Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Drowning in Books: Part Three

Minding Ben by Victoria Brown

I managed to find the time to read this. Highly recommended.

From Amazon: "At sixteen, Grace Caton boards her first airplane, leaving behind her small village in Trinidad for another island, this one with tall buildings, graceful parks, and all the books she can read. At least that's what Grace imagines. But from the moment she touches down, nothing goes as planned. The aunt who had promised to watch over her disappears, and Grace finds herself on her own.

Grace stumbles into the colorful world of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, having been taken in hand, sort of, by a fellow islander, Sylvia. Here, she's surrounded by other immigrants also finding their way in America. From her Orthodox Jewish landlord, Jacob, to her wannabe Jamaican friend, Kathy, who feels that every outfit can be improved with a Bedazzler and a low-cut top, there's much to learn about her new city.

Most challenging of all is figuring out her new employers, the Bruckners, an upper-middle-class Jewish family in Manhattan. The job is strange...But Grace loves four-year-old Ben, and she's intrigued by the alternately friendly and scheming nannies who spend their days in Union Square Park.

As the seasons change, Grace discovers that the Bruckners have surprising secrets of their own, and her life in New York becomes increasingly complicated and confusing."

No Biking in the House by Melissa Fay Greene

From Publishers Weekly: "With four children of their own, Atlanta journalist Greene (There Is No Me Without You) and her husband, a criminal defense attorney, gradually adopted five more—one from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia—to create a roiling, largehearted family unit. In her whimsical, hilarious account, she pokes fun at her own initial cluelessness regarding the adoption process...The family often felt like a "group home," as Greene depicts engagingly, yet despite periods of tension and strife, such as the discovery of living parents and sibling rivalry, Greene captures the family's triumphant shared delight in one another's differences."

Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl's Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age by Coco Irvine

Coco Irvine was just turning 13 in December 1926 when she received a diary as a Christmas gift. For the next year she recorded her social life, her family life, and her rather daring and precocious behavior in these pages. Irvine was the daughter of a lumber baron, and their 20-room mansion on Summit Avenue would eventually be donated by Coco and her sister to the State of Minnesota and turned into the Governor's Mansion. This diary was found as Peg Meier, former Star Tribune journalist, was looking through the Minnesota Historical Society archives. Meier says in the introduction: "I remember sitting in the somber library, trying not to guffaw as I read about Coco's exploits."

This is a very quick read and I absolutely loved it.

The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell

I haven't read comic books since Archie, Betty, and Veronica. But with the graphic novel showing up on the adult fiction and nonfiction bookshelves, I have rediscovered how enjoyable it is to read panel by full-color panel instead of page by page.

Sandell has written a very brave account of her relationship with her father, a man who claimed he was many things (a Green Beret, a lawyer, fluent in many languages) but in the end he was a fraud, though the story is much more complicated than that. Sandell talks about tracking down her father's stories, setting her boundaries, going for years without speaking to him, and trying to figure out how much her mother knows. She also is very frank about how her relationship with her father affected any relationship she tried to have with a man. I was taken by surprise that this is what graphic nonficton can be, and I look forward to reading more in this genre.