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Posts Tagged ‘Things Fall Apart’

Image result for images for black history month 2019Every year, we use Black History Month as an excuse to audit the diversity of the authors we review. Why?  Well, 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 during our next year of reviews. Our latest audit results are discussed below today’s new reviews of four – oops five – great books (one each of adult fiction, adult nonfiction, YA, children’s, memoir).

 

Things Fall Apart: A Novel Cover ImageThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958) – In this lucky reader’s life there have been a few books that find their way into my hands that upon turning the last page cause me to reverently and gently place them down, to blink and slowly exhale, and then to turn my gaze back out upon the world feeling that my view has changed. This is one such book. Things Fall Apart is a novel set in precolonial Africa towards the end of the 1800’s and chronicles the effect of the the arrival of British missionaries and government on village life. It is the story of Okonkwo, a brave and powerful but flawed warrior of the Igbo clan in Nigeria. The tale is told from the deep “inside” of his clan. The “Obi” (main house), the religion, the lore, the language, family structure and the traditions are shown through his eyes and those of his family and friends. The reader is transported to another world and way of life where pythons are considered sacred and yams represent riches. It is also one where social order and connection is maintained by full moon ceremonies, wrestling, foo-foo feasts, the power of ancestral gods, and the reality of banishment. All of which is threatened by the arrival of white people. This novel explores the reality of an ever changing world while forcing us to consider what we lose along with that change. It also pushes us to consider the complexity of leadership, community, justice, and what it means to respect our fellow humans. It is not hard to understand why it is considered by many as one of the most important 100 books of all time. ~ Lisa Cadow

On the Come Up Cover ImageOn the Come Up by Angie Thomas (2019) – Ms. Thomas’s second novel for Young Adults proves she is not a one hit wonder. Once again, she handles tough topics such as teens figuring out who they are, race, stereotypes, violence, and addiction with compassion and fearless honesty. In this outing, 16-year-old Bri wants to rap and be a rap star more than anything – including doing well on the ACT to ensure she enters an amazing college. But, any progress at all is hard when your dad is long dead from gang violence, your mom just lost her job and is working to remain eight years sober, there is no heat in your house or food in the fridge, and the only job your brother, the brilliant college grad, can get is delivering pizzas for money your family desperately needs. Due to an incident at school, and other conspiring events, Bri finds herself going viral and being unfairly viewed as a hoodlum. The question for her becomes  – what if a being a hoodlum helps you make it? ENJOY!

A Good Kind of Trouble Cover ImageA Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee (2019) – A great book for younger  readers (perhaps 4th-8th grade?) that helps them understand Black Lives Matter, while also providing insights into navigating middle school, friendships, teachers, and the ever-evolving process of figuring out exactly who you are. Ms. Ramee’s main character, a 7th grade African American girl named Shay, hates to get in trouble, doesn’t understand her older sister’s insistence being black is embedded in certain traits, and honestly really just wants to get out of Middle School with her friendships intact, her grades their usual A+ level, and ideally with a cute boyfriend. The world is conspiring against all her wishes, and her hand is forced when a local white police woman is acquitted for shooting a black man. Shay will make you assess what is important for you to stand up for, how your unique traits will manifest your stand, and ideally to actually stand up for something. I hate to compare it to The Hate U Give, but Ms. Ramee’s debut novel is reminiscent of Ms. Thomas’s unflinching look at what it is like to be a Black adolescent in the USA today, and that is high praise. ~ Lisa Christie

Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist Cover ImageWell That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey (2018) – Our nonfiction review highlights Ms. Ramsey, of MTV fame, who uses her book to explore the lessons of her life as a social media star and activist. She discusses how her life changed dramatically once her YouTube video “What White Girls Say . . . to Black Girls” went viral — twelve million views viral. She is simultaneously funny and serious about the importance of social justice, and what we can all do better in our efforts to help others.  A great book for anyone in your life who would like to see their passions and messages spread. A great reminder we can all do a better job communicating. And just a lovely look at someone who would probably be very fun and enlightening to have as a friend, and who inspires us all to do more. ~ Lisa Christie

And again, if you haven’t yet read Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming, we suggest you get started.

And now the audit results:

During the twelve months since our February 2018 audit, we reviewed 202 (up from 164 reviewed last year) authors.

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.

Some significant numbers from this latest audit: Women authors were 55% of the authors we featured. 32% of all authors we featured were white women from the USA, and 8% of all authors we read were white women from outside the USA. 4% of our featured authors were Latinas and 6% were Asian women; and, 12% of the authors were Black women from around the world.

There was slightly less diversity of country and ethnicity in the men we reviewed. Almost a quarter (23%) of the authors we featured were white men from the USA. 8% of the authors we featured were white men from outside of the USA. 7% of the authors were black men (from anywhere in the world). Very few authors we featured were Asian men (fewer than .5%) or Latinos (2%) or Middle Eastern men (2%).

Adding men and women together, 36% of the authors we reviewed were persons of color. Within the white authors there was some geographic diversity — a quarter (26%) of the white authors we featured were from outside the USA (mostly Canada, the UK, Australia, Sweden). The largest group (13% of total authors reviewed) of authors of color were Black.

To sum, while we are improving the diversity of the authors reviewed — 36% of authors in 2018, 32% in 2017, 26% in 2016, 23% in 2015 were persons of color — the fact remains that over half (64%) of the authors we featured during the past 12 months were white authors. And while we are curious if our percentages are greater than the percentages of authors of color who are actually published in the USA each year (as this affects the pool from which we can select books), once again, we vow to review a greater diversity of authors.

Happy Black History Month.

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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 Noah Isenberg and his work We’ll Always Have Casablanca.

Mr. Isenberg is director of screen studies and professor of culture and media at The New School, the author of Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins, editor of Weimar Cinema, and the recipient of an NEH Public Scholar Award. He lives in Brooklyn, New York and will be in the Upper Valley for the summer teaching at Dartmouth College.

Mr. Isenberg will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 6 pm on Thursday, June 29th to discuss We’ll Always Have Casablanca. Please note that this event is a discussion circle, a more informal event than the store’s Wednesday evening speaker series. However, advance reservations are still recommended. 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?

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Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which I first read as a teenager living in Stockholm, Sweden (it was part of the International Baccalaureate course in world literature), taught me the power of storytelling. Susan Sontag’s Under the Sign of Saturn introduced me to the exquisite craft of the essay and the central role of the critic in cultural, aesthetic, and political debates. And Franz Kafka’s The Trial for its ability to haunt, to transport, and to captivate the reader.

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

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I’d like to have (had) coffee with Susan Sontag, to discuss with her the life she led during her years as a novelist, playwright, critic, and filmmaker. I’d want to know more about her teens in North Hollywood and about her college friendship, at Chicago, with filmmaker Mike Nichols, and about her extraordinary work as an essayist.

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

A Stricken Field Cover ImageSick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy Cover ImageMy Brilliant Friend, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence Cover ImageModernism in the Streets: A Life and Times in Essays Cover ImageMother's Tale Cover Image

Martha Gellhorn, A Stricken Field

Judd Apatow, Sick in the Head

Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend

Marshall Berman, Modernism in the Streets

Phillip Lopate, A Mother’s Tale

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, 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 in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

Sarah Stewart Taylor

We are excited to welcome author Sarah Stewart Taylor and her first children’s novel – The Expeditioners.  This novel has garnered great advance press with an outstanding Kirkus review  – “Full of kid power, clues, codes and maps, this will appeal to sophisticated readers who appreciate their adventure served with heaping helpings of cleverness.” It also received an independent booksellers designation for recommended children’s books.

Ms. Taylor will launch her new adventure novel for readers aged eight and up – The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon – on Saturday, November 17 from 2-4 pm at The Norwich Bookstore. The event includes exciting activities and snacks for attendees.  While the book is geared for middle grade readers, all ages are welcome during this event.  And, this time, no reservations are required though you can call (802) 649-1114 to pre-order your signed copy of The Expeditioners.

Without further ado, Sarah’s answers to our three questions:

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

 West with the Night, by Beryl Markham. The adventure! the romance! the writing! Every time I see it, that green cover sends me right back to the first time I read it, a 13-year-old in the suburbs, curled up with a book that transported her halfway around the world.

 

 

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. Because after West with the Night, I read The Flame Trees of Thika, by Elspeth Huxley, and then Hemingway and Isak Dinesen, and Chinua Achebe made me ask necessary questions about those books that I loved.

 

Possession, by A.S. Byatt. I still remember the thrill of reading it the first time, my utter involvement with the parallel narratives. It was romance, adventure, mystery — all in one, and all about books!

 

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

Roald Dahl. I just think it would be fun. Although it would have been more fun to meet him when I was a child. I have the feeling he didn’t like adults much.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table? 

 Lemony Snicket’s new book – Who Could That Be At This Hour?, Howard’s End (which I re-read once a year, right about now), Hilary Mantel’s Bringing up the Bodies, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, by Stephen Greenblatt, and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.

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