Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 24, 2019

William Morrow & Company: End of Story by A.J. Finn

From My Shelf

The Freedom to Read


It's easy to think of the banning of books as a historical event, or an event that happens somewhere else. But it's happening here in America, today. During Banned Book Week (September 22-28, 2019), let us remember that right now, booksellers, librarians, and educators are being asked to remove books from their shelves, take down displays and cancel author events.

The recent release of Margaret Atwood's long-awaited The Testaments (Nan Talese, $28.95) brings to mind the many challenges to The Handmaid's Tale (Anchor, $15.95) following its 1985 publication, according to the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Reading is dangerous; ideas are dangerous. Banned Books Week reminds us of that fact. People have lost their lives for translating Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa (a death threat) because he believed the book was critical of Islam. Yet publishers bravely continued to release Rushdie's books, including his most recent one, Quichotte (Random House, $28). Teachers and school librarians are brave enough to read aloud and share Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, $12.99) and the Newbery Award-winning The Giver by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $9.99), facing down parents and administrators who wish to remove such books (Rowling's book was the #1 challenged title from 2000-2009).

Banned Books Week reminds us that a few people may believe they have the power to keep others from reading the books they condemn, but we--booksellers, teachers, librarians, parents, caregivers--we who believe in literacy, must promote the freedom to read. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor, Shelf Awareness

Is there a book on the Banned Book List that you would happily hand to someone else? We are sharing our favorites on Twitter (#ShelfBookFreedom).

Jewish Book Council: 73rd National Jewish Book Award Winners

The Writer's Life

Maaza Mengiste: Women on the Battlefield

photo: Nina Subin

Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion's Gaze, was selected by the Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and named one of the best books of 2010 by the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe and other publications. Her work can be found in the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, Granta, the Guardian, the New York Times, Rolling Stone and the BBC. The Shadow King (available now from W.W. Norton and reviewed below), is her second novel.

Tell us about the inspiration for The Shadow King.

I grew up hearing the stories of Ethiopia's fight against Mussolini's forces. The stories were epic narratives about heroism and defiance, and they fueled my young imagination. As I grew older and started to learn more about this history, I wondered about what it felt like to be in this war. As I started researching, hoping to re-create those grand stories I heard as a child, I came up against a more complicated version of conflict. I wondered who had been left out of retellings, who had been frightened, who had been a collaborator: in essence, what were the stories that no one wanted to talk about?

I also began to question the place of women in the war. All of this led me into exciting new territory and as I continued to research, I began to find stray threads of details about women who fought in the front lines. And then, quite by chance, I discovered the story of my great-grandmother, Getey, who went to war as a young girl. I realized that this history was also part of my family history--it was a history I had never known--and if one woman's story had been silenced, how many others were there? Thus The Shadow King began to form into the book it is now.

Your great-grandmother sued her father for his gun so she could enlist as a soldier. Tell us more about that. Did she help inspire the characters of Hirut and/or Aster?

Getey had a reputation as a fierce and stubborn woman, right to the end of her life. She was not afraid to express herself, and though she was petite, she could command an entire room. I remember her this way: as elderly and bedridden but in no way frail.

I was already writing about Hirut and Aster before I learned about Getey's lawsuit against her father when she was young, and then her decision to enlist in the war. I could not believe that after all of the time searching for these women who enlisted in the war, there was one in my own family! I'd heard countless stories about the men who fought, their heroics, their determination, the hardships. Why did it take so long for Getey's story to come out?

When we speak of war, we tend to speak of men and that shapes what gets remembered and also, what ultimately gets forgotten. I hope that more of these stories come to light from Ethiopia, but also from around the world, because I know they exist.

Hirut realizes at one point that "the battlefield [was] her own body" and that it has always been thus. How does the story explore bodies, especially women's bodies, as battlegrounds?

One of the ideas I wanted to explore in this book was the body as its own terrain. If we think that war "makes a man out of you," then what does it mean to fight as a woman, and what does it mean to be a man fighting next to a woman? War pits bodies against each other, but what happens when the person who should be fighting next to you decides that your body is not your own to claim and control? Who, then, is the real enemy and which war is the real war?

Hirut has to question her allegiances when she is sexually assaulted, and in declaring herself a soldier, she also declares that the war being waged on her body will come to an end. She conceives of her body as a country, and it is hers and she will fight for her own freedom from threat.

The narrative explores the gap between an image of a person--in Ettore's photographs, and in how a person is perceived--versus how they see themselves. Can you talk about this space between image and reality?

I've long been fascinated with this gap between what a photograph reveals and what it manages to conceal. If a photograph is a captured moment, what is the message it is trying to convey, and what are all those other messages it's trying to silence?

Photographs have been integral in how we imagine Africa and Africans. They have been pivotal in framing how we speak of war and what we imagine soldiers to experience, and to do, while they're fighting. While writing this book, I wanted to step into the space that exists between what's seen and what's invisible. I began with the premise that what's invisible is as potent--and often more so--than what meets the eye. I wanted the photographs to move, so to speak, to tell what was happening just before the shutter release and after. I wanted to explore what would happen if those people who were posed in front of the camera were allowed to move as we stared at the image. What, then, would I be able to truly see?

The conflict between Italy and Ethiopia is long-running and complex, but is not well known in the U.S.

It's interesting, because I think within the African American community, Ethiopia's fight for independence inspired and galvanized many. This was an African nation that defeated a European force. In Harlem, as the war started, African Americans marched, held fund-raisers, pored over news reports and even tried to enlist to fight on behalf of Ethiopia. James Baldwin speaks of being inspired by the sight of Haile Selassie, a black man as a world leader who confronted fascism.

If you look at the front pages of major newspapers in the fall of 1935, this war filled the headlines. The world was riveted. But as things dragged on, and as Hitler's threat became very apparent and World War II loomed, attention turned toward Europe. I was surprised by how intensely the world was focused on Ethiopia in 1935, and how quickly this conflict was forgotten once World War II began in earnest. I could locate articles, journalists' accounts of being in Ethiopia, books. But even in all of this, I was often finding narratives that positioned Ethiopia and Ethiopians in stereotypical ways. I had to dig past preconceived notions in order to find kernels of truth. --Katie Noah Gibson

Sleeping Bear Press: Junia, the Book Mule of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, illustrated by David C. Gardner

Book Candy

Banned Books, Today and Yesterday

A video guide to the "Top 11 Most Challenged Books of 2018" was compiled by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.


Check out the National Coalition Against Censorship staff's "top 40 censored books."


"Book banning is not a new phenomenon," Oxford University Press noted in a piece offering some historical perspective.  


PEN America has launched "Literature Locked Up," a weeklong initiative to shed light on the practice of banning books in the nation's prisons and jails.


Pop quiz from the New York Public Library: "How well do you know your banned books?"


Global English Editing created an international "map of forbidden books in 2019."


"The book is frequently banned." Mental Floss collected "9 facts about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Great Reads

Rediscover: Ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce is perhaps the best example of the folly that is book censorship, its history a reminder of perils of banning books rather than celebrating the freedom to read. Ulysses was serialized in the United States in the Little Review magazine between 1918 and 1921. Episode 13, "Nausicaa," was deemed obscene under the Comstock Act of 1873, effectively making Ulysses illegal in the U.S. The U.S. Post Office burned hundreds of copies throughout the 1920s. Meanwhile, in Paris, Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company sold copies to visiting Americans, many of which made their way back to the U.S. Prohibition of the book also led to erroneous pirate copies whose errors were replicated in later official versions.

In 1933, with the prospect of publishing the first legal U.S. version of Ulysses, Random House hired lawyer Morris Ernst to import the French edition, planning have it seized in Customs and start a legal battle. The specific copy to be seized was stuffed with glowing praise for Ulysses by Ezra Pound and other writers, thus entering into the court record a strong argument for Ulysses as an important literary landmark. The plan almost fell through when Customs officials in New York, suffering on a record hot day, tried to admit the book's bag without searching it. In the subsequent court case, United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, Judge John M. Woolsey ruled against censorship of Ulysses, which allowed the importation of other literary works regardless of sexual content. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Shadow King

by Maaza Mengiste

War is often portrayed as a masculine activity, leaving women out of the narrative of combat even when they are present on the battlefield. Ethiopian novelist Maaza Mengiste (Beneath the Lion's Gaze) tells a different story in her second novel, The Shadow King. Inspired by Mengiste's great-grandmother, who sued her father for his gun so she could enlist as a soldier, The Shadow King recounts the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the making of several unlikely female warriors.

As Ethiopia and its emperor, Haile Selassie, brace for battle, a girl named Hirut is adjusting to her new role as a servant. When her master, Kidane, begins rallying the local men to build a ragtag army, he commandeers the rifle that belonged to Hirut's father. This incident, which Hirut sees as a theft and Kidane sees as simply his right, sets the stage for much of their future interactions.

Under the leadership of Kidane's wife, Aster, the women follow their men, agitating for the chance to fight alongside them. They eventually enter a stalemate with an Italian military unit, whose members include Ettore Navarra, a Jewish photographer. After Hirut notices that one of the men in their group resembles the exiled emperor, Kidane dresses the man in fine clothes to create the titular "Shadow King": a beloved icon who helps galvanize his warriors. Hirut is deputized as his guard, and her path crosses with Ettore's in several unusual ways.

Mengiste's narrative shifts between several third-person perspectives--Hirut, Aster, Kidane, Ettore--along with periodic glimpses of the exiled emperor and a village elder-like "chorus." Each viewpoint helps underscore the high personal costs of war. The Shadow King exposes a brutal chapter in Ethiopia's history and urges readers to listen for the untold stories of war, especially those of women. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Maaza Mengiste's second novel is a searing yet triumphant exploration of the role women played during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.

W.W. Norton, $26.95, hardcover, 448p., 9780393083569

No Judgments

by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot has published scores of novels for adults and teens that deliver fast-paced fun, romance and comedy. With No Judgments, she begins a lively series for adults set in Little Bridge Island (pop. 4,700). This fictitious small town in the Florida Keys braces for Hurricane Marilyn, a Category Five storm.

Twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham is a transplant from New York City. Following the death of her father, Bree dropped out of law school and suffered a harrowing assault. Badly shaken and disappointed by the lack of support she received, she dyed her hair pink, changed her name and set off for Little Bridge, once her family's favorite vacation spot. On the island, Bree works as a waitress at Mermaid's Cafe, a local hangout, and shares an apartment with a friendly ER nurse and Gary, Bree's tabby cat.

As the hurricane approaches, Lucy and Ed Hartwell, owners of the Mermaid, offer Bree and Gary refuge from the storm--their sturdy house has a generator--and Bree jumps at the chance. This, despite the fact that Bree's constantly at odds with Drew Hartwell, Lucy and Ed's nephew. He was publicly dumped by his last girlfriend and seems like a "player." Still, Bree hunkers down with the Hartwells. As they ride out the 170-mph winds, and struggle to rescue stranded animals in the storm's aftermath, the attraction between Bree and Drew deepens.

Cabot (The Boy Is Back) has a long, successful track record of writing entertaining stories that allow readers to escape from the realities of life by bringing levity, wit and a host of surprises and happy endings to the page. No Judgments is further testament to her appealing, winning style. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A heartbroken young woman hunkers down in the Florida Keys during a Category Five hurricane and goes on a quest to rescue stranded local pets.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 384p., 9780062913579

Spider Love Song and Other Stories

by Nancy Au

Fractured families populate Nancy Au's provocative 17-story debut collection, highlighting disappearing parents--whether by choice or by death--and the children left to endure and survive. Au draws on her Chinese heritage in her narratives. Some of her characters are deeply affected by recent history: some are escaping the horrific tragedy of the Cultural Revolution, and others have the in-between identity of being an immigrant. Still others are steeped in a cultural legacy that incorporates magic, fox spirits and dragon gods. Lest readers worry that darkness overshadows, Au proves herself quite adept at sly, affecting humor.

In the titular "Spider Love Song," a stranger knocks on the bright red door belonging to 10-year-old Sophie and her grandmother and requests their phone to call a tow truck. While she waits, the woman claims to have been Sophie's mother's college roommate. Sophie knows this to be untrue--her mother commuted daily to school from home. She realizes the woman is there to test the village rumors about the "crazy" abandoned pair.

Children without parents also surface in "Wearing My Skin," in which a mother and daughter "became [their] own Unit after Dad died," and seemingly thrive on the phone-sex calls that ring on the red Batman phone. In "Mom's Desert," a daughter recalls the day her philandering father moved out, and "Lincoln Chan: Pear King" features an angry teen finally recognizing envious loneliness in his orphaned best friend.

By the book's end, Au's unpredictable cast has embodied far-ranging history, cultures, locations and genres, with irreverently engaging results. For short-form connoisseurs, Au's accomplishments will undoubtedly regale and resonate. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Throughout most of Nancy Au's intriguing debut collection, the young and the elderly are left to face various challenges--both real and imagined--often in the wake of missing parents.

Acre Books, $17, paperback, 184p., 9781946724205

Heaven, My Home

by Attica Locke

Heaven, My Home is Attica Locke's fifth novel, and the second starring Texas Ranger Darren Mathews (Bluebird Bluebird). In the time between Trump's election and his inauguration, Darren has been assigned to look into the case of a missing child. In northeast Texas's Hopetown, on Caddo Lake, Darren's mission is not exactly to find the child, but to extract a confession--truthful or not--from a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) for the murder of another ABT member. Darren's life is a mess: he's only just patched up things with his wife, and his mother is low-key blackmailing him in regards to the same murder.

He's conflicted in several ways. A nine-year-old boy is missing, and Darren should save him, but this is a nine-year-old racist-in-training, and that training is going well so far. Darren knows justice should be absolute and blind, but the ABT man he's being asked to frame was acquitted of another murder--of a black man--that he certainly did commit. Among the recurring questions of this novel: How far should forgiveness stretch?

Heaven, My Home is a rich, complex puzzle, with layers of characters. It's complicated, but Locke's absorbing prose, in a third person very close to Darren, keeps the reader well abreast of all the crisscrossing loyalties and betrayals intrinsic to these East Texas woods. Both a fascinating, smartly plotted mystery and a pertinent picture of the contemporary United States, Heaven, My Home is refreshing, dour and thrilling all at once. Readers will be eager for more of Ranger Darren Mathews. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: This scintillating murder mystery, set in Trump-era East Texas, with a black main cast and racial concerns, is gripping, gorgeously written and relevant.

Mulholland Books, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9780316363402

Mystery & Thriller

The Nanny

by Gilly MacMillan

Lady Virginia Holt washes up after disposing of a body. "Get out," she tells her seven-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, who tries to see what her mother is doing. The next morning Virginia tells Jocelyn that her nanny and only friend, Hannah, left in the middle of the night because "you're a bad girl, a very bad girl."

Thirty years later, Jocelyn's husband has died and left her penniless. She and her daughter, Ruby, must return to the Holt family estate in England to live with the now widowed Lady Holt because they have nowhere else to go. It's an awkward homecoming. Ruby has known life only in California and has trouble fitting in. Jocelyn pointedly missed her father's funeral so she wouldn't have to face her mother, whom she blames for Hannah's leaving. Civility is strained. Then a skeleton with a cracked skull is found on the grounds. The victim was murdered around the time Hannah disappeared, and it's assumed the bones are hers. Then a woman appears claiming she's Hannah--but Lady Holt knows she can't be.

Gilly MacMillan skillfully creates four strong female characters and stirs them into a dangerous murder mystery narrated from each woman's point of view. Although the novel's particularly British sensibilities may draw comparisons to the upstairs vs. downstairs pride and prejudices that made Downton Abbey so popular, The Nanny serves up enough intrigue to warrant its own wing of the mansion. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer

Discover: An estranged mother and daughter reunite under grim circumstances in this intriguing whodunit.

Morrow, $26.99, hardcover, 400p., 9780062875556

Food & Wine

Antoni in the Kitchen

by Antoni Porowski, Mindy Fox

As part of Queer Eye's Fab Five, Antoni Porowski's contributions to each person's life as profiled on the show are full of feeling and cooking tips. His personal philosophy is that food should tell a story, and that the heart and the stomach are interconnected. Demonstrated thoroughly in his candidness and vulnerability onscreen, this viewpoint is also reflected in his first cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen, as he shares how his friends and family have influenced his cooking.

Growing up in Montreal, his evenings and weekends were filled with his family's Polish dishes, while his days at a French school introduced him to the multiethnic lunches brought by his multicultural friends. Whether it's his friend Reema's snack suggestion of Masala Nuts, or Polish Caramel Easter Squares decorated the traditional way with hazelnuts, dried apricots and sliced almonds, Antoni's cookbook explores the world and combines his love of food with his respect for the cultural influences of his family and friends.

More than 100 recipes brim with colors and flavors, providing a mostly healthy selection of dishes for date nights, dinner parties and weeknight suppers. This world café cookbook for the CSA box offers a quick description of the recipes to choose from: radishes in pink-peppercorn-and-chive butter; farrow bowl with sweet potatoes, arugula and chicken; chilled beet soup with pickles and dill; and salty lemon squares. Beautifully arranged, full-color photographs of food, candid and posed photographs and his own personal cooking tips, tricks and influences make this cookbook truly Antoni. -- BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co., Beaver Dam, Wis.

Discover: Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski combines the freshest of ingredients with a tour of the world's flavors.

Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, hardcover, 272p., 9781328631343

Biography & Memoir

Eyes to the Wind: A Memoir of Love and Death, Hope and Resistance

by Ady Barkan

If each sentence in Eyes to the Wind feels like it carries a relentless urgency, there's a good reason. A passionate social justice activist, Ady Barkan has been at the forefront of national movements and campaigns that have defined the economic and racial equality issues of this divisive, unprecedented moment in American politics.

In September 2016, Barkan's fight became personal when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). A progressive, terminal disease without a cure or effective treatment, ALS results in muscle weakness, total paralysis and death within an average of three to five years. At the time of his diagnosis, Barkan was 32, happily married and the father of a four-month-old son. After the bewildering aftermath of the U.S. presidential election that year, Barkan's resolve against a political administration threatening American democracy grew stronger. Undeterred as his body continues to weaken, Barkan travels across the country to lead advocacy efforts, fight for healthcare and to mobilize coalitions and everyday people to rise up against injustice.

"ALS was giving me newfound power at the very moment that it was depriving me of so much strength," he writes. "My voice was growing softer, but I was being heard by more people than ever before. My legs were disintegrating, but more and more people were following in my footsteps. Precisely because my days were numbered, people drew inspiration from my decision to spend them in resistance."

An emotional and heartbreaking chronicle of his life before and after ALS, Eyes to the Wind captures Barkan's dedication to advocacy and fighting against injustice. --Melissa Firman, writer at

Discover: This powerful, passionate memoir serves as a call to action from Ady Barkan, a social justice activist with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Atria, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781982111540

Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep

by Erin Carlson

Following her 2017 book on the romantic comedies of Nora Ephron (I'll Have What She's Having), Erin Carlson moves on to another female film icon with this breezy, fun and informative look at the amazing career of Meryl Streep. While most actresses get downgraded to supporting roles when they hit their 40s and 50s, Streep earned seven of her 21 Oscar nominations after she turned 60--and won her third Academy Award at 63.

Her first theatrical film was 1977's Julia, opposite Jane Fonda, who became her mentor and, according to Streep, "opened more doors than I probably even know about today." Two years later, she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer and three years after that win, she graduated to a Best Actress Oscar for Sophie's Choice. When Streep turned 40, she turned down three separate offers to play witch roles. That year, she said, "In a season where most female leads are prostitutes, there's not going to be a lot of work for women over 40. Like hookers, actresses seem to lose their market appeal around that age." Instead, she did three back-to-back comedies (Postcards from the Edge, Defending Your Life and Death Becomes Her) that broadened her audience appeal.

Periodically, the book ventures into Streep's private life (she's been married since 1978 and has four children), but mostly Streep is viewed through her role choices and from the viewpoints of her co-stars, directors and crews. Queen Meryl is an enjoyable, enlightening and spirited biography of the outspoken feminist and immensely talented actress. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: The iconic actress is celebrated in this enjoyable, enlightening and breezy career overview that never loses its enthusiasm.

Hachette, $24.99, hardcover, 320p., 9780316485272

Social Science

The Day It Finally Happens: Alien Contact, Dinosaur Parks, Immortal Humans--and Other Possible Phenomena

by Mike Pearl

Mike Pearl, Vice magazine columnist and author of The Day It Finally Happens: Alien Contact, Dinosaur Parks, Immortal Humans--and Other Possible Phenomena, is nervous. In fact, he suffers from "a paralyzing fear of things that are going to happen." The result is this carefully researched catalogue of hypothetical events ranging from the mildly disconcerting to downright terrifying. In chapters such as "The Day Humans Become Immortal" and "The Day the Entire Internet Goes Down," Pearl offers a compelling look at what may be in store for humanity.

Each chapter opens with a fictional narrative that imagines the "day it finally happens." In "The Day the UK Finally Abolishes Its Monarchy," readers learn how such a change could occur and what lasting impact it would have on Great Britain and Europe. According to the four-part metric that Pearl creates (Likely in this century? Plausibility Rating? Scary? Worth Changing Habits?), this one barely moves the needle. On the other hand, "The Day Nuclear Bombs Kill Us All," not surprisingly, ranks highest. He recalls the 2018 false ballistic missile threat in Hawaii, which leads to an explanation of what a real nuclear warhead would do. Readers may find their own anxiety increasing just reading about it.

"It's probably good that thinking about all this... makes us vow to never let it happen if we possibly can," Pearl says. Fascinating, disturbing and provocative, there's something here for everyone, since "if you're not both excited by and terrified of the future, you don't have a pulse." --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: This entertaining, provocative book analyzes hypothetical scenarios ranging from the first baby born on the moon to the day antibiotics stop working.

Scribner, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781501194139

Essays & Criticism

Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays

by Leslie Jamison

With the essay collection Make It Scream, Make It Burn, Leslie Jamison confirms the praise heaped on 2014's The Empathy Exams for her uncanny ability to blend perceptive reportage with intensely personal essays in consistently fresh, dynamic prose.

Jamison, who directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University, embarks on reporting trips that take her from Sri Lanka to Croatia, and span the United States, from Whidbey Island, Wash., to Charlottesville, Va. The book's subjects are similarly varied, among them a mysterious whale nicknamed "52 Blue" that's somehow become the source of comfort to scores of lonely people; a psychiatrist who studies children who claim to have lived past lives; and the surprisingly enduring computer simulation Second Life, which recognizes that "the impulse to escape our lives is universal."

Though pieces of Jamison's personal life are threaded throughout her reporting, the collection concludes with some of the confessional writing that made her memoir The Recovering so revealing. In "Museum of Broken Hearts," she introduces an eccentric institution in Croatia devoted to objects that bring to mind their donors' former loves. Jamison uses the opportunity to explore her perception that "our relationship to the past--even its ruptures and betrayals--is often more vexed, that it holds gravity and repulsion at once" through the prism of her own fraught romantic life. In this book, Jamison consistently demonstrates her "willingness to look at other lives with grace, even when your own feels like shit." All of her readers are the beneficiaries of that rare gift. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: Leslie Jamison examines a variety of fascinating subjects, including her own life, in her praiseworthy second essay collection.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 272p., 9780316259637

Children's & Young Adult


by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier is known for turning the unpleasant, awkward and uncomfortable experiences of her own childhood into candid, accessible graphic novels for middle-grade readers (Smile; Sisters). She once again accomplishes this in Guts, focusing on a rarely (if ever) touched-upon topic for children's literature: the body's physical response to stress and anxiety.

When a stomach flu passes through Raina's family, she and her mother get the worst of it on the same night in a house with only one bathroom. "...And then my mom and I spent the rest of the night puking!!" she animatedly tells her friends. Since "fourth grade was pretty much one long gross-out contest," this wasn't an unusual topic of discussion. It was, however, the beginning of Raina's struggle with "digestion issues" and emetophobia--a "nervous kid," Raina's anxiety began manifesting as stomach aches and diarrhea.

Telgemeier exploits the graphic novel format excellently, using art to express emotions and situations difficult to describe. One example is Raina's first experience with emetephobia: the panels are suffocating as anxiety begins to build; as the panic attack takes full effect, the panels disappear, her fear and stress a full-page bleed spreading across the page. "I didn't puke. But the thought that I might... was worse than if I actually had." Colorist Braden Lamb enhances these illustrations with sickly greens, yellows and blues, a cloud of noxious distress surrounding Raina's prone body. Uncomfortable--and sometimes humorously gross--"digestion issues" aren't a standard subject for kids' books. This is what makes Guts stand out: an enjoyable, enlightening read for any child, Guts could be life-changing for those who experience stress as Raina does. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Raina Telgemeier brings her struggles with anxiety and emetophobia to this informative, affirming middle-grade graphic novel.

Graphix/Scholastic, $24.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 8-12, 9780545852517

Becoming Beatriz

by Tami Charles

It's 1984, and 15-year-old Beatriz Mendez knows there is a rule she cannot break: "blood in, blood out." Members of the Diablos, a Puerto Rican gang in her neighborhood of Newark, N.J., get jumped as initiation--and leaving the gang usually means being killed in the streets. Beatriz's older brother, Juan "Junito," is the leader of the Diablos; when he and Beatriz are attacked by the Haitian Macoutes, a rival gang, Junito is gunned down and Beatriz is beaten. Having watched her brother die, Beatriz's priorities shift drastically. Her dream of becoming a dancer like Debbie Allen is put on hold as the pressure to return to the gang builds--"time to start thinking 'bout getting back in the game, princesa"--forcing her to think about the street violence in which she has taken part.

With Junito gone, the Diablos' new leader, DQ, has big plans to up the ante in the fight against the Macoutes. As Beatriz tries to break ties with the Diablos, and begins a friendship with a new boy at school named Nasser, someone starts leaving her photographs with mysterious messages written in Creole. Slowly losing the trust of the Diablos, with the danger of being jumped by the Macoutes at every turn, Beatriz is torn between finding a form of safety in her old life and escaping violence by embracing her love of dance.

Tami Charles's beautifully written follow-up to Like Vanessa creates a believable character in Beatriz, one with an intensity of spirit likely to draw in fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Tiffany D. Jackson. With its realistic portrayal of life in Newark in the 1980s, Charles's author's note reveals the parts of her own life that inspired Beatriz's story. --Clarissa Hadge, bookstore manager, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, Mass.

Discover: In this rhythmic teen read, after witnessing her brother's death, 15-year-old Beatriz must choose between her life as a gang member or moving forward to a life without violence as a dancer.

Charlesbridge Teen, $17.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 12-up, 9781580897785


Author Buzz

Visions of Flesh and Blood:
A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium

by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Dear Reader,

Today is the release of VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, the Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium, and I am so excited that you finally get to see and read it!

I saw the love you had for Miss Willa, watched how following along with all the series twists and turns brought you joy, and thought... wouldn't it be nice to have a book to help with that, yet give even more new stuff?

So, my publisher and I came up with a plan. It included loads of stunning art commissions, strategic disclosures, and brand-new material. When it all came together, it was even better than I imagined.

VISIONS OF FLESH AND BLOOD is so much more than a series bible. It's a journey and a work of art. A collector's item for sure!


Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: Visions of Flesh and Blood: A Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire Compendium by Jennifer L. Armentrout with Rayvn Salvador

Blue Box Press

Pub Date: 
February 20, 2024


List Price: 
$7.99 e-book

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