Family Stories and Recipes, From Belarus to Brooklyn

Book review: Savage Feast, by Boris Fishman (Amazon / Book Depository)  Food was so valuable that it was a kind of currency—and it was how you showed love. If, as a person on the cusp of thirty, I wished to find sanity, I had to figure out how to temper this hunger without losing hold of what fed it, how to retain a connection to my past … Continue reading Family Stories and Recipes, From Belarus to Brooklyn

Light Recollections of Growing Up Arab in America

Book review: The Wrong End of the Table, by Ayser Salman (Amazon / Book Depository) If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been at the wrong end of the table – whether you were born in an Iraqi dictatorship or hail from Lexington, Kentucky – this is for you. Though I can’t speak for all of us, I can at least tell you my story. Ayser Salman, a … Continue reading Light Recollections of Growing Up Arab in America

A Forensic Anthropologist on Her Life’s Work in Death

Book review: All that Remains, by Sue Black (Amazon / Book Depository) As the product of a strict, no-nonsense, Scottish Presbyterian family where a spade was called a shovel and empathy and sentimentality were often viewed as weaknesses, I like to think my upbringing has made me pragmatic and thick-skinned, a coper and a realist. When it comes to matters of life and death I harbor … Continue reading A Forensic Anthropologist on Her Life’s Work in Death

Family, Race, Violence, and the Calculations Made to Survive

Book review: Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson (Amazon / Book Depository) Sirens scream (for who else in the world but you?) in the distance. In a prose style unlike any I’ve encountered before, Mitchell S. Jackson, novelist and writing instructor at New York and Columbia Universities, writes a memoir of his life and tumultuous upbringing in Portland, Oregon. His story is interwoven with those … Continue reading Family, Race, Violence, and the Calculations Made to Survive

5 Mini-Reviews from the Did-Not-Finish Stack

I used to hold myself to a strict standard of finishing every book I started. It was painful. Why insist on spending precious time finishing something I’m not enjoying just because I made a decision one time to read it? Abandoning feels freeing in its own little way. Time for another look into some of the books I’ve tried and put aside over the past … Continue reading 5 Mini-Reviews from the Did-Not-Finish Stack

A Life-Saving Medical Treatment, Both Cutting-Edge and Historical, Succeeds Where All Else Failed

Book review: The Perfect Predator, by Steffanie Strathdee and Thomas Patterson (Amazon / Book Depository) In November 2015, globetrotting epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee was on vacation with her husband, psychologist and psychiatry professor Tom Patterson, exploring pyramids in Egypt when Tom fell suddenly and violently ill. They initially suspected food poisoning, but it quickly became clear that something more sinister was at work. In a Luxor … Continue reading A Life-Saving Medical Treatment, Both Cutting-Edge and Historical, Succeeds Where All Else Failed

Poet Ross Gay Writes His Delights

Book review: The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay (Amazon / Book Depository) It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month … Continue reading Poet Ross Gay Writes His Delights

Childhood Scenes from the Tent Revival Circuit

Book review: Holy Ghost Girl, by Donna M. Johnson (Amazon / Book Depository) [The tent] gathered and sheltered us from a world that told us we were too poor, too white trash, too black, too uneducated, too much of everything that didn’t matter and not enough of anything that did. Society, or at least the respectable chunk of it, saw the tent and those of … Continue reading Childhood Scenes from the Tent Revival Circuit

Art and Anecdotes from One Year in Paris

Book review: A Paris Year, by Janice MacLeod (Amazon / Book Depository) Bonjour Bonjour Ça va Ça va Ça va Ça va Bonjour Bonjour. It’s really that easy to have an entire conversation in French. There is no waving hello. This is not the French way. When you wave hello their eyes follow your hand like a litter of kittens. Non. They prefer words. Janice … Continue reading Art and Anecdotes from One Year in Paris

Documentary-Like Memoir of a Mother Who Made “A Way Out of No Way”

Book review: The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, by Bridgett M. Davis (Amazon / Book Depository) Professor and novelist Bridgett M. Davis’s mother Fannie was a number runner. Even before she understood exactly what that was and meant, Davis understood she had to keep what her mother did a secret. I talked about her less and less because … Continue reading Documentary-Like Memoir of a Mother Who Made “A Way Out of No Way”

A Mind of Winter: Chronicling Seasonal Darkness

Book review: The Light in the Dark, by Horatio Clare (Amazon / Book Depository) The struggle is intensifying. It is like being sealed into a grey snowball which keeps gathering defeats. However much I wash, I seem to smell of dirty winter trains and exhaust… Winter is a miser at the moment, giving nothing but bills. The result is inarticulacy… The words and the lightness … Continue reading A Mind of Winter: Chronicling Seasonal Darkness

Warm, Funny Kitchen Stories from the Heart

Book review: More Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin (Amazon / Book Depository) Despite falling in love with Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen last year, I forced myself to wait before reading its followup volume, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. I wanted to save the joy for a time when I knew I’d need it. The dark, gloomy days of January were not only … Continue reading Warm, Funny Kitchen Stories from the Heart