Mythbusting Rasputin’s Life and Legend

Book review: Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith (Amazon / Book Depository) The life of Rasputin is one of the most remarkable in modern history. It reads like a dark fairy tale. An obscure, uneducated peasant from the wilds of Siberia receives a calling from God and sets out in search of the true faith, a journey that leads him across … Continue reading Mythbusting Rasputin’s Life and Legend

Worldly Writing from the Kitchen to Machu Picchu, and All the Life Lived in Between

Book review: Eat, Live, Love, Die, by Betty Fussell Before she started writing, Betty Fussell, who’s now over 90, was married to author Paul Fussell. Her marriage and family life, and the problems therein, became the subject of her memoir My Kitchen Wars, which also focused on her divorce and issues of domesticity. She’d started editing some of her husband’s work before embarking on her own writing … Continue reading Worldly Writing from the Kitchen to Machu Picchu, and All the Life Lived in Between

A “Family Album” of Emotional, Complicated Relationships

Book review: True Crimes, by Kathryn Harrison Amazon I see the bravado required to be funny and beguiling when what you really are is old and aching and breathless from congestive heart failure, when what you really are is afraid. Kathryn Harrison is such a tricky author. A writer of quietly powerful, serious talents, her nonfiction can be uncomfortably confessional, and is deeply personal to … Continue reading A “Family Album” of Emotional, Complicated Relationships

South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor

Book review: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah Amazon Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality. Apartheid is one of those subjects that I know embarrassingly little about beyond the basics. If you’re in the same position, I highly recommend comedian and Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s 2016 memoir, Born a Crime, of his unique experience growing up as mixed-race … Continue reading South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor

The Boy Next Door, the Past, and a Sense of Place

Book review: Riverine, by Angela Palm (Amazon / Book Depository) Angela Palm grew up in rural Indiana, in a house built in a dried-out riverbed created by redirecting the Kankakee River, their little town not even designated on maps. Next door lived a boy named Corey, and they had the typical girl-and-boy-next-door relationship, into their adolescence. They weren’t ever formally together, it was all very emotional and … Continue reading The Boy Next Door, the Past, and a Sense of Place

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Book review: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, by Kali Nicole Gross (Amazon / Book Depository) In 1887, in a pond just outside of Philadelphia, the dismembered torso of a man was discovered, triggering a search that eventually led to Hannah Mary Tabbs, a Maryland native and seemingly very unpleasant lady, according to many who knew her. She had been, quite scandalously for a black … Continue reading Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Exploitation and Triumph of Two Brothers, in the Circus and the South

Book review: Truevine, by Beth Macy (Amazon / Book Depository) Beth Macy, a former Roanoke Times journalist, first heard about the Muse brothers during her work at the paper in the 1980s. Their story was well-known, but not in much detail: the outline was that two albino African-American brothers were kidnapped by the circus and spent years touring in the freak show before their mother found … Continue reading Exploitation and Triumph of Two Brothers, in the Circus and the South

Injustice and the Transgender Tipping Point

Book review: A Murder Over a Girl, by Ken Corbett Psychologist and professor Ken Corbett exhaustively covered the trial of Brandon McInerney, who at age fourteen, executed a classmate, Larry King (not THAT one.) Supposedly because King, who was gay and beginning to express himself in ways that indicate he was probably transgender, was sexually harassing him. The case in Oxnard, California made national headlines when Larry … Continue reading Injustice and the Transgender Tipping Point

Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Book review: The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer I like Amy Schumer’s comedy, but I’m not enough in love with it that her book was a priority when it came out nearly a year ago. Until I happened upon a review praising it as something much more meaningful than a reiteration of Schumer’s jokes or skits from her show. The review stressed that … Continue reading Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Russia Through The Lens of Chelyabinsk

Book review: Putin Country, by Anne Garrels (Amazon / Book Depository) “When the meteor hit Chelyabinsk, it blazed across the sky, spewed out its shards, and then sank quietly into a lake. That’s what many hoped the breakup of the Soviet Union would be like. It would end with a compliant Russia as benign as the rock that is now sitting in Chelyabinsk’s museum. That has not occurred. … Continue reading Russia Through The Lens of Chelyabinsk

The Yogurt Shop Murders and a Look at False Confessions

Book review: Who Killed These Girls?, by Beverly Lowry (Amazon / Book Depository) What do we actually know and how do we know it? Neuroscience teaches us that our brains are never still, even when we’re asleep and have plunged into dreams. Neurons still continue to spark and fly, jumping synapses, digging up memories, creating new ones, adding, subtracting, removing, revising. Until the story feels right. … Continue reading The Yogurt Shop Murders and a Look at False Confessions

One Month In Maryland Homicide

Book review: A Good Month for Murder, by Del Quentin Wilber (Amazon / Book Depository) Reporter Del Quentin Wilber spent an extended chunk of time shadowing the homicide division of Maryland’s Prince George’s County Police Department. He wasn’t exactly sure what he intended to write about the embedded experience, but he was interested in how detective work had changed in the two decades since the … Continue reading One Month In Maryland Homicide