Rise: How a House Built a Family by Cara BrookinsAfter escaping two abusive marriages, author Cara Brookins had four children to provide for and only herself to rely on. In Rise, she describes how, after her financial situation forced her to sell her home, she then realized that she and the children could build their own house. The book's alternating chapters detail Brookins' fearful existence with her former husbands and chronicle the house construction -- which also served to heal and rebuild her family. For a frank portrait of determination to prevail over daunting challenges, take a look at this engaging memoir.
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee's Incredible Story of Love, Loss... by Melissa FlemingAfter civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, eventually driving millions from their homes, 19-year-old Doaa Al Zamel and her family fled to Egypt. As the political situation there deteriorated, she and her new husband undertook a risky sea crossing to Europe, but their boat wrecked and many passengers drowned. Al Zamel's story was widely reported after she rescued a young child from the water, but in A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea we read more complete details of her "inspiring and illuminating" (Publishers Weekly) story. For additional accounts of the risks and dangers that Middle Eastern refugees are facing, check out Patrick Kingsley's The New Odyssey.
Of All That Ends by Günter Grass; translated by Breon MitchellIn this absorbing collection of writings on life, creativity, and aging, Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass explores his memories in prose, poems, and drawings. Incomplete at the time of his death, Of All That Ends sums up many vivid memories, such as an account of stockpiling ribbons for his beloved Olivetti typewriter. Grass also recounts discoveries in old age, including a diminished need for sleep and the experience of designing his and his wife's coffins and trying them out once they arrived. This is an elegantly written testament to the author's life, to positive aspects of growing old, and to the power of art to inspire others.
My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King, as told to Barbara ReynoldsOver the course of many years, Coretta Scott King's close friend, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, recorded interviews with King about her experiences. In My Life, My Love, My Legacy, Reynolds assembles these accounts into an authorized biography. From her childhood in segregated Heiberger, Alabama through her college days in Ohio and her classical music studies in Boston, Coretta aspired to be a professional musician. That changed after Martin Luther King Jr persuaded her to marry him, build a family together, and return South to combat Jim Crow. This up-close, graceful narrative offers a vivid depiction of the Kings' lives, especially Coretta's, and the Civil Rights movement.
Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White by Michael TisserandCartoonist George Herriman created the character Krazy Kat in popular cartoons that ran in American newspapers between 1913 and 1944. In this thoroughly researched biography, acclaimed author Michael Tisserand discusses Herriman's influence on later artists and cartoonists. He also explores Herriman's personal life, revealing that the New Orleans native was a Creole African American who passed as white with the nickname "Greek" after the family moved to Los Angeles. In his cartoons, Herriman satirized race and culture in the U.S. while keeping his multiracial background secret. Krazy provides both a captivating view of an aspect of art history and an eye-opening study of the significance of racial identity.
Contemporary and Historic Women
Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin DowneyWhen Europe was beginning its transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, one of the most powerful monarchs was Isabella I of Castile. Though she's typically named second in the pair "Ferdinand and Isabella," she was the sovereign Queen, who unified Spain in an era of frequent wars, forced Moors and Jews to convert to Catholicism under threat of banishment, and funded Columbus' voyages to the Western Hemisphere on behalf of Spanish expansion. In Isabella, historian Kirstin Downey demonstrates why she was one of the most significant women in history. This detailed, engaging portrait displays the queen's "fingerprints on Renaissance culture and religion" (Publishers Weekly).
I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist by Betty Halbreich with Rebecca PaleyWhen Betty Halbreich published this book in 2014, she was 86 years old and still working as a personal shopper for luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman, where she'd acquired a loyal following over her 40 years there. I'll Drink to That is as much a personal accounting of her life (privileged childhood, early marriage, and a divorce that forced her into the working world) as it is about her influential role in the lives of her clients. If you're interested in the world of women's fashion and couture gossip, you'll enjoy reading about Halbreich and her trademark style -- which you can now follow on Facebook!
Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring her Home by Laura Ling and Lisa LingIn March 2009, American citizen Laura Ling and her translator Euna Lee were working on a documentary near the border between China and North Korea when they were captured, tried for trespassing and "hostile acts," and sentenced to hard labor. Laura's sister, journalist Lisa Ling, launched a campaign for their release that involved a worldwide media appeal and solicited support from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, among other prominent leaders. In Somewhere Inside, Laura and Lisa relate their ordeals in alternating chapters, revealing the sisters' persistent faith and unwavering love over the five months of Laura and Euna's captivity.
The Bolter by Frances OsborneIn 1982, when author Frances Osborne was 13, she was reading the London Sunday Times when she found a compelling photo showing an elegant woman, Idina Sackville, framed between two elephant tusks. When Frances' parents saw what she had discovered, they broke the news to her that the notorious Idina was her great-grandmother. This revelation eventually led Frances to trace Idina's life and write The Bolter -- a choice of title that reflects Idina's nickname, inspired by her serial marriages and over-the-top behavior. For more on the prominent but often unconventional Sackville family, try Juliet Nicolson's A House Full of Daughters.
Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna WhitelockKing Henry VIII of England's first child to survive past infancy was a girl: Mary Tudor's birth was a disappointment and the lack of surviving brothers a source of consternation to her father. Declared a bastard by King Henry, she fought to take the throne as Mary I while asserting her Catholic faith. Biographer Anna Whitelock paints her as a tenacious survivor who demonstrated her intelligence and administrative abilities as queen. If you're a fan of women's history or an English history buff, you'll find this vivid, engaging account riveting.
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