First time authors are rarely known to write a truly exceptional book but Lisa Halliday accomplished the nearly impossible when she published Asymmetry: a collection of three short stories, two that appear to be related (Folly and Ezra Blazer’s Desert Island Discs) and one that appears to be asymmetrical but is clearly the star of the show (Madness).
In Folly, Alice, a twenty-something assistant editor at a publishing house in New York City meets Ezra Blazer, an elderly well known and universally respected writer of classic 20th century fiction who has yet to win the Nobel Prize for fiction. Blazer was probably once a player with rugged good looks and a shocking head of thick hair but time has not been kind to the author who complains about back pain, his heart problems, and the other ailments that haunt the elderly. Read more
Where the Crawdads Sing
Never run in town or people’ll think you stole something.
Where the Crawdads Sing is the first book of fiction published by Delia Owens, an author known more for the non-fiction books (The Eye of the Elephant, Cry of the Kalahari, and Secrets of the Savanna) she co-authored with Mark Owens about her experiences as a wildlife scientist in Africa. With the same attention to detail and observation made in previous books, Owens writes a coming of age novel about a young girl growing up in the marshlands of North Carolina in the 1950’s and 60’s, which is rumored to be partially autobiographical. Read more
There is an old Arabic story about a man who hears Death is coming for him, so he sneaks away to Samarra. And when he gets there, he finds Death in the market, and Death says “You know, I just felt like going on vacation to Samarra. I was going to skip you today, but how lucky you showed up to find me! And the man is taken after all.
When the book “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2018, there were generally three camps of people: those who didn’t understand how this book won what many consider the most prestigious annual literary award in the world, those who totally got it, and the rest, myself included who didn’t understand why the book won until they got through most of the book and realized the brilliance is not only the story but also how it was told (note: I didn’t really like the book until I got to the end when the story came together brilliantly). Read more
The Girl Who Smiled Beads
I am here. I need you to see me. I need you to see that I am here. You, world, cannot make me crumble. I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.
Clemantine Wamariya was born in 1988 in Rwanda and led an idyllic childhood until 1994, when civil war broke out between the Tutsi and Hutu (the two main groups of people residing in the country). Clemantine, six years old at the time, and her 15-year old sister, Claire were sent to live with their grandmother in the southern region of the country but when the war spread, the two young girls began a 6 year journey migrating through seven South African countries before being granted refugee status in the United States in 2000. Read more
The Destiny Thief
The Destiny Thief is a collection of essays (9) on writing, writers, and life by Richard Russo. Readers may recognize Russo, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Empire Falls and also wrote Nobody’s Fool and the follow-up Everybody’s Fool, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Straight Man, The Whore’s Child, and That Old Cape Magic, but for those who have not read his works, the best way to describe Russo’s books is to say they are authentic, real, and so well written. So how did he do it? By living the life he was meant to live. Read more
You Play the Girl
Strategic girls manage perception; idealistic girls go up against the narrative, because it’s at the root of the problem, and they get crushed every time. ~Carina Chocano
When I was a young girl (maybe 12 or 13), I watched my mother get up early one Sunday morning and drive down to Walter’s Bakery (the local bakery known for their doughnuts, brownies, and New York-style streusel coffee cake) to buy a bag of glazed, powdered, and jelly doughnuts. She returned home, bag in hand and put the doughnuts on a plate and promptly delivered them upstairs to my five brothers who were in bed.
The problem with this extremely kind gesture is that it was Mother’s Day – that one day a year when fathers and kids are supposed to wait on mom, instead of the other way around. Even back then as a child I thought it was insane for a mother to bring her five sons fresh doughnuts in bed, especially on Mother’s Day. Where’s the justice? There wasn’t any…and that was the problem with growing up female in most homes in the 50’s, 60’s. and 70’s. Read more
The House on Mango Street
People who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth.
In 1984, Sandra Cisneros – a woman who “dreamed about having a silent home, just to herself, the way other women dreamed of their weddings” – was a 30-year-old Mexican American writer (having earned a BA in English from Loyola University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa) published her first book, The House on Mango Street: the story of a young Hispanic girl named Esperanza Cordero growing up on the west side of Chicago. Read more
Abide with Me
We can wonder if, for all our separate histories, we are not more alike than different after all. ~Elizabeth Strout
In 1959, life in small town America revolved around family, school, work, and church which was pretty much the same decades before and decades since. Houses may have updated appliances, driveways new cars, and schools fitted with updated technology but people tend to stay the same. They root for a winner but can’t help finding fault, gossiping, and crucifying others for perceived slights, petty jealousies, or simply because they have nothing else to do. And, as soon as a person is knocked down to size, they come together to lift him or her up, rejoicing in their newfound redemption. Such is the story of the townspeople in a small northeastern town in Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout. Read more
Each Kindness is a beautiful picture book with a powerful message about how we treat people and the regrets we may have. Written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Each Kindness is told from the perspective of a young girl named Chloe who tells the story of what happened when a new girl named Maya joined her class in primary school (the book does not specify the grade but it appears to be about second or third grade).
Chloe recounts with brutal honesty how she shunned the new girl, made fun of her, and refused all attempts at friendship throughout the school year. When Ms. Albert, their teacher gives a lesson on kindness, Chloe wonders how much better the year could have been if she had shown Maya a little kindness and opened her heart to friendship. Read more