Reads (and Listens) for July 2018

“A capacity, and taste, for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. ” Abraham Lincoln

Reading keeps me sane. Highlighted here are some recent reads, some not-so-recent, but all ones that made an indelible impression on my heart and mind.

The One Man


The One Man kept my up long past midnight, pushed  my heart into my throat—Andrew Gross made real every cliche used in book blurbs. Yes. I could not put it down.

 ‘The One Man captures the lingering horrors of World War II and its long-lasting residual effects on not only the victims of Nazi soldiers, but their families as well. It focuses mostly on people, rather than the crimes committed by the Nazis. But is also shows how the Nazis exterminated some of the greatest minds the world will ever see.’

“As moving as it is gripping. A winner on all fronts.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A heart-pounding thriller set in the bowels of Auschwitz... This is Gross’ best work yet, with his heart and soul imprinted on every page.”
Kirkus, STARRED Review

                                                        Douglass’ Women


Douglass’s Women is history revealed, (far more than I knew before)  gripping drama and eye-opening revelations about Fredrick Douglass and his wife, truly deserving her place in history, and his mistress, trapped in her love for Douglass.

My novel, Douglass’ Women, is an imaginative rendering of two women in Frederick Douglass life—his wife, Anna Douglass, and his mistress of twenty-eight years, Ottilie Assing. While Douglass has justifiably been famous for over a hundred and fifty years, Anna and Ottilie have languished, been obscured by a history which diminished their significance.

What would it have felt like to have been the black wife or white mistress of Frederick Douglass?
“Who was Anna? Who was Ottilie?”

As a novelist, “was” became “is”— as I had to dramatically “re-imagine” two very different women. Like a sculptor shaping clay, my imagination stirred the raw materials of history to create (I hoped) a story which illuminated characters and encouraged reader’s empathy.” Jewell Parker Rhodes

“A courageous and moving book.” The Washington Post

                                                    Ma Speaks Up

I bought and listened to Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone. I bought the hardcover because I need anything Marianne writes to live on my shelves. I bought the audio version because I knew the feeling and wit she’d bring to her rendition (as an actress and a writer) would make miles fly by as I drove. I was right.

Marianne Leone’s Ma is in many senses a larger-than-life character, one who might be capable, even from the afterlife, of shattering expectations. Born on a farm in Italy, Linda finds her way to the United States under dark circumstances, having escaped a forced marriage to a much older man, and marries a good Italian boy. She never has full command of English, especially when questioned by authorities, and when she is suddenly widowed with three young children, she has few options. To her daughter’s horror and misery, she becomes the school lunch lady.

Ma Speaks Up is a record of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, with the wrong family, in the wrong religion. Though Marianne’s girlhood is flooded with shame, it’s equally packed with adventure, love, great cooking, and, above all, humor. The extremely premature birth of Marianne’s beloved son, Jesse, bonds mother and daughter in ways she couldn’t have imagined. The stories she tells will speak to anyone who has struggled with outsider status in any form and, of course, to mothers and their blemished, cherished girls.’

“In this entertaining and moving memoir, Marianne Leone has crafted an indelible portrait of her immigrant mother. Like her daughter, Ma is a formidable person – salty, tough-minded, funny, and full of unexpected wisdom.” (Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers)

 

 

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