Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

From My Shelf

Marilyn Monroe: A Mood, a Mystery, a Mirror

Carole Boston Weatherford

I was so young when Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 that she was almost like a mirage to me. Marilyn was not just a movie star but a mood, a mystery and a mirror to mid-century America. Though typecast as a blonde bombshell, Marilyn was so much more: a producer, poet, painter, gardener, avid reader and the brains behind her brand. 

I wrote Beauty Mark [Candlewick, $19.99; reviewed below] because I saw so many young adults rocking Marilyn's image. I also saw parallels between her struggles and those of Billie Holiday, my muse and the subject of my first young adult verse novel, Becoming Billie Holiday. Besides being icons best known by their stage names, Billie (born Eleanora) and Marilyn (born Norma Jeane) were both victims of parental neglect and child sexual abuse, and both battled depression and addiction as adults.

By using intimate, first-person poems that read like a one-woman show, Beauty Mark works to channel Marilyn's voice, one that was often ignored. Through a troubled childhood, several marriages, miscarriages and mental illness to a Madison Square Garden dressing room a few months before she died, her story unfolds in a series of verse flashbacks.

When the novel opens, a nude Marilyn is being sewn into a gown to sing "Happy Birthday" to President John Kennedy. While she stands still for the styling, she recalls her unlikely journey--from foster child to exploited starlet to Hollywood legend. Beauty Mark assesses the adversity, anguish and acclaim that went into making the mercurial Marilyn Monroe--all in an era long before reporting sexual harassment was an option, or #MeToo was a hashtag. Beauty Mark conjures Marilyn's testament and Norma Jeane's truth to reveal a fragile femme fatale who never stopped searching for herself. --Carole Boston Weatherford

Weatherford is the author of more than 50 books; Moses and Gordon Parks both received NAACP Image Awards for an Outstanding Literary Work for Children and Becoming Billie Holiday received a Coretta Scott King author honor.

Book Candy

Old Films As Vintage Book Covers

"Good movies as old books: 100 films reimagined as vintage book covers." (via Open Culture)


Merriam-Webster looked up "9 animal names that are also verbs."


From Karl Ove Knausgård to Marguerite Duras, author Nina Bouraoui picks her "top 10 books of autofiction."


"Rare books stolen in London heist found under floor in Romania," the Guardian reported.


"The oldest cookbook in Korean was written by a genius noblewoman," Atlas Obscura noted.

Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit

by Mary-Frances Winters

In 1964, notable Black civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer said: "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." More than half a century later, Mary-Frances Winters provides an expansive, galvanizing exploration of this still-present state in Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit.

Winters (Inclusive Conversations; We Can't Talk About That at Work!; Only Wet Babies Like Change) has devoted her life to communicating about social justice. As a teenager in the late 1960s, she was editor of her school newspaper and wrote about contemporary civil rights leaders, women's rights and the Vietnam War--yet saw her pieces censored by teachers who saw them as "too controversial." In college, she again edited the school paper, but found herself contending with professors and students who assumed she was at the university not as a regular admission but one from the Equal Opportunity Program.

After facing continued racism and sexism in the workplace, Winters founded a consulting firm to provide companies training on diversity, equity and inclusion. Over the three-plus decades since, she noticed a common sentiment from Black workers: exhaustion and frustration, not just from experiencing racism, but from trying to communicate what they faced to white employees who were disbelieving. They were, she realized, experiencing Black Fatigue.

Winters explores these experiences of her own and others in Black Fatigue, defining the concept as "repeated variations of stress that results in extreme exhaustion and causes mental, physical and spiritual maladies that are passed down from generation to generation." She delves into its history and complexity, sharing research on ways it manifests variously in men, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and offering suggestions for combatting Black Fatigue and racism itself.

Winters sees compelling ties between current events and significant events in the past, drawing connections between the fates of Emmett Till and the more recent deaths of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor--noting the painful core at the heart of these stories: willful, blatant disregard for Black lives and the circumstances under which they continue to be cut short. In addition to examining outright violence, Winters looks at ways racism affects Black Americans' general health. She includes the historical mistreatment of Black people in the American health-care system, as well as data on the Covid-19 pandemic's disproportionate effects on Black Americans.

With clear examples and concise analysis, Winters emphasizes how much language matters. She recommends reframing: instead of saying "Black people are exhausted," say, "Racism is exhausting." Likewise, instead of "Black people can't get loans," try "Banks disproportionately deny Black people loans." And, critically, not "Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police," but "Police are 2.5 times more likely to kill Black men than white men." She also draws from the language of trauma-informed care, which "reframes the thinking of the caregiver from 'What is wrong with this person?' to 'What has happened to this person?' "

Throughout Black Fatigue, Winters uses the phrase "Then is now" to highlight a lack of progress and the cyclical nature of racism and its effects on Black Americans, culling from data on wealth disparity, unequal access to secure jobs and housing and other various roadblocks in avenues toward building equity. Drawing on even more current news--and echoing her own college experience--she also notes the perpetual discrimination current Black students face. "In 2018," Winters recalls, "a white student called the police to report that a Black female was sleeping in a common area of a dorm at Yale University. The white student was concerned that she did not belong there, and it made her uncomfortable." Yet again: Then is now.

Candid and conversational, Winters directly addresses her audience and their various motivations. She is explicit about her goals and hopes for her readers: "I ask white people to read this book not only to be educated on the history of racism but to also be motivated to become an anti-racist, an ally and a power broker for systemic change. For Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) who read this book, I hope that it will also be educational and affirming and when one of your white colleagues asks you to educate them, you can refer them to this resource, so as not to exacerbate your fatigue."

When the specter of racism seems to be everywhere, and when stories in the news make it feel insurmountable, her suggestions for action are both inspiring and practical. Fans of Robin DiAngelo, Ijeoma Oluo and Ibram X. Kendi will find much to appreciate in Winters's work--as will anyone wanting to better understand how racism permeates culture and ways people both wittingly and unwittingly perpetuate it. Readers will finish Black Fatigue invigorated, ready to evolve from "Then is now" to instead creating a better now--and Winters provides the tools for us to start... now. --Katie Weed

Berrett-Koehler, $15.95, paperback, 256p., 9781523091300

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

Mary Frances Winters: On Black Fatigue and a Lifetime of Social Justice Work

Mary-Frances Winters is founder and CEO of The Winters Group, Inc., a global diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm, which she has been running for nearly 40 years, and she has published extensively in the social justice field. Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit (Berrett-Koehler,  September 15, 2020) is an exploration of the personal and cultural effects of racism. Her previous works include Inclusive Conversations; We Can't Talk About That at Work!; Only Wet Babies Like Change; Inclusion Starts with "I"; and CEOs Who Get It. She has served on national not-for-profit, corporate and university boards, and has received awards and honors including the ATHENA Award, Diversity Pioneer from Profiles in Diversity Journal, The Winds of Change Award from the Forum on Workplace Inclusion and Forbes's 10 Diversity Trailblazers to Know.

How are you doing right now? You finished writing this book amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. What was that like? Did it motivate you? Make this work even more difficult? Both?

I am actually doing well. Thanks for asking. I trust you and your loved ones are healthy and well. While it is a difficult time in history, I think it holds a lot of hope for systemic change. I think both--it motivated me and made the work more difficult. As someone who has done this work for 36 years and came of age during the civil rights movement--as an activist and writer (editor of my high school newspaper and features editor of my college newspaper)--I am hopeful that the young activists of today can move the needle of racism so that it sticks. I think with social media and the corporate world being thrown into the social justice fray, we are at a turning point. It is a point where the world is paying attention to injustice in a way that we can no longer ignore it. I do worry, however, that when the next big news hits, the interest will wane. Also, I am already seeing pushback from corporate leaders who are concerned about the importance in their view of not making employees uncomfortable. 

You cite Fannie Lou Hamer's quote from 1964, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." Clearly, this feeling is not new. What led you to distill it into the phrase "Black Fatigue"?

In my consulting work, I kept hearing in focus groups and training sessions with Black employees: "We are exhausted, tired of the daily challenges of living while Black and being expected to try to teach unbelieving white people what it is like." From company to company, the message from millennials, in particular, was this sense of exhaustion which I don't think my generation acknowledged in the same way. We said we were tired, but not the same level of pushback on teaching white people. This generation is prioritizing health and well-being, self-care, in ways that we did not. I started researching and found the connection to race-based trauma. 

How have your life and career prepared you to write this book, at this moment in time? How have you navigated and combatted Black Fatigue yourself?

After over three decades of advocating for equity and justice, I think I became numb to the fatigue. I normalized it. Being of good physical health, I just did not think about it. In terms of my life and career preparing me, as I mention in chapter one, my Black Fatigue started in kindergarten when a little white boy called me the "n" word, and I had to from then on think about how someone might not like me or be mean to me because of my race. With each era of my life, I had to work extra hard to be noticed, recognized and succeed. Many times I had to address racism head on and deal with the consequences. Again, I think I just normalized it. The emotional tax from the extra effort required as I detail in the stories in the book, is fatiguing. I think writing the book gave me greater self-awareness of fatigue and I think I am actually better at managing it. I do prioritize self-care. For the business, we turn down work that looks like it will be particularly fatiguing because the organization is not ready or there is a lack of trust in our capabilities (requiring extra levels of vetting).

So many of these issues are hauntingly, inexcusably familiar. You really distill it with the phrase "Then is now." For those who haven't read your book yet, can you say a little about this powerful phrase? 

"Then is now" means that you can look at any previous point in history and today on any social, political, workplace, criminal justice issue and the statistics have not changed. It is striking to see all of these indicators of success that have not moved for Black people in many instances since the '60s. Black people continue to be overall the most oppressed group even though there has been a great deal of legislation designed to eradicate racism. For example, Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark Supreme Court decision making segregated public schools unconstitutional, but public schools are more segregated today than in 1954. 

In an interview with the New York Times on what it's like to be Black in publishing, vice-president and executive editor at Pantheon Erroll McDonald said, "After all of this hoopla, after all of this self-education, I worry that we're going to wake up and be exactly where we were before any of this happened. I don't think that as a result of white people reading certain books, we're going to be living in a post-racial America." Clearly there's a need not just for education but action. You offer quite a few suggestions for action both throughout and in your final chapter. What kinds of connections do you see between education and action? What actions do you hope people start with?

I think there has to be a strong desire to take action, and I agree with the Pantheon editor that education by itself is not the answer. Many say we need allies. I say we need power brokers. Allyship is fine but allies are not always in the position to make changes to policies and practices. Those who are in power are. It is the collective responsibility for those who hold the power to say we are going to dismantle racism and not allow any more excuses. We are going to get to the root of it, which is laborious, time consuming and will get a lot of criticism along the way. We have to be in it for the long haul, unequivocal and persistent. We have to do it not because there is violence in the streets but because we think it is the right thing to do for society. The action that I hope people start with is guaranteeing voting rights for all people. Take people to the polls. Get on the phone and register people to vote. Speak out against voter suppression. This is a short-term, very important action. --Katie Weed

Shelf vetted, publisher supported.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Terry Goodkind

Terry Goodkind

Fantasy author Terry Goodkind, known for the Sword of Truth series, died September 17 at age 72. His publisher, Tor Books, said that Goodkind "first established a career as a woodworker and artist, before eventually writing his debut novel, Wizard's First Rule, in 1994." That book launched the long-running Sword of Truth series, which eventually reached 21 titles, including the most recent entry, Heart of Black Ice, which was published in January. In 2019, he launched the Children of D'Hara series, set in the same world, publishing five installments between April 2019 and June 2020. In 2008, film director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and ABC Studios picked up the rights to adapt the Sword of Truth series as a television show. The series premiered in November 2008 as Legend of the Seeker. The first season covered the events of the first novel, and the second adapted its sequel, Stone of Tears. The series "was canceled in 2010, and efforts to bring the series to another network didn't pan out," Tor noted.

Goodkind wrote several related series, including the Richard and Kahlan books and the Nicci Chronicles, Locus magazine noted. His standalone titles include The Law of Nines, The First Confessor, Nest, The Girl in the Moon and The Sky People.

Book Review


The Big Door Prize

by M.O. Walsh

The Big Door Prize tackles the existential question "Why would you think there's another life for you, perhaps another possibility inside of you already...?" M.O. Walsh (My Sunshine Away) crafts a surprising and heartwarming contemporary drama about looking back and looking forward. A machine, DNAMIX, shows up in a small Louisiana town to reveal "your potential in life, what your body and mind are capable of doing." Walsh clearly understands the tendency for middle-aged people to look in the rearview mirror and second-guess their choices.

Cherilyn's DNAMIX readout is "Royalty," and she immediately believes the machine sees behind her housewife exterior. Her husband, Douglas, for his part, is reluctant to use the machine. The whole procedure seems laughable, but even so, he acknowledges that he, too, has "hit a wall in his life" and that it's time to "make big-picture changes."

Juxtaposed with adult angst is a sympathetic portrait of the prospects for contemporary teenagers in a world not of their making. Jacob, a high-schooler, grapples with life after the accidental death of his popular twin brother, Toby. Jacob doesn't need a machine to foresee that his future looks desolate. His mother died young, his father is acting like a cowboy after his DNAMIX reading, and there are unsettling rumors about the night of Toby's death.

Because each "choice we make today is an extension of, and an opportunity arisen from, the choices we have previously made and will make in the future," readers of this singular, nuanced story will, quite possibly and without a machine as prompt, undertake their own personal reflection. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Discover: Residents of a small Louisiana town deal with the surprising yet heartwarming fallout when a machine reveals what their lives should be instead of what they are.

Putnam, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780735218482

The Bone Shard Daughter

by Andrea Stewart

The world built by Andrea Stewart in the debut fantasy Bone Shard Daughter is beautiful, complex and enticing, and the narrative is driven by questions of identity, connections to community and finding one's place in the world, despite what one's predetermined position in it might be.

Lin doesn't remember anything from before five years ago, but she knows one thing for certain: she is the emperor's daughter and she will not fail, despite her father's refusal to recognize her as his heir or to educate her in the same way he is training his foster son, Bayan. Meanwhile, Sand doesn't know who she is or how she got to the island she lives on, but she knows she needs to remember more, and to pull others like her out of the fog. Phalue is the governor's daughter on Nephilanu Island, but is being drawn into the revolution by her lover, Ranami. And finally, Jovis just wants to find his lost wife, but the powers that be seem to have other plans for him and Mephi, a strange creature that has attached itself to him as they fled a sinking island. As these four individuals navigate their paths through the Empire, the world they know is changing, as signs that the mysterious Alanga might be returning.

Stewart's characters are complex and push toward one other in ways that draw readers in and keep them wanting more. If there is anything to criticize in this captivating fantasy, it is the cliffhanger ending with no expected publishing date for the sequel. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer

Discover: This captivating epic fantasy debut follows four individuals on the search for identity and belonging in an intriguing, magical empire.

Orbit, $28, hardcover, 448p., 9780316541428

Mystery & Thriller

And Now She's Gone

by Rachel Howzell Hall

In Rachel Howzell Hall's complex, emotionally charged mystery-thriller And Now She's Gone, an African American PI with a troubled past investigates the discrepancy-laden disappearance of a woman who may have fled an abusive relationship. 

Although she's excited Rader Consulting has asked her to work in the field, instead of just writing the reports, 39-year-old Grayson Sykes still feels "nervous" and "nauseous" about her first missing person case. Nick Rader, a family friend and her boss at the firm in Los Angeles, wants Gray to find Isabel Lincoln, fiancée of gorgeous cardiologist Ian O'Donnell. Gray takes the case with caution, knowing some women vanish on purpose. And as Gray digs further, she begins receiving text messages from Isabel, claiming that Ian will kill her if he finds her. But the more Gray learns, the less sense Isabel's story makes. Soon Gray finds herself caught between her own dangerous past and Isabel's manipulations--if the person texting her is really Isabel.

This #ownvoices mystery keeps to a fast pace and has plenty to say during the ride, offering a strong, likable sleuth. Wry, smart-mouthed Gray may forget to bring a pen for notetaking, but she makes up for her lack of organizational skills with intelligence and a keen understanding of human behavior. Her will-they-won't-they dynamic with sexy, honorable Nick adds a sweeter layer of tension in an already suspenseful atmosphere, but Hall (They All Fall Down) also showcases a dynamic cast of supportive women coworkers. And Now She's Gone combines heart, smarts and wit in one package. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Focusing on strong, complex women characters, Hall's mystery-thriller pits a PI with a past against an incongruous missing persons case.

Forge, $27.99, hardcover, 384p., 9781250753175

Graphic Books

Welcome to the New World

by Jake Halpern, illus. by Michael Sloan

Welcome to the New World made its debut as a biweekly comic strip in the New York Times that "chronicle[d] the arrival and experience of a single [Syrian] family." The author/illustrator team, Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan, went on to win the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning. The resulting illuminating book documents the Aldabaan family's exodus from war-torn Syria and eventual Connecticut relocation. Diverging from the Times comics in which identities were originally protected with pseudonyms, here the family reclaims their true names.

The Aldabaans lived comfortably in Homs, Syria, until the Assad regime brutally imprisoned three of five brothers. After one of the wives managed to secure their miraculous release, the family fled to Jordan, awaiting U.S. entry permits. Brothers Ibrahim and Issa, their wives and children are approved, landing in New York City on Election Day 2016. Trump's victory all but ensures their left-behind relatives remain barred from the U.S.

With housing, money and jobs arranged by sponsoring organizations, the family is expected to be self-sufficient within three months. Halpern and Sloan focus on Ibrahim, his wife, Adeebah, and their two oldest (of five) children. Meaningful employment eludes Ibrahim; Adeebah's art offers solace; teens Naji and Amal deal with school. Racism looms, from microaggressions to a vicious telephoned death threat. The kindness of strangers is a healing balm.

Rendered in stark black-and-white, with blue shading, Sloan's panels seem constantly in motion, a fitting reflection of the family's ongoing adaptation, negotiation and assimilation. Welcome is not always the response the Aldabaans encounter, but their resilience shines as they work to build the safety and security that will someday allow them to feel at home. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: A Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip documents two Syrian refugee brothers and their families in their journey to build new lives in a not always welcoming new land.

Metropolitan Books, $21.99, paperback, 192p., 9781250305596

Biography & Memoir

Flying Free: My Victory Over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the U.S. Aerobatic Team

by Cecilia Aragon

Bullied as a child in her small Indiana town, Cecilia Rodriguez Aragon learned early on that staying quiet meant staying safe. The daughter of Chilean and Filipina immigrants, Aragon excelled in school, especially math class, but learned to keep her brilliance under wraps. She found her way to a career in computer science, but still struggled with crippling fear and anxiety. When a coworker's love for flying ignited her own, Aragon--to her own surprise--found herself spending weekends at airfields, learning to fly increasingly complex maneuvers and dreaming of buying her own airplane. Her memoir, Flying Free, chronicles her journey from INTF--her own "personality label" of Incompetent, Nerd, Terrified, Failure--to a strong, confident woman who became the first Latina to compete on the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team. 

Aragon's crisp, straightforward narration mirrors the steps she had to take before, during and after every flight: plot a course, perform the necessary mechanical checks, load the plane, strap herself in, take off. Soon, readers are following Aragon not only to the airfields near her home in San Francisco, but up to Seattle and over to Oklahoma in pursuit of higher-level planes and more advanced instruction.

Today a professor of engineering and data science at the University of Washington, Aragon has used her flying experience to build confidence and overcome fear elsewhere in her life. Her memoir is a paean to flying, a testament to grit and hard work, and a real-life model for anyone longing to cast their fears aside and fly free. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Data scientist Cecilia Aragon's memoir chronicles her journey as a solo pilot and how it helped her overcome her fears.

Blackstone Publishing, $26.99, hardcover, 9781982642464


The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America

by Ellis Cose

In The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America, journalist Ellis Cose (The Rage of the Privileged Class) provides a comprehensive history of the United States Constitution's First Amendment and the many ways that the ideal of free speech has evolved over the course of the country's relatively short history. It feels too limiting to describe this as a book solely about the topic of free speech, however--perhaps fitting given that the concept of free speech has touched so many aspects of American political, social and cultural history.

"The issue of speech--particularly in a society polluted by racism and largely defined by economic inequality--is endlessly complex," Cose explains in the introduction to his work. He then proceeds to untangle that complex history in a way that is accessible to a layperson without a law degree. In doing so, Cose provides readers with tools to understand better the concept of free speech in the United States--including the fact that, despite being enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, it was rarely enforced until the 20th century--and how various limits to free speech have played out in well-known (and some less well-known) court cases. The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America uses this historical analysis to urge readers to consider important questions about what constitutes free speech, and what lengths we are willing to go to as a nation to protect that speech, even as the United States--and the world--sees rises in hate speech (and corresponding acts of violence). --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A history of the ideal of free speech in the United States encourages readers to question how the First Amendment has affected nearly every aspect of 21st-century America.

Amistad, $23.99, hardcover, 208p., 9780062999719

Social Science

Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation

by Anne Helen Petersen

When Anne Helen Petersen wrote an article about millennial burnout for BuzzFeed in early 2019, readers responded in droves--mostly with a resounding YES--and the article went viral. Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation is Petersen's brilliantly researched, thoroughly engaging, expanded exploration of how evolving culture and policy have shaped the opportunities and precarity of many millennials' lives.

A senior culture writer for BuzzFeed, Petersen (Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud) makes her case in clear, catchy prose. Also a scholar of media studies, she seamlessly stitches sociohistorical and economic theory alongside frank interviews with millennials from diverse backgrounds, offering blistering analysis throughout. Insightful in the vein of Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique and powerful in the tradition of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Petersen's Can't Even manages to engross and infuriate while still entertain: "[Burnout] isn't a personal problem. It's a societal one--and it will not be cured by productivity apps, or a bullet journal, or face mask skin treatments, or overnight f***ing oats."

Petersen repeats throughout: "It doesn't have to be this way." She doesn't claim any panaceas (especially via breakfast hacks), instead turning a mirror and fluorescent light on a generation and a culture reckoning with where and how they assign value, and a glimpse at their trajectory. It's bleak. But Petersen makes a critical case for better understanding the scope and structures of these problems--so that people can start doing something about them before they're too burned out. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Anne Helen Petersen investigates a generation's reckoning with a system too broken to deliver on its promises.

Houghton Mifflin, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9780358315070

House & Home

Mend!: A Refashioning Manual and Manifesto

by Kate Sekules

After decades of disposable fast fashion (and years of Kondo-ing), mending is trending, and Kate Sekules is here for the visible mending revolution. A British journalist, historian, vintage clothing junkie and avid mender, Sekules (The Boxer's Heart) delves into the scrap heap of mending's history in Mend! Training her keen eye on the practice through chapters titled "what," "why" and "where," Sekules unfolds a brief history of clothes and mending (chiefly focused on the now-industrialized West), followed by a quick rundown of the global fast fashion industry and its enormous abuses of both garment workers and the environment.

Having made her compelling case for avoiding overconsumption, Sekules moves on to the fun parts: "how, "when, "whether" and "which" to mend. These chapters are illustrated with photos of her own visible mends and advice on purchasing supplies, plus detailed diagrams of patches, various finishing methods and more than a dozen stitches. Mending, Sekules believes, should be proud and decorative, and she shares a broad range of simple techniques, from the humble (running stitch and backstitch) to the downright fancy (herringbone, feather stitch, couching). She also provides plenty of details on fabrics: stretch, weave, wearability, which ones go together and when to throw her advice out the window.

Both practical and political, with a directory of "menders" whose work Sekules reveres, Mend! is a slow-fashion manifesto, a DIY manual and an argument for adding a little flair to any old garment--either by necessity or just because. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Journalist and historian Kate Sekules provides a witty, practical guide to mending and embellishing one's clothes.

Penguin Books, $22, paperback, 240p., 9780143135005


Solutions and Other Problems

by Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh is back with her first book in seven years, and Solutions and Other Problems is a gem well worth the wait. With Brosh's trademark unconventional illustrations and delightful wit, this is a graphic memoir sure to be loved by many.

Brosh, creator of several famous Internet memes--including "Clean all the things!"--was open about her mental health struggles in her earlier blog posts and first book, Hyperbole and a Half. Solutions and Other Problems continues in that vein, with essays detailing her depression, her fears and the traumas in her life over the last few years. She has undergone some heartbreaking things and explores them candidly--and occasionally brutally. But there are also laugh-out-loud essays about a wild babysitting experience in her youth; a fight with her ex-husband about bananas; and the mysterious piles of horse poop that kept appearing in her childhood home.

The balance of sadness and humor brings great depth and allows readers to empathize with Brosh's losses while laughing at her antics. The quirky illustrations add to the story, showcasing Brosh's ability to create meaningful art, even if the style is unusual. Fans of Jenny Lawson, Jen Lancaster and Nathan W. Pyle are sure to enjoy the mix of hilarity, poignancy and the downright bizarre that characterize Brosh's work. Solutions and Other Problems will leave readers wanting more, and hoping that another seven years will not elapse before Brosh creates another graphic memoir. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.

Discover: Brosh's poignant graphic memoir mixes hilarity and tragedy with humorously strange illustrations.

Gallery Books, $30, hardcover, 528p., 9781982156947


Be Holding: A Poem

by Ross Gay

Through four books of poetry and an essay collection (the aptly named Book of Delights, one of Shelf Awareness's Best Books of 2019), Ross Gay has proven his ability to ramble to good effect. His winding, conversational poems often expand far beyond where they begin, and his book-length poem Be Holding is no exception. It begins as a paean to "Dr. J" Julius Erving, whose basketball wizardry Gay confesses to watching in slo-mo video clips in the wee hours. But it soon draws in not only the other pros on the court but Gay's own experience playing summer basketball, "all that Negro gathering/ and celebration and care and delight."

Gay goes on to explore several photographs portraying Black people and their pain: one Pulitzer Prize-winning image displayed for white audiences who are "mostly not noticing," and another of a Black woman standing in a doorway with a young boy. These images lead Gay to muse on the white gaze, sharecropping, the violence continually done to Black bodies in the U.S., and the ways in which he might himself be "a docent/ in the museum of black pain." His expansive gaze, though, is as intent on joy as it is on suffering, and he writes about the boy holding an origami bird, which leads to dreams of flight, constellations and "all the beloving/ that is the child." Gay's poem asks urgent questions ("how do we be?") and provides, at least, a way toward a hope, if not an answer: "we in here/ talking about joy." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Ross Gay muses on basketball, flight, love, sharecropping and Black pain in a rambling, conversational book-length poem.

University of Pittsburgh Press, $17, paperback, 88p., 9780822966234

Children's & Young Adult

Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe

by Carole Boston Weatherford

Hollywood glam girl Marilyn Monroe remains an icon decades after her tragic death. Though Monroe's life was shrouded in a seemingly endless web of myths, author Carole Boston Weatherford (Schomburg; Freedom in Congo Square) separates fact from fiction in the evocative Beauty Mark, a narrative written in verse and told from Monroe's first-person perspective.

Grounded in verified historical details, Weatherford's story conveys Monroe's vulnerability as a young girl (then known as Norma Jeane Baker) who bounced between dysfunctional households until she married for the first time at 16. When Monroe entered modeling, she found where she belonged "and who [she] belonged to: the public./ Frame by frame, photos gave [her] to the world." The author also captures the sincere emotions that came with the pin-up model-turned-starlet's ambition to be respected as a serious actress; her frustration at being underpaid for films (even after becoming a box office star); and the constant scrutiny surrounding her personal life: "I am not made of stone but of porcelain./ I am a Fabergé egg that has broken into a thousand pieces./ I am glued together with tears."

Such haunted musings are cemented by notable events well publicized during Monroe's tempestuous career, and her inner dialogue, crafted in stanzaic structure, evokes an emotional resonance rarely found in biographical prose. With images throughout and back matter that points readers to more information on Monroe, Weatherford's lyrical ode humanizes a woman who was a living legend long before she became a tragic one. --Rachel Werner, Hugo House and The Loft Literary Center faculty

Discover: Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe's rise from meager beginnings to stardom is chronicled in this elegiac historical fiction.

Candlewick Press, $19.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 14-up, 9781536206296

Imogene Comes Back!

by David Small

Thirty-five years after readers were introduced to Imogene in the beloved picture book classic Imogene's Antlers, she's back! In this hilarious follow-up, Imogene further stupefies her family and gives her stuffy mother even more reasons to faint.

When blonde-haired, blue-eyed Imogene wakes up, "wondering what the day would bring," it is quickly apparent that the "parade of peculiarities" established in the first book will continue. Despite her proper, old-fashioned family's disapproval of her giraffe's neck, Imogene cheerfully puts the additional height to good use. A new day brings yet another surprise. Imogene, now sporting the head of an elephant, helps out by employing her trunk to water "the lilies... the lavender.../ the lilacs... and the lady next door." But, finally, when a diminutive Imogene flies through the house on butterfly wings, it's all too much. In a fit of pique, Mother bellows, "Enough is ENOUGH!!!" and promptly faints. The next day, a nervous family waits for Imogene. When she steps into the dining room as her own "self, once more," everyone rejoices. "Especially Mother. Until... suddenly--"

The surprise ending of this picture-perfect sequel should leave readers howling with laughter. Working in pen, ink and watercolor, Small (Stitches; One Cool Friend) envisions a lively world, one he casts with characters full of emotion. The exuberant illustrations feature the artist's signature style, detailed yet fluid linework brushed with washes of carefully chosen colors. In keeping with the spirit of the first book, this joyful ode to imagination offers readers plenty of encouragement to buck conformity and celebrate what makes them extraordinary--even if it makes their mothers swoon! --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: Thirty-five years after Imogene first delighted readers with antlers and a peacock tail, she's back--and, happily, she's more peculiar than ever!

Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-7, 9780593123744


Author Buzz

Every Time We Say Goodbye

by Natalie Jenner

Dear Reader,

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE was the hardest book I will ever write, and the most rewarding. I packed everything I could into this book: love and conflict, faith and religion, censorship and resistance, art and moviemaking, fashion and food, cameos by favorite actresses and characters from my earlier books, and above all Rome, my favorite city in the world. I hope that my novel gives you the entertainment and inspiration that nourished me throughout its writing.

Email with the subject line "Every Time Was Say Goodbye Sweeps" for a chance to win one of five copies.

Gratefully yours,
Natalie Jenner

Buy now and support your local indie bookstore>

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

St. Martin's Press

Pub Date: 
May 14, 2024


List Price: 
$29.00 Hardcover

Happily Ever Maybe
(A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella)

by Carrie Ann Ryan

Dear Reader,

What happens in a bodyguard romance when both characters are a bodyguard?

All the heat and action!

I love writing workplace romances because things get tricky. And when a one night stand ends up burning up the pages, things get... explosive.

Gus and Jennifer are fiery, kick-butt characters that made me so happy to write.

I hope you love them!

Carrie Ann Ryan

Available on Kobo

AuthorBuzz: 1001 Dark Nights Press: Happily Ever Maybe (A Montgomery Ink Legacy Novella) by Carrie Ann Ryan

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
February 13, 2024


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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