Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, March 3, 2020


Workman Publishing: Back-to-School Help is Here with Brain Quest, America's #1 Educational Bestseller!

From My Shelf

Ballantine Books: The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Spindlefish and Stars by Christiane M Andrews

Calkins Creek Books: The Teachers March!: How Selma's Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer

It's Time to Bake!

"Today is a special day," Stir Crack Whisk Bake tells us. Why? Because we're going to make cupcakes! (And pancakes and a rainbow cake, too.) The board book from America's Test Kitchen, illustrated by Maddie Frost (Sourcebooks, $9.99, ages 0-3), begins by asking young bakers to gather ingredients. While adult caretakers grab actual ingredients, pre-readers can use their fingers "to drag each [ingredient] to the counter." Shake the book to mix, tap on eggs to crack them, blow a kiss to add sprinkles... every step of the process is easy for tiny hands, and pretty darn cute.

In Pancakes with Grandma by Kathryn Smith, illustrated by Seb Braun (Tiger Tales, $9.99, ages 2-5), Little Bunny and Grandma Bunny make a "yummy breakfast to start the day." Grandma tells Little Bunny what's needed and directs her toward the kitchen. There, children can lift flaps to help her find the flour, maple syrup and butter. Next, they look for berries in the garden, eggs in the chicken coop and milk--directly from the cow. Each new ingredient is a clue to help Little Bunny figure out what the yummy breakfast will be. The flaps provide fun, non-baking surprises, as well as a berry pancake recipe found in a cookbook titled Breakfast for Bunnies written by one Bunny Oliver.

The hands-on activities continue with Bake a Rainbow Cake! by Flour Shop owner Amirah Kassem, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri (Abrams Appleseed, $16.99, ages 0-3), which uses pull tabs and flaps to bring children through the process of making a layered rainbow cake. Pre-readers can mix wet ingredients, color the batter, fill the cake with sprinkles and slice into the cake to let all those sprinkles spill out. With tons of exclamation points and super-bright colors, Bake a Rainbow Cake! is a wonderful sensory explosion.
--Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Simon & Schuster: Unicorns Are the Worst! by Alex Willan


Book Candy

Line Editing: A Lost Art?

"Is line editing a lost art?" Lit Hub asked.

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"Party like a Hobbit at Chicago's Lord of the Rings pop-up bar," Replay Lincoln Park, Mental Floss suggested.

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"The serious, serious comma." The American Copy Editors Society pointed out actual legal cases where "ambiguities fuel lawsuits between disputing parties."

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"Bikes and books in Afghanistan." American Libraries explored "improving literacy with a mobile library."

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Far Out magazine shared a "3,252-track playlist from Haruki Murakami's personal vinyl collection."

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Mike Hale's Alpacka bookcase "comes with a set of different color braid that loops bridges between the planks for additional storage."


The Midnight Lie

by Marie Rutkoski

In Marie Rutkoski's darkly enchanting The Midnight Lie, Nirrim, a young woman who has visions she doesn't understand, lives in the impoverished center of a dazzling, magical city.

Encompassed by a wall, in the middle of the city of Ethin, is the Ward. There live the Half Kith, ruled by restrictions that dictate what they are allowed to do (very little), wear (only drab colors), make (products to be used by the upper Kiths) and eat (no food that is "tangy or sour or spiced or sweet"). Nineteen-year-old Nirrim is one of the many disenfranchised who live in this place of "dull colors" and few liberties. She works for tavern-owner Raven, who, as a Middling, is "allowed to come and go beyond the wall," leaving the Ward--which Half Kith are not allowed to do--and entering the Middling city that surrounds the Ward in its own enclosed ring. By all appearances, Raven is a businesswoman held in high esteem. The Half Kith's high regard of her, though, is more about her side job: she and Nirrim create forged passports. Nirrim believes they are helping the Half Kith in the Ward to escape, perhaps even get past the Middling city's wall and enter the opulent coastal home of the High Kith, where "teardrops of hail spangle the pink sand beaches."

On the day of the moon festival, Raven sends Nirrim to acquire more materials for fake passports. As Nirrim walks the "puzzle of skinny streets that turn an ice wind into pure malice," she keeps an eye out for the militia who, were they to arrest her, would make her pay a tithe. If she is lucky, her hair would be cut or her blood drawn; others lose eyes, limbs, even their lives. It isn't, however, the militia that gets Nirrim in trouble. An Elysium bird, the "gods' bird," has gotten loose in the Ward. "They say that the song of the Elysium bird makes you dream.... that these dreams remedy the past, take the sting out of memories." Everyone in the Ward is convinced they can capture the bird and make a profit from it. But it is Nirrim who catches the bird. "It occurred to me that the bird wanted me as much as I wanted it," Nirrim thinks upon hearing its song. "It knew I was coming." She imagines its "short, inky beak. Its tiny emerald eyes," though she has never actually seen an Elysium bird in real life. She is confused--this feels like a memory more than a vision--but she chalks it up to her lifelong torment of seeing and experiencing things that aren't truly there. The Elysium bird finds her and, unable to kill the beautiful creature for profit, Nirrim gives it to the militia. They arrest her and sentence her to a month in prison and a blood tithe.

In prison, she meets Sid, a "traveler." Sid, who is serving time for taking "a lord's lady to bed," is in Ethin for adventure. According to Sid, the island is not on any map: "My people have been seafarers for generations.... How is it that we discovered it only earlier this year?" Sid, flirting all the while, asks Nirrim questions--Why do some people live behind a wall? Why a tithe?--forcing Nirrim to fully contemplate the answers. Why are the Half Kith forced to live colorless, flavorless lives? What is the purpose of the tithes they pay? And, Sid tells her, there's something particularly strange about Ethin: magic. "Magic that allows you to create fabulous things, like pocket watches that don't tell the time but rather tell you the emotions of the people standing around you." Over their few days together, Nirrim starts to fall for the self-declared licentious Sid and feels the beginnings of understanding taking root: "They say that there was magic in this city when the gods still walked among us. That some people were god-touched. They had the favor of those beings, and a shadow of their power." With Sid's help, Nirrim will escape the Ward to delve into her city's past--which is surprisingly interwoven with her own.

Though it's a return to the world of the Winners Trilogy, Rutkoski's bewitching The Midnight Lie--the first of a duology--stands firmly on its own. The city of Ethin is a mysterious place, all the more interesting for its stark social divisions and hidden history; Rutkoski further exposes these chasms and secrets through an LGBTQ lens. Nirrim makes for a fascinating protagonist: she's extremely rational despite the vivid fantasies she sees of another existence, deeply empathetic although she rarely receives comfort herself. Sid and the mission to learn the mysteries of Ethin add color and passion to Nirrim's life, but she retains her individual voice and uncommon way of thinking throughout. The Midnight Lie is unsettling and thrilling, the world intricate and purposeful, and Nirrim a protagonist readers will surely find enthralling. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 14-up, 9780374306380

Marie Rutkoski: A Different Kind of Romance

(photo: Tobias Everke)

Marie Rutkoski is the author of the Winner's Trilogy, the Kronos Chronicles and The Shadow Society. Rutkoski is a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children's literature and creative writing. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Midnight Lie, the first in a planned companion duology to The Winner's Trilogy, was just published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

What made you want to return to the world of the Winner's Trilogy?

It was a combination of wanting to know what happened after the events of the Winner's Trilogy (The Midnight Lie is set about 20 years following the end of The Winner's Kiss) and what happened before. The main character of The Midnight Lie, Nirrim, lives on an island that has forgotten its history and has many strict laws that people follow without examining why. But readers of The Midnight Lie will notice that Nirrim's culture bears striking resemblances to a prominent culture in the Winner's Trilogy.

Why did you want to tell such a different story from those we've seen in this world before?

Really, what I wanted was to write a different kind of romance. A reader at an event for The Winner's Kiss approached me and said that she loved the character of Roshar (a young man who is gay, smart, dangerous and adores giving Arin a hard time), but that she wished there were more fantasy novels featuring queer women. There are of course many wonderful novels that offer that. Her point was that she wanted more. And so do I! I love f/f romance and when I began imagining a new book, I felt like a queer romance was the only kind I wanted to write.

Why did you want to write about magic?

In some ways, the question of magic was already there in the Winner's Trilogy. Arin, for example, believes he has been blessed by the god of death and hears that god in his mind. I was careful to have plausible deniability when writing this; it is entirely possible (and this is what Kestrel says) that Arin is so damaged that he has conjured a helpful fantasy as a way to cope. Maybe Arin is aided by a supernatural force. Maybe it's all in his head.

The Midnight Lie came partly from these questions: What if it's not all in Arin's head? What if magic did exist in this world once? Why was it there? Where did it go? Could it return?  

You offer nuanced portrayals of subjugation, domination and injustice throughout the Winners Trilogy and in The Midnight Lie. Why did you want to continue exploring these themes? How did you make sure to connect with these ideas respectfully and honestly?

The Midnight Lie is in some ways inspired by one aspect of our current society: growing inequality. There have been several economic and sociological studies showing that the difference between rich and poor in this country is larger now than it has been in a very long time. The last time we've seen such a disparity, in fact, was right before the Great Depression.

The world of The Midnight Lie is one where those who have more have even more, and those who have less have even less. Wealthy people get to do whatever they want--not just with their wealth, but also with social rules. You could say that this is an allegory for being socially and economically disadvantaged in our own society.

But Nirrim's struggle isn't just with her material situation. She is also someone who is trapped in psychological ways, and has been so neatly trapped that she doesn't even see the trap. She doesn't see, in the beginning of the book, the toxicity of many of her relationships. I think that when you're in a toxic relationship (no matter what kind, in terms of family, romance, friendship), it can be very hard to see it, because you're in that relationship for a reason. You care about that other person, and you care about believing that your relationship is a good one, because who are you if it isn't? My hope is that I have thoughtfully portrayed this difficulty, and Nirrim's coming to understand the true nature of some of her relationships. 

A thing I particularly loved about Nirrim is that she is without guile and wholly trusting of others, even though she doesn't trust herself. What was it like to write this character?

My books are character-driven and some of why I wrote Nirrim the way that I did is that I wanted to write a character very different from Kestrel. Kestrel is not just smart, but also extremely knowledgeable about how people manipulate each other. Nirrim is intelligent, but her life experience has been people trying to blunt that intelligence, so there is much she doesn't see or understand. But I think we all know what it's like to come to an unpleasant awareness about someone that we once trusted. I wanted to capture that in Nirrim. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Shelf vetted, publisher supported.


Great Reads

Rediscover: The Stand

In Stephen King's The Stand, a weaponized flu escapes a military lab and kills over 99% of the Earth's population. First published in 1978, it was King's fourth novel and was cut by approximately 400 pages for its first run. In 1990, Doubleday released a restored and updated version, The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition, King's longest single-volume work at 1,152 pages. It was adapted into a TV miniseries in 1994. A new 10-hour limited series is in production to be aired on CBS All Access.

On a remote army base, a bioweapon called Project Blue breaks containment. An infected soldier and his family flee to a small town in East Texas. From there, the disease spreads globally and earns a new name: Captain Trips. After most people die, small groups of survivors converge either in Las Vegas, under the control of recurring King antagonist Randall Flagg, or with the benevolent Mother Abagail in Nebraska. Amid the ruins of civilization, these two groups face off in a post-apocalyptic battle of good versus evil. The Stand is available in paperback from Anchor ($17, 9780307947307). --Tobias Mutter

Walrus Publishing: Campaigning Can Be Deadly, Volume 2 by Charlotte Stuart


Book Review

Fiction

Deacon King Kong

by James McBride


In Deacon King Kong, National Book Award-winner James McBride (The Good Lord Bird, Five-Carat Soul) delivers a multilayered portrait of life in the projects during the Civil Rights era. It begins like any other fall day in 1969 at Brooklyn's Causeway Housing Projects (aka the "Cause"), "where 3,500 black and Spanish residents crammed their dreams, nightmares, dogs, cats, turtles, guinea pigs, Easter chicklets, children, parents, and double-chinned cousins from Puerto Rico, Birmingham, and Barbados into 256 tiny apartments." It's unremarkable until Deems Clemens, a 19-year-old baseball prodigy-turned-drug dealer, has his ear shot off in the project's central plaza. And no one can believe that the man who pulled the trigger, in his tattered jacket and pork pie hat, is old Sportcoat.

Sportcoat was a deacon at the Five Ends Baptist church and Deems's baseball coach; everyone liked him, even if he was frequently soused on "king kong" moonshine he shared with his buddy Hot Sausage. Sportcoat himself can't remember, let alone explain, why he shot Deems. But the series of events this act sets in motion reveals long-held secrets and surprising intersections with white folks outside the Cause, including The Elephant, a powerful but vulnerable mobster, and Potts, a tired cop who comes alive at the sight of the church's mighty Sister Gee.

While readers witness "the sadness, the suspicion, the weariness" that comes with life in the projects, McBride populates the Cause with characters who persevere with love and compassion for each other, unwavering faith in God and community, and lots of humor. Big-hearted and sprawling, Deacon King Kong cements McBride as a master storyteller. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: This rollicking and poignant tale considers the fallout when an old alcoholic shoots a teenage drug dealer in the middle of a housing project.

Riverhead, $28, hardcover, 384p., 9780735216723

Johns Hopkins University Press: The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines by Brian Deer


Run Me to Earth

by Paul Yoon


Moving from 1969 Laos to 2018 Spain, Paul Yoon's spare novel concerning the tragedy of war follows three characters, scrappy teenagers who survive the relentless bombing of their country. In Run Me to Earth, nonlinear chapters alternate among each character's perspective and maintain suspense as Yoon (Snow Hunters) slowly reveals the fate of each. The novel reflects what war wreaks on civilian populations as they lead their lives in imminent danger.

In an author's preface, Yoon reviews the war in Laos and the nine years of CIA-directed bombing: "Over two million tons of ordnance were dropped." As the novel opens in 1969, Alisak and Prany, 17, and Prany's 16-year-old sister, Noi, have been wandering for three years and now work at a makeshift field hospital in a crumbling, abandoned estate. The teens, a few nurses and Vang, a Laotian doctor, minister to the victims of war, and dream of escape. They compare their fantasies, asking each other where they go at night. "France or Thailand?" is a recurring suggestion. Alisak recalls a helicopter rescue, then Yoon fast forwards to the story of Auntie, a long-ago neighbor, in 1974.

The juxtaposition of points of view and times mirrors the turmoil of war. As Alisak is resettled in southern France, Prany and Vang are "repatriated" for seven years. Auntie seeks word of their fate, continuing stealthily to lead others to freedom. While the despair of the story is profound, Yoon places resilience, loyalty, love and hope at its heart. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, freelance reviewer

Discover: A spare and powerful novel of war's impact on Laotian civilians, told over decades.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9781501154041

Viking: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd


Garden by the Sea

by Mercè Rodoreda, trans. by Martha Tennent, Maruxa Relaño


Along the northeastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, just a short drive from bustling Barcelona, a large villa faces the Mediterranean Sea. Here a gardener spends his days tending magnolias, lilacs, red geraniums and a promenade lined with linden and mulberry trees. This unnamed and unassuming narrator of Spanish author Mercè Rodoreda's (1908-1983) Garden by the Sea flatly relates the dramatic lives of the villa's wealthy summer residents. A widower who has lived and worked on the property for decades, the gardener has become a fixture of the villa, and in this novel is the aperture through which readers come to understand the lives of its young residents.

As Kazuo Ishiguro made strikingly clear in The Remains of the Day, the literature of domestic service wields particular power when it comes to shedding light upon the interior lives of the upper class. Over a period of six summers in the 1920s, the gardener observes the lives of Senyoret Francesc, his wife, Senyoreta Rosamaria, and their friends Senyoreta Eulàlia and Feliu Roca, perpetual vacationers with family money. The first half of the novel focuses on the various leisure activities of this wealthy young group. The story then takes on a darker tone when an extremely rich businessman builds an even grander villa on an adjacent plot of land at the request of his son-in-law. Rodoreda reveals a complicated history between the families, and the small dramas gradually become more serious each summer.

The patient, eloquent and often digressive prose of Rodoreda, who wrote in Catalan, provides an aesthetic experience on each page that assembles itself bit-by-bit into an unforgettable novel. --Emma Levy, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Dark, comedic and written in lush detail, Garden by the Sea is a compelling portrait of the affluent vacationers of the beautiful Catalonian coast of the 1920s.

Open Letter, $15.95, paperback, 230p., 9781948830089

Dial Books: Kitties on Dinosaurs by Michael Slack


Mystery & Thriller

The Only Child

by Mi-Ae Seo, trans. by Yewon Jung


Bestselling Korean author Mi-ae Seo uses her screenwriting chops in The Only Child, a tautly plotted creepfest that already feels celluloid-ready. Making her English-language debut, Seo delves into the minds of those on opposite sides of the law. The incarcerated serial killer Yi Byeongdo, who previously eschewed all queries, has specifically requested an interview with criminal psychologist Seonkyeong. While the personal solicitation seems confoundingly random, Seonkyeong's curiosity as to why this enigmatic murderer seeks her attention is an opportunity she can't dismiss.

Meanwhile, at home, Seonkyeong faces another surprising entreaty. Her husband, Jaeseong, arrives with his 11-year-old daughter, Hayeong, in tow, nervously asking if the child might stay; she's become homeless after a fire killed her grandparents, with whom she's been living since the death of her mother, Jaeseong's first wife. Seonkyeong immediately makes every effort to welcome the girl. Her psychologist mind instinctively goes on high alert at Hayeong's unpredictable behavior, which wavers from nonresponsive to violent outbursts, but Seonkyeong ignores her inner alarms and accepts Hayeong as a suffering victim--until she can't.

Seo makes her readers privy to more knowledge than any of her characters have, revealing abusive mothers, an Edenic apple orchard, the triggering qualities of the Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." Her criminal focus perhaps overshadows less essential details (What does the new puppy do all day locked up alone in Hayeong's room? How can a medical doctor seem to know so little about doctoring?) but any potential missteps seem negligible when appreciating the sly, hair-raising manipulations by book's end. Trust no one. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: In this chilling creepfest, a criminal psychologist confronts brutal deaths at work--and suddenly at home as well.

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 304p., 9780062905048

Main Street Publishing: Temple of Eternity by R Scott Boyer


One Day You'll Burn

by Joseph Schneider


Reminiscent of hardboiled noir in the past, One Day You'll Burn is simultaneously an homage to classic movies and an exciting mystery. Five years ago, Tully Jarsdel abandoned his Ph.D. path, much to the dismay of his fathers, who are both professors. He joined the Los Angeles police force, and is now a detective on a special fast-track promotion plan, to the chagrin of his new partner, Morales, a veteran detective. Jarsdel and Morales get called to the scene of a bizarre crime in Hollywood, where the victim was apparently slowly baked to death. The terrifying corpse, which looks almost like a grotesque movie prop, has been left at the base of a pagoda in Thailand Plaza.

Jarsdel and Morales are stymied at first, unable even to identify the victim, and horrified that one human could treat another so cruelly. Slowly, after taking a break to work on their other case (in which a series of dogs are poisoned on the wedding days of their owners), Jarsdel and Morales find the beginning of a bizarre trail of clues that seem to have connections to both classic Hollywood and the Thai mafia. Can nerdy Jarsdel and stolid Morales find a way to work together to catch a vicious killer?

Joseph Schneider's juxtaposition of crime and academia is a curious one, and readers will find Jarsdel's complicated character intriguing. Fans of James Ellroy or Raymond Chandler will enjoy the vibe of One Day You'll Burn, the first in a projected series. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: This captivating hardboiled mystery, first in a projected series, pays homage to classic Hollywood noir.

Poisoned Pen Press, $15.99, paperback, 336p., 9781492684442

Biography & Memoir

Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

by Elizabeth Tallent


Elizabeth Tallent has savage dry spells. Until her PEN/Faulkner Award-nominated story collection Mendocino Fire appeared in 2015, 22 years had elapsed between books. But hear her out: she's hampered by perfectionism--by "the tyranny of my weird disease." (Readers may wonder: Is perfectionism any relation to writer's block, which is similarly hostile to productivity? Tallent doesn't say.) Although she has been in therapy to address her perfectionism, Tallent admits to an ambivalent relationship with it: while other afflictions can carry a stigma, "perfectionism's rep as ambition on steroids remains glossy: it can present not as delusion, but as an advantageous form of sanity."

Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism, Tallent's first autobiographical work, is a stroll through her life during which she pauses to examine episodes, most occurring in her childhood, that foreground the notion of perfection (the dream house her parents built) or its inverse (her fractured arm). When Tallent isn't quoting experts and others on the subject of perfection, she's devoting unremittingly gorgeous long sentences and multipage paragraphs to descriptions that most writers would reduce to a dozen-odd words. On the furnishings in her therapist's office she spends two and a half pages; on her marriage to this therapist she spends far fewer.

Tallent is welcome to direct her pointillism-precise observations at anything she chooses, and how lucky readers are that she has deemed the ones in Scratched worthy of publication. After all, "the truest perfectionist, the one I'm failing to be, would still be rewriting this sentence." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Masterful fiction writer Elizabeth Tallent's memoir examines the affliction that has stood in the way of a more prolific career.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 240p., 9780062410375

Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy

by Eilene Zimmerman


Eilene Zimmerman was fooled. Not foolish--family and friends of countless addicts don't see the signs, or accept their more inoffensive explanations. How could a wildly successful, professional father of two fall prey to addiction? In her intensely raw memoir, Smacked, Zimmerman proceeds through her denial step by painful step, leading up to the morning she finds her ex-husband dead on his bathroom floor. Even then, her eyes don't take in the bloody hole in Peter's arm or the drug detritus strewn about his bedroom. It takes reviewing the pathology report and police scene photos for his hidden reality to smack her in the face.

Following the devastating discovery of Peter's body, Zimmerman goes back in time to their meeting, courtship, marriage and eventual divorce. The early details, initially feeling superfluous, eventually make sense as part and parcel of the warnings of and particulars behind Peter's deterioration. Zimmerman deftly paints the portrait of a complicated and tortured man, essential to understanding addicts as fellow flawed humans.

Zimmerman keeps herself and her children afloat through their grief and guilt by trying to understand how they could have been so "blind." She talks to other survivors, clinicians and white-collar addicts, delves into addiction and occupation studies, and sheds important light on the toxicity of the law, technology and other high-pressure careers. Professionals finding it increasingly easier to kill themselves (via drugs and/or suicide) rather than quit their jobs is a current societal trend Zimmerman lived through, investigated and shares bravely. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: After finding her ex-husband's body, Eilene Zimmerman delves into his life as an addict, the signs she let pass and the toxicity of high-pressure careers.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 272p., 9780525511007

Becoming a Man: The Story of a Transition

by P. Carl


In the acknowledgements of Becoming a Man, P. Carl notes that by publishing his story, his publishers are not "just publishing a memoir, but affirming the reality of trans lives as a vital part of the American landscape." Carl is right in more ways than one: the book itself is also more than just a memoir, as Carl uses his own personal experience of transition to examine closely the gendered social, cultural and political context of 21st-century America.

Carl calls his story "a layperson's anthropological exploration of living a double life," a theme that resonates as Becoming a Man unfolds. He recalls what it was like to live for more than 50 years as a girl and woman who was dismissed and intimidated on the basis of gender, then reflects on his own ability to dismiss and intimidate as a man. He writes candidly about his relationship with his wife, first as one half of a lesbian couple, then as one half of a couple that seems, from the outside looking in, to be straight. He dissects his role in his family, watching westerns with his father as a child and later, as their aging son, caring for his dying parents. Throughout the pages of Becoming a Man, Carl grapples with his personal "contradictions and questions." His raw candor elevates Becoming a Man to more than "just" a memoir, to use Carl's own words: it is a story that is both deeply personal and yet reveals universal truths--and asks big, difficult questions--about how all people experience gender. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm 

Discover: A frank and heartfelt memoir about one man's transition offers insights into how people experience and understand gender.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 240p., 9781982105099

History

Chanel's Riviera: Glamour, Decadence and Survival in Peace and War

by Anne de Courcy


Social historian Anne de Courcy (The Fishing Fleet) adeptly considers the glittering period between the two world wars, when the French Riviera was a society and cultural center of the Western world. W. Somerset Maugham wrote there, Picasso painted there, King Edward VIII stayed there long before he became the Duke of Windsor, and the most famous designer in the world, Coco Chanel, forever changed the way women looked when she allowed her skin to become tan there. It seemed nothing could change the Riviera: not the Depression of 1929, not when France instituted a national vacation that brought hordes of working-class tent campers to the beaches for two weeks every year, not even when Jewish refugees like Thomas Mann and Vladimir Nabokov arrived in flight from Hitler's Germany. The Maginot Line would protect them, Riviera inhabitants claimed, right up until Germany invaded France. Within six weeks, France surrendered and no place in the nation remained unchanged.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor left for the safety of Spain, carrying their household in a convoy of four cars and a truck. Those who remained on the Riviera ended up trading their clothes for food. Malnutrition became so prevalent that one doctor called it "La maladie à la mode."

De Courcy deploys gleaming, well-chosen details to make Chanel's Riviera as vivid and entertaining as a novel. Her careful research, coupled with her polished narrative style, illuminates an era of opulence and starvation, of heroes and collaborators, in a world that soared high and swiftly plummeted. --Janet Brown, author and former bookseller

Discover: This lush history considers the interwar French Riviera and its decline after the invasion by Nazi Germany.

St. Martin's Press, $28.99, hardcover, 304p., 9781250177070

Essays & Criticism

From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys, and Imaginings from a Native Xicanx Writer

by Luis J. Rodriguez


As an essayist, the poet and activist Luis J. Rodriguez (Always Running; It Calls You Back) holds to the poet's prerogative to outsize dreams--he imagines a world free "of banks, corporations, high-end developers, wars, and poverty" and more--while emphasizing local, practical steps that might nudge the world toward that ideal. Proudly radical, Rodriguez draws on a lifetime's study of race, culture and identity in From Our Land to Our Land's dozen essays, reporting frankly about life as it is (one moving piece concerns the one-time Los Angeles Poet Laureate's work teaching creative writing in prisons) but also demanding boldness in imagining life as it could be.

Rodriguez's essays, like his poetry and fiction, emphasize the experiences of Indigenous and Xicanx peoples in a United States that too often is, at best, indifferent to them. "Prickly Pear Cactus," an autobiographical survey of Los Angeles, Rodriguez's home, celebrates the barrio and la biblioteca--especially L.A.'s Central Library branch, where a young Rodriguez read Bradbury and Bukowski as he tried to find a way out of gang life. The searing yet hopeful "The End of Belonging" recounts injustices visited upon Latinx peoples in the United States while also focusing on them as vital to the nation's past and future--and beseeching readers to honor bonds that transcend mere nationality. Rodriguez spends a few too many pages recounting the achievements of his storied career, but overall From Our Land to Our Land, a work of revolutionary empathy, stands among them. --Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In these bold essays, a radical poet dreams of revolutionary equality.

Seven Stories, $18.95, paperback, 224p., 9781609809720

Children's & Young Adult

The Inside Battle

by Melanie Sumrow


In her thought-provoking sophomore novel for young adults, following The Prophet Calls, Melanie Sumrow takes on a familiar theme--a child trying to balance the desire to respect authority with standing up for what's right--in an unusual setting (in the case of The Inside Battle, from within a white supremacist, anti-government militia camp).

Thirteen-year-old Rebel Mercer wants two things: to make it to regionals in the school robotics competition and to win his father's approval. Unfortunately, the two goals seem to be mutually exclusive. His dad is a Marine, "an actual American hero" who survived five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan before being sent home with PTSD. Unable to settle into a productive life back in Amarillo, Tex., he has instead been listening to talk radio about the "evils of immigrants" and chatting online with a militia group called the Flag Bearers. He believes he's being cheated out of jobs by non-white people. In a moment of rage after Rebel's best (but secret) friend Ajeet beats him in the robotics competition, Rebel wonders if his father has a point. Rebel makes an impulsive, ruinous choice and in almost no time is driving into the mountains with his father, in search of the Flag Bearers compound.

Sumrow takes on an incredibly fraught subject with care and restraint, remaining firmly within Rebel's point of view as a young teen who desperately longs for his macho father's approval even as he wages an internal battle against his racist indoctrination. His transformation from a boy who believes he has no authority over his own life to a young man who ultimately rebels against flagrant immorality is both believable and inspiring. Entering Rebel's world will likely be an eye-opening, disturbing but rewarding experience for young readers. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In The Inside Battle, a 13-year-old trying to please his idolized father inadvertently joins a white supremacist militia.

Yellow Jacket/little bee, $16.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 12-up, 9781499809176

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh

by Candace Fleming


Candace Fleming, author of the much lauded and awarded The Family Romanov, delivers another thoroughly researched investigation into a historical figure in The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh.

It took Charles Lindbergh 33 and a half hours to fly from New York to Paris. His 1927 trip across the Atlantic--flown entirely on his own--was seen as a "victory for the entire human race," a "moral victory" and a symbol of the "heroic adventure of Christian life." Lindbergh was hurled into celebrity, changed in the span of 33 hours from a modest young man to the "second coming." So intense was his celebrity that the 1932 kidnapping of his first-born child is known to this day as the "crime of the century." How and why, then, did the New York Times describe him in 1941 as "Hitler's puppet-agent in America," while people removed his books from shelves and his name from streets?

Fleming lays out the surprising, confusing and at times extremely upsetting life of Lindbergh in this exhaustively researched and extremely detailed biography. With back matter that includes a bibliography, source notes and index, Fleming makes the extent of her research clear for young readers, dividing the bibliography up first by primary and secondary sources, and second by type of source: books, speeches, magazine articles, etc. Not only does this show her work, it also acts as a brief and excellent education in nonfiction writing for students interested in learning about journalism. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This comprehensive account of Charles Lindbergh's life is an absorbing biography written by a nonfiction master.

Schwartz & Wade, $18.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 12-up, 9780525646549

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