I hope everyone has had time to enjoy some awesome summer reads. My to-be-read list constantly expands; now that I've been hired for the collection services development librarian position with Fauquier County Public Library, my reading interests will diversify even more. However, this blog will continue to have a children's literature focus for the time being. That being said, here's what I've been reading this summer:
If you luxuriate in rich storytelling with a Southern twist, you'll love The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma's Table. I got a bit impatient with it toward the end, but that's usually normal for me when I'm reading a 400+ page title. For the most part, this tribute to Bragg's mesmerizing, offbeat, and hardscrabble Alabama family, particularly his mother and grandparents, is an abosrbing read.
While recent Southern culinary histories (like The Potlikker Papers) have discussed the importance of African-American influences in Southern foodways, books such as The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South remain distinct and important. It recently received the prestigious James Beard award for Book of the Year (the first book authored by an African-American to do so), and is a fascinating, sorrowful, enlightening (and occasionally wandering) read. Twitty is a noted reenactor at plantations, at which he demonstrates the cooking habits of the enslaved African Americans who lived there, which makes his connection to African American southern history very personal and intimate (he also has a deep interest in his personal genealogy). Twitty packs a lot into his debut title, so be prepared to give this one some time.
I'm enthused and excited by the growth and depth of YA fiction and children's fiction by authors from Arab/Middle Eastern heritage. Author Anat Deracine grew up in Saudi Arabia, which gives Driving by Starlight an authenticity that heightens its quality. Leenie and Mishie enjoy typical teenage girl interests--chatting about boys, school, dancing to pop music, and dreaming about their future--but their severely restricted life in Saudi Arabia means that every small step outside their rigid culture can mean severe consequences. This is a revealing and heartfelt look at a society that is little known to most American readers.
You may be familiar with the lyrics to "God Bless America," but do you know the history behind its creation? Famed songwriter Irving Berlin, who fled anti-Semitic persecution in Russia during his childhood, created it during the dark days of World War I (and later slightly revised by Berlin during Hitler's ascendancy). God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin is a moving tribute to this iconic American song.
I'm not an avid true crime reader, but I'll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer gripped me from the very beginning. I love it when authors reveal their personal connections/reasons for their interest in their subject(s); McNamara honestly reveals how her amateur sleuthing into the GSK case personally affected her. Whether it's justified or not, I'm wary of most true crime books because the genre can feel sensationalist to me; McNamara's sensitivity and genuine compassion for the victims and survivors of the brutal GSK read honest and true. McNamara died suddenly before she could complete her book; it was finished by her main researchers, complete with annotations and extracts from her drafts. This is a remarkable achievement. An arrest in the decades old Golden State Killer case was made several months after the book's publication.
Need more ideas? Here's what I'll be working on in the near future:
Pumpkin Spice Secrets (a newish middle-grade series that bridges the gap between children's and YA, for readers that want some boy-girl romance--and conflicts! Cute so far.)
Ali: A Life (working on an idea for a history/biography project, so working my way through biographies and histories now!)
Give Me Some Truth (I thought Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here was exceptional; this has received amazing reviews)
Rome: A History in Seven Sackings (super excited about this one; all about how seven attacks on Rome have changed the city, starting from ancient times and ending with Germany's attack in 1943).
Crazy Rich Asians (always interested in reading books from different cultures; this one has been hard to come by due to the movie, so I need to read it fast)
There There (contemporary Native American literature about twelve Native people attending their annual powwow; eager to read this, as are other patrons, so will finish this soon)
Jennifer Schultz, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library