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More Books for Women
covers the finest in thinking women's reading, plus mysteries, non-sexist children's books, and news from women's publishing. Written by the owners and staff at Women & Children First, and friends.
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The Gay Men's Edition
covers both lesbian books and the whole range of books lesbians like to read. It covers news of both the women in print movement and mainstream publishing. Written and compiled by Carol Seajay.
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announces and reviews new books by and about gay men as well as other books of interest and gay publishing news. Written and compiled by Richard Labonte.
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- March 2006 -
Volume 2 Number 3
Welcome to the sixth issue of More Books for Women.
This issue we highlight the books being considered for that coveted,
feminist literary revenge, The Orange Prize. Founded in response to several
years when only men’s books were shortlisted for the Booker and Whitbread awards,
the prize both brings attention to women’s writing and provides male writers
with an equal opportunity to complain about their work not being taken seriously.
The Orange continues to be controversial, continues to fund research on the
status of women in literature, and continues to seek out both the best books and
the widest diversity of writing by women. My idea of the ultimate vacation
would be an island resort, tropical waters to swim in, and enough time to read them
Yours in spreading the words,
The Orange Prize Long List
The U.K.–based Orange Prize for Fiction long list was announced at the London
Book Fair on March 6. Established in 1996, to recognize excellence,
originality, and accessibility in women’s writing, the Orange carries
a £30,000 (US$60,000) purse - the largest of the big three British Literary prizes: the Man
Booker, the Whitbread, and, of course, The Orange. The books must be by women and published in English.
The Orange Prize, funded by an anonymous donor, was the feminist response to
watching male authors dominate the Booker and Whitbread shortlists, year after
year, despite the fact that women publish roughly 70% of novels in Britain. It
is, as co-founder and honorary Chair Kate Moss says, “the only prize where gender
doesn't matter, where no author is ‘the female candidate’.” Great writing, she
believes, is above gender. Reviewing, marketing, publishing, and expectations,
sadly, are not. And the Orange Prize will cheerfully continue to creat controversy and
build a community of women’s writing until the situation is resolved.
In announcing the long list, broadcast journalist Martha Kearney, who is chairing
this year’s judging panel, said, “We wanted to choose a long list which reflected
the incredible range of women’s fiction in what has been an excellent year. After
a lively discussion, the books we picked ranged from Hendon to Tahiti, from the
trauma of the second world war to a 70s sex guide. It has been a real pleasure
to read not just terrific novels by some of our best known writers, but also some
truly engaging first novels."
This year’s list includes five first time novelists, well-loved and celebrated
authors including Zadie Smith, Ali Smith, Marilynne Robinson, Sarah Waters, and
first-timer on the Orange List, Joyce Carol Oates, previous Orange Prize winner
Helen Dunmore (1996), nine British writers, eight from the U.S., two from Australia,
and one from Tahiti.
The shortlist will be announced on April 26; the winner will be announced on
Orange also sponsors a New Writers award; its shortlist will be announced May
3. Last year’s Orange Prize went to Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About
Kevin, her tale of a mother unable to love her son. The New Writers Award
went to Diana Evans for 26a, her tale of London-born twins and their family’s
long sojourn in their mother’s native Nigeria.
(Note: links below take you to the Orange Prize website descriptions and author
biographies. Publishers in the U.S. and Canada may be different than the British
The Accidental by Ali Smith
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany
Frangipani by Célestine Hitiura Vaite
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Harbor by Lorraine Adams
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore
Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller
Minaret by Leila Aboulela
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Position by Meg Wolitzer
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates
Watch Me Disappear by Jill Dawson
White Ghost Girls by Alice Greenaway
For the Kids
Recommendations from Linda Bubon
Happy Women’s History Month! I recommended some great children’s books last
month, but there are three new ones that I must share with you. They are all for
the 6-10 age group, and though they are beautifully illustrated picture books,
the stories are too complex for younger ones.
The Scarlet Stockings Spy by Trinka Hakes Noble, with beautiful, light-filled
traditional paintings by Robert Papp, makes the Revolutionary War come alive in
a stirring story about a young brother and sister who spy for Washington’s army.
Set in Philadelphia in 1777, the story features Maddy Rose, a young girl with
plenty of cool and courage. Thomson Gale, $16.95.
Jeannette Rankin: First Lady of Congress, by Trish Marx with illustrations by Dan Andreasen, is a beautifully-written account
of Rankin’s amazing life as a rancher’s daughter and as the first woman in Congress,
in 1916, before women had won national suffrage. The book makes clear Rankin’s
two central issues — women’s suffrage and keeping the country out of war — and
her absolute integrity. It also captures the excitement of elections and re-elections,
the force of her personality, and the fierceness of her commitment. Wonderfully
stirring. McElderry Books, $18.95.
Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor is yet another
terrific feminist book from Emily Arnold McCully that brings to life a little-known
woman whose work made a huge difference in women’s lives. Ms. Knight, when still
a pre-teen working in a mill in the mid-19th century, invented a safety device
to prevent shuttles from zinging off looms and hurting workers. She was fascinated
by machinery and went on to design a number of machines and machine parts, most
notably, the machine that created square-bottomed paper bags. She had to fight
in court to protect her patent rights (and she won!) and then set up her own paper
company, even though she was offered $50,000 to sell her design. This is a great
story, with illustrations of her designs. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.
Linda Bubon's Up All Night Reading
Two fascinating new adult memoirs out this month kept me up late reading.
Erica Jong’s Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life is hard to put
down: She is so honest, so funny, so pissed-off about the turn to the right in
this country that I often felt like we were having an all-night conversation,
full of lively twists and turns. And she’s met everybody! She talks frankly about
the oddity and intensity of writing her best-selling novel before she was thirty,
hobnobbing with all the young (and lecherous old) literary lions of the 60s and
70s, and through it all, being driven by her own creative demons that demanded
she write. I loved it. (On sale March 16.) Tarcher/Penguin, $22.95.
Through the Earth Danielle Trussoni, an
impressive young writer just out of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop
— and winner of their prestigious James Michener/Copernicus Society
of America Award — gives us a moving, vivid account of growing
up with her Vietnam vet father in a little working-class town
in Wisconsin. Trying to understand his trauma and its subsequent
rage takes her, as an adult, to Vietnam, to crawl through the
tunnels he crawled through. We are all still trying to understand
the ripples and resonances of this war on its combatants, their
families, and the rest of us. Henry Holt, $23.
Ann Christophersen is reading...
I just finished reading an absolutely amazing collection of short stories, How
to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer. Now I know
some of you will be immediately dismissive, thinking “Oh, I really
prefer novels.” Please, please suspend that idea if only this one
time. This collection, much-heralded by readers and critics alike,
might be a conversion experience for you. Every one of the stories
is worth significant commentary, but I’ll say just a little bit
about one. “Isabel Fish,” from which the story takes its title,
opens with a hostile scene featuring a high-school aged brother
and sister, the older brother taunting the younger sister, trying
to frighten her about what is likely to befall her during the scuba
class they are on their way to. A reprise of your usual sibling
tensions, it seems at first, but you find out soon enough that it
is not so benign: Sage’s sister, Maddy, has survived a recent accident
that his girlfriend, Isabel, did not. His cruelty toward Maddy is
high-pitched and sadistic, and Maddy (who tells the story) believes
he blames her for Isabel’s death, however unreasonably. It is particularly
painful to watch their relationship in the present because, as the
story unfolds, you learn they were once very close, and in spite
of the way Sage tortures her now, Maddy just wants her brother back.
Because Orringer gives us to understand that Sage is acting out
of a depth of guilt, grief, and loss that he doesn’t have the tools
to deal with, we develop sympathy for him even though it is Maddy
who first captures and maintains our greatest concern. In fact,
the depth of feeling we have for these two is so real that we become
powerfully invested in the resolution of the story: please ease
their pain so ours, too, will go away. I would love to write more
about how this story works and why it is so effective, but I’ll
close with the mention that “how to breathe under water” serves
not only as the title of the story but also as metaphor in it and
a unifying element in the collection as a whole. I leave it up to
you now to discover for yourself just how moving and brilliant each
story is. Vintage, $12.95.
At a recent author-bookseller event I had the unexpected pleasure
of sitting next to the author of a novel I had just finished reading
— and liked enormously. Interestingly enough Debra Dean, whose
first novel The
Madonnas of Leningrad is just arriving in bookstores this
month, told me that
the novel grew out of two short stories she had been working on
for awhile. (See? Another reason you “I prefer novels” people
might want to give the short story a second glance.) The story
is told in roughly alternating sections. Marina, the main character,
is an elderly woman who is in a fairly advanced stage of dementia.
She can’t remember if she has eaten breakfast or not, what event
she and her husband are getting ready for, why her grown daughter
is there from out of town. She is perplexed but very sweet, living
in that heartbreaking stage of the disease when she has enough
clarity of thought from time to time to pretend to her husband
that she knows things, remembers things that she does not. This
front story alternates with that of her as a young woman during
the siege of Leningrad, when Hitler’s army surrounded the city
for 900 days and when human suffering became extreme. She had
been a docent at the Hermitage and worked with others to move
thousands of art treasures to the catacombs beneath the buildings
to save them from bombings and other potential damage or loss.
During these three years she saves her life by saving her spirit,
by remembering in great detail the paintings that once hung on
the walls of the museum and the humanity they represented in the
midst of mind-and-spirit numbing tragedy all around. The descriptions
of the art, which includes famously beautiful paintings of Madonnas,
are part of the richness of the novel, though in the end it is
the act of remembering that is paramount. Some of the poignancy
of the story, of course, comes from the fact that her earlier
act of will — her decision to remember and the ability to use
her memory to save herself — is becoming increasingly unavailable
to her. It’s also the case, however, that she doesn’t need to
save herself now — she is not alone but in the loving care of
the lifelong partner who suffered and survived all that she did.
There is much beauty about this very affecting novel, including
the artistry of its own construction. I highly recommend it. William
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the power, grace, determination, and self-possession
of many of the athletes in the Olympics, especially the women
in the skiing, figure skating, speed skating, and snowboarding
competitions. Watching them reminded me of two books by women
athletes in other sports that I loved reading.
to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne
Cox was a story that had me mesmerized. The suspense
created by her descriptions of swims in icy cold waters, battling
waves and sharks and the dark and the shifting winds was as intense
as the most page-turning novel I have ever read. The non-suspenseful
parts were also great: how she trained, how her body was able
to withstand temperatures that would kill most people in a matter
of moments, what she said to herself when she was out there alone
in the water for hours and hours, and the larger goals she set
for herself in addition to breaking new records and swimming under
circumstances never before tried. Harvest, $14.
Melissa King, who wrote She’s
Got Next: A story of Getting In, Staying Open, and Taking a Shot,
did not have the lofty goals of Lynne Cox nor did she achieve
Lynne did — but then again, she didn’t want to. What she wanted
to do was play basketball — pick-up basketball — on the streets
and in the parks of the various cities she lived in. Because that’s
how she chose to play, the people she played with were mostly
men, and she had to overcome the double-challenge of being a woman
and a slightly built one at that. Her stories of the various games
and people she encountered along the way are colorful and well-told.
What comes across, besides her passion for the game, is the importance
of strategy over might and how much she learned about herself
from pushing herself and having a great time simultaneously. You
don’t need to be an athlete to really enjoy — and learn from —
these books, although that might make the reading experience even
richer. Houghton Mifflin, $13.
Although this book has been available since 1996, The
Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American
Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, is one of
the best and most important books I’ve ever read, so I’m taking
this opportunity to
introduce it to anyone who might have missed it. Written by Anne
Fadiman, a sensitive and meticulous researcher and a most exquisite
prose stylist, this book, more than any other, helped me to understand
the meaning and complexities of cultural divides. The situation
Fadiman explores involves two radically different perspectives:
what western culture understands as a medical condition — epilepsy
— is what Hmong culture understands as a gift of spiritual visitation.
In each setting, the response to a child manifesting signs of
epilepsy/spiritual inhabitation is easy: if the child has epilepsy,
treat her; if the child is inhabited by a spirit, protect her.
Bring these settings together and there is absolute conflict.
At best those involved see and appreciate that there is a conflict
so they can begin, if they choose, to try to understand the deeply
rooted convictions and structures that support the other side’s
cultural position and try to communicate across what can be a
vast chasm. At worst, there’s no recognition of the need for that
based on the belief that one’s own interpretation of a situation
is simply and irrefutably correct, that all reason and ethical
concern demand certain actions and the other must either agree
or get out of the way. And of course, it’s never quite as black-and-white
as that, as Anne Fadiman so movingly shows. Sometimes the case
is not one of complete negligence but rather terrible inadequacy.
There are no outright bad guys in this account. There are people
struggling to do what’s right but making tragic and avoidable
mistakes in their effort to take care of a child. I believe this
book to be absolutely essential reading for everyone who works
or lives in a diverse social environment, since it will help equip
them to think more deeply about difference, enabling them to help
others more and harm them less. It falls to the people with power
— those who are in the culture that has the force of law to determine
what someone from a different culture must do — to bear the responsibility
for making sure that respect and understanding prevails. Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, $15.
Nancy MacLean, the author of Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American
Workplace, is Professor of History and African American Studies at Northwestern
University. Hers are the perfect credentials for analyzing why it was
that gaining formal freedom was inadequate for blacks to achieve even rudimentary
equality and why women would have benefited little from the Equal Rights Amendment
had it passed.
This excellent history shows how real equality was only possible when African
Americans, other minority groups, and other second-class citizens like women had
equal access to work, when good jobs were no longer the sole provenance of white
men. She offers a fascinating account of all the pieces of the long struggle to
get Title VII (which prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race, color,
religion, sex, or national origin) included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One
part that had me glued to the text was that of the birth and development of the
contemporary American conservatism movement in 1955. This movement was created
to provide a counterpoint to the growing foothold civil rights issues were gaining
through the likes of Brown v. Board of Education. Reading the arguments and strategies
of William F. Buckley, Jr., and other leaders of this movement was absolutely
shocking to me. Reading their defense of white supremacy, their justification
of white men as the sole appropriate power-bearers, and their arrogant position
that democracy was second to preserving the “god-given superiority of white men”
and the order of the day was enraging. So was realizing that this conservative
movement, born to defeat social justice, has the same intention and increasing
power to do that today. This book really helped me see more deeply into very important
issues, and I strongly recommend it. Russell Sage Foundation, Harvard University
Pam Harcourt raves (and rants)
Finally another Sarah Waters novel! It’s not available until mid- to-late March,
but I couldn’t resist telling you about it now so you can reserve
your copy now and get it the moment it hits the bookstores. The
Night Watch introduces several
connecting sets of relationships among 1940s Londoners. The story
is in three parts that move backward in time — we see the characters
damaged by war before we see them in the midst of it. I was engrossed
in every one of these stories: Kay the ambulance driver (who works
the “night watch” of the title), her lover Helen and their separate
connections to the fascinating Julia, Helen's co-worker Viv and
her worn-thin relationship with her married lover, and Viv's brother
and his mysterious “uncle,” his time in prison, and his resumed
friendship with a co-prisoner were all equally satisfying to bounce
between. The city's devastation is never forgotten for long — it
makes every trifle sweeter and every bit of human connection that
much fuller with intensity and possibility. While I missed some
of the over-the-top feverishness of her Victorian books, Night
Watch has stayed with me, continuing to unfold. It's thrilling
to see Waters (Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith)
do something so different in tone so incredibly well. Her fans won't
be disappointed. Riverhead/Penguin, $24.95.
The stories in Rebecca Brown's The Last Time
I Saw You are short masterpieces, mostly of dark romantic obsession. It feels
like she's crawling around inside your wrongest thoughts and telling them. Her
stories capture the tricks that memory plays with even the most returned-to rememberings.
Her metaphors are stunning — literal disappearance of self once one moves in with
a lover, a hook hanging from the ceiling to grab underneath a sternum that keeps
one from being able to get close to another, a woman controlled by a ventriloquist.
One of the creepiest, best stories is about critically watching a serial killer
movie with an old friend who clearly met a violent end of some sort. Her writing
is immediate, intense, and full of questions. They made me hold my breath! Loved
it! City Lights, $12.95.
Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz features more
great dark stories. Families, social institutions, and governments
are familiar while also being scary and off. There's a heartbreaking
lost-love story of a boy and an elephant. There are disturbing
stories about a family who traps salesmen in a pen in the backyard,
or a woman who, through no doing of her own, ends up the subject
of a ubiquitous state-sanctioned portrait. Normal themes like
parent/child disconnection and fear of the foreign are taken to
surreal extremes. Her voice is controlled but lively, and funny
and generous. Vintage, $13.95.
The Days of Good Looks: The Prose and Poetry
of Cheryl Clarke, 1980 to 2005 offers a great chance to watch the development
of a radical voice. Cheryl Clarke has been an uncompromising voice for liberation
for over 25 years. These essays find her taking on the patterns of oppression
within the gay, feminist, and black movements themselves — often the hardest and
bravest work. She's absolutely committed to reading, criticizing, and celebrating
the work of other black women writers — reading her book makes you want to read
everything she mentions in her essays. Her poems can be political, devastating,
or super sexy. She's done important work, she's not been afraid to piss people
off or name names, and I loved spending time with her in this book. Carroll &
Reading the New York Times correspondents’-authored book Class
Matters was not what I thought it'd be. I was excited
thinking, it's the New York Times, discussing class! Then
I started reading and realized, "Oh yeah...it's the New
York Times...discussing class." I define class as
one's relation to the means of production; they're not so big
with the concrete definition. However, there was still a lot for
me to get out of it. These are mostly case histories, and although
the things they demonstrate are not incredible breakthroughs -
like that a rich person's heart attack and recovery and a poor
person's heart attack and recovery are very, very different things
- there were things I didn't know about that gave me the total
creeps. Like how the new, extremely rich rich and the old, normal
rich are at odds, and they go nuts showing off their boats. And...how
evangelical Christianity is on the rise among the rich, and it
used to really be associated with the middle class. Mostly I really
got into some of the personal stories, and my heart broke for
the choices people had to make. I think this is a perfect, documentary-like,
convincing gift for those weird people who argue that class doesn't
matter or doesn't exist — someone is related to those people and
has to buy them gifts, right? Times Books, $14.
Editor’s note: For some more, ah, progressive-based approaches to class matters,
look to Where We Stand; Class Matters by Bell Hooks (Routledge, $17.95)
and Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists
by Betsy Leondar-Wright. New Society Publishers, $18.95.
Tish Hayes recommends.....
Chix, edited by Diana Schutz, is an anthology created to
show the wealth and breadth of women cartoonists in a notoriously
male-oriented industry. The short comics collected here run the
spectrum of genre and style — both in narrative and art. Love, sex,
abuse, fantasy, and loss are addressed in stories that are laugh
out loud funny and in stories that made me cry. The contributors
include Jill Thompson, Colleen Doran, Trina Robbins, Roberta Gregory,
and even a story written by Joyce Carol Oates. I loved the book
most for its introduction to talented women I would have never found
on my own. This Dark Horse publication can be found at your local
comic book store, if it’s not at your bookstore. $12.95.
Homewrecker: An Adultery Reader captures the eroticism, angst,
excitement, and terror of affairs in this sexy and subversive collection edited
by Daphne Gottlieb. Not only is the writing superb, but all of the voices are
unique: straight and queer, poetic and funny, heartbreaking and affirming. The
very nature of the collection challenges the traditional boundaries of relationships,
and every writer accomplishes the job of rooting out and laying bare the complex
dynamic of love and desire. Soft Skull Press, $13.
Gina Frangello’s debut novel, My
Sister’s Continent, is a dark, but beautifully written
retelling of Freud’s “Dora” case study. It is also a
story about family and the bonds that tie us together as well
as the secrets and silences that may never let us be close. Kirby
and Kendra, the women we are trying to understand, are twins who
seem very different on the surface but whose lives are intertwined
and mirrored to each other in complex ways. It is Kendra’s mysterious
disappearance that prompts Kirby’s investigation into her sister’s
life, and the narrative she creates strives to give her sister
a voice that is honest and real. My Sister’s Continent
is, at its core, about exploring the lengths we will go to find
the truth of ourselves. The journey found here is painful but
one I will not forget for a long time. Chiasmus Press, $12.
I have never been so comfortable in my midwestern identity as I was while reading
Skin, by Kellie Wells. The residents of What Cheer, Kansas
have stories to tell, philosophies to ponder, pain to exorcise, and skin to heal.
God and magic are equal players in this small midwestern town, both providing
mystery and comfort to Ivy who discovers her own skin by tracing the scars her
boyfriend wears, to Mrs. McCorkle who sees other's truths more clearly than her
own, to Ansel Dorsett who desperately seeks spiritual illumination, to Rachel
whose attempts to knead pain out of other's bodies can never rid her own of the
weight of her father's abuse. Wells lets each of her characters speak for themselves
in this novel made up of many voices. Kellie Wells took my breath away with her
luminous prose in Skin: there were sentences that stunned me and that I
read again and then again just because they were beautiful. University of Nebraska,
By Nan Cinnater
Some of us love mysteries not only because they
are plot-driven, suspenseful fiction, but because, like Shakespeare's comedies,
they disrupt and then restore order, possibly even justice. However, it's harder
and harder these days to get order restored without first going through horrifying
violence, forensic gore, child abuse, or other evils which we only wish were
unspeakable. British mysteries usually offer a more reserved and literate approach
to the murder problem. Here is a sampling of some that kept me up without giving
Those who like P.D. James or Elizabeth George will enjoy Deborah
Crombie’s In a Dark House ($7.50, Avon), her tenth mystery
featuring Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his
partner in love and police work, Detective Inspector Gemma James.
A serial arsonist is burning down warehouses in London’s Southwark
neighborhood, leaving behind an unidentified body that might be
one of four different missing women. The various plot strands
dovetail beautifully as the tension mounts. Duncan and Gemma are
extremely likeable characters whose domestic issues are neatly
intertwined with the crime-solving. This is one of Crombie’s best.
My favorite remains the very feminist Dreaming of the Bones
($6.99, Avon), not first in the series but a great place to start.
Crombie’s next is Water Like a Stone ($23.95, William
“Good morning, Lady Williams. I am looking for
“You will have to coax her out from under that
This is the very promising beginning of Ticket to Ride
by Janet Neel ($24.95, Minotaur/St. Martin's), which proves
to be a much more serious and realistic thriller than you might
expect. The two ladies in question are great supporting characters
in an up-to-the-minute plot about people-smuggling in Great Britain.
Young solicitor Jules Carlisle’s firm specializes in immigration,
but Jules herself does not. In the absence of her boss on a holiday
weekend, she gets drawn into a case involving Bosnian Serbs, lettuce
farming, MI5 and murder. Janet Neel is the pseudonym of Baroness
(Janet) Cohen, a Labor Party member in the House of Lords, with
a long career in the British civil service. Neel previously wrote
an excellent series featuring British civil servant Francesca
Wilson. Ticket to Ride stands alone, but if we're lucky
it may become the first in a new series.
Who knew? Peat bogs are ancient phenomena with
the perfect conditions for preserving human remains. Erin Hart has written a
couple of critically acclaimed mysteries centered around "bog bodies,"
which are usually centuries-old archaeological finds. In Lake of Sorrows
($7.99, Pocket), a body is found in an Irish peat bog, but this body is wearing
a wrist watch. Nora Gavin, an American pathologist working in Ireland, and her
on-again, off-again romantic interest, archaeologist Cormac Maguire, investigate.
As in her critically acclaimed first novel, Haunted Ground ($7.50, Pocket),
Hart gives us beautifully described Irish landscapes, folklore, songs, and spooky
atmosphere - and only a few, highly clinical glimpses of the forensic procedures.
Here's an inspired set-up for an amateur detective:
twenty-something Natasha Blake is an orphaned genealogist in Great Britain.
In Pale as the Dead by Fiona Mountain ($6.99, Signet), Natasha tries
to trace a missing girl who had posed in a photograph resembling a famous pre-Raphaelite
painting. Unfortunately, the pre-Raphaelites' morbid sentimentality casts a
certain pall over the whole proceeding, which can best be described as moody.
In the more lively sequel, Bloodline ($23.95, St. Martin's), Natasha
is hired by a wealthy amateur genealogist to trace the family tree of his daughter's
fiance - which turns out to include a murderer.
Someone once observed that there are Austenites
and there are Jane-ites. I guess I fall somewhere in between. A true Austenite
would never countenance a Jane Austen mystery. But I'm in awe of Stephanie Barron's
ability to write in Austen's voice in her "Jane" mysteries (Jane
and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, et al., $6.99, Bantam).
So I was willing to take a chance on Carrie Bebris' mysteries featuring Mr.
and Mrs. Darcy, beginning with Pride and Prescience ($6.99, Forge),
set immediately after the close of its near-namesake. I caught up
with the sequel, Suspense and Sensibility ($6.99, Forge), when
the Darcys take charge of Elizabeth's younger sister Kitty for her first London
season. It becomes clear early on that the plot has a supernatural element,
which means that the eminently grounded and sensible Elizabeth Bennett has gone
woo-woo on us. If that doesn't discourage you, then you would probably greatly
enjoy these well-constructed trifles. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth banter like
the Nick and Nora of the nineteenth century, and Bebris skillfully combines
the Darcys with the Dashwoods from the original S&S. Bebris' latest
is North by Northanger ($22.95, Forge).
Susan Conant, Harvard Ed.D, dog fancier, and author
of sixteen "Dog Lovers' Mysteries," is branching out. Scratch the
Surface ($22.95, Berkley Prime Crime) is the first "Cat Lovers' Mystery,"
featuring mystery writer Felicity Pride and a fabulous pair of Chartreux cats
named Edith and Brigitte. Conant merrily sends up feline fiction (think Rita
Mae Brown and Lillian Jackson Braun), as well as the book business in general.
In fact, the only fully serious parts of the book are those told from the point
of view of the cats. Conant has also teamed up with a (human) co-author, her
daughter Jessica Conant-Park, to produce Steamed ($22.95, Berkley), a
new mystery about a twenty-something foodie known on the Internet as "Gourmet
If you think that
Susan Conant has gone to the dogs by turning to cats, then you
might want to check out Bark M for Murder, comprising four
novellas by J.A. Jance, Virginia Lanier, Chassie West,
and Lee Charles Kelley ($6.99, Avon), all of them canine-oriented.
The late Virginia Lanier wrote a fresh and feisty series about
a woman bloodhound trainer. Chassie West has a series about a
former D.C. cop, African American Leigh Ann Warren: Killing
Kin, Killer Riches, and Killer Chameleon (all $6.99,
Now in Paper:
Murder in Clichy ($12, Soho) by Cara Black,
reviewed in MBW
#1. Latest in the tres hip Aimee Leduc series is
Murder in Montmartre ($23, Soho Press).
Octavia Butler, the much-admired author of Kindred and other science
fiction tales, died February 24, apparently from congestive heart failure, just outside her home in Seattle. She was 58.
A visionary, and one who always looked at the
complexity of oppression in the human condition, Butler’s vengeance
for social justice was manifest in all of her work, from Kindred
(250,000 copies in print) through her Parable tales and,
most recently, Fledgling. Tall, black, lesbian, dyslexic,
a self-proclaimed recluse, and a consummate storyteller, she once
described herself as “a pessimist, a feminist always, a Black, a
quiet egoist, a former Baptist, and an oil-and-water combination
of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.” As readers,
we simply knew her to be brilliant.
She was the first (and still the only) science fiction writer to receive a
MacArthur genius grant. Her other awards include science fiction's biggest award,
the Nebula, for Parable of the Talents, as well as Nebula short
story awards for “Speech Sounds” and “Bloodchild”, and a lifetime-achievement
award from PEN-America. We already miss the books she didn’t get a chance to
write; we will be rereading her for the rest of our lives.
Check the WBAI archives for an interview with Octavia Butler:
For Ann Christophersen’s review of Fledgling:
First person essays for an anthology to explore women’s journeys to our “homelands”
be they specific geographic locations, imagined communities, part of one’s identity/body
or memory. Tentatively titled Homelands: Women’s Journeys Toward Meanings
of Home and edited by Patricia Justine Tumang and Jenesha de Rivera, it
will be published by Seal Press. Deadline is April 1. For more info email email@example.com.
Spinifex reports that their world-wide bestseller, Betty McLellan’s Help!
I’m Living with a
Man Boy has been translated into Slovenian, for
a total of 14 translations for the title.
I hope you've enjoyed this issue of More Books for Women.
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.
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Yours in spreading women's words,
for Books To Watch Out For
© 2006 Books To Watch Out For
Graphics © Judy Horacek
Books To Watch Out For
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