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Archive for the ‘Amateur Philosophers’ Category

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Every year we audit the diversity of the authors we review because we truly believe we are what we read; and also because we truly believe that the best way to expand your horizons (when you can’t actually travel) is to read books written by or about people who are different from you. It is our hope these audits expose the voices we are missing in our libraries, and allow us to fill those gaps in our next year of reviews.

During the twelve months since our February 2017 audit, we reviewed 164 authors. If you have no interest in the audit results and only wish to see our new reviews of four great books, just scroll down to the next image — the new reviews start there.

The fine print for this audit: We did not include guest columns or the “3 Questions” series, because we don’t control their selections. We also excluded books written by groups such as Lonely Planet or series written by a variety of authors. Although we know some of the authors we highlighted identify as members of the LGBTQ community, we do not know the sexual orientations for all the authors we review, and thus do not audit by sexual orientation. We also do not have access to economic class statistics. Thus, our diversity audit focuses on gender and race/ethnicity.

Now some significant numbers from this latest audit: Women authors were 59% of the authors we featured. Fewer than half (41%) of all authors we featured were white women, and some (18%) of all authors we read were white women from outside the USA. Fewer than 10% of our featured authors were Latinas (5%) or Asian women (4%); and, 15% of the authors were black (either African or African-American) women.

There was slightly less diversity of country and ethnicity in the men we reviewed. Almost a third (28%) of the authors we featured were white men from outside of the USA. Ten percent of the male authors were black. Very few authors we featured were Asian men (1%) or Latinos (1%).

Adding men and women together, 32% of the authors we reviewed were persons of color. Within the white authors there was geographic diversity — more than half (55%) of the white authors we featured were from outside the USA (i.e., Canada, UK, Australia, Sweden). The largest group (25% of total authors reviewed) of authors of color were black (African or African American).

To sum, while we are improving the diversity of the authors reviewed — 26% of authors in 2016 and 23% in 2015 were persons of color — the fact remains that not quite a third (32%) of the authors we featured during the past 12 months were authors of color. So, once again, we vow to continue to search the shelves for a diversity of authors.

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And now some new reviews.

We begin February – Black History Month – by highlighting some great, new books by authors who identify as black.

FC9781250171085.jpgWhen They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors (2018) – This memoir by one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement powerfully combines her personal experiences as a black woman in the USA with overarching social commentary about life for black Americans living in poverty. Her family’s story is incredibly moving and her prose makes all she has dealt with in her short life incredibly accessible. In the process, she also outlines the work, people, and dreams behind Black Lives Matter, a story greatly enhanced by her candor about her personal journey. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780871407535.jpgThe Annotated African American Folktales edited by Henry Louis Gates and Maria Tatar (2018) – Susan Voake of the Norwich Bookstore brought this to our attention with her recent review — “Hallelujah! Let’s begin 2018 with a landmark volume by two luminaries in their fields. Collections of African American folktales have been available, specifically for children, for the last thirty years. For the first time, they are collected and annotated by authorities in both African American culture and world folklore for the popular adult audience.” I agree this volume is worth reading, as well as owning, for years to come. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780062359995.jpgAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (2016) – This novel was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2016, but somehow I only just read it last week. (Perhaps I was too busy reading her fabulous children’s books.) In this adult novel, August, the novel’s main character, and her closest girlfriends believe Brooklyn is a magical place where they feel beautiful and capable, and they know a bright future is theirs for the taking. It is also a place where men behave badly, mothers have difficulties coping, and madness often prevails. Told in sparse prose, Ms. Woodson provides insight into growing up a black girl in the USA, and city life in NYC. If you need further persuasion her work is worth reading, she has been recognized with the Coretta Scott King, Newberry Honor, and a Caldecott Honor awards, just to name a few. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781594206252.jpgFeel Free by Zadie Smith (2018) – Essays by one of my favorite writers are always a reason to celebrate. This new collection contains musings about social networks, joy, the Oscar-nominated movie “Get Out”, Rome, mourning, and Key and Peele. As always, this book contains her precise, beautiful, and thought-provoking prose. Enjoy! (Thank you to children’s librarian extraordinaire Ms. Beth for letting us borrow your advance copy of this superb collection so we could include it today.) ~ Lisa Christie

And, we finish with some political cartooning.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing and the living of life, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.

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Today, we feature Michele Campbell and her thriller It’s Always the Husband. Ms. Campbell, a New York native and resident of the Upper Valley, has taught law at the Vermont Law School and served as a federal prosecutor in New York City.  Ms. Campbell is a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Law School.

Ms. Campbell will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, May  31st to discuss It’s Always the Husband. Reservations are recommended as they expect seats to “sell out”. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

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1. What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

As a girl, I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott on repeat. I would literally finish the last page of these books and start over with the first. Both books had strong female protagonists who struggled to navigate the stifling expectations set for girls in their time and place, and had loving yet complicated relationships with their female family members. In high school, The Great Gatsby, with its impeccable prose and focus on issues of social class, caught my imagination. These three books shaped my interest in writing crime stories that explore issues of women, society and social class.

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2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin are two of the greatest books written in my lifetime, and I’ve read them both numerous times. She is astonishingly prolific, and I would love to ask her about the glorious span of her career – how she writes, how she manages so many projects, and how she moves, seemingly effortlessly, between genres. Ultimately, I just think she would be inspiring to talk to. She’s a visionary, a feminist, someone with a dark sense of humor and refreshingly strong opinions. I love her.

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3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

How much space do I have to tell you about all the wonderful books in my TBR pile? Like many writers, I’m a book hoarder. Between my actual, physical nightstand and my e-reader, I have enough books to keep me busy for months, if not years, to come. Some current notables: The Gunslinger by Stephen King, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Where It Hurts by Reed Farrell Coleman, Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and A Passage to India by E.M. Forster.

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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. And, since prevention begins with awareness, we use this opportunity to highlight books that might help you think about sexual violence and its effects. We promise each of these books is a great book in its own right; we just unite them here because they each in some way help us think about how to prevent violence in both words and deeds. They also provide an excuse to once again highlight the important work of WISE — our local organization dedicated to ending gender-based violence through survivor-centered advocacy, prevention, education, and mobilization for social change.

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DDear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions Cover Imageear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2017) – We could call this a follow-up to her best selling We Should All Be Feminists . The first mused; this is more direct.  Enjoy.

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) – A brief treatise of why men and women should be proud to be feminists by an amazing writer. (Makes a great graduation or birthday gift for your favorite older teen.) We include both of Ms. Adichie’s books in this post because we believe that if we could all be feminists, many factors leading to sexual assault would be alleviated, ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

51GxCWpjiuL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014)  – Buckle up your backpacks and get ready for playground politics and modern parenting. The lives of three mothers converge on the first day of kindergarten at an upscale elementary school in coastal Australia. Observant, humorous, and also surprising, this “un-putdownable” book explores the lies that we all tell ourselves and each other. Part mystery (someone ends up dead, but who?), part social commentary (in that it bravely explores the very serious issue of domestic abuse), part page-turner, this book is sure not to disappoint. Please note that a  portion of this review was initially published on the Book Jam on December 29, 2014).~ Lisa Cadow

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImageThe Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande (2016) – This book seems especially important with all the recent talk about walls along the US border and hatred towards illegal immigrants.  Ms. Grande has adapted her memoir into this book for young adults. In it, she tells of her life as a toddler in an impoverished town in Mexico, her three attempts to cross into the USA with a coyote as a young child, her life in LA as an illegal immigrant, how her family gained legal status and how she managed college. This is not for the faint hearted due to themes of physical abuse and complicated relationships with parents who are always leaving. But it is important to be informed, and this book will put faces on any political discussions about immigration that the teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

Behind Closed Doors Cover ImageBehind Closed Doors by BA Paris (2017) – This thriller about a completely creepy psychopath and the wife he has trapped inside his life will probably be a better movie than book, but it still had me wondering “WTF?” as I read it in one fell swoop. Read it if you want to explore how not all abuse is physical. ~ Lisa Christie
Quicksand Cover ImageQuicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (2017) – This was truly an amazing thriller. (And, it was named best Swedish crime novel of the year, and well reviewed by the NYTimes.) For fans for court room dramas, we are not sure you can do better than this tale of a teen accused of planning and executing, with her boyfriend, a mass murder of her classmates. The boyfriend died during the mass shooting so she alone remains on trial. As her story unfolds, you can reflect on parenting, teenage life, immigration and contemporary Sweden. Why do we include it in this post? Because part of teen life means dealing with sexuality and pressure and sometimes date rape. Or you can just enjoy a well-told (or at least well-translated) story. ~ Lisa Christie

Milk and Honey Cover ImageMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (2015) – Kaur’s book of poetry has been a best-seller since it was released by Andews McMeel Publishing in 2015. Kaur’s powerful words resonate with women of all ages. Her first book includes short, deeply affecting poems and observations written entirely in lower case and with no punctuation except an occasional period.  Kaur divides this, her first book that includes her own line drawings, into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing.  The following complete poem, from “the hurting” section of “Milk and Honey” illustrates how much she can accomplish with very few words: “you were so afraid, of my voice, i decided to be, afraid of it too.” We are including this title in today’s post because her work unapologetically addresses difficult women’s issues such as abandonment, self-doubt, exploitation, abuse, and physical shame. But she also blooms when she writes of love, acceptance, and triumph.  Kaur is a 24-year-old artist, poet, and performer who was born in India but who now lives with her family in Canada. Don’t miss her work, she has a lot to say – and don’t forget to pass it on when you’re done. ~Lisa Cadow

The Hate U Give Cover ImageThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) – As Book Jam readers know, we love this fresh, enlightening, and spectacular book about the black lives lost at the hands of the police every year in the USA. Starr Carter, the teen Ms. Thomas created to put faces on the statistics, straddles two worlds — that of her poor black neighborhood and that of her exclusive prep school on the other side of town. She believes she is doing a pretty good job managing the differing realities of her life until she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer. How does it relate to this post? One of the main characters must navigate an aggressively abusive relationship. ~ Lisa Christie

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