From the Shelf
Rocktober: Books from and about Musicians Who Rock
"Funny the way music finds you when you're a kid. It sneaks up on you. It's in the air, in the mood of a room, all around. And then, when it happens in just the right way, it can get under your skin and hang with you for just about forever."
A wealth of memoirs and books on music are similarly destined to burrow under readers' skin, like that of the writer who penned the words quoted above, EDM megastar Steve Aoki. His deeply personal reflections on music, love and loss highlight Blue: The Color of Noise (St. Martin's, $27.99).
Tend toward alt-country? Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo fame writes, "I think of [music] as egos blending, singer into musician into listener." He similarly sheds boundaries, sharing intimate details of his life in the smart, sincere Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. (Dutton, $17).
For an unusual hip-hop portrait, see Will Ashon's Chamber Music: Wu Tang and America (Faber & Faber, $24), situating the Wu-Tang Clan in terms of U.S. politics and culture. For a direct link to the group, try Lamont "U-God" Hawkins's Raw: My Journey into the Wu-Tang (Picador, $18), aptly raw itself, equal parts engrossing and enlightening.
The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry that Shaped Rock 'n' Roll by Ian S. Port (Scribner, $28) offers a different angle, probing the stories of the creators of instruments still basic across musical landscapes--required reading for anyone interested in the conflict and creativity behind these gods of guitars.
And for yet another approach, try Joni: The Anthology, a compilation of album reviews, interview transcripts and more, edited by rock journalist Barney Hoskyns (Picador, $26); his complex portrait of Joni Mitchell offers further proof of just how music "can get under your skin and hang with you for just about forever." --Katie Weed
In this Issue...
by Ruta Sepetys
In a gut-wrenching YA novel about the terrible destructiveness of secrets untold, master storyteller Ruta Sepetys reveals the dark underbelly of 1950s Spain under dictator Franco.
by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith's stunning short story collection highlights dynamic characters who are endowed with rare philosophical insights into their own shortcomings.
by Kristin Kimball
Kristin Kimball's second memoir chronicles the joys, hardships and existential challenges of running a small sustainable farm.
Review by Subjects:
'Wife Titles': 874 Counted in Canada
"How many wives are in book titles?" BookNet Canada narrowed it down to "874 individual titles, which we put into two categories: descriptive (The insert-adjective-here Wife) or possessive (The ____'s Wife)."
BBC Radio 4's challenge: "The ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quiz."
Pop quiz: Mental Floss challenged readers to "match the Victorian slang term to its meaning."
The New York Public Library showcased "12 authors and their TED Talks."
Bookshelf featured "a reproduction of Virginia Woolf's writing desk with bookshelf."
Rediscover: Okla HannaliR.A. Lafferty (1914-2002) is best known for his idiosyncratic science fiction and fantasy. He used Native American and Irish storytelling traditions not typically found in those genres, combined with quirky twists of language and narrative structure, to create stories that often read like tall tales. In his introduction to "Sunbird" in the short story collection Fragile Things (2006), Neil Gaiman wrote: "There was a writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma (he died in 2002), who was, for a little while in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the best short story writer in the world. His name was R.A. Lafferty, and his stories were unclassifiable and odd and inimitable--you knew you were reading a Lafferty story within a sentence."
Lafferty wrote 32 books and more than 200 short stories, not all of which are science fiction or fantasy. Four of his books are autobiographical, one is a nonfiction work about the Roman Empire, and several are historical fiction. Okla Hannali (1972) follows Hannali Innominee, a folkloric 19th-century Choctaw Indian with great strength, keen senses and good luck. Lafferty weaves this larger-than-life figure with the tragic history of the Choctaw. Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), called Okla Hannali "art applied to history so that the legend of the Choctaws, their great and small men, their splendid humor, and their tragedies are filled with life and breath." It is available from University of Oklahoma Press ($19.95, 9780806123493). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Kate Racculia: The Journey Changes Your Perception
|photo: Christa Neu|
Kate Racculia is the author of the novels This Must Be the Place and Bellweather Rhapsody, an ALA Alex Award winner. Her third novel, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26; reviewed below), centers on an adventurous treasure hunt through the city of Boston.
Why did you set the story in Boston?
I moved to Boston to get my MFA from Emerson College. After grad school, I spent 11 years working there--first as a marketing writer in financial services, then as a prospect researcher. It was a niche fundraising job that involved researching and profiling wealthy donors--very similar to the job Tuesday Mooney holds in the novel. It was only after I moved out of Boston and settled in Bethlehem, Pa., that I really began to miss the place where I'd become a young adult.
So, the novel pays homage to your affection for the city?
The novel is a love letter to Boston and my life there, which I treasured. I wrote the book during the 2016 election, the constant cruelties of the Trump presidency, #MeToo--under increasing distraction, destruction and pain, and my own anger, confusion and alienation. I believe that art can be an agent for change, a political action, a comfort in the face of brutality. The novel also deals with adventure, friendship, a capacious understanding of human connections and family, work and responsibility, and wealth.
Wealth and money are central to the story?
Without ever intending to, I learned an awful lot about wealth in the jobs I had: how wealth works in America, its inextricable connection to power, how inequitably both are distributed. What having a lot of money can do to people, namely: insulate them from the world, destroy their perspective and make them paranoid and selfish--or allow them to be incredibly generous, and give them tools to remake the world around them.
Is this where the idea for the novel hatched?
I always try to write with a question in mind rather than an answer--to create a series of givens about psychologically realistic characters, to place them in high-genre situations and learn who they are by what they do, how they react and feel, and how they're capable of surprising even themselves--especially when they encounter the uncanny, the strange, the heightened. There's a terrific tension there that I love to play with, and I do use the word "play" intentionally; at its best, writing for me is a form of play and discovery.
Your characters are always infused with layers of eccentricity.
I love other people--characters--in all the ways that loving other people is itself complicated, endlessly interesting, frustrating, weird, heartbreaking and hilarious. So, I write both to get to know and get to experience many other people, to tease out my own identities and curiosities, but also explore imagined lives and adventures beyond my own. I tend to share with characters my own loves and worries, so we can almost investigate those mysteries together.
What draws you to creating ensemble casts?
I was an only child, and lived 30 miles away from the district where I went to school (and where my mother was a teacher). That degree of remove gave me a unique point of view on groups, the mystery of where and how I or any one person fit in (or didn't), and how everyone brought their own, often secret story into this combined larger tale that we were all a part of. It was fascinating and confusing--I've found many, many people who are "My People," but growing up I was an outlier, which was much easier for me to process and understand in fiction rather than in real life.
Did this inspire you to create Tuesday Mooney as a "loner"?
I have always loved stories about human connections--friendships, teams, and found families, whether at work, school or from neighborhoods. And I am, constitutionally, an introvert loner, so stories where introvert loners are essential parts of a group--while retaining their unique identities--really interest me.
Why are grief, loss and memories from the past recurrent themes in your work?
I think I'm just drawn to the mysterious--the dark, unexplored corners in people, in history, in the world around us, and how the attempt to plumb those depths, the work of seeking and trying to understand (even though full understanding may never be possible), can be the work of a whole life.
In terms of the "mysterious," a ghost figures prominently in this novel.
I flat out love a ghost story; always have. Ghosts were people, after all, with all the desires and fears and complexities of living characters, with that added flair of morbid mystery.
A puzzle resides at the heart of this novel. Off the page, do puzzles interest you?
Ha! Funnily enough, I'm not much of a puzzler. I'm a ringer at pub trivia and would love to get on Jeopardy! one day, but I'm not a big puzzle-as-a-pastime person. Although, I've always had an appreciation for seeking solutions.
Aha, seeking solutions... is that what inspired the treasure hunt that propels the mystery of the story?
I adore mysteries themselves, whether a procedural television show, a P.D. James novel, or a larger, less-solvable puzzle about the things in life we can't understand, explain or account for--tackling those puzzles, even when they're painful or tragic, gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. I almost prefer a mystery that doesn't have a straightforward solution, a prize that gets refracted and redefined by human messiness and isn't what you thought it would be. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a huge influence on this novel. The true grail isn't the object you seek, it's what--and who--you discover along the way, and how the journey changes your perception about what you value. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
by Zadie Smith
Most of the stories in Grand Union by Zadie Smith (Swing Time; NW) are not for the faint of heart or those who fear the United States' changing racial demographics. Presenting individuals and relationships in various stages of disarray, Smith's stories tackle ethnic, socio-economic and political divisions in the Western world through the eyes of those on the margins of society. Her characters struggle with isolation, broken dreams and low-paying jobs in gritty New York, while others lead tattered lives in an abandoned England where "the only people left are those who couldn't leave."
There's a drag queen searching not only for the right corset but also for respect and acceptance in "Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets," and in "Mood," Zenobia is a philosophy major staggering under the weight of her student loans. In the profoundly gorgeous "Words and Music," a lonely woman inherits a valuable house on Washington Square from her sister and realizes too late that music was a language that could have united them during years of estrangement.
The devastating outcome of "Kelso Deconstructed" haunts Grand Union, underscoring as it does the societal prejudices that can sabotage an immigrant's ability to succeed. For Kelso, a hardworking man of good character from Antigua, no amount of ambition or self-improvement can erase the reality of his dark complexion and the racial injustices of life in pre-gentrified Notting Hill.
Smith's legendary descriptive powers provide a first-rate sensory experience in a collection that combines fresh new pieces with recent classics featured in the New Yorker and elsewhere. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer
Discover: Zadie Smith's stunning short story collection highlights dynamic characters who are endowed with rare philosophical insights into their own shortcomings.
by Jake Hinkson
Jake Hinkson's Dry County teases out a lean, tense story of blackmail and other crimes at the intersection of religion and politics in a small Arkansas town. While it boasts twists and a body count, what's most killer in Hinkson's propulsive novel, the crime writer's fourth, is its resonant portraiture of Ozark life in 2016. His sharply drawn locals, all schnooks in over their heads, tell the story through their varied first-person chapters, their voices often scabrous and all increasingly desperate. Above all else those voices are convincing: the repressed rage of a reverend facing the possible exposure of his homosexual dalliance rings as true as the vigorous swearing of Hinkson's assorted ne'er-do-wells--including the college dropout attempting to extort the man of God out of 30 grand and the furious young woman whose sexual history has become local folklore.
Quiet chapters narrated by the reverend's suspicious, long-suffering wife unfold as marvels of fleet yet potent characterization. In tender scenes, Hinkson reveals his people's hurts before showing how they, in turn, pass that hurt on to others. At the same time, some of Dry County's most memorable moments pulse with a vicious rural swagger, as the youthful hellraisers lay out just how these lives that weren't going much of anyplace inevitably fumbled into crime. Hinkson's storytelling blends the richness of literary fiction with the breathless surge of the crime thriller. The novel's first murder is just as wrenching as the scene where the reverend's family puzzles over whether, as evangelicals, they can justify a vote for Trump. --Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Jake Hinkson's stellar rural-noir thriller Dry County is just as vicious as it is humane.
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts
by Kate Racculia
Tuesday Mooney is a single, 30-something loner--a dedicated prospect researcher for Boston General Hospital. There she gathers facts and tracks "digital fingerprints" on rich people in the hope that they will donate their fortunes. Tuesday volunteers to help at a benefit auction and invites along her former coworker and friend Poindexter "Dex" Howard--a financier suffering romantic woes with his younger beau. Both friends get swept up in a night of surprises, including meeting Vincent A. Pryce (an eccentric, cape-wearing, elderly billionaire and collector of Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia) and handsome Nathaniel Arches, an eligible, however notorious, bachelor. Tuesday is drawn to Nathaniel, especially after he makes a whopping $50,000 bid for a meet-and-greet with New Kids, a pop band.
When Vincent Pryce drops dead of an aneurysm at the auction, his obituary launches a treasure hunt through the city of Boston. Whoever can read between the lines of the obit and pursue the cryptic clues set forth will inherit a portion of his wealth. Tuesday--an inquisitive, "human Google"--charges headlong into the quest. But she's not alone: Dex, Nathaniel, Dorothea "Dorry" Bones (Tuesday's precocious 14-year-old, motherless neighbor), a lingering ghost from a sad chapter in Tuesday's adolescence, and a host of competing--often dark, duplicitous--forces are hell-bent on getting to the finish line first.
Kate Racculia (Bellweather Rhapsody) displays an abundance of intellect and imagination in this clever, immensely adventurous story that pays homage to the elaborate mysteries of life and death--and self-discovery. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A treasure hunt through Boston for the fortune of a deceased billionaire inspires a quirky researcher to join forces with a cast of lovable misfits.
The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes
British novelist Jojo Moyes (Me Before You), known for her sweeping romances, artfully places platonic female friendship, rather than passion, at the axis of this tender novel. Never content in the droll parlors and suffocating expectations of Depression-era British society, Alice Wright anticipates her marriage to American Bennett Van Cleve to be her adventure, at last. But when her husband brings her home to Baileyville, Ken., she discovers the States are not so different from Britain in their expectations of women. Increasingly bored in the claustrophobic churches of rural Kentucky, Alice jumps at the chance to contribute when a local packhorse library announces a need for volunteers.
As a librarian, Alice travels the mountains alongside the bold Margery O'Hare, whose tarnished family reputation doesn't bother her--she is pointedly self-sufficient--and a gaggle of other complex women. These characters provide the town with books and The Giver of Stars with a backbone. Moyes masterfully shuffles narratives as Alice and Margery deal with crumbling relationships, secret romances and their mutual love for Baileyville, even as its societal norms push them into corners. When each woman experiences violence at the hands of men, and Margery is wrongfully blamed for it, Moyes nicks a nerve. Margery says, "I thought I could live as I wanted, long as I didn't hurt nobody.... You don't get to do that.... Not if you're a woman." Inspired by the real Pack Horse Library Project of the 1930s, The Giver of Stars is as observant as it is heartfelt. --Lauren Puckett, freelance writer
Discover: This evocative novel follows the women of a 1930s-era packhorse library as they challenge the assumptions of their rural Kentucky town.
Suicide Woods: Stories
by Benjamin Percy
Benjamin Percy (The Dark Net) serves up an addictive mix of gritty crime fiction and otherworldly horror in his story collection Suicide Woods.
The book contains nine stories and a novella, each chilling in its own way. Percy's prose is exacting, finely tuning the atmospherics that give the collection such an eerie overall feeling. These are stories full of dread, with an uncanny resemblance to our own world. The collection opens with "The Cold Boy," in which a farmer pulls his drowned nephew out of a frozen pond only to discover the boy is reanimated with some weird, icy life-force.
Percy adeptly switches between the tropes of horror and the trickier narrative structures of neo-noir. Several of the stories are grimly fascinating crime reads. "Suspect Zero" begins with a body on a train and ends with an unexpected suspect striking again. "Dial Tone" features a disaffected and insane telemarketer slowly recalling a gruesome murder. In the titular, penultimate story, "Suicide Woods," Percy returns to his sense of horror, depicting a group of suicide survivors who go to extreme lengths to face death. But it is the novella, "The Uncharted," that is the scariest entry. In it, a team of adventurers in remote Alaska become stranded on a mysterious island. As the dangers of the island and its fearsome inhabitants become clearer, the characters begin hallucinating and seeing themselves in different parts of their lives.
Suicide Woods is a testament to Percy's skill as a writer. He takes no shortcuts in eliciting thrills. The collection is by turns provocative and terrifying. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset
Discover: Benjamin Percy is in top form with this collection of crime stories and classic horror.
Mystery & Thriller
The Twisted Ones
by T. Kingfisher
When freelance editor Mouse's grandmother dies, it falls to her and her faithful coonhound, Bongo, to clean out the house. The biggest surprise isn't that Mouse's "mean as a snake" grandmother was a hoarder, though that's shock aplenty. It's her step-grandfather Frederick Cotgrave's hidden journal, depicting a darkly supernatural world in the North Carolina woods, that grips Mouse's imagination. Though she initially dismisses his claims of the "white folk" and mystical stone carvings, Mouse can't get Cotgrave's strange and haunting ramblings out of her mind: "I made faces like the faces on the rocks, and I twisted myself about like the twisted ones, and I lay down flat on the ground like the dead ones." When Mouse and Bongo take a walk in the woods and climb to the top of a hill that shouldn't exist, one covered in gruesome carvings and strangely enthralling sculptures, fear sets in. Mysterious nighttime tapping around the house, the otherworldly draw of the stones and the discovery of a grotesque skeletal effigy all heighten Mouse's increasing terror. Suddenly Cotgrave's ravings no longer seem crazy. But Mouse's nightmare has just begun.
T. Kingfisher's (Swordheart; Clockwork Boys) first horror novel is both disturbing and entertaining. Mouse narrates the experience after the fact as a kind of "exorcism of the events from my mind." Her conversational and often self-deprecating tone, covering unknown horrors, ex-boyfriends and never-ending radio pledge drives and, gives The Twisted Ones a modern, chilling and, at times, funny ambiance. Existing fans and those new to the field are likely to find much to enjoy in this fresh addition to the horror genre. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor
Discover: Folklore meets horror as a woman and her faithful coonhound strive to understand the supernatural terrors found in the country woods of North Carolina.
Biography & Memoir
Good Husbandry: A Memoir
by Kristin Kimball
In her 2011 memoir, The Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball chronicled her completely unexpected transition from an urban to a rural existence. From her high-heel-wearing, frequent-flyer 20s as a freelance writer in New York City, Kimball moved to tiny Essex, N.Y., to build a farm and a life with a tall, exuberant man named Mark. In her second memoir, Good Husbandry, Kimball delves deeper into the narrative of Essex Farm, which is now her home, her livelihood and the center of her universe. With warmth, honesty and vivid anecdotes, Kimball weaves a compelling narrative that gives readers a glimpse into birthing calves, harvesting corn and raising rural kids in the 21st century.
Kimball's memoir relates the farm's history alongside her own personal story (and Mark's). The land is their literal and figurative foundation, and Kimball traces the scrappy, cheerful, sometimes rocky first years of making do with salvaged equipment and cooking huge team dinners for their crew of young trainee farmers. Eventually, with a farm and a young child both growing by leaps and bounds, Kristin and Mark had to address questions of boundaries and scale. How could they draw distinctions between work and home life while living at work and working at home? How could they grow enough food to feed their family and satisfy their farm-share customers without running themselves (entirely) ragged or wearing the land completely out?
Kimball writes movingly about accepting the gifts and the hardships of each season, outer and inner. Good Husbandry is a clear-eyed tribute to a tough but nourishing rural life and the deep, sustainable joy it provides. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: Kristin Kimball's second memoir chronicles the joys, hardships and existential challenges of running a small sustainable farm.
These Boys and Their Fathers
by Don Waters
The author's father, Robert Waters, was part of the 1950s surfing crew on the Southern California coastline that spurred the sport after its arrival from Hawaii. Don Waters (Desert Gothic) learned this from belongings his father left behind when Robert abandoned him. In 2010, Waters wrote about surfing history for Outside magazine, hoping to confront his feelings. Armed with "a paper-clipped copy of his [father's] unpublished autobiography, as well as a small plastic baggie of his ashes," Waters headed for Manhattan Beach, Calif.
These Boys and Their Fathers is a son's lyrical and sorrowful memoir of lifelong efforts to deal with the emptiness and fury connected to his father. When building a custom surfboard with legend Greg Noll (who made Robert's first board) didn't create the expected touchstone, Waters's quest took a fascinating turn--he discovered another writer who shared his name. The other Don Waters, a prolific pulp author starting in the 1920s, lived aboard a sailboat with his family, doting on his daughter, and became yet another older man Waters collected as a father figure to emulate and admire.
His decades of researching the lives of Robert and the other Don Waters provided the basis the author needed to complete the memoir he'd given up on three times. After 20 years seeking clarity by writing stories about faulty fictional men, Waters found it in complicated real men, his very human father and his historically tight-lipped mother. These Boys is a powerfully candid story of discovering "closure" through accepting and living alongside the pain and truth. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: Revisiting his absentee father's life, Don Waters finds peace with his family history and his own impending fatherhood.
Jerome Robbins, by Himself: Selections from His Letters, Journals, Drawings, Photographs, and an Unfinished Memoir
by Amanda Vaill, editor
With access to the letters, journals, essays and unfinished memoir of Jerome Robbins (1918-98), biographer Amanda Vaill creates a compelling autobiography of the director and choreographer. Vaill (Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins; Hotel Florida) is skilled and savvy about arranging eight decades of Robbins's archival writings into a coherent and compelling chronology. She also offers succinct overviews at the beginning of each chapter, and her annotations at the bottom of each page clarify and enrich.
Robbins won five Tony Awards and two Academy Awards over his long career; his musical résumé is astonishing. Thanks to his positions as director, choreographer, producer and show doctor, there are fascinating behind-the-scenes tales about the creation of legendary Broadway musicals including On the Town, The King and I, Bette Davis's revue Two's Company (Robbins worked with ex-fiancé Nora Kaye and current lover Buzz Miller), The Pajama Game, Peter Pan, West Side Story, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof and Funny Girl (hiring Barbra Streisand over the objections of producer Ray Stark). Of Streisand, Robbins notes, "When she sings she is as honest and frighteningly direct with her feelings as if one time she was, is, or will be in bed with you."
His letters and essays about creating dances and musicals with such greats as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Ethel Merman, Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet are breathtaking. The book also includes large chunks of Robbins's autobiographical drama The Papa Piece, which he wrote about testifying in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953--a decision that haunted him. This superbly assembled Jerome Robbins autobiography is nirvana for Broadway fans. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: Jerome Robbins by Himself is a supremely entertaining autobiography pieced together from the director and choreographer's diaries, journals and unfinished memoir.
Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live)
by Eve Rodsky
When Eve Rodsky realized her marriage was becoming more of a labor than a joy, instead of giving up on it, she put her experience with organizational management and mediation to use to determine a better way for couples to manage their lives together. Fair Play is that system--a gamified approach to housework, relationships and family life that allows couples to split responsibilities equitably. This cooperative management approach offers a solution to the contemporary conversation around emotional labor and invisible work in marriages and relationships. By emphasizing fairness, it helps reclaim and redistribute time. It provides a script for evaluating and having uncomfortable conversations about domestic tasks, and ultimately allows individuals to regain their "unicorn time"--the space everyone needs to maintain their passions and their sense of themselves.
Rodsky's highly empathetic personal narratives, bolstered by interviews with more than 500 couples in the U.S., universalizes the problem of invisible work in families and provides field-tested solutions. For instance, Rodsky suggests identifying every aspect of a task, deciding what the minimum standards are for completion and agreeing on what complete responsibility means--together. No longer is the agony of an unbalanced household a personal failure; it is something that can be approached, strategized about and solved through teamwork.
Fair Play is a helpful tool that lets couples explore not only how their relationships work, but also how each party works within it, and how everyone can find ways to make the relationship work better. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer
Discover: A how-to guide that teaches couples how to create a system for balancing domestic responsibilities fairly.
Children's & Young Adult
The Fountains of Silence
by Ruta Sepetys
Many Americans visiting Madrid in the 1950s found it to be a friendly, exotic place with great nightlife and cheap wine. But in her breathtaking work of historical fiction, The Fountains of Silence, Carnegie Medal-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray; Salt to the Sea; Out of the Easy) reveals the nefarious underside of Spain under the 36-year military dictatorship of Generalísimo Francisco Franco.
Like most tourists, 18-year-old Texan Daniel Matheson, visiting Madrid with his Spanish-born mother and oil executive father during the summer of 1957, has no idea about the many secrets Spaniards are keeping under Franco. Freedom of religion isn't tolerated. Regional diversity, including culture, language or dialect, is forbidden. And hundreds of thousands of babies are mysteriously disappearing. Spaniards like hotel maid Ana, her gravedigger brother, Rafa, and their cousin Puri, an orphanage worker, are "shackled by poverty and silence." Rafa and Ana, whose parents were killed for being Spanish Republicans and therefore perceived to be part of the resistance, "long for truth and justice." Puri has bought into the doctrine of Franco's Spain, believing her ultimate destiny is service and motherhood. Still, all yearn for something more.
An aspiring photojournalist, Daniel hopes to capture the stories of Spanish people in photographs, but the authorities in Spain are telling only one story, and anyone who speaks another truth will be silenced. As Daniel grows closer to Ana and her family, he begins to understand what everyone in Madrid knows: "This is Franco's Spain. They're all hiding something." Sepetys weaves together the young people's perspectives in this stunning novel (which includes photos, oral history commentary, glossary and notes), giving readers an up-close and personal view of a chilling time in Spain's history. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
Discover: In a gut-wrenching YA novel about the terrible destructiveness of secrets untold, master storyteller Ruta Sepetys reveals the dark underbelly of 1950s Spain under dictator Franco.
A Map into the World
by Kao Kalia Yang , illust. by Seo Kim
It's summer, and young Paj Ntaub and her family have just moved into "the green house" when she spies an elderly white couple through her window. These neighbors--Bob and Ruth--routinely sit outside on their "special bench." They assume their perch throughout autumn, but come winter they stay indoors. One morning Paj Ntaub notices cars parked in front of the couple's house, and her father tells her that Ruth has died.
When spring arrives, Paj Ntaub sees Bob sitting alone on the bench. Paj Ntaub has an idea. With Bob's permission, she does a chalk drawing in his driveway: "I started my picture with a teardrop./ And then I made it splatter like sunshine." She festoons the asphalt with neighborhood sights--gingko leaf, worm--and tells Bob that she has created "a map into the world. Just in case you need it."
Kao Kalia Yang, author of the much-praised adult titles The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir and The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father, has written a quietly uplifting picture book. A Map into the World suggests that when a family's equilibrium is upset (by a death, by a move), the neighborhood family (in all its ethnic variety) can help restore it. Illustrator Seo Kim realizes the book's largely outdoor setting: she individuates the veins on leaves; tree bark is invitingly ridged. In a breathtaking touch, Paj Ntaub's Hmong grandmother's "special story cloth"--too small for readers to appreciate as it appears within the story--fills the book's endpapers. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: This handsomely composed picture book spotlights a friendship between an elderly white couple and a Hmong American child who moves into the neighborhood.