From the Shelf
An Architect's Roadmap for Renewal
The ancient city of Homs was once Syria's religiously tolerant, culturally vibrant industrial center, where people from diverse backgrounds lived in harmony with their neighbors and their natural surroundings. As the population grew, corrupt leaders segregated newcomers by housing them in shoddily constructed concrete blocks that did nothing to foster community and shared purpose. Since 2011, the ongoing civil war has devastated the lives of the city's inhabitants and its ancient infrastructure, creating an architectural wasteland in desperate need of reconstruction.
Observing the devastation firsthand, Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni believes that poorly planned architecture contributed to the conflict in Homs as cultures and religions, separated from each other, lost the ability to understand and work together. In The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria (Thames & Hudson, $26.95), the remarkable debut that introduced al-Sabouni's courageous writing and aspirations for Syria to the world, the author advocates for a radical architectural revival connecting Homs to its rich past while also prioritizing the individual and collective needs of residents. Architecture, she believes, can foster peaceful healing and promote unity.
Expanding her focus to global renewal in Building for Hope: Towards an Architecture of Belonging (Thames & Hudson, $29.95) al-Sabouni links the Arabic word for dwelling, yaskun, to the term sukun, which means "stillness, in the sense of locational and psychological stability." Instead of imagining one's dream home or dream city, al-Sabouni prefers to ask how do we want the reconstructed space to make us feel? It's better for the soul, she says, if new structures are in harmony with nature and pay homage to all that existed before.
A gifted writer and illustrator, al-Sabouni's visionary ideas will inspire architects, designers and urban planners across the world. --Shahina Piyarali
In this Issue...
by Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams's first political thriller combines a scavenger hunt for clues with reflections on the state of American politics in a clever, suspenseful novel.
by Jessica Anya Blau
In this heartwarming, hilarious novel, a dutiful child from a conservative household becomes nanny to a family of riotous hippies, and her world beautifully explodes.
by Melissa Stewart
Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen team up again in this dazzling picture book about the wonders of animals that sleep not through the winter, but through the summer.
Review by Subjects:
05/12/2021 - 7:30PMAnna Sale, the host of WNYC’s hugely popular ‘Death, Sex, & Money’ podcast, takes what it is to have those soul-baring and soul-bearing conversations and puts it into her much-anticipated first book, Let’s Talk About Hard Things (Simon & Schuster). For this virtual Town Hall visit, which may not be all hard conversation, she’ll be joined by Seattle’s Angela Garbes, author of the bestselling Like a Mother, and formerly a writer at The Stranger, and even more formerly, a bookseller at...
05/12/2021 - 6:00PMSeattle’s Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of an extraordinary, award-winning sequence of books mostly centering on birds - Mozart’s Starling, The Urban Bestiary, Crow Planet, Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent, and Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds - ventures not too far from the nest for her strikingly beautiful, provocative new book, Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit (Little, Brown Spark). Here, inter- and intra- connections among and between various life forms...
05/12/2021 - 6:00PMOne of these days, Seattle will properly get to welcome, in-person, one of this country’s most celebrated writers, who moved here seemingly as all was shutting down for the pandemic. That celebrated writer is Jewell Parker Rhodes, award-winning author of numerous novels and books for younger readers and adults, a memoir, two books about writing and getting published for Black writers, and the Founding Artistic Director and Piper Endowed Chair at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing...
05/13/2021 - 12:00PMThe Frye Museum’s Creative Aging Series today features this midday appearance by MacArthur Foundation fellowship recipient Anne Basting, known for her pioneering work with older people, and author of Creative Care: A Revolutionary Approach to Dementia and Elder Care (Harper One). “Creative Care is a love letter to aging. Not a prescription filled with should, it’s a beautifully rendered invitation to be curious and flexible, meeting elders wherever they happen to be in the moment and making...
05/13/2021 - 6:30PMTonight we’ll also join Massy Arts Society and Montreal based Metonymy Press in presenting Portland author Callum Angus in conversation with Hazel Jane Plante and Corinne Manning. Callum Angus will be celebrating the publication of A Natural History of Transition (Metonymy Press), a collection of short stories that disrupts the notion that trans people can only have one transformation. Like the landscape studied over eons, change does not have an expiration date for these trans characters, who...
05/13/2021 - 6:00PMSomething of a landmark publication is celebrated here today as once-up-a-time Seattle cartoonist Shary Flenniken (now based in Brooklyn), will be joined in conversation by cartoonist author Sarah Glidden, on the occasion of the release of Trots and Bonnie (New York Review of Books Comics). This book brings together, so far as we know, the first appearance in book form of Trots and Bonnie, who appeared back in the day in the pages of National Lampoon, where Shary Flenniken was an editor forty...
05/14/2021 - 6:00PMThe book response to the racial justice protests of 2020 are taking many forms and will, some of them structural within the book world, some in the books being published. One eloquent, very direct response is a new anthology, There’s A Revolution Outside, My Love: Letters from a Crisis (Vintage), edited by recent U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith and poet/editor John Freeman. Over twenty writers and poets, some renowned, some for whom this will be the first larger exposure, from across the...
05/14/2021 - 7:00PMIn his new novel, Foregone (HarperCollins), which is structured around a character’s secret memories, Russell Banks—the author of Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, which were both adapted into critically acclaimed films—challenges assumptions about a lost chapter in American history and questions the nature of recollection itself. For his Word Works lecture, Banks will discuss how character is defined in Foregone through memories, confabulations, fictions, and dreams. Joining Russell Banks in...
05/15/2021 - 2:00PMPoet/songwriter/performer Ishle Yi Park, whose multiple-award-winning debut book of poetry, The Temperature of This Water, appeared over fifteen years ago, makes this welcome return to book form with her brilliant book-length epic poem, Angel & Hannah: A Novel in Verse (One World). Not that she - with a few musical CDs and touring stints with Def Poetry Jam and more - hasn’t been seen or heard from. Presently based in Hawai’i, Ishle Yi Park was the first woman poet laureate of Queens. Angel...
05/15/2021 - 11:00AMCheck out the schedule for events all month long! Full schedule
The Smells of Eight Famous Books and Texts
Mental Floss shared "what eight of the world's most famous books and texts smell like, according to science."
" 'I couldn't be with someone who liked Jack Reacher': can our taste in books help us find love?" the Guardian wondered.
Gastro Obscura explored "how lesbian luminaries put together a groundbreaking cookbook."
Watch Eric Hobsbawm: The Consolations of History, a documentary about the influential Marxist historian. (via Open Culture)
Lifehacker offered suggestions for "how to display your books like a more sophisticated adult."
Rediscover: Maggie O'Farrell
British novelist Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet is historical fiction about Shakespeare's only son, Hamnet, who died of bubonic plague at age 11 and, according to some Shakespeare scholars, may have influenced his father's later tragic plays, particularly Hamlet. Hamnet won the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. O'Farrell published her first novel, After You'd Gone, in 2000, followed by My Lover's Lover (2002), The Distance Between Us (2004), The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2007) and The Hand That First Held Mine (2010).
Instructions for a Heatwave (2013) takes place in 1976 London, where a retired husband and father disappears during a record heatwave, necessitating the reunion of his three troubled adult children. This Must Be the Place (2016) tracks the marriage of an American professor and reclusive French film star across the globe over several decades. O'Farrell is also the author of a memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death (2017), which uses near-death experiences as an autobiographical framework. Instructions for a Heatwave, This Must Be the Place and I Am, I Am, I Am are all available from Vintage, which will also publish the paperback version of Hamnet on May 18. --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Traci Sorell and Christian Allaire: Indigenous Resistance and Existence
Indigenous writers Traci Sorell and Christian Allaire bring their respective backgrounds in law and fashion to the forefront in two new nonfiction books for young people: We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know (Charlesbridge) and The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures (Annick Press; reviewed below).
Traci Sorell writes award-winning fiction and nonfiction for young people. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives on her tribe's reservation. Christian Allaire is a writer at Vogue and lives in New York City. He is Indigenous (Ojibwe) from Nipissing First Nation.
Here they discuss their inspirations for their books, the resilience of Native Nations and educating younger generations.
Traci Sorell: Christian, I love your introduction to The Power of Style. While you explicitly state that the book is not an all-encompassing treatise of contemporary fashion and beauty in underrepresented cultures, you do shine a bright light on what is happening right now. I love that you started with your own cultural background. Did you feel at all vulnerable in putting your own story on the page?
Christian Allaire: Thanks, Traci! When I started the book, I actually did not see myself being in it at all. I wanted to shed a light on other people's stories. But talking with my editor--the fabulous Mary Beth Leatherdale--we agreed it's nice to add a first-person element to the book, especially because I have experienced so many of the things that my book's subjects talk about. I did not feel vulnerable, rather I felt it was appropriate to share my story about why I wrote the book. I want children and youth to feel like their cultural backgrounds, whatever they may be, are special--and that expressing yourself and your story through fashion should be encouraged. This wasn't always the case with me: I wish I had known that as a kid, because I tried so often to blend into the background.
Sorell: I'll admit I'm jealous of today's young people who will have this book to read and relish at a time when the message that they are okay exactly as they are is the most critical for their development. Tell me how you selected the book's various topics, like natural hair, plus size cosplay and hijab fashion.
Allaire: Narrowing down the topics and individuals was so, so hard for this, because I had an abundance of ideas and not enough space to explore them. Like I said in the introduction, it is not an all-encompassing book, but I tried my best to narrow down a selection of topics that offer a very wide range of cultures and stories.
Sorell: For most marginalized groups, representations of our cultures in mainstream couture brands have been and continue to be problematic. What do you hope this book will offer young people?
Allaire: Mainstream media has a bad history of misrepresenting cultures, for sure. It's an ongoing problem. I think a lot of that has to do with being uneducated or not having done your research. I hope this book gives youth tools to learn about cultures that aren't their own, and at least offers a glimpse of understanding into their lives. I also hope it inspires readers to research things on their own, too. The book is a snapshot into different cultures but there is so much more left to uncover!
Sorell: You've definitely provided so many tools in this book. As you say, I wish we'd had this book growing up. But that seems to inform why so many Native-created books get written, right? We didn't have the book growing up, so we want to write and share it now.
Allaire: Speaking of that, what inspired the idea for We Are Still Here!? And how did you narrow down which elements of history to include? The book does such a great job of offering a quick but very wide look at Indigenous history.
Sorell: Distilling key components for each topic and then translating that into simpler language instead of academic and legal terms was the hardest part!
Allaire: I love that the book makes Indigenous history very clear and easy to understand for children. Why is it important for youth, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to learn about these teachings?
Sorell: None of us can be informed community members if we don't know what has happened. We could unknowingly support policies that harm others. From assimilation to termination and relocation, the United States has enacted laws and carried out policies that still impact Native Nations and their citizens today. We don't need uninformed youth who grow up to be teachers, judges, business owners, elected officials, health care workers and others making decisions that can cause further harm.
Allaire: One of your book's sections touches on language revival. It is true, we are seeing many Indigenous youth learn their tribal languages today!
Sorell:: Yes, there are so many Native Nations focused on helping their youth and adult citizens speak their tribal language. The United States' focus on forcing Native people to learn and only speak English in educational systems caused a lot of harm. It impacted the transmission of knowledge about ceremonies, plants, animals and lifeways between generations. Knowing one's language provides cultural knowledge and connection that is not communicated the same way in English.
Allaire: A big theme of your book, I feel, is resilience; how Indigenous people are able to say, "We are still here," despite all the obstacles we've faced throughout history. What are some examples of resilience you've seen even within your own community and family?
Sorell: I'm happy to hear you say that. Resilience is a big theme. Often non-Indigenous people will express to me that we're extinct or we're poor, downtrodden, broken, etc. Anyone with actual knowledge of Native Nations knows that to be categorically false. Yet that narrative continues to be shared in educational settings and popular culture. I wanted to present the facts to readers. The Cherokee Nation, including my ancestors, suffered a devastating forced removal from our homelands to an area occupied by other Native Nations. Yet, we regrouped and formed a new government, rebuilding the Cherokee Nation.
Allaire: I think many people will find your book inspirational, and I urge people to read your other work as well. (Do it, y'all!) As a fellow Indigenous writer, you are so inspiring to me, so it was such a pleasure getting to interview you for this, Traci. Thank you.
Sorell: Wado (thank you), Christian. I feel likewise about the representation you provide for so many in your book. My hope is that you'll continue creating wonderful works for our young people. We need your voice.
by Jessica Anya Blau
"I had just turned fourteen, it was 1975, and my ideas about home, furniture, and cleanliness ran straight into me like an umbilical cord from my mother." In the upper-crust Baltimore neighborhood of Roland Park, Mary Jane's emotionally distant father thanks God every night at the dinner table for giving him an obedient child. Her world is exceedingly neat and regimented, until she begins working as a summer nanny for the Cone family down the street. This is the summer that will change everything for the protagonist of Jessica Anya Blau's Mary Jane.
Mary Jane's first-person narration and extremely limited experience of the world make this story both poignant and tremendously funny. While her own family oozes Stepford-style 1950s values, the Cones are consistently barefoot and scantily clad, and their home is a shock. "I'd never before been in a house where every space was crammed with things to look at or think about." Mary Jane's charge, Izzy Cone, is a completely delightful five-year-old girl with untamed curls, copious energy and few boundaries. And then Dr. Cone (a psychiatrist) moves a patient and his wife into the guest quarters. They turn out to be a heroin-addicted rock star and a movie star. Mary Jane finds herself newly enfolded in boundless affection, acceptance, good humor and nonstop (mostly harmless) shenanigans. How will she reconcile this wild, disruptive, noisy new world with the life she's known?
Mary Jane is unendingly charming and fun. Blau's appealingly naïve narrator is at her best when she wonders at the colorful world that emerges in this enchanting novel about personal growth and changing times. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Discover: In this heartwarming, hilarious novel, a dutiful child from a conservative household becomes nanny to a family of riotous hippies, and her world beautifully explodes.
Girl in the Walls
by A.J. Gnuse
Eddie's books disappear. His older brother Marshall's Pop-Tarts vanish. Creaking stairs, thumping walls and more missing objects cause bitter accusations and screaming denials between the brothers. Their parents can't understand their kids' hostility, nor why things aren't always where they left them. Eavesdropping just out of sight, the girl in the walls chides herself to be more careful in this disquieting coming-of-age story.
Just outside New Orleans, 11-year-old Elise wanders barefoot away from a car accident toward the house she grew up in, where her father taught her to explore the crawlspaces. Elise enters without a key, slipping deftly behind the walls. Nick and Laura Mason live there now with their sons. Eddie spends his time reading novels of fantasy and myths while Marshall sticks to death metal music and pushups. Elise roams the house while the family is out. She's cautious, but eating and reading are essentials. Eddie isn't sure if Elise is real or imaginary, but Marshall befriends a guy online named Traust who swears there are people living within the walls of houses all over the country. Traust offers to capture the Mason resident trespasser as long as he can keep her. Elise can either leave immediately and live, or stay to fight for the only place she ever felt loved. Suddenly she's out of options--a hurricane overflows the levees and Elise's beloved childhood home lies directly in the path of destruction.
A.J. Gnuse's first novel, Girl in the Walls, gathers a damaged, plucky tween and an angst-ridden family and throws a hellacious storm at them, but still lets a little hope peek from behind the darkest clouds. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: A grieving, orphaned girl lives inside the walls of the last place where she felt love in this disquieting coming-of-age story.
Angel & Hannah
by Ishle Yi Park
Poet/singer Ishle Yi Park crafts an elegiac debut novel-in-verse featuring star-crossed teens, a "rebel/ Romeo & Juliet." From the opening line of Angel & Hannah, Park immediately commands complicity in sharing something secret involving diverse backgrounds: "Psst," she warns, "Ven acá. Illuwah"--"come here," in Spanish, then repeating "come here," in Korean. The eponymous lovers-to-be are just 16 in the spring of 1993, when they first meet "in the heart of Jamaica, Queens." Angel is Puerto Rican, goes to Aviation High School (albeit sporadically) and dreams of flying. Hannah has been the high-achieving "good girl" all her life, pleasing her Korean immigrant parents, protecting her mother from her father's relentless violence.
Love is an escape for both. Park segments their (d)evolving romance to parallel the seasons: the newness of "Primavera," the heat of "Verano," the changes of "Otoño," the ending of "Invierno." Hannah can't keep Angel from her strict parents, whose rigidity pushes her out until she's living in Angel's chaotic home. But Angel's mother welcomes her, his little brother adores her. Reality, though, is undeniable and drugs, poverty, betrayal, death, loss will destroy. By the end, Park alludes to rebirth on a faraway island.
Hawaii is where Park (The Temperature of This Water) currently lives. In Angel & Hannah, she returns to the New York City of her birth, where she was the first woman to be named Poet Laureate of Queens, from 2004 to 2007. Her youthful cast here, their generational and cultural struggles, could easily resonate with mature teen readers; adult audiences longing to reminisce, to be immersed in all-encompassing, cascading emotions of first love, will be enthralled. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Former Poet Laureate of Queens, N.Y., Ishle Yi Park's debut novel-in-verse haunts with a diversely populated Romeo & Juliet.
Mystery & Thriller
While Justice Sleeps
by Stacey Abrams
With While Justice Sleeps, Stacey Abrams (Lead from the Outside) marks her first foray into the political thriller genre--bringing her experience with courts, politics and the justice system to a world of imagined suspense and intrigue, with great success.
Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn has few family ties. He has dedicated his life, instead, to his role on the Supreme Court, and to his definition of justice. "He felt equally dismissive of willful ignorance--his description of the modern press--and smug stupidity, his bon mot for politicians." Avery Keene serves as Justice Wynn's law clerk, overworked and underpaid while juggling care for her mother, who suffers from drug addiction and pops in and out of Avery's life.
When Justice Wynn slips into an inexplicable coma, his papers shockingly name Avery his legal guardian. And as people around Justice Wynn start to disappear or turn up dead, Avery quickly realizes she's in deeper than she thought possible. She is drawn into an international plot surrounding the possible merger of an American tech company and Indian genetics research lab in a Supreme Court case, for which Justice Wynn was set to be the swing vote.
There are a lot of layers to the central mystery of While Justice Sleeps, which can feel labyrinthine at times. But a bit of patience is more than worth it, as Abrams weaves a suspenseful tale of politics and power that feels grounded in the realities of American politics--even while the case and story surrounding it are purely fiction. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: Stacey Abrams's first political thriller combines a scavenger hunt for clues with reflections on the state of American politics in a clever, suspenseful novel.
A Trail of Lies
by Kylie Logan
Kylie Logan blends a lively amateur sleuth tale with a harder-edged police procedural that delves into family dynamics in A Trail of Lies, her third novel about Jazz Ramsey (The Secret of Bones). An administrative assistant to Sister Eileen Flannery, principal of Cleveland's St. Catherine's Preparatory Academy for Girls, Jazz volunteers in her spare time to train and handle cadaver dogs who find dead bodies for the police.
Her latest Human Remains Detection (HRD) dog--the adorable and rambunctious Wally--gets his first trial when Jazz tries to help Kim Kolesov, the mother of her police detective boyfriend, Nick. Kim is convinced she has murdered a man and his body is in her backyard, and that someone has been spying on her and trying to break into her home. Jazz is hardly surprised when Wally, her seven-month-old Airedale, finds no whiff of any remains because she didn't believe Kim's story, as the woman was a paranoid alcoholic given to delusions. Still, Kim is "part of the package" that comes with Nick, and Jazz promised to look after his mother while he is away on an undercover assignment. Jazz begins to reevaluate Kim's story when the body of a newly paroled convicted murderer turns up in a neighborhood park.
The highly entertaining A Trail of Lies gets a boost from the appealing Jazz and the equally believable supporting characters, complemented by crisp dialogue. Although readers will want to spend more time with Wally and the intricacies of HRD, Logan's affinity for realistic, well-paced storytelling gives A Trail of Lies an extra bite. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer
Discover: An appealing heroine who trains and handles cadaver dogs tries to find who may be menacing her boyfriend's needy mother in this engaging, well-paced story.
by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Jean Hanff Korelitz's staggeringly good literary thriller The Plot begins as New Yorker Jacob Finch Bonner arrives at his three-week teaching gig at a low-residency MFA program in Vermont. It feels like--and is--a step back for "the once promising author of the 'New & Noteworthy' (New York Times Book Review) novel The Invention of Wonder." Jake's writing career is at a standstill: his follow-up to The Invention of Wonder tanked, and he hasn't published since.
One consolation of his teaching job is that Jake knows his work is at least a cut above the puerile prose of his students--that is, until, during a teacher-student chat, Evan Parker shares aloud a synopsis of his planned novel. Jake can't disagree with Evan's appraisal: "This story I'm writing, it's like, a sure thing." But the prospect of its publication would seem to evaporate with Evan's death, which Jake learns about while poking around on the Internet a couple of years later.
Fast-forward three more years, and Jake, having convinced himself of the uprightness of stealing Evan's plot ("A great story... wanted to be told"), finds his name on the cover of two million copies of the New York Times bestseller Crib. Jake is certain that only he knows the book's origin--until the day he receives a disturbing e-mail, the first of several of an increasingly worrisome kind.
Korelitz (You Should Have Known) demonstrates masterful control with her incremental release of big reveals. As they did in the fictional universe of The Plot, Oprah and Spielberg would do well to rally around Korelitz's lollapalooza. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer
Discover: This staggeringly good literary thriller is about a staggeringly good literary thriller written by a failed novelist who has stolen the book's plot from a deceased student.
by Nancy Thayer
The bonds of family and friendship--however loving and limiting--are recurrent themes in Nancy Thayer novels (Girls of Summer; Surfside Sisters). In Family Reunion, she returns to her beloved Nantucket and delivers a tender, multi-generational saga about the Sunderland family, who have had a beach house on the island for generations.
Eleanor, the widowed matriarch, is disappointed when her best friend makes plans with her husband, leaving Eleanor to fend for herself all summer. When Eleanor's adult children, Cliff and Alicia, who both live in Boston and visit their mother on the island, learn this news, they become determined to convince Eleanor, in her 70s, to sell the multi-level house and move to senior housing. Eleanor resists, knowing that her children, while well intentioned, also have designs on acquiring proceeds from the sale. For Eleanor, however, the house has a value more precious than money--it is her home and holds a lifetime of cherished memories.
Eleanor gets a reprieve from her children's plot when her granddaughter Ariana (Ari)--Alicia's offspring--a recent college graduate who called off her wedding, asks Eleanor if she can spend the summer. The two women--generations apart, yet immensely compatible--both step out in exciting directions, leading to new romantic relationships that ultimately empower them.
Thayer thoroughly understands the nuances of family and the not-always-sincere and altruistic motivations therein. She layers in a host of contemporary complications and subplots that will satisfy readers in search of escapist, yet thought-provoking, domestic fiction. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A tender, insightful story about an aging family matriarch and her adult granddaughter who both experience a life-changing summer on Nantucket.
Biography & Memoir
Brat: An '80s Story
by Andrew McCarthy
Actor, director and writer Andrew McCarthy (The Longest Way Home) focuses on his first decade as a young actor in this insightful and intimate memoir, examining "a time that has been willfully ignored by me for so long." He was 19 when he co-starred with Rob Lowe and Jacqueline Bisset in Class, and although that film fizzled, he quickly found popularity with hits St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, Mannequin and Weekend at Bernie's. "I'd already started to develop a mask of aloof detachment that brought me some distance from the acute fear I felt in many situations," McCarthy writes. He also self-medicated his anxieties with pot, prescription drugs, cocaine and especially alcohol.
For a very private person, McCarthy is surprisingly open about his insecurities, isolation, alcoholism and strained interactions with his father ("Money would grow to define our relationship," he writes, "and his hunger for cash would not be satisfied"). He had an "uneasy alliance" with St. Elmo's Fire director Joel Schumacher, and that marked the time he began drinking alone, but his confident performance made him into a leading man. It also brought him and an expandable number of cast mates the label of "Brat Pack." The dismissive label seemed to carry more weight in McCarthy's mind. After more than three decades, he finally embraces the term: "It was a stigma that ultimately transformed into a loving moniker, a term of great and enduring affection."
Brat is a courageous and very public self-analysis of a very successful but unhappy decade in Hollywood's fast lane. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: Andrew McCarthy's self-lacerating memoir of 1980s Hollywood and his first decade in films shines with intelligence and honesty.
King Kong Theory
by Virginie Despentes , trans. by Frank Wynne
Originally published in France in 2006, King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes (Vernon Subutex 3; Bye Bye Blondie) remains astoundingly relevant. A feminist manifesto, societal indictment and memoir, this infuriating social commentary shares enraging observations about gender.
Despentes--writer, filmmaker, punk and former hooker--cleverly equates King Kong with the inner beast killed in a woman so she can fulfill her gender role. The "overmarketing of femininity" reassures men they hold more power; simultaneously, celebrated "masculinity" reminds men of their "irrepressible urges" and strength absent frailty. This power structure is why Despentes never pulled her switchblade while three men raped her and her friend. It also influences Despentes's discussion of prostitution, including how it is stigmatized for female sex workers, who should be married to enjoy sex, and male clientele, whose sexuality creates so-called "victims." Anti-porn efforts, too, are cited as a way desire is policed, particularly for women, for whom masturbation and sexual exploration means dangerous "contact with [her] wild side." "Womanhood is whoredom," she concludes: "Walk into a room, check to see whether there are any men present, do your best to please them." What she proposes is a gender revolution to free everyone from being fearfully entrenched in nonexistent archetypes.
Despentes writes with brilliance, anger, balance and purpose. In citing her attacked book (Baise-Moi), banned film adaptation and experience as a sex worker, she corroborates her central idea: capitalism "subjugates us all" by devaluing any woman's existence that isn't for men. With striking rhetoric, unabashed fury and resonating convictions, Despentes rallies women excluded from existence to her vision of demolishing broken systems. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer
Discover: This unapologetic feminist treatise by a French writer, filmmaker, punk and former hooker is a love letter to women that unabashedly discusses the beauty and problems in gender and sexuality.
Children's & Young Adult
Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate
by Melissa Stewart , illust. by Sarah S. Brannen
Employing her splendid talent for making science cool, Melissa Stewart (Can an Aardvark Bark?) introduces young readers to creatures that go dormant not through the winter, but during the summer. Hibernation is a well-known concept; estivation less so. Stewart aims to change that. Her enthusiasm for these unfamiliar snoozers, combined with stunningly realistic watercolor illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen (illustrator of Stewart's Feathers: Not Just for Flying), make summer sleepers the superstars in the charming nonfiction picture book Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate.
The main text offers general groupings of animals that estivate: "Some hard-shelled creatures climb up high for a nap.../ ...while others doze underground." Then, in secondary narratives, specific critters take the spotlight: "When the days grow long and hot, land snails cling to tree branches and seal their shells shut. Their heart rates slow, and they barely breathe as they wait for cooler days." To offer even more information for eager learners, a black-and-white logbook page appears amid the lush colors of the illustrations. The page includes the animals' scientific names, sizes and detailed sketches an observer might record while watching them.
Brannen's art is as captivating as the information it illuminates. The lifelike depictions include vital intricacies--variegated shading on the shells of the snails, wisps of whiskers on the yellow-bellied marmot--as well as a sense of depth and texture. The illustrations are not only incredibly enjoyable, they're also accurate and informative. Summertime Sleepers is a gem that should spark children's interest in science, in the world around them and in the joy of learning. And what better bedtime reading than a book that features everyone sleeping? --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen team up again in this dazzling picture book about the wonders of animals that sleep not through the winter, but through the summer.
The Power of Style
by Christian Allaire
Vogue fashion and style writer Christian Allaire, using a multitude of contemporary references, skillfully challenges traditional beauty norms and fashion biases in his nonfiction YA book, The Power of Style.
Allaire, who is Ojibwe from Nipissing First Nation, breaks down how artists, influencers and vloggers are creating products and accessories that make space for more diversity in the makeup, hair, clothing and shoe industries. He particularly emphasizes the notoriety certain beauty icons are able to achieve by harnessing their identities as a magnet for change: "We're at a time when cultural pride and activism are more important than ever, and should you be interested in all things style, it's an opportune moment to use what you wear for a larger purpose." Alongside candid interviews with "creativepreneurs"--such as men's heel brand co-founders Henry Bae and Shaobo Han; Halima Aden, the first hijab-wearing Muslim supermodel; and Native fashion maven Bethany Yellowtail--Allaire draws on his own experience gradually integrating his marginalized heritage into a professional setting that lags in terms of adequate representation. He "discovered that Indigenous design is about more than creating a garment. It's about maintaining traditional craft and honoring your family's roots."
Throughout, multicolored infographics that provide additional background information on topics such as ribbon work, hair braiding, body positivity, henna art and modest fashion are positioned next to striking photos. Allaire's YA debut is a breakout comprehensive guide that works to redefine beauty and highlight the strength and fabulousness in inclusion. --Rachel Werner, Hugo House and The Loft Literary Center faculty
Discover: Modern trailblazers debunking conventional beauty and fashion standards are unveiled in this visual reference guide by Vogue contributor Christian Allaire.