From the Shelf
HBO's adaption/remix of the landmark comic book series Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC Comics, $24.99) opened with a dramatization of a real-life tragedy: the 1921 Tulsa massacre, in which mobs of white residents attacked what was known as "Black Wall Street," killing perhaps several hundred black residents. It was a striking way to start a TV series, in part because many viewers had never heard of the massacre.
For viewers interested in learning more, The Burning by Tim Madigan (St. Martin's Griffin, $23.99) covers not only the events themselves, but the remarkable silence that followed as the massacre became unmentionable, not least in history books. The shocked reactions all over social media after the Watchmen episode aired reminded me of how well what Madigan calls a "conspiracy of silence" can succeed.
I had never heard of the Wilmington, N.C., coup of 1898 until I was in college, even though I grew up a few hours' drive from there--not in textbooks or history classes, despite it being the only violent overthrow of an elected government in U.S. history, and more than 60 black men were killed in the attendant riot. David Zucchino's Wilmington's Lie (Atlantic Monthly Press, $28; reviewed below) sheds light on an event that was so successfully buried, I imagine it would elicit a similar chorus of shock if it were depicted on a popular television series.
How does "inconvenient" history disappear? Julián Herbert explores that question in a different context in The House of the Pain of Others (Graywolf, $16), which probes the historical amnesia around the 1911 massacre of more than 300 Chinese immigrants in the Mexican city of Torreón. Herbert's findings similarly speak to the way alternative narratives develop to assuage any hint of collective or ancestral guilt, or merely to avoid looking at the ugly truth.
One of Watchmen's strengths is understanding how and why misleading narratives form; hopefully, it will inspire viewers to reconsider what they were--and weren't--taught. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine
In this Issue...
by Ada Calhoun
A thoughtful, incisive account of the myriad challenges facing Generation X women.
An exhaustively researched, utterly riveting account focusing on six passengers aboard the Titanic and how the ship's tragic demise became a death knell for the Edwardian era.
by Tami Charles
This picture book celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture, familial bonds and food is a reminder that there's nothing like the taste of freedom--and warm stew on a snowy day.
Review by Subjects:
08/10/2020 - 6:30PMThis month’s selection is UNRAVEL THE DUSK by Elizabeth Lim. This book club will meet online. Please email email@example.com to be added to the event.
08/10/2020 - 4:30PMThis month’s selection is HOLES by Louis Sachar. This book club will meet online. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the event.
08/10/2020 - 3:30PMThis month’s selection is SPY SCHOOL by Stuart Gibbs. We will read the first 150 pages this month and the rest in September. This book club will meet online. Please email email@example.com to be added to the event.
08/10/2020 - 11:00AMThis month’s selection is THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN by Lisa See. This book club will meet online. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the event.
08/11/2020 - 6:00PMThis month’s selection is THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead. This book club will meet online. Please email email@example.com to be added to the event.
08/11/2020 - 5:00PMIn partnership with the Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance, Page 158 Books is excited to present Reader, Meet Writer, a virtual event series featuring Southern authors hosted by national bestselling author Wiley Cash. Space is limited, so RSVP is required. Check out the rest of the tour on our website. It’s the late 1960s in McKinney, Texas. At the downtown theater and the local drive-in, movies—James Bond, My Fair Lady, Alfie, and Doctor Zhivago—feed the dreams and obsessions of...
08/13/2020 - 7:00PMIn partnership with the Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance, Page 158 Books is excited to present Reader, Meet Writer, a virtual event series featuring Southern authors hosted by national bestselling author Wiley Cash. Space is limited, so RSVP is required. Check out the rest of the tour on our website. Winner of the 2019 National Book Award in Nonfiction A brilliant, haunting and unforgettable memoir from a stunning new talent about the inexorable pull of home and family, set in a...
08/15/2020 - 9:00AMJoin us as we digitally celebrate Bookstore Romance Day! We will feature Romance recommendations on our social media and offer special grab bags in the week leading up to the big day. On Saturday, check out a day full of digital panels with some of the industries biggest names over on the official Bookstore Romance Day website.
08/17/2020 - 6:00PMThis month’s selection is AXIOM'S END by Lindsay Ellis. This book club will meet online. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the event.
08/18/2020 - 6:30PMPage 158 Books welcomes award-winning author Jenny Milchman to launch her new book THE SECOND MOTHER. Please note that this is a digital author event. Registeration can be found on our Crowdcast event. Opportunity: Teacher needed to instruct in one-room schoolhouse on remote island in Maine. Certification in grades K-8 a must. Julie Weathers isn't sure if she's running away or starting over, but the sun-washed, sea-stormed small town in Maine holds so much promise. The idea of teaching a...
08/18/2020 - 3:00PMIn partnership with the Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance, Page 158 Books is excited to present Reader, Meet Writer, a virtual event series featuring Southern authors hosted by national bestselling author Wiley Cash. Space is limited, so RSVP is required. Check out the rest of the tour on our website. Racist pseudoscience is on the rise—fueling hatred, feeding nationalism, and seeping into our discourse on everything from sports to intelligence. Even the well-intentioned repeat...
08/19/2020 - 6:30PMThis month’s selection is THE CRYING OF LOT 49 by Thomas Pynchon. This book club will meet online. Please email email@example.com to be added to the event.
08/20/2020 - 7:00PMIn partnership with the Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance, Page 158 Books is excited to present Reader, Meet Writer, a virtual event series featuring Southern authors hosted by national bestselling author Wiley Cash. Space is limited, so RSVP is required. Check out the rest of the tour on our website. Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best...
08/20/2020 - 6:30PMThis month’s selection is THE MAGPIE LORD by Kj Charles. This book club will meet online. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the event.
Women Writers Pop Quiz
Read More Women literary trivia: "Test your knowledge of women writers with a fun pop quiz," Electric Lit challenged.
"Dream jobs for book-lovers, from book butler to elephant librarian," were showcased by Penguin Random House.
Little Women was filmed entirely in Massachusetts. Boston.com toured "the historic, picturesque locations from the movie."
Thought Catalog considered "59 quick slang phrases from the 1920s we should start using again."
Author Douglas Kennedy picked his "top 10 novels about adultery" for the Guardian.
Time explored "why the U.S. sent librarians undercover to gather intelligence during World War II."
Rediscover: The StreetAnn Petry's The Street (1946) was the first novel by an African American woman to sell more than a million copies. Petry (1908-1997) was born in a small, predominately white Connecticut town to a working-class family. Her father eventually opened a pharmacy and her mother became a businesswoman, moving them to middle-class comfort. Despite several incidences of discrimination, Petry said she grew up free from many systemic challenges faced by other black people. She earned a pharmacy degree and worked for several years at her father's business before marrying and moving to New York City, where she wrote for multiple newspapers and studied creative writing at Columbia. Petry also worked at a school after-care in Harlem, which exposed her to neglected children and the plight of black urban poverty. She also wrote Country Place (1947) and The Narrows (1953), along with several children's books and story collections.
The Street follows single black mother Lutie Johnson in World War II-era Harlem. Despite daily encounters with racism, classism and sexism, Lutie firmly believes in Benjamin Franklin's philosophy of working hard and saving money, hoping one day to move herself and her son out of their tenement on 116th Street. But when the wealthy white owner of her building takes an interest in Lutie, all her plans are put in jeopardy. Today, Mariner Books is releasing a new edition of The Street with an introduction by Tayari Jones ($15.99, 9780358187547). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Reading with... David Levithan
|photo: Jake Ha|
When not at his day job as editorial director of Scholastic, David Levithan writes mostly for young people (although he also wrote The Lover's Dictionary for adults). He is the author of two of the most frequently banned books (according to the American Library Association)--Boy Meets Boy and Two Boys Kissing--as well as Every Day (made into a major motion picture) and its companion novels, plus several collaborations, including Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist. Levithan received the 2016 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his body of work. 19 Love Songs, out today (Knopf, $17.99), celebrates his longtime tradition of giving Valentine stories to his friends.
On your nightstand now:
After a taunting by a friend, I counted the number of books in my TBR stacks... and got to over 400. Luckily, I don't keep them on my nightstand, because what nightstand could withstand that weight? But if I can modify the question to mean "In your backpack right now to read when you have a chance," the answer is Kevin Barry's Night Boat to Tangier.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Your top five authors:
I will not fall into this trap! Do you know how many friends I have whose books I love? So I'm going to go with what 17-year-old David would have answered, which is: Anne Tyler, Alice Hoffman, Philip Roth, David Leavitt and Elmore Leonard. (When I was 17, I read like I was 47; now that I'm 47, I read like I'm 17. Discuss.)
Book you've faked reading:
I'm so much more likely to do the opposite, and fake that I haven't read something so I don't have to say I didn't like it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I suspect that most of my friends could answer this question for you. I will never tire of talking about Craig Thompson's Blankets, and buying a new friend a copy if I discover they haven't read it. I've probably bought 50 copies over the years, if not more. And it's not a cheap book.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Permanent Record. The one by Choi, not Snowden. (And I would have bought it eventually, because she's a great writer, but the first time I saw it, I was not in a position to be carrying a book around... but I saw the cover and HAD TO HAVE IT RIGHT AWAY.)
Book you hid from your parents:
The only thing I can think of here is my journal (which I only kept for about six months in high school).
Book that changed your life:
My books wouldn't have learned how to sing without Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat giving voice lessons.
Favorite line from a book:
Not THE favorite line, but A favorite line would be the opening to M.T. Anderson's Feed. I'd replicate it here, but if you've read the book, you'll remember it. And if you haven't read it, let this force you to search it out.
Five books you'll never part with:
Billy Merrell's Talking in the Dark; Tanuja Desai Hidier's Born Confused; Alex Gino's George; Debbie Wiles's upcoming Kent State; and the entirety of The Baby-sitters Club, because I've lived in Stoneybrook longer than I've lived anywhere else.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. I get genuinely envious when someone tells me they're about to read it for the first time.
Books from 2019 that you didn't work on that you want everyone to read:
A.S. King's Dig.; Abdi Nazemian's Like a Love Story; John McCarthy's Scared Violent Like Horses; and Sally Wen Mao's Oculus.
The Second Sleep
by Robert Harris
In The Second Sleep by Robert Harris (Fatherland), a startling spoiler occurs not two dozen pages in, completely upending the expected historical fiction. In 1468, London priest Christopher Fairfax arrives in rural Axford, where the parish priest, Thomas Lacey, died accidentally. Fairfax plans to deliver the eulogy and leave, but soon realizes that Lacey may have been murdered. The priest knows England's history: in the distant past an apocalypse occurred, and the Church now holds complete authority over the country. Lacey, in a shockingly heretical act, owned books published before the apocalypse, and he may have been murdered because of it. Aghast, Fairfax opens one of the books. "He felt as if a hand had reached out of the distant past and brushed its fingers across his face. He wished he could unsee what he had read, but knowledge alters everything, and he knew that was impossible."
Fairfax stays in Axford, both because he's obsessed with the forbidden information he's uncovering and also because, to his shame, he's attracted to a young widow, Lady Durston, whose husband also collected forbidden relics. Her fiancé, John Hancock, is a headstrong "force of nature" whose brawn, initially scorned by the more cerebral Fairfax, becomes an indispensible factor in uncovering the unimaginable past. Hancock doesn't understand how a priest can take part in an investigation expressly forbidden by the Church, but Fairfax says, "Faith that cannot withstand the truth is not a faith holding." In The Second Sleep, Harris has crafted an audacious, genre-bending novel. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: A young priest investigates a suspicious death and uncovers forbidden history in this genre-bending novel.
by Jorge Comensal , trans. by Charlotte Whittle
From the very first sentence comparing protagonist Ramón with an "angry baboon," Jorge Comensal's debut is a caustic yet strangely empathetic portrait of bourgeois and lower-class Mexicans in the grips of modernity. Ramón is a lawyer whose throat cancer costs him the ability to speak and his profession. Meanwhile, his family and caregivers grapple with their own problems. Comensal uses the bleak situation as grist for gleefully cynical tragicomedy. His characters have often hilarious neuroses, and a foul-mouthed parrot fits into the novel's scenery perfectly, but there is also real pathos in Ramón's collapse into despair and the inability of these characters to understand themselves.
The Mutations is not for readers sensitive to darker content. The narrative voice is close to the savagery of the later French crime novelists; it mocks the class structures and repressions that have warped middle-class Mexican society. Nevertheless, moments of grace abound for the subjects of this novel. The brutal, necessary ending is the culmination of that motif of brief serenity in a cruel universe.
But then at least that universe has created Comensal's work. This is a strong first novel (despite one ableist joke that feels like a cheap target) that carries readers with its unpredictability, the speed at which it tosses out blackly funny observations. Any bibliophile with a penchant for Pascal Garnier will like Comensal. He demonstrates a talent for dark comedy that hopefully will continue to be used in a world that may need it. --C.M. Crockford, freelance reviewer
Discover: The debut novel from promising young Mexican writer Jorge Comensal is a humorous portrait of personal catastrophe.
by Burhan Sönmez , trans. by Ümit Hussein
Boratin is "back at zero" since his unsuccessful suicide has landed him in a hospital bed instead of Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait. He's broken a rib but lost his memory. Strangers--even though they aren't--assure him he's "a brilliant singer and songwriter" for a popular band; that not long ago he lived with a woman but wasn't "too cut up about finishing with her"; that he hasn't seen his sister in far too long. "My mind, which hasn't got a single word about myself in it," he realizes, "is bursting with facts about other things"--his own name escapes him, but he can recall "names of ancient philosophers, the colors of soccer teams, the words of the first astronaut who went to the moon."
In the dizzying Labyrinth, Turkish novelist Burhan Sönmez (Istanbul, Istanbul) follows Boratin as he fills his newly blank slate with stories offered by others. He's closely guided (and guarded) by Bek, a devoted friend ("Is he my friend?" Borotin naturally questions), who provides glimpses of a shared past, all the while attempting gradually to reconnect Boratin with his unrecognizable life--friends, family, places, experiences. "Losing your memory has set you free," Bek dares to suggest, challenging Boratin to keep moving forward. A Turkish Cypriot living in Spain, Ümit Hussein is Sönmez's English translator; she efficiently alchemizes his spare punctuation and flowing paragraphs into a provocative examination of memory and loss, of intent and outcome. Resonant rewards await readers willing to pay close attention to conversations without speech tags and to ruminate on Sönmez's elliptical, masterful narrative. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: A Turkish musician's failed suicide attempt erases his past and leaves him with a bewildering uncertainty for his present and future.
by Alexa Martin
Blitzed, the third romance in Alexa Martin's Playbook series, is a sweet and steamy romantic comedy set in the world of professional football players and their WAGs--wives and girlfriends. Fans of the series will recognize Brynn, the owner of HERS, the bar at which many scenes in the first two books (Intercepted and Fumbled) take place, and Maxwell, the shy, secretly nerdy football star. While Maxwell plays defense in his career, Brynn plays defense with her heart. She's never had a real relationship before, scared of getting attached when she knows she's just like the mother who abandoned her as a teen. Luckily, Max is the ultimate caretaker hero, committed to building a bond with her, whether that be friendship or something more.
Guest appearances by secondary characters reinforce their previous Happily Ever Afters, while ongoing reality TV and charity events add levity to the otherwise even-keeled romantic arc. As the romance develops, so, too, does a mystery revolving around Maxwell's complicated relationship with his brother, which sets off Brynn's trust issues. She's uneasy with how much she loves his sweet gestures and giving nature, wary of depending on anyone or having them depend upon her. However, supportive friends and an affirming encounter with her mother help her realize that she has a lot more to give than she thought.
Martin's experience as the wife of a professional football player grounds the book with authentic details and immerses readers in a glitzy, dramatic world, while her feminist sensibilities ensure that all of the women are represented as three-dimensional characters with their own goals and motivations. Blitzed is sure to satisfy fans of football, romantic comedy and happy endings. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels
Discover: A commitment-phobic bar owner and a pro football player tackle the age-old problem of balancing independence with partnership in this funny, feminist romance.
The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era
by Gareth Russell
How is it possible that there is still so much to learn about the 20th century's most famous ship? More than a hundred years after the Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, Irish author Gareth Russell reveals a treasure trove of new information. Endlessly fascinating, The Ship of Dreams uses the sinking of the Titanic as a springboard to examine the end of the lavish Edwardian era and the world's sharp turn toward modernity.
Focusing on six notable passengers aboard the ship's maiden (and tragically final) voyage, Russell extensively charts the lives and fates of colorful characters such as shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, Jewish American immigrant Ida Straus, silent film star Dorothy Gibson and Lucy Leslie, the Countess of Rothes. Relying on reams of research, Russell also recalls royal spats, sinful romances and gilded extravagance worthy of Downton Abbey as he traces the backstories of his chosen subjects. Along the way, Russell offers a delightful meta-commentary on Titanic lore itself, dispelling popular conspiracy theories and reframing infamous moments in a new, more objective light. The book also includes intricate descriptions of the ship's interiors and day-to-day operations--small details that ultimately serve to highlight the scale of the inevitable climax. A porthole into history, The Ship of Dreams not only offers a comprehensive overview of the Edwardian era's fall, but also earns a richly deserved spot next to Walter Lord's A Night to Remember as an indispensable resource on the Titanic and her short yet everlasting life. --Zack Ruskin, freelance reviewer
Discover: An exhaustively researched, utterly riveting account focusing on six passengers aboard the Titanic and how the ship's tragic demise became a death knell for the Edwardian era.
Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy
by David Zucchino
Wilmington's Lie is a remarkable account of a distinctive historical moment: the only violent overthrow of an elected government in U.S. history. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Zucchino (Myth of the Welfare Queen) pierces layers of myth and invented history, built up by the successful perpetrators of the coup and their white supremacist allies, to depict the terrifying violence that set the stage for more than half a century of Jim Crow rule.
At the end of the 19th century, Wilmington, N.C., was a thriving mixed-race community with numerous black officials, including police officers. One of the wealthiest men in the city was a black man, and a sizable black middle class had developed. Republicans actively campaigned for black votes, and rewarded those votes with political appointments. It was a far cry from Southern states where white Democrats had already "redeemed" state and local governments.
The violence in Wilmington has sometimes been portrayed as a spontaneous outburst of racial animus. Wilmington's Lie definitively shows that the coup and the violence used to enforce it had been thoroughly planned by white supremacists. Zucchino describes how racial hatred was used as a tool by practical-minded Democrats who sought a way back into power.
Some of Zucchino's most provocative reflections come in the epilogue, where he draws comparisons between the voter suppression methods of the 19th century and the recent efforts of North Carolina's Republican politicians to limit black, and therefore Democratic, voting. Zucchino never needs to stretch to find connections between the 1898 coup and the present day. The trauma--as well as political and economic consequences--still linger. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine
Discover: Wilmington's Lie reconstructs the only violent overthrow of an elected government in U.S. history, tying the white supremacist bloodshed to political goals that continue today.
Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants
by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández
The U.S. is obsessed with locking up immigrants, says César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, lawyer and University of Denver professor, who has extensive knowledge about U.S. immigration and imprisonment. Migrating to Prison provides an eye-opening look at the origins of the system and how it operates, with family detention somehow viewed as a humanitarian response to family separation; particularly infuriating when separations result from the targeting of "criminal aliens." These fellow humans range from asylum seekers fleeing hardships to soldiers dealing with PTSD after fighting for the country that now disowns them.
García Hernández presents an abundance of facts and history in a passionate yet credible fashion that should raise the hackles of everyone. The tale isn't a new one. Targeted confinement dates back to anti-Chinese sentiment of 1800s California. It's no coincidence that selective imprisonment escalated following the civil rights movement--a substitution for racism that could no longer be expressed as openly. García Hernández posits that the system isn't broken, but is intended to marginalize minorities for political and financial gain.
The author argues that immigration law is like "a bouncer at a trendy nightclub" and Americans have "always used fear and race to imprison those we see as threats," allowing "white racists [to] find comfort against the prevailing winds of change." García Hernández makes a solid case for the situation as a "humanitarian catastrophe." By any stretch, "the promise that the United States welcomes 'anyone with the will and heart to get here' is flat out false." --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: An immigration lawyer takes the U.S. immigration imprisonment system to task in this passionate, credible treatise.
Psychology & Self-Help
The Thank-You Project: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time
by Nancy Davis Kho
It's not surprising that Nancy Davis Kho "has a Pollyanna streak a mile wide"--her first book, The Thank-You Project: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time, is a heartfelt effort to encourage readers to send written thank-you notes to those who have enriched their lives.
Kho, author of the Midlife Mixtape blog and podcast, commemorated her 50th year by writing 50 letters--to "see, say, and savor" the people, places and things that made her life richer. During her year of selecting recipients and writing the letters, she also researched "the restorative power of deliberate gratitude," and cites research confirming the emotional and physiological benefits of focusing on positive feelings, described in one study as "counting blessings versus burdens." She acknowledges the stumbling blocks of embarking on a Thank-You Project, from accepting the challenge of sticking with a year-long effort to admitting a weakness when thanking a friend who offered help. "Maybe what we need to heal the divisive and fractious times in which we live is an 'Interdependence Day,' " she muses, noting the need for sustaining friendships.
For anyone open to embracing a formal Thank-You Project, Kho's step-by-step handbook provides inspiring guidance. And readers looking for a feel-good memoir emphasizing the benefits of appreciation (with detailed playlists) will be grateful to her for sharing her story. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, former bookseller and freelance reviewer
Discover: This guidebook for writing thank-you letters emphasizes the intrinsic benefits of sharing gratitude.
Health & Medicine
Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis
by Ada Calhoun
It's no secret that women are under stress: juggling careers, relationships, motherhood (or the decision to opt out of it) and managing the myriad everyday details of life. But as Ada Calhoun discovered, Gen X women are especially strained. Calhoun, a Gen Xer feeling the weight of balancing work, parenting, marriage, friendship and "having it all," examines her generation's collective midlife crisis (and its attendant guilt) in her third nonfiction book, Why We Can't Sleep.
Building on her popular 2017 essay "The New Midlife Crisis for Women" for the Oprah website, Calhoun (Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give) begins by defining Generation X and exploring the cultural, social and political factors that have shaped her peers' approach to life. Rising rates of crime and divorce, economic instability and environmental concerns might well be expected to cause uncertainty and long-term anxiety. But Calhoun also argues that the high expectations placed on her generation have played a part. For Gen X women, raised on girl-power mantras and second-wave feminism, "the belief that girls could do anything morphed into a directive that they must do everything."
Midlife is challenging, Calhoun admits: there's no way around the changes it brings, nor any avoiding a certain amount of grief and worry. "It helps," she says, "to surround myself with women my age who speak honestly about their lives." Gradually letting go of the idea that reaching middle age means having it figured out--whatever "it" is--may allow Calhoun and her peers to be curious and open to their next chapters, rather than fearing them. For Gen X women and the people who love them, Calhoun's book is a great place to start. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: A thoughtful, incisive account of the myriad challenges facing Generation X women.
Jay-Z: Made in America
by Michael Eric Dyson
Michael Eric Dyson's book of interwoven essays on the importance of rapper and mogul Jay-Z is a triumph of rap academia. For far too long, Dyson (The Black Presidency) has been forced to justify his motivations for teaching university-caliber classes on hip hop (and several of its most enduring figures) to a skeptical public. Jay-Z: Made in America should put that debate to rest.
Fandom for the "Empire State of Mind" rapper is not required to appreciate Dyson's work, which focuses on three facets of the artist's oeuvre: hustle, poetry and politics. Starting with hustle, Dyson mines Jay-Z's lyrics and annotates his career to establish his thesis: that the rapper's career can be viewed as an extension of the mentality he has relied on since he was a kid in Brooklyn's Marcy housing project, selling crack "to those who couldn't take the pain." Later, Dyson's argument expands as the book's focus pivots to examine the rapper's arguably unparalleled use of language, as well as his interest and involvement in politics and justice reform. Within this overarching framework, Dyson also finds time to eulogize the life and work of the late Nipsey Hussle, to analyze the posthumous reputation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to center the career and legacy of Jay-Z in a larger conversation of black artistry and excellence. As more serious critics finally welcome (albeit tacitly) hip-hop into the pantheon of serious cultural critique, Dyson's Jay-Z: Made in America will be embraced as one example of how to do it right. --Zack Ruskin, freelance reviewer
Discover: Interwoven essays focusing on aspects of rapper/businessman Jay-Z's career take a refreshingly academic approach to analyzing one of music's most successful artists.
Children's & Young Adult
by Tami Charles , illust. by Jacqueline Alcántara
In Tami Charles and Jacqueline Alcántara's Freedom Soup, a granddaughter and grandmother create a traditional Haitian meal together, combining history and delicious food. The two prepare Freedom Soup, a stew filled with vegetables, meat and herbs made to celebrate the new year in most Haitian households. Ti Gran instructs Belle on what ingredients to slide into the pot. As Belle adds the ingredients, Ti Gran explains the origins of the soup, which doubles as the history of Haitian independence from colonialism and slavery. Charles's text is just as celebratory as Alcántara's images.
Alcántara's (The Field) textured illustrations--rendered in pencil, marker and gouache and then assembled digitally--are accented with the golden orange of Belle's favorite ingredient: pumpkin. The sumptuous illustrations accentuate Tami Charles's evocative, celebratory text. In an author's note, Charles (Becoming Beatriz) shares her inspiration for this luscious picture book: her husband's Ti Gran taught her how to make Freedom Soup (or Soup Joumou) with a recipe that had been passed down for generations. She includes their family's kid-friendly recipe, giving readers an opportunity to make the traditional soup at home. Haitian Creole words appear throughout, adding to the book's authenticity, and some are translated within the recipe.
The story concludes with family members and friends pouring into Ti Gran's home, a shelter from the "cottony-thick" snow. Joy overflows the rooms as they celebrate the new year--and Belle's delicious soup. Her pride in her cooking skills reflects her pride in her Haitian heritage: "I puff out my shoulders wider than the Haitian mountains, stand so tall I can almost touch the moon." --Shelley Diaz, supervising librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library
Discover: This picture book celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture, familial bonds and food is a reminder that there's nothing like the taste of freedom--and warm stew on a snowy day.
Eclipse Chaser: Science in the Moon's Shadow
by Ilima Loomis , Amanda Cowan, photographer
Solar physicist Shadia Habbal travels the world to study the sun's corona. When a solar eclipse is going to occur, she and a team of scientists with specialized equipment set out for a previously scouted location that has been determined to be an optimal place for viewing the event. This is "one of the few times scientists can get a good look" at the corona. With a window of only a few minutes, the team's work is calibrated down to fractions of a second, and everyone has a specific role to play. But even if the team is spot on with their responsibilities, weather and other environmental factors can impede their efforts and ruin months of preparation. In her contribution to the Scientists in the Field series, writer Ilima Loomis uses Habbal's preparation for the 2017 eclipse in the United States to illuminate all the intricacies of the meticulous operation to study the heart of the solar system.
Loomis's descriptions of the complex science are accompanied by supplemental sections that make the book highly accessible, offering explanations of concepts like solar wind or illustrating the tools the scientists use. Amanda Cowan's photographs bring readers closer to the action of the eclipse chase. Her images vividly capture mood and emotion, adding a truly human element to the adventure: the event is more than data in a textbook, it's hopes and dreams built on a few precious minutes. Readers will surely feel invested in it all, hoping for a successful result. Budding astronomers should find much to enjoy in these pages, and the Eclipse Chaser herself is likely to spark a light of interest in others as well. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: Over 17 months, a solar physicist prepares for the "Great American Eclipse," hoping to gather important data in only a couple minutes of total eclipse observation.