Posts Tagged ‘direct’

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.

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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 Boys on the Rock

April 11, 2012

Author: John Fox

Title: The Boys on the Rock

Genre: LGBT

Publication Date: 1984

Number of Pages: 146p.

Geographical Setting: Bronx, N.Y.

Time Period: 1968

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: It’s 1968 in the Bronx and Catholic High School sophomore, swim team star, and narrator Billy Connor is gay and knows it and likes it.  Unfortunately, he has only been able to explore his sexuality in very frequent, detailed, creative, and enthusiastic masturbation sessions that the reader will come to know very well.  Billy, not wanting to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, is a Gene McCarthy supporter who meets Al, the head of the local McCarthy campaign office.  Canvassing soon leads to lingering dinners at a pizzeria, which leads to making out, which of course leads to the sex that Billy has longed for.  Billy is very talented in graphic and detailed accounts of his and Al’s lovemaking, leaving not a thing to the reader’s imagination.  While Billy feels newly free and empowered by his relationship with Al, is it really love?  And is it a love that will last?  With the tumultuous Democratic presidential primary and a colorful cast of neighborhood friends and eccentrics as a constant backdrop, Billy brings the reader along for the first few baby steps he will take onto the path that will lead him to the man he will become.

Subject Headings: Coming of age stories, Gay teenagers, Eroticism, U.S. history–1968, Presidential elections–1968, First love, Homosexuality, Graphic sex–homosexual, Graphic sex–heterosexual, Political assassination, Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, Bronx, Competitive swimming, Catholic school, Homophobia, Nostalgia, Masturbation.

Appeal: Quick-paced, bittersweet, candid, passionate, adolescent, horny, dramatic, edgy, sexual, graphic, gritty, impassioned, nostalgic, naive, sensual, romantic, unpretentious, foul-mouthed, colorful, unrelenting, rebellious, melancholy, vivid, sexually explicit, steamy, issue-oriented, introspective, retrospective, political, historical detail, urban, colloquial, dialect, direct, unaffected, hormonal, empowering, gay, sweaty, messy, intimate, personal discovery, sexual discovery.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: adolescent, gritty, sexually explicit.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Joy of Sex: The Ultimate Revised Edition by Alex Comfort

The Joy of Gay Sex, Revised & Expanded by Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

The Joy of Lesbian Sex: A Tender and Liberated Guide to the Pleasures and Problems of a Lesbian Lifestyle by Dr. Emily L. Sisley and Bertha Harris

Yes, I know three books are not one book, but I feel I must evoke an “apples and oranges” (and “pears”[?]) exception in this case.  For people that may find appeal in any of these works, two titles will be completely useless (sort of) to them.  And the goal is to be able to satisfy 100% of readers, yes?

There is so much graphic sex and language in Boys that it would seem almost impossible that a reader wouldn’t take some stock of their own romantic life at some point.  These seminal, highly respected, and somewhat clinical works are certainly the “safe” and “tasteful” (yet graphically illustrated) suggestions that could be a stepping off point for a reader who may want to explore better or newer ways in which to get their freak on.

Time 1968: War Abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Lunar Dreams

The United States +1968= CRAZY: MLK shot, RFK shot, protests, race riots, political riots, cities on fire, Vietnam, Tet Offensive, Chicago Democratic Convention (police beatings and rioting and the MC5, for those too young), drugs, sex, rock and roll, men on the moon—and those are just the headlines.

While the rebellion, protest, and awakening of Billy’s 1968 took place mostly in his head and underwear, there is much happening around him that will inform a bevvy of decisions, political and not.  Here is an overview of that year with lots of color pictures.

Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter

One year later from Billy’s awakening, the gay community of Greenwich Village rose up against police harassment to spark the beginning of the gay rights movement.  I can vividly picture Billy chanting slogans and punching cops in the face.  Here is a timeline of the events leading up to, and the riots themselves, as well as the aftermath.  This comprehensive account is the result of hundreds of interviews, public and sealed files, and a decade of research.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Forever by Judy Blume

If one took a plot synopsis of Boys and replaced the Bronx with a woodsy, well-to-do suburb, and weekends of beer in the park with ski trips, and animalistic gay sex with meticulously thought-out hetero sex, and Billy with a Katherine, and a cowardly Al with an impossibly sensitive Michael and then washed everyone’s mouths out with soap, one would be left holding a copy of Forever. Had those who have taken the often challenged Forever (ALA 7th all-time) to trial had known that Boys may have been right around the corner, I shudder to think at the number of libraries that may have burned.  While certainly trying to please entirely different audiences, these two books are identical thematically, giving Forever large appeal to the reader who may have picked up Boys hoping for a sentimental tale of teenage sexual awakening, but just not as sticky.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Luckily for the high-school kids that populate Boy Meets Boy, Levithan has created a bizarro-world town where there is no prejudice of any sort, especially sexual.  This bodes well for a school that features a Harley riding cheerleading squad and a cross-dressing star quarterback/Homecoming Queen.  The book centers on Paul, who thinks he finally may have found true love in Noah.  Simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking, Levithan brilliantly illustrates that freed of the burden of prejudice, hatred, and ignorance these are just kids, whatever their sexual orientation, awkwardly trying to find their place in the world and maybe a little happiness, too.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 by D.L. King, Giselle Renarde, Kathleen Warnock and Kirsty Logan

Best Gay Erotica 2011 by Johnny Murdoc, Natty Soltesz, and Rob Wolfsham

Sweet Confessions: Erotic Fantasies for Couples by Violet Blue

Again, I must use the “apples and oranges” rule exception.  For any reader of Boys that enjoyed the very detailed and descriptive sex scenes, here you go: a little something for everyone.

Name: Bill S.

Open by Jenny Block

March 28, 2012

Author: Jenny Block

Title: Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage

Genre: Popular Nonfiction

Publication Date: June 2009

Number of Pages: 276

Geographical Setting: The south

Time Period: Present

Series: No

Plot Summary:

Open is a provocative memoir exploring the writer’s experience being in an open marriage. Jenny Block leads readers through her first experiences constructing and deconstructing gender and sexuality to her gradual realization that she was miserable in a monogamous marriage. The book offers a fascinating glimpse into the author’s experience in an open marriage and how she believes monogamy is ultimately the exception and not the rule to human happiness.

Subject Headings: Family and Relationships, Communication in marriage, Marriage, Men/Women Relationships, Open Marriage

Appeal: streamlined plot, engaging, provocative, character driven, deliberate, easy, introspective, contemporary, political, conversational, direct, thoughtful, meticulous, persuasive, unusual, argumentative

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: thoughtful, conversational, provocative

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

Why Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Minds and Hearts of People in Two Relationships, by Mira Kirshenbaum.

Block has an affair with another woman which serves as a catalyst to opening up her marriage. Kirshenbaum’s book explores why people have affairs and how they can reconcile what they did with what they want for their lives and relationships.

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

People who enjoy Block’s honest, conversational exploration of what marriage is might also enjoy Committed.  Gilbert is a divorcee who is basically forced to marry her boyfriend in order to keep him from being deported. She interviews people from a number of different cultures about marriage in order to come to a place where she can enter marriage again.

Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, by Tristan Taormino.

Block has to learn as she goes when it comes to creating an open marriage. For readers who are personally interested in the idea or simply want to read more accounts of how open relationships can thrive, Taormino’s book is a guide to open relationships and descriptions of different open relationships from interviewees.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Say When, by Elizabeth Berg

Beyond a small afterword by Chris, many readers may wonder about a husband’s perspective when his wife has an affair. Berg’s novel follows a husband whose wife has shocked him by having an affair and asking for a divorce. The novel keeps a light tone while it explores what it means to try and rebuild a marriage after an affair.

Journey to a Woman, by Ann Bannon

A bisexual woman realizes she made the wrong choice marrying her husband and sets out to reunite with the woman who stole her heart years ago. The book is bittersweet and quick-paced, keeping a realistic tone despite being an older entry into the pulp fiction genre.

Between Lovers, by Eric Jerome Dickey

This witty, character-driven novel explores the consequences of a woman requesting an open relationship with her ex-male lover and current girlfriend. The novel explores an open relationship in an honest way as the characters try to make sense of what they are doing.

The Committments

March 22, 2012

Author: Roddy Doyle

Title: The Commitments

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1987

Number of Pages: 140

Geographical Setting: Dublin, Ireland

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (If applicable): The Barrytown Trilogy

Plot Summary: When Dublin youths Outspan and Derek decide to start a band, they enlist their friend Jimmy Rabbitte to manage them. Jimmy is that kid everyone knows who has his finger on the pulse of music. “Jimmy had Relax before anyone had heard of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and he’d started slagging them months before anyone realized that they were no good.” Instead of advising the band (And And! And) to continue doing covers of Depeche Mode songs, or turning them punk or metal or grunge, he goes way back and decides they should be a soul band. He calls it “Dublin Soul”, and surprisingly hits the nail on the head, as it turns out that soul music by African Americans has an appeal for working class Dubliners. The band expands to include Joey “The Lips” Fagan, an aging musician who has played trumpet with most of the bands the young boys are idolizing, Deco Cuffe, a talented singer with a large ego, and cute background singers The Commitmentettes. The band starts small, and then start to build a loyal following. Just when a record deal is about to be signed, the band pulls apart from ego, the saxophone player’s growing interest in jazz, and everyone wanting to get with the cutest Commitmentette. This charming coming of age novel hits that point of time when nothing else matters except the music that hits you hard. Woven into the humor is the fervor the love of music can inspire, along with philosophical musings about what soul music is really about. The Commitments also lays the groundwork for the next two books, which become increasingly personal and bittersweet as the series goes on.

Subject Headings: Working class teenagers — Dublin Ireland. Soul Music. Rock Music. Egotism in teenagers. Ambition in teenagers.

Appeal: funny, strong sense of place, dialect-rich, engaging, character-driven, colorful, urban, quirky, strong secondary characters, breezy, direct, jargon, unaffected, exuberant, impassioned, playful, eccentric, unpretentious.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: dialect-rich, strong sense of place, engaging

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick

Someone who wants to learn more about soul music might enjoy this history of Stax Records, the company that signed many of the rhythm and blues singers that the Commitments are trying to emulate. Guralnick gets deep into not just the music, but the cultural and racial tensions that tore Stax apart in the end.

Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music by Gerri Hirschey

This book is a bit more narrative than “Sweet Soul Music.” Hirschey compiles oral tellings and recollections gleaned from years of working as a music journalist, and writes with a literary flair. It’s the best of both worlds as it’s both a comprehensive history of soul music interwoven with anecdotes about riding around in a limo with James Brown and Al Sharpton.

Me Father Was a Hero and Me Mother Was a Saint by Eamonn Sheridan

Someone interested in the Irish working class should pick up this memoir. Sheridan’s father fought for the IRA during the War of Independence against the British, then fought for the British army during WWII while his mother raised their 11 kids. Sheridan reminisces living in poverty in Dublin until they were forced to emigrate to England.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Hornby’s Rob Thomas could be the grown up version of Jimmy Rabbit, with a giant record collection, a ready knowledge of all things music, memories of his happiest times being a dj, and his own record store. When Rob questions, “Which came first…the music or the misery?” Jimmy would promptly answer, “the music” because the misery hasn’t sunk in quite yet for him.

Glue by Irvine Welsh

Carl is Jimmy’s Scottish soul mate, going to the record store every week to buy something new, and becoming attracted to an unconventionally pretty (plump) girl because she can talk about music with him. Welsh also has a laser-like sense of place for Edinburgh, Scotland just as Doyle does for Dublin, Ireland, and both have come up with their own killer dialect for their regions.

The Exes by Pagan Kennedy

After Hank and Lilly break up (and are finally back on speaking terms), they come up with a great idea for a band comprised entirely of exes. They enlist Shaz, a talented bass player who brings in her one male ex, Walt to play drums. The band starts to creak as they all want different things for this…Hank wants to find that perfect spot where a band is indie-famous without selling out, Lilly wants to be the next Gwen Stefani, Shaz has been in a major band before and just wants to play for fun, and Walt is simply trying to hold it together as he faces down his demons of depression and anxiety. The Exes are from the east coast, but the final chapter takes place in Chicago as the Exes play the Metro, and Kennedy gets the sense of place just right.

Name: Jessica

Ghost World

December 1, 2011

Author: Daniel Clowes

Title: Ghost World

Genre: Literary Fiction, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages:80

Geographical Setting: Unnamed American Small Town/City

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: It’s the summer after high school graduation, and Enid Coleslaw and her friend Rebecca have no plans but to hit up the local diner and make sarcastic comments about the other, eccentric, customers. They have nobody else but each other, but the promise of the coming fall and their different priorities leads them to re-evaluate their friendship.

Subject Headings: Friendship, Graphic Novels, Teenage Girls

Appeal: sarcastic, episodic, melancholy, stark, quirky, flawed characters, thought-provoking, small-town, direct, witty, edgy, atmospheric, slice of life

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: melancholy, edgy, witty

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

McCloud, Scott. “Understanding Comics”. Clowes’ take on the comic medium requires an intimate understanding of the comics medium; McCloud’s book, written as a comic, is the book where one can get that understanding.

Pekar, Harvey. “The Quitter”. Comic memoir about Pekar’s childhood where he was a quitter—when things grew tough, he quit and moved on. A mindset that Enid seems far too familiar with.

Wurtzel, Elizabeth. “Prozac Nation”. Enid goes through the motions of life as much as Wurtzel did in her own teen years; Wurtzel suffered from extreme depression, and it seems Enid is balancing between depression and ennui.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Robinson, Alex. “Box Office Poison”. If Ghost World is about post-high school uncertainty and malaise, BOP is the same about post-college life, where a degree in English just means working part time at a book shop. Melancholy tone and simple art are here as well.

Salinger, J.D. “Catcher in the Rye”. The teen angst classic, of which Enid no doubt identifies. Similar tone as well.

Tomine, Adrian. “Summer Blonde”. Another slice-of-life about teens, with a similar melancholy tone and artistic style—Tomine was highly influenced by Clowes. And the central love triangle in both have nice echoes.

Name: Brian C.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

August 8, 2011

Author:  Rebecca Skloot

Title:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Genre:  Non-Fiction

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  328

Geographical Setting:  Baltimore, Maryland & Clover, Virginia (plus several other U.S. cities mentioned)

Time Period: 1951-2009 (with historical details included as far back as the 1850s)

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  History is dotted with unsung heroes, and perhaps one of the greatest examples of such is Henrietta Lacks.  In 1951, the 31 year-old black mother of five was suffering from a terminal case of cervical cancer, and during her treatments at Johns Hopkins, doctors removed some of her cancerous tissue without her or her family’s knowledge or consent.  Subsequently, the cells they harvested (HeLa cells) became pivotal to medical research, helping scientists find the cure for Polio, as well as furthering cancer and virus research as well.  In this work, Skloot investigates the life of the woman behind these immortal cells (that are still pivotal to research today), investigating Henrietta’s exploitation and the effects it had on her family. It focuses on the deplorable history of medical treatment and experimentation on African Americans, but also examines the issue of bioethics as well.  This compelling tale reads like a novel, providing an intimate look into the life of the woman behind HeLa cellls, and a family struggling to make sense of their mother’s legacy.

Subject Headings:  Biography, Science writing, African American history, Health, Cancer, Henrietta Lacks, African American women—history, Medical research, Medical ethics

Appeal:  compelling, engrossing, candid, haunting, engaging, multiple points of view, issue-oriented, layered, thought-provoking, accurate, rich historical details, accessible style/language, dialect, direct, informative, well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book:  compelling, issue-oriented, thought-provoking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present—Harriet A. Washington (History of using African Americans in medical experimentation, science writing, well documented and researched)

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer—Siddhartha Mukherjee (focus on the history and future of cancer research, extensively researched, compelling subject)

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration—Isabel Wilkerson (African American history, thought-provoking storyline, accessible writing style)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Help—Kathryn Stockett (engaging characters and storyline, historical details, multiple points of view)

A Mercy—Toni Morrison (haunting tone, historical frame, compelling storyline)

Passing—Nella Larsen (issue-oriented, thought-provoking, historical context, African American experience)

–Jessica

An Education

June 16, 2010

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Author: Lynn Barber

Title: An Education

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  192

Geographical Setting: London, England; Oxford, England,

Time Period: 1940 – present

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This novel is a charming, funny, and candid memoir from award winning English journalist Lynn Barber, known for her role in the start-up of Penthouse Magazine and as a scathing interviewer with the nickname Demon Barber.  Originally written as short piece for literary magazine Granta, after garnering much interest, including movie producers, Barber expanded the story to encompass her childhood up to the death of her husband.  The memoir is roughly divided into 6 sections: an introduction about the history of the novel including its prior incarnation and the movie, her childhood and background, her May-December relationship, her experiences at college and meeting her husband, her work as a writer and journalist, and the death of her husband.  Barber gives an incredibly detailed and anecdotal sketch of her life which is touching, funny, and incredibly sad.  As stated in the first section of the memoir, the movie, of the same name, is based on the second chapter and was adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby.

Subject Headings:  Biography; Memoir; Coming of age; Family, Relationships, Journalism, Pornography, Feminism, Gender Roles, Parent-Child Relationship, Marriage, May-December Relationship, Death,

Appeal:  easy, leisurely-paced, stately, contemplative, humorous, introspective, unaffected, engaging, charming, details of journalism, direct, informative,

3 terms that best describe this book: graceful, witty, candid

Similar Authors and Works:

Nonfiction

Talking Back: to Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels by Andrea Mitchell – A candid and revealing memoir from Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affair Correspondent for NBC over the entirety of her career as a journalist, with special interest paid to the role of her gender and personal relationships.

History of Men’s Magazines: 1960’s at the Newsstand vol. 3 by Dian Hanson – An annotated and illustrated history of men’s magazines in America and the rest of the world during the 1960s, including the start-up of Penthouse Magazine in England.

Younger Women Older Men by Beliza Ann Furman – A practical and straightforward book, written by a female, about the relationship dynamics between older men and younger women, including dealing with power and control issues.

Fiction

Shopgirl by Steve Martin – The story of a lonely shopgirl at Neiman Marcus in LA and her romantic relationship with a man twice her age.  A humorous and introspective novel written with delicacy and charm.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin – The fictional story based on historically accurate facts about Alice Liddel, the child who inspired Alice In Wonderland.  The novel is Alice reflecting on her life including Lewis Carroll’s seemingly inappropriate obsession with 10 year old Alice.  An engaging novel, rich in detail and frame.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy – The fictional and yet semi-autobiographical story of a young American woman and recent college graduate who moves to Paris in pursuit of excitement and adventure in the late 1950s.  A very funny, charming, and clever novel containing a tremendous amount of historic and geographic frame.

Name:  Summer

I Am Not a Serial Killer

June 14, 2010

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Author: Dan Wells

Title: I Am Not a Serial Killer

Genre: Horror and Fantasy

Publication Date: 2010

Pages: 271

Geographical Setting: Midwest

Time Period: Current

Series: Yes, TBD

Plot Summary:

Utterly obsessed with serial killers and believing he is destined to become one, 15 year old John Wayne Cleaver lives by a set of very strict rules.  After all, he is a sociopath who has 3 indicators 95% of all serial killers possess.  There is one thing that separates him though; he does not want to hurt anyone, and despite being fascinated with the murderers and their victims, he finds the acts reprehensible.  John suddenly has to confront the rules he’s set up to keep himself and others safe when a serial killer comes to his small town.  He must think like a killer in order to catch the culprit and will have to control his demons that he has caged for so long.  This book is a great entry point for fantasy readers looking to ease their way into the horror genre.

Subject Headings: Horror, Fantasy, Thriller, Serial Killers, Demons, Supernatural

Appeal Terms: Dark, Haunting, Introspective, Psychological, Paranoid, Distant, Engaging, Measured, Open-Ended, Accessible, Direct, Small-Town

Three major appeals: dark, haunting, introspective

Fiction:

Darkly Dreaming Dexter: A Novel by Jeffry P. Lindsay

Readers interested in the ethical dilemma of killing “bad” people will cling to this series.  Also, the idea of caging a monster and drawing the line between right and wrong will gain appeal.

Shutter Island by Dennis LeHane

Ambiguity blurs the conclusion and readers are kept on edge, guessing what the outcome will be and who or which self will prevail in the end.

Gateways: A Repairman Jack Novel by F. Paul Wilson

Combining murders and the supernatural paced like a thriller, readers will draw many comparisons between the two.

Non-Ficiton:

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

A chilling look at a prolific killer will entice readers who, like John, were interested in the murderers and the victims.

The Dark Sacrament: True Stories of Modern-Day Demon Possession and Exorcism by  David M. Kiely

Drawing upon the appeal of the supernatural and the psychology of the characters in this book, this may pair nicely with I Am Not a Serial Killer.

Who Killed Precious: How FBI Agents Combine High Technology and Psychology to Identify Violent Criminals by Paul H. Jeffers

Motives and predictors will serve as a point of access for readers looking to explore more deeply the thoughts of a violent criminal.

Smoke Screen

May 26, 2010

Author: Sandra Brown

Title: Smoke Screen
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: 2008
Number of Pages: 398
Geographical Setting: Charleston, SC
Time Period: Present Day
Series: No
Plot Summary: In this gripping romantic thriller, local newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up to find her friend and occasional lover Jay Burgess dead. Authorities suspect foul play, and Britt suddenly turns from news star into news story. Raley Gannon is Jay’s childhood best friend whose life was derailed in a circumstance similar to Britt’s, when he was found in bed with a dead woman five years before Jay’s death.  The two find themselves in a race to find out what happened to Jay, and just what, if anything, the two deaths have to do with a devastating fire at the Charleston Police Department. Romance and suspense blend together as Raley and Britt encounter a slew of nefarious characters and a major twist that will shock even astute readers.
Subject Headings: Murder, Police Investigations, Charleston, SC, Romantic Suspense, Relationships
Appeal: Plot-centered, fast paced, romantic, suspenseful, action-oriented, racy, edgy, direct, tense, quirky secondary characters, plot twists, conversational style.
Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: fast paced, suspense, racy
Similar Works:
Fiction:
Amber Beach, Elizabeth Lowell (suspense, contemporary romance, adventure scenes)
Mercy, Julie Garwood (suspense, contemporary romance, fast-paced, female protagonist, Southern setting)
Raven on the Wing, Kay Hooper (romantic suspense, contemporary setting, strong female protagonist)
Nonfiction:
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt (murder, Southern setting, eccentric secondary characters)
Devil in the White City, Erik Larson (suspense, murder, fast paced)
My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Handler (racy, adventures, strong female protagonist)