Posts Tagged ‘authentic’

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

August 15, 2012

Author: McClure, Wendy

Title: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 336 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple locations throughout the United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Author and children’s book editor, Wendy McClure, takes readers on a humorous, reflective, and contemporary journey to revisit her favorite children’s books, the series of Little House on the Prairie.  In each chapter, McClure shares with readers her research into the history of the books along with her visits to several of the historical sites in the United States where Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of Little House on the Prairie, lived.  McClure even goes to festivals dedicated to the books and tries to camp out and cook as in the 19th century.  However, what adds even more depth to this novel is that McClure learns as much about herself throughout this journey as she does about her favorite series.  McClure leads this novel with a relatable, introspective, and self-deprecating voice. She describes situations and characters in a detailed, vivid, and generally sympathetic style with accessible and conversational language.  Also, while much of the novel is character-centered and informative, numerous funny adventures occur during the course of McClure’s trips.  This novel is an engaging and thought-provoking novel about one person’s relationship with the books that she loves.

Subject Headings: Books and Reading; Arts and Entertainment; Frontier and Pioneer Life; Frontier and Pioneer Life in Literature; Home; Women’s Studies; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Appreciation; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Homes and Haunts; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Little House on the Prairie; 19th Century; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing;

Appeal: leisurely-paced, relaxed, steady, bittersweet, candid, contemplative, gentle, humorous, introspective, moving, nostalgic, poignant, unpretentious, closely observed, detailed, engaging, familiar, quirky, realistic, and vivid primary and secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, episodic, layered, literary references, thought-provoking, accurate, contemporary, historical details, rural, academic, accessible, conversational, descriptive, engaging, informal, informative, thoughtful, well-researched

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: humorous, bittersweet, historical details

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrimwill appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another autobiographical novel that highlights a different perspective ofLittle House on the PrairieSimilar toThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is a funny, character-centered, conversational, and contemporary book about how her real life differed from the mean character that she played on the famous television show.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is more about the life of the actress beyond the series while McClure’s novel is a nostalgic and academic return to the past.

Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another humorous novel about a man who tries to live a simpler life in the country and discovers it is more difficult than he initially expected.  Similar to The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch is a character-centered, chatty, and contemporary book, but unlike McClure, Welsch’s adventures take place in Nebraska.  Also, he continues to live in rural areas despite its hardships.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that itis another autobiographical story about a woman, who reads a book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and decides to change her contemporary life and relationships because of it.  Like McClure, Powell describes the challenges and triumphs of trying to replicate recipes from a famous book in a reflective, conversational, and engaging style.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell is set in New York and focuses solely on cooking while McClure’s journey is in multiple locations and involves many different types of 19th century activities.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is anotherhistorical novel about a strong woman, Meg Mambry, who is investigating the truth regarding a diary from her great-grandmother in the 19th century. UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook is more serious and psychological in tone and takes place in New Mexico.  However, like The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook has humorous moments and focuses on women’s lives and relationships.

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another compilation of stories that include subjects, such as homesteading and living on the frontier.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx is set in Wyoming and contains more serious and dark stories in a more literary style.  Nonetheless, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx has humorous moments and focuses on family relationships as well.

An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another historical novel based on the true story of Nancy Kelsey who is the first woman to travel to California in the 19th century.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland is a more serious adventure story of survival.  However, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland has well-researched historical details and focuses on strong women.

Chyna Black by Keisha Ervin

August 13, 2012

 Author:  Keisha Ervin

Title:  Chyna Black

Genre:  African American, Urban Lit

Publication Date:  2004

Number of Pages:  259

Geographical Setting:  St. Louis, Missouri

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Seventeen-year-old Chyna Black catches the eye of Tyriek James, a handsome 22-year-old drug dealer living a life filled with fast cars, expensive jewelry, and designer name clothes.  Unheeding her girlfriends’ advice that Tyriek is nothing but trouble, Chyna is blinded by her passion and pursues a relationship with him, forsaking everything else.  Chyna, infatuated and caught up in his lifestyle, goes from straight-A student to high school dropout, begins to isolate herself from her friends, and gets thrown out of her mother’s house.  Although things go well for a while between her and Tyriek, their relationship soon becomes fraught with jealousy, infidelity, violent physical and emotional abuse, passionate make-up sex, and insincere promises of devotion.  Chyna learns all too late the unhealthiness of their relationship, returns to her mother’s house, and begins dating an old boyfriend, LP, who gets her pregnant.  Without LP’s support, she decides to keep the baby and get her life back on track by getting a job and her GED.  One year later, at her daughter’s first birthday, Tyriek reappears with new promises of devotion.  Chyna Black is a fast-paced, gritty tale of urban fiction written in a raw, conversational style that is heavy with dialect and loaded with profanity.  Chyna and Tyriek’s relationship is a maelstrom of drama and passionate eroticism that is sure to engage readers who enjoy these elements.

Subject Headings:  African American Teenage Girls; Inner City Life; Teenage Pregnancy; High School Dropouts; Drug Dealers; Unhealthy Relationships; Responsibility; Coming-of-Age Stories

Appeal:  Conversational, informal, unpretentious, authentic, raw, gritty, dialect-rich, sexually explicit, strong language, erotic, romantic, melodramatic, hopeful, inspiring, fast-paced, open-ended

3 terms that best describe this book:  Dialect-rich, raw, and strong language

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Dear Diary, I’m Pregnant: Ten Real Life Stories by Anrenee Englander

This book is a collection of candid interviews with ten teenage girls from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and faiths about their experiences with pregnancy.  The girls’ stories also touch on topics such as abortion, adoption, and deciding to keep their babies.  This title is suggested to those who want to read true-life stories about teenage pregnancies after reading about Chyna’s experiences.

2)  A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

A harrowing yet inspiring memoir of how the author overcame her history of childhood neglect, abject poverty, trauma, rape, prostitution, gang affiliation, and substance abuse and became a California attorney and motivational speaker.  Like Chyna Black, this is a gritty, raw, and inspiring story of an African American woman taking back control of her life.

3)  Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving by Donna Britt

An honest and introspective memoir about how the author, growing up as the only daughter in a middle-class African American family, sacrificed her own ambitions and self-identity for the men in her life: her three brothers, her father, her boyfriends, and her husband.  After the police shoot and kill one of her brothers, she reflects on the ways in which she has continually given of herself to others at the expense of her own individuality.  Chyna Black comes to a similar realization when she breaks things off with Tyreik and begins to take responsibility for her future.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Every Thug Needs a Lady by Wahida Clark

Roz puts her personal aspirations of becoming a physical therapist aside when she meets and gets involved with Trae, a drug dealer.  She soon realizes the cost of getting into a relationship with a gangster.  Every Thug Needs a Lady and Chyna Black are similar urban tales of young African American women blinded by their passion for handsome, wealthy thugs at the expense of everything else.

2)  Black: A Street Tale by Tracy Brown

When her mother throws her out of the house, 17-year-old Kaia is forced to live on the streets.  Trying desperately just to survive, she meets and gets involved in relationship with a local hoodlum named Aaron.  Although this relationship changes her life, she questions whether it has changed for the better or if it is stifling her freedom.  Suggested to readers looking for another story about a young African American teenage girl who is thrown out of her home and becomes romantically involved with a dangerous man.

3)  Push by Sapphire

Sixteen-year-old Precious Jones lives in a severely abusive household where her father routinely rapes her and her mother emotionally and physically abuses her.  When she finds herself pregnant with her father’s child for the second time, she enrolls in an alternative school in Harlem to overcome her illiteracy.  Her teacher, Blue Rain, encourages and pushes her to learn how to read and write.  By learning these skills, Precious is able to find an outlet for communicating her tragic existence.  Push is suggested to readers looking for a grittier, bleaker, and more harrowing tale of a pregnant African American teenage girl gaining the confidence she needs to confront the adversity and trauma she has suffered.

Name:  Zach Musil

Look Me in the Eye

August 13, 2012

Author:  John Elder Robison

Title: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

Genre:  Nonfiction, Autobiography

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  288

Geographical Setting: Primarily Eastern U.S.; Massachusetts

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  In this darkly humorous and moving autobiography, Augusten Burroughs’s older brother, John Elder Robison, candidly and straightforwardly narrates what his life was like growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, his struggles with adjusting to the world around him, and the relief he felt when he was finally diagnosed at age 40.  Robison also describes his traumatic childhood living with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mentally-unstable mother; his gift for repairing, building, and modifying electronic music equipment; and how he used this gift to escape his parents by joining KISS’s 1978 tour to build special effect guitars for Ace Frehley.  Robison’s life is colorful and full of bizarre developments and quirky, offbeat characters that make for a particularly compelling read.  The author’s clever observations of life are both humorous and insightful, and give readers an authentic portrait of one man’s life with Asperger’s.

Subject Headings:  Asperger’s Syndrome; Asperger’s Syndrome Patients; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Family Relationships

Appeal:  Bittersweet, darkly humorous, disturbing, funny, moving, offbeat, reflective, candid, thoughtful, insightful, quirky characters, authentic, clever, straightforward

3 terms that best describe this book:  Darkly humorous, offbeat, and moving

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

David Finch’s idiosyncratic behaviors are beginning to a take a toll on his five-year marriage when he is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  Relieved to find reason behind his idiosyncrasies, Finch begins his quest to find ways to manage his Aspergian behaviors, improve his social skills, and save his marriage.  Like John Elder Robison, Finch is a high-functioning Asperger syndrome patient who was unaware of his diagnosis until adulthood.  This title is suggested to readers looking for a heartwarming and funny book chronicling a person’s efforts to “overcome” his diagnosis.

2)  I Am Intelligent: From Heartbreak to Healing – A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through Autism by Peyton and Diane Goddard

Peyton Goddard, a sufferer of severe autism to the extent of being unable to speak or control her own body, and her mother, Diane, recount her history of misdiagnoses, marginalization, neglect, mistreatment, and exclusion from normal society and education.  Later in her life, Peyton was properly diagnosed and given the ability to communicate her story through computer technology.  Suggested to readers who want to read a deeply moving memoir about someone with a much more severe autistic spectrum disorder than Robison’s.

3)  The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

An accessible, authoritative, and comprehensive book on aspects of Asperger’s syndrome, including its causes, how it is diagnosed, the social and behavioral challenges that Asperger’s syndrome patients encounter, and issues regarding stigmatization and bullying.  Suggested to those looking for a more scientific and clinical book about Asperger’s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone, an autistic 15-year-old mathematical savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, finds his neighbor’s poodle impaled on a garden fork.  Determined to find the murderer, Christopher must learn to overcome his autistic behaviors in order to solve this mystery.  This title is suggested to readers who enjoy mysteries and are interested in individuals or characters with autistic spectrum disorders.

2)  The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a middle-aged man detached from the world by his neuroses, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and social anxieties, becomes involved in the life of his social worker, Clarissa, and her son, Teddy, and most learn to confront his idiosyncrasies in order to help her escape her abusive ex-husband.  Daniel’s character, while not necessarily described as autistic, exhibits obsessive-compulsive characteristics frequently associated with sufferers of autistic spectrum disorders.  Readers of Look Me in the Eye looking for a similarly witty and touching tale may want to check out this book.

3)  With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe

The first entry in a multi-volume manga series about Sachiko Azuma’s struggles with raising her autistic son, Hikaru, this volume introduces the characters and follows Hikaru from birth through early elementary school.  This series is a poignant and moving story that explores the realities of being a parent of an autistic child.  The series is suggested to those who enjoyed Look Me in the Eye but want to read about children with autistic spectrum disorders and are open to graphic-novel format.

Name:  Zach Musil

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

August 8, 2012

Author: Keshni Kashyap   Illustrator: Mari Araki

Title: Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Genre: Coming of Age Stories; Multicultural; Graphic Novel (format)

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 242

Geographical Setting: Southern California

Time Period: Modern

Plot Summary: This engaging graphic novel tells the coming of age story of an East Indian American teenager named Tina as she struggles with the bigger questions in life. As an English honors assignment on existentialism, Tina begins to keep a diary of letters she writes to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Keshni Kashyap, an East-Indian-American herself who struggled with her own racial identity as a teen, is the author of this novel. The black and white illustrations by Araki help to convey the charming and mellow tone of the story. The writing is amusing yet realistic and authentic. The diaries are candid thoughts on growing up and philosophy that are cleverly intertwined.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls-Southern California; Individuality; Diaries; East Indian-Americans; High schools

Appeal: leisurely-paced, candid, humorous, philosophical, thoughtful, engaging, quirky, realistic, authentic, diaries, clever, smart, charming, amusing, mellow

3 terms that best describe this book: engaging, philosophical, authentic

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Tete-aTete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre by Hazel Rowley – If you’d like to learn more about Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophies as well as more about his personal and unusual relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, you may want to read this book.

2.    Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Villages to Five Continents by Minal Hajratwala – If after reading Tina’s Mouth, you would like to find out more about East Indian culture, immigration, and history this may be a book you would enjoy.

3.    Being and Time by Martin Heidegger – If after reading Tina’s Mouth you would like to learn more about existentialism as a philosophy, you may enjoy reading this book about human existence.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson – If you enjoy coming of age graphic novels that are reflective in nature like Tina’s Mouth, you may also enjoy this.

2.      Action Philosophers! by Fred Van Lente – You may enjoy this book if you like reading graphic novels about philosophy like Tina’s Mouth. This graphic novel that is part of the Action Philosophers Series (Book 2) takes a humorous approach to the expansive field of philosophy.

3.      The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani –If you would like to read another fiction book about East Indian culture and racial struggles in the United States, this book about an arranged marriage might appeal to you.

Name: Patty Prodanich

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames

August 8, 2012

Author:  Jonathan Ames

Illustrator:  Dean Haspiel

Title:  The Alcoholic

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date:  2008

Number of Pages:  136

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Famous mystery writer Jonathan A. wakes from a drunken stupor to find himself in a cluttered station wagon next to an old dwarf woman intent on making love to him.  Trying to remember how he got here, he reflects back to his adolescence when he first discovered alcohol and made a pact with his best friend Sal to get drunk every weekend throughout high school, thus beginning his lifelong self-destructive relationship with alcohol.  He moves to New York City after his parents die in a car wreck and begins working as a taxi driver, where he meets a drug-dealer who introduces him to cocaine.  After waking up in a garbage can, he decides to check himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.  Unfortunately, after leaving, his life continues to fill with tragedy: a girl he falls in love with abandons him yet continues to string him along, he learns that his best friend died of AIDS, his Aunt gets breast cancer, and he watches the World Trade Center burn down on September 11 from the roof of his apartment building.  Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic is a bleak, semiautobiographical tale of one man’s desperate and constant battle to overcome alcoholism.  Featuring flawed and lifelike characters with whom readers can sympathize, The Alcoholic is an emotionally-charged and sobering look at the horrors of alcoholism.  The illustrations are evocative, realistic, well-drawn, and superbly complement the narrative’s tone.

Subject Headings:  Alcoholics; Alcoholism; Addiction; Self-Destructive Behavior; Novelists

Appeal:  Compelling, unhurried, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, well-drawn characters, lifelike characters, character-driven, authentic, open-ended, candid, honest, gritty, engaging, self-deprecating, descriptive, darkly humorous, melancholy, moving, dramatic, melancholy, sobering, poignant, emotionally-charged, offbeat, reflective

3 terms that best describe this book:  Candid, melancholy, and sobering

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

In this moving and somewhat disturbing memoir, twenty-four-year-old Koren Zailckas candidly talks about her experience with alcoholism (which began when she was only 14), half-remembered drunken sexual encounters, rape, and alcohol poisoning. She gives an intimate look into the largely overlooked issue of binge drinking among teen girls and young women.  This book is suggested to those who want to read true stories about underage drinking and early alcoholism.

2)  Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, in the witty and offbeat writing style he is known for, recounts his stay in an alcohol rehabilitation facility for gay men.  But when he leaves, his recovery is challenged when he falls in love with a cocaine addict and his best friend dies of AIDS.  Simultaneously moving and humorous, Dry is suggested to readers who want a closer look inside a rehabilitation facility and want to read how someone else dealt with losing a friend to AIDS.

3)  Stitches by David Small

Written in graphic novel format, Stitches is a poignant, grim, and deeply haunting memoir about the author’s childhood and adolescence among an emotionally unavailable family.  Young David ends up getting throat cancer from his radiologist father, who subjected him to repeated x-rays, and looses his ability to speak after surgery.  Distant, mute, and alone, David turns to drawing as an escape.  Although this suggestion is not about alcoholism or addiction, readers looking for a similarly powerful graphic novel could not go wrong with Stitches.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

A fictional version of Bret Easton Ellis attempts to change his drug-addled, binge-drinking lifestyle by marrying movie star Jayne Dennis, moving to the suburbs, and becoming a father.  Everything seems well for a while, but when he begins writing a pornographic shock novel his life goes from mundane and peaceful to bizarre and horrific.  He relapses back into alcohol and drug abuse, his house becomes possessed by an insidious spirit, someone begins copying the serial killings in American Psycho, and his neighborhood suffers an increase in child abductions.  Like The Alcoholic, this novel contains similar semiautobiographical elements and features a drug-abusing, flawed character as a protagonist.  Suggested to readers looking for something a bit more wild and offbeat than The Alcoholic.

2)  Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British ex-consul, escapes to Quahnahuac, Mexico on November 2, 1938—The Day of the Dead—in order to cut himself off from his loved ones and to drink himself to death.  His ex-wife, Yvonne, and his stepbrother, Hugh, travel to the small Mexican town in an attempt to save him, but to no avail.  Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano is renowned for its vivid and sympathetic portrayal of the horrors of alcoholism.  Like The Alcoholic, this semiautobiographical novel provides an unflinching look at alcoholism.

3)  Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, is a derelict and a drunkard who aimlessly travels throughout America looking for work in dead-end occupations, loose and easy women, and, of course, his next drink.  This bawdy semiautobiographical novel recounts Henry’s experiences in gritty, candid details.  Jonathan Ames, author of The Alcoholic, has mentioned Bukowski as an important influence in his own writing.  Further, Factotum similarly tells the story of an alcoholic’s experiences.

Name:  Zach Musil

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

July 16, 2012

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Title: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 495

Geographical Setting: RuralMexico

Time Period: Late 19th Century

Series: Though not a series,there is a sequel – Queen of America, published in 2011

Plot Summary: Teresa Urrea is the illegitimate daughter of Don Tomás Urrea, a wealthy Mexican rancher, and a young Indian girl, Cayetana Chávez, known as The Hummingbird. Teresa is born in 1873 into desperate poverty and suffers abuse at the hands of her aunt, who raises Teresa after her mother abandons her. In spite of this, Teresa is a bright and engaging child. Teresa is rescued by Huila, the medicine woman, and learns the mystical ways of nature and healing. When Teresa is older, Don Tomás, defying contemporary conventions, takes her in and raises her as his own. A horrific event befalls Teresa when she is sixteen, miraculously transforming her into the Saint of Cabora, although Teresa dismisses the label. Pilgrims, hoping she will heal them, arrive at the ranch by the thousands, as do vagabonds, soldiers and revolutionaries. Insurrection is contemplated within the crowd and it is rumored that Teresa is fomenting revolution. Teresa and her father are arrested and sentenced to be shot as seditionists, though the sentence is later commuted to exile in the United States.This is a thoroughly researched, yet fictional account of a woman related to the author, known as the Saint of Cabora.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls – fiction; Woman healers – fiction; Illegitimate children – fiction; Near-death experiences – fiction; Mexico – History – 1867-1910 – fiction;

Appeal: Sweeping, atmospheric, authentic, measured pacing, engrossing,  gritty, humorous, evocative, mystical, detailed characterizations, strong characters, interwoven perspectives, accessible, thought-provoking, well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book: Expansive, dramatic, anddetailed in both characterization and setting

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Cookson, Catherine, The Glass Virgin. This is a character driven and dramatic coming-of-age story of a young girl who learns the truth and accepts the consequences of her true lineage in Edwardian England.

Le Guin, Ursula, Malafrena. This historical fiction title reflects an atmospheric and dramatic tale of a young man who becomes a revolutionary and forsakes his homeland.

Rice, Luanne, The Edge of Winter. This is a character-driven coming-of-age story about a mother and daughter facing the unforgiving realities as well as the beauty of life in a bird sanctuary in Rhode Island.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Gilly, Adolfo,The Mexican Revolution. This book recounts the peasant revolts against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and the inauguration of Álvaro Obregón in 1920.

Porterfield, Amanda, Healing in the History of Christianity. This title examines how healing is a central theme in the history of Christianity.

Shapiro, Marcy, Transforming the Nature of Health: A Holistic Vision of Healing That Honors Our Connection to the Earth, Others, and Ourselves. This title explores how our health is connected to love, meaning and respect between ourselves and nature.

Name: Patty Daniel

Fun Home

April 11, 2012

Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Autobiography; Graphic novels (Nonfiction); Memoirs; Family and relationships; Adult books for young adults;

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 232

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania

Time Period:  1960’s – early 1980’s

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: This graphic memoir—graphic as in comic strip, not explicit (though there is an explicit moment)—centers around the author’s slow revelation that she is a lesbian and her relationship with her closeted English teacher/historical house restorer/funeral home director father.  It’s full of references to Greek myths and American novels and plays that will please literary folks and non-literary types as the graphic representations help convey the meaning of the references.  This dark but not depressing multiple award nominee and winner will appeal to readers that like a more mature coming-of-age memoir.

Subject Headings: Bechdel, Alison, 1960 – Comic books, strips, etc.; Father and daughter; Closet gay men; Lesbian teenagers – Coming out; Brothers; English language teachers;  Gay men; Undertakers and undertaking; Parent and child; Children of divorced parents; Funeral homes; Teacher-student relationships; Divorce; Death; Historic preservation; Cartoonists – United States.

Appeal: candid; darker; humorous; introspective; melancholy; moving; moody; poignant; reflective; sophisticated; thoughtful; eccentric; quirky; realistic; sympathetic; well-developed; authentic; character-centered; issue-oriented; literary references; accurate; contemporary; accessible; chatty; conversational; direct; frank; informal; smart; straightforward; witty; award winner.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: witty; reflective; candid

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Epileptic by David B.  This is another moving and thoughtful memoir told in a graphic medium.  Epileptic, like Fun Home, is about a family with problems and how the author came out of the experience, though the problems are different.

You’ll Never Know by Carol Tyler.  This moving and thoughtful story is the first book in this 3-part graphic novel/memoir that centers around the author’s relationship with her father and how it affected her later relationships.  Bechdel’s memoir Fun Home is also a moving and thoughtful graphic novel/memoir that focuses on her relationship with her father.

Running with Scissors by August Burroughs.  It’s not a graphic novel but, like Fun HomeRunning with Scissors is a candid, engaging and witty coming-of-age memoir.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Family Matter by Will Eisner.  Though this candid graphic novel only covers a day in the life, it too reveals family secrets that include suppressed dark family secrets.

Martin Bauman: or, A Sure Thing by David Leavitt is also a character-driven, moody and witty coming-of-age novel. Though this tale about an insecure writer struggling to come out of the closet may be based on the author’s own life, it seems that Leavitt may have also had a mentor-type figure that strongly shaped the author’s life.

Escape from “Special” by Miss Lasko-Gross is a coming-of-age graphic novel of a girl trying to get through a difficult childhood with hippie parents.  The muted colors of the artwork is similar to Fun Home (Fun Home uses grayish blues and Escape uses smoky grays) in that it evokes a moody tone throughout the darkly humorous story.

Name: Ally C.

The Coldest Winter Ever

April 11, 2012

Author:  Sister Souljah

Title:  The Coldest Winter Ever

Genre:  African American Fiction, Urban Fiction

Publication Date:  1999

Number of Pages:  337

Geographical Setting:  New York

Time Period:  1990s

Series:  n/a

Plot Summary:     Winter Santiaga, the teenage daughter of a notorious Brooklyn drug dealer, must struggle to survive on the streets after her father is arrested.  When her family’s estate is confiscated by the police, Winter turns to her father’s associates for support.  When this fails and she is caught by the Department of Children and Family Services, Winter turns to crime in order to return to her lavish lifestyle. The Coldest Winter Ever is a gritty, sobering work of urban fiction with well-developed characters and an authentic feel.

Subject Headings:  Drug dealers, Drug use, City life, Inner city, Street life, African American teenagers, African American women, Imprisonment, Public housing, Violence

Appeal:  Gritty, Hard-edged, Sexually explicit, Sobering, Stark, Well-developed, Authentic, Character-centered, Urban, Dialect, Strong language, Violent

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Gritty, Character-centered, Urban

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Original Gangster:  The Real Life Story of One of America’s Most Notorious Drug Lords by Frank Lucas-  Frank Lucas, former organized crime boss and heroin dealer, describes his experiences in Harlem during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Original Gangster:  The Real Life Story of One of America’s Most Notorious Drug Lords and The Coldest Winter Ever both deal with drug dealers in New York. 

Our America:  Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago by LeAlan Jones- Our America consists of several interviews from tenants of the Ida B. Wells housing project.  Our America:  Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago will appeal to readers that are interested in learning more about public housing projects and inner city life.

A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown- This disturbing autobiography recounts the author’s experiences with gangs and drugs on the streets of Los Angeles and her struggle to rebuild her life.   A Piece of Cake and The Coldest Winter Ever both deal with African American teenage girls who struggle to survive the streets on their own.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors (why they are similar):

Let That be the Reason (Let That be the Reason Novels, 1) by Vickie M. Stringer-  After being abandoned by her drug dealing boyfriend, Pamela becomes the head of a call-girl operation to help her survive the streets.   Like The Coldest Winter Ever, Let That be the Reason is a gritty work of urban fiction that deals with a young African American woman trying to survive on the streets.

Push by Sapphire- After being  abused and raped by her father, sixteen year old Precious works to turn her life around with the help of a teacher.  Like The Coldest Winter Ever, Push is gritty and sobering work of urban fiction that deals with an African American teenage girl facing adversity.

Thieves’ Paradise by Eric Jerome Dickey- With no job and an older woman to impress, Dante turns to crime to make quick money.   Both The Coldest Winter Ever and Thieves’ Paradise are gritty, character-driven novels about young African Americans who take drastic measures during difficult times.

Elissa

 

In the presence of mine enemies

March 28, 2012

Author: Harry Turtledove

Title: In the Presence of Mine Enemies

Genre: Science Fiction (Alternative Histories)

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 454p.

Geographical Setting: Berlin*

Time Period: Present-day (-ish)*

*In the Presence of My Enemies is a work of fictional alternate history wherein Germany has won the 2nd and 3rd World Wars (the 3rd resulting in the nuclear destruction of all significant American cities, and a new capital in Omaha, in case you were wondering about the home team) and has exterminated (to their satisfaction, at least—think slave labor) the world’s population of Slavs, Jews, Blacks, and a plethora of other racial, ethnic, and nationalist groups.  They are cozy with the Japanese Empire.

Series (If applicable): Not yet.

Plot Summary:  A small community of Jews, loosely allied by family and friendship, struggle to raise families, work, continue the Jewish faith, and survive clandestinely in “present day” Berlin as good “Germans” alongside their unknowing, yet legitimately Aryan, German friends and colleagues.  Adding to their many daily trials, the Reich has been hurled into a new and uncertain direction toward “reform” that leaves the Empire, and especially Berlin, in a heightened state of political and national unrest, boldness, and uncertainty, by the appointment of a progressive new Fuhrer and the political emergence of an enigmatic Party rabble-rouser (think Gorbachev and Yeltsin!).

Subject Headings: Nazi Party (Germany), Jews—German, World War 2, 21st century, Jewish families, Middle class families, Secrets, Secret identity, Identity (Psychology), Political upheaval, Political demonstration, Secret police, Police state, Fascism, Adolf Hitler, Revenge, Genetics, Germany—Politics and government, Genocide, Adultery.

Appeal: plot-driven, dark, surreal, steady, bleak, candid, claustrophobic, foreboding, melancholy, menacing atmosphere, paranoid, suspenseful, detailed, authentic, imaginative, intense, tense/anxious, multiple plot lines, thought-provoking, political, urban, concise, straightforward, ominous.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: plot-driven, dark, thought-provoking.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

While the suggestion of reading this book might seem as appealing to a reader as stabbing themselves in the eye with a fork, it does merit consideration as Turtledove’s Nazi Empire is wholly dependent on it as both their Constitution and their Bible.  While the plot line of radical reformists calling for adherence to the more democratic-minded first edition of Mein Kampf in order to extend freedoms, liberties, and self-determination to the citizens and conquered nations of the Reich is clever and ironic, the real shivers happen as it becomes clear that Hitler has achieved God-like infallibility and reverence in Turtledove’s nightmare world.

What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany by Eric A. Johnson

Can genocide become an everyday facet of society? Apparently so, the author would argue.  Over 3,000 Germans of the era (Jews and non-Jews, victims and perpetrators) took part in the research for this book.  The conclusion: the average German lived not in fear of the Gestapo or anything else for most of Hitler’s reign, but existed rather comfortably and prosperous.  The estimated 1/3 of Germany that knew of what was happening in the concentration camps, chose to ignore what was going on in their backyards, as well as those citizens that knew of the extermination through rumor.  By the time of Turtledove’s Reich, the extermination of millions (billions?) of people around the globe is viewed simply as historical fact and a privilege of the victors.  This book is a well-deserved kidney punch to German ambiguity and nostalgia when it comes to the pre-War years, as well as to those who think a movement like the Nazis could never threaten the globe again.

Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany by Marion A. Kaplan

This book attempts to answer the age-old question of why the Jews didn’t leave Nazi Germany en masse.  The author uses interviews, diaries, letters, and other first person accounts to portray a Jewish population as confused as they were frightened as the Nazis slowly stole freedom and property until they were trapped in a hostile country, completely deprived and isolated.  This book puts the machinations of genocide into motion with enough momentum to be a fully realized institution for the Jewish families in “Presence”, who know fully well any disclosure of their true identities would result in immediate execution.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Legendary and iconic sci-fi author Dick gives his version of a world in which the Germans and Japanese won the 2nd World War.  Almost a companion piece to In the Presence of Mine Enemies in depicting the goings-on on the other side of the globe, Dick portrays a 1960’s United States that is German-Japanese occupied and has reinstated slavery.  What few Jews who survived live hidden under the cloak of assumed identities.  Sound familiar?

1945: A Novel by Robert Conroy

This is another WW2 based alternate history.  The twist here is that instead of surrendering after the dropping of the atomic bombs, military extremists assume control of the nation, vowing never to surrender.  The ensuing U.S. invasion of the home island unleashes death and carnage in apocalyptic proportion.  This is all the more disturbing given the fact that in reality the Emperor being deposed in a coup by hardline generals vowing to fight to the last man, woman, and child was a very real possibility, narrowly escaped.

Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book One by Taylor Anderson.

Again, WW2 is the stepping off point for this first book in an on-going series.  In the heat of battle the bloodies and battered destroyer USS Walker seeks escape from faster, deadlier Japanese boats by heading directly into a massive, otherworldly looking squall.  As the storm subsides, the Captain and colorful crew notice that while geographically things look familiar, everything else in the parallel Earth they find themselves trapped in is very, very different.  In no time at all, Walker is tossed into the middle of a genocidal (and carnivorous) war begun by the Grik (human sized vicious, but mindless, lizards) against the Lemurians (human sized noble and peace-loving lemurs).  As this New Earth is technologically somewhere in the 18th century, the allegiance, modern armament, and know-how of Walker and its crew may prove decisive to the fate of this world.

Name: Bill S.