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The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams

Book jacket cover of The Unwinding of the MiracleWhat a story and what an amazing human being. I cannot believe anybody could read this book without being reduced to tears. Booklist gave it a starred review, writing “[t]his is the poignant and compelling memoir of Yip-Williams’ battle with and eventual surrender to cancer. Entries written in real time during the five years between the author’s diagnosis and death document her deteriorating physical condition, her emotional angst, and her family’s anguish. Throughout, she reflects on her life and reveals what an amazing miracle it has been. Born blind in Vietnam, she survived a perilous boat trip as a refugee, came to the U.S., excelled in school, traveled, earned a law degree from Harvard, enjoyed a successful career, got married, and had two daughters all by age 37, when this story begins. Her writing is honest and, by turns, angry, humorous, and heart-breaking, especially when she talks about her two little girls, who are just starting elementary school. Even though readers know the ending the prologue indicates that if they’re reading this, she’s already gone every bit of new bad news hits like a blow to the gut. Readers’ will smile when Yip-Williams facetiously describes the slutty second wife she envisions for her husband and share in her grief as she makes plans for her funeral. Never mawkish, The Unwinding of the Miracle will resonate with readers.”

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

Book jacket cover of Black Leopard Red WolfThis book has been getting major buzz and showing up on a lot of “Best of” lists already. No less a superstar author than Neil Gaiman loved it (“Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the kind of novel I never realized I was missing until I read it. A dangerous, hallucinatory, ancient Africa, which becomes a fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made, with language as powerful as Angela Carter’s. It’s as deep and crafty as Gene Wolfe, bloodier than Robert E. Howard, and all Marlon James. It’s something very new that feels old, in the best way. I cannot wait for the next installment.”) Other reviews are equally enticing: Booklist wrote “[t]he first installment in the Dark Star trilogy has been touted as an ‘African Game of Thrones,’ and, indeed, James, author of the Man Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014), throws pretty much every fantasy and horror creature known into this brilliantly chaotic mash-up of genres and styles. Readers will discover mermaids, vampires, zombies, and witches, along with edge-of-your-seat chills and cheeky humor. James’ tale digs its hooks in and never lets go, rather like the claws of the flesh-eating Zogbanu trolls, or the teeth of a vicious ghommid. Yet for all the fantasy and action, James never loses sight of the human story as his hero, Tracker, searches for the truth about a mysterious boy. Tracker’s quest across wildlands and through cities brings him tantalizingly closer to the elegant, shape-shifting Leopard. James’ world building weaves in cultural references from Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali, Congo, Burkina Faso, and Senegal as he spins his griot’s tale of love, revolutions, murder, and magic. Gender-bending romance, fantastical adventure, and an Afrocentric setting make for an inventive and engaging read.” Definitely on my to read list!

We Say #Never Again edited by Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner

Book jacket cover of We Say #Never AgainBooklist: *Starred Review*  “From the aftermath of the February 14, 2018, school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, comes this collection that stands alone as a primary source document. A few pieces from the journalism and broadcasting faculty accompany dozens of short essays and photographs by student journalists of the Eagle Eye, the high-school newspaper and student broadcasters from WMSD-TV, the school TV station. Frank and sincere, if occasionally repetitive, the student essays capture the raw aftermath of a tragedy from the closest vantage point one can find. They examine the situation from myriad angles; a recent British transplant comes at it as a so-called outsider, while those closest to the heart of the #NeverAgain movement on Twitter examine their newfound celebrity and respond to public critiques. At the same time, it’s a document about the inner workings of a high-school newspaper suddenly thrust into a spotlight far beyond what staff writers could ever have imagined. Many of the students wrestle with concerns of journalistic ethics: how to interview and write when they’re too close to the subject at hand.  A book like this shouldn’t have to exist, and yet it does and for that reason alone, it deserves a space in all libraries.”