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Non-Fiction Book Reviews

***** Multicultural *****

Explore the world through its literature. Take a look at life through the eyes of a different culture.


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Lust in Translation: the Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee

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Druckerman, Pamela(2007)
Lust in Translation: the Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee

Cross-cultural, scientific studies of human behavior regarding fidelity are rare. In her book, Lust in Translation, former Wall Street Journal correspondent Pamela Druckerman gathers interviews from around the world. While no culture absolutely condones adultery, reported responses to adultery in nations like France will surprise the reader. For instance, the French may be more accepting of infidelity, but privacy and discretion are essential. In contrast, behavior in modern Japan suggests a distinct separation between family life and erotic outlets. Behaviors are closely tied to economy realities in African nations and Russia. Americans follow their own unique script in these sticky situations, but may learn from other global attitudes.

Reviewed by Lydia T., Main Library

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All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey With Jane

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Smith, Amy Elizabeth(2012)
All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey With Jane

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of good sense enjoys Jane Austen. Professor Amy Elizabeth Smith decided to put this truth to the test and take Jane through six Latin American countries. Even though Smith didn’t speak Spanish and had no idea who her book clubs would be, she decided to explore and follow wherever her answers would lead her. Would all the readers find a connection between Austen’s world and their own? Through adventures and appreciations of new cultures, Smith learns surprising truths, makes good friends, and unexpectedly discovers her own Mr. Darcy. Travel along with Smith, or as Jane says, `The person, whether it be a gentleman or a lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.`

Reviewed by Amanda D., University City Regional

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Better than Fiction:  True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers

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George, Don, editor(2012)
Better than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers

Take a trip around the globe with your favorite fiction authors! Lonely Planet editor George Don has compiled an entertaining collection of 32 true travel tales from popular fiction writers. Authors included are Isabel Allende, Joyce Carol Oates, Alexander McCall Smith, and Peter Matthiessen, just to name a few. Shared are descriptive, emotional impressions taken from their own travel experiences to such exotic places as the Solomon Islands, Rome, Argentina, India, and the Antarctica. Included in the collection are also tales from seemingly ordinary, closer to home locales such as Alaska, Montana, California and the American highway. Regardless of place, these stories share the love of travel and self-discovery, delighting fans of travel literature as well as short fiction.

Reviewed by Kim W., University City Regional

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Skloot, Rebecca(2010)
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“You make sure Day takes care of them children.” These were Henrietta Lacks’s last words when she died of cervical cancer in 1951 at age 31. Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer, thought her five children would be her legacy. Little did she know, doctors cultured cells from her cervix without her consent. They became known as HeLa cells. However, no one knew anything about her. Skloot took a decade to interview the Lacks family and scientists to document the history of Henrietta Lacks and her cells. She uses layman’s terms and alternates chapters discussing Lacks and the history of her cells. She includes a cast of characters, a time line, and a detailed index. Skloot combines history, suspense, and great storytelling to create a page-turner.

Reviewed by Megan M., Main Library

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How to Be Black

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Thurston, Baratunde( 2012)
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How to Be Black

At first glance you read the cover and think is this for real? And it is- sort of. Baratunde Thurston, comedian and political commentator, has compiled his own experiences, opinions and ideas of being black and those of a panel of artists, comedians, and black people, to create a laugh-out-loud, yet astute review of the changing paradigm of race in pre and post-Obama America. Thurston presents hilarious yet reality based thoughts on “How to Be the Black Employee” and what’s up with the ridiculous idea of “post-racial” America and other ideas and questions on everyone’s minds. Thurston reveals that “blackness” is as much individual as it is the collective experiences of black people that create an ever shifting and novel alchemical force.

Reviewed by Jessica W., University City Regional

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Trip of the Tongue: Cross Country Travels in Search of America's Languages

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Little, Elizabeth(2012)
Trip of the Tongue: Cross Country Travels in Search of America's Languages

Elizabeth Little spent years traveling the United States in search of heritage language communities - pockets of American society where languages other than English are commonly spoken - including Gullah, Louisiana Creole, Haitian Creole, Navajo and other Native American languages, and Norwegian. In the guise of a conversational travel journal, Little presents surprisingly complex linguistic and sociological concepts that leave the reader enlightened and entertained. Within her often amusing tales of adventure, she also touches on the politics of English-only and the immigrant experience in a way I found informative and thought-provoking. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Reviewed by Erin R., Morrison Regional

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A Belle in Brooklyn:The Go-To Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life

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Lucas, Demetria(June 2011)
A Belle in Brooklyn:The Go-To Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life

Demetria Lucas does not claim to be an expert in relationships, but she definitely knows how to live her best single life. I know we have all seen the media blitz about how infinitely single black women are and how small a chance we have at getting married, but the author challenges these notions. She wrote this book as a response to that rhetoric: Why can’t black women be single and happy? Here, Lucas goes through her relationships and experiences with male friends and shows you how to live your best single life. You may want your Mr. Right and that will happen, but why can’t you enjoy Mr. Right Now too? Read this and learn from Demetria how you can do exactly that.

Reviewed by Jessica W., University City Regional

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Blood Done Sign My Name

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Tyson, Timothy B(2004)
Blood Done Sign My Name

On May 11, 1970 Henry Marrow, a black Vietnam vet, was gunned down in the middle of Oxford, NC for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Thus began once of the worst acts of violence during the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina. There were plenty of witnesses to the event; none of whom would come forward. After an all white jury found the defendants not guilty the African American community rose up and burned all the tobacco warehouses in the town, causing millions of dollars in damage. This event left an indelible mark on 10 year-old Tim Tyson, so much so that as a college student he decided to investigate the matter for his dissertation. This book should be required reading for all who did not live through this time.

Reviewed by Gina D., Main Library

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This was a WONDERFUL book club pick! Such great stories of the time were offered during the discussions. I highly recommend this title for a book club.
-VJ, Charlotte, NC

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Hard Times Require Furious Dancing:  New Poems

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Alice Walker(2010)
Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems

"Hard times require furious dancing. Each of us is proof," begins Alice Walker in the preface to this work of poetry. Ms. Walker addresses many topics in her poetry such as family, leadership, and loss of life and wealth. Words of inspiration are found at the most unexpected times when Ms. Walker writes, ". . . warm sun on my cheek, is to miss the anxiety of loss." Black and white illustrations by Shiloh McCloud sprinkled throughout the text serve to create motion and connect the poems. Readers will want to revisit these poems on multiple occasions during challenging times.

Reviewed by Emily N., South County Regional

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The Original Johnson

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Von Eeden, Trevor(2008)
The Original Johnson

An unrelentingly, intense depiction of the times and growth into manhood for famed boxer Jack Johnson unfolds for the reader in this graphic novel. Johnson, a heavyweight champion during the early 1900s, arose from boxing bouts where he worked on the docks to reach success before a huge setback. In time, opportunity comes again and Johnson re-establishes himself as a boxer in a path bore by standing up to battle bullies as his mother demanded of him as a child. Written and illustrated by talented comic book veteran Trevor Von Eeden, he pours in the timely violence of lynching, rape and racist attitudes which cloaked the era when the extraordinary Johnson succeeded and found that “he just plain loved to fight. It was fun.”

Reviewed by Lawrence T., South County Regional

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