Posts Tagged ‘closely observed’

When the Emperor Was Divine

November 27, 2012

Author: Julie Otsuka

Title: When the Emperor Was Divine

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multi-cultural

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 144

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: 1942-1945

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This is a historically detailed story about a family that was in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. The novel, which is written in third person, begins with the mother and two children still at home after their father was arrested. This was a few months before the rest of the family goes to the internment camp. The rest of the novel the characters reflect there unfortunate journey and lives while in the Japanese Internment Camp and their lives after the war. Even though living in the internment camps for over three years was horrible, it was bittersweet because they have pleasant moments and dreams. This family-centered novel provides the readers with a character-driven perspective of the lives in the internment camps in the United States during the Second World War

Subject Headings: Japanese-Americans – Mass internment, 1942-1945; World War II – California; Japanese-American families; concentration camps — California

Appeal: atmospheric; bittersweet; character-driven; closely observed; detailed setting; emotionally intense; family-centered; historical details; leisurely paced; multiple points of view; nostalgic; reflective; richly detailed; strong sense of place; thought-provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bittersweet; family-centered; historical details

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Davenport, John C., The attack on Pearl Harbor: The United States enters World War II (explains the historical details of how and why the Japanese were put into the internment camps)

– Grant, Kimi Cunningham, Silver like dust: one family’s story of America’s Japanese internment (an actual individual family-centered account of the internment camps)

– Grapes, Bryan J., Japanese-American internment camps (several articles and stories of people who were in the internment camps)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Appanah-Mouriquan, Nathacha, 1973-, The last brother (bittersweet, family-centered, World War II story)

– Finney, Ernest J., California time (family-centered story about a Japanese American families relationship with Portuguese and Italian families, and how World War II affected the relationship)

– Salisbury, Graham, Eyes of the emperor (thought-provoking, Japanese American story during World War II, story through the eyes of individual who fought in the war and was still discriminated against)

Name: Samantha Biegel

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Still Life

October 3, 2012

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Author: Joy Fielding

Title: Still Life

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 369

Geographical Setting: Philadelphia

Time Period: Present (2009)

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Casey Marshall, a woman has the perfect life, a perfect husband, a booming business and a close knit group of friends, but one day that all changes. After meeting her friends for lunch Casey gets into a car accident and ends up in a coma. While Casey is in the coma, nobody surrounding her knows that she can hear them, but she is unable to respond or see her friends, family and other people. Casey realizes from her sense of hearing that the car accident may not have been an accident. Will she to be able wake up from the coma before it is too late?

Subject Headings: Women interior decorators; traffic accidents; women coma patients; sub consciousness; suspicion; dishonesty; married women

Appeal: builds in intensity, closely observed, compelling, contemporary, disturbing, emotionally charged, engaging, flashbacks, intricately plotted, intriguing,  moody, plot driven, psychological, suspenseful

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: suspenseful; psychological; engaging

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Tavalaro, Julia, 1935- Look for Yes (true story of woman in coma, wrongfully diagnosed her as brain-dead and she could hear others but could not respond back)

– Metz, Julie, Perfection: a memoir of betrayal and renewal(compelling, somebody close to her was not honest with her)

– Carpenter, Kim, 1965- The vow: the Kim & Krickett story (coma patient, dealing with car accident)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Flynn, Gillian, Gone Girl (suspenseful, psychological, disturbing, mysterious marriage)

– Clark , Mary Higgins, I Heard that Song Before (suspenseful, plot-driven, suspicious of husband)

– Adler, Elizabeth (Elizabeth A.), In a Heartbeat (suspenseful, intricately plotted, almost killed, main character is unable to respond to people while in hospital)

Name: Samantha Biegel

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.

Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

Title: Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven, and humorous autobiography consists of stories from Hadjii’s childhood and teenage years.  Throughout the autobiography, Hadjii covers many interesting situations, like attending a predominantly white school, relating to his traditional parents, going to family parties, visiting church on Sundays, celebrating Christmas, drinking for the first time, taking a test for AIDS, and getting his first job.  In the author’s note, Hadjii admits that some parts of the autobiography are true while others are not although one consistent theme throughout many of the stories is Hadjii’s highlighting of the differences between people who are black and white.  In each chapter, Hadjii’s first-person language and voice are clear.  He is chatty and frank, and he uses this voice to plainly describe and comment on situations and characters from his early years.  Unlike many autobiographies, Hadjii’s story is not tragic or sentimental, but is sarcastic, critical, perceptive, and generally optimistic.  Nonetheless, even though the tone throughout the autobiography is generally light, Hadjii’s sharp observations often present deeper perspectives on issues, especially regarding being a black American growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

Subject Headings: African-American Families; African-American Young Men; African-Americans; Family and Relationships; The Eighties (20th Century); The Nineties (20th Century); Southern States – Social Life and Customs; Southern States – Race Relations; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing; Memoirs;

Appeal: fast-paced, candid, contemplative, edgy, exuberant, humorous, introspective, playful, thoughtful, upbeat, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, lifelike, recognizable, and vivid primary and secondary characters, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, issue-oriented, strong language, thought-provoking, evocative, small-town, accessible, chatty, colorful, concise, conversational, descriptive, direct, frank, informal

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: frank, funny, episodic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who are looking for another character-driven reflection about family and relationships in a small town in Georgia.  Although Bailey White recounts these stories as an adult and does not include an African- American perspective as in Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, readers of Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White will appreciate her humorous episodic tales, closely observed and eccentric characters, and conversational dialogue throughout the novel.

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who desire another autobiography that highlights family, relationships, and race relations in the United States.  Even though the tone and style ofLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams is far more serious and formal thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, both autobiographies focus on how race affected their childhood and teenage years.  Another difference, however, is thatLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams takes place in Indiana in the 1960s unlike Hadjii’s upbringing in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii because it too is a satiric memoir that humorously focuses on perceptions and stereotypes that people have about African Americans in the United States.  Similar toDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, Thurston tries to present a more nuanced and detailed impression of race relations and his background of growing up and living in America, and like Hadjii, Thurston deemphasizes the need for every black individual to represent his or her entire race.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about an African American, Betsey Brown, growing up in a middle-class family and dealing with race relations in the United States.  Although the novel is set in Missouri in the late 1950s, Betsey is dealing with many of the same family issues as Hadjii inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried MemoirAlthough Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange is more poetic and atmospheric thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii too, it also is episodic and frankly humorous in many sections and contains a compelling story.

Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about African-American families, friends, and neighbors in a small town.  Although the book is more sentimental in tone and takes place in Oklahoma, as inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii,Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper contains multiple stories told by humorous main characters in a witty and lyrical style.

The Thang That Ate My Grandaddy’s Dog by John Calvin Rainey will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another humorous novel about a young African-American boy, Johnny Woodside, growing up in a small town in Florida.  Like Hadjii, Johnny tells many stories about his adventures and the friends and family that he relates to on a regular basis as he learns many lessons about life.

Too Cool to be Forgotten

August 8, 2012

Author: Robinson, Alex

Title: Too Cool to be Forgotten

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 128 p.

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: 2010 and 1985

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven graphic novel begins with 39-year-old main character, Andy Roberts, visiting a hypnotist to try to quit smoking, and instead, gets transported back into his 15-year-old body in 1985.  In high school, Andy relives moments from his teenage years, including asking girls out, sitting through boring classes, arguing with his parents, and going to parties.  However, even with his 15-year-old body, Andy still has his 39-year-old mind which allows him to view events in his teenage years from a nostalgic adult perspective, including gasping in class because he feels hair on his head for the first time in years.  Chapter by chapter, Andy’s teenage journey leads up to the moment when he first smokes a cigarette, but can Andy change the past?  The entire graphic novel takes place from Andy’s perspective and is full of traditional and unique panels of ink art.  While many pages have between 6 and 9 panels with dialogue in balloons, other pages have less or more panels without text.  Overall, this graphic novel is an upbeat coming-of-age story that is full of dialogue and makes readers reflect on their teenage years in a new and moving way.

Subject Headings: Time Travel (Past); Second Chances; High School Students; Teenage Boys – Decision-Making; Middle-Aged Men; Addiction; Smoking; Hypnotism; The Eighties (20th Century); Humor; Coming-of-Age Stories; Comic Books, Strips, Etc.; Graphic Novels

Appeal: fast-paced, funny, moving, nostalgic, reflective, upbeat, closely observed, engaging, and involving primary and secondary characters, character-driven, intricately plotted, family-centered, flashbacks, imaginative, layered, thought-provoking, accessible, chatty, concise, conversational

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: funny, nostalgic, moving 

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another reflective, concise, and character-driven graphic novel about a girl dealing with the problems of growing up in the 1980s.  The main differences between the books are that the setting of Iran inPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi plays a much larger role and that the tone is more dramatic and somber despite many humorous moments.  In addition, the lines in the illustrations are bolder, thicker, and less realistic than the illustrations are inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Funny Misshapen Body by Jeffrey Brown is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another humorous character-driven graphic novel about a boy dealing with the problems of growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  The main differences between the books are that the book focuses on his art career and that the illustrations are less polished and realistic than the illustrations inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

 Fun With Hypnosis: The Complete How-To Guide by Professor Svengali is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson because it is a concise fast-paced instructional guide about the subject of hypnosis, including how the history of it and its uses today, like in trying to help people end their addictions to smoking. The main differences between the books are that this book is informational rather than a fictional story.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Distant Neighborhood, Vol. 1 by Jiro Taniguchi is similar to Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another character-driven graphic novel about a middle-aged man, Hiroshi Nakahara, who revisits his hometown and at his mother’s grave, travels back in time to become 14-years-old again.  Like Andy Roberts, Hiroshi Nakahara keeps his 48-year-old brain despite his 14-year-old body and tries to fix the problems that happened in his past.  The main differences between the books are the setting of Japan and more serious tone inA Distant Neighborhood, Vol. 1 by Jiro Taniguchi.  In addition, the illustrations are in the style of manga and less realistic than the illustrations are inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is similar to Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another fast-paced, character driven graphic novel about a middle-aged man, Asterios Polyp, in New York, who is having a spiritual crisis.  Also, likeToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson, it is a moving and reflective coming-of-age story.   The main differences between the books are that the main character inAsterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is less likable and that the illustrations are more experimental and contain color.

Zombie Parents: And Other Hopes for a More Perfect World by Jerry Scott and illustrated by Jim Borgman is the latest book in the series of Zits Sketchbook.  It is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another funny graphic novel about a 15-year-old boy, Jeremy, and his problems with high school, driving, and dating.  It too focuses on Jeremy’s relationship with his parents through these teenage years.  The main differences between the books are thatZombie Parents: And Other Hopes for a More Perfect World is a compilation of traditionally stylized ink comic strips unlike the more detailed, realistic, and experimental illustrations and panels inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Expensive People

August 1, 2011

Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Title: Expensive People
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Publication Date: 1968
Number of Pages: 224
Geographical Setting: Eastern United States, Upper-Class Suburbia
Time Period: Early to late 1960’s
Series: The Wonderland Quartet
Plot Summary: Seven years following the death of his mother, 18-year-old Richard Everett bluntly tells his audience that he was a child murderer. A severely obese recluse, Richard never fit in with the images of grandeur put forth by his father, a boastful professor and mother, a beautiful and mysterious writer. Further isolated at his pretentious private school, Richard becomes deeply troubled. His psychosis reaches dangerous heights when his beloved mother proves deceptive and vain, obsessed with maintaining social status. This book proves chilling and thought-provoking as the closely-observed narrator offers a compelling glimpse into the mind of a seemingly normal kid turned violent. It also offers an important lesson to suburban families, candidly stating that material wealth and social status cannot compensate for love and support.
Subject Headings: 1960’s (United States), Suburbia, Murder, Dysfunctional Families, Private Schools, Memoirs-Fiction
Appeal: Compelling, Chilling, Psychological, Disturbing, Thought-provoking, Suspenseful, Closely Observed, Character-driven, Episodic, Realistic, Layered, Details of Suburbia, Candid
Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: Compelling, Chilling, Character-driven
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Fiend: The Shocking True Story of America’s Youngest Serial Killer by Harold Schechter
(This true crime story revolves around a 12-year-old murderer. The author details the psychological tstate of the young murderer. The result is a character-driven and disturbing story)
The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks
(This first-person narrative offers a glimpse into the troubled mind of a young person. It serves to humanize people with mental illness. It is a memoir, crafted so that the story appears character-driven, suspenseful, and thought-provoking)
When Good Kids Kill by Michael D. Kelleher
(This book offers a voice to children convicted of murder, revealing that many of these convicted murderers do not have legitimate explanations for their actions. Instead, child murderers often act out of typical adolescent defiance. The themes render this book thought-provoking, compelling, chilling, and psychological)
3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Silent Children by Ramsey Campbell
(This story details a young male protagonist who commits acts of violence against his fairly typical suburban family. The story represents a character-driven example of psychological suspense. The author creates intricate plots and demonstrates a compelling writing style)
Room by Emma Donoghue
(Told from the perspective of a young boy, this book narrates the dynamic between a mother and her son amid domestic violence and terror. The writing style proves compelling. The storyline is character-driven. The tone and mood appears disturbing, haunting, and suspenseful.
The Secret History by Donna Tarrt
(Centered around a male college student, this book discusses the power of control and its ability to lead people to murder and suicide. Tarrt displays rich detail and complex style. The story is compelling, disturbing, haunting, and realistic)

Dan Thorson

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

April 13, 2011

Author: Marjane Satrapi

Title: The Complete Persepolis

Genre: Graphic Novel/ Memoir

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 341

Geographical Setting: Tehran-the capital of Iran; Vienna, Italy

Time Period: 1980-1994 (1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War)

Plot Summary: A reflective story of Marjane Satrapi’s Iranian childhood in war torn Tehran and her teenage years as a refugee in Italy away from her homeland’s political and social repression and upheaval. In Iran, Satrapi’s large, well educated, brave, and loving family, as well as many of her peers, lead private ‘outlaw’ lives as they engage in prohibited recreational, social, political, and educational activities behind closed curtains. Satrapi’s family instills in her a love of traditional Persian heritage and culture; of the Iranian people; of a liberal education; and of all things that show respect for, and enrich, human life. But because Satrapi’s government and their militia expect her public and private life to be one of obedience and denial of all that she values, her well-meaning parents protectively send her to school in Vienna. There she feels like a misfit—alone, and somewhat self-destructive. Satrapi longingly returns home as a young adult for a bittersweet visit with her loved ones before she ultimately decides to leave again on her own terms. With the strength and support of her family, she begins her life in America.

Subject Headings: Iran, Islamic Revolution, Autobiography, Comic Books, Graphic Novel, Teenage Girls, Misfits, Isolation (psychological), Emigration, Immigration, The Eighties (20th century), Family

Appeal: character driven, strong sense of place, thought provoking, measured pace, closely observed, strong secondary characters, socio-political issue-oriented, urban, bittersweet, candid, humorous, smart

3 terms that best describe this book: eye opening; pictures worth a thousand words—and then some; a remarkable coming of age story. Reflective, compelling, resolved

3 Relevant Fiction Works:

Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipou (a modern story of a censored Iranian romance author—Mandanipo and the relationship of the young lovers in his story which is also taboo)

Maus by Art Spiegelman (a graphic novel about the survival of a mouse against the cats—or the Jewish people against the Nazi Germans—and the story of Spiegelman’s difficult relationship with his father)

Ghost Story by Daniel Clows (a graphic novel and slightly comical coming of age story about two recent high school graduate ‘misfits’ and their changing friendship)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran by Roxana Saberi (an autobiographical account of an Iranian-American journalist who is wrongly imprisoned in Iran and freed under international pressure)

A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants: A Memoir by Jaed Coffin (an American travels to Thailand to become a Buddhist monk and after initial displacement, he gains appreciation for his two ‘homes’ and heritages)

Love Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey by Betty Degeneres (Ellen Degeneres’s mother not only talks about her campaign to ensure human rights, but about the empowerment that a parent can give to their child through love and support)

–Jeanne Jesernik

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katherine McMahon

April 5, 2011

The Alchemist's Daughter

Author: Katharine McMahon

Title: The Alchemist’s Daughter

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships / Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 338

Geographical Setting: Buckinghamshire, England (some scenes in London)

Time Period: 1700s

Series (If applicable): none

Plot Summary: Nineteen year-old Emilie Selden has lived her entire life on her family’s estate, learning alchemy and natural philosophy from her father, himself a student of Isaac Newton. Her mother died in childbirth, leaving Emilie her exotic French features and not much else. While Emilie is a brilliant scientist, she has had no exposure to society, nor to matters of the heart. Her father protects her fiercely, but even his shelter can not keep her from the eyes or arms of the dashing merchant who comes to call. Cast out of her only home and into the clutches of the London social scene, Emilie makes startling discoveries about human nature, her father’s scribbled observations, her new husband’s motives and her own strengths and weaknesses.

Subject Headings: history, scientists, romance, England, London, high society, fathers and daughters, 18th century

Appeal: easy pacing, engrossing, dramatic, introspective, thoughtful, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, flawed, sympathetic, well-developed, character-centered, domestic, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, detailed setting, details of scientific method, historical details, small-town, classic, descriptive, frank, polished, smart

3 terms that best describe this book: self-discovery, young woman, England

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Newton and the Counterfeiter: the Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist by Thomas Levenson.

Details how Newton outwitted master counterfeiters as Master of the Mint. (For those interested in more about the science of the time)

Hubbub: Filth, Noise & Stench in England 1600-1770 by Emily Cockayne.

An examination of how truly gross things were in ye olden days, from dead bodies on the curb to how horribly the living people smelled, too. (For those who appreciate lively, witty explanations of history)

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick.

A tribute to the lasting contributions made by the Royal Society 350 years ago. (For those interested in Emilie and her father’s work and the group he participated in/revered)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Glass Virgin by Catherine Cookson.

Detailed historical fiction about a sheltered young English woman whose family is not all it appears. She must also question who she really is and plot twists build as she grows from a girl into a woman. (Historical / similar dark family secrets and personal discovery/growth)

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys.

Historical fiction set in England during the Second World War. Gwen Davis leaves London to work with the Women’s Land Army raising crops in the countryside. She is socially awkward and inexperienced, thrust into a tumultous world, but perhaps the attentions of a Canadian soldier stationed nearby can open her eyes and heart. (Historical / similar awkward young woman and romance)

The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer.

A bawdy young woman in Victorian England enters the upper class world as a wet nurse, leaving her illicitly-conceived child and abusive father behind. (Historical / for fans of Emilie’s London-born maid Sarah, who had her own demons to hide)

Name: Genevieve Grove

Little Heathens

June 16, 2010

Author:  Kalish, Mildred Armstrong

Title: Little Heathens:  Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Publication Date:  2007

Number of pages:  292

Geographic Setting:  Garrison, Iowa and a farm three miles from that village

Time Period: the Great Depression

Series:  No

Plot Summary:  Mildred Armstrong Kalish is 5-years-old when her father is banished from her life for “whispered references to bankruptcy, bootlegging, and jail time” (p.11).  Her mother and three other siblings are forced to move in with her mother’s puritanical parents in order to make ends meet during the Great Depression.  During the harsh winters, Kalish spends time in her grandparents’ house in town, the warmer months are spent tending one of her grandparents’ four farms.  Despite a lack of money, however, Kalish writes with appreciation and warm humor of this time in her life.  The book is filled with the joys of simple pleasures, such as the beauty of the full bloom of a crab apple tree, and the loving, if sometimes stern guiding hand of her relatives.  Also included in the book are recipes for dishes such as carrot marmalade and applesauce cake.  Little Heathens was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review in 2007.

Subject Headings:  Farm life—Iowa, 20th century Depressions, Iowa Rural Families

Appeal:  contemplative, earnest, homespun, nostalgic, introspective, closely observed, engaging, authentic, family-centered, informative, straightforward, candid, well-crafted

3 terms that best describe the book:  warmhearted, honest, charming

3 relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

A Good Day’s Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression by Dwight W. Hoover

Hoover describes his boyhood on a 100-acre Iowa family farm.  He calls the farm, “a capitalistic enterprise overlaid on a subsistence occupation.”

A Son of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland and Keith Newlin (introduction)

Kalish was a farm girl who went on to become a professor of English.  This is the story of Hamlin Garland, a farm boy raised with the uncompromising work ethic of a rural, homesteading life who grew up to become a renowned writer in the early twentieth century, winning a Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1922.

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl by Carol Bodensteiner

Bodensteiner also fondly recalls growing up on an Iowa farm; a family-owned dairy farm in the 1950s.  Farming then was a demanding, yet rewarding way of life, in a time that seemed more innocent.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Thousand Acres: A Novel by Jane Smiley

Like Kalish’s story, this novel is based on an Iowa farm and also deals with family issues, as told through the voice of a female protagonist, Ginny.  Larry Cook decides to turn over his 1,000-acre Iowa farm to his three daughters.  However, tensions mount when he rescinds on the deal, by striking one of the daughters, Caroline, out of his will after determining that she is not grateful for his generosity. Darker family secrets are revealed. The novel won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Set in 1939, during the Great Depression, this classic story follows the hardships of migrant farm workers forced into an itinerant lifestyle after the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. The novel has a sympathetic, authentic voice, like Little Heathens.

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Set in Gilead, Iowa, John Ames is a 77-year-old preacher in 1956, writing letters to his six-year-old son.  He ruminates on many topics, including the often harsh burdens of life on a Midwestern prairie.  Like Heathens, the story focuses on the legacy of family.

By Rosemary Sullivan

Lucky

June 16, 2010

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Author: Alice Sebold

Title: Lucky

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 246

Geographical Setting: Syracuse, New York

Time Period: 1981

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: A memoir by author, Alice Sebold, that chronicles the violent rape and subsequent trial she experienced as a college freshmen in Syracuse, New York. An honest, detailed account of how the violent crime affected Sebold’s life and relationships with her family, friends, and community. After most other students at her small university learn of her attack, Sebold struggles to keep friendships and relate to others. Tragically, her closest confidant ends their friendship after randomly experiencing a similar crime. Although Sebold successfully identifies and testifies against her attacker, she reveals that the brutal crime had lasting negative effects on her life for years following the trial. Candidly written, some readers may struggle with the details of the attack and trial.

Subject Headings: Sebold, Alice; Rape victims – United States – Case studies; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Trials (Rape) – United States – Case Studies; Drug addicts; Drug addiction; Post-traumatic stress disorder in patients; Coping in women; Heroin addiction; Heroin addicts

Appeal: Deliberate, unhurried, uncomfortable, dark, closely observed, well-drawn characters, character-centered, tragic, accurate, detailed setting, candid, and descriptive

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: Unhurried, tragic, and candid

Similar Authors and Works:

Non-Fiction:

  • Passing for Normal: A Memoir of Compulsion by Amy S. Wilensky: An honest, candid memoir of a woman coping with mental illness and her family’s reactions
  • The Disappearance by Genevieve Jurgensen: An eloquently written memoir by a woman struggling with the tragic deaths of her two young daughters
  • Giving Up a Ghost: A Memoir by Hilary Mantel: An author’s descriptive memoir that uses humor and satire to tell her tragic story

Fiction:

  • The Devil’s Backbone by Kim Wozencraft: Similar storyline involving post-traumatic stress disorder; candid, honest writing style
  • Dear Zoe: A Novel by Philip Beard: Honest emotions; well-drawn characters; dealing with a family tragedy
  • The Sea by John Banville: A beautifully written story of a man coping with loss; a descriptive story with well-drawn characters

Name: Rebecca Dorsey