A Brave, Heartbreaking Look at a Life with Mental Illness

Book review: I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying, by Bassey Ikpi (Amazon / Book Depository) It’s difficult to distinguish which lies from my childhood are my own and which belong to my family. Which lies I told myself to close the gaps in my brain and which were told to me to silence my questions. Which lies were the only things that could quiet … Continue reading A Brave, Heartbreaking Look at a Life with Mental Illness

American Identity As Seen Through Food

Book review: Fed, White, and Blue, by Simon Majumdar (Amazon / Book Depository) Food writer and “food expert,” whatever that means, Simon Majumdar relocated from his beloved England to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend. Some time after their marriage, he was faced with the decision of becoming a US citizen. This unleashes a torrent of silly non-issues, like does he have to give … Continue reading American Identity As Seen Through Food

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

Banality Of Evil In An American Tragedy

Book review: The Brothers, by Masha Gessen (Amazon / Book Depository) This American Life is one of my all-time favorite radio shows. But since they’re so prolific and have been around for so long, I’m always eons behind on episodes, so I tend to skip through the archives looking for something interesting. That’s how I landed on a 2014 episode, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” about an incident I’d … Continue reading Banality Of Evil In An American Tragedy

An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

Book review: Adrift, by Brian Murphy with Toula Vlahou Amazon Adrift tells the story of the packet ship John Rutledge, which in 1856 crossed the North Atlantic from Liverpool to New York with a cargo consisting mostly of mail and around 100 passengers, many of them emigrating from Ireland. The ship navigated turbulent winter conditions before ultimately hitting an iceberg somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, … Continue reading An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

Walking a Mile in the Shoes of Chinese Immigrants in Queens

Book review: Patriot Number One, by Lauren Hilgers (Amazon / Book Depository) Journalist Lauren Hilgers was somewhat surprised when an acquaintance from her years spent working in Shanghai showed up on her Brooklyn doorstep one evening. The man, Zhuang Lehong, was a Chinese activist-labeled-dissident who had traveled to the United States with his wife, Little Yan, planning to seek asylum. Hilgers profiled their experience in … Continue reading Walking a Mile in the Shoes of Chinese Immigrants in Queens

Smart, Richly Crafted Essays from the Incomparable Zadie Smith

Book review: Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (Amazon / Book Depository) Novelist Zadie Smith has got to be one of the most brilliant minds writing today. She burst onto the literary scene with the novel White Teeth in 2000 and has been a heavyweight presence ever since. I read that book and only retained from it that I liked it a lot – when it … Continue reading Smart, Richly Crafted Essays from the Incomparable Zadie Smith

A View From the Border

Book review: The Line Becomes a River, by Francisco Cantú (Amazon / Book Depository) When I was in school, I spent all this time studying international relations, immigration, border security. I was always reading about policy and economics, looking at all these complex academic ways of addressing this big unsolvable problem. When I made the decision to apply for this job, I had the idea … Continue reading A View From the Border

A Narrative Nonfiction Classic on Cultural Clashes in Medicine

Book review: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman (Amazon / Book Depository) Published twenty years ago this year, this book consistently tops lists of the best (narrative) nonfiction. I was late reading it, but so glad I finally got around to it. This’ll be my last review this year – next week I’ll post my year end best-of lists – … Continue reading A Narrative Nonfiction Classic on Cultural Clashes in Medicine

Royals to Refugees: Roots of an Afghan Family

Book review: Crossing the River Kabul, by Kevin McLean Book Depository Author Kevin McLean adopts the voice of Baryalai Popal to tell his dramatic true story, spanning decades, of escaping Afghanistan in 1980 during the Russian invasion and war, and his eventual trek to America. Now an American citizen, Baryalai (called Bar) was born into one of the two historic royal families of Afghanistan. Bar’s family … Continue reading Royals to Refugees: Roots of an Afghan Family

Love, Death and Feudalism in Old World Italy

Book review: Murder in Matera, by Helene Stapinski Author and journalist Helene Stapinski comes from a long family line of thieves and crooks, as detailed in her popular history of crime and theft in Jersey City (especially her family’s participation in it), Five Finger Discount. In her new memoir, Murder in Matera, Stapinski travels to the Basilicata region of southern Italy, attempting to track down and flesh out a … Continue reading Love, Death and Feudalism in Old World Italy

Touring and Celebrating America’s History of Immigration, Spice by Spice

Book Review: Eight Flavors, by Sarah Lohman (Amazon / Book Depository) For a crash course in American trade and immigration, read this book. Sarah Lohman is a gastronomist with a deep interest in the flavors and recipes that shaped American cuisine. According to her website, she “recreates historic recipes as a way to make a personal connection with the past.” She begins the book by showing … Continue reading Touring and Celebrating America’s History of Immigration, Spice by Spice