Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Baratunde Thurston’

imgresAfter our last post, a few subscribers wrote us looking for “happy” stories. They were clear these should not be poorly written tales or romance novels or self-help, but just great books that as you close their last pages you feel good about the world.

Since these requests came from parents (each mentioned they read with their kids), we picked “happy books” as our theme for our annual Mother’s Day gift guide.  Don’t worry, if you are not a Mom or someone in need of a Mother’s Day gift for the moms in your life, these are all very good books we frequently recommend to many readers with great results. So, please pick one (or two) for yourself and/or your mom, and enjoy a well-told tale that will leave you feeling happy.

images-3

Books That Just Leave You Feeling Good When You Close Their Pages

Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda (2007) . Truly an original, uplifting (though it may not seem so at first!) book set in modern-day France and translated beautifully. It is a story of friendship and connection despite the busy life that swirls all around us. And, most importantly for this post, it leaves you feeling good about life. Basically, who would not want to spend time in a Parisian flat with memorable characters? We promise you will enjoy every moment you spend with this novel. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011) – While the title refers to the sisters in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, this story is actually about three very modern-day siblings, Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia (they grew up with a Shakespeare professor for a father, hence their names). The tale begins with them all returning home to Ohio from their rather messy adult lives to help care for their ailing mother. Their uncanny ability to quote the Bard at every twist and turn makes for fun, smart dialogue, but it is their very present day struggles that make this story relevant. There is some romance, but most of all it is the sisters’ love for and understanding of each other that makes this book endearing. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Funny Girl by Nick Hornsby (2015) – A fun look at life in 1960s Britian through the eyes of a gorgeous girl who just wants to be funny.  Mr. Hornsby delivers in this tale of a group of people (two male writers, a male producer and a funny girl) who meet and create an iconic BBC sitcom, and then must deal with all the fame that it brings. Fans of “I Love Lucy” or BBC sitcoms will be charmed, as will fans for Mr. Hornby’s humor and wit.

Zorro by Isabel Allende (2005).  While Ms. Allende is best known for magic realism, this novel offers a more straight forward narrative than found in most of her books. Ms. Allende’s account of the legend begins with Zorro’s childhood and finishes with the hero. We think you will just have fun with this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2015) – As people who love bookstores and booksellers, it is hard not to like this charming novel about a bookseller and his store, the love found when a baby is left among his shelves, and the love life of one of his publishing reps. We recommend this to anyone in need of a story that leaves you smiling, or for anyone needing a book to give someone who loves a sentimental tale (e.g., your Mom). ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

A Little Less “Happy”, but Truly Great Books 

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2008) – Many characters intersect in this tale of New York and love and life and redemption. Beginning in August 1974 as a man walks a tightrope strung between the Twin Towers, this ambitious and well done novel follows the stories of many New Yorkers, including, but not limited to, an artist, an Irish monk, a group of mothers mourning their military sons, and a prostitute. This won the National Book Award, please read it to discover why for yourself. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell (2002) – A look at China and USA through the eyes of a young woman whose life is greatly affected her American father’s fascination with China. Not necessarily light, but truly a great, great “coming of age” book. We have been recommending this to men, women and young adults for years and have never had a disgruntled customer.  One all male book club declared it led to their best discussion book ever. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Unusual and Interesting Books – Fiction and Non-fiction

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – Through truly funny and often painful humor,  Mr. Thurston makes readers think hard about their own racist tendencies.  He even has a focus group, with a token white person, to help him think through many of the items he discusses.  Whether you agree with him or not, for me, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am truly appreciative of the source that started me thinking about improving my actions. Bonus – this book makes you laugh out loud. ~ Lisa Christie

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (2005) – This saga, written in gorgeous/lyrical prose, with a bit of magical realism, shows a history of Mexico that until this book was unknown to me. Reach for it when you are looking for a reason to sit down with an engrossing book for a few days. ~ Lisa Christie

images-2

Read Full Post »

The Book Jam is of two minds about African-American history month.  On the one hand, any excuse to delve further into books by amazing authors who are African-American (see Toni Morrison) is a reason to rejoice.  On the other hand, we do not want to seem belittling by focusing on African-American history just because it is February.  And, since one of our sons (who technically is Latino) is identifying as a Black boy, we are especially cognizant of the complicated issues this month brings to light.

Martin Luther King Jr.Civil Rights MovementBlack History FactsAfrican-American Soldiers in the Civil WarHarriet TubmanMarch on WashingtonFreedom Rides

We also recognize that as white women, we can not ever know what it is like to be Black in the USA.  However, we believe as recent well-publicized research about reading has shown, good fiction has the power to transform and teach.  So in that light, and, since The Book Jam often features books by or about African-Americans and/or Africa, we are choosing to look at February as another excuse to highlight more great fiction and nonfiction options by and about African-Americans. May we all learn something. 

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kid (2014) – I sincerely hope any Oprah nay-sayers are ready to overlook her pick of this book for her book club.  If you dismiss this novel just because she chose it, you will miss out on a great story. Besides, we honestly believe that any book that helps you understand the day-to-day plight of African-American slaves and the forming of two important American abolitionists is worth your precious reading time.  The narration mostly takes place in Charleston, SC and alternates between the voices of a young woman slave owner and of her young slave.  The prose by the best selling author of The Secret Life of Bees keeps you turning the pages, the characters are interesting, and few of the relationships are simple – which makes you think.  What I most loved about this book — both of the narrators are based upon actual people from history. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (2013) – Yes, that John Lewis, the Congressman and the man who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., has (with two collaborators) written a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. Told in flashback as a story relayed to two young constituents who came to visit his Capital Hill offices on the morning of Barack Obama’s first inauguration, this book begins with his childhood in rural Alabama and follows Mr. Lewis through meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. and into his student activist days in Nashville.  The pictures perfectly explore how his life must have felt at the time.  The prose explains what he was thinking as each of the momentous moments of his life unfolds.  According to the authors, the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was inspirational to Mr. Lewis and other student activists.  We hope March proves as inspiring to future leaders.  We are so glad we found this book (thanks to our town’s children’s librarian), and are truly looking forward to Book Two. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations Edited by Retha Powers and Henry Louis Gates (2013) – Perfect for anyone interested in history, famous individuals or words of wisdom.  Five thousand (although we took the editors’ word for that number and did not count them) quotes are pulled — covering such diverse time frames as Ancient Egypt, American slavery, the Civil Rights Era, Apartheid, and today. With a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and passages from authors, artists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, activists, politicians, this volume places quotes from Aesop’s Fables and the Holy Bible beside the words of Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou and Jay-Z. How many books can claim that? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And yes, we reviewed these last year, but we believe they are worth mentioning again –

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – As the author himself facetiously writes, please read this as part of your preparation for African-American history month activities. Through truly funny and often painful humor,  Mr. Thurston makes readers think hard about their own racist tendencies.  He even has a focus group, with a token white person, to help him think through many of the items he discusses.  Whether you agree with him or not, for me, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am truly appreciative of the source that started me thinking about improving my actions. Bonus – it makes you laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley (2011) – A book for children and the adults in their lives.  In this book, three young slaves, two of them President Jefferson’s own children fathered with his slave Sally Hemings, tell their stories of life at Monticello.  Their voices highlight the contradiction between slavery and freedom, and illustrate the USA’s struggles while the Founding Fathers still lived and worked.  As such, the USA’s history unfolds from a typically unseen perspective. ~ Lisa Christie

Read Full Post »

 

My eldest son and his fourth grade classmates have been challenged by their amazing teacher to memorize a portion of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.  Thus, while I am not writing from the “prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire” or the “mighty mountains of New York“, our house on a Vermont hilltop has been filled this past week with important and familiar phrases. Phrases such as:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

and

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

These immortal phrases, combined with the convergence of the holiday weekend honoring Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, have us thinking about race and identity in America. This, in turn, has affected our reading.  So here are some recommendations for those of you who wish to also think a bit more about race, or who just want to read a good book.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – I should warn you I am white (as you may have surmised from my pictures on this blog and the fact I live in Vermont, one of the least ethnically diverse states in America). But, I am raising two Latino children; one of whom periodically identifies as a Black man.  So, I picked this up for some insight and I am glad I did. Through truly funny and often painful humor,  Mr. Thurston, of Jack and Jill Politics and The Onion, makes the reader think hard about their own racist tendencies.  Besides the memoir aspects of the book, during which he shares stories about his politically inspired Nigerian name and the heroics of his hippie mother, Mr. Thurston also offers practical advice on “How to Be the (Next) Black President” and “How to Celebrate Black History Month.”  He even has a focus group, with a token white person, to help him think through many of the items he proposes or discusses.  Whether you agree with him or not, for me, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am truly appreciative of the source that started me thinking about improving my actions. In this case, I was also glad for the laugh out loud moments.  As the author himself facetiously writes, please read this as part of your preparation for African-American history month activities. ~ Lisa Christie

Looking for The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco (2012). Each of the poems in this latest book of poetry by Inaugural poet Richard Blanco takes a particular part of the author’s childhood (i.e., a beach vacation) and uses it to explore the person he is today.  As the poems reveal, Cuban-American, gay man, poet, New Englander, Florida born and bred, are all possible adjectives for Mr. Blanco.  But labels don’t quite capture the entirety of a person.  As the poet himself states that in this book, “I am looking to capture those elusive moments that come to define us, be it through family, country, or love.”  This looking is no small task, and one, as these poems remind us, that it seems each of us, poet or not, tackles in our own way throughout our life.

Besides the honor of being part of today’s inauguration, Blanco has won several awards for his work: the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh for his first collection, City of a Hundred Fires, and the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award for his second book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead.  If you have not yet discovered his work, or wish to learn a bit about American identity, or want to feel a small part of today’s inaugural festivities, or just want to read a few good poems, pick up this book and enjoy.  ~ Lisa Christie

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (2004) – This review focuses on the audio version of this book for which our President won a Grammy. (Side note:  President Obama and his producer also won one for The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.) I am truly glad that I finally found the time to listen.  Not only was it fun to have his voice in my minivan as I drove over our snow-covered roads, it was enlightening and thought-provoking to hear how his childhood, his absent father,  his step-father, his mother, his grandparents, as well as important teachers, shaped President Obama’s life.  It may serve as a good reminder that you never know who you will be influencing with your own actions. It may inspire you in its telling of an American story.  But, it is definitely a source of insight into our 44th President as he takes the oath of office for the fourth time today. ~ Lisa Christie

For those of you feeling the need to “attend” an inaugural ball, check out http://busboysandpoets.com/events/info/peace-ball-2013.  This is a bash organized by an independent bookseller in the DC area, and while it occurred last night, we thought it was worth highlighting.  The New York Times also lists it as one of the “hot ticket” inaugural balls – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/fashion/a-list-guide-to-the-inauguration-parties.html?pagewanted=all.  So click away, and enjoy a bit of inaugural festivities on your own electronic devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »