Biography

Jul 8, 2020

I say "graphic books" because not all are novels, and the ones I am most often drawn to are the graphic nonfiction--bios, memoirs, history lessons. I am not an expert on graphic books; I do not have boxes of comic collections accumulated since childhood (though I do fondly remember reading some of my older brother's X-Men comics as a kid--intrigued by smart, strong females like Storm, Jubilee, Rogue); but perhaps because I approach graphic books from a more literary view, I can translate their value to those who might otherwise relegate "comics" to their not-to-be-read shelf.

Jul 2, 2020

British aristocracy has an interesting hold on many people around the world, the closer to the Royal Family and the more intense this interest and scrutiny becomes. 


Lady Glenconner served as a maid of honor at the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, and was Extra Lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II's sister, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, from 1971 until the Princess died in 2002.


Life among the titled is not all high teas and hunting parties; as this book will show, titles and privilege do not always guarantee a happy life, although more often than not, it is an interesting

Apr 1, 2020

The past two months of quarantine shutdown have been bizarre to say the least. Surprised by how hard it's been to focus on simple tasks and know how to deal with whatever each day might bring, I turned to another time in history where the whole world was under threat and people had to deal with a cloud of confusion that hung over everything--World War II. Obviously COVID-19 is not the same as WWII by any means, but I was inspired and encouraged to read the stories of how women in particular faced the challenges of such a world-impacting crisis.


I think my favorite book was A Woman of No

Orange is the New Black

By Piper Kerman
5
Rated by Megan K.
Dec 6, 2019

Many of you may be familiar with Piper Kerman’s story but I’ll give you a quick summary: in 1993, 24 year old Piper smuggled money for her then-girlfriend who was involved in an international drug ring. Following the money smuggling incident, she cut off all ties to the people involved and got started on a new life. However, her past caught up to her and Piper was indicted for her involvement in 1998. Six years later, in 2004, she was sent to Danbury, a minimum-security facility to serve 15 months. Piper ended up serving 13 months, and detailed her experience in this book.


It is important

Once More We Saw Stars

By Jayson Greene
3
Rated by Lisa A.
Jul 12, 2019

Once More We Saw Stars is a story no one wants to tell, one of a two-year-old daughter’s death and how her parents try to move in the world after their world—their daughter—has died. While it is, in the end, hopeful and filled with love, the journey this book takes the reader on is one of genuine, visceral loss: there’s anguish, anger, fighting, and desperation.


This story is painful, to say the least, and it’s not something I can comment on. As Greene writes in the part about going to grief counseling: no one else gets it. No one else can. I can read his story and weep for his loss and

Jun 26, 2019

T Kira Madden's debut memoir in essays is brutal in the best way: gorgeously written, relentlessly honest, and impossible to put down. If you're into stories about daughters who love and struggle with imperfect parents, read this. If you relate to families filled with dysfunction, read this. If you love someone who is queer, read this. If you have a soft spot for essays that make you cry at work, read this. Seriously--I could find a reason for everyone to read this book. Been touched somehow by adoption? By trauma? By being a lost teenager? By having to leave home to find it again? This book

Apr 5, 2019

"Never underestimate the power of nerds."  Self proclaimed nerd Mallory O'Meara pours her heart and three years of her life into The Lady From The Black Lagoon,  a biography to uncover the lost legacy of Milicent Patrick.  


Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was unfamiliar with Milicent Patrick and her work.  I knew nothing of her time at Disney as an animator or her work at Universal Studios making monsters come to life for the big screen.  In reading this book I was struck by how hard it must have been to work in a male dominated field in which no matter how talented you are most of your male

Feb 28, 2019

Eleanor Roosevelt served as her husband’s eyes and ears throughout his twelve years in office; she knew every corner of the United States from personal visits and meetings with locals without a cocoon of Secret Service protection. Starting in 1941, the very hands-on First Lady solved the personal problems of worried Americans while she traversed the continent. Ladies’ Home Journal included her first of several advice columns, entitled “If You Ask Me,” which shares both its name and content with this book. Collected from over twenty years of columns, Ms. Roosevelt’s writing exudes purpose

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

By Morgan Neville, Caryn Capotosto, Nicholas Ma
5
Rated by Heather McCartin
Jan 15, 2019

As a child of the early '90s, I grew up with classic PBS children's programming - programming that may look very different from the current PBS Kids programs that are currently airing.  One of my go-to, can't miss programs was Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  He was my preschool teacher before I attended school and he was my guidance counselor before I knew such a title existed.  While he didn't devote time to ABCs and 123s (that was more Sesame Street's specialty), he introduced the concepts of feelings, emotion, and self-worth, all while showcasing places, people, and events from all around the

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

By Kelly Sundberg
5
Rated by Cheryl M.
Oct 22, 2018

Kelly Sundberg's beautifully written memoir, Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival, is about her almost decade-long marriage to her husband Caleb. But it is more than a story of domestic violence and systematic abuse.  It's also about love, leaving, and moving from victim to victor.  Sundberg holds a PhD in Creative Nonfiction and before publishing her memoir worked as an essayist.  Her essay, "It Will Look Like a Sunset," was her first attempt at examining her marriage and telling the world about her abuse. This essay's literary success and Sundberg's desire to tell

Aug 10, 2018

Life is hard enough being a teenager. But when you and your family are secretly illegal immigrants from Iran, things can get even more complicated. Sara's parents fled Iran when she was only two years old, and she didn't learn her undocumented status until her sister tried to apply for an after-school job, but couldn't because she didn't have a social security number. This memoir follows her teenage experiences with her family and at school as well as her progress toward getting her green card. This story follows her constant fear of being deported as well as her wishes of getting a green card

Jane (DVD)

By Brett Morgen
5
Rated by LeeAnn B.
Jun 27, 2018

Jane Goodall is a living legend and one of the women I most admire. Her chimpanzee research during the 1960’s at the Gombe National Park in Tanzania is the subject of this National Geographic documentary. The film features never-before-seen footage from her early years of research. 


This documentary by Brett Morgen captures some of what it must have been like for a young Ms. Goodall to embark as an untrained, female researcher and make astonishing discoveries about chimpanzees living in the wild. She was the first to observe them using tools to search for food. Morgen also touches on Ms

Jun 24, 2018

In her immigrant's memoir told in graphic novel form, Thi Bui explores the saga of her family's escape from Vietnam in the 1970's to the United States.


Her debut opens with the birth of her first child in 2005. Will she be a good mother? How is she different from her mother? What was her mother's experience? How was her mother shaped after losing family, her country? How did her father's childhood shape his fathering abilities? And how has her own experience as a refugee, coming to a country she had to assimilate into that she was culturally so different from, as well as being confronted

Hillbilly Elegy : A Memoir

By J.D. Vance
4
Rated by Amanda C.
May 26, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy is unlike anything I've ever listened to. J.D. Vance grew up in the rust belt of America and was the first from his nuclear family to graduate from college. He speaks about growing up there and tells you extensively about the journey his family (grandparents and mother) made before today. 


He details some gritty stuff like an alcoholic grandfather and an abusive mom. I congratulate Vance for working so hard to create something for himself despite coming from a family that was torn apart by some challenging circumstances and, at the same time, held together by a grandparents'

Love and Trouble

By Claire Dederer
4
Rated by Michelle H.
May 24, 2018

As a raggedy child of the 1970s in the liberal northwest, author Claire Dederer found herself steering life by way of drifting, a method using random hazard and profound reflection as the tools for guidance. In Love and Trouble she writes about her life at middle age and compares it with herself as a young woman with the repeated observation that she is reverting back to the craptastic – her word – girl she was. She had a few vices, and she wants them back.


Her writing is clear and precise, and she’s candid and funny. Most remarkably, she avoids sugar coating age. If you’re looking for a

May 21, 2018

Louis Zamperini was an army air forces bomber during World War II. And before that, he was an Olympic sprinter. But now he is a captive of the Japanese forces. His plane crashed and he survived thousands of miles in the open ocean with little to no water or food. His raft eventually washed up near a Japanese base and he was sent to a POW camp. This book tells the incredible story of his survival against all odds and about the amazing life he led.


This book is inspiring to everyone who reads it. It teaches you to be grateful for everything you have. I love that it tells the story of his

Apr 3, 2018

It Can’t Be Don’t, Nellie Bly is a short, but interesting chapter book about Nellie Bly, a journalist in 1888, when women were not considered journalists.


Inspired by Jules Verne’s book Around the World in 80 Days, Nellie tries to see if one can, in fact, travel around the world in eighty days. And in trying, she wants to beat Verne’s time. Halfway through her journey she finds out there is a journalist from the magazine Cosmopolitan trying to beat her. It Can't Be Done, Nellie Bly takes you on her adventure.  Come along and see if she makes it!


 

Mar 27, 2018

This book tells the story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist trying to come to terms with his father’s story and the death of his mother. This book follows the story of his father’s experiences in Poland and Auschwitz, as well as that of his entire family. It tells of the romance between his father and mother during this time and their struggles to stay together despite the circumstances. This book shows the relationship between the author and his father throughout. This graphic novel portrays the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats during the Holocaust.


This

Survival Lessons

By Alice Hoffman
5
Rated by Cheryl M.
Feb 18, 2018

Alice Hoffman's Survival Lessons is a tiny, beautiful gem. While I have eagerly devoured all of Hoffman's fiction, I was not aware that she had written a non-fiction book or that she had survived a life-threatening illness. 


Survival Lessons details Hoffman's journey through cancer in the form of life advice. Eighty-three pages long, all the short chapters have the word "choose" in their titles: Choose Your Heroes, Choose to Enjoy Yourself, Choose your Friends, etc. Often displayed in waiting rooms for Oncology patients, Hoffman's book offers so much more than just survival lessons; it

Sirens : a memoir

By Joshua Mohr
5
Rated by Andrew P
Jan 18, 2018

I wonder if this book emits its own hiss. What happens when you hold it to your ear? Can you make out my scorched music?


How do you describe a rocket launcher to your nose? Or a landmine to your brain? In Sirens, Joshua more does just that. Each chapter is broken into snippets of time all wrapped up in a purple haze. Mohr doesn’t spare the reader, nor himself, from the brutal truth of his life as an addict. From the corner of Columbus and Columbus to the shining heights of rehab, he describes in detail the horrors and celebrations that propelled him from junkie to author.


The

The Faraway Nearby

By Rebecca Solnit
4
Rated by Chris K.
Dec 1, 2017

This evocative collection of meditations emerged from a time of crisis in Solnit's life, and centers on her mother's descent into Alzheimer's and her own diagnosis of and treatment for potential cancer. Solnit's writing is fluid and meandering, flowing lyrically from thought to thought, topic to topic. Themes recur frequently and range widely: life in the arctic, decaying apricots, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Che Guevara, leprosy, The Arabian Nights, Buddhism, ice, mirrors, breath, wounds, knots, and more. Central to the entire enterprise is consideration of the nature and purpose of stories

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

By Ruth Franklin
5
Rated by Jesseca B.
Nov 15, 2017

Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed this biography about her life. Even if you are unfamiliar with Jackson, however, you can appreciate this well-researched biography that chronicles the social and political background that shaped the author's writing, as well as the mindset of America during her adult life in the 1930s through the 1960s. Each chapter describes two to four years of her life, from her birth in California in 1916, through her move to New York, until finally her death in Vermont at the age of 48. Franklin's biography, though extensive and

Nov 10, 2017

In the current political climate, one might think the transition from comedy writer to politician would be rather seamless. In Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, Franken describes his struggles trying to get elected by the people of Minnesota in 2008, the balance he has been able to find when working with ideologically opposed members of congress, the work ethic that enabled him to more easily secure re-election in 2014, and the current political climate in Washington.


Franken's latest book is, of course, humorous with several moments where I laughed out loud or held the person nearest to me

Oct 22, 2017

There’s no denying that women have made great strides since the days when Joan Cleaver dominated our stereotype. Today’s women can have it all—a successful and demanding career, a passionate, healthy marriage, and a rewarding home life complete with 2.3 children and a white picket fence. We can be power CEO’s during the day and domestic queens by night. Or can we? Women’s Liberation gave this freedom to women, but as we learned in the late 80’s from Hochschild and Machung and their theory of the Second Shift, this isn’t quite the emancipation we had imagined. In Dropping the Ball, Chief

Oct 9, 2017

Patton Oswalt sometimes serves as my spirit guide. That might be a function of my desire to put all of my useless pop culture knowledge to good use and get paid for it. Which is not to say that I think Patton's job is simply goofing on George Lucas or drawing parallels between his chronic depression and the Mad Max film series. Like all effective comedians, he presents his often insightful and unique views on the world with remarkable timing and a memorable delivery. To that end, I sometimes forget that those jokes must be written and not simply spat at the audience in an impromptu diatribe.

Sep 30, 2017

This graphic memoir is a thoughtful examination of a young woman learning hard truths and trying to find love and support as she figures out what to do with them. Nicole Georges has always believed her father died of colon cancer when she was very young. But she suddenly learns as an adult that he never died at all and that the truth had been hidden by her mother her entire life. The title, Calling Dr. Laura, refers to Dr. Laura, one of the most popular talk show hosts in radio history. Nicole calls Dr. Laura hoping to get advice about whether she should confront her mother about the lie. At

Sep 11, 2017

It's 1845 Haworth, West Yorkshire, England. This historical depiction shows a very bleak and distressing side to the famous Bronte sisters lives. Back when there were very few opportunities for women, it tells of the hardships Charlotte, Emily and Anne faced. It also includes the downfall of their brother Patrick, who they all called by his middle name Bramwell.  His was a tortured soul that could not live up to his own expectations and took it out on his father.

To Walk Invisible created a desire for further research.

Love & Mercy DVD

By Paul Dano
5
Rated by Brent W.
Aug 26, 2017

In portraying Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, Love & Mercy perfectly evokes the Southern California of 1967. I left the theater deeply affected by the sweep of Wilson’s tumultuous life. Paul Dano is superb as the young Brian, and John Cusack is very moving as the deeply troubled middle-aged Brian. In fact, all the actors are superb. While I wasn’t a fan of either the man or the group before, I am now. This is a great movie and I’ve watched it at least five times.

My favorite scenes depict the recording of Brian's masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Highly recommended.

Aug 24, 2017

As an avid watcher of The Daily Show, I knew Trevor Noah was born and raised in South Africa. What I didn't know was how amazing his life circumstances were growing up and just how much he had to overcome to be the person he is today. In Born A Crime, Noah chronicles his life as he remembers it, detailing not only his experiences but also the culture of South Africa just before, then after, the end of apartheid. During apartheid it was illegal for black and white people to be together, let alone have a child. Noah's birth, to a black mother and white father, made him literally born a crime.

Miss Sharon Jones! (DVD)

By Sharon Jones
5
Rated by Brent W.
Aug 10, 2017

Miss Sharon Jones! is worth seeing for Jones' performance in a little country church of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" alone. Her grit, power and will to sing are amazing. The film covers a critical period in her life with her band, the Dap Kings, when she is dealing with intense cancer treatments and, at the same time, trying to keep the group together. Her humor, bravery and explosive talent fill the screen.  


Having seen Sharon and the Dap Kings at the 2016 New Orleans Jazzfest, I wanted to see more performance footage, but recognize we are lucky to have any at all. The film is equally