“She didn’t think she’d ever be capable of hurting her children,and she couldn’t get over the fact that she’d gotten to a point where people felt they needed protection from her.” p. 72
Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris.
Red Adept Publishing, Garner, North Carolina, 2017.
Adult thriller, 309 pages.
NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Nina Taylor is in recovery from a mental breakdown, and honestly, still suffering from an unexpected loss almost a decade ago. Her best friend is single mom Deja Johnson, a woman with a tragic past of her own. While Nina is wondering if a full recovery is even possible, Deja is wondering where her own life will go next.
I don’t review many thrillers, mainly because I haven’t found many good diverse ones yet. The description of this one immediately sucked me in, especially since I’m always looking for new books about people of color with disabilities.
This book has alternating viewpoints, with one chapter from Nina’s point of view, and the next telling Deja’s part of the story. Normally I’m not a fan of alternating viewpoints, but it worked well here. The narration is from a third person limited point of view rather than first person, and the action moves so quickly that the back-and-forth worked. This book takes place over only a few weeks.
“By now the name of the cafe was written on the walls of hundreds of boxcars, from Seattle to Florida.” page 30
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.
Random House, 1987. My edition McGraw-Hill, New York, 1988.
Adult fiction, 403 pages including recipes.
Lexile: 940L .
AR Level: 5.6 (worth 15.0 points) .
NOTE: Although the reading level is low, this is an adult novel.
This is going to be a complicated review. There are two main threads to the storyline, which covers events in the fictional town of Whistle Stop, Alabama (just outside of Birmingham) between the early 1920s and the late 1980s.
The story is told through four different elements. Evelyn Couch is struggling with her weight, her marriage, menopause, and an inevitable feeling of doom. She accompanies her husband on visits to his mother’s nursing home every Sunday, but can’t stand to sit and watch TV, so she finds herself in the visitor’s room with Ninny Threadgoode. At first she just wishes the old lady would shut up so she can eat her candy bars in peace, but then she gets interested in the stories and they forge an unlikely friendship. When the novel was first published, these scenes would have been roughly contemporary – it’s now historical fiction.
“Children of the most privileged group in the wealthiest country in the history of the world were getting hooked and dying in almost epidemic numbers from substances meant to, of all things, numb pain.” p. 8
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones.
Bloomsbury Press, New York, my edition 2016, first published 2015.
Adult nonfiction, 374 pages including index and notes.
Dreamland is the far-reaching narrative of America’s unprecedented struggle with opiate addition. It looks inside doctor’s offices and pharmacutical marketing, studies villagers from Xalisco, Nayarit in Mexico, and interviews street addicts, rehabilitation workers, and more to form a comprehensive picture of how this situation developed.
This book doesn’t entirely fit my usual review criteria. After all, the author and the majority of people in it are white, although there is a substantial Mexican and Mexican-American element present. However, I decided it was close enough to my usual topics (since addicts are generally not a privileged group, even if they are white or privileged in other areas) to discuss here.
America’s opiate epidemic has been getting a lot of attention because it’s affected a lot of people that those in power don’t usually think of as potential addicts – middle class Midwestern white suburbians. Another, lesser known, oddity of the problem is that nearly all of the black tar heroin dealers in American’s smaller cities are from small towns in the tiny Mexican state of Nayarit.
Quinones interviews addicts, dealers, medical professionals, reformers, and law enforcement to provide as accurate a picture as possible of how this came to be. Most of the people he talks to are white, Mexican, or Mexican-American, although he does talk to some people of color, and he brings up the disparity between political response to this ‘epidemic’ and previous reactions such as the ‘war on drugs’.
“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56
Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).
The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.
This one is from the library. I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was. There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion. For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail. Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.
“Bill Bradley was not afraid to show his goodwill toward black people. His father raised him that way.” page 143
The Kids Got It Right: How the Texas All-Stars Kicked Down Racial Walls by Jim Dent.
Thomas Dunne Books, Saint Martin’s Press, New York, 2013.
Sports nonfiction, 288 pages including index.
NOTE: For international readers. As an American, I use the word football for American football, the team sport with helmets and tackling. For books involving the team sport with cleats and goals with nets, see the tag soccer.
This is a story of small-town Texas football, particularly those involved in the 1965 Big 33 game. It’s the story of high school stars Jerry LeVias and Bill Bradley, an unstoppable duo who changed football at that game in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
It’s pretty clear within the first ten pages that this was written by a white man. The subtitle notwithstanding, this book is not about race. This book is about football, and specifically one football game in which an All-Star team began to be slightly integrated.
I picked up this book at the dollar store and after reading and reviewing, will be passing it along. Elsewhere I’ve seen this recommended to fans of the TV show Friday Night Lights and high school football fans. I am neither. Sports in general are not my thing, but in particular high school football holds little interest to me unless I personally know the participants.
“In February of 1987 when I went on Nightline to discuss Gallaudet University’s controversial Deaf President Now movement, the show was captioned for the first time. Anchor Ted Koppel used most of the intro to explain to the audience about the captioning they would see – technically open captioning, since anyone could see it – interpreters they would hear, signing they would also see.” page 182
I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin, with Betsy Sharkey.
Originally published 2009 Handjive Productions, my edition Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010.
Autobiography/memoir, 327 pages.
Marlee Matlin is one of the few Deaf performers well-known to hearing audiences, but there are also many other aspects of her life and self. She was catapulted to fame with a Best Actress Oscar on Children of a Lesser God. Now twenty years later, she’s written a tell-all memoir about drug addiction, abusive relationships, and more.
This was a book full of surprises. I was moved by what an important part her Jewish faith has played in her life, especially how her childhood synagogue was fully inclusive as a hearing/Deaf worship space, with a signing rabbi. How beautiful that her early use of language included a rich religious environment where she was able to learn about God through her own language, ASL.
This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.
The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life. But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care. What will happen to their family? Can Pete’s gang become their new family?
This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals. Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family. So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.