Archive for August, 2011

A Lesson Before Dying

August 17, 2011

Author:  Gaines, Ernest J.

Title:  A Lesson Before Dying

Genre:  African American Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages:  256

Geographical Setting:  Bayonne, LA

Time Period:  late 1940s, post-World War II

Series:  N/A

Plot SummaryA Lesson Before Dying is the story of Jefferson, a young black man in rural Louisiana in the 1940s sentenced to die for a murder he did not commit.  In his closing statement, Jefferson’s defense lawyer argues that Jefferson is as ignorant and stupid as animal, no better than a mere hog, incapable of planning such a crime, but the all-white jury finds him guilty.  From that point on, Jefferson only thinks of himself as a hog.   Miss Emma, Jefferson’s grandmother, persuades Grant Wiggins, the local schoolteacher to speak to Jefferson to help raise him up to believe in himself again as a man, so that he may die with dignity.  The story is told in first person by Wiggins, the black boy who was able to leave the plantation to pursue a better life, but is back as the schoolteacher, burned out now by the futility of teaching poor blacks in the rural South.  Full of self-doubts, Wiggins doesn’t feel he is up to the task, but during their meetings in prison, he discovers as much about himself as Jefferson, and both men re-examine what it means to be a human being, and the strength of the human spirit.  A Lesson Before Dying is a realistic and insightful look at life in the rural South in the 1940s, and the racial prejudice that was an accepted part of everyday life. The characters are believable and very human.   In simple but powerful prose, Gaines lets the realities of the story speak for themselves almost as if this were a nonfiction peace of work.

Subject Headings: Rural Poor, African American Death Row Prisoners, African American Men, African American Teachers, Injustice, Manhood, Race Relations, The South

Appeal: moving, character driven, eloquent, emotional, detailed, ennobling, heartbreaking, powerful, classic, realistic, touching, thought provoking, simple, deep, honest, unflinching

3 terms that best describe this book: simple, honest, eloquent

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors: A Saint on Death Row:  The Story of Dominique Green by Thomas Cahill is an eerily similar story of a black man on Death Row accused of shooting a white man during a robbery.   Jackie Robinson:  A Biography by Arold Rampersad is the story of the first black Major League baseball player.  Brainwashed:  Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell deals with the disturbing question of why so many blacks still think and act like slaves.

3 Revelant Fiction Works and Authors:  As I Lay Dying by William Falkner has the similar bleak setting of life in the rural South, as well as the same poignant feel .  To Kill a Mockingbird has a similar plot, setting, and sense of hopelessness of a black man falsely accused and judged by whites.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has the same simple prose and similar theme of rural poverty and injustice.

Chris M.

The Gangster We Are All Looking For

August 17, 2011

Author: Lê Thi Diem Thúy

Title: The Gangster We Are All Looking For

Genre: Multicultural, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: May 6, 2003

Number of Pages: 160

Geographical Setting: San Diego, California

Time Period: 1970s, 1980s

Plot Summary: The unnamed narrator, a six year old girl, is flees Saigon to California leaving her mother and deceased brother behind.  The story jumps around in time detailing different accounts of her childhood playing with friends in a washing machine box to fights between her mother and father where afterward, things would be broken and people would be bruised.  Their marriage is strained by their efforts to adapt to American culture, but also by the memories left behind.  The father was a “Buddhist gangster” which left his wife’s parents to be opposed to the marriage.  The narrator with a conflicted and troubled mind runs away from at sixteen.  The story is lyrical and relaxed and the stories fold together like poems written from different points of the narrator’s life.

Subject Headings: Family Relationships, Vietnamese-Americans, Father and Daughter

Appeal: detailed, descriptive, engrossing, moving, introspective, character-centered, flashbacks, poetic, nostalgic

3 terms that best describe this book: compelling, emotionally-charged, poignant

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Madre and I: a Memoir of Our Immigrant Lives by Guillermo Reyes

This is the story of Reyes life leaving Chile to live in Los Angeles with his mother while coping with sexuality and body issues.  It is also about immigrants living in California finding their place.  (memoir, poignant)

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

Wolff chronicles his past discussing his wandering mother, his abusive step-father, and the strange processes of growing up.  Similar to Lê’s novel, this memoir discusses an abusive home life and is a coming of age story.  (nostalgic, reflective)

The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen

The son of an American businessman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman reflects on his life living in Saigon in 1975 after the exodus of the American troops and his journey to the United States.  Similar to Lê’s novel, this work discusses life in Saigon where she fled to come to America. (engaging, compelling)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao

This coming of age story is about a Vietnamese girl who comes to America and learns about her family’s past in Vietnam. (nostalgic, moving)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

This novel encompasses the story of two generations of four Chinese American women and their daughters. (witty, encompassing)

Yellow: Stories by Don Lee

This work contains stories of Asian American lives focusing on ethnic diversities but also universal fears of love, failure, abandonment.  Similar to Lê’s work it is about Asian Americans living in California.  (literary, unpredicted)

Name: Christina Freitag


A Home at the End of the World

August 17, 2011

Author: Michael Cunningham

Title: A Home at the End of the World

Genre:  Gay/Lesbian

Publication Date:  November 1998

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Cleveland, New York City, Upstate New York, Arizona

Time Period: 1990’s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Jonathan and Bobby have been friends since the age of thirteen. The boys live out this time in their lives in Cleveland and eventually end up in New York. Clare comes into the picture and the relationships become complicated. The three of them try to become a family and live their lives together.

Subject Headings: Family, Relationships, Gay Men,

Appeal: bittersweet, thoughtful, leisurely paced, insightful, well-developed, issue-oriented, engaging, moody, hopeful, realistic, detailed setting, cinematic

3 terms that best describe this book:

bittersweet, hopeful, well-developed

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1.         Leaving Mother Lake: a girlhood at the edge of the world – by Namu Yang. A young girl who is Chinese tells the story of life in Moso country in the Himalayas. She lives in a society led by women and after enduring conflicts with her mother decides to leave. This story is also about growing up and finding ones way in the world.

2.         The invisible wall: a love story that broke barriers- by Harry Berstein

Here is another tale about growing up and discovering one’s own path. Harry Bernstein grew up in a small English town. The town seemed like every other small town except for the invisible but real line that divided the Christian families from the Jewish families. Life gets further complicated when Harry’s older sister falls in love with a Christian boy.

3.         Falling Through the Earth -by Danielle Trussoni

Family problems and dysfunction is the theme of this book. This book follows the author’s life growing up with a Vietnam veteran. Her father is haunted by the war and both have to deal with the outrageous behavior and the damage that it caused.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.         The Memory of Running-Rom McLarty

While working in a toy factory in Rhode Island, the main character finds himself without friends and battling alcoholism. Suddenly after a tragic event he decides to bike cross-country.

2.         Carry Me Home- Sandra Kring

Earl always depended on his older brother. His older brother is sent to war and returns three years later but not as the same person. Earl finds himself in the position of protector instead of the one who is being protected.

3.         The Song of Names-Norman Lebrecht

Two close friends Martin and Dovidl, a violin prodigy, live in London in the 1930s and at the end of World War II. All is well unitl Dovidl disappears on the night before his first performance.


Name: Juanita Fisher

Heaven Is For Real

August 17, 2011

Author:  Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Title:  Heaven Is For Real

Genre:  Spirituality and Religion; Non-Fiction; Inspirational

Publication Date:  Nov. 2010

Number of Pages:  150

Geographical Setting:  Imperial, Nebraska

Time Period:  2004

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  When Colton Burpo was four years old, he underwent surgery to fix a ruptured appendix that had been leaking poison into his small body for five days.  Months after surviving this life-threatening illness, he started to slowly reveal to his parents that he went to Heaven while he was being operated on in the innocent, honest way that only small children can.  By sharing accurate details of people he had never known on Earth but had met in Heaven and describing impossible details of Heaven, Jesus, and God that scripture passages seem to support, his pastor father Todd and his mother Sonja began to believe he had to be telling the truth.  This compelling, inspirational story will make any reader rethink what they previously thought and believed about God and Heaven.

Subject Headings:  Burpo, Colton, 1999- ; Four-year-old boys – Nebraska – Biography; Heaven (Christianity); Near-death experience – Religious aspects – Christianity; Christian life – Nebraska; Eschatology, Christian

Appeal:  Compelling, steady, gentle, heartwarming, moving, unpretentious, insightful, inspirational, thought-provoking, small-town, accessible, conversational, simple

3 terms that best describe this book:  Compelling, inspirational, accessible

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

–       Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity by Drew Brees with Chris Fabry – This is also a story from the spirituality and religion genre with a similar inspirational tone.

–       Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experience by Jeffrey Long, M.D. – This compilation of research and experiences from the Near Death Experience Research Foundation could be an interesting choice for readers that want to learn about more near-death experiences and other evidence of an after-life.  Similar to Heaven is for Real, this book is also in the spirituality and religion genre.

–       90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life by Don Piper – This story is also in the spirituality and religion genre with an inspirational tone and conversational writing style.  It’s another account of a person’s experience in Heaven while they were pronounced dead after a car accident but miraculously came back to life.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

–       The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – This title has a similarly inspirational tone.

–       The Noticer: Sometimes All a Person Needs is a Little Perspective by Andy Andrews – This book has a similarly inspirational and moving tone and is set in a small town.

–       The Locket by Richard Paul Evans – This book has a similarly inspirational and heartwarming tone.

Name: Julie

No-No Boy

August 17, 2011

Author: John Okada

Title: No-No Boy

Genre: Multi-cultural, Asian-American

Publication Date: 1957

Number of Pages: 260

Geographical Setting: Seattle, WA

Time Period: 1945, just following World War II

Series: n/a

Plot Summary: 25 year old Ichiro grew up in Seattle, but for four years sat captive, experiencing the horrors of internment camps and prisons. The United States punished Ichiro, as they did countless Japanese-Americans, because he resembled the enemy. Ichiro was a no-no boy, a Japanese-American who refused to fight in WWII. Now, the country he loved and viewed as a beacon of hope has turned its back on him because he did not have the heart to fight a war. Following the end of WWII and his release from prison, Ichiro constantly struggles with shame and regret for his decision. Although Ichiro’s parents represent his biggest supporters, home offers little comfort; Ichiro’s mother believes Japan has won the war and awaits the arrival of Japanese ships to bring the family home. Meanwhile, Ichiro’s internal struggles alter his once bright personality and strong ambition. The only chance for Ichiro to regain his lost identity is through friendship and self-acceptance.
Okada, a Japanese-American, respectfully and accurately depicts the struggles of Japanese-Americans following World War II. The author examines key issues related to immigration including profound conflicts of culture and racism. Okada does so in a detailed and accessible manner. The themes and writing style render this book a timeless resource for any one living, or curious about, the immigrant experience in the United States.

Subject Headings: Japanese-Americans; Japanese-Americans—Mass Internment, 1942-1945; Immigrants–United States; Racism–United States; Post World War II; Japanese-Americans–Family Relations; Suicide; Conflicts of Culture–United States

Appeal: Relaxed, Emotionally-charged, Poignant, Sympathetic, Evocative, Introspective, Issue oriented, Thought-provoking, Character-centered, Historical Details, Accurate, Timeless, Accessible, Intimate, Dialect, Detailed, Flashbacks

Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: Character-centered, Emotionally-charged, Timeless

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
(This memoir offers an emotionally-charged account of Japanese-American internment during WWII and the experience of Japanese-Americans following the war. Like No-No Boy, this book offers the perspective of a young Japanese-American during WWII who experiences racism, imprisonment, and culture conflicts.)

Paper Daughter by Elaine M. Mar
(Although the frame of this book differs slightly from No-No Boy because it involves Chinese immigrants in a more contemporary setting, this autobiography manages to accurately and emotionally convey the immigrant experience in the United States. A distinct similarity between the books involves the account of the struggles between an immigrant mother who denies American values and a child who embraces them,)

Looking like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald
(Gruenewald offers an emotionally-charged and accurate description of life in internment camps during WWII. The Japanese-American author offers numerous historical details in an accessible manner. The result is a timeless book about racism, immigration, overcoming adversity, and self-acceptance.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
(This novel revolves around the tumultuous life of a Japanese-American who has just returned to the Pacific Northwest after being held captive in an internment camp. The novel appears character-driven, issue oriented, and presented at a relaxed pace. Racism represents one of the most thought-provoking issues tackled in the book.)

Color of the Sea by John Hamamura
(This story details the experiences of a Japanese-American man who is torn away from his loved ones after they are placed in an internment camp. The main character deals with a major conflict of culture as he enlists in the US army to carry out a secret mission upon Japan. This issue-oriented and character-centered book offers a timeless account of prejudice and racism. The writing style accessible and detailed.)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
(This thought-provoking and issue-oriented classic tackles racism, stereotype, and prejudice within a single US community. The plot revolves around the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman. This is a timeless, coming-of-age story told through the prospective of a young protagonist. The storyline is character-driven.)

One in a Million

August 17, 2011

Author: Kimberla Lawson Roby

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships; African American; Christian Fiction

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 183

Geographical Setting: Chicago, Illinois

Time Period: Present

Plot Summary: Kennedi Mason thinks that she has the perfect marriage with her husband Blake. After years of hoping and dreaming about this special moment, Kennedi can’t wait to share the good news with her husband; news that will change their lives for the better. But when Blake gets home, he has some news of his own that will turn Kennedi’s world into a tailspin. The aftermath of Kennedi and Mason’s announcements will set forth a series of events where lies and betrayal are uncovered. Kennedi will soon find out that perception is not reality.

Subject Headings: Divorce; Lottery Winner; Friendship; Betrayal; Extramarital Relations; Chicago – Fiction; African American

Appeal: Emotionally-charged, dramatic, flawed, poignant, satisfying, frank, insightful, engaging, conversational tone, passionate, sympathetic main character, fast-paced

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Emotionally-charged, dramatic, flawed

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Luck of the Draw: True-Life Tales of Lottery Winners and Losers by Chris Cudgeon (takes an in-depth look at the lives of lottery winners and losers, showing how the lottery has both positively and negatively affected lottery winners, entertaining and engaging read)

Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul by Jack Canfield (inspirational stories of African American women who, like Kennedi in One in a Million, withstood hardship and found success, includes quotes and stories from modern day heroines like Patti LaBelle, Halle Berry and Queen Latifah)

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice (poignant, engaging, frank, story of Condoleezza’s childhood and how she made it to the White House)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Can I Get a Witness? By ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Christian fiction, tale of marriage struggles, dramatic, engaging tone)

Tryin’ to sleep in the bed you made by Virginia DeBerry (sympathetic characters, theme of overcoming obstacles, plot twists that pull the reader into the story from the beginning)

Seen it all and done the rest by Pearl Cleage (women’s lives and relationships, character driven, dramatic, conversational tone)

Name: Tara Bauer

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

August 17, 2011

The House on Mango Street

Author:Sandra Cisneros
Title:  The House on Mango Street

PublicationDate: 1984

Pages:  110

Genre:  Non-fiction.

Available: Spanish, Audio

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  1980

Subject Headings:  Latina Women; Short Stories; Vignettes; Esperanza Cordero; Sandra Cisneros; Hispanic Americans; Mexican American; Illinois (Chicago)

Appeal: easy, unhurried, atmospheric, poignant, lifelike, strong secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, detailed setting, intimate, conversational, lyrical

Plot Summary:   Sandra Cisneros (Esperanza Cordero) uses lyrical vignettes while retelling her youth as a poor Hispanic American in Chicago, Illinois.  The very short chapters (2 – 3 pages) are dedicated to describing various memories of family members and childhood friends.  The reader receives a very intimate look into the Hispanic culture revealing the struggle of Hispanic women to become independent of male authority figures.

Three terms that best describe this book:  authentic, lyrical, character-centered

Similar authors and fiction works:

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julie Alvarez

Four sisters adjust to life in the Bronx after moving from the Dominican Republic.  Told in fifteen short stories from each of their perspectives.  builds in intensity (told in reverse chronological order), multiple points of view, authentic

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks

Lyrical account of a young black girl growing up in Chicago, Illinois in the 1940’s to 1950’s.  unhurried, sobering, hopeful

The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos

A story about a Mayan uprising against the white ruling class set in the 1930’s.  relentless, disturbing, dramatic

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

From My Mother’s Hands by Nellie Campobello

Bedside table book about mother/daughter relationships told by thirty-three notable Texas women. Recipes included.  leisurely-paced, compassionate, inspiring

American Immigration (The Chicago History of American Civilization) by Maldwyn Allen Jones

Study of immigrants and the adjustment of their lives in America. stately, academic, accurate

Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice by Mario T. Garcia and Sal Castro

The account of the 1968 movement for equal education for Hispanic Americans.  engrossing, humorous, historical details

Name:  Debbie

Free Food for Millionaires

August 17, 2011

Author:  Min Jin Lee

Title:  Free Food for Millionaires

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Asian-American Fiction

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  560

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  1990’s

Plot Summary:  Recent Princeton economics graduate Casey Han finds herself caught between two worlds.  During her years at Princeton, she became accustomed to the lifestyle of the well-to-do upper middle class – fine dining, expensive clothing, golf outings – but upon leaving college, she is back in her working-class Korean immigrant parents’ two-bedroom apartment in Queens.  During a particularly explosive argument, Casey’s father kicks her out; she suddenly finds herself living off credit cards in Manhattan.  Casey flees to her boyfriend’s apartment, only to find him in bed with not one, but two other women.  Just when she is feeling the most vulnerable, Casey has a chance encounter with Ella Shim, an Upper-East-Side-dwelling childhood acquaintance.  Ella invites Casey to stay with her and her fiancé, Ted, and Ted finds Casey an entry-level job at his investment firm.  In this new chapter in her life, Casey encounters many issues and themes that will be familiar to twenty-something’s: unemployment or underemployment (though well-educated), feeble attempts to find financial stability, and discovering your adult self.  Underlying all this is Casey’s struggle to balance her Korean-American background and her Ivy-League self.  Lee takes the reader through the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of Casey, Ella, Ted and others as they transition through the world of haves and have-nots.

Subject Headings:  Young Women – Identity; Korean American Women; Children of Immigrants; Women College Graduates; Generation Gap

Appeal:  character driven, authentic, detailed, descriptive, unpretentious, reflective, multiple points of view, flawed characters, realistic characters, steady pacing, introspective, open-ended

3 terms that best describe this book: character driven, descriptive, reflective

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Balancing Two Worlds: Asian American College Students Tell Their Life Stories edited by Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny:  14 Asian-American students from Dartmouth University share their insights on identity and their struggles with race, family (especially between generations), religion, the workplace, class, and economics.  Casey’s internal struggles are echoed in Balancing Two Worlds, a poignant look at young adults in the process of uniting their backgrounds with their current point of views.

Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up with the Joneses is Keeping Us in Debt by Shira Boss:  Boss, a business journalist, uses case studies to examine the gap between our financial realities and the public image we try to project, resulting in us living beyond our means.  If you found yourself frustrated with Casey every time she made a poor financial choice, you will find yourself engrossed in Boss’s timely look at America’s spending problem.

Hats!: Make Classic Hats and Headpieces in Fabric, Felt, and Straw by Sarah Cant:  To make ends meet, Casey takes a job selling hats at a department store.  She becomes so enamored by the structure and construction of hats that she begins to take millinery classes.  In Hats! milliner Sarah Cant takes the reader through a step-by-step introduction (with photographs) to creating hats, then expands on the basics to show how to alter designs and add trimmings for hats that are both beautiful and unique.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld:  American Wife is the fictional memoir (based on the life of former First Lady Laura Bush) of Alice Blackwell, from her tumultuous Wisconsin beginnings to her husband’s ascent to the White House.  With the ascension of her family’s political and social status, Alice struggles with her newfound privileges and expectations as a public figure.  Alice’s narration is unpretentious and authentic, and Sittenfeld gives readers a reflective, character-driven novel to become lost in.

Indignation by Philip Roth: It is 1951 and college student Marcus Messner transfers from a local college in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey to the pastoral Winesburg College in Ohio to get away from his overprotective Jewish parents.  He finds himself struggling with culture clashes, the first taste of independence on a college campus, and his academics – if he flunks out or is expelled, he will likely be enlisted to fight in the Korean War.  Like Casey, Marcus’s background adds another layer to his coming-of-age experiences in this character-driven, reflective, and descriptive novel.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: Bengali newlyweds Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move to Cambridge in the 1960’s and gives birth to a son named, by mistake, Gogol.  As Gogol grows up, he shuns his name and his Indian background and becomes enveloped in Ivy League WASP culture.  Reflective and descriptive, readers of Free Food for Millionaires will enjoy this character-driven novel of a young man caught between these two cultures.

Name:  Mieko Fujiura

The Keep

August 10, 2011

Author: Jennifer Egan; Audiobook read by Jeff Gurner and Geneva Carr

Title: The Keep

Genre: Literary fiction; Gothic fiction; Bestsellers; Audiobooks

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: Hardcover: 240; Audiobook: 7 discs – 8 hours

Geographical Setting: Castle in Central Europe; U.S. prison

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: After Danny’s involvement in a childhood prank that nearly left his cousin dead, he never expected to see Howard again. Yet when Danny is all out of options in his beloved New York, he finds himself accepting his cousin’s offer to help renovate a remote castle in Central Europe, despite his need for technological connections and an uncertainty about Howard’s motives for asking him. Howard’s goal is to create a hotel in which people leave technology behind to “be tourists of their own imaginations.” Yet as Danny explores the mysterious castle and gets to know the 98-year-old baroness who calls the keep her home, he and readers alike begin to wonder what’s real and what’s imagined. As paranoia builds in this storyline, another layer of uncertainty is added through the narration of Ray, a prison inmate who seems to be relating the story of the keep for his creative writing class. Eventually, these alternating threads weave together to form a complex tale with themes of power, imagination, connections, and how the past haunts us all. While some transitions and elements of the untraditional narrative structure don’t translate seamlessly to audio format, the narrators are able to make up for this by enhancing the book’s cinematic qualities and evoking a more emotional response from the listener.

Subject Headings: Gothic fiction, Castles, Cousins, Power, Revenge, Paranoia, Prison life, Creative writing, Story-within-a-story, Role of technology, Clash of old and new

Appeal: Atmospheric, atypical narrative style, complex characters, detailed settings, eerie, engrossing, interweaving storylines, multiple narrators, tense, tragic, vivid

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Layered, creepy, cinematic

3 Similar Fiction Works and Authors
End of Story by Peter Abrahams (A psychological thriller based around a writing teacher in a prison and her connection with one of her students; a suspenseful page-turner for readers interested in the prison storyline from The Keep.)

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (Layered and eerie Victorian-era mystery with a strong sense of place; one of Egan’s style inspirations in writing The Keep.)

Different Seasons by Stephen King (This collection follows a theme of journeys through four distinctly different novellas, including the source story for The Shawshank Redemption, which most directly relates to The Keep; readers who enjoyed the eerie, cinematic quality of The Keep might want to check this out.)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages by J.E. Kaufmann and H.W. Kaufmann (Readers interested in the keep and its defenses, as described in pivotal scenes in The Keep, can turn here for a detailed, visual discussion of castles, keeps, siege tactics and weapons.)

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg (Memoir of a former prison librarian and creative writing teacher, with parallels to characters from the prison thread of The Keep; moving, thought-provoking, blends moral reflections with wit.)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle (An exploration of the power of technology and its impact on our social lives; readers who identify with Danny’s need to be connected or Howard’s desire to escape technology may be interested in this well-researched look at isolation and connectivity.)

By: Elaine

Stitches: A Memoir

August 10, 2011

Title:  Stitches

Author: David Small

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 329

Geographical Setting: Detroit

Time Period: 1951-1990

Format:  Hardcover

Plot Summary:  This is a gripping memoir written by children’s illustrator David Small. It tells of his childhood in Detroit growing up in a dysfunctional house where member of his family had their own language for dealing with the uneasiness. There was coughing or slamming draws, hitting a punching bag, banging on drums and getting sick. At age eleven a growth is discovered in David’s neck. It takes three years before anything is done about it and what happens after will change David’s world forever. A memorable story that causes you to feel sad and perplexed at these uncaring parents while standing up and cheering for this young man’s fight to survive and thrive. David Small conveys the menacing atmosphere and the challenging youth he faced through his illustrations but the graphic format helps to make the difficult subject matter more readable.

Subject Headings:  Graphic Novel, Memoir, David Small, Children’s Illustrator

Appeal:  engrossing, chilling, dark, stark, uneasy, introspective, domestic, conversational, thoughtful, bittersweet, earnest, foreboding, unique

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: thoughtful, bittersweet and uneasy

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

My Voice: A Physician’s Personal Experience with Throat Cancer by Itzhak Brook MD – A personal story covers three years of the author’s life during which he faced throat cancer and the loss of his vocal chords.

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrator Talk to Children About Their Art by Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art – For any reader of Stitches who would like to learn more about children’s book illustrators other that David Small.

Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics, Manga, Graphic Novels and Beyond by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden – If reading Stitches piqued your interest in how a graphic novel is made then this is the book for you.

3 Revelant Fiction Works and Authors:

  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – A story of a dysfunctional family that will appeal to readers of Stitches. Also it is a memoir. Bleak, uneasy and bittersweet

Once You Go Back by Douglas Martin – A story about a young man trying to find himself despite his dysfunctional family. Poignant, heartbreaking and thoughtful

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – This book would appeal to the reader who enjoyed Stitches due to its dark story and its teen male main character. It also appeals to the reader of a graphic novel due to the stories connection with the found photographs in the book.

Name:  Mary Othic