Book of the Week: Hunger – Roxane Gay

Novelist and essayist Gay adds memoir to her considerable repertoire in this unforgettable mediation on what it means to be an “unruly body”—an obese woman in a culture that so profoundly and narrowly equates appearance with worth.

Gay broke out with 2014’s bestselling Bad Feminist, which was a best book of the year on many lists and won the 2015 PEN Center USA Freedom to Write Award, a prize given in recognition of her “important, incisive, and connective” writing as well as for tackling “tough subjects and controversial topics with a hard-edged grace and difficult honesty.”

Many memoirs have been written on being overweight–this is a take you haven’t seen. Feminist, incisive, with her trademark ability it blend cultural theory and pop culture, Hunger is a searing book you won’t soon forget.

 It’s received four starred advance reviews and is Indie Next pick. In terms of publicity, everyone wants Roxane for this one. People is running a first serial and an interview; she’ll be on The Daily Show the night before on sale and Fresh Air interview airs 6/19/17 with other interviews to appear in Elle and TheAtlantic.com. We can expect reviews just about everywhere and Gay is doing a major, ticketed tour with dozens of speaking dates across the country. (Check out her tour dates here.) This is one of the signature nonfiction books of the summer.

After a group of boys raped her when she was 12 years old, Gay’s world began to unravel, and she turned to overeating as a way of making her violated body into a safe ‘fortress.’… Gay shares how her weight and size shade many topics, including relationships, fashion, food, family, the medical profession, and travel (the bigger her body became, the author notes, the smaller her world became). She suffered profound shame and self-loathing, and boldly confronts society’s cruelty toward and denigration of larger individuals (particularly women), its fear of ‘unruly bodies,’ and the myth that equates happiness with thinness. This raw and graceful memoir digs deeply into what it means to be comfortable in one’s body. Gay denies that hers is a story of ‘triumph,’ but readers will be hard pressed to find a better word.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“It’s hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional…. In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it’s like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A heart-rending debut memoir from the outspoken feminist and essayist…. The author continues her healing return from brokenness and offers hope for others struggling with weight, sexual trauma, or bodily shame. An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Displays bravery, resilience, and naked honesty from the first to last page…. Stunning …. essential reading.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Hunger reads like a conversation with an intimate friend who generously opens a door to her world. She weaves effortlessly between deeply personal anecdotes and culture criticism that make you reexamine your perception of the world as only Gay can. Her awareness of the treatment of the female body is both accurate and powerful in that it made me recognize what I knew to be true, but couldn’t articulate for myself. The reaction I keep returning after finishing Hunger is one of gratitude towards Gay—for both allowing us the privilege to hear her story and making room for others to do the same.”
— Lindsay Crist, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“It turns out that when a wrenching past is confronted with wisdom and bravery, the outcome can be compassion and enlightenment—both for the reader who has lived through this kind of unimaginable pain, and for the reader who knows nothing of it. Roxane Gay shows us how to be decent to ourselves, and decent to one another. Hunger is an amazing achievement in more ways than I can count.”
—  Ann Patchett

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (9780062362599) by Roxane Gay. $25.99 hardcover. 6/13/17 one day laydown.

Nonfiction Short Take: Murder in Matera – Helene Stapinski

Combining armchair travel, history and true crime, this memoir is a beach read for nonfiction readers. Stapinski is a journalist who has worked for both the NYT and NPR; her previous memoir explored her family’s criminal history in New Jersey. The Guardian said of that book that it “is not your ordinary memoir…she sews together family history, local history and personal history…. And there is never a dull moment.”

The same could be said of this new book that reaches farther back in her family’s history to a sun-drenched Italian village and the mystery of her great-grandmother and the murder she was said to have committed.

Italian-American author Stapinski mines her immigrant family’s roots to write a part memoir, part murder mystery…. The author posits that the darker side of her genealogy may have consequences for her own family: ‘All of us, I thought, are made up not only of what we know, but of all that we don’t know as well,’ she writes—as if the violence, revenge, and curses that accrued along with ignorance and poverty in Southern Italy in the 19th-century are somehow transmitted through DNA. The book—enlivened by anecdotes about Italian culture—will appeal to armchair travelers who long to visit the caves and culture of Matera.”
Publishers Weekly

“Stapinski continues her investigation into her family’s checkered past. The narrative begins as an enticing page-turner, an investigative jewel sending readers racing to the next clue…”
Kirkus

Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy (9780062438454) by Helene Stapinski. $26.99 hardcover. 5/23/17 on sale.

Nonfiction Short Take: Love, Africa – Jeffrey Gettleman

Gettleman is a Pulitzer-Prize winning war correspondent who for fifteen years has reported from war zones all over the world. But Africa is his great love—the place he wanted to live since his teens. He has reported from there for the last decade as the NYT’s East Africa Bureau Chief. This memoir is the story of both achieving that dream and the difficult path to also balancing it with the dream of marriage and family.

As well as writing for the NYT, Gettleman has also appeared as a commentator on CNN, BBC, PBS, NPR and ABC so we expect good coverage for the book.

“[An] exciting, harrowing memoir that aptly displays why [Gettleman’s] a Pulitzer Prize winner and a New York Times bureau chief…. there’s a thrilling immediacy and attention to detail in Gettleman’s writing that puts the reader right beside him…Gettleman’s memoir is an absolute must-read.”
Booklist (starred review)

A passionate debut memoir bears witness to political turmoil… A stark, eye-opening, and sometimes horrifying portrait by a reporter enthralled by the ‘power and magic’ of Africa.”
Kirkus Reviews

 Gettleman recounts his dangerous reporting from global hot spots: interviewing Taliban POWs in Afghanistan; surveying firefights and suicide-bomb carnage in Iraq; and exploring famines, insurgencies, tribal massacres, and a pirate café in East Africa, where he is the Times bureau chief. Sharing many of his exploits is his wife and sometime colleague Courtenay; their star-crossed relationship, including bouts of infidelity, complicates his wanderlust…. Many episodes are riveting.”
Publishers Weekly

Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War, and Survival (9780062284099) by Jeffrey Gettleman. $27.99 hardcover. 5/16/17 on sale.

New Nonfiction: Between Them – Richard Ford

This small, intricate recollection of his parents by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford is his first book-length work of nonfiction. Ford brings his brings his trademark blend of understated wit, insight and empathy to the story of young Parker and Edna Ford, a traveling salesman and his wife living on the road together and later with young Richard in the South during the Great Depression. Parker died when Ford was 16 and Edna in 1981. He tells the story their lives in two parts, written decades apart, that together form a vivid portrait of a loving marriage in a by-gone America.

The book has three starred advance reviews and is already slated for coverage in the NYTBR, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, VanityFair.com and The Huffington Post. Ford will be interviewed on Fresh Air and PBS Newshour.

“Ford vividly and gracefully preserves his memories of parents, his life “between them,” and the small Southern towns that provided the limits and the possibilities of their lives…. Every page of this little remembrance teems with Ford’s luxuriant prose, his moving and tender longing for his parents, and his affecting and intimate portrait of two people simply living life as best they can as their world changes around them.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

By any standards, this is a singular volume, as peculiarly personal as it is slim. There are two sections, one devoted to each parent: ‘Gone: Remembering My Father’ and ‘My Mother, In Memory.’ The second was written three decades before the first, shortly after his mother’s death. Ford’s father had died much earlier, leaving his mother alone in the world to raise the son she loved, but not in the way she had loved his father. ‘He was her protector, but she was his,’ writes the author. ‘If it meant that I was further from the middle of things, I have lived my entire life thinking this is the proper way to be a family.’… A subtle, careful testament to devotion and a son’s love for his parents.
Kirkus (starred review)

“Illustrated with family photographs, Ford’s remembrance of his parents is a masterful distillation of sensuous description, psychological intricacy, social insights, and a keen sense of place. Ford’s reflections are bright with wit, edgy with candor, and lustrous with extraordinary poignancy and love.”
Booklist (starred review)

Between Them: Remembering My Parents (9780062661883) by Richard Ford. $25.99 hardcover. 5/2/17 on sale.

Nonfiction Short Take: Driving Miss Norma – Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying “Yes” to Living (9780062664327) by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle. $26.99 hardcover. 5/2/17 on sale.

It’s not often that I think it’s worth looking at a Facebook page to consider whether or not to buy a book–but there’s an exception to every rule. Take a look at the FB page Driving Miss Norma and you’ll get a sense of what this is the charming, uplifting memoir has to offer.

At 90, newly widowed Norma Bauerschmidt learned she had uterine cancer. Deciding against chemotherapy she instead hit the road for a year with her son and his wife in their RV—which they called an “mobile assisted living home”—and gave Norma the adventure of her life.

The story has been widely covered already—in People, The Washington Post and the NYT, on the CBS Evening News and the Today show. You won’t be surprised to know that the movie rights have been sold. I can’t wait to see it on screen—but in the meantime we have Miss Norma on the page in this generous recollection by her son and daughter-in-law.

This is an inspirational book for the ages; I’d put it on everything from Graduation and Mother’s Day tables to this fall’s holiday tables. It’s a great gift of inspiration for so many situations.

“For the first time, as [Norma’s son] writes in this endearing memoir, they got to know one another as adults, and their trip transformed into a warm, thoughtful, and meaningful conversation on family, aging, caretaking, and what happens when you look to other ways to heal besides Western medicine….The months on the road were nourishing for Norma, who saw some of her symptoms disappear, and also very therapeutic for Tim and Ramie, who had led itinerant lives free of obligations for years. Tim, Ramie, and Norma’s travels are joyful and moving….Norma’s willingness to be fearless and open to whatever comes her way, even trying cannabis cream, offers profound insights into how we choose to live.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Publicity: Nevertheless – Alec Baldwin

Just a head’s up that the publicity line-up is pretty impressive for this and is already in motion. The first serial is in Vanity Fair; Baldwin will be on Fresh Air on April 4th, CBS Good Morning on April 2nd, GMA on April 3rd, and he’ll be profiled in the upcoming issue The Atlantic. We just heard that Baldwin will do The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on April 18th. (Can’t wait for that!) and he’s already been on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon explaining the origin of the title (see below).

Nevertheless: A Memoir (9780062409706) by Alec Baldwin. $28.99 hardcover. 4/4/17 one day laydown.

Book of the Week: The Family Gene – Joselin Linder

I love it when a bookseller steps in and sells my books better than I can. Molly Gillespie from Joseph Beth in Cincinnati grabbed a digital copy of this before the ARCs came out and sent in a pretty much perfect assessment. So, I’ll turn over the reviewing to her:

Joselin Linder and her family are part of a genetic puzzle. Though the same unnamed disorder has killed multiple generations of her family, the reason for its occurrence remains an enigma. In her memoir Linder recounts the first baffling days of her father’s mysterious illness, the frantic fight as doctors race to find a cause, and in the years that followed, the dawning realization that the condition had spread had spread to the next generation.

“When I say The Family Gene hits hard, I mean it with the highest praise. Linder doesn’t hold the punches when describing the devastating effects of living with a bodily unknown, but at the same time avoids the traps of melodrama. Her explanations on complex physiological functions are concise and accessible. As a woman who also has a genetic disease it was tremendously gratifying to know someone else shared my experience: stumped physicians, constant testing and the question of prenatal screening.

“The cumulative result is a story equally valuable to a veteran patient and readers who have never knew you could have a ‘genetic counselor.’ The Family Gene is one woman’s a tremendous narrative of how far genetic research has come over the last twenty years and the current lifesaving work being done for our future.”
— Molly Gillespie, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

Her opinion was subsequently reinforced by starred reviews in both PW and Booklist. Review coverage at on sale starts with People magazine.

 “Linder delivers a moving and deft account of her journey to unearth a diagnosis of the mysterious family gene that caused her father’s and six other relatives’ untimely deaths. In this fascinating journey, she seamlessly moves from instructing on complicated genomic science to revealing the relatable follies of her 20s, never shedding wit or humor…. With compassion and a keen eye, she digs into her family history, medical history, and contemporary genetic science. Lessons on DNA and the significance of X chromosomes in passing genes are woven into Linder’s intimate look at her ongoing struggle to stay alive. She expertly balances the serious and often tragic with an indefatigable charm and warmth. This book is a wonderful blend of reflections on coming of age, medicine, and what it means to live against all odds.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Linder not only knows how to tell a compelling story but also how to use numbers to good effect and how to spell out complicated concepts… Her brutal honesty contributes to the power of this thoroughly researched chronicle of the quest to conquer chromosomal abnormalities.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Linder’s narrative is a combination of a fascinating medical detective story and an absorbing, powerfully written family chronicle…. [She] successfully integrates cutting-edge genetic research into her personal quest.”
—  Kirkus Reviews

The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future (9780062378897) by Joselin Linder. $28.99 hardcover. 3/14/17 on sale.