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Books for Women
— December 2005 —
Volume 1 Number 3
Booksellers have no time to write book reviews in December,
so I flew to Chicago and asked Women and Children First staffers what books they’re
recommending for the gift-giving season. It seemed a useful question and turned
up a number of books that would be wonderful gifts for friends, family, coworkers,
and colleagues — or for yourself.
The brilliance, insight, and commentary are theirs;
typos and transcription errors are mine.
Books To Watch Out For
P.S. If you want the quick and easy shopping experience,
just click through and order the books you want from Women & Children First,
have them delivered to your door, and your shopping is done. Or, if you live in
Chicago, you can opt to pick them up at the store.
For the Kids
Linda Bubon recommends:
All three of these books can be enjoyed by children
from 3 to 10, really!
Robert Sabuda, the current master of paper engineering, offers one of his
most enchanting pop-ups, Winter’s
Tale. Sparkly white landscapes abound with deer, squirrels, owls, and
other winter woodland creatures. The text is simple and poetic, and there’s a
twinkling surprise at the end. Little Simon, $26.95.
Can You See What I See? Night Before Christmas is one of Walter
Wick’s "I Spy" books with picture puzzles to search and solve. The beauty of this
as a holiday book is that 3-year-old cousins can look at it with 8-year-olds (or
gramps) and have equal advantage spying “A snowshoe, a fence, a shovel, an ax,
2 mittens, a skate, wild turkey tracks....” And the Clement Moore poem is printed
on the end papers. Scholastic, $13.99.
What would a mean old factory owner named
Scroogemacher say when his workers want to leave a little early to celebrate Hanukkah?
Shmanukkah! This retelling of the Dickens classic by Esme Raji Codell
and illustrated by LeUyen Pham is full of personality, great storytelling, and
a delightful sprinkling of Yiddish (and there’s a glossary). Thoroughly entertaining,
I’m hoping I get a chance to read this aloud for some group this holiday. Hyperion,
Tish Hayes recommends:
Jazz A B Z: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits,
by Wynton Marsalis and illustrated by Paul Rogers, is my new favorite children’s
book. It looks like a record in a sleeve and is arranged like an ABC book, with
a poem about a jazz artist and an illustration on each page. It starts with Louie
Armstrong, Count Basie is next, and the reader quickly discovers that all of the
poems are in a different form, and they’re stunning, as are the illustrations.
Support materials in the back include biographical sketches of each musician as
well as a section that explains all of the poetic forms. Jazz-loving parents
with jazz-loving children will love this book as would anyone with a sense of
delight who wants to learn more about jazz. .Candlewick Press, $24.99 hardcover.
The publisher says it’s for grades 4-8.
Another book I love for the 3rd to 6th graders
is The Color of My Words, by Lynn Joseph. It’s about a 12-year-old girl
who lives in the Dominican Republic and wants to be a writer. She writes and writes
and writes but her writing terrifies her family and her neighbors who fear it
could get her killed and they tell her to stop. But her writing has purpose: when
a strange sea monster scares away tourists (and the town’s income) she writes
a mythology about it that brings the tourists back and saves the day financially.
Later, when the government wants to bulldoze the town, her words help rally the
townspeople to stand up against the tanks. But when her brother is killed she
decides that, because her words didn’t save him, they’re worthless and she stops
writing. But, in the end, her mother and father and the people who were so convinced
that her writing would destroy her, encourage her to find her words to celebrate
her brother’s life and as well as her own life. It’s a beautiful story with a
lot of information about the Dominican Republic and some great politics. Harper
Ann Christophersen suggests...
Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits
(by Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz, photography by Mary Ann Halpin) would make
a great gift. I find that, like many women in my generation, I’m more and more
interested in midlife issues, but this is also a great gift for younger women
looking into their own futures. As you can see, the cover photo is of a woman
in an elegant, satiny dress but holding a sword in a very powerful position over
her head, and she has a martial arts-like expression on her face. The sword functions
as the leitmotiv for the portraits and it’s very interesting to see the variety
of ways that women hold it. Each woman’s portrait is accompanied by a photograph
at a younger age, a bit of text about what she remembers being like, and a longer
piece about what the then-young woman went on to do in her life. And each woman
responds to a question or two, such as “What do you love most about being in the
middle of your life?” “What is changed about your self perception since you were
a young woman?” or “If you could go back and speak to your younger self, what
piece of wisdom would you share?” The content of each piece is unique, but they
combine to make quite a portrait of midlife women. And the price is very reasonable:
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $27.50 cloth.
A Day in the Life of the American Woman: How We
See Ourselves, by Sharon Wohlmuth, Carol Saline, and Dawn Sheggeby (the team
who put together Sisters and Mothers & Daughters) and fifty
women photographers. This one is more impressive photographically than the first
two, and all the photographs are by the world’s leading women photographers, so
you get a look at contemporary women’s photography as well as the theme. One thing
I like about this book is its enormous diversity: women from all sorts of communities
and ethnic groups are presented — and it also presents a really diverse range
of what the women actually do in their lives. Spreads include short biographies
of the women portrayed, their situation, and something about who the women are
as people as well as their photographs. And they’re doing everything you can think
of: from building their own houses to taking in foster children, to surfing, to
minding the border patrol, to starting and running businesses, to skateboarding
with their daughters, and feeding the farm animals. The photos are great and the
collection offers a very kaleidoscopic, fulsome presentation of women in contemporary
life. Bulfinch, $35.00 and worth every penny.
Queens: Portraits of Black Women and Their Fabulous
Hair, by photographer Michael Cunningham and George Alexander is a cool
book. It’s a sequel, of sorts, to Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church
Hats, which was published a few years ago. The elegant black and white photographs
are accompanied by first person narratives about... hair. The hairdos are great
— they range from a woman who has no hair and how she feels about having lost her
hair, to the fanciest possible contraptions on the top of women’s heads. It’s
all very artfully done and there’s a wonderful richness of diversity in these
photographs. They’re not all fancy, by any means, but they’re all pretty darn
interesting. There’s a lot of pride and pleasure manifest in these photographs.
There’s also a lot of politics to hair, and the choices these women make are pretty
carefully thought out. Doubleday, $29.95 cloth.
sold more copies of Marie-Pierre Colle’s Guadalupe:
Body and Soul than any art book in recent years. It’s a stunning book
and offers a range of images and representations of Guadalupe from all over Mexico
and South America, from statuary to street parades and tattoos. The text discusses
why she’s so important, her role as the patron saint of the downtrodden and oppressed,
and her many manifestations. And it is only $24.95 in hardcover — it’s a
wonderfully extravagant art book for those on a budget. Published by Vendome.
Just for the fun of it: Living Artists, an
exploration of three dimensional art, comes with these hip little 3-D glasses
you have to wear to see the art. It’s all amazing and fun. Compiled by Ivy Sundel,
Crow Woods Press, oversized $28.50.
Circle Stories is a catalog of paintings from
Riva Lehrer’s show at the Chicago Cultural Center. She’s a great artist and these
are wonderful portraits of people in a variety of fields — the arts, academia,
and political activism — each of whom has a significant physical disability and
an interest in exploring body issues in her or his own work. Lehrer’s self portrait
reflects her experience of spina bifida. The book is gorgeous. It’s an amazing collection;
the vision she brings to the work is a real gift. One of the very striking paintings
is of Eli Clare, the author of Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation.
Gescheidle, $20 paperback.
To see some of the paintings: www.rivalehrer.com.
Diana Souhami, who wrote the biographies
Gluck, Gertrude and Alice, The Trials of Radclyffe Hall,
and Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter, has a new book out called Wild
Girls: Paris, Sappho and Art — The Lives and Loves of Natalie
Barney and Romaine Brooks. She’s a great biographer and fine writer, and there
hasn’t been anything published about Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks for a number
of years so I expect there will be a lot of lesbian interest in this book. Romaine
Brooks is a well known artist, so I think it will also have a broader readership.
St. Martin’s Press, $29.95.
I think Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and
You Fall Down is one of the greatest books ever written. She’s the editor
of American Scholar and her writing is elegant and exudes such a sense
of respect and awe for language. Her new book, Rereadings: Seventeen
Writers Revisit Books They Love, reflects her deep appreciation for the importance
of stories and the human experience of reading and telling them. Part of the joy
of reading it is that the contributors are writing about why they love
these books. Think Vivian Gornick on reading Colette, Allegra Goodman on Jane
Austen, Patricia Hampl on Katharine Mansfield, Barbara Sjoholm on The Snow
Queen..... Then imagine curling up in the living room on a winter night under
a cozy throw or reading it on the back porch in the summer. Pick it up when you
have only a little time but want some deep satisfaction. It would be a great gift,
too. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $22 cloth.
A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
(The Spiral Staircase, et al.) would make a terrific holiday present. If
you’re thinking of a really good friend, go for the companion volumes, The
Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood’s retelling of the myth of Penelope and Odysseus
from The Odyssey and Weight, Jeanette Winterson’s retelling of the myth
of Atlas and Heracles. Atwood, you can probably already guess, has a much different
take on the story than Homer had. They’re all short books — about 150 pages, $18
each in cloth.
They’re all great, but I’d recommend starting with
A Short History of Myth, because its really a great boon to have Armstrong’s
understanding of myth at the ready when you begin the others. She writes about
the significance of myth, its features and its development over time, and the
purpose myth serves in contemporary times. This book is so tightly constructed;
every single sentence says something that you’ll want to think about at length;
it’s so rich you’ll want to read it multiple times and, because it’s short, you
It really got me thinking about myth again and
the purpose of myth. Armstrong sees a close relationship between myth and science
because the imagination is the source of both. She posits that myth is essential
to understanding our lives in contemporary times and that we neglect myth at our
peril. It’s an amazing book. It’s so great to have such great storytellers (re)telling
these stories. And these are just the first three books in the series. Canongate,
$18 each, cloth, about 150 pages.
Linda Bubon recommends...
If you haven’t heard the Kitchen Sisters
(Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) on NPR, you may well have heard one of their
stories from “Lost & Found Sound.” As oral historians, their gift is pulling
great stories out of people, and the stories in their stylishly illustrated new
book and their beautifully orchestrated CD, Hidden
Kitchens, will make you laugh, cry, and think. This is a book about community-building
and the sharing of food. It includes stories about the homeless, the hungry, the
eccentric, and the delightful and is a great book for anyone who loves cooking
and social activism. Rodale $27.50 cloth; $19.95 CD.
Studs Terkel, the premier oral historian (to whom the Kitchen Sisters dedicate
their book), is now 94, and he’s just published a book of interviews with all
kinds of musicians. And They All Sang gives you the voices of myriad
performers, from classical divas to blues belters, and covers most of the 20th
century. But what is even more remarkable is the theme that comes across through
all these voices: the joy of the artist when music transcends the limits of the
body and reaches into the realm of the spirit, connecting artist with audience.
New Press, $25.95.
bibliophiles of all ages, Maureen Corrigan’s Leave
Me Alone I’m Reading is a real treat. Corrigan grew up, like me, in a
working-class family with a mom who thought she’d ruin her eyes with all that
reading. Her memories of the happy hours spent with books, her cogent feminist
analysis of the female “extreme adventure novel,” and her wonderful lists of books
worth reading make this a book to refer to again and again. Random House,
Eudora Welty: A Biography. Eudora Welty has been one of my favorite
writers since high school, and I knew that she was very private about her life
and didn’t intend for an authorized biography to be published until after her
death. Suzanne Marrs, an English professor in Jackson, Mississippi, was close
to Welty for the last two decades of her life and has written an affectionate,
sometimes surprising, thorough, and engaging biography that will, hopefully, put
to rest the false image of Welty as a homebody spinster and “regional” writer.
The Welty who emerges here is sophisticated, extremely social, politically astute,
and complex. Harcourt, $28.00.
Pam Harcourt suggests...
Leah Hager Cohen’s Without Apology: Girls, Women,
and the Desire to Fight is kind of a stealth feminist book. I’d give it to
any boxing fans you happen to have in your family, to anyone who loved the movie
Million Dollar Baby, and to anyone interested in women and sports, women’s
body issues, or in those challenging questions about women and aggression. Cohen
comes to the subject with pretty rational ideas about boxing — getting hit in
the head is bad, boxing is exploitation, etc., but her body contradicts her. She
wants to spar and to fully express her own aggression in the “safe” space of the
ring. Her writing is clean and engrossing as she explores these contradictions
in her own life and in the lives of the young women boxers and one extraordinary
woman trainer that she meets along the way. I read this just before seeing Million
Dollar Baby and it really resonated. If you’re still thinking about the character
in the movie or the awesome girl fight, this is for you.
Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary
War to the Present see (MBW
#1) is another stealth feminist gift. Reading women’s letters is a great way
to learn about women’s history, and it’s a great gift for both feminists and women
who don’t identify as feminists, as well as for teens with U.S. History classes.
Edited by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler, Dial Press, 824 pages, $35.
Life Mask is pretty new in paperback and a
good gift for anyone who likes historical fiction. I don’t usually read historical
fiction, but I’ve read a couple of Emma Donoghue’s earlier books and now I’ll
read anything that she writes — even a 630 page historical novel set in Old England.
And it’s fantastic! It revolves around this woman sculptor and her circle of friends,
while the Whigs and the Tories are fighting it out, and the French revolution is
exciting and scaring everyone. The people are demanding new rights. And in the
midst of it all there’s this self-made woman actor trying to make a life for herself
and, in what’s a more minor but still important thread, the sculptor is trying
to sort out what she feels for the women in her life. Donoghue is an Irish writer
who has also lived in England and Canada. She’s an historian, as well, and most
of this book, including the lesbian subplot, is all based on actual events and
historical documents. Harcourt, $14.00.
Seaman interviews writers for WLUV, one of our local radio stations and some of
her best interviews are collected in Writers
on the Air: Conversations About Books. The conversations are more about
the writing than about the writers as celebrities, so it would make a wonderful
gift for people who love the work that these writers do. It includes interviews
with writers our readers know and love — Diane Ackerman, Margaret Atwood,
Sandra Cisneros, Chitra Divakaruni, Jamaica Kincaid, Alice McDermott — as
well as writers they’ll want to check out after reading their interviews. The
Linda Barry interview was particularly fabulous — and funny. Peter Dry Books,
Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June
Jordan gathers the work from her ten books of poetry as well as work that
hasn’t been previously published, including work from just before her death from
breast cancer. It’s a fantastic gift for poetry people, for activists, for anyone
who wants to benefit from this poet’s clear eye for injustice of all kinds, and
for anyone who collects the important works of women of color. It’s the
June Jordan book to have. Edited by Jan Heller, with an introduction by Adrienne
Rich. 650 pages, Copper Canyon Press, $40 cloth.
you want to give a gift that will push people a bit, politically, and yet you
still want to be welcome at future family gatherings.... A
People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present would fill that
bill because it’s a collection of oral histories. You can argue with someone’s
politics, but this is a collection of people saying, “This is what happened to
me,” and then the reader gets to think about it. But, given that Howard Zinn picked
them out, the experiences recalled won’t be the ones you see on Fox TV.... It’s
a fascinating collection looking at such things as slavery, the struggles against
racial segregation, the struggles to stop the war in Vietnam..... It would also
be a good gift for someone in high school that you want to think about things.
They can flip through the book, find something they’re interested in or that they’re
studying in school that will give them a wider perspective than what they’re getting
in school. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 770 pages, $18.95 paper.
Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know is
a huge new book about graphic novels. It would be great for anyone who’s already
into graphic novels, as well as for anyone who’s curious about them and wondering
where to start. Teenagers, especially artists, would love it. Basically it takes
you through some of the best graphic novels, classics like Persepolis.
It’s a great introduction to this newly recognized literary form. By Paul Gravett,
Collins, $24.95, oversize paperback.
Another great graphic-lit gift would be the new boxed
set of Persepolis and Persepolis 2, Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical
graphic novels about growing up in Iran during the revolution (P) and her
teenage years and teenage isolation (P2). They’re both really heartbreaking
and funny, and both present a beautiful marriage of text and pictures. In her
later book, Embroideries, she uses full-page illustrations to present a
gathering in which the women in her family and their friends spend an afternoon
talking about, well, sex, and their relationships and life. It’s hard to imagine
sitting in on that kind of conversation here, as a teenager or young woman. When
Satrapi was here, she addressed that, a bit, and talked about how much more uptight
and shame-based people here are about things like sex and smoking and everything
that has some pleasure or some danger. In our culture we’re super focused on the
danger; there you don’t need a prescription to buy birth control, it’s just understood
that some adults will want it and since they’re adults, they’ll go get it. She’s
awesome. P and P2 would be great gifts for teens, anyone willing
to make the leap into this new literary form, and anyone who’s interested in women’s
stories. $18 each or $23.90 for the slip-covered set. Embroideries is $16.95,
all from Pantheon.
We recently expanded our crafts section because so
many young women are taking up crafting — it’s kind of an anti-consumer thing that
focuses on the pleasure of actually making something. Bazaar Bizarre: Not Your
Granny's Crafts! has lots of cool non-traditional designs like skulls, directions
for knitting them, and the like. No traditional mitten projects here! By Greg
Der Ananian, Studio, $16.95 272 pages, paper.
But any arty knitter will love The
Art of Knitting: Inspirational Stitches, Textures, and Surfaces, a gorgeous
and sensual art book with close up pictures of lots of yarn textures. Perfect
for those people who go into a yarn shop and touch everything and don’t want to
leave. By Françoise Tellier Lamagne, published by Hudson at $39.95.
Katherine V. Forrest’s new anthology,
Pulp Fiction, has a wonderfully scandalous cover. Subtitled The
Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels, 1950 – 1965, it features
excerpts from novels by Ann Bannon, Vin Packer, Paula Christian, Valerie Taylor,
and others that we’ve stocked. People grab these books for the clean hard-boiled
writing, the excitement of seeing this kind of writing from women, and, of course,
because it’s fun to read about the scandalous, forbidden tales of the 50s and
early 60s. Cleis Press, 400+ pages, $18.95 paperback.
What do I give to my guy friends?
I give guys books by women, because
a lot of guys won’t read women if the books aren’t literally given to them. I’ve
given Persepolis to a lot of guys, and Kelly Link’s
for Beginners to guys I know who are into fantasy. (I give her first book
of short stories, Stranger
Things Happen, to everyone.) Last year I gave one of my guy friends Michelle
Tea’s biography, Chelsea
Whistle, because I think that if you can get them to read a woman writing
about her life that’s a really good thing. The graphic novels, and Without
Apology, of course, and, if they’re writers, Donna Seaman’s book, because
I think it’s always good for them to read a collection that includes women equally.
Tish Hayes recommends.....
For poetry lovers I’d recommend Anne Carson’s Decreation.
She’s known for her lyrical writing and everything I’ve read by her has been beautiful,
inspiring, and really interesting. This, her newest collection, includes new poetry,
essays and even an opera. Check out her wonderfully poetic novels, too. Knopf,
For the activists
on your list, especially in the current political climate, how about Pregnancy
And Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America by Rickie
Solinger? I just read Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive
Justice (South End Press, $20 paperback) for our Young Feminist Reading Group,
so I’m thinking a lot about the aspects of reproductive rights that rarely get
mainstream media attention: the times when “population control” is just an euphemism
for genocide, the rights for women who want to keep their babies when the government
is actively convincing them not to, the need for broader childcare and child support
systems, access to health care for all, as well as access to safe, affordable
abortion. In Pregnancy And Power Rickie Solinger gives us a history of
the movement that includes all of these issues. Anyone interested in politics
on a broad level would do well to read it. NYU Press, $27.95.
For people who love the music of the 50s and 70s:
Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke is rich with detail about the musician’s
astounding life and is compellingly written by Peter Guralnick. Little Brown,
the foodies: Mangoes
& Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent, by
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, is the Indian cookbook this year. The
photography is stunning and it’s a wonderful mix of travel tales, cultural history,
food and cooking history, as well as being an incredibly comprehensive cookbook.
Some of the recipes are really complex and some are quite easy. Artisan, 400+
pages, $45 cloth.
Woody Guthrie was also an artist — he went to California
to make his living in the art world. Woody Guthrie Art Works by Steven
Brower and Nora Guthrie is a comprehensive collection of his sketches,
posters and other art that he created along the way, interspersed with commentary
and some of Guthrie’s own writings. It’s fascinating to look at someone who’s
so important musically and politically and be able to see another aspect of his
artistic creativity. Rizzoli $45.00.
holidays can be pretty awful and sometimes people need a little something
to help them get through: The
Worst Noel: Hellish Holiday Tales collects tales from a bunch of great
writers, including Ann Patchett and Cynthia Kaplan, to make you laugh, help you
survive, and realize that crazy families and disasters are the nature of the season.
It’s a great antidote to holiday saccharin. Harper Collins, $14.95 hardcover.
A.L. Kennedy is one of my favorite writers. Her fiction
is dark and complex, her prose stark and beautiful. She treats her characters
with equal parts tenderness and brutality, allowing them to find redemption in
the most unlikely places. She has a unique ability to find the darkest part of
the human heart and write about it so compellingly that you embrace it, grow to
love her dark characters, and feel almost complicit with their deeds. Check out
her new short story collection, Indelible Acts (Vintage, $12.00). Her most
recent novel is Paradise, but Original Bliss is also a good place
to start reading her novels.
British writer Justina Robson’s Natural History
would be a great gift for science fiction buffs. Zadie Smith calls Robson “a novelist
of real vision” and I have to agree. She starts with future where human-machine
hybrids do the work, where an aircraft is actually a human being with a brain
and with a nervous system in a mechanical structure. These humans want their freedom
but the “unforged” humans, however willing, aren’t sure how to give it to them.
It’s rich with interesting, unexpected twists. Her writing is really beautiful;
if there’s any fault at all it’s that she has so many ideas that I wish this book
were 200 pages longer to explore them all in more depth. Bantam/Spectra, 336 pages,
$13.00. Her new novel is Silver Screen, from Pyr, $15 paper.
Two novels by men:
Ian McEwan Atonement
starts on the eve of World War II when a young girl, who is angry at her sister,
witnesses an odd incident and then invents an explanation for it that turns out
to be erroneous but that still has ramifications: a young man is shipped off to
war and his life, her sister’s life, and her own, are forever changed. There’s
a twist at the end that changes everything and elevates this novel from merely
very good to great. Anchor, $14.95.
Time of Our Singing, by Richard Powers, is the story of an interracial
couple who meet and fall in love (and later marry) at Marian Anderson’s famous
concert on the Washington Mall. Together they see a future beyond race for their
children and vow to bring this dream to life with their love and music which,
of course, proves impossible. The result is an eloquent and painful exploration
of race, music, and time. Picador, $16.00.
And a few good reads for lesbian friends:
fantastic new Alison Bechdel, Invasion
of the Dykes to Watch Out For, would be one of my number one recommendations!
Half the staff has read and loved Emma Donoghue’s Life
Mask. She’s a brilliant writer, with a great sense of story. Life Mask
offers an interesting look at lesbian life, such as it was, in the 18th century,
and at life in the theater back then. It’s all really fascinating. Harcourt, $14.00.
Lauren Sanders’ With
or Without You, although not quite as literary as Life Mask, is
an excellent read but with a little more love and drama. Akashic Books, $14.95.
For the Kate Clinton fans — or for people with short attention spans
who want something thoughtful but fun to read: What
the L would be a perfect gift. It’s full of short punchy pieces and good
politics. Clinton is a funny lady and has a lot to say. Carroll & Graf, $14.95.
For anyone into music and what’s going on with
queer music these days: HomoCore: The Loud and Raucous Rise of Queer Rock, by David Ciminelli and Ken Knox, is the first serious look at the whole
Homocore scene: the bands, past and present, punk and rock, and people who are
queer and loud about it. Some of the women it includes are Kaia Wilson, Gina Young, Three Dollar Bill, Amy Ray, and the Butchies. It’s a really exciting book.
Alyson Publications, $15.95 paper.
For a little fun with lesbian erotica consider With
a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn. It would be a great present just for
the cover which is such a relief from all the look-alike cheesy covers on most
lesbian erotica collections. And it has a pretty impressive collection of contributors:
Diana Cage, Daphne Gottlieb, Amber Dawn, Anna Camilleri, Nalo Hopkinson, Suki
Lee. Arsenal Pulp Press, $16.95.
And here’s another great novel: I’ll just borrow
Pam’s rave to tell you about Carla Trujillo’s novel: “What Night Brings
is about a 12-year-old funny wise survivor. Marci Cruz likes other girls. She
has an abusive father and a church that seems less and less applicable to her
life. Reminiscent of Bastard Out of Carolina, this book gives us another
great young heroine dealing with large questions that only get larger and more
complex the more questions she asks.” Curbstone Press, $15.95.
By Nan Cinnater
It is not always easy to choose mysteries as gifts — the tastes
of mystery lovers are wide and varied. However, there are a few
classic authors with new entries this season whose books should
satisfy almost anyone known to be a fan of the genre.
Anyone who likes British mysteries — or indeed
fine literature — will be happy with the new novel by P.D. James, The Lighthouse
($25.95, Knopf). James introduced her refined, poetry-writing detective, Adam
Dagleish of Scotland Yard, over forty years ago, and he's still one of the most
intriguing characters in mystery fiction. Here Commander Dalgliesh and his team
investigate a murder on Coombe Island, an exclusive retreat.
In the Eighties, Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton
revolutionized the genre by featuring smart, tough private investigators who happened
to be women. Both are still at the top of their game, writing with juice and vigor.
Grafton's latest is S is for Silence($26.95, Putnam). Paretsky's Fire
Sale was reviewed by Ann Christopherson in the premiere issue of More Books
for Women (see MBW
#1)($25.95, Putnam). Give these to anyone who reads private
eye novels — and don't forget the men on your list!
Veteran African American author Eleanor Taylor Bland has
a new entry in her well-crafted police procedural series about middle-aged Midwestern
cop Marti McAlister, A Dark and Deadly Deception ($23.95, St. Martin's/Minotaur).
Marti and her longstanding partner take on a case involving secrets, fears and
the tension between rich and poor in Lincoln Prairie, IL.
Many mystery readers became fans of all things forensic because of Patricia
Cornwell, but some feel that her series jumped the shark several books back. For
true believers, there's Predator,
Cornwell's latest about medical examiner Kay Scarpetta ($26.95, Putnam). If you
have any doubts about Cornwell, though, try Faithless
by Karin Slaughter ($25, Delacorte), an ingenious and gripping thriller featuring
Georgia medical examiner Sara Linton. (How do you know if your giftee has a taste
for this stuff? If she watches CSI or Bones on TV, that's
Sherlockians are a gift-giver's challenge because they come
in two distinct tribes: those who love absolutely anything that has to do with
Holmes, and those who despise any deviations from the "canon," the original
stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Almost everyone agrees, however, that Laurie R.
King's Mary Russell novels are the best Sherlock Holmes pastiches since The
Seven Percent Solution, and King's latest, Locked Rooms ($24.00, Bantam),
is one of her best yet. Here Holmes and Russell travel by ocean liner to San Francisco,
where Holmes helps Russell unlock childhood memories about the famous earthquake
and fire (and he teams up with one very famous real-life detective).
Stocking Stuffers (a.k.a. Paperbacks)
For the price of a paperback, take a chance on one of these
lesser known but extremely interesting mysteries.
For those who love convoluted historical conspiracies a la
The Da Vinci Code, there's The Conquest by Yxta Maya Murray ($12.95,
Rayo). A Latina rare book restorer uncovers the story of a sixteenth-century Aztec
woman who plotted to assassinate Cortes, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the
Park and Trip
Wire by Charlotte Carter (both $12.95, One World/Ballantine) feature African
American Cassandra Lisle and her great aunt and uncle in surprisingly dark, twisted
mysteries set in Chicago in 1968, giving a new slant on Sixties politics, black
power, and the generation gap.
Jane Austen meets Errol Flynn in Point of Honour by Madeleine E. Robins,
introducing sword-wielding Sarah Tolerance, private agent of inquiry in London
circa 1810 ($6.99, Tor). This could appeal to lovers of historical fiction, fantasy,
and mystery, but — trust me — you've never read anything like it!
We hope you've enjoyed this issue of More Books for Women.
If you like it, please tell all your friends and colleagues about More Books for Women (and our sister publications, The Lesbian Edition and The Gay Men's Edition) and encourage them to subscribe as well. If you give holiday gifts, and can give some subscriptions to More Books for Women as a way to spead the word about it and to help us launch it far and wide, that would be a wonderful way to support this new publication. But if you don't like it, or have suggestions for improvement, please tell us before you tell your friends. If you really like it, and would like to join 50 women in making monthly pledges ($100-$25) for a year to help finance its first year, please call or email Maddy@BooksToWatchOutFor.com or give me a call.
We look forward to hearing from you about this exciting new publication.
Yours in spreading the words,
for Books To Watch Out For
© 2005 Books To Watch Out For
Graphics © Judy Horacek
Books To Watch Out For
PO Box 882554
San Francisco, CA 94188