The Huntress: The Adventures, Escapades, and Triumphs of Alicia Patterson... by Alice Arlen and Michael J. ArlenAs a young woman, newspaper publisher Alicia Patterson was a daring equestrian, a pilot, and a big game hunter before becoming a businesswoman. In this biography, authors Alice and Michael Arlen trace her life from her unconventional youth to her success as a founder and publisher (with her third husband Harry Guggenheim) of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Newsday. Fans of women's history and of journalism will want to pick up this richly detailed life story of a woman who made it big in a so-called man's business.
Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family by Daniel BergnerIn Sing for Your Life, author Daniel Bergner profiles award-winning African-American opera singer Ryan Speedo Green, who grew up in a trailer park, far from the glittering world of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Surrounded by poverty and drugs, Green was placed in a juvenile psychiatric facility, where he discovered that music quelled his rage. From that point on, he focused on studying vocal music and made it his goal to sing at the Met. Succeeding as a black man in a predominantly white profession, he has sung in numerous bass-baritone roles in New York and Vienna. For an absorbing account of another successful African-American opera career, try Jessye Norman's Stand Up Straight and Sing!
The Hero's Body: A Memoir by William GiraldiNovelist William Giraldi, critically acclaimed for his debut Busy Monsters, turns to memoir in The Hero's Body. Motivated by the death of his 47-year-old father in a motorcycle crash, he crafts a meditation on the hypermasculinity evident in his father's pastime and in his own teenaged devotion to bodybuilding. In "lucid, vibrant prose" (Publishers Weekly), he considers the macho environment where he grew up, recognizing the values embedded in the masculine culture of blue-collar men. For a richly literary memoir and deft portrayal of men's lives, try this moving, insightful examination of a father-son relationship.
Irena's Children: A True Story of Courage by Tilar J. MazzeoIn 1942, Irena Sendler, a young Polish social worker, was assigned to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist. When she realized the grim fate that loomed over the Jewish families enclosed within, she joined with colleagues to smuggle children out and connect them with helpful Gentiles. Though most of the families later died in the Holocaust, her remarkable efforts saved 2,500 of their children. Author Tilar Mazzeo draws on Polish records that were unavailable until the 1990s, interviews with survivors, and other accounts of Sendler's life to produce this accessible and inspiring chronicle of courage and self-sacrifice.
Danger Close: My Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan by Amber SmithFew American women have served as combat helicopter pilots, but former 101st Airborne Pilot-in-Command Amber Smith flew in both Iraq and Afghanistan during two deployments. In this no-nonsense memoir, she relates her aspiration to become a pilot like both her parents, her decision to join the Army after 9/11, and her training. The bulk of her account provides vividly detailed views of what it's like to fly a Kiowa Warrior low and fast, sometimes under fire. Though Smith avoids controversial issues, this compelling narrative will appeal to fans of combat memoirs and women who want to know more about military service.
November and December Birthdays
Spoken from the Heart by Laura BushNovember 4, 1946. In Spoken from the Heart, former First Lady Laura Bush offers a "fine, lyrical" (Los Angeles Times) account of her life from her childhood and youth in Midland, Texas, to her marriage to the 43rd President of the U.S., George W. Bush. Thoughtful and insightful, this compelling memoir provides commentary on aspects of American history as well as an intimate portrait of its author.
The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China by Chen GuangchengNovember 12, 1971. After escaping house arrest in 2012, Guangcheng Chen made international headlines as he broke free of the Chinese government's efforts to suppress his voice. In The Barefoot Lawyer, Chen relates his life story, explaining how illness destroyed his sight in infancy, how he obtained an education despite his disability, and why he began to advocate for women's rights, land reform, and improved conditions for the poor in China. For another compelling memoir by a Chinese dissident, read Baiqiao Tang's My Two Chinas.
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography by Susan CheeverNovember 29, 1832. Louisa May Alcott only wrote her immortal novel Little Women because she needed the money to support her family, but its success both provided financial benefits and assured her place in women's and literary history. In this thoroughly researched biography, author Susan Cheever views her as a writer, a volunteer nurse during the Civil War, an intellectual progressive, and a woman who defied the conventions of her time. This engrossing life story offers an introduction for readers unfamiliar with Alcott's life and a complement to more conventional biographies, such as Harriet Reisen's acclaimed Louisa May Alcott.
Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David Henry and Joe HenryDecember 1, 1940. By the time he died in 2005, Richard Pryor had won an Emmy, five Grammys, and several other awards. He is still Number One on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest standup comedians. But he also was addicted to drugs, married seven times (to six different women), and served time in an Army prison. Though regarded as a brilliant comic and known for his uncompromising and outspoken work, Pryor had difficulty maintaining emotional connections with others: both may have resulted from a difficult childhood marked by abuse. In Furious Cool, his biographers (both fans) have created an engaging and insightful account of the troubled genius' life.
Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione LeeDecember 17, 1916. In this award-winning biography, author Hermione Lee offers an insightful portrait of award-winning British novelist and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald, whose first book came out when she was 58. Perceptively relating Fitzgerald's family background and life to her novels, Lee draws on Fitzgerald's own journals and research notes to create this detailed, emotionally rich portrait. Whether you're looking for a compelling literary biography or you're a Fitzgerald enthusiast, you shouldn't miss this "invaluable" (Booklist) work.
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