied: “But this is the frontlines of the American Dream.”

In 2006, a bit more matured at age 36, he was elected mayor of Newark with 72% of the vote. He served two terms until his election as US Senator for New Jersey last October.

His politcal celebrity grew exponantially during those mayoral years.  The documentary series “Brick City” on the Sundance TV Channel (2009 - 2011) showed a charismatic and colorful character; someone able to reach out to a national audience. In 2012, he was dubbed a super hero after he rescued a neighbor from a burning house, adding to a long list of spectacular actions.

This Booker branding took off on another scale when he started using social media compulsively. Twitter allowed him to reach out to an even wider audience and to fully develop his national profile with 1.4 million followers and more than 32,000 tweets.

But this national profile also brought him criticism from his politcal opponents. They argued that he cared more about self-promotion than the problems faced by the people in New Jersey. During a TV debate, Steve Lonegan, his Republican, opponent fired shots at him saying: “New Jersey needs a leader, not a tweeter.”

However, it did not prevent Mr. Booker from winning, though the margins were lower than expected. Now he is adjusting to his new role as Senator, keeping a relatively low profile in the media.

He has been elected to serve only the remaining year of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's term.  So,  Sen. Booker has something to run toward again- before readying himself for the biggest race.

Beaten for seeking equality in Belarus

By Clotilde Penet    

International law dictates that Belarus, just like any other country, has an obligation to ensure that everyone can exercise his human rights without discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation. In contrast, Amnesty International released a scathing report on the state of civil rights in Belarus, focusing on the freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

The politician infamously called the last dictator in Europe, Alexander Lukashenko, has run Belarus’ government since the split from the USSR. Mr. Lukashenko, according to translated texts, said: «It’s better to be a dictator than gay» back in 2012.  View Pres. Lukashenko’s comments in this video: Germany rebukes Lukashenko over anti-gay comment.

Ihar Tsikchanyuk, from

Minsk, tells his stor in Paris. Photo by Clotilde Penet.

"In Belarus, it's not easy. Any kind of  militancy is unwelcomed," said Ihar Tsikchanyuk, who reported to staffers in the Paris office of AI that police beat him for trying to open a Lambda human rights center in Minsk.


A dangerous situation exists in the country of  9.6 million residents.  On December 10, 2013, three people met in a city square to support the protesters in Ukraine. All three of them were arrested and sent to jail, said Mr. Tsikchanyuk, a gay man and drag performer. "It's already hard to think that demonstrating is possible, so demonstrating for the LGBT community? No way."

Unconscious Superiority and Inequality

Paris’ shadow life compared to Omar Sy’s ‘Samba’

By Philippe Lefebvre

The only advantage to living among the 2 million residents of Paris is hiding from the authorities easily, explains Boubakar. The Senegal native has existed under the radar of the French immigration services for more than a decade.

“The city is so large, it is enough to remain discreet, not to make troubles,” he said after viewing the movie in southeast Paris.

As in the ‘Samba’ movie starring Omar Sy, real-life clandestine worker Boubakar avoids transfer points.

«It’s too risky. The Gare du Nord station, for example, is heavily watched. At this place, trains leave for England, you understand. What counts is the attitude towards the police. If you want to stay for a long time here, you have no choice. You have to merge into the mass of people.”

There's another stark difference between the movie and the reality of 43-year-old Boubakar: the amount of fear.

«At the beginning, you are afraid all the time. Fear of the police, fear of your neighbors, fear of people who you meet, fear that your boss fires you to keep your money. Fear of everything.

«In time, that passes a little. But the anxiety returns fast. Especially today. With the detention centers and your new law, the Obligation to Leave the French Territory (OQTF), you never have peace of mind, believe me.”

Boubakar has never been locked up in a detention center, but he has heard stories. “And according to what my friends told me, that doesn’t really look like what I saw in the movie. For example, you don’t demand sleeping drugs to sleep. You stay awake because you are too much afraid that the police will come to expel you.”

Boubakar stopped speaking. Hands deep in his pockets, he looked at the night-sky and exhaled deeply: “Sometimes, I say to myself that I would like to return to my country, but not in these conditions. Never. I would be too ashamed. Rather die.”

Then he looked his watch.“It’s half past one in the morning! I have to leave; I work at six o’clock!”

When I realized it was Sunday, a somber reflection came over me. For people without papers, every day is like the others. There is never one which is less hard than the other one. Away from the lightness and the “beautiful white teeth” of Omar Sy’s humorous movie.

More on Boubakar’s Paris life without working papers

Hard for black movie stars to shine on silver screen

By Damien Miagoux

Can Hollywood not stand the color

black? While white people ponder,

black actor Chris Rock confirms it.

The comedian is known for

criticizing disparities between white

and black people in his movies  (for

example, The Only Thing White is the

House, 2003) and in his stand-up routines,

but with second degree-humor. Rock disapproves of the manner of doing business in the movie studios, labeling it a white industry.

“I don’t look at it as courage (to make this statement). I don’t look at as even being political. I’m just stating the facts,” he said. “I’m not trying to be political at all, that’s (Jon) Stewart, that’s (Bill) Maher, that’s you know, not me,” he said at the New York premiere of his new film, Top Five. The comedian restated his position just hours after publishing a controversial essay in the Hollywood Reporter.

“But when you have a system where you probably only see three movies with African-American leads in them a year, they're going to be judged more harshly, and you're really rooting for them to be good a little more so than the 140 movies starring white people every year,” wrote Rock, 50.

We can find racism even in a galaxy far, far away. After the release of the new Star Wars’ trailer, the tweetosphere ignited at the speed of the Falcon Millenium. The cause: a black stormtrooper fills up the screen for a few seconds. This is heresy for fans who think an Imperial Galaxy soldier must be white.

“I’m in the movie, but as a Star Wars fan I am very excited! […]To whom it may concern…Get used to it,” tweeted actor John Boyega, 22, a native of Nigeria.

In another instance, the hacked and leaked e-mails about Sony Pictures “Guardians of Peace” movie revealed another dark shadow of Hollywood. Released by the media, these emails reveal the ambient racism in Hollywood. Producer Scott Rudin had to apologize for using a racial context in which to comment on President Barack Obama’s taste in movies.

Actress Zoe Saldana, star of Avatar and The Guardians of the Galaxy, tweeted that the leaks unveiled some of the true nature of life in Hollywood: “Being #hacked  sucks, but not as much as being an actress at the mercy of these producers’ tongues. Now everyone knows!” As for Shonda Rhimes, an African-American woman and creator of Grey’s Anatomy, she sent a tweet which criticized the media coverage of this real-life dramatic episode. “Calling Sony comments 'racially insensitive remarks' instead of 'racist'? U can put a cherry on a pile of sh** but it don't make it a sundae," she scoffed.

Although black casts were presented in the movies Red Tails ($50.4 million) and 12 Years a Slave ($56.7 million), African-Americans still find difficulties to get significant roles. It remains difficult for a black star to shine on Hollywood’s screens.

Chris Rock, Dec. 2014