Posts Tagged ‘stark’

Devil in a Blue Dress

October 17, 2012


Title: Devil in a Blue Dress

Author: Mosley, Walter

Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery, African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1990

Number of Pages: 215

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, California

Time Period: 1948, Post WWII

Series: Easy Rawlins

Plot Summary: Set in Los Angeles in 1948, this gritty novel follows Ezekiel Rawlins who goes by Easy.  An African-American WWII veteran, Easy just wants to enjoy his life and hold onto the house he worked so hard to get but he has just lost his factory job.  Easy tries to forget his troubles at his friend Joppy’s bar when he is offered money by the mysterious, white gentleman DeWitt Albright.  All he has to do is track down French beauty Daphne Monet, a lady who is said to frequent black jazz clubs, and he will have enough money to pay this month’s mortgage.  But what starts out as a straightforward mission leads to increasing danger and threats to his life.  With bodies piling up and the police eager to pin the crimes on him, Easy must find Daphne and solve this mystery in order to stay alive.  Winner of the Shamus best P.I. novel award and the first in the Easy Rawlins series, this book introduces a complex and engaging protagonist who goes from reluctant to empowered private investigator while also dealing with racial tensions during the 1940’s Los Angeles.  Mystery lovers can enjoy this private investigator novel that looks at social issues while also delivering an atmospheric, evocative story that has the feel of a film noir.  They can also watch the movie version of this starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals.

Subject Headings: African-American Fiction, Mystery Fiction, Los Angeles, California, Private Investigators, Race Relations, Rawlins, Easy, African American Men, Organized Crime, Missing persons investigation, The Forties (20th century), Gangsters, Political Corruption

Appeal: Builds in intensity Pacing, Edgy, Character-driven, Suspenseful, Intriguing Characters, Well-drawn Characters, Gritty, Historical Details, Issue-oriented, Stark, Investigative, Thought-provoking, Strong Language, Time period dialect, Atmospheric, Evocative

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Gritty, Historical details, Investigative

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott

Set against the racially tense backdrop of Memphis in 1968, this historical mystery follows the activities of African-American private investigator Smokey Dalton.  He finds out that he is the recipient of $10,000 through rich,white Chicago heiress Laura Hathaway’s mother’s will.  Laura wants to know why Smokey was named the beneficiary, as does Smokey.  This search for answers leads to danger and mysteries for Smokey.  Another historical mystery novel that features an engaging African-American private detective narrator, while also offering an atmospheric story that deals with racial issues.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

In this noir fiction set in the Los Angeles of the 1950s, the story follows three troubled LAPD officers Ed Exley, Bud White and Jack “Trashcan” Vincennes as they deal with crime, corruption and violence over a 10-year period.  Enjoy this mystery novel that deals with corruption and violence during a similar time period.  Like Devil in a Blue Dress, this was made into a movie.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

In this classic noir novel, San Francisco detective Sam Spade must deal with his partner being killed in a stakeout, a valuable statue of a falcon being wanted, the appearance and disappearance of a mysterious redhead and enemies demanding a payoff that Sam does not have.  The stakes are high and Sam must figure out how to get out of this mess and get some answers.  Here is the go-to novel for a gritty, noir detective story.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America by Daniel J. Sharfstein

If you want to delve a bit deeper into some of the racial issues explored in Devil in a Blue Dress, try this book that explores three American families whose self-identified race shifted from black to white over the years.

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin

Delve even deeper into the seedy underworld of Los Angeles from the1920s through the 1960s.  It dives into the world of crime, corruption, and violence along with the racial tensions of the city.  This book is suggested for those who wanted more details regarding the historical setting presented in Devil in a Blue Dress.

The Film Noir Encyclopedia by Alan Silver, Elizabeth Ward, James Ursini and Robert Porfirio

Did you enjoy the book as well as the movie?  Then try this encyclopedia that covers film noirs in detail.  It explores the themes and motifs of the genre, while featuring pictures and stills of the movies and their stars.

Name: Margita Lidaka

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

The Coldest Winter Ever

April 11, 2012

Author:  Sister Souljah

Title:  The Coldest Winter Ever

Genre:  African American Fiction, Urban Fiction

Publication Date:  1999

Number of Pages:  337

Geographical Setting:  New York

Time Period:  1990s

Series:  n/a

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elissa

 

World War Z

April 4, 2012

Author: Max Brooks

Title: World War Z

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2006

Number of pages: 320

Geographical Setting: Global

Time Period: not too distant future

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This book takes place after the zombie war has already occurred. Compiling interviews from all sorts of people from many different countries, Brooks attempts to piece together exactly what happened when the dead began to rise. Interviews range from doctors to American housewives to body guards to war veterans, detailing where they were when they discovered this disease wasn’t “rabies” like they were told, and how the world eventually conquered over two million walking corpses. The pacing is moderate, but the short interviews from so many different types of people make this a page turner. Highlights include the doctor in China who discovers “Patient Zero”, a twelve-year old boy who had been bitten while swimming, the body guard assigned to protect a mansion full of rich people and celebrities from zombies while they get filmed to the masses, and a Japanese warrior monk who recounts how he escaped a high rise full of zombies back when he was a socially awkward computer nerd. Part war novel and part survival guide, this book will keep the reader up at night planning out his/her escape route for when the undead come scratching at the door.

Subject Headings: undead, zombies, diseases, epidemics, supernatural, survival (after epidemics) war.

Appeal: builds in intensity, measured, chilling, darker, nightmare, deadpan, intriguing, multiple points of view, explicitly violent, action-oriented, political, stark, conversational, journalistic, straight-forward, well-crafted, well-researched.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: chilling, multiple points of view, explicitly violent.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis by Peggy Layton.

If after reading World War Z, you are feeling less than prepared for the zombie apocalypse, or any other disaster, this book will teach you how to equip your home with food, water, medical supplies and fuel.

2. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.

One of the terrifying aspects of zombie lore is that it begins as a disease and turns into an epidemic that no one knows how to cure. The Ghost Map chronicles such an epidemic when cholera breaks out over London in 1854.

3. Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie by Wade Davis.

Zombie mythology originates from Haitian voodoo (voudon), and is an unfortunate stereotype of a complex religion. Davis explains how one goes about making a zombie (a harsh punishment exacted to someone found guilty of a heinous crime), as well as the politics of Haitian culture.

 

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Twelve-year-old Oskar has a crush on the new girl (“I’m not a girl,” she keeps telling him) living next door, who only comes out at night. Both bone-chilling and heart-warming at the same time, this updated take on classic vampires who drink real blood and don’t sparkle, compels the reader to fall in love with Eli and root for her no matter how gruesome her actions become.

 

2. Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson

In Koontz’s take on Frankenstein, 7 foot monster Deucalion is living peacefully in a Tibetan monastery when he discovers that his creator is still alive and living in New Orleans. Deucalion must track him down before he creates an army of “posthumans” that take over the world.

 

3, The Wolfen by Whitley Streiber.

Two detectives in New York discover a secret pack of werewolves preying on weak humans who won’t be missed. Streiber plays with the werewolf myth to create a separate race of wolf-men with heightened sense of smell and hearing and superhuman intelligence.

 

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.

Garden of Beasts

November 30, 2011

Author: Jeffrey Deaver

Title: Garden of Beasts

Genre: Adventure, Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 11 discs

Geographical Setting: New York City, New York; Berlin, Germany; other various

Time Period: 1936

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:  When hitman Paul Schumann finds himself caught in a sting set up by New York City police, he recognizes that his luck has run out.  Preparing himself to be tried, jailed and probably executed, Schumann is surprised when he is given a choice: instead of facing the consequences in America, he can work a job for the American government and assassinate a political leader in the burgeoning Nazi government.  When he accepts, Schumann is sent off on a wild and crazy ride through Berlin where he meets local characters, beautiful women, and the most dangerous and evil villains in the world at that time.  Narrated by several characters other than Schumann, including a German police detective hot on Schumann’s heels and the object of Schumann’s assassination plot, the audio book version’s performer Jefferson Mays does a decent job of differentiating between characters and uses accents to provide local color.

Subject Headings: Mafia hitman; Nazi Germany; German Olympics; Adolf Hitler; Jesse Owens; Assassination plot; Detectives; Anti-semitism

 Appeal: Builds in intensity, engrossing, fast-paced, atmospheric, dangerous, dramatic, menacing atmosphere, stark, detailed characters, flawed characters, strong secondary characters, multiple points of view, action-oriented, character-centered, cinematic, investigative, multiple plot lines, plot twists, thought-provoking, detailed setting, historical details, political, unpretentious language, jargon

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Builds in intensity, flawed characters, historical details

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

A piece of narrative nonfiction, this title describes the lives of the William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to the Third Reich, and his family as they lived in Berlin during the period before World War II.  Figuring in the story also are the characters of Göring and Goebbels who are featured in Jeffrey Deaver’s novel of almost the same title.

Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano: Whitey Bulger’s Enforcer and the Most Feared Gangster in the Underworld by Howie Carr

This biography of Johnny Martorano, a hitman for the mob tells the story of life for a real hitman.  It also discusses the knowledge of some politicians and the FBI of Martorano’s activities.  This mirrors Schumann’s eventual connection to political and law enforcement organizations as well as giving more information about his line of work.

Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany by Robert Gellately

This title discusses and rejects the idea that the German population as a whole knew nothing about the atrocities committed by Hitler and his minions.  It discusses this point of view using primary sources including case studies and news sources.  Some of the terms and ideas touched on in Garden of Beasts are presented and expounded upon in this book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Game of Lies by Rebecca Cantrell

The third in a series about German crime reporter Hannah Vogel, this title takes place during the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Berlin, Germany.  This historical mystery shares a time period and setting with Garden of Beasts.

Casino Royale: a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming

This first James Bond novel has 007 taking on the Soviet Union.  It includes many elements similar to Deaver’s Garden of Beasts including adventure, international intrigue and assassins and is written with a fast-paced and suspenseful style.

Killing Castro by Lawrence Block

This novel, written in 1961 tells the story of 5 Americans offered $20,000 to kill Fidel Castro.  The fast-paced suspense story includes multiple plot lines and a suspenseful feel that may appeal to fans of Garden of Beasts.

Name: Christi H.

Dutch

November 17, 2011

Author: Teri Woods

Title: Dutch

Genre: Urban Lit

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 242

Geographical Setting: New York and New Jersey

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: 1st in the Dutch Series

Plot Summary: Bernard James Jr., better known as Dutch, is a New York drug kingpin, but when the book starts, he’s on trial and it seems like his empire is about crash all around him. As the trial continues, the testimony and a series of flashbacks serve to show Dutch’s rise to power from a teen working at a pizza place to a car thief, and after a stint in prison his eventual transformation into one of the most infamous druglords in the East Coast.

Subject Headings: Gangsters, organized crime, street life, mafia, African-American men

Appeal: fast-paced, dark, gritty, hard-edged, stark, plot-driven, dialect-heavy, compelling, flashbacks, steamy, chilling, flawed characters

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: fast-paced, gritty, flashbacks

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Dyson, Michael. “Mercy, Mercy, Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye”. Not quite a biography, Dyson’s book shows how various factors—his abusive father, living in the inner city, cultural racism, religious upbringing, alcoholism and drug abuse—shaped Marvin Gaye into the popstar and man he became. Woods does similar in creating the story of Dutch.

Greene, Robert.  “48 Laws of Power”. Dutch was all about power—who had it, how to earn, it, how to keep it, even during Dutch’s stint in juvie. In this book, Greene discusses the concept of power and creates a series of laws based on popular leaders, such as Machiavelli, Henry Kissinger, Sun-Tzu and Queen Elizabeth. Dutch would probably keep this book on his nightstand.

Moore, Wes. “The Other Wes Moore”. Popular book showing the true-life story of two black men named Wes Moore who grew up on the streets; one ended up in jail, the other was a Rhodes Scholar. Dutch seemed to blame society for his fate, and this book focuses on society’s effects on black inner city youth.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Ashley and JaQuavis. “The Cartel”. The Diamond family is the most infamous drug cartel family in Miami; when Carter dies, his illegitimate son takes over; but a rival group tries to take them down. Like Dutch, Young Carter is a new kingpin that must take on rivals in a gritty urban lit title.

Dickey, Eric Jerome. “Thieves’ Paradise.” Dante Black is a low-level hood, as opposed to Dutch’s far-loftier lifestyle. However, both must deal with betrayal within their circle of friends, ex-lovers, and others in this urban lit book.

Puzo, Mario. “The Godfather.” Although a different sort of gangster in some ways, Dutch probably modeled himself in some ways after Don Corleone, the eponymous Godfather. This is the book that was the basis for the movie, and a classic in its own right.

Name: Brian C

The Tempest Tales

November 9, 2011

Author: Walter Mosley

Title: The Tempest Tales

Genre: African-American fiction; Psychological fiction

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 250

Geographical Setting: Harlem, New York City

Time Period: Modern day

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:   Tempest Landry is an African American male who finds himself at the gates of St. Peter after being accidentally shot to death by white police officers in Harlem.  St. Peter believes Tempest has committed enough sins to be condemned to hell.  However, Tempest refuses St. Peter’s judgment and claims his sins were either acts committed surrounding the situation of being an African-American male or that they were not big enough to be taken seriously.  Tempest is supposedly the first soul to ever disagree with St. Peter’s judgment and heaven is quickly turned on its head.  It is decided that Tempest will return to earth in a new body with an angel named Joshua.  Joshua’s goal is to show Tempest he is a
sinner.  It is at this point in the book where Mosley really makes the reader question the ethics of sinning which is done through tongue in cheek dialog between Joshua and Tempest.  Although tackling spiritual issues the book explores philosophical issues as well. Especially after Satan appears demanding Tempest’s soul.  The Satan character is named Bob and happens to be the only main character that is white. This adds an interesting dynamic to the race relations of the main characters of the book.

Subject Headings: African-American men – Death, Racism, Heaven, Soul, Devil, Life after death, Angels, Temptation, Police misconduct, Accidental death, Sin, Fairness, Justice, Injustice, Redemption.

Appeal: Thought Provoking, Fast paced, Builds in intensity, Witty, Evangelistic, Edgy, Sarcastic, Stark, Thoughtful, Uneasy, Flawed, Introspective, Multiple points of view.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Thought provoking, Fast-paced, Witty.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B Du Bois. Published in 1903 and is a study of race, culture, and education at the turn of the twentieth century.

Double Take: A Revisionists Harlem Renaissance Anthology, byVenetria Patton.  A selection of texts
from the Harlem Renaissance by men, women, gay, and straight writers of the time.

How Different Religions View Death and Afterlife, by Christopher Jay Johnson.  This book compares 19 different religions and their views on death and the afterlife.  Each chapter is written by a scholar from the religion in which they are discussing.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Kid, by Sapphire. A story of survival of 9 year old Jamal Abdul Jones.  As he is abused by priests and an orphanage, Jamal begins abusing other children and is thrown out of the orphanage.  Jamal then finds himself in a tough world of handling his own desires and dealing with consequences.

Some Sing, Some Cry, by Ntozake Shange. A fictitious story that follows an emancipated female slave through the life obstacles.  The story follows key moments in American history.

The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeir.  A novel about life, death, and an area inbetween.  In this story the population of a city starts to evaporate due to the people existing only because they are
remembered by the living.

Name: Bill P.

The Bluest Eye

August 17, 2011

Author: Toni Morrison

Title: The Bluest Eye

Genre: Literary Fiction,  African-American

Publication Date: 1970

No. of Pages: 224

Geographical Setting: Lorain, Ohio

Time Period: Years following the Great Depression

Series: NA

Plot Summary: An African-American family, the MacTeers, is struggling out of the Great Depression in Lorain, Ohio when they take in a troubled girl from a rough background, Pecola, when she is forced “outdoors.” All her life Pecola has hid behind the “ugliness” of her dark skin and brown eyes, always wishing and praying for beautiful blue eyes. As she struggles to find her way with a strange new family, her own family fights against their demons of racism, alcoholism and sexual depravity.

While Pecola and her fervent wish for blue eyes may be the focus of The Bluest Eye, her character is rarely developed throughout the story. Rather her struggles and gradual surrender to insanity are documented through the eyes of those closest to her, effectively underscoring the actions of the remaining characters. This is a story of vulnerability and of a young girl unable to overcome her circumstances, even to get blue eyes. Readers should be aware of several disturbing scenes that are sexual in nature.

Subject Headings: African-Americans, Racism – United States, Family Relations

Appeal: unhurried, emotionally-charged, character-centered, vivid, flawed, historical details, timeless, intimate, poignant, dialect, gritty, stark

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: emotionally-charged, flawed, gritty

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race by Jennifer Ritterhouse (Explores the unwritten rules of segregation in the South that guided child development)

Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith (A Southern white view of the psychological and moral consequences of the Southern mindset on sin, sex and segregation)

In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (The companion book to the PBS series, Gates helps 19 individuals explore their pasts while gaining a better understanding of their own personality)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright (A collection of powerful novellas illustrating the racism and oppression African-Americans lived with in the post-slavery era – originally published in 1938, this plays out in the same time period of The Bluest Eye and delves into some of the same issues of race)

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (A poor white family of sharecroppers struggles to survive during the Depression and retain their slim social standing among the black community they live – similar backdrop of the Great Depression and familial tensions)

Oral History by Lee Smith (A college student returns to her childhood home in the Appalachians to research the complex and cursed history of her family – a similar story of a doomed family and all their flaws and foibles)

by Denise

Stitches: A Memoir

August 10, 2011

Title:  Stitches

Author: David Small

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 329

Geographical Setting: Detroit

Time Period: 1951-1990

Format:  Hardcover

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

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

3 Revelant Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

Name:  Mary Othic