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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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Worn Stories

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Spivack, Emily(2014)Recently Added Review
Worn Stories

This collection on the power of memory associated with clothing is astounding. The storytellers are mostly from artistic or expressive fields, although their stories were not the most poignant: the lawyer whose parents lost everything in Hurricane Sandy, the Holocaust survivor who escaped the camp to survive a year in a forest, the Alaskan Native who relied on family and luck to fulfill a self-imposed wedding ritual. Each of the stories reveals a truth about the teller, from the ballerina who feels her identity in her leg-warmers, to the chef whose oft-replaced Converse shoes represent her journey in America. These stories will have you looking at your closet and contemplating the meaning behind that item of which you just can`t bear to let go.

Reviewed by Sarah K., Morrison Regional

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Book of My Lives

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Hemon, Aleksandar(2013)
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Book of My Lives

The Book of My Lives, by award-winning Aleksandar Hemon, is a literary scrapbook album masterfully arranged, bridging divergent existences across two continents, with a command of English both unique and precise. He describes his Sarajevan childhood as rather idyllic, fueled by soccer and western music. No more subversive than the average University of Sarajevo student, Hemon was challenged to navigate early adulthood in an unraveling post-Tito Yugoslavia. Stranded in 1992 during the early days of the Balkan conflict, he applied for political asylum, making Chicago his home, where he and his family both endure and thrive. The last essay in this collection, “The Aquarium,” published in the New Yorker, is both painful and brilliant.

Reviewed by Lydia T., Main Library

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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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Reader's comments about this book

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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