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Posts Tagged ‘Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’

Today, the Book Jam had planned to post reviews of some great books to read as summer fades. However, the news from Charlottesville, Virginia has us reeling. Thus, we reviewed our archives and are republishing reviews of books that might help us all contemplate racism in the United States and what we wish to do about it. We include books for adults, young adults, and children because it seems to us that, no matter our age, we all have a lot to think about. (Please note these are all great stories – with a caveat that some are more literary than others; they all just happen to contain an opportunity to think about race and our reactions and actions.)

To sum — because we feel, for a variety of reasons, that these books are far more relevant — today, instead of the “beach reads” we had planned to recommend, we re-share these reviews with the best of intentions and love.

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Mudbound by Hilary Jordan (2008) — This novel provides yet another reason to always read Bellewether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction winners.  This prize-winning story set in post WWII Mississippi is a heartbreaking story of racial relations, poor treatment of returning veterans, and the high price of silence as members of two families living in rural Mississippi collide. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (2013) – Congressman John Lewis wrote this memoir in the form of a graphic novel. Book One begins with his childhood in rural Alabama and follows Mr. Lewis through meeting Martin Luther King and then his own student activist days in Nashville. We also recommend Book Two and Book Three that follow his life to the present. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Interpreter of Maladies Cover ImageInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999) – If you somehow missed this collection of nine short stories about Indian-American immigrants, fix that now and read these Pulitzer Prize winning tales. Ms. Lahiri’s prose is gorgeously crafted, and her characters and their trials and tribulations – both the mundane and the incredible – will stay with you long after you finish the last sentences. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Americanah Cover ImageAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013) – Before she wrote We Should All Be Feminists, Ms. Adichi earned our reading loyalty with this incredible novel of love and culture clash. As Maureen Corrigan of NPR stated, “Adichie has written a big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color . . . Americanah is a sweeping story that derives its power as much from Adichie’s witty and fluid writing style as it does from keen social commentary. . . . ”

Sycamore Row by John Grisham (October 2013) – Mr. Grisham is a master at plot and suspense, and has once again created a page-turning story. Since I am a fan of the movie A Time To Kill, spending time with Jake Brigance during Sycamore Row — this time three years after the trial from A Time to Kill — felt like a mini reunion. Again, as with Mr. Iles’s book, other reviewers agree this is a must read. As the New York Times review stated “‘Sycamore Row’ reminds us that the best legal fiction is written by lawyers.” Or as the Washington Post reviewer wrote “‘Sycamore Row’ is easily the best of his books that I’ve read and ranks on my list with Stephen King’s “11/22/63” as one of the two most impressive popular novels in recent years.” Please note: This book ended up on many best of 2013 lists — lists that include authors whose novels tend not to become blockbuster movies  — and it was also previously mentioned by The Book Jam in our 2013 last minute holiday gifts post~ Lisa Christie

Like No Other by Una LaMarche (July 2014) – West Side Story with an African-American as the male lead and a Hasidic girl as the female lead.  Set in modern-day Brooklyn, this tale explores the feelings one’s first true love brings, and what it means to make your own way into the world — even if it requires navigating respecting one’s parents while rebelling from their rules. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Ghana Must Go Cover ImageGhana Must Go by Taiye Selasi (2013) – When a renowned surgeon dies suddenly outside his home in Accra, his family, which is scattered across the globe, suddenly learns much more about him and what his choices meant for them. Beautifully rendered, this novel takes you from Accra to Lagos to London and to New York. It also shows us the power of love, family, and choices as we figure out who we are and where we come from. ~ Lisa Christie

Dreaming in Cuban Cover ImageDreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia (1992) – Reaching far back in our bookshelf, our memories, and into the Caribbean Sea, our hands land on Garcia’s 1992 novel of the Cuban immigration experience. Told from the perspective of three generations of strong women, this lush narrative will be appreciated by lovers of magical realism. Strong female characters tell the story of the experiences of being political expats in New York City, and also of the ones left behind in Cuba. Moving between the United States and Cuba, and the present and the past, this book creates a sensation of dreaming but also of the very real situation of a country and its people experiencing turmoil and change. ~ Lisa Cadow (seconded by Lisa Christie)

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImageThe Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande(2016) – With this book, Ms. Grande has adapted her adult memoir for middle grade readers and 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 insert faces into any political discussions about immigration that the pre-teens and teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided Cover ImageIn The Country We Love by Diane Guerrero (2016) – One of the stars of “Orange is the New Black” penned this memoir (with some help from a co-author) about her life as the USA-born daughter of undocumented immigrants from Colombia. Her story hinges on the day her parents were deported while she was at school, after which she was left to fend on her own, relying on her friends for places to live so she could finish High School in the USA. She is now using her fame to help shed light on the lives of the undocumented in the USA. While the prose may not sing quite as well as some of the other books on this list from award winning authors, I, for one, was appalled at some of the more surreal aspects of her story (e.g., she was completely forgotten by the US government which never checked on her, or helped her in any shape or form). And, I am very grateful she broke years of silence to put her face on many nameless Americans, and on a problem we all need to help solve. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781101934593.jpgFlying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (2017) – Ms. Oh, the founder of “We Need Diverse Books“, has edited a collection of short stories by authors who happen to be persons of color. Among them, the group has earned every major award in children’s publishing, as well as popularity as New York Times bestselling authors. Each story is completely unrelated to the rest and totally fabulous. This collection is perfect for a reluctant reader as one of these stories is sure to be just right. (Perhaps the one by Kwame Alexander?) And, as a collection, it makes a great family read aloud. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781442494985.jpgStella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper (2015) – A superb book about racism in depression-era North Carolina told from the perspective of a young African American girl. Don’t take my word for the quality of this book, my 11-year-old says it is among his top five favorite books. The New York Times said it is a “novel that soars”; School Library Journal called it “storytelling at its finest” in a starred review. The audio book will make car rides pass quickly. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780062498533.jpgThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) – Sometimes it takes a work of fiction to give life to current events. And sometimes it takes a book for children to give all of us a starting point for conversations about difficult issues. Ms. Thomas has done all of us a service by producing 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 she 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. As a description of this book stated, The Hate U Give “addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty”.  Just as importantly, it is a great story, with fully formed characters who will haunt you, told by a gifted author. Please read this one!  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Golem's Mighty Swing Cover ImageThe Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm (2017) –  This graphic novel tells the tale of the Stars of David, a barnstorming Jewish baseball team that played during the Depression. Using the true story of a team that travels among small towns playing ball and playing up their religious exoticism as something for people to heckle, this books combines baseball, small towns, racial tensions, and the desperate grasp for the American Dream. ~ Lisa Christie

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2014) – Mr. Stevenson is the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. Peppered with statistics about of people — those on death row who are people of color, the number of people permanently incarcerated for non-violent crimes committed when they were 12 or 13, etc… — Mr. Stevenson’s book brings these numbers to life in ways that make you care. He also, although he could not have known this when writing it, bring stories from today’s headlines home in ways that, be warned, may incite action on your part in 2015. (NoteThe New York Times selected this as one of its 100 notable books of 2014, Esquire Magazine called it one of the 5 most important of 2014 and it was one of Time Magazine‘s top ten books of 2014.)~ Lisa Christie

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Cover ImageBorn A Crime by Trevor Noah (2016) – Mr. Noah, of Daily Show fame, is funny. He is insightful. And, he has a unique backstory for his life thusfar. All this combines to create a superb, insightful, humorous, and important memoir about life as a biracial child in South Africa during and after Apartheid. Read it, laugh, learn, and pass it along to others who can benefit from a well told life story. (Please note: Mr. Noah reads the audiobook version and we have been told it is tremendous.)

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (2014) – A powerful look at “what goes down” when a 16-year-old black boy in a hoodie is shot by a white man. Was it defense against a gang incident? Was it a man stopping a robbery gone wrong? Was it being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was it none of these, or a combination of these? And, just when you think you have all the pieces and perspectives to know what happened, a new piece of information inserted into one of the multiple voices used to tell this story, sends you another direction. A seriously impressive book – cleverly staged, with superb and unique voices throughout, and a plot from today’s headlines. This book makes you think about how perspective influences what you see, how stories are told, how choices have implications, and – well, to be honest – the pull and power of gangs.  Read it and discuss with your favorite teen. ~ Lisa Christie

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

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Ok, let’s be honest – this won’t really be last minute for most of us. In reality, this list of superb possibilities for Mother’s Day gift giving will be just in time, as most of us have yet to wrap up Sunday’s gift giving occasion.

So, for all of you looking for a great Mother’s Day gift, or something good to read yourself, here we go:

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FC9781583335741.JPGOh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon (2016) – If your mother likes to cook veggies (or if you like to cook  veggies for your mother!), consider adding this plant-based recipe book to your shelf. Oh She Glows Every Day  is bursting with fresh, flavorful vegan ideas. Don’t be alarmed by the “v-word”: every dish in this collection tastes amazing and doesn’t leave eaters missing meat at all. These two mom chef reviewers particularly love the “Thai Crunch Salad” (Liddon’s almond butter dressing and cast-iron skillet tofu are now staples), the “Guacamole and Black Bean Loaded Sweet Potatoes” (how filling, how healthy, how easy!), and the “Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Coconut Bacon” (we love the addition of maple syrup to this dish — how Vermont!). This book, quite simply put, is VEGGIE-LICIOUS! ~ Lisa Cadow 

Celine Cover ImageCeline by Peter Heller (2017) – So, maybe your mom is not a PI, or hiding the fact she gave birth to a child when she was 15, meaning you have an older sibling somewhere. Maybe she is not the daughter of a woman who fled the Nazis and then ended up in an long lasting affair with the most famous admiral of WWII, but your mom is your mom and she really does deserves a good book for Mother’s Day. And, if you also read this novel exploring the complicated life of its main character Celine, it might provide a great way to discuss life’s decisions, and possibly discover some things she hasn’t yet told you. ~ Lisa Christie

The Women in the Castle Cover ImageThe Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (2017) – A compassionate, yet tough look at how Germans allowed the Nazi party to take hold with such devastating consequences for all.  This novel follows three German women before, during, and after WWII as they face the consequences of their personal choices. The story questions what it means to survive and, ultimately, what it takes to move on with forgiveness when the unimaginable occurs. (Ms. Shattuck used to live nearby and shop at the Norwich Bookstore so we love this chance to highlight her work.)~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Trials of Apollo, Book Two: The Dark Prophecy Cover ImageThe Dark Prophecy: Book Two of the Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan (2017) -Why are we including a children’s book in a Mother’s Day gift post? Well, this latest Rick Riordan adventure novel, when given to the children in your life, will buy you hours of peace and quiet as they consume yet another page-turning novel about demi-gods. In this second installment of the Trials of Apollo series, Apollo remains trapped in an acne infested, muscle-lacking teenage body, and my son’s favorite Riordan character – Leo – is back, making him very happy. You are welcome; and, enjoy the peace! Be sure to give this to a busy mom to offload on her brood, allowing her to enjoy some peace too. ~ Lisa Christie

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) – Yes, we have recommended this multiple times (and be warned will probably recommend it again for Father’s Day), but this brief treatise of why men and women should be proud to be feminists remains important. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Porn for New Moms Cover ImagePorn for New Moms by Susan Anderson (2008) – An oldie, but humorous goodie. For moms (new and experienced) who just need some laughs. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Once again, we celebrated books, reading, and the power of youth last week at Vermont’s Thetford Academy (TA). The students’ and teachers’ picks for this latest BOOK BUZZ (the student version of the Book Jam’s Pages in the Pub) were eclectic and superb. We hope you enjoy reading from their list as much as we enjoyed hearing them passionately convince the audience why their book selections just had to be read.

We thank the presenters for their time, their enthusiasm and the list of books they generated. Their support made BOOK BUZZ a success. Bonus – thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore, the event raised money for the Thetford Academy Library.

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With great pleasure, we now list all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier. We hope you have fun looking, and that you enjoy reading about their picks from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using direct links to each selection. And now, our superb presenters’ picks for summer reading, with their bios at the end.

Miss Rumphius: Story and Pictures Cover Image

BOOKS YOU WOULD GIVE TO YOUNGER YOU

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (1982). Selected by Hannah – For those who wish to dream.

Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball Cover ImageThe Haters Cover Image

BOOKS ABOUT ROAD TRIPS TO TAKE ON ROAD TRIPS

Where Nobody Knows Your Name by John Feinstein (2014). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Everybody wants to make the Majors.

The Haters by Jesse Andrews (2016). Selected by Ms. OwenEscape band camp, find trouble, self. 

The House of a Million Pets Cover Image

FAVORITE BOOKS STARRING ANIMALS

House of a Million Pets by Ann Hodgman (2007). Selected by Hannah – Humorous tale for passing rainy day.

Scythe Cover ImageAmerica Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't [With 3-D Glasses] Cover Image

BOOKS TO READ ALOUD WITH A FLASHLIGHT/IN A TENT/AROUND A CAMPFIRE

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe Book 1) by Neal Schusterman (2016). Selected by Ms. Owen – No one dies unless you kill them.

America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert (2012). Selected by Malcolm – Clever, relevant, and hilariously scary. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

The Pearl Thief Cover ImageTrue Letters from a Fictional Life Cover ImageJane Eyre Cover Image

PROTAGANISTS WE LOVE

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein (2017). Selected by Lisa – How people become heroes, WWII History. (Lisa also recommended Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012) and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (2013). The Pearl Thief is the prequel to these two other books by Wein.)

True Letters From A Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan (2016). Selected by MalcolmWryly humorous coming-out story set in Upper Valley.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847). Selected by Hannah – For young souls finding/justifying their strength.
A Collection of Essays Cover ImageNature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World Cover Image

NON-FICTION THAT YOU CAN’T PUT DOWN OR BOOKS FOR THOSE WHO PREFER TRUE STORIES

A Collection of Essays by George Orwell. Selected by Malcolm – Intriguing and darkly insightful retrospective.

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman (2015). Selected by Ms. Owen – Heartfelt renderings gives hours of leafing.

City of Thieves Cover ImageSalt to the Sea Cover Image

BOOKS THAT DO A GREAT JOB TEACHING HISTORY

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008). Selected by Mr. Deffner – A dozen eggs or your life. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016). Selected by Ms. Owen – Refugees flee WWII carrying secrets. (Previously reviewed by the Book Jam.)

The Hate U Give Cover ImageNineteen Minutes Cover Image

BOOKS YOU WOULD ASSIGN TO GROWNUPS AS REQUIRED

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Police shooting’s effect on a family. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (2007). Selected by Hannah – Entraps you with thought-encoding thriller.

We Should All Be Feminists Cover Image

BOOKS TO GIVE FRIENDS FOR THEIR BIRTHDAYS

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014). Selected by Lisa – Concise, enlightening case for feminism’s importance. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Montana 1948 Cover ImageWhy Not Me? Cover Image

BOOKS FOR FRIENDS WHO DON’T LIKE TO READ

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson (1993). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Moral dilemma with two you love.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (2015). Selected by Malcolm – Inspiring, perspective-changing, and hilarious memoir.

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OUR FABULOUS PRESENTERS

  • Hannah loves reading, (especially Jane Austen) has a fondness for bees, and aspires to be a nurse. She is a junior at Thetford Academy.
  • Malcolm’s favorite things to do are run, read, write, and both watch and create films. He loves distance running and proudly self-identifies as a film nerd. He is seventeen years old and attends Thetford Academy.
  • Ms. Owen runs the TA library and most importantly helps many, many students find the perfect book to read next – even if they aren’t sure they want to read anything.
  • Mr. Deffner coaches cross-country and teaches English at TA when he is not taking his sons on road trips or basketball games.
  • Lisa Christie is the co-founder and co-blogger of the Book Jam. When not coordinating BOOK BUZZ or Pages in the Pub, she is usually reading.

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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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Well, it has been quite the week or two regarding immigration, immigration reform, and real life consequences of immigration policies and executive orders. It has ushered in a time where many Americans don’t recognize their country — the one of “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”(from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus). But, it is also a time in which many other Americans, afraid of terrorism and terrorists, are acting and reacting from a place where immigration restrictions feel protective and correct. Since none of us have all the answers, nor all the righteousness, nor all the facts, we thought we would turn to the voices of immigrants – to those who have lived and are living lives directly affected by what to many of us are only policies. To find these voices, we turned to books. We hope the list we collected helps you put faces on the headlines and perhaps inspires action; but most importantly, we wish these books will create empathy and compassion towards all of us living in this great world of ours.
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The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImageThe Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande (2016) – With this book, Ms. Grande has adapted her adult memoir for middle grade readers and 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 insert faces into any political discussions about immigration that the pre-teens and teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

Brooklyn Cover ImageBrooklyn by Colm Toibin (2009) – Brooklyn is a coming of age story about a girl, Eilis, who leaves Ireland post World War II to travel to New York for better prospects. She arrives alone, leaving behind her beloved sister, Rose, her mother and brothers. Brave, smart Eilis carves out a life for herself and even finds a beau in sweet Tony before tragedy calls her unexpectedly back to Ireland. Brooklyn is a complicated love story, one that also paints one of the most poignant pictures of homesickness and a rough transatlantic journey that we have ever read. It is definitely a book that will stay with the reader and generate plenty of discussion for lucky book groups that have yet to select it. Also, this is one of the rare instances where the movie is as good as the book (see Book Jam review February 29, 2016). ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Into the Beautiful North Cover ImageInto the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (2009) – Inspired by “The Magnificent Seven“, 19-year-old Nayeli goes north from her small town in Mexico to recruit seven men to save her village from ruin at the hands of drug dealers, and to find her father who disappeared north years before. Beautifully written and funny — think of this novel as the book Jon Stewart would have written if he ever wrote about crossing the Mexican border into the USA. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided Cover ImageIn The Country We Love by Diane Guerrero (2016) – One of the stars of “Orange is the New Black” penned this memoir (with some help from a co-author) about her life as the USA-born daughter of undocumented immigrants from Colombia. Her story hinges on the day her parents were deported while she was at school, after which she was left to fend on her own, relying on her friends for places to live so she could finish High School in the USA. She is now using her fame to help shed light on the lives of the undocumented in the USA. While the prose may not sing quite as well as some of the other books on this list from award winning authors, I, for one, was appalled at some of the more surreal aspects of her story (e.g., she was completely forgotten by the US government which never checked on her, or helped her in any shape or form). And, I am very grateful she broke years of silence to put her face on many nameless Americans, and on a problem we all need to help solve. ~ Lisa Christie

Interpreter of Maladies Cover ImageInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999) – If you somehow missed this collection of nine short stories about Indian-American immigrants, fix that now and read these Pulitzer Prize winning tales. Ms. Lahiri’s prose is gorgeously crafted, and her characters and their trials and tribulations – both the mundane and the incredible – will stay with you long after you finish the last sentences. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Dreaming in Cuban Cover ImageDreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia (1992) – Reaching far back in our bookshelf, our memories, and into the Caribbean Sea, our hands land on Garcia’s 1992 novel of the Cuban immigration experience. Told from the perspective of three generations of strong women, this lush narrative will be appreciated by lovers of magical realism. Strong female characters tell the story of the experiences of being political expats in New York City, and also of the ones left behind in Cuba. Moving between the United States and Cuba, and the present and the past, this book creates a sensation of dreaming but also of the very real situation of a country and its people experiencing turmoil and change. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Cover ImageThe Sympathizer  by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015) – The Pulitzer landed on an important book in 2016. The narrator, a Vietnamese immigrant to the USA, was rescued by the Americans during the fall of Saigon due to his work with the US military and diplomatic corps. His life further unravels from this relocation to LA. His tale provides a superb entry into conversations about the Vietnam War, as well as the lives of all the Vietnamese immigrants to the USA who followed the soldiers and sailors across the Pacific to life in America. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Home of the Brave Cover ImageHome of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (2007) – My 11-year-old read this for school earlier this year, and I am so glad he did. I borrowed it and devoured it in one sitting. A great book about the complicated lives of immigrants to the USA. It weaves the tale of a boy, from an unnamed country in Africa, adjusting to cold days and nights in Minnesota and wondering what happened to his mother, the only other person from his family to have survived the genocide there. ~ Lisa Christie

Before We Were Free Cover ImageBefore We Were Free by Julia Alvarez (2002) – We finish with a Vermont author who has penned so many great tales (e.g., How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of Butterflies), and highlight Before We Were Free her award winning novel for older children. In this tale, by the 12th birthday of the main character Anita, most of her Dominican relatives have emigrated to the United States, a few have disappeared without a trace, and the police continually terrorize her family remaining in the DR all of whom are suspected of opposing el Trujillo’s dictatorship. A heartrending tale of growing up based upon the author’s extended family’s own experiences. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

OK, two more….

Americanah Cover ImageAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013) – Before she wrote We Should All Be Feminists, Ms. Adichi earned our reading loyalty with this incredible novel of love and culture clash. As Maureen Corrigan of NPR stated, “Adichie has written a big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color . . . Americanah is a sweeping story that derives its power as much from Adichie’s witty and fluid writing style as it does from keen social commentary. . . . ”

Ghana Must Go Cover ImageGhana Must Go by Taiye Selasi (2013) – When a renowned surgeon dies suddenly outside his home in Accra, his family, which is scattered across the globe, suddenly learns much more about him and what his choices meant for them. Beautifully rendered, this novel takes you from Accra to Lagos to London and to New York. It also shows us the power of love, family, and choices as we figure out who we are and where we come from.

 

 

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Well, last week was quite the week for politics in the USA. Our first Black President vacated the White House after eight years of service. Our new President was inaugurated. And, millions marched on Saturday in rallies in DC, many state capitals, and cities throughout the world to remind our new administration that inclusiveness remains important — and that over half the US population is women.

So today, we shine the pink spotlight on books that will help to remind us all what is at stake. We have selected several titles that include short manifestos (Adichie), speculative fiction (Atwood), a turn-of-the-20th century heroine (Chopin), and a comedienne’s memoir (Moran) that reminds us that (still) “there’s never been a better time to be a woman.”images.jpg

A Room of One's Own Cover ImageA Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929) -It is our intent to read every book that is reviewed on this site. In this case, we make a slight exception because only one of us has read it and this reading occurred years ago, possibly most importantly years before she could understand the importance of a “room of one’s own” as every room she inhabited was hers — she was so very, very single. In this collection of essays, Wolfe essentially argues that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She asserts that females cannot be a part of the literary conversation if they do not have the freedom and autonomy to write. Woolf also highlights the importance of education for women and their tenuous place in society without it. Though only one of us has had the opportunity to delve into this very, very important work, after this weekend the other Lisa has placed it at the top of her pile. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Handmaid's Tale Cover ImageThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) – This work of speculative fiction has never once been out of print since it was first published over thirty years ago. The topics it tackles are so important and the construct so fascinating that directors have made in to a movie, an opera, and even a television series. It is set in a dystopian future New England where women have been stripped of their rights after a new government assumes power. Told through the eyes of Offred, a handmaid (the class of women assigned in this new society for reproductive purposes), Atwood explores the nature of power, fanaticism, resistance, and hanging on to hope in the face of great obstacles. ~ Lisa Cadow

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) – This gem of a book emerged from a speech by Ms. Adichie in which she outlines a twenty-first century view of feminism, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. In doing so, she succinctly and beautifully makes the case why we should all be feminists – feminism benefits all of us no matter our gender.  Read it; give it; live it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Awakening and Selected Stories Cover ImageThe Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899) – In this slim, ground breaking work of fiction published at the end of the 1800’s, Chopin introduces us to Edna Pontellier, a white mother and wife from the South who is deeply unsatisfied with her life. When Edna falls in love outside of her marriage, she begins to ask new questions and push new boundaries alarming those around her.  It is hard to remember that this book was published before Woolfe, Wharton, and Welty started writing because its style is so modern, the subjects it tackles so ahead of its time. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Color Purple Cover Image The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982) – A book so important and complicated it won both the Pulitzer and National Book Award, and inspired a Broadway Musical. This compassionate novel, focusing on the lives of African American women in the 1930s, shows how two sisters one in the American South and one in Africa sustain their love across time, distance, and hardships. It garnered glowing reviews such as one from The New York Times Book Review,”intense emotional impact . . . Indelibly affecting . . . Alice Walker is a lavishly gifted writer,” and has frequently been the target of censors. ~ Lisa Christie

How to Be a Woman Cover ImageHow To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (2011) – We end this list with humor because laughter and empathy help all conversations. Every sentence in this raucous, side-splitting book offers exquisite insight into subjects such as women’s shoes, Germaine Greer, strident feminism, motherhood, handbags, hair styles, pornography, surviving puberty, and making it through dating with your self-worth intact — in sum, how to be a woman. Moran has much to offer women as they reflect on their own journeys, and those of their daughters. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie (excerpted from review from Book Jam Holiday Gift Guide 2012).
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We celebrated books, summer reading, and the power of youth last week at Vermont’s Thetford Academy (TA). This was the first time we used our live event Pages in the Pub with youth presenters, and wow did they nail it! Their picks and personalities are all superb. We hope you enjoy reading from their list as much as we enjoyed hearing them passionately convince the audience why their book selections just had to be read. (Note – because we were not in a pub, we called this event BOOK BUZZ.) images-1.jpg

We thank them for their time, their enthusiasm and the list of books they generated. Their support (and the help of two of their dedicated teachers – Joe Deffner and Kate Owen) made the first BOOK BUZZ a success. Bonus – thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore, the event raised around $600 for the Thetford Academy Library (while increasing sales for our local indie bookstore).

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With great pleasure, we now list all twenty-four books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier. We hope you have fun looking, and that you enjoy reading about their picks from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using direct links to each selection. And now, our superb presenters’ picks for summer reading, with their bios at the end.

The Kiss of Deception Cover ImageBrooklyn Cover ImageBurn for Burn Cover ImageTo All the Boys I've Loved Before Cover ImageOff the Page Cover ImageAn Ember in the Ashes Cover Image

Books that magically get glued to your hands

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (2014). Selected by Izzy – A Princess, An Assassin, A Prince.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin  (2009). Selected by Malcolm – Beautifully written with compelling characters; moving.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014) and Burn for Burn by Jenny Han (2012). Selected by Kiya – Books that are too dramatically real.

Off The Pages by Jodi Picoult and Samatha Van Leer (2015). Selected by Jasmine, but reviewed by Maggie – A love story gone almost wrong.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (2015). Selected by Ms. Owen – Slavery’s poison spreads. Does love conquer?
A Court of Thorns and Roses Cover ImageCity of Thieves Cover Image

Perfect books to help you ignore the fact you are on a road trip/school bus

A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Mass (2015). Selected by Izzy – A fairy world and finding love.

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2010). Selected by Mr. Deffner – World War Two quest for dozen eggs.

Beware of Pity Cover ImageThe Girl on the Cliff Cover Image

Books that will make you forget you are bummed it is raining outside

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig (1995). Selected by Malcolm – Heartbreaking, truthful; like reading the rain.

The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley (2011). Selected by Izzy – Death, mystery, romance, with a twist.

Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence Cover Image

Middle School Survival Books: Required reading before you arrive

Popular by Maya Van Wagenen (2014). Selected by Ms. Owen – Geek sits at popular table…survives?
Americanah Cover ImageThe Outsiders Cover ImageA Prayer for Owen Meany Cover ImageChallenger Deep Cover ImageWonder Cover ImageHow to Be Black Cover Image

Books you would assign to grownups as required reading

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014). Selected by Malcolm – Illuminates race’s role in culture; impactful, relevant.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967). Selected by Jasmine, but reviewed by Mr. Deffner – The difference between rich and poor.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (2002). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Faith and prayer, it really works

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (2015 ). Selected by Maggie – Passionate travel through the challenges of schizophrenia.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (2012). Selected by Maggie – A book of bravery and loyalty.

How to Be Black by Thurston (2012). Selected by Lisa – Onion Humorist examines, skewers race relations.          The Lowland Cover ImageDown and Out in Paris and London Cover ImageFans of the Impossible Life Cover ImageLeaving Time (with Bonus Novella Larger Than Life) Cover ImageA Tree Grows in Brooklyn Cover Image

Books teens should read even if they are not required

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2013). Selected by Izzy – Two very different brothers in India.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (1972). Selected by Malcolm – Poignant, realistic memoir of mysterious man.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (2015). Selected by Maggie – Takes a deeper meaning of teen life.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (2014). Selected by Jasmine, but reviewed by Ms. Owen – My mom’s dead the reason…..mystery.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943). Selected by Maggie – Beautifully crafted and about a girl’s life.

Raymie Nightingale Cover ImageThe War That Saved My Life Cover Image

Books your younger school siblings really HAVE TO read 

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016). Selected by Lisa – Girl uses pageant to get dad home.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley (2015). Selected by Lisa – Closer look at “Pevensie”-like children.


images.jpgBOOK BUZZ Presenters

Malcolm Quinn Silver-Van Meter‘s favorite things to do are run, read, write, and both watch and create films. He loves distance running and proudly self-identifies as a film nerd. He is sixteen years old and attends Thetford Academy.

Kate Owen runs the TA library and most importantly helps many, many students find the perfect book to read next – even if they aren’t sure they want to read anything.

Izzy Kotlowitz graduates in mere days. While at TA she also attended the Mountain School, played soccer, and laughed a lot. She will attend Kenyon College in the Fall.

Maggie Harlow is a rising senior and loves food, ducks and smiling a lot. In her free time– wait she doesn’t have any! If she did have free time she’d be hiking and reading lots of fun books. Her favorite genres are fantasy, mystery and alternative history.

Kiya Grant loves cooking. She reads realistic fiction and is working on her own novel. She is a rising 8th grader at TA.

Jasmine Doody is a rising 8th grader at TA. She was unable to present during the event. So her fellow reviewers covered her choices during BOOK BUZZ, but we left her six word reviews intact for this post.

Joe Deffner teaches Seventh and Tenth Grade English, as well as a Senior Honors elective.  In his free time, he enjoys reading––obviously–––and going on cross-country barnstorming events in which he promotes his sons, Owen and Eamon, as the East Central Vermont Junior Cornhole Champions.

Lisa Christie is one half of the Book Jam blog and the emcee for this BOOK BUZZ. When not reading, she can be found coaching nonprofit directors, being with the three guys she lives with, walking her very large dog, and attempting to navigate a masters degree.

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