Staff Book Picks: January 2021

"The Color of my mind...combines the words and photographs from 34 people of color discussing their strengths, struggles and lessons learned. As Kachi says in the book: "more representation of people who look like me who also deal with mental illness is important'"--Publisher's website.

In 2016, Mariam Khan read that David Cameron had linked the radicalization of Muslim men to the `traditional submissiveness' of Muslim women. Mariam felt pretty sure she didn't know a single Muslim woman who would describe herself that way. Why was she hearing about Muslim women from people who were neither Muslim, nor female? Years later the state of the national discourse has deteriorated even further, and Muslim women's voices are still pushed to the fringes - the figures leading the discussion are white and male. Taking one of the most politicized and misused words associated with Muslim women and Islamophobia, It's Not About the Burqa is poised to change all that. Here are voices you won't see represented in the national news headlines: seventeen Muslim women speaking frankly about the hijab and wavering faith, about love and divorce, about feminism, queer identity, sex, and the twin threats of a disapproving community and a racist country. With a mix of British and international women writers, from activist Mona Eltahawy's definition of a revolution to journalist and broadcaster Saima Mir telling the story of her experience of arranged marriage, from author Sufiya Ahmed on her Islamic feminist icon to playwright Afshan D'souza-Lodhi's moving piece about her relationship with her hijab, these essays are funny, warm, sometimes sad, and often angry, and each of them is a passionate declaration calling time on the oppression, the lazy stereotyping, the misogyny and the Islamophobia. What does it mean, exactly, to be a Muslim woman in the West today? According to the media, it's all about the burqa. Here's what it's really about.

Almallah, Ahmad Y., author.
Clifton, Lucille, 1936-2010, author.

"A series of poems drawn from various collections published throughout the 40-year career of American poet Lucille Clifton"-- Provided by publisher.

Danticat, Edwidge, 1969- author.

From the best-selling author of Claire of the Sea Light and Brother, I'm Dying, a long-awaited return to fiction: a gorgeous collection of stories about community, family and love; about the forces that pull us together or drive us apart--a book rich with vividly imagined characters, hard-won wisdom, and humanity. In these eight stories by widely acclaimed, prizewinning author Danticat--some of which have appeared in The New Yorker--a romance unexpectedly sparks between two wounded friends; a marriage ends for what seems like noble reasons, but leads to irreparable consequences; a young woman holds on to an impossible dream, even as she fights for her life, two lovers reunite after the biggest tragedy in their country and in their lives. Vividly set in places from Miami to Port-au-Prince to a small unnamed country in the Caribbean and beyond, these beautiful and moving stories showcase one of the world's most renowned voices at her absolute best.

Feiler, Bruce, 1964- author.

"Bruce Feiler has long been thinking and writing about the stories that give our lives meaning. Several years ago he began to notice a new pattern: the old stories about the major plot points of our lives were no longer holding true. Increasingly, he observed, the stories we all inherit to explain how our lives should unfold were clashing with reality and creating more anxiety than guidance. People felt they were living their lives out of the expected order and were beset by transitions at a faster and faster pace. Galvanized by a family crisis that spoke quite poignantly to this loss of meaning, Feiler set out on what became an epic journey to harvest American life stories and see what he could learn from them. What began organically, radiating out from family and friends, became more ambitious and rigorous, until he gathered 225 extended life stories from all 50 states in what he called The Life Story Project. As Bruce sifted through and coded the themes of his interviews, powerful and pressing patterns emerged. We are living our lives out of order--the midlife crisis, for one, thing, is a big myth. We do think of our lives as having a shape. The old linear model of life has been replaced by what he calls the nonlinear life. This nonlinear life involves being bombarded more life transitions. Feiler draws on an extraordinary well of insight from his interviewees and offers powerful new tools for navigating the growing number of life transitions we all face. His is a book that can move readers of any age and any life moment to think deeply about how their story serves them and how it can serve them better."-- Provided by publisher.

Flowers, Ebony, author, illustrator.

"Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into Black women's lives and coming of age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon while ladies gossip and bond over the burn. The titular story "Hot Comb" is about a young girl's first perm--a doomed ploy to look cool and to stop seeming "too white" in the all-black neighborhood her family has just moved to. In "Virgin Hair" taunts of "tender-headed" sting as much as the perm itself. It's a scenario that repeats fifteen years later as an adult when, tired of the maintenance, Flowers shaves her head only to be hurled new put-downs. Realizations about race, class, and the imperfections of identity swirl through Flowers' stories and ads, which are by turns sweet, insightful, and heartbreaking."-- Provided by publisher.

Fowler, Therese, author.

"A gripping contemporary novel that examines the American dream through the lens of two families living side by side in an idyllic neighborhood, and the one summer that changes their lives irrevocably"-- Provided by publisher.

Jackson, Tiffany D., author.

"When legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being a famous singer take flight. Until Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Who killed Korey Fields? Before there was a dead body, Enchanted's dreams had turned into a nightmare. Because behind Korey's charm and star power was a controlling dark side. Now he's dead, the police are at the door, and all signs point to Enchanted"-- Provided by publisher.

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.

Kantor, Jodi, 1975- author.

From the Pulitzer-prize winning reporters who broke the news of Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment and abuse comes the thrilling untold story of their investigation and its consequences for the #MeToo movement.

Lanchester, John, author.

"The best-selling author of The Debt to Pleasure and Capital returns with a chilling fable for our time. Ravaged by the Change, an island nation in a time very like our own has built the Wall--an enormous concrete barrier around its entire border. Joseph Kavanagh, a new Defender, has one task: to protect his section of the Wall from the Others, the desperate souls who are trapped amid the rising seas outside and attack constantly. Failure will result in death or a fate perhaps worse: being put to sea and made an Other himself. Beset by cold, loneliness, and fear, Kavanagh tries to fulfill his duties to his demanding Captain and Sergeant, even as he grows closer to his fellow Defenders. And then the Others attack.... Acclaimed British novelist John Lanchester, "a writer of rare intelligence" (Los Angeles Times), delivers a taut dystopian novel that blends the most compelling issues of our time--rising waters, rising fear, rising political division--into a suspenseful story of love, trust, and survival"-- Provided by publisher.

Makholwa, Angela, author.

"Blessed adj. [pronounced bles-id] The state of being blessed, often referring to a person, usually female, who lives a luxurious lifestyle funded by an older, often married partner, in return for sexual favours ... Young, beautiful and ambitious, Bontle Tau has Johannesburg wrapped around her finger. Her generous admirers are falling over themselves to pay for her Mercedes, her penthouse, and her Instagrammable holidays. It's her duty to look fabulous - after all, people didn't sacrifice their lives in the freedom struggle for black women to wear the same cheap T-shirts they wore during apartheid. Bontle's come a long way, and it hasn't been easy. Her shrink keeps wanted to talk about a past she's put firmly behind her. And what she doesn't think about can't hurt her, can it?"--Provided by publisher.

Makkai, Rebecca, author.

"A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, by the acclaimed and award-winning author Rebecca Makkai In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico's funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico's little sister. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster"-- Provided by publisher.

McCorkle, Jill, 1958- author.

"Lil and Frank married young, having bonded over how they both lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they'd lost prematurely. Now, after many years in Boston, they have retired in North Carolina. There, Lil, determined to leave a history for their children, sifts through letters and notes and diary entries-perhaps revealing more secrets than Frank wants their children to know. Meanwhile, Frank has become obsessed with what might have been left behind at the house he lived in as a boy on the outskirts of town, where a young single mother, Shelley, is just trying to raise her son with some sense of normalcy. Frank's repeated visits to Shelley's house begin to trigger memories of her own family, memories that she'd rather forget. Because, after all, not all parents are ones you wish to .p remember"-- Provided by publisher.

Morrow, Bethany C., author.

"Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete. The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source -- zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept. And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. An ageless beauty shrouded in mystery, she is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault. What happens next is a gorgeously rendered, heart-breaking novel in the vein of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Debut novelist Bethany Morrow has created an allegory for our own time, exploring profound questions of ownership, and how they relate to identity, memory and history, all in the shadows of Montreal's now forgotten slave trade."...Amazon.com.

Mosley, Walter, author.

"Bestselling author Walter Mosley has proven himself a master of narrative tension, both with his extraordinary fiction and gripping writing for television. The Awkward Black Man collects seventeen of Mosley's most accomplished short stories to display the full range of his remarkable talent. Mosley presents distinct characters as they struggle to move through the world in each of these stories-heroes who are awkward, nerdy, self-defeating, self-involved, and, on the whole, odd. He overturns the stereotypes that corral black male characters and paints a subtle, powerful portrait of each of these unique individuals. In "The Good News Is," a man's insecurity about his weight gives way to a serious illness and the intense loneliness that accompanies it. Deeply vulnerable, he allows himself to be taken advantage of in return for a little human comfort in a raw display of true need. "Pet Fly" follows a man working as a mailroom clerk for a big company-and the unforeseen repercussions he endures when he attempts to forge a connection beyond the one he has with the fly buzzing around his apartment. And "Almost Alyce" chronicles failed loves, family loss, alcoholism, and a Zen approach to the art of begging that proves surprisingly effective. Touching and contemplative, each of these unexpected stories offers the best of one of our most gifted writers"-- Provided by publisher.

Okorafor, Nnedi, author.

In southeastern Nigeria, twelve-year-old Mnamdi is determined to avenge his police chief father, who was murdered while triyng to rid the town of criminals, but Nnamdi feels powerless until he receives a magical object which gives him superpowers.

Phillips, Delores, 1950- author.

"A new edition of this award-winning modern classic, with new introduction, excerpt, and discussion guide Pakersfield, Georgia, 1958: Thirteen-year-old Tangy Mae Quinn is the sixth of ten fatherless siblings. She is the darkest-skinned among them and therefore the ugliest in her mother, Rozelle's, estimation, but she's also the brightest. Rozelle--beautiful, charismatic, and light-skinned--exercises a violent hold over her children. Fearing abandonment, she pulls them from school at the age of twelve and sends them to earn their keep for the household, whether in domestic service, in the fields, or at "the farmhouse" on the edge of town, where Rozelle beds local men for money. But Tangy Mae has been selected to be part of the first integrated class at a nearby white high school. She has a chance to change her life, but can she break from Rozelle's grasp without ruinous--even fatal--consequences?"-- Provided by publisher.

Sager, Riley, author.

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Taken in by the splendor of her surroundings Jules accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind. She is drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems, that the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her-- and the next day she disappears. Can Jules discover the truth-- and escape before her temporary status becomes permanent? -- adapted from jacket

Sanchez, Sonia, 1934-

A collection of poems by award-winning poet Sonia Sanchez, drawn from throughout more than thirty years of her work.

Swift, Graham, 1949- author.

"It's the summer of 1959, and something magical can be witnessed at the end of the pier in beach town Brighton, England. Jack Robbins, Ronnie Deane, and Evie White are performing in a seaside variety show, starring as Jack Robinson the compere comedian, and The Great Pablo and Eve: a magic act. By the end of the summer, Evie's glinting engagement ring will be flung to the bottom of the ocean and one of the trifecta will vanish forever. All three friends begin their path toward the end of Brighton's pier early in life. Evie and Jack's mothers always trumpeting the support that is trademark of stage mothers, while Ronnie's mother sends her son out in the child evacuations to Penny and Eric Lawrence for safety from the London blitz. It's within the safety and love of Evergrene, the Lawrences' estate, that magic creeps into Ronnie's life for the first time and starts the intricate intertwining of fate, chance, and show business. Magic and reality share the stage in this masterly and devastating story that pulls back the curtain on the power of love, family, and the touchstones of our memories"-- Provided by publisher.

Tseng, Jennifer, author.

Books may be Mayumi Saito's greatest love and her one source of true pleasure. Forty-one years old, disenchanted wife, and dutiful mother, Mayumi's work as a librarian on a small island off the coast of New England feeds her passion for reading and provides her with many occasions for wry observations on human nature, but it does little to remedy the mundanity of her days. That is, until the day she issues a library card to a shy seventeen-year-old boy and swiftly succumbs to a sexual obsession that subverts the way she sees the library, her family, the island she lives on, and ultimately herself.