Staff Book Picks: August 2020

Allison, Dorothy. 1949-

Bone, an illegitimate child in a family of social outcasts, sees her mother's happiness with her new husband and will not tell when the stepfather begins abusing her in the 1950s.

Bertino, Marie-Helene, author.

"A darkly funny and warm-hearted novel about a young woman whose dead grandmother (in the form of a parakeet) warns her not to marry and sends her out to find an estranged loved one"-- Provided by publisher.

Blow, Charles M., 1970- author.

"New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow mines the compelling poetry of the out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where he grew up--a place where slavery's legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders' stories and in the near-constant wash of violence"--Amazon.com.

Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho, Dalai Lama XIV, 1935- author.
Burns, Anna, 1962- author.

"In the small town of Tiptoe Floorboard, the Doe clan, a close-knit family of criminals and victims, has the run of the place. Yet there are signs that patriarch John Doe's reign may be coming to an end. When Jetty Doe breaks into a gun store and makes off with a Kalashnikov, the stage is set for a violent confrontation. But while Jetty is making her way across town in a taxi, an elusive, chatty narrator takes us on a wild journey, zooming in and out on various members of the Doe clan with long, digressive riffs that chase down the causes and repercussions of Jetty's act"--Publisher marketing.

Cannell, Michael T., author.

Documents the nearly two-decade manhunt for a serial bomber in mid-twentieth-century New York, citing the contributions of police captain Howard Finney and psychiatrist James Brussel in developing investigative techniques that would shape new approaches in American law enforcement.

Checkoway, Julie, author.

The inspirational story of a group of impoverished children who were transformed into champion swimmers. In 1937 an ordinary grammar school teacher on the island of Maui took a group of underprivileged children mostly of Japanese ancestry and, in three short years, transformed them into Olympic champions.

Chisholm, Shirley, 1924-2005, author.

Unbought and Unbossed is Shirley Chisholm's account of her remarkable rise from young girl in Brooklyn to America's first African-American Congresswoman. She shares how she took on an entrenched system, gave a public voice to millions, and sets the stage for her trailblazing bid to be the first woman and first African-American President of the United States. By daring to be herself, Shirley Chisholm shows us how she forever changed the status quo. This expanded edition, edited by Scott Simpson, digs deeper with analysis by experts like Donna Brazile and Shola Lynch exploring Shirley Chisholm's impact on today and tomorrow's world.--From publisher's description.

Crenn, Dominique, author.

"The inspiring and deeply personal memoir from highly acclaimed chef Dominique Crenn. When Dominique Crenn was awarded three Michelin Stars in 2018 for her influential San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn, she became the first female chef in the United States to receive this highly coveted honor. As the first female chef in the United States to receive any stars from the prestigious Michelin restaurant guide, she had previously made waves as the first female executive chef in Indonesia. These were no small feats for someone who hadn't gone to culinary school or been formally trained in French kitchens. In Rebel Chef, Crenn reflects on her untraditional coming-of-age as a chef, beginning with her happy childhood in Versailles where, as the adopted daughter of a politician, she was emboldened to be curious and independent, and to find her own voice. She was exposed to fine dining from a young age, and a family friend, a restaurant critic, encouraged her to see the story behind the food. But at twenty-one, after deciding to become a chef, Crenn found it to be a near impossible dream in France, where men dominated the kitchens. Never one to be told no, she moved to San Francisco to work under the legendary Jeremiah Tower. It was there that her training began. But there is another reason Crenn has always felt free to pursue her own unconventional course. Adopted as a toddler, she didn't resemble her parents, or even look traditionally French. Growing up she often felt like an outsider, and was haunted by a past she knew nothing about. But after years of working to fill this blank space, Crenn recognized this duality as a source of strength, one which gives her the power to be whoever she wants to be. Filled with stories from the years Crenn spent working in the male-centric world of professional kitchens, tracking her career from struggling cook to being named the World's Best Female Chef, starring on Netflix's Chef's Table, and running one of the world's most acclaimed restaurants - while at the same time speaking out on restaurant culture, sexism, immigration, and climate change - Rebel Chef is a disarmingly honest and revealing look at one woman's evolution from a daring young chef to a respected activist. At once a tale of personal discovery and a tribute to unrelenting determination, Rebel Chef is the story of one woman making a place for herself in the kitchen, and in the world"-- Provided by publisher.

Danticat, Edwidge, 1969-

At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from the impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York to be reunited with her mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know and where she gains a legacy of shame that can only be healed when she returns to Haiti, to the woman who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.

Dawson, Kate Winkler, author.

"From the acclaimed author of Death in the Air ("Not since Devil in the White City has a book told such a harrowing tale"--Douglas Preston) comes the riveting story of the birth of criminal investigation in the twentieth century"-- Provided by publisher.

Dinesen, Isak, 1885-1962.
Dyson, Michael Eric, author.

Fifty years ago Malcolm X told a white woman who asked what she could do for the cause, 'Nothing.' Michael Eric Dyson believes he was wrong. Now he responds to that question. If society is to make real racial progress, people must face difficult truths, including being honest about how Black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.

El-Mohtar, Amal, author.

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future. Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them.

Elwes, Cary, 1962-

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

Fahmy, Huda, author, illustrator.

"Chaperones, suitors, and arranged marriages aren't only reserved for the heroines of a Jane Austen novel. They're just another walk in the park for this leading lady, who is on a mission to find her leading lad. From the brilliant comics Yes, I'm Hot in This, Huda Fahmy tells the hilarious story of how she met and married her husband. Navigating mismatched suitors, gossiping aunties, and societal expectations for Muslim women, That Can Be Arranged deftly and hilariously reveals to readers what it can be like to find a husband as an observant Muslim woman in the twenty-first century. So relevant in today's evolving cultural climate, Fahmy's story offers a perceptive and personal glimpse into the sometimes sticky but ultimately rewarding balance of independent choice and tradition."--Provided by publisher.

Ferrante, Elena, author.
Fitzpatrick, Lydia, 1982- author.

Fifteen-year-old Ilya arrives in Louisiana from his native Russia for what should be the adventure of his life: a year in America as an exchange student. The abundance of his new world--the Super Walmarts and heated pools and enormous televisions--is as hard to fathom as the relentless cheerfulness of his host parents. And Sadie, their beautiful and enigmatic daughter, has miraculously taken an interest in him. But all is not right in Ilya's world: he's consumed by the fate of his older brother Vladimir, the magnetic rebel to Ilya's dutiful wunderkind, back in their tiny Russian hometown. The two have always been close, spending their days dreaming of escaping to America. But when Ilya was tapped for the exchange, Vladimir disappeared into their town's seedy, drug-plagued underworld. Just before Ilya left, the murders of three young women rocked the town's usual calm, and Vladimir found himself in prison. With the help of Sadie, who has secrets of her own, Ilya embarks on a mission to prove Vladimir's innocence. Piecing together the timeline of the murders and Vladimir's descent into addiction, Ilya discovers the radical lengths to which Vladimir has gone to protect him--a truth he could only have learned by leaving him behind. A rich tale of belonging and the pull of homes both native and adopted, Lights All Night Long is a spellbinding story of the fierce bond between brothers determined to find a way back to each other.

Frazier, Jean Kyoung, author.

"Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She's grieving the death of her father, ... avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future. Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled covered pizzas for her son's happiness"-- Provided by publisher.

Graham, Paul, 1976-
Greenwood, Bryn, author.

"At almost six-foot, with a redhead's temper and a shattered hip, Zee has a long list of worries: never-ending bills, her beautiful, gullible sister, her five-year-old nephew, her housebound mother, and her drug-dealing boss. Zee may not be a princess, but Gentry is an actual knight, complete with sword, armor, and a code of honor. Two years ago the voices he hears called him to be Zee's champion. He's barely spoken to her since, but he has kept watch, ready to come to her aid. When an abduction tears Zee's family apart, she turns to the last person she ever imagined--Gentry--and sets in motion a chain of events that will not only change both of their lives, but bind them to one another forever"-- Provided by publisher.

Ḥāfiẓ, active 14th century, author.
Heumann, Judith E., author.

One of the most influential disability rights activists in US history tells her personal story of fighting for the right to receive an education, have a job, and just be human. A story of fighting to belong in a world that wasn't built for all of us and of one woman's activism--from the streets of Brooklyn and San Francisco to inside the halls of Washington--Being Heumann recounts Judy Heumann's lifelong battle to achieve respect, acceptance, and inclusion in society.

Holmes, Linda (Radio talk show host), author.

"In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth "Evvie" Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn't correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy's childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the "yips": he can't throw straight anymore, and he can't figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie's house, the two make a deal: Dean won't ask about Evvie's late husband, and Evvie won't ask about Dean's baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken--and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they'll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they've broken, the plans they've changed, and the secrets they've kept. They'll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there's always a chance--right up until the last out"-- Provided by publisher.

Irby, Samantha, author.

With heartfelt candor and her usual side-splitting bite, humorist, essayist, and blogger at bitchesgottaeat.com Samantha Irby captures powerful emotional truths while chronicling the disaster that has been her life. An ill-fated pilgrimage and romantic vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father's ashes, awkward sexual encounters, a Bachelorette application gone awry, and more-- sometimes you just have to laugh, even when your life is a dumpster fire.

Jacob, Mira, 1973- author.

"Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob's half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she's gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love. Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation--and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions" -- publisher's description.

Jones, Saeed, author.

Haunted and haunting, Jones's memoir tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence--into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another--and to one another--as we fight to become ourselves.

Kamali, Marjan, author.

1953, Tehran. Amidst the political upheaval of the time, Roya finds an oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri's book and stationery shop. When he introduces Roya to his other favorite customer-- handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi's poetry-- she loses her heart at once. On the eve of their marriage, violence erupts. In the chaos of the coup d'etat, Bahman never shows, and Roya moves on to a life in the U.S. More than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did he leave? Where did he go? How was he able to forget her? -- adapted from jacket

Larsen, Nella.
Locke, Attica, author.

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules--a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders--a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman--have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes--and save himself in the process--before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

Lythcott-Haims, Julie, author.

"Bringing a poetic sensibility to her prose to stunning effect, Lythcott-Haims briskly and stirringly evokes her personal battle with the low self-esteem that American racism routinely inflicts on people of color. The only child of a marriage between an African American father and a white British mother, she shows indelibly how so-called microaggressions, in addition to blunt-force insults, can puncture a person's inner life with a thousand sharp cuts. Real American expresses also, through Lythcott-Haims's path to self-acceptance, the healing power of community in overcoming the hurtful isolation of being incessantly considered "the other." -- From Book jacket.

McGuire, Seanan.
Neubauer, Erica Ruth, author.
O'Dell, Claire, author.

Set in a near future Washington, DC, this novel offers a feminist twist on Sherlock Holmes, in which Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes unmask a murderer.

Okorafor, Nnedi, author.

"Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family's concerns, Binti's talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey. But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti's spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination. There is more to the history of the Medusae, and their war with the Khoush, than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace. Collected now for the first time in omnibus form." -- Publisher's description.

Oliver, Mary, 1935-2019

"Beloved by her readers, special to the poet's own heart, Mary Oliver's dog poems offer a special window into her world. Dog Songs collects some of the most cherished poems together with new works, offering a portrait of Oliver's relationship to the companions that have accompanied her daily walks, warmed her home, and inspired her work. To be illustrated with images of the dogs themselves, the subjects will come to colorful life here. These are poems of love and laughter, heartbreak and grief. In these pages we visit with old friends, including Oliver's well-loved Percy, and meet still others. Throughout, the many dogs of Oliver's life emerge as fellow travelers, but also as guides, spirits capable of opening our eyes to the lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection. Dog Songs is a testament to the power and depth of the human-animal exchange, from an observer of extraordinary vision"-- Provided by publisher.

Onwuachi, Kwame, author.

As a boy Onwuachi was sent from the Bronx to rural Nigeria by his mother to 'learn respect.' Through food, he broke out of a dangerous downward spiral and embarked on a new beginning at the bottom of the culinary food chain before going on to train in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country and appearing as a contestant on Top Chef. His love of food and cooking was a constant, even when the road to success was riddled with potholes. Here he shares the pursuit of his passions, despite the odds. Each chapter includes one recipe.

Patchett, Ann, author.

"The acclaimed, bestselling author--winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize--tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families' lives. One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly--thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them. When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another. Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together"-- Provided by publisher.

Rindell, Suzanne.
Russell, Mary Doria, 1950- author.

"In July 1913, twenty-five-year-old Annie Clements had seen enough of the world to know that it was unfair. She's spent her whole life in the coal-mining town of Calumet, Michigan where men risk their lives for meager salaries--and had barely enough to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. The women labor in the houses of the elite, and send their husbands and sons deep underground each day, dreading the fateful call of the company man telling them their loved ones aren't coming home. When Annie decides to stand up for herself, and the entire town of Calumet, nearly everyone believes she may have taken on more than she is prepared to handle"-- Provided by publisher.

Sarsour, Linda, 1980- author.

"Women's March co-organizer Linda Sarsour shares how growing up Palestinian Muslim American, feminist, and empowered moved her to become a globally recognized and celebrated activist on behalf of marginalized communities across the country"-- Provided by publisher.

Schiff, Stacy.

"Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnet, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and -- after his murder -- three more with his protégé. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of her age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imagination ever since. ... Along the way, Cleopatra's supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a ... return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff ... separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order."-- From book jacket.

Scott, Rion Amilcar, author.

"Deftly spinning genres of his feverish literary invention, Rion Amilcar Scott creates his very own Yoknapatawpha County with fictional Cross River, Maryland. Established by the leaders of America's only successful slave revolt, the town still evokes the fierce rhythms of its founding. Among its residents are David Sherman, a struggling musician who just happens to be God's last son; Tyrone, a ruthless PhD candidate, whose dissertation about a childhood game ignites mayhem in the neighboring, once-segregated town of Port Yooga; and Jim, an all-too-obedient robot who serves his Master. Culminating with an explosive novella, these haunting stories of the denizens of Cross River serve to explore larger themes of religion, violence, and love--all told with sly humor and a dash of magical realism."-- Provided by publisher.

Shaara, Jeff, 1952- author.

"In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt watches uneasily as the world heads rapidly down a dangerous path. The Japanese have waged an aggressive campaign against China, and they now begin to expand their ambitions to other parts of Asia. As their expansion efforts grow bolder, their enemies know that Japan's ultimate goal is total conquest over the region, especially when the Japanese align themselves with Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, who wage their own war of conquest across Europe. Told through the eyes of widely diverse characters, this story looks at all sides of the drama and puts the reader squarely in the middle"-- Provided by publisher.

Sullivan, J. Courtney, author.

"A ... novel about two sisters--one the matriarch of a boisterous Irish Catholic family, the other a cloistered nun, hidden from the world--and the secret that drove them apart"-- Provided by publisher.

Thompson-Hernández, Walter, author.

The "story of The Compton Cowboys, a group of African-American men and women who defy stereotypes and continue the proud, centuries-old tradition of black cowboys in the heart of one of America's most notorious cities, ... [a story] about trauma and transformation, race and identity, compassion, and ultimately, belonging"--Publisher marketing.

Valerio, Mirna, author.

Mirna Valerio has tied on her running shoes all across the country, from the dusty back roads of central New Jersey, to the busy Route 222 corridor in Pennsylvania, to the sweltering deserts of Arizona. When someone meets her on the trail, they might be surprised to see she doesn't quite fit the typical image of a long-distance runner. She's neither skinny nor white, and she's here to show just how misguided these stereotypes can be. In this prejudice-busting, body-positive memoir told with raw honesty, an adventurous spirit, and a sharp sense of humor, Valerio takes listeners along on her journey from first-time racer to ultramarathoner and proves that anyone can become a successful athlete.

Veselka, Vanessa.
Wright, Snowden, 1981- author.

"Moving from Mississippi to Paris to New York and back again, an epic saga of family, ambition, passion, and tragedy that brings to life one unforgettable Southern dynasty - the Forsters, founders of the world's first major soft-drink company - against the backdrop of more than a century of American cultural history"-- Provided by publisher.