I just finished Americanah, a wonderful novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Purple Hibiscus, among others. Adichie came to my attention through her non-fiction work, We Should All Be Feminists, but her fiction should not be missed.
Americanah tells the story of a Nigerian woman’s years in the US, and her eventual return to Nigeria. I was attracted to this novel because I usually enjoy expat stories and cross-cultural adventures, and I thought it would be an interesting way to learn more about Nigeria. Adichie handles the theme well, blending moments of cultural discovery that will be familiar to any expat, with moments that were uniquely Nigerian (and uniquely Ifemelu). I found Ifemelu’s mixture of reverse culture shock and comfort on her return to Nigeria is particularly moving.
|Recommended by Meg Stivison||Wednesday, March 9th, 2016||1 Comment »|
Long before Pharaoh Nefertiti and Queen Cleopatra VII took power in ancient Egypt, there was a successful female ruler by the name of Hatshepsut who defied the usual tradition of having a male heir.
In Kara Cooney’s The Woman Who Would Be King, she details Hatshepsut’s rise to power. She was married to her brother Thutmose but failed to produce a male heir. He died young and she out-maneuvered her brother’s second wife for a place on the throne, which led to Hatshepsut being named co-regent for her nephew Thutmose III. Instead of regurgitating dry facts about the female Pharaoh’s life, Cooney weaves a fascinating tale that explores how Hatshepsut faced similar obstacles to today’s modern women.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Monday, March 7th, 2016||No Comments »|
Set in a surprisingly nostalgic distant future, Space Boy tells the sweet, science-fiction story of two wildly different teenagers who, through chance and happenstance, manage to traverse an entire universe only to find each other.
Amy is a girl lost in time. Hailing from a deep space mining colony, Amy’s happy and mundane adolescence is irreparably changed when her family must transfer to Earth. In order to make the long voyage, Amy must go under cryogenic status for 30 years, leaving behind her friends and home only to wake up on a planet she doesn’t know, to a life that has undergone three decades without her.
Insecure and lonely, Amy attempts to pick up where she left off, entering a public high school and experiencing normal Earthling life for the first time. But her world is soon shaken yet again when she meets Oliver, a secretive and withdrawn boy whose solipsistic worldview hints at a much larger trauma in his past. Against all odds, the two manage to become friends, and Amy finds herself unwittingly entering into a plot much larger than herself — more dangerous than anything high school has prepared her for.
Space Boy is the kind of science-fiction that wipes away the sterile chrome from its setting, replacing it instead with the warm glow of a slice-of-life story that still manages to feel otherworldly.
|Recommended by Marie Anello||Monday, February 29th, 2016||No Comments »|
On the surface, Thrown is a nonfiction book about mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting, but author Kerry Howley takes the story into strange waters. The book begins with “Kit”/Howley, a graduate philosophy student, attending a conference on the topic of Phenomenology. Bored, she leaves and wanders into the adjacent MMA conference next door. As she witnesses men pummel each other in a cage, she describes feeling a sense of philosophical ecstasy. Wanting to delve deeper into the intellectual side of the violent spectacle of sports, she becomes something like an MMA groupie, attaching herself to two fighters, Sean Huffman, the waning old-timer, and Erik Koch, the young prodigy.
|Recommended by The Absolute Staff||Friday, February 26th, 2016||No Comments »|
The Swans of Fifth Avenueby Melanie Benjamin, the author of Alice I Have Been, tells the story of Truman Capote and his New York socialite friends, especially highlighting his relationship with Babe Paley. This whole novel is a gossipy delight, especially since I was mostly familiar with Truman Capote through In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and this story reveals a whole new side. I love manners novels, and this has wonderfully cutting accounts of which social activities are acceptable (sleeping with friends’ properly pedigreed husbands) and which are embarrassing faux pas (touching up one’s lipstick in public).
After years of gossiping, traveling, and dining in all the right places, Capote publishes a short story, “La Côte Basque 1965,” about the scandals of thinly-veiled Manhattan socialites. Predictably, Manhattan society is outraged by Capote’s publishing of deep secrets and dirty laundry, not to mention his terribly unflattering descriptions of very recognizable characters. Swans of Fifth Avenue shows Capote’s affection for Babe Paley, his closest friend among the “swans,” but even her secrets slip out and appear in his work. Or did they slip out accidentally? The novel also covers Capote’s decline from witty new writer to a drunk and drugged out hedonist, and by the end, it’s hard to know just how much of Capote’s public airing of friends’ secrets was thoughtless, calculated, or just self-destructive.
|Recommended by Meg Stivison||Wednesday, February 17th, 2016||No Comments »|
Jessica Chiarella’s adult science-fiction novel And Again tells the story of four terminally ill patients who are given the chance to start a new life in genetically perfected versions of their bodies.
However, each of the protagonists struggle with their identities when they receive the transplant: Hannah, an artist, has to re-learn how to hold a brush; David, who was a Congressman, struggles to not return to his vices; Connie, who worked as an actress, has to navigate an industry that is obsessed with physical beauty; and Linda has to learn how to re-connect with her family.
Chiarella forces you to muse on when it is appropriate to draw the line with scientific advances. Is it morally okay to clone humans if you are going to use the technology to save the lives of terminally ill patients?
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Monday, February 15th, 2016||No Comments »|
Most DC Comics fans know Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary) as either Oliver Queen’s girlfriend or as the feisty lawyer turned vigilante on the CW’s Arrow.
Now, Brendan Fletcher has re-vamped the popular heroine in Black Canary and given her a chance to shine in the spotlight instead of just being the Green Arrow’s other half.
This incarnation of Dinah is vastly different from Laurel on Arrow. While both are strong female characters in their own right, the difference between them is that Dinah’s trying to escape her past by becoming a singer, while Laurel is channeling her anger at losing her sister to becoming a superhero.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Monday, February 8th, 2016||No Comments »|