Archive for June, 2010

Annie on My Mind

June 24, 2010

Author: Nancy Garden

Title: Annie on my Mind

Genre: GBLT Romance

Publication Date: 1982

Plot Summary: Artistic Annie Kenyon is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art singing to herself one day when Liza Winthrop followers her tune and they meet for the first time. The story includes the intimate and passionate hyper-awareness of new love and weaves the confussion of new realizations intricately into the prosaic dialogue. This is a romantic and poignant story of two girls who find themselves and each other. This is a bittersweet story because they feel the need to keep their relationship a secret and thought-provoking events evolve from this issue-oriented book. Will Liza accept her newly discovered orientation? When will she decide to live her life in the open? And what will her family, friends, and the town say? When Liza agrees to house sit her teacher’s pets one week and invites Annie, we find out. With surprising plot twists, this one big flashback to a secret love will keep you reading all night.

Subject Headings: Lesbian — fiction

Appeal:

bittersweet, character centered, compassionate, descriptive w/o overdoing it, engaging characters, episodic, familiar characters, hidden/secretive, intimate (setting), issue-oriented, poignant, prosaic, realistic characters, romantic, sensual, thought provoking, thoughtful, unembellished, well-crafted

3 words to describe book: secret, poignant, engaging

Read a likes:

Fiction

Girl Walking Backwards – Bett Williams

Just like Liza, Skye is lonely and confused until she meets another girl she falls in love with.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

A famous author that has a similar writing style to Garden, discusses being a teenage lesbian whose mother tries to train her.

The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks

A bestselling author writes about a man reading a diary to a woman he doesn’t know. The story turns out to be his story of when he was young and in love and their parents kept them apart. Similar because it’s a love story.

NF

Covering: the hidden assault on our civil rights – Kenji Yoshino

This is a memoir that brings into legal aspects of homosexual civil rights.

Love, Ellen: a mother/daughter journey – Betty DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres’s mother writes a memoir about her reaction when her daughter told her she was homosexual, and how their relationship changed and evolved over time.

Jocks: True stories of America’s gay male athletes – Dan Woog

A collection of true stories about athletes that come out to their athletic community, their reactions and relationships, and how coaches did and should respond.

How Starbucks Saved my Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

June 23, 2010

Bookcover

Author:  Michael Gates Gill

Genre: Memoir, Inspirational

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages: 268

Geographical Setting:  New York

Time Period:  present day

Plot Summary: Michael Gates Gill was born into a privileged life. A very privileged life. His family had money, just like everyone else they knew or cared about. Michael went to the best schools, graduated from Yale. In his late fifties he had everything: high-powered career as a marking executive, six-figure salary, big house in a great neighborhood, a wife and four loving children. But it didn’t last. He lost professional footing as his firm became gradually younger, fresher, and more innovative. Eventually he lost his job, then struggled and failed at employing himself as an independent consultant. Michael sought consolation in an affair, a relationship started ‘on totally false assumptions.’ Eventually his girlfriend became pregnant. He told his wife about their relationship after his son was born. Unsurprisingly, his marriage ended in divorce. Karmatically, his girlfriend looses interest and their relationship is limited to raising little Jonathan. Then Michael is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

While sitting in a Starbucks, mulling over his looses with a latte his dwindling savings can hardly afford, a young African American woman asks Michael if he wants a job. Not realizing a Starbucks was holding a job fair in the café, he was drawn in by the company’s generous health insurance. When Crystal calls Mike (the author discarded his former persona) to offer him a job he immediately accepts is hired as a barista.  Here the real story begins. Mike shares the story of his first year working for Starbucks; the people he works with and learns to respect, serving customers good and bad, and the value of work. Though initially a ‘fish out of water’ Mike learns to truly enjoy and appreciate what outsides can only call his ‘misfortune.’

Subject Headings: Starbucks Coffee Company, New York City, Biography,
Advertising executives, Coffee houses, Brain tumor patients, New York Times bestseller, memoir

Appeal Terms: accessible, leaps of faith, fateful, introspective, humbling, philosophical, life crisis, optimistic, relatable characters, honest, challenges stereotypes, appreciative, free-falling, survival story

Three words that describe this book: accessible, honest, modern-day survival story

Similar Works:

Non-Fiction:

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Newspaper columnist Corrigan was a happily married mother of two young daughters when she discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. As Corrigan reports on her cancer treatment—the chemo, the surgery, the radiation—she weaves in the story of her family: larger-than-life father, loving mother and brothers, her husband and daughters. Stories lead up to ‘that middle place’, being someone’s child, but also having children of her own. Similarities: cancer survival, contemplation, relationships, coping, honest, inspiring

Doing nothing: a history of loafers, loungers, slackers and bums in America by Tom Lutz

A cultural history of the American attitude toward work cites the pivotal contributions of the Industrial Revolution in the formation of the modern work ethic, evaluating the current divergence between “worker” and “slacker” stereotypes. Similarities: explores work ethic/ social responsibility and values, enlightening, engaging

It’s Not About the Coffee by Howard Behar

Howard Behar, founding president of Starbucks International and president of Starbucks North America, tells of the strategies he used to establish the business into the success it is today. Behar shares the soft skills that helped to construct the company from a regional outlet to a corporation with international reach. Similarities: straightforward, heartfelt, refreshing, success story.

Fiction:

Diary of a Yuppie by Louis Auchincloss

Driven by an insatiable hunger for power, Bob Service, a thirty-two year-old New York lawyer whose morals are tempered by expediency, tramples his associates and cripples his marriage. When Service meets the female version of himself–a “hard-boiled yuppette” he undergoes a “conversion.” Literature, once Service’s passion, seems to redeem him. Similarities: cautionary tale, explores the ethics of in business, love, and friendship, reforming shallow characters

Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos

When elderly Margaret Hughes discovers that she has a malignant brain tumor, she refuses treatment and decides to take a nice young tenant into her huge, lonely Seattle mansion for company. What she gets is Wanda Schultz, a tough-as-nails stage manager who is secretly seeking the man who left her and prone to inexplicable weeping breakdowns. Wanda, ignorant of Margaret’s illness, is intrigued by the museum-like house and its eccentric owner. Similarities: intergenerational relationships, coping with illness, hopeful outlook

Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss

Found wandering in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Samson Greene, a thirty-six-year-old Columbia University English professor, is discovered to have a brain tumor, but when surgery removes the tumor, leaving him with no recollection of his life after the age of twelve, he finds himself struggling to deal with a life, and a wife, he no longer recognizes. Similarities: surprisingly lighthearted, observant, touching, philosophical

I Say a Little Prayer

June 23, 2010

Title: I Say a Little Prayer

Author: E. Lynn Harris

Genre: GLBTQ

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 320

Geographical Setting: Atlanta, GA

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: No

Plot Summary:  Chauncey Greer is the owner of a thriving greeting card company in Atlanta. He is a gay African-American man who is also deeply spiritual. While attending Abundant Joy Baptist Church, Chauncey is inspired to reconnect with his dormant singing career.  Pastor Kenneth invites Chauncey to sing at an upcoming gospel revival where Chauncey’s former secret lover (now homophobic keynote preacher) is scheduled to appear.

E. Lynn Harris was best known for his depictions of African-American men on the down low and closeted. In I Say a Little Prayer, he examines the down low practice, ostensibly heterosexual men living secret lives as gay men, and offers insight into the struggle within the black church concerning gay rights.

Subject Headings: Bisexuality, homosexuality, homophobia, identity, social acceptance, African-American churches, fundamentalism, revivals

Appeal:  Easy, fast-paced, candid, flamboyant, humorous, sexually explicit, sensual, sophisticated, urbane, unaffected, engaging, urban, contemporary

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book:  Easy, urban, sexually explicit

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men, edited by Brian Bouldrey examines the struggles of faith of 21 gay male writers, including Andrew Holleran, Lev Raphael, and Michael Nava.

One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America by Keith Boykin includes interviews with ministers, gay political leaders, and African American lesbians and gay men to explain misconceptions about gay racism and African American homophobia.

J.L. King, an HIV/STD prevention activist and educator, was one of the first to write about the contemporary phenomena of living on the down low.  In 2003, King’s On the Down Low: a Journey into the Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep with Gay Men, depicted this “reckless behavior.” It was believed to have caused African-American women to constitute 68 percent of new HIV cases.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

In Michael Ford Thomas’ Last Summer, the protagonist Josh Felling departs for the beaches of Provincetown where he encounters a cast of humorous characters including flamboyant drag queen Emmeline, Hollywood heartthrob Ty Rusk, and wealthy Reilly Brennan.

In the sophisticated novel The Conversion by Joseph Olshan, Russell Todaro, a young American translator and writer, is caught up in two separate affairs — the first, a passionate but doomed romance, and a second with a much older and sensual poet.

Gay Love Stories by Kimberly Burton involve urban characters who seek love and romance, and ultimately lasting relationships.

Jane Bessette

Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir

June 23, 2010

June 23, 2010 by rayjani

Author: Daniel Tammet

Title: Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir

Genre: Nonfiction/Biography

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 226

Geographical Setting: United Kingdom

Plot Summary: Tammet writes an inspirational biographic memoir of his struggles with Autistic Savant Syndrome and the unfailing support of his parents. OCD is a symptom of the syndrome and Daniel’s obsessive need for order and routine permeates every aspect of his life. Thinking of numbers has a calming effect on him because he has synesthesia, a rare neurological mixing of the senses that causes him to see numbers as shapes, colors, textures, or motions. He can calculate large numbers in his head as quickly as a calculator can. The process happens “spontaneously” for him. It is interesting to note, however, that he cannot do algebra. Daniel can learn a foreign language within a matter of days and quickly become fluent in it. He reveals the knowledge of his homosexual orientation since the age of eleven, and that it was never a problem because that is just the way he is. His first crush was at the age of sixteen on a new student at school. After a few awkward, but polite advances on Daniel’s part, he was very gently and respectfully turned down by the other teen. Daniel found socializing extremely difficult, which is normal for an autistic. He found that he could communicate easier by writing, since speaking was a struggle for Daniel. Daniel feels emotions, although sometimes it takes him a while to identify the emotion being felt at the time. He did not receive any special help or consideration during his schooling and was able to make the necessary (for himself) compensations. He was quite successful academically. After finishing school he did some volunteer work in Lithuania (language tutoring) and later Daniel met his soul mate, Neil. Lacking the “normal” communication and social interaction skills, Daniel found it difficult to enter the working world. With the love and support of his partner and his parents, Daniel was able to start his own successful web-based business for language tutorials. At the beginning of the book, Daniel writes that his younger brother was recently diagnosed with ASD, and it is Daniel’s hope that this book will inspire him, as well as others with ASD. Daniel acknowledges that the constant involvement, loving support, and closeness of his parents and partner enable him to live a fully independent life.

Subject Headings: Mental Health, Autism, Patients, England, Biography, and Savants (Savant Syndrome).

Appeal Terms: honest, moving, inspirational, extraordinary, fascinating, revealing, educational, encouraging, hopeful, amazing, remarkable, and unique.

Three terms that best describe this book: extraordinary, inspirational, and moving.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life By Kyle Maynard is the remarkable and inspiring story of a congenital amputee who overcomes the physical and psychological barriers of his handicap to become an athlete and a motivational/inspirational speaker. He has appeared on the Larry King and Howard Stern shows.

The Day the Voices Stopped: a Schizophrenic’s Journey from Madness to Hope By Ken Steele gives an honest account of his own struggle with schizophrenia over thirty years. This revealing story tells how he became victorious over his illness and was able to build a new life for himself.

Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression by Sally Brampton (an editor for “Elle” magazine in the UK) offers hope and inspiration as she shares her struggles with depression and alcoholism. Her advice is encouraging to other sufferers. Brampton extends her support for those suffering from mental illness, and challenges that part of society which blames those suffering from mental illness for their own conditions.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Tilt: Every Family Spins on its Own Axis by Elizabeth Burns tells an intimate, courageous story of a woman’s struggles and expectations for her family. When her daughter is diagnosed with autism, new challenges and issues emerge and her world begins to fall apart. This is a hopeful, painful, and humorous story of redemption.

The Pleasure of My Company: A Novel by Steve Martin portrays Daniel Pecan Cambridge as a mild-mannered person who suffers from a mix of autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This witty, poignant account of Daniel’s life and the challenges he faces is tender and inspiring.

Wild Orchid by Beverly A. Brenna is the story of 18 year-old Taylor Jane Simon who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Because she cannot be left on her own, she must spend the summer with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend at a Canadian National Park. Taylor is encouraged to explore the park on her own – a daunting task for someone with no social skills. Brenna tells the heartwarming story of Taylor’s courage and determination to overcome her obstacles.

Stuck Rubber Baby

June 23, 2010
Stuck Rubber Baby

Author: Howard Cruse;  Art by Howard Cruse

Title: Stuck Rubber Baby

Genre: Gay/Lesbian, African-American, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1995

Number of Pages: 210

Geographical Setting: Southern United States

Time Period: 1960’s

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

While not a strictly autobiographical story, Stuck Rubber Baby nonetheless explores much of what author and artist Howard Cruse went through while growing up as a gay man in the South.

The story follows Toland Polk, a young white man living in the Southern town of Clayfield during the 1960s and the civil rights movement.  While unrest between blacks and whites (and whites and homosexuals) rages all around him, Toland must also deal with his inner turmoil about his own sexuality.  He begins the story in denial but eventually realizes who is and embraces it.

An older and wiser Toland “narrates”, appearing at the beginning of certain chapters with his present day partner.  We see them doing somewhat mundane things such as preparing dinner.  These small vignettes remind the reader that the story is being recalled and also let the reader know that Toland did emerge from all the chaos and become true to himself.

The black and white art is busy at times but highly detailed.  Various degrees of shading and crosshatching are used to distinguish black characters from white characters and though most of the faces sport unusually pointy chins, they all have defining characteristics that set them apart from each other.  This is important since there is quite a large cast surrounding Toland for the reader to keep track of throughout the story.

Touching, poignant and often funny, Stuck Rubber Baby is a moving story that resonates with themes both universal and personal.

Subject Headings:

Gay men – Comic books, strips, etc; Race relations; Civil rights; Graphic novels

Appeal:

ambitious, thoughtful, hostile, bleak, menacing, wistful, melancholy, hopeful, complex, angst-ridden, turmoil, provocative, poignant, courageous, potent, cynical, sardonic

3 terms that best describe this book: Challenging; Provocative; Rebellious

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction

Strangers In Paradise: Pocket Book 1 by Terry Moore

Slice of life tale of three friends who weather the storms of relationships with people outside their circle (or triangle) as well as with each other.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, gay/lesbian relationships, self discovery, cynical

Max and Sven by Tom Bouden

The story of Max who has a crush on his best friend Sven.  Sven however, is straight.

Similarities: graphic novel format, gay character, self discovery, angst

Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson

A memoir of Thompson’s religious upbringing and how he began to discover his true self after finding and falling in love with a girl at his bible camp.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, relationships, family, self discovery

Non-Fiction

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel recalls growing up in a funeral home with her father, a high school English teacher and closeted homosexual.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, gay relationships, families

Freedom Riders: John Lewis And Jim Zwerg On The Front Lines Of The Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum ; forewords by Freedom Riders Congressman John Lewis and Jim Zwerg

Two young men, one white and one black, recount their experiences during the Civil Rights era when they took part in the freedom rides.

Similarities:  civil rights, race relations, courage

The Wrong Side Of Murder Creek: A White Southerner In The Freedom Movement by Bob Zellner, with Constance Curry

Another memoir, this one dealing with the author’s experiences as a civil rights activist in the 1960s.  Like Toland in Stuck Rubber Baby, Bob Zellner was born in the South and participated in demonstrations against racial discrimination.

Similarities:  racial tension, civil rights, rebelliousness, courage

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

June 23, 2010

Author: Lamott, Anne

Title: Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Genre: Popular Nonfiction/Spiritual/Inspiritational/Bestsellers

Publication date: 2005

Number of pages: 320

Geographical setting: U.S. cities, mostly in northern California

Time period: Present

Series: (If applicable): Not applicable

Plot summary: A collection of funny, smart, passionate essays and true stories that basically describes Lamott’s experiences of God and faith. The former alcoholic, drug addict and bulimic is a natural story teller with a signature voice that is at once acerbic, candid, compassionate and self-deprecating without being cloying. Topics range from Lamott’s leftist political views, her aging, reconciling with her mother after her death, coping with her teenage son Sam, euthanizing her dog, forgiveness, reconnecting with her son’s father eight years after his birth, and more. Most of the events take place around Marin County, California, where she lives. Lamott is at her edgiest when railing against social injustice, and most honest when describing her own foibles and flaws. Always, she finds grace in the details. This is a follow-up to her earlier Traveling Mercies: Thoughts on Faith.

Subject headings: Lamott, Anne; Religion; Novelists, American; 20th century; biography; Christian; Faith.

Appeal: Truthful, self-aware, funny, passionate, wise, humorous, irreverent, wrenchingly honest, Christian, perceptive, droll, smart, liberal values, interfaith beliefs, social justice, sharp writing, personal, spiritual, compassionate.

Three terms that best describe this book: Honest; humorous; spiritual.

Similar author and works and why they are similar:

3 Relevant  Non-fiction Works and Authors:

a) Picking Dandelions: A search for Eden among life’s weeds by Sarah Cunningham.  This daughter of a Baptist minister views her faith not as a “one and done event like a sinner’s prayer” but as a journey for a lifetime. Self-mocking, honest, and a captivating story-teller, Cunningham writes about her spiritual growth from childhood on to her present life as a mother and idealistic teacher. Some consider her a younger Lamott.

b) Eat, Pray, Love: One woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. Although this is a full-length memoir, its incisive writing, dry wit and spiritual undertone make it a lovely companion to Lamott. Gilbert writes in clear, intelligent, funny, readable journalistic prose, with tantalizing descriptions of exotic locales and about poignantly emotional events of heartache, spiritual search, and longing for love. Her courage to share openly and authentically about her experiences of pain, humiliation and learning from other people and faith traditions, while retaining her charming, self-deprecating wit, made this Lamott fan and readers everywhere fall in love with the author and her book.

c) Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller. Miller’s earnestness contrasts with Lamott’s punchy bluntness and wry humor, but his intimate stories of rediscovering his faith, and his straightforward and progressive approach to Christianity are strongly reminiscent of Lamott at her best. Both have a down-to-earth take on spirituality as a personal, living, relevant day-to-day experience that isn’t dictated by what others say it should be.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

a) Putting Away Childish Things: A tale of modern faith by Marcus Borg. Well-known Christian scholar Borg uses the compelling tale of progressive Midwestern religion professor Kate, through her modern trials and tribulations, to discuss the place of Christianity and its traditional teachings in the 21st century.

b) Life Goes On by Philip Gulley. Part of the Harmony series about a quirky Quaker congregation in Harmony, Indiana led by Pastor Sam Gardner of Harmony Friends Meeting. The delightfully flawed characters’ slice-of-life stories demonstrate the grace of God found everywhere, from friendships to fights. Not as edgy as Lamott but equally thoughtful about the place of faith in our lives.

c) Evensong by Gail Godwin. This evocative novel set in the Smokies in Western North Carolina just before the end of the 20th century about an Episcopalian woman minister who questions the foundation of her marriage is a deeply satisfying read. It draws you in quietly with its insight and empathy for its characters, the varied and interesting parishioners with their tales of conflicts of emotions, faith, and loyalty. There is gentle humor but mostly a deep spiritual sense of possibilities and hope.

Name: Soon Har

The Shack

June 23, 2010

Author: Wm. Paul Young

Title: The Shack

Genre: Christian/Inspirational

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 252

Geographical Setting: Oregon, USA

Time Period: Present Day

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

Mack Philips and his children, along with some neighbors embark on a lovely camping trip that turns horrible when his son and one daughter nearly drown.  Despite not wanting to leave his youngest daughter alone, he forgoes his worry and dives into the water to disentangle his son and rescue him from the water.  Sadly in his absence, his youngest child was kidnapped and all that was ever found of her was her bloody sundress in an abandoned shack.  Mack never forgave himself, and after he knocks his head slipping on the ice he receives a note, supposedly from God.  Despite the harsh winter weather, he heads to the shack where his daughter’s dress was found to meet with God.  Over the next couple of days he has lengthy conversations with God the Father manifested as a large black woman, God the Son manifested as a Middle Eastern Jewish carpenter and God the Holy Spirit manifested as a shimmery light with a vague nature of an Asian woman.  Through his conversations he comes to understand forgiveness and that his daughter’s death was not his fault.

Subject Headings: Serial murder victims, Christian, forgiveness, supernatural, missing children, suffering

Appeal: Uplifting, leisurely paced, well-developed characters, elegiac, introspective, accessible, straightforward, thoughtful, complex, unpretentious

3 terms that best describe this book: Uplifting, spiritual, comforting

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Laying on of Hands.  Brenda Rhodes Miller.  2004.

Miss Munchie has the power to heal others, but she was unable to heal several people she loved dearly.  In her old age she reflects on realizing her special gift in her youth as well as her shortcomings and other life experiences.  Introspective, complex.

A Lova’ Like No Otha’.  Stephanie Perry Moore.  2003.

After being left at the altar by a man who had a pregnant girlfriend unbeknownst to her, Zoe Clark blames God until Chase Farr comes along and reintroduces faith to her life.  Well-developed characters, thoughtful.

Red Leaves.  Thomas H. Cook.  2005.

When an eight-year-old girl goes missing, a teenager named Keith is among the accused.  His father is desperate to keep his son out of the limelight and looks for legal counsel as he contemplates the possibility his son is guilty.  Accessible.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Light Through the Crack: Life After Loss.  Sue Mosteller.  2006.

An autobiography of the woman in charge of Henri Nouwen’s literary estate.  She examines her journey of faith, her relationship with Nouwen, her childhood, working with the Sisters of St. Joseph and other Christian organizations.

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.  John Piper, Justin Taylor, editors.  2006.

A Christian guide to choosing to turn to God in times of strife with Biblical evidence and strengthening faith in Christ.

Where is God?: Finding His Presence, Purpose and Power in Difficult Times.  Dr. John Townsend.  2009.

A doctor of psychology examines various life events that can cause people to wonder, “Where is God?” and offers Biblical support emphasizing that God is right there beside you through thick and thin.

Name: Kali Buseth

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

June 23, 2010

The Beautiful Things Heaven Can Bear

Author: Dinaw Mengestu

Title: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Genre: African-American Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Publisher: Riverhead Books: New York

Number of Pages: 228

Geographical Setting:  Washington D.C.

Time Period: Current

Series (N/A)

Plot Summary:

Seoha Stephanosan, an Ethiopian immigrant, fled his country 17 years ago at sixteen after his father was arrested and killed during the communist revolution of 1974.   After coming to America Sephos first lives with his uncle in a suburban apartment building while he works at a first class hotel in the city of Washington D.C. Here he has meets two other African men: Kenneth, a Kenyan and Joseph, a Congolese, who remain as his only friends for years.  Sephos eventually leaves the hotel and his uncle to open his own convenience store in a depressed area of the city, where he and his two friends sit at a card table and play games involving guessing the coup leaders of various time periods and African countries: a game that never seems to end. Their consistent days are changed when the dilapidated building next door is bought and renovated by Judith, an ex-professor along with her young bi-racial daughter. Saphos becomes almost a father figure, but this newly minted family is broken apart by the seething resentment of the  “gentrification” of the neighborhood and the backlash at those who have changed the once blighted area; forcing those with less out of their homes.  In the end the resulting violence forces Judith to leave the neighborhood and Sephos to turn his back and walk out on his store. A starting over that is just like the coups in Africa. But they are both Americans now and will start again because they believe that it is possible.

Subject Headings:

Ethiopians United States — Fiction.
Race relations — Fiction.
Washington (D.C.) — Fiction.

Appeal:

candid, sobering, philosophical, insightful, introspective, realistic, accurate, contemporary, political, urban, journalistic, literary

3 Terms that best describe the book:

insightful, philosophical, journalistic

Similar Authors and Works:

(Fiction)

Things fall Apert by Chinua Achebe — The growing tension between Nigerian village leaders and Europeans, determined to bring Christian salvation to the tribe, is chronicled here by Achebe. A lone Nigerian, Okonkwo, attempts to fight the dissolution of his tribe, culture and traditions. Written with quiet dignity, this classic novel of Africa builds to a forceful and tragic conclusion. (Novelist)

What is the What by Dave Eggers — The history of the Sudanese civil war is illuminated through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee from the Dinka tribe now living in the United States. Driven from his home, he walks with thousands of orphans through incredible danger, disease and starvation to Ethiopia, where he finds safety for a time. Eventually, he makes his way to Kenya, and the U.S., from where the novel is narrated. This is an eloquent and compelling read for any American wishing to understand the tragedy in East Africa.  (Novelist)

Beneath the Lion’s gaze: A Novel by Maaza Mangiste – An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopias revolution.

(Non-Fiction)

Chameleon Days: an American boyhood in Ethiopia by Tim Bascom– A candid memoir of growing up in Ethiopia recounts his youth as the son of missionary parents in a sometimes hostile country wracked by conflict, social upheaval, and ultimately revolution. Original. (Novelists)

There is No Me Without You: one woman’s odyssey to rescue Africa’s children by Melissa Green –Offers a revealing study of the human cost of the AIDS pandemic in Africa in a portrait of Haregewoin Teferra, a widowed recluse in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who has become the caretaker of sixty children orphaned and abandoned by the AIDS crisis. (Novelist)

The Ethiopian Patriots: forgotten voices of the Italo-Abyssinian War, 1935-41 by Andrew Hilton — “This book consists of the recollections of men and women who took part in the Ethiopian resistance movement during the Italo-Abyssinian War of 1935-41. Their long, lonely struggle is testament to their courage, determination, faith and national pride. The fighters became known simply as ‘Patriots’ and these recollections are transcripts of personal interviews with some of their surviving numbers.”–BOOK JACKET

Push

June 23, 2010

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Author: Sapphire

Title: Push

Genre: African-American Fiction

Publication Date: 1996

Number of Pages: 140 and 37 unnumbered pages

Geographical Setting: Harlem, New York City, New York

Time Period: 1991

Series: Not applicable

Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old Claireece Precious Jones, who is pregnant with her second child after being raped by her father, yearns to escape the horrific home she shares with her abusive mother. Her first child, Mongo, born with Down’s Syndrome and other special needs, is in the care of her grandmother. Precious begins attending an alternative school after being asked to leave her previous school for threatening the principal. Although she is extremely low literate, Precious enjoys learning and dreams that she will be able to escape her mother and father through education. Her new teacher, Blue Rain, pushes Precious to write down her feelings and experiences in a journal. As Precious gains confidence in herself through her new friendships with other students and Ms. Rain, as well as her improved reading and writing skills, she is finally able to stand up to her mother and provide for her new son, Abdul. When Precious’ mother reappears with a horrifying secret that will forever change her life, Precious must use her newfound courage to continue her education and reach her goal of independence for Abdul. This book contains graphic language and sexually explicit descriptions that may offend some readers.

Subject Headings: Sixteen-year-old-girls – New York City; Incest; African-American teenage mothers; Incest victims’ mothers; Teacher-student relationships – New York City; African-Americans – New York City; Incest victims’ families; Single African-American mothers; Child abuse victims – New York City; Street life; New York City; African-American fiction – 20th century; Radical fiction; Urban fiction – 20th century

Appeal: steady, engrossing, hard-edged, moody, dramatic, well-drawn characters, strong language, character-centered, accurate setting, urban, dialect, and straightforward

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: hard-edged, urban, and character-centered

Similar Authors and Works:

Non-Fiction:

  • The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care by Nina Berstein: An in-depth look at a thirteen-year-old abused child’s struggle against the foster care system that failed to keep her and her son safe; New York City setting
  • Mama’s girl by Veronica Chambers: An African-American girl growing up in an abusive home in New York City; hard-edged; character-centered
  • Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McLain: An account of the author’s experiences growing up in foster care with her two sisters; straightforward; character-centered

Fiction:

  • Kendra by Coe Booth: A young African-American girl struggles with her mother’s abandonment as she is raised by her grandmother; hard-edged; urban setting; straightforward
  • Imani All Mine by Connie Porter: A young African-American teenage mother who was the victim of rape works hard to care for her baby while attending school; urban setting and dialect; frank storyline
  • Autobiography of a Family Photo by Jacqueline Woodson: The story of an African-American family living in Brooklyn in the 1970’s; character-centered; steady pacing

Name: Rebecca Dorsey

The Alchemist

June 23, 2010

Author: Paolo Coelho

Title: The Alchemist

Genre: Inspirational

Publication Date: 1988

Number of Pages: 173

Geographical Setting: Spain, Tangier, Sahara Desert, Egypt

Time Period: Past

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

An introspective young shepherd is trying to sell the wool of his sheep to earn money and impress a girl, but his Personal Legend had other ideas.  When he reaches town, he seeks the help of a gypsy woman who tells him that he will find his treasure at the pyramids.  He tries to dismiss the nonsense, however, when he encounters a man who tells him the same story and knows of his past, they young boy decides to set out on a journey to the pyramids.  Throughout his journey the young boy comes to realizations about his life and learns how to communicate with the world and own heart.  This short novel merges simplicity and profundity magnificently and will appeal to readers who enjoy metaphysical stories and philosophical plotlines.

Subject Headings:

Personal Journey

Journey

Alchemy

Metaphysical

Inspirational

Religion

Travel

Dreams

Appeal: Introspective, Character-Center, Simple, Austere, Compassionate, Contemplative, Heartwarming, Magical, Unpretentious, Thoughtful, Compelling, Deliberate

3 terms that best describe this book: Introspective, Character-Centered, Simple

Similar author and works (why are they similar?):

Fiction

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Readers may appreciate the romantic appeal and a story told in a similar style.  Readers might be able to connect to this story because it is from a writer outside the United States.

Replay by Ken Grimwood

This title will gain interest with readers who are interested in life cycles and the permanence of the future.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

A personal journey for a boy who thinks he has it all, soon find out that the way he is living will lead him to sure unhappiness.

Non-Fiction

The Dream Weaver: One Boy’s Journey Through the Landscape of Reality by Jack Bowen

Will appeal to readers who enjoy the philosophical tone, and deeper meaning in The Alchemist.

Finding God in the Questions: A Personal Journey by Timothy G. Johnson

The religious appeal will carry readers through this title if they are looking for deeper meaning and a higher power.

Headwraps: A Global Journey by Georgia Scott

This multi-cultural exploration ties in the larger scope of humanity with coincidence and serendipity.