Archive for April, 2010

Mama Dearest

April 25, 2010

Author: E. Lynn Harris

Genre: African American/GLBTQ

Publication Date: 2009

Number of  Pages: 387

Geographical Setting: New York City

Series: Yes. Third in the Basil and Yancy Series

Plot Summary: Singer and actress Yancy Harrington Braxton is finishing a low-budget tour of Dreamgirls, but she is determined to reclaim her stardom. She thinks the best way to achieve this is to star in her own reality T.V. show. This is not easy when she is surrounded by people who will stop at nothing to make sure she does not succeed. Her scheming, conniving, just been released from prison, mother Ava, does not want Yancy to succeed in anything, which is not surprising as it was Yancy who sent her mother to prison when she testified against her in a shooting incident, and Ava is not about to let Yancy forget it! Ava lets Yancy believe that she has set her up with a T.V. producer, but it turns out he is a drug dealing criminal. Yancy’s involvement with this criminal lands her in prison until an unknown benefactor posts bail for her. Yancy is amazed that somebody would make such a kind gesture and it makes her even more determined to change her diva ways and become a better person. Yancy is surrounded by a cast of colorful characters, including Dani, one of the young gay men in her Dreamgirls cast. Dani and Yancy have a strong friendship and are always there for each other. We meet other lovers and ex-lovers of both Yancy and Ava along the way, one of them being Basil Henderson a bisexual NFL tight end who appears in the other books in this series.

When Yancy was in college she fell in love with Derrick, but when she discovered she was pregnant she gave the baby up for adoption. Unbeknown to Yancy Derrick adopted their baby daughter, naming her Madison B. Madison B is now a very popular and successful young singer. Yancy and Madison B discover their relationship during the making of their own realityT.V. shows. Yancy discovers she has strong maternal feelings for Madison B and realises she would really like to try and be a mother to her. But is it too late? Will the sins of  Ava and Yancy carry on from one generation to the next? Will Madison B give Yancy a chance?

Subject Headings: African-American actors and actresses; African-American women singers; African-American Fiction – 21st century; Entertainment industry; Mother and daughter.

Appeal: character centered, strong secondary characters, multiple story lines, fast-paced, dramatic, sexuallyexplicit, strong language, steamy, romantic, family relationships, friendship, glbtq, bisexual, plot twists.

3 Terms Best Describe this book:  hopeful, dramatic, character-centered

Similary Works/Authors:


1. Baby Momma Drama by Carl Weber (strong characters, plot twists, relationship issues, drug dealing, dramatic).

2. Drop Dead Beautiful by Jackie Collins (although not an African-American author, her books have strong similarities to the entertainment world as Mama Dearest. They are full of steamy sex, family relationships, hopefulness, powerful female characters, fast-paced).

3. One in a Million by Kimberla Lawson Roby (dramatic, hopeful, plot twists, family relationships, steady pace).


1. Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television (biographical, stardom, television,entertainment world).

2. Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner (family relatsionships, hopefulness, rise to fame, parent-child relationship).

3. Freedom in this Village: Twenty-five years of Black Gayt Men’s Writing by Isaac Jackson (black, gay male literature, authors, biographies, essays).


Love is Higher Law

April 21, 2010

Author: David Levithan

Title:  Love is the Higher Law

Genre: Fiction, GLBTQ

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  167

Geographical Setting: NYC

Time Period:  2001-2003

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Claire and Peter are seniors at the same high school.  Jasper is a college student staying with his parents before school starts again.  All three are living in New York on September 11, 2001.  Each of them has a different reaction to the World Trade Center attacks.  Claire spends every night at Ground Zero mourning the people who lost their lives.  Peter finds comfort in music.  Jasper feels detached from it all.  The three become friends after Peter and Jasper have an incredibly awkward first date and Claire meets Jasper by chance at Ground Zero.  They help each other move past the tragedy they’ve experienced and into a new chapter of their lives.

Subject Headings:  September 11th 2001, teenagers, homosexuality, interpersonal relations, multiple narrators, realistic fiction

Appeal: Character-centered, cinematic, contemporary, conversational, detailed setting, historical details, multiple points of view, inspiring, urban, witty, tragic, romance

3 terms that best describe this book: Inspiring, historic, fast-paced

Similar Authors and Works:


Love You, Mean It: a True Story of Love, Loss, and Friendship by Patricia Carrington- The events of September 11th brought together four women, all of whom lost their husbands in the attacks.  Carrington outlines how their bond helped them cope with the loss of their loved ones and find hope to move on.

September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City by Wilborn Hampton- A collection of stories about New York City residents emotional reactions to the World Trade Center attacks including two people who were inside when the first plane hit.

The 9-11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation by Sidney Jacobson- The 9-11 Commission’s findings illustrated as a graphic novel.


Boy Girl Boy by Ron Koertge- Three teenagers- Elliot, Teresa, and Larry- are approaching graduation and plan to run away to California together.  As graduation day nears, each of them begin to question who they are.  Elliot feels his friends are overshadowing him.  Teresa wants a romantic relationship with one of them but can’t decide whom.  Larry is admitting to himself that he’s gay but doesn’t know how to tell his friends.

Keesha’s House by Helen Frost- Frost tells the story of seven teenagers through a series of monologues.  Each of the teens have left home for different reasons ranging from pregnancy to homosexuality.

Windows on the World by Federic Beigbeder- One narrative tells the story of a father who follows through on his promise to take his sons to Windows on the World, the restaurant on the top of the World Trade Center, on September 11th.  Another narrative is written through the eyes of a Frenchman in 2003 looking back on the attacks.

Name: Shannon

Push: A Novel

April 21, 2010

Author: Sapphire

Title: Push: A Novel

Genre: Urban

Publication date: 1996

Number of pages: 140

Geographical setting: Harlem, New York City

Time period: 1980s

Plot summary: Obese, failed student, physically and sexually abused, pregnant with second child, and 16 years old. A nightmare life, but this is Claireece Precious Jones’ life. Precious is still in junior high and struggling with a father who has raped her and fathered her two children and a mother who yells at her, beats her, and sexually abuses her. All seems lost for Precious, another victim of the ghettos of New York until she meets Blue Rain, an energetic, determined young teacher who has radical ideas about how to educate troubled youth. Precious finds a mentor in Ms. Rain and friends in her class. And she might just find her lost life and a lasting purpose.

Subject headings: Urban fiction — 20th century; Single African-American mothers; Child abuse victims — New York City

Appeal: compelling; dramatic; evocative; vivid; cinematic; violent, raw, sexually explicit; dark; jargon; lyrical; frank

3 terms that best describe this book: arresting; poetic; emotional

Similar works:


Sugar: A Novel by Bernice L. McFadden | Raised by prostitutes and turning tricks herself from the age of twelve, Sugar Lacey has a reputation and a past from which no redemption is possible. When she moves into a new town, the local women rise against her. All except her neighbor, Pearl, who gives Sugar a chance at creating a future for herself.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker | Celie, a poor black woman in the South in the 1920-50s is raped by her father, and then married off to an abusive husband and seperated from her sister. Through her letters to her lost sister, Celie tells her story of her rise from marrital oppression to independence.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck | Okie farmers are forced by the Depression and drought to abandon their homes and migrate to California to be fruitpickers. Despite crushing poverty and oppression by landowners, they struggle to create new lives and a future.


Women’s Ways Of Knowing: The Development Of Self, Voice, And Mind 10th Anniversary Edition by Mary Belenky | Interviewing over 100 women, Belenky investigates the development of knowledge in women. The book defines five categories of how women you what they know.

Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama | Born of a Kenyan father and American white mother, and raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii, Obama struggles to find his identity and a lasting purpose.

Black, White, and Jewish by Rebecca Walker | Through difficult friendships, drug problems, and mixed race parents, a woman works toward finding an identity and future.

Name: Jason J. Lamb

Sag Harbor

April 21, 2010

Author: Colson Whitehead

Title: Sag Harbor

Genre: African-American

Publication Date:2009

Number of Pages 288:

Geographical Setting: Sag Harbor, New York

Time Period:1985

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1985 fifteen year old Benji Cooper and his brother return to the traditional vacation spot for middle class African Americans in New York City, Sag Harbor. This time they get to spend the summer living on their own with their parents visiting only on weekends. The book follows Benji through his summer job, attempts to gain the attention of girls and lots of time hanging out at the beach with his friends. Whitehead provides a detailed view of racial and class divisions against the backdrop of a nostalgic coming of age novel.

Subject Headings:African American, adolescence, 1980’s

Appeal: Closely observed, detailed, evocative, familiar, lifelike, recognizable, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, linear, detailed setting, small-town, humorous, intimate, lighthearted, nostalgic, unpretentious

3 terms that best describe this book: Nostalgic, Engaging, Recognizable

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons by Steven Gaines

In contrast to the much more down to Earth town of Sag Harbor, this book looks at the nearby towns known as the Hamptons and their super-rich inhabitants.

Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century (Historical Studies of Urban America) by Andrew Weiss. Explores the phenomenon of African American middle and upper classes moving outward from cities creating uniquely black suburbs.

We beat the street: how a friendship pact helped us succeed by The Three Doctors. A story of three African American teen boys who use their strong friendship to propel themselves out of a troubled neighborhood and though college.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Caucasia by Danzy Senna. Set in the 1970’s a young girl with a Caucasian mother and African-American father is abandoned by her father and is forced to move with her mother to find a new home. Similar to Sag Harbor in its exploration of racial identity and how a children can be placed between

Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. Like Sag Harbor this book is set in the New York City of the 1980’s and explores racial and class differences among young adults.

The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty. In this coming of age novel author Beatty explores the nature of racial identity. A young African-American boy is forced to adjust as he moves from the predominantly white suburb where he spends his childhood to a town filled with minorities (blacks/Asians/Latinos).

Name:Kris Harrison

Mysterious Skin

April 21, 2010

Author:Scott Heim

Title: Mysterious Skin

Genre: Gay/Lesbian

Publication Date: 1995

Number of Pages: 292

Geographical Setting: Hutchinson, Kansas

Time Period: Segments of the book are set in each of the years 1981, 1983 and 1987

Series (If applicable):n/a

Plot Summary: In 1981 eight year old Brian wakes up in the crawlspace of his house, bleeding and not able to remember the last five hours. He comes to believe he has been abducted by a UFO. At the same time, in the same town Neil, also eight years old, is molested by his little league coach. Over the next several years the two take drastically different paths but ultimately are drawn to each other in an attempt to understand the traumatic events that have shaped their lives.

Subject Headings: Gay/Lesbian issues, child sexual abuse, male prostitution, repressed memories, coming of age

Appeal: dramatic, interior, reflective, sympathetic, well-drawn, detailed setting, small-town, stark, darker, emotionally-charged, introspective, nightmare, uneasy, thoughtful, frank, stark,

3 terms that best describe this book: Graphic, Disturbing, Moving

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Why I killed Peter. By Olivier Ka. A graphic novel depicting the author’s confronting the priest who abused him when he was twelve.

Young Man from the Provinces: A Gay Life Before Stonewall by Alan Helms. This memoir traces the author’s journey from a difficult childhood, growing up gay in 1950’s small town Indiana to a career as an actor and model in the significantly more open New York City.

Why I Didn’t Say Anything: The Sheldon Kennedy Story by Sheldon Kennedy and James Grainger. I

A memoir of a famous Canadian hockey player who reveals the childhood abuse he suffered at the hands of his former coach.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley. A coming of age story focusing on a budding relationship between two young men in the rural south.

Heart is Deceitful Above All Things by J. T. LeRoy. A series of stories focusing on a young person suffering from gender confusion and set in the rough world of truck stop prostitution.

The World of Normal Boys by K. M. Soehnlein. A coming of age novel set in 1978 about a thirteen yearl old boy and his explorations of his homosexuality.

Name: Kris Harrison

Man Of Fate

April 21, 2010


Author: Rochelle Alers

Title: Man of Fate

Genre: Romance

Publication date: 2009

Number of pages: 299

Geographical setting: Harlem, New York City

Time period: Modern Time

Series: The Best Men Series

Plot summary: Man of Fate is the first book in the Best Men series by Rochelle Alers. Three African-American bachelors are highly successful in their careers, but their love lives are lacking. Lifelong friends Kyle, Ivan, and Duncan are co-owners of a Harlem brownstone. Kyle Chandler is an attorney for a powerful corporation. His life is changed forever when he is rear-ended by Ava Warrick. Ava and Kyle become friends enjoying each others company, when they start to realize that there is more there then friendship. Given that Ava has had much luck in the way of love, will the confirmed bachelor Kyle be able to convince the untrusting Ava that he is ready to commit?

Subject headings: African-American lawyers, Mate selection for men, Friendship, African-American men/women relations — Harlem, New York City, Traffic accidents, African-American social workers, Trust, Soul mates, African-American men, Harlem, New York City, Contemporary romances, African-American fiction — 21st century

Appeal: compelling, fast-paced, relaxed, engaging, details of Harlem, contemporary, character-centered, intimate, passionate, playful, comfortable, layered

Three terms that best describe the book: Passionate, Character-Centered, and Engaging

Similar authors and works:
Niobia Bryant’s Admission of Love. Set in South Carolina, Chloe Bolton is a shallow supermodel, who falls for Devon Jamison, a man trying to get over an unhealthy relationship. If readers liked Man of Fate they will probably like Bryant’s work as well. They are both African American romances that are part of a series.
Michelle Monkou’s Finders Keepers. Nicole Montgomery has a new lease on life after surviving a battle with cancer. She opens a bed and breakfast and is challenged by a hospitality critic, Brad Calverton. Fans of Man of Fate will like the complicated characters presented by Finders Keepers, as the book contains complex life questions, including love.
Gwyneth Bolton’s Sizzling Seduction, Aisha Miller has about given up on men until she is rescued by firefighter Patrick Hightower. Will Patrick be able to prove to Aisha that he is able be trusted. More of a “traditional” romance, Man of Fate fans will probably appreciate Sizzling Seductions fast pace and passion.

Derrick S. Hyra’s The New Urban Renewal. The Economic Transformation of Bronzeville and Harlem. Hyra’s book takes a look at the Harlem setting that is featured in Man of Fate. He discussed how the poor neighborhood had an economic transformation into prosperity. Economic Transformation helps show how economic prosperity can affect those who are not part of the good times.
Heiner Stertkamp’s Jaguar: the Complete Story. The story in Man of Fate really starts when Kyle’s beloved Jaguar is rear ended by Ava. Stertkamp covers the history of the Jaguar and offers several illustrations. He also goes into detail to what makes the Jaguar such a sought after car, discussing the mechanics of the car and its exterior.
Carol Boston Weatherford’s Great African American Lawyers: Raising the Bar of Freedom. Weatherford covers great African American lawyers in short biography narratives. Thurgood Marshall, Barbara Jordan, and several others lives are covered in the books. Man of Fate readers might be interested in African American lawyers after reading the book.

Sleeping With Strangers

April 21, 2010

Author: Eric Jerome Dickey

Title:  Sleeping With Strangers

Genre: Fiction, African American Literature

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  328

Geographical Setting: U.S., England

Time Period:  21st century

Series:  Gideon Series

Plot Summary:

Gideon, a professional hit man, is willing to take on almost any job to win back the love of his life, Arizona.  After completing a particularly bloody contract against high-profile rapper Big Bad Wolf, Gideon heads to London to lay low for a while.  While on the overseas flight, he finds himself questioning his own safety – with good reason.  Although he does not yet know it, a hit has been placed on him.  Gideon wonders about the woman he meets and seduces on his flight, the man with the broken nose who seems to pop up around the foreign city, and Lola, the chatty young American actress who also gives massages.  Gideon is forced to keep his guard up while enjoying the sights, sounds, and women of London.

Meanwhile, Bruno – the man with the broken nose – is trying to prove he is a loving father by supporting his family.  Because his wife wants a divorce and he needs money to support his young children, Bruno agrees to take on a particularly dangerous hit: fellow contract killer, Gideon.

Subject Headings:

African American men –Fiction.

Assassins –Fiction.

Appeal: dramatic, easy pace, multiple points of view, series (characters), strong secondary characters, action-oriented, cinematic, episodic, sexually explicit, hard edged, strong language, contemporary, suspenseful

3 terms that best describe this book: violent, steamy, suspenseful

Similar Authors and Works:


1. Stumbling Naked in the Dark: Overcoming Mistakes Men Make With Women by Bradley Fenton (might appeal to male readers interested in real life relationships with women)

2. The Manual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date, and Mate – and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top by Steve Santagati (might appeal to Dickey’s female fans who are interested in real-life “bad boys” like Gideon)

3.  Hitmen: True Stories of Street Executions by Wensley Clarkson (an investigative journalist looks at multiple professional killers; for readers interested in Gideon’s profession: contract killing)


1. Bebe’s by Golly Wow! by Yolanda Joe (might appeal to readers who particularly enjoy Dickey’s portrayals of urban middle-class African American communities and relationships)

2. A Love of My Own by E. Lynn Harris (appeals to readers of Dickey through shared elements of sex, scandal and drama)

3. Before I Let Go by Darren Coleman (might appeal to readers who enjoy dramatic stories of men’s love- and lust- lives)

Name: Elizabeth

Mama by Terry McMillan

April 21, 2010

Mama by Terry McMillan

Genre: African American fiction
Publication Date: 1987
Pages: 260 pages
Setting: Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, CA; New York City
Series: n/a
Plot Summary: Mama (Mildred Peacock) is a single mother raising 5 children in an impoverished area outside Detroit after she divorces her abusive, alcoholic husband.  Her focus is on raising her children as she struggles with money issues – sometimes working, sometimes on welfare; with drinking – her ex-husbands, her daughter’s and her own.  She moves between men and between cities looking for a better life.  As her children grow and find their own paths, Mildred is alternately satisfied and despondent.
Subject headings: single parent family – Michigan; single mothers; African-American families – Michigan; African-American women; motherhood; The Sixties (20th century); The Seventies (20th Century); Detroit, Michigan; African-American fiction – 20th century; domestic fiction; women’s lives and relationships.
Appeal: compelling, steady, evocative, insightful, lifelike, realistic, strong secondary (characters), vivid, authentic, character-centered, domestic, family-centered, contemporary, details of poverty; bittersweet, candid, edgy, emotionally-charged, gritty, haunting, hopeful, optimistic, philosophical, cadenced, earthy, frank, natural.
Three terms that best describe this book: gritty, powerful, moving.

Similar works/authors
Rattlebone by Maxine Claire
This book is a collection of stories about the citizens of Rattlebone, a black community in the Midwest in the 1950s.  Chosen because it features a variety of characters before the civil rights movement much like the early years of Mildred Peacock’s family.

If I Could by Donna Hill
This novel features a strong black woman who tries to rebuild her life and raise her children alone, after she divorces her husband.  She does what she thinks is best for her, despite the advice of her family and friends.  Chosen to illustrate another woman who must make tough choices to keep her family intact.

Taming it down: a novel by Kim McLarin
In this novel, Hope Robinson is a young black journalist who is struggling to define her life amid complicated personal and family issues.  She is also trying to overcome self-destructive behaviors.  Chosen because it is so similar to the story of Freda, the oldest daughter in Mama.
Shifting through neutral by Bridgett M. Davis
The main character in this novel is trying to find her place as a young African American woman in the 1970s while she deals with other family issues involving her mother, her sick father, and her older sister’s return to the family.  Chosen because it parallels many of the issues found in Mama.
Dear self: a year in the life of a welfare mom by Richelene Mitchell
The author wrote this journal as she struggled to raise seven children while fighting poverty, racism and the humiliation of the welfare system.  She moved to Philadelphia from the south to get an education and wrote this journal during a year of living in public housing projects in Connecticut.  Chosen because it is a real life chronicle of the types of struggles Mildred Peacock faced in Mama.
Children of the movement: the sons and daughters of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, George Wallace, Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, James Chaney, Elaine Brown, and others reveal how the civil rights movement tested and transformed their families by John Blake.
This book of essays features the children of civil rights leaders reflecting on the changes the movement made in their families. Chosen because Freda was learning about the civil rights movement and educating her family, particularly her mother.
Sugar’s life in the hood: the story of a former welfare mother by Sugar Turner
A first person chronicle of the struggle of a welfare mother trying to raise a family, make ends meet with welfare and low paying jobs, find a relationship and avoid the pitfalls of substance abuse.  Chosen because it mirrors the struggles in Mama.
Unsung heroines: single mothers and the American dream by Ruth Sidel examines the lives of singles mothers and their needs for comprehensive healthcare, adequate childcare, and jobs at a living wage to succeed.  Chosen because these topics were relevant in the struggles Mildred Peacock faced in Mama.
Dreams to reality: help for young moms: education, career, and life choices by Laura Haskins-Bookser.
This book draws upon the real life experiences of a young teenage mother and offers advice on setting goals, and well as information on relationships, finances, college, paternity issues, job training, and travel.

Getting ghost: two young lives and the struggle for the soul of an American city by Luke Bermann
This author describes the effects of discrimination, combined with the loss of major industrial employers, focusing on the illegal drug trade and the lives of two young black drug dealers in Detroit.  Chosen because similar events happened in Mama – factories closing, difficulties finding jobs, and drug use.

Barrel Fever

April 21, 2010

Author:  David Sedaris

TitleBarrel Fever

Genre:  Nonfiction, GLBTQ

Publication Date:  1994

Number of Pages: 196

Geographical Setting: Many different locations: from the Santa land at Macy’s to a young girl’s funeral

Time Period:  A range of time periods, but predominantly between the 1970s up to the early 1990s

Plot Summary: In Sedaris’s first published novel, he collects a group of short stories and essays that embody his unusual dead-pan wit and satirical look at the world.  From the story of a man who is loved too much by his celebrity boyfriends (such manly figures as Bruce Springsteen, Charlton Heston, and Mike Tyson) to a girl who attempts to cause the deaths of her ex-boyfriend and former best friend by committing suicide and leaving a scathing letter to be read (and possibly incite violence) at her funeral, Sedaris has a writing style not for the faint of heart.  Sedaris plays off of traditional societal norms and turns them on their head; for example, he has a mother practically confess to infanticide through her annual Christmas card family update.  He explores the question we all wonder at Christmas: how can some people be so upbeat (or use so many exclamation points) when giving truly terrible news? Sedaris pleasures in turning conventional stories into something the reader would never expect, and does not shy away from taboo subjects like homosexuality, sex, murder, suicide, religion, and erotic fantasy.  The book culminates in one of Sedaris’s most recognizable essays, The Santaland Diaries, chronicling his stint as a Macy’s Christmas elf.  Never ashamed of who he is and what he has to say, Sedaris’s frank tone and matter-of-fact writing lend to the overall theme of the collection: nothing is sacred, and everything is better when you throw in something completely unexpected.

Subject Headings:  Humor Writing — General; Essays; Short stories, American — 20th century

Appeal: engrossing, fast-paced, compelling, eccentric, engaging, evocative, well-developed, vivid, episodic, racy, romp, sexually explicit, steamy, urban, edgy, flamboyant, humorous, sophisticated, colorful, direct, concise, showy, smart, unusual, witty

3 terms that best describe this book: Dead-pan wit, satire on cultural norms, humorous

Similar Authors and Works:


Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, by Chuck Klosterman: For a pop-culture aficionado who enjoys Sedaris’s cutting humor, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs offers a collection of essays examining some of the important issues in life, including MTV’s The Real World, Pamela Anderson, and how John Cusack ruined relationships for an entire generation.

Magical Thinking: True Stories, by Augusten Borroughs: A collection of short essays that tell the story of Borroughs’s unconventional childhood and grown-up experiences through the lens of humor and self-deprecation.  Those who enjoy the personal moments of Sedaris’s short essays will appreciate the insight into this quirky author’s life.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers: For a more serious and stripped-down look at how even the most unconventional of families shapes who you are, Eggers provides a memoir that is both funny and emotional.


The Diaries of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain: Twain takes a satirical look into the lives of the first man and woman through his mock diary of their experience on Earth.  A more serious-toned novel for Twain, those who enjoy Sedaris’s irreverent look into controversial subjects will like Twain’s take on the relationship between the scientific Eve and the less-intelligent Adam.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving: Quirky characters and questioning a life guided by fate characterize Irving’s novel.  Readers who appreciate Sedaris’s ability to create engaging, unusual characters and meaningful interactions will find the same themes in Irving’s work.

The Extra Man, by Jonathan Ames: Exploring some of the more taboo subjects, such as cross-dressing and the transvestite culture in New York City, Ames creates a novel with colorful characters who explore sexuality and romance in a funny and witty way.

Zorro: A Novel

April 21, 2010

Author:  Isabel Allende

Title:  Zorro: A Novel

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Latino

Publication Date:  2005

Number of Pages:  390

Geographical Setting:  Barcelona, Spain and Southern California

Time Period:  1790-1815

Series:  None

Plot Summary:  Allende’s retelling of the legend of Zorro goes all the way back to the beginning of the legend when Diego de la Vega was born to an aristocratic hidalgo and his Native American wife.  Because of his biracial background Diego is always aware of his outsider status, and from childhood he is sensitive to the injustices that the Spanish colonies commit against the local tribes.  Diego’s affinity for the oppressed is also strengthened by his friendship with Bernardo, his Indian blood brother.

In their early teens, the boys are sent to Spain so that Diego can receive a formal education.  While there, Diego begins fencing training with master Manuel Escalante and begins to follow the path that will lead him to membership in La Justicia, a secret society dedicated to fighting all forms of social injustice, and the creation of his alter ego Zorro.  After numerous adventures in Spain, Diego and his trusted confidante Bernardo must return to California to defend his father’s honor and estate in a fantastic duel that confirms Zorro’s identity as a bold, dashing, and noble hero.

Subject Headings:  Zorro, Secret Societies, Fencing, Aristocracy, Slavery, Justice, Native Americans, California-History-19th century, Spain-History-19th century, Adventure Stories

Appeal:  accessible, action-oriented, cinematic, detailed setting, dramatic, engaging, engrossing, fast paced, historical details, humorous, resolved ending, strong secondary characters

3 terms that best describe this book: cinematic, suspenseful, playful

Similar Authors and Works:


Zorro Unmasked:  The Official History by Sandra R. Curtis.  This book traces the historical origins of the legendary character, based in part on an actual California bandido.  Zorro’s legacy and influence on subsequent pop culture figures, such as Bruce Wayne/Batman are also examined.

Schools and Masters of Fencing: From the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century by Egerton Castle.  This readable and high illustrated volume is considered the definitive work on fencing history and the art of European swordsmanship.  This history includes the types of lessons that Diego learned from Master Escalante.

Lands of Promise and Despair: Chonicles of Early California, 1535-1846 by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz.  Conflicts between missionaries and soldiers, Indians and non-Indians, Hispanics and Anglos are brought to life through the letters, journals, interrogations and interviews collected in this book of primary resources.


Cassandra, Lost by Joanna Catherine Scott.  A young woman from 18th century America elopes to France with a charming French aristocrat.  Upon arrival in France, they find themselves caught up in the midst of the French Revolution.  Cassandra’s observations of the tragedy and destitution of the French people forever change her life.  The novel features the same level of lush imagery as Allende’s tale.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.  This novel tells a fictionalized account of the courageous story of the Mirabel sisters, who stood up tot he injustices of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic in the 1950s.

The House of the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre.  This novel tells the story of two families in Puerto Rico, whose lives are interwoven through marriage and business.  The novel focuses on the conflicts around race, class, and Puerto Rico’s changing relationship with Spain and the United States.

Name: Amanda