Posts Tagged ‘insightful’

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.

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Bossypants

November 7, 2012

Bossypants book coverTitle: Bossypants

Author: Fey, Tina

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Biography, Memoir

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 272

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Chicago, New York

Time Period: 1970’s to Current Times

Plot Summary: With this hilarious and engaging autobiography, Tina Fey can add clever writer to her list of accomplishments.  Bossypants tells the story of Fey’s life along with her personal advice and general thoughts.   It tells the story of her awkward upbringing in Pennsylvania before moving on to her embarrassing college/theater years as well as her time with Second City, SNL and then her current role as creator and star of 30 Rock.  Fey’s road to success is told in a straightforward manner while also remaining humorous.  There are stories about the people she has worked with through improv and television shows, and she shares intimate stories without being too gossipy.  She shares personal essays on topics such as motherhood and the treatment of women in charge.  Her conversational style pulls the reader in, and you might find yourself wishing you could hang out with her.  Tina Fey manages to be self-deprecating while remaining endearing and it is a fast read.  A great read for those seeking a witty, lighthearted and fun memoir.  Readers who enjoyed her style might want to check out the audiobook version of this autobiography, which Tina Fey herself narrates skillfully.

Subject Headings:  American wit and humor, Women comedians, Women television personalities, Fey, Tina 1970-, Saturday Night Live (Television program), Motherhood-Humor, 30 Rock (Television program), Celebrities-humor

Appeal: Witty, observant, self-deprecating, autobiographical, conversational, candid tone, humorous, sarcastic, insightful, pop culture references, clever, straightforward, earnest, easy pace, inventive, chatty style, unpretentious, engaging

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Witty, Insightful, Candid

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother by Allison Pearson

A novel that was made into a movie, this book deals with the issue of balancing family and work as hedge fund manager and mother of two Kate Reddy tries to do.   A humorous, moving tale that is a great book for readers who enjoyed Tina Fey’s thoughts on trying to be a successful mother and boss.

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

Enjoy this Women’s Lives and Relationships novel whose main character could almost be Tina Fey/Liz Lemon.  It follows television writer Ruth Saunders who is living in Los Angeles along with her sassy grandmother Rae, who raised Ruth after a violent crash that killed her parents and left young Ruth with gruesome facial scars.   Ruth’s dream comes true when her autobiographical sitcom is picked up by a large network.  But the dream is not such a fairytale, as Ruth must deal with egotistical actors, difficult show executives, a crush on her boss and her grandmother’s upcoming wedding.  A witty and charming novel that has a smart, witty protagonist who screams Tina Fey and deals with workplace social issues mentioned in Bossypants.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

A fascinating read with a self-deprecating, witty style that Fey could enjoy.  Judd Foxman is jobless and living out his depressing life in the basement of a crappy house.  He is newly separated from his wife who he caught having an affair in the most outlandish yet amusing way, but must return home to his crazy dysfunctional family to sit shiva after the death of his father.  An intimate, candid tale of a family full of flawed characters and hilarious moments with each other.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

A nonfiction book that explores the dark side that can lurk in the world of young girls’ princess fascination.  Here is a subject for those interested in the motherhood advice given by Tina Fey, and maybe even a great read for Tina herself.  Orenstein explores the troubling aspects of the princess phenomenon and early sexualization messages given to girls.  Her research takes her to places including Disneyland, American Girl Place, a Miley Cyrus concert and a child beauty pageant.  An engaging read for anyone trying to raise girls or fascinated by the subject.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Loved reading a biography by a comedy star and want even more? Then this similarly styled memoir should fit the bill.  Comedy writer and star of NBC’s The Office and now The Mindy Project, Mindy candidly talks about growing up as a chubby Indian girl in Massachusetts, her road to comedic fame as well as her thoughts on life, love and friendship.  Enjoy some more humorous tales on comedy writing, television show business and the awesomeness of food.

We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen

Get an overview of the history of female comedians within this last half century including the witty Tina Fey.  It traces female comedians and their struggle to conquer a male-dominated world, from Phyllis Diller in the 1950s to current comedians like Chelsea Handler and the women of SNL.  Enjoy this inside look at the evolution of female comedians and the personal interviews with the people involved.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Memoirs of Geisha

September 26, 2012

Title: Memoirs of a Geisha

Author: Arthur, Golden

Publication Date: 1999

Time Period: Japan – 1920s to the 1940s.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 503

Plot Summary: Arthur Golden weaves a compelling story in this memoir about a poor girl Sayuri sold and taken to the big city and is forced into a  kind of  life she was totally unprepared for. She finds herself in the world of Geisha, and learns the Geisha trade where she eventually becomes one of the most desired Geisha in Japan. Told from a first person point of view, this book explores in detail the daily life of  the Geisha, various stages of the Geisha training, the competitions, and  rivalries among the Geisha and the ultimate sale of the Geisha’s virginity.  Though leisurely paced, the reader is taken  through twists and turns of the plot and is made to feel real sympathetic to the  strong willed and determined Sayuri – who decides to go by the wishes of her heart rather than the dictates of the society. You find  a lot of cultural elements and language that evokes  a strong sense of place that depicts the culture and tradition of the Japanese in a very realistic fashion..

Appeal Characteristics: Compelling; lyrical; richly detailed, leisurely paced, atmospheric; reflective, introspective, insightful, inspiring, detailed, homespun; Leisurely-Paced; Evocative, sympathetic, introspective – Japanese culture, single character development over time, explores interesting multiple  characters

Subject Headings: Geishas, Artisans, competition in women, Women entertainers,

Prostitution, Women friendship, Men/women relationships, Jealousy in women, First loves, 20th century

3 Best Appeal Terms: Leisurely paced, Compelling, Reflective

Similar Fiction: 

My Antonia by  Carter, Willa – Shares similar tone and plot  as Memoirs of a Geisha -The story of an orphaned girl who struggles from a young age…

Reflective, Homespun, Bittersweet, Narrative style –

The whistling season by Doig, Ivan – Set in the early 1900s, has a very strong sense of place, Moving, Reflective, Nostalgic, Descriptive, Atmospheric. Readers who loved these elements in Memoirs of a Geisha would also love this novel.

The commoner by Schwartz, John Burnham

Those who loved Memoirs of a Geisha will also love this because they both share similar themes –  Where one from a lowly beginning finds love and rises to top – a commoner marries into royalty. Novel set in Japan, evokes language and cultural elements.  Gives a good insight into the culture and tradition of the Japanese. Has similar narrative style, from first person point of view.

Similar Non-fiction:

Autobiography of a Geisha by Masuda, Sayo

Masuda recounts from a first person point of view life as a Geisha.  This book exposes both the glamour and the indignity surrounding “Geisha”. Readers of Memoirs of a Geisha would be enthralled.

Japanland: a year in search of wa by Muller, Karin

An american film maker travels to Japan to explore the customs and traditions of the people.  We get an insight into the life of geishas, samurai and other communities.  Readers who loved memoirs of a Geisha would thoroughly enjoy this true life account on what goes behind closed doors of these customs.

Women of the pleasure quarters: the secret history of the geisha by Downer, Leslie

This is a well researched  book that delves more into the history of the Geisha.  A fascinating read by anyone curious about how “Geisha” came to be.

By: Vera

 

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

September 26, 2012

Author: Ernest J. Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Genre: Historical Fiction; African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1971

Number of Pages: 259

Geographical Setting: Various rural towns throughout the south, particularly Louisiana

Time Period: 1860s-1960s

Plot Summary: Miss Jane Pittman, originally named Ticey, was not even 13 when she was declared free by the emancipation proclamation and set out to Ohio towards the freedom of the north. While she never makes it to the north, she journeys throughout the south living on various plantations and farms as the wife of two different men and also as a single woman. This story spans nearly a century, as Miss Jane tells the story of her life from emancipation until the civil rights movement and her death in the 1960s. Written in 4 books in Miss Jane’s strong southern dialect, this compelling tale of a courageous woman’s survival through racial injustice is an important tale of American history that often makes it difficult to remember that this is in fact a work of fiction.

Subject Headings: African American Women, Race Relations, Leadership in Women, Slavery, Louisiana, Southern America, Civil Rights, Reconstruction, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Segregation, Plantation Life, Historical fiction, Centenarians

Appeal: Compelling, emotionally charged, character driven, complex language usage, flawed characters, inspiring characters, engaging prose, gritty, autobiographical, lyrical, nostalgic, realistic, insightful, candid, historical

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character driven, gritty, lyrical

Similar fiction authors and works:

Cooper, J. California. Some People, Other Places This novel follows a family through their struggles during the late 19th century through multiple generations. It has a similar bittersweet tone, is character driven, and follows a family through multiple generations.

Haley, Alex. Roots This story, like The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, spans generations of African American history. It has a similar tone and is family saga based, following one family through generations to reveal insights on the nature of humanity and the history of the family.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved This novel takes place post-civil war in Ohio, and chronicles the story of an escaped slave and her family. It is similarly lyrical and complex, and deals with family dramas and race relations, particularly regarding the African American community.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Delaney, Sarah Louise. Having Our Say A memoir comprised of interviews with Sadie and Bessie Delaney span nearly a century of African American history. The two women’s tales tell of the hardships and challenges faced by these two prominent African American women as they overcame racism and sexism to become successful strong women.

Lewis, David L. W.E.B. DuBois This definitive biography accounts W.E.B. DuBois’ early life and the defining moments that made him a pillar in the civil rights community, especially during the 1920s and 1930s.

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat In this autobiographical account, Murray recounts her life as a child, her struggles in education to eventually become a lawyer, and her intense involvement in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 1960s.

A Single Man

August 13, 2012

Author: Isherwood, Christopher

Title: A Single Man

Genre:  Literary Fiction, GLBTQ Fiction

Publication Date: 1964

Number of Pages: 192

Geographical Setting:  Los Angeles, California

Time Period: Late 1950’s/Early 1960’s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary: Before the book begins, George has lost his partner, Jim, in a car crash, but he has told everyone that Jim has moved home to live with his parents for a while.  The story follows one day in the life of George, a late/middle-aged British man who teaches at a university in LA.  The book is comprised almost entirely of George’s thoughts and dialogue is very sparse.  In an almost stream-of-consciousness style, the reader learns about George’s opinions on almost every aspect of his day.  As a gay man in the 1960’s, his thoughts are often tinged with wariness over what people think about him—who knows he’s gay, who knows about Jim, what they would think if they knew, etc.  George has interactions with a variety of characters, some of whom know about his sexual orientation, and some who do not.    As the day goes on, he begins to reach some fascinating conclusions about his life without Jim.

Subject Headings:  Homosexuality, Middle-aged Men, Grief

Appeal: Builds In Intensity, Measured, Bittersweet, Contemplative, Emotionally-Charged, Stark, Insightful, Introspective, Melancholy, Layered, Character-Centered, Lyrical

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette

This book is the autobiography of Paul Monette.  It follows him from childhood to adulthood as he attempts to keep hide the fact that he is gay from himself and from his family.  Monette’s story is similar to A Single Man because both characters feel the need to hide their sexual orientation from the outside world.

Los Angeles: Portrait of a City by David L. Ulin

Photographs of the city from a variety of time periods give readers the opportunity to look at both George’s Los Angeles and the Los Angeles of modern times.  Because the book describes the city in such detail, it would be helpful to see what the city really looks like (for those who have not visited).

A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski

Spanning 500 years of American History, this book looks at how homosexuality has evolved.  This book will give readers a greater understanding of the viewpoints of Americans during George’s era.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Maurice by E. M. Forester

Set in Edwardian England, this book follows Maurice, a brilliant young boy, as he grows up, attends university, and works in his father’s firm.  In many ways, he seems like a stereotypical young man, but he is also gay.  Forester’s book will give readers insight into homosexuality in a different time period.

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal

A young man, Jim, “experiments” with his male friend, Bob, and finds his life turned upside down.  When he finds himself separated from Bob, he ignores the wishes of his family and decides to find Bob no matter how long it takes.  Jim’s journey takes him all over the country and expands his ideas of homosexuality and how he fits in.  This breakthrough novel in gay literature will help readers see the evolution of the literary genre.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Also following a day in the life of a single character, Mrs. Dalloway focuses on a woman preparing for a party later in the evening. In stream of consciousness, the reader learns about her past, her present, and her thoughts on the future.  With subtle homosexual themes, this book provides readers with a look at the female side of the GLBTQ genre.

Name: Erin Sloan

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

American Born Chinese

August 8, 2012

Author: Gene Luen Yang , Ill. Lark Pien

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Comic Books; Graphic Novels

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: American suburbs

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: American Born Chinese consists of three seemingly unconnected stories that come together in a complex, surprising, and heart-warming way. The first story is based on a Chinese fable about the Monkey King. The Monkey King wants to become an immortal god, but in trying to become something he is not, he defies his inner nature and upsets Tze-Yo-Tzuh (the god who created existence). The second story is about Jin Wang, who after moving to a suburb from San Francisco, just wants to fit in at school. Jin wants to be popular, play basketball, make friends, and date the American girl he has fallen in love with. Instead, he meets Wei-Chen, a Taiwanese boy who only increases the bullying and decreases Jin’s chances for becoming popular. Lastly, Chin-Kee is Danny’s cousin visiting from China, and every time Chin-Kee visits he turns Danny into a high school outcast. Danny has had to change schools several times, and at his current school he is does not want to give up his popularity. American Born Chinese is a layered, magical, and an insightful story about being happy with who you are, what you have, and being true to yourself.

Subject Headings: Graphic novels. Chinese Americans — Fiction. Identity — Fiction. Schools — Fiction. Cartoons and comics. Michael L. Printz Award — 2007.

Appeal: engaging, fast-paced, flawed, insightful, realistic, sympathetic, layered, multiple points of view, magical

3 terms that best describes this book: humorous, character-centered, plot twists,

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel, Daniel Cooney

If American Born Chinese inspired you to try your hand at drawing and writing your own graphic novel, then check out Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel. This book will teach you how to draw lifelike illustrations, write exciting dialogue, and become a published author.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating for Teens, Susan Rabens

Just like Jin Wang in American Born Chinese, teens agonize over how to ask someone on a date. If you are a teen trying to figure out dating, then check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating for Teens. This book will talk about how to ask, how to handle rejection, how to discuss it with your parents, and much more. Or, this would be a great book for Mom or Dad to read in order to have a better understanding for how to start a conversation with your teen about dating.
Monkey: Folk Novel of China, Arthur Waley
This acclaimed translation from Arthur Waley, makes this western fable of the Monkey King accessible to English speaking natives. In American Born Chinese, Yang retells the Monkey King fable, in this translation learn and read the origins of this sixteenth century Chinese fable.
3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Anya’s Ghost, Vera Brosgol

Anya’s Ghost is a magical realist story about Anya who is trying to fit in at high school, but it is a one-hundred-year-old ghost named Emily that helps Anya figure out high school. The flawed characters and the combination of the magical and realistic features to this graphic novels plot, makes this a great read-a-like for American Born Chinese.

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High, Rick Detorie

A realistic fiction novel interspersed with comic strips, this is a great coming-of-age story about a young boy named, Larkin Pace who is obsessed with films and his best friend since third grade, Brooke. Similar to American Born Chinese, Brosgol’s story is realistic, humorous, character-centered, and is about teenagers that have just entered the dating world.

The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Sherman Alexie

Junior leaves his Spokane Indian reservation and attends a high school where the only other Native American is the mascot. Similar to American Born Chinese, this is a realistic, engaging, and insightful story about trying to fit into high school.

Name: Alison Kulczak

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

August 8, 2012

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

 

Author: James Bradley

Title: The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

Genre: Nonfiction; History Writing (Best Seller)

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 387

Geographical Setting: United States, Japan, East Asia, and Pacific Ocean

Time Period: 1905

Plot Summary: This book covers the historical cruise from the Pacific Islands to the continent of Asia made by defense secretary Taft and President Teddy Roosevelt’s famous daughter Alice along with other political figures of the time. This book reveals the prejudicial views of some of the most prominent leaders of the United States and exposes some tragic foreign policy decisions concerning Asia and the Pacific Islands. Although some may argue with some of the views or opinions presented in the book, it is well documented with over 30 pages of “Notes” at the end. It is filled with historic details including maps and original photographs from the time. This book has a journalistic tone, and is quite insightful and compelling.

Subject Headings: Roosevelt, Theodore; Taft, William H.; United States. Navy-Cruise; Imperialism; Diplomacy; War; Twentieth Century

Appeal: scholarly, compelling, journalistic, densely-written, sobering, insightful, investigative, thought-provoking, historical details, political, informative, well-researched, disturbing

3 terms that best describe this book: insightful, journalistic, historic details

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Habits of Empire by Walter Nugent – If you enjoyed the historical perspective of the Teddy Roosevelt presidency in The Imperial Cruise, you may like this book that covers a broader range of American imperialism.

2.      Alice by Stacy Cordery – If you would like to find out more about Teddy Roosevelt’s famous daughter Alice who joined the historical cruise, you may enjoy this book.

3.      In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow – If you would like to read more about the history of the Philippines especially as related to the events in The Imperial Cruise, you may like this one.  

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Taft by Jason Heller – This plot-driven novel is about William Taft entering the 2012 election. If you enjoyed reading about Taft in The Imperial Cruise, you might enjoy this fiction novel.

2.      Cuba by Stephen Coonts – If you like to read about American imperialism set against a historical backdrop, you may like this book.

3.      To The Last Man by Jeff Shaara – This fiction novel is set during World War I. If you enjoy reading stories about politics and wars, you may enjoy this one.

Name: Patty Prodanich

Stuck Rubber Baby

August 8, 2012

Author:  Howard Cruse

Title: Stuck Rubber Baby

Genre: Historical Fiction. Gay Fiction. Graphic Novel

Publisher/Publication Date:  DC Comics, 2010

Number of Pages:  210  (Black & White)

Geographical Setting: The fictional city of Clayfield, in the American South

Time Period:  Late 1950s, early 1960s

Plot Summary:  This is the story of Toland, a homosexual man coming to terms with his sexuality in a time when even greater tensions were being explored in the American deep south, that is, African-American civil rights.  Toland is a complex, apathetic man who is desperately trying to be “normal” by saying that his gay thoughts are “just a phase” and by dating a political activist woman named Ginger.  Toland’s world explores the horrifying issues of the time through intense dialogue, disturbing images, and hateful language expressed by the KKK and the more subtle racism of his family members.  Drawn in a realistic, riveting style, Howard Cruse does a fantastic job of creating a city that the reader can instantly recognize as being in the south, yet is entirely fictional.  Indeed, the entire graphic novel reads as if it were an autobiography of sorts.  Still, despite the complex issues being discussed, the novel finds time to enlighten the reader with jazz and blues facts of the time, contains humor, and is very candid and not didactic when discussing sexual issues.

Subject Headings:  Civil Rights–American South–Inter-racial Relationships–Homosexual Issues–Jim Crow Laws–KKK–Politics–Adoption–Abortion–Lynchings–Jazz–Blues–Gay Bars–Drag Queens–Hammond Organs–Religion–Atheism–Alcoholism

Appeal: Striking, Realistic, Brutal, Warm, Angry, Sympathetic, Complex, Political, Violent, Insightful, Serious, Sad, Soulful, Grim, Candid, Blunt, Intense, Dramatic

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Candid, Realistic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Fun Home.  Alison Bechdel

This graphic novel is the memoir of Alison Bechdel, popular GLBT author of the comic Dykes to Watch out For.  One can tell Bechdel is a fan of Cruse’s work (she admits so in the introduction to Stuck Rubber Baby), and her style is similar in that her story is reflective, redemptive, and very moving.  Fun Home is the story of Alison coming to terms with her father admitting he is homosexual as well late in his life.  The story is complex, but it is also humorous at times, and very compelling in tone.  A must in GLBT graphic novels, and literature in general.

Heroes of Blues, Jazz, and Country.  Robert Crumb

Those who have read Stuck Rubber Baby will inevitably notice Cruse’s devotion to two things: drawing everything in pain-staking detail, and his obsession with the history of Jazz and Rhythm and Blues music.  Robert Crumb’s drawings have always been drawn in a realistic style as well, and this graphic novel is a fun history of said musicians that many people may not be aware of.  Bios of the musicians are provided as well, along with full color photographs.

Juicy Mother: Celebration.  Jennifer Camper

This collection of  GLBT stories describes itself as “an alternative-to-alternative comics.”  What is most intriguing about this graphic novel is that every contributor is either GLBT, or a person of color.  The stories range for the serious to the silly, including such stories as an Arab Muslim lesbian searching for her identity to a Latina teen’s goofy encounter with aliens.  Both touching and bizarre, comical and insightful, there is a story in this collection that will appeal to all readers!

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book, Vol. 1.  Terry Moore

Katchoo is a beautiful young woman who is in love with her best friend, Francine.  Then along comes David, who Katchoo falls in love with as well.  What results in a complicated love triangle this is both complex and amusing.  Though not as serious as Cruse’s work, readers will love getting to know these sympathetic characters as the develop and change over time.  And, just when everything seems to be going well, the mob decides to but in!  Truly interesting and leisurely paced like Cruse’s work.

A Single Man.  Christopher Isherwood

Stuck Rubber Baby is told in a flashback format from Toland’s point of view, reminiscing about growing up gay in the American South.  Though this fictional work takes place is a different part of the country, Isherwood’s protagonist George is sympathetic, nice, gay, and leads a surprisingly poignant, yet sad life.  After the death of his partner, George must learn to survive in a world where he a complete outsider, both internally and externally.  Comical and very wry, this examination of what it means to be homosexual in the modern world is incredibly moving.

Tales of the City (#1)  Armistead Maupin

These are the tales of the many denizens of 28 Barbary Lane, some straight, some not, but always hilarious, intricate, and fun.  This is the latest incarnation of the popular serial that later became a popular television event.  The tone is indeed a lot different from Cruse’s work, but the humor and attention to realistic details and colorful characters is there.  Striking and bold, witty and quite entertaining.

 

The End of Everything

July 31, 2012

Author:  Megan Abbott

Title:  The End of Everything

Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery

Publication Date:  2011

Number of Pages:  246

Geographical Setting:  Midwest suburb

Time Period:  1980’s

Plot Summary:  Thirteen-year-old Lizzie’s best friend, Evie, disappears and Lizzie was the one to see her last.  Slowly Lizzie starts remembering key clues, like the suspicious car that turns out to belong to a local business man who is also missing.  It seems that Evie was kidnapped; but as Lizzie remembers more and more, it seems that maybe Evie has run away…Evie’s sister, Dusty, seems to be hiding something too.  Meanwhile, Lizzie spends more and more time with Evie’s dad, whom she has a crush on.

Subject Headings:  Teenage girls-fiction; Best friends-fiction; Missing persons-fiction.

Appeal:  Evocative, deliberate pace, character-driven, suspenseful, compelling, atmospheric, insightful, introspective, person point of view, atmospheric, creepy.

3 terms that best describe this book:  Evocative, moody, and suspenseful.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Preventing Sibling Rivalry: Six Strategies for Building a Jealousy-free home by Sybil Hart

A child psychologist has tips for parents of how to help siblings interact positively.

Memory, History, Forgetting by Paul Ricouer

The philosophy and history of personal memory and recollection.  Ricouer examines the reciprocal relationship between remembering and forgetting, showing how it affects the perception of historical experience.  Refers to Aristotle, Descartes, Kant and other philosophers.

Finding Runaways and Missing Adults by Robert L. Snow

Published in 2012, this discusses the runaway problem in America. Snow reveals to readers the process the police use when trying to locate missing people, and information that readers can then use to locate their own missing loved ones. Uses real stories and first hand accounts,

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock

A girl murders her best friend-turned-enemy on the English Island of Guernsey.  Her situation parallels her uncle, who has WWII secrets.  The story jumps back and forth from the present to the Nazi occupation.

Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward

Lauren and her brother were children when their mother was murdered and their father was convicted of murdering her.  Now in her adulthood, Lauren’s brother, who always said their dad was innocent, vanishes.

Creep by Jennifer Hillier

Dr. Sheila Tao is a recovering sex addict, but after the death of her father she suffered a relapse and had a torrid affair with her teaching assistant/ student Ethan Wolfe, but decides to break it off because she is getting married.  but Ethan doesn’t handle the breakup well, and threatens to share a sex video of the couple together, which can ruin her career and her engagement.

Name:  Sonia Reppe