Tag Archives: biography

Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar & Kathleen Van Clive

Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. January 8, 2019. Aladdin, 272 p. ISBN: 9781534416178.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.0.

In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons’ when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive.

From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar (along with Kathleen Van Cleve), shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
A young enslaved woman successfully escapes bondage in the household of George and Martha Washington. Ona Judge was the daughter of a white indentured servant, Andrew Judge, and an enslaved woman, Betty, on the Mount Vernon plantation, growing up to become Martha Washington’s personal maid. When George Washington was elected president, it was up to Martha to decide who among their enslaved would go with them. “The criteria were clear: obedient, discreet, loyal slaves, preferably of mixed race.” After the seat of government moved to Philadelphia, the Washingtons were subject to the Gradual Abolition Act, a Pennsylvania law that mandated freedom for any enslaved person residing in state for more than six months. The Washingtons chose to rotate their enslaved out of the state to maintain ownership. In 1796, Martha Washington decided to give Ona as a wedding present to her granddaughter—but Ona made her escape by ship to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, setting up years of attempts by allies of Washington to return Ona to slavery. Despite poverty and hardship, Ona Judge remained free, thwarting the most powerful man in America. Dunbar, whose adult version of this story was a National Book Award finalist, and co-author Van Cleve have crafted a compelling read for young people. Ona Judge’s determination to maintain control over her life will resonate with readers. The accessible narrative, clear context, and intricately recorded details of the lives of the enslaved provide much-needed understanding of the complexities and contradictions of the country’s founding. Necessary. (Biography. 9-13)

School Library Journal (January 1, 2019)
Gr 5 Up-This young readers edition of Dunbar’s National Book Award-nominated title details the account of Ona Judge, who ran away from the household of George and Martha Washington. Born into slavery at Mount Vernon, Judge began working directly for Martha Washington by the age of 10. When the Washingtons left Mount Vernon for George’s political career, Judge was chosen to make the trip north, visiting and eventually living in Pennsylvania and New York. Away from the sheltered world of Virginia, Judge encountered free black people for the first time and learned about laws such as the Gradual Abolition Act in Pennsylvania. The Washingtons went to great lengths to prevent those they enslaved from benefitting from this law. In May of 1796, then 22-year-old Judge walked out of the Washington’s mansion in Philadelphia and onto the deck of a ship that would take her to New Hampshire. Although she was never able to live comfortably, she refused to go back to a life of slavery-no matter how determined George and Martha Washington were to reenslave her. This well-written story has been skillfully reconstructed from the sparse historical record available and delicately adapted for middle schoolers. Dunbar and van Cleve effectively and consistently convey the realities of being enslaved-and invite readers to empathize with Judge. VERDICT A brilliant work of U.S. history. Recommended for all collections.-Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA

About the Author

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University. She also serves as Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Her first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University Press in 2008. She is also the author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge.

Her website is ericaarmstrongdunbar.com

Kathleen Van Cleve teaches creative writing and film at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written three books, including the award-winning middle grade novel Drizzle and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and sons.

Her website is www.kathyvancleve.com

Teacher Resources

Never Caught Curriculum Guide

Never Caught on Common Sense Media

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History vs. Women by Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams

History vs. Women: The Defiant Lives That They Don’t Want You to Know by Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams. October 2, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 128 p. ISBN: 9781250146731.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1230.

Rebels, rulers, scientists, artists, warriors and villains

Women are, and have always been, all these things and more.

Looking through the ages and across the globe, Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, along with Ebony Adams PHD, have reclaimed the stories of twenty-five remarkable women who dared to defy history and change the world around them. From Mongolian princesses to Chinese pirates, Native American ballerinas to Egyptian scientists, Japanese novelists to British Prime Ministers, History vs Women will re-frame the history that you thought you knew.

Featuring beautiful full-color illustrations of each woman and a bold graphic design, this standout nonfiction title is the perfect read for teens (or adults!) who want the true stories of phenomenal women from around the world and insight into how their lives and accomplishments impacted both their societies and our own.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Harsh realities of war, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. This collective biography of women who have boldly made their marks on a world that often took great pains to deny them makes a concerted effort to shine a spotlight on those outside of the white, Western canon. Readers may have encountered a handful of these women before (Ida B. Wells, Margaret Thatcher), but, generally, this focuses on introducing colorful, daring figures that history has been less fond of (Sikh warrior Mai Bhago; Bessie Stringfield, the first black woman to travel solo across the U.S. by motorcycle; etc.). The women are profiled chronologically within five sections: rebels, scholars, villains, artists, and Amazons. Of particular interest is the villains section: from British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Spanish queen Isabel I, who inflicted damage on national and even global scales, to notorious lady pirate Ching Shih, these were women who, though strong and accomplished, were also ruthless and often criminal. But, as the text proclaims, “Putting women on a pedestal is really just another way to keep them in a box,” and this engaging, crisply designed book attempts to break barriers at every opportunity. Sketched portraits of the women accompany their detailed profiles, which are followed by a thorough afterword about the selection process and extensive source notes. A superbly well-rounded addition for collections looking to expand beyond recitations of the familiar.

School Library Journal (October 1, 2018)
Gr 7 Up-While many teens find inspiration for strength, courage, and guidance in feminist icons, such as Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, or Maya Angelou, untold numbers of brave women have been lost to history. Sarkeesian and Adams have put together the incredible achievements of 25 women throughout the centuries. Each section explores the lives of five women from around the world, from the third century to the 21st. Students will be introduced to the heroics of LGBTQ+ trailblazer Lucy Hicks Anderson, the wisdom of Fatima al-Fihri, the imagination of Murasaki Shikibu, and the strength of Bessie Stringfield. Readers of all ages, across the globe and socioeconomic spectrum, can find an icon to look up to within these pages. Filled with strength, this collection is incredibly inspiring and will instill in teens a take-charge attitude and powerful mind-set. VERDICT This is a must for public library YA nonfiction collections.-Kimberly Barbour, Manatee County Public Library System, FL

About the Authors

Anita Sarkeesian is an award-winning media critic and the creator and executive director of Feminist Frequency, an educational nonprofit that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives.Best known as the creator and host of Feminist Frequency’s highly influential series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, Anita lectures at universities, conferences and game development studios around the world. Anita dreams of owning a life-size replica of Buffy’s scythe.

Her website is www.feministfrequency.com

 

Ebony Adams, Ph.D. is an author, activist, and former college educator whose work foregrounds the lives and work of black women in the diaspora. She lives in Los Angeles with a steadily-increasing collection of Doctor Who memorabilia. She writes widely on film criticism, social justice, and pop culture.

 

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Cyrus Field’s Big Dream by Mary Morton Cowan

Cyrus Field’s Big Dream: The Daring Effort to Lay the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable by Morton Cowan. September 11, 2018. Calkins Creek Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9781629795560.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 980.

In this nonfiction middle-grade title, award-winning author Mary Morton Cowan explores the extraordinary achievement of Cyrus Field and one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century: laying a transatlantic telegraph cable to create instant communication between two continents.

Cyrus Field had a big dream to connect North America and the United Kingdom with a telegraph line, which would enable instant communication. In the mid-1800s, no one knew if it was possible. That didn’t dissuade Cyrus, who set out to learn about undersea cables and built a network of influential people to raise money and create interest in his project. Cyrus experienced numerous setbacks: many years of delays and failed attempts, millions of dollars lost, suspected sabotage, technological problems, and more. But Cyrus did not give up and forged ahead, ultimately realizing his dream in the summer of 1866. Mary Morton Cowan brilliantly captures Cyrus’s life and his steadfast determination to achieve his dream.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 6-10. Long before email and texting, Cyrus Field understood the value of instant communication. When the paper-merchant tycoon learned in 1854 about an opportunity to invest in the first transatlantic telegraph cable, which would reduce message delivery between Europe and North America from weeks to minutes, he couldn’t resist. This detailed biography, filled with archival reproductions, chronicles Field’s rise from a penniless paper-mill worker to one of the richest men in New York City. An interesting chapter on his hiatus from his paper company describes an adventure through South America with then budding artist Frederic Church. The bulk of the text focuses on Field’s 12-year endeavor to create a telegraph company, acquire investors, and procure 2,000 miles of cable, and the tension-filled methods of laying it. Cowan relates the scientific and historical events that shaped the process. While the topic seems most applicable to STEM readers, there is much for young entrepreneurs to learn. The project failed multiple times, but Field’s incessant determination finally succeeded with a telegraph from Queen Victoria to President Andrew Johnson.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
The relentless persistence of one man resulted in one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and the transformation of international communication. Cyrus Field’s success in business enabled him to amass enough of a fortune to partially retire at the age of 34. His interest in telegraphy was sparked by Canadian engineer Frederic Gisborne, who aimed to establish a telegraph connection between St. John’s, Newfoundland, and New York City. Field formed a new company to take over Gisborne’s venture and convinced investors to lay a cable line from Newfoundland to Ireland. In 1857, after securing financing in England and backing from the American and British governments, Field’s Atlantic Telegraph Company established the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The cable officially opened on Aug. 16, 1858, when Queen Victoria sent President James Buchanan a message in Morse code. Widespread jubilation over this feat was short-lived when the connection broke down and was not reconnected until 1866. Making extensive use of primary sources, Cowan admiringly chronicles how, in those intervening years, Fields endured delays and failed attempts, millions of dollars lost, suspected sabotage, technological problems, and public accusations of fraud and treason. Her well-paced, vivid account makes for a read that is at times gripping. The principal figures in her tale are white. An inspiring portrait of a man with a dream and his steadfast determination to achieve it. (charts, maps, diagrams, photos, timeline, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Award-winning author, Mary Morton Cowan, writes for young readers. She is a native of Maine and a graduate of Bates College, where she concentrated her studies in English and Music. In addition to books, more than eighty of her articles, stories and activities have been published in children’s magazines, and several have been reprinted in textbooks and anthologies.

Her website is www.marymortoncowan.com

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Rising Out of Hatred by Eli Saslow

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow. September 18, 2018. Doubleday, 304 p. ISBN: 9780385542869.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind

Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show–already regarded as the “the leading light” of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. “We can infiltrate,” Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. “We can take the country back.” Then he went to college.

Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. “Derek Black…white supremacist, radio host…New College student???”

The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek’s presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile the ugliness his beliefs for the first time. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners–and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table–that Derek started to question the science, history, and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done.

Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek’s story can tell us about America’s increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and better understand one another.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

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Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
As the son of infamous white supremacist Don Black, Derek Black was a rising star among white nationalists, preaching racial separatism from his own radio-show pulpit by the age of 19. After enrolling at the leftist-leaning New College of Florida in 2010, where Black reasoned he could work his subversive influence from the inside, his views about racial tolerance underwent a radical shift away from his elders’ philosophy. Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Saslow’s decision to recount Black’s transformation with politically neutral detachment makes his story no less captivating. Saslow notes that Black, unlike his father and fellow racist cohorts, chose to strip his rhetoric of inflammatory language and cleverly reframe the movement in terms of white persecution by Jews and minorities. Yet, while Black’s unearthed presence at the New College quickly triggered protests, his growing friendships with a Hispanic roommate and a Jewish student forced him to reexamine his formative indoctrination and eventually break with his family. Amid the current swirling controversies around racial issues, Saslow’s work is both timely and encouraging.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Saslow (Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, 2011) delivers a memorable story of a prodigal son who broke with white supremacy thanks to the kindness of strangers.It is a small irony that Derek Black abandoned the nationalist, white power movement at just about the time that a president entered the White House who consciously put white nationalist rhetoric at the center of his campaign. Black came by his race hatred naturally, following his father’s ideology as the founder of Stormfront, the neo-Nazi clearinghouse, and that of his godfather, KKK stalwart David Duke. From his father, Black carried the urgent message that whites were being made victims of cultural genocide in their own country, a grievance of the loss of privilege. However, he had a different vision in which hooded, hidden supremacists would become respectable, persuading his father to outlaw “slurs, Nazi insignia, and threats of violence or lawbreaking” from the Stormfront website. Thus Charlottesville, with its clean-cut, polo shirt–wearing torchlight parade marchers. By then, though, Derek was long gone. Bright, well-read, and skilled in debate, he had gone off to college in Florida, and there, his home-schooling parents’ worst nightmare was realized: He formed a bond with a Jewish girl, though he continued his agitating, and when his identity as a white nationalist was exposed, a Jewish conservative invited him to exchange ideas. Black’s eventual renunciation of the nationalist cause threw his parents into turmoil; as Saslow writes, his father hoped that “maybe Derek was just faking a change in ideology so he could have an easier life and a more successful career in academia.” But absent widespread changes of heart, Black’s story is an anomaly, if an instructive one—and one that closes with a dark message that conflict is looming as the white nationalist movement appears to be mushrooming. A sobering book that deserves a wide audience among politics-watchers in an age of reaction.

About the Author

Eli Saslow is an author and a staff writer for The Washington Post, where he travels the country to write in-depth stories about the impact of major national issues on individual lives. He won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a series of stories about the rise of food stamps and hunger in the United States. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017. An occasional contributor to ESPN the Magazine, four of his stories have been anthologized in Best American Sportswriting. He grew up in Denver, graduated from Syracuse University and now lives in Portland, Or., with his wife and three children.

Her website is www.elisaslow.com

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Rising Out of Hatred on Amazon

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Anne Frank’s Diary by Ari Folman

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman. October 2, 2018. Pantheon Books, 160 p. ISBN: 9781101871799.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

The only graphic novelization of Anne Frank’s diary that has been authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation and that uses text from the diary–it will introduce a new generation of young readers to this classic of Holocaust literature. 

This adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl into a graphic version for a young readership, maintains the integrity and power of the original work. With stunning, expressive illustrations and ample direct quotation from the diary, this edition will expand the readership for this important and lasting work of history and literature.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Strong sexual themes

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 8-12. Adapting a remarkable primary source like Anne Frank’s diary is no small feat. How do you summarize and visualize such a remarkable document of the Holocaust? As if that weren’t challenge enough, how can you capture the inside of a young girl’s head, her insecurities, dreams, and fears? This graphic novel adaptation takes many risks. The first of many, and its saving grace, is its loyalty to Anne’s own voice. Often witty, ironic, even snarky, Anne’s writing has an acerbic sense of humor. This adaptation is first and foremost a remembrance of that Anne who, despite living a life marred by tragedy, tried by indignities, always held true to herself. Light touches of historical context, woven in through diary entries, provide necessary background without coming across as overly didactic. The whimsical nature of Polonsky’s illustrations, which play upon Anne’s active imagination during her time in hiding, are unexpectedly moving; though we never lose sight of the gravitas of Anne’s story, these forays into fantasy, which show Anne escaping from the harsh present into a future that will never come, serve to remind us of the truly human face of genocide. This is an exceptionally graceful homage to a story that deserves to be told for years to come.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
An illustrated abridgement of the Nazi-era classic.  Anne Frank (1929-1945) as graphic-history heroine? Adapter and composer Folman and illustrator Polonsky (Animation and Illustration/Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design) worked together on the Oscar-nominated, animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. According to Folman, they were approached by the Anne Frank Foundation about adapting the diary into both “an animated film for children” and a graphic novel that would introduce it to a new generation of readers. He then faced a “significant challenge”—to render the whole diary in graphic form might take a decade to complete and some 3,500 pages, while a more manageable “edit” could feature only 5 percent of the original text. Though he opted for the latter course, the abridgment retains the spirit of the whole as the perceptive and increasingly self-aware teenager navigates the usual tensions of adolescence—puberty, romance, family issues—within a nightmarish retreat from the Nazi atrocities intensifying outside their secret hideout. She feels guilty about any everyday cheerfulness she experiences in the face of so much death and destruction, and she succumbs to bouts of depression despite her typical resilience. “Even deep sleep brings no redemption,” she writes. “The dreams still creep in.” Those dreams bring out the best of the illustrations amid the depictions of the everyday confinement in which Anne, her family, and others are hiding. They were captured toward the end of the war, after the end of the diary, when the gas chambers were on the eve of being dismantled. Though she wasn’t aware of her fate, Anne writes with much awareness of not only herself, but a potential readership, with the literary aspirations of someone who feels she has “one outstanding character trait…a great deal of self-knowledge. In everything I do, I can watch myself as if I were a stranger.” A different format distills and renews Frank’s achievement.

About the Author

Ari Folman is an Israeli film director, screenwriter and film score composer.

He witnessed the aftermath of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre as a 19 year old Israeli soldier. This would serve as the basis of Waltz with Bashir. The film follows his attempt to regain his memories of the war through therapy as well as conversations with old friends and other Israelis that were present in Beirut around the time of the massacre.

Since 2006 he has been the head writer of the Hot 3 drama series Parashat Hashavua.

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Taking Cover by Nioucha Homayoomfar

Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up during the Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homeyoomfar. January 1, 2019. National Geographic Society, 160 p. ISBN: 9781426333675.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This coming-of-age memoir, set during the Iranian Revolution, tells the true story of a young girl who moves to Tehran from the U.S. and has to adjust to living in a new country, learning a new language, and starting a new school during one of the most turbulent periods in Iran’s history.

When five-year-old Nioucha Homayoonfar moves from the U.S. to Iran in 1979, its open society means a life with dancing, women’s rights, and other freedoms. But soon the revolution erupts and the rules of life in Iran change. Religion classes become mandatory. Nioucha has to cover her head and wear robes. Opinions at school are not welcome. Her cousin is captured and tortured after he is caught trying to leave the country. And yet, in the midst of so much change and challenge, Nioucha is still just a girl who wants to play with her friends, please her parents, listen to pop music, and, eventually, have a boyfriend. Will she ever get used to this new culture? Can she break the rules without consequences? Nioucha’s story sheds light on the timely conversation about religious, political, and social freedom, publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Use of the word “whore”

 

About the Author

An international citizen from a young age, Nioucha Homayoonfar was born in Brussels to an Iranian father and French mother, spent her earliest years in Pittsburgh, and became a teenager in Tehran. Homayoonfar grew up caught between two worlds: a free and Western life lived indoors, and a repressive life lived outside the confines of the family home. The family finally left Iran when Nioucha was nearly 17 years old. In the U.S., she studied art history and Spanish at the University of Pittsburgh. She now lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, author and journalist Stew Magnuson, and their two children.

Around the Web

Taking Cover on Amazon

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Taking Cover on Goodreads

Taking Cover Publisher Page

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. October 2, 2018. Catapult, 240 p. ISBN: 9781936787975.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

What does it mean to lose your roots―within your culture, within your family―and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as Nicole grew up―facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from―she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.

With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Nicole Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. All You Can Ever Know is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets―vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Chung’s insightful memoir reveals her carefully considered ambivalence about adoption. Born extremely prematurely into a family that had immigrated from Korea, she was adopted by a white couple who lived in a small town in Oregon, where she was one of few nonwhite residents. Often mocked by her classmates, and feeling out of sync with her adoptive family, she clung to a belief that everyone involved was motivated by a desire to give her the best possible life. Once she was married and living on the East Coast, she began to investigate her origins, and she found a more complicated story than the one she had imagined. Her tentative reconciliation with her birth family and the touching bond she formed with her older sister are tempered by her persistent questions about the way her life would have differed had she not been put up for adoption. Chung’s clear, direct approach to her experience, which includes the birth of her daughter as well as her investigation of her family, reveals her sharp intelligence and willingness to examine difficult emotions.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
An essayist and editor’s account of her search for and reconnection with the parents who gave her up for adoption.Chung, the editor-in-chief of Catapult magazine, had always been obsessed with the Korean birthparents she had never met. Her adoptive mother and father told her a story that emphasized the birthparents’ loving selflessness and how “[t]hey thought adoption was the best thing for me.” But the “legend” they created was not enough to sate Chung’s curiosity about the past or ease her occasional discomfort at being the Korean child of white parents in a largely Caucasian Oregon community. A year after she graduated from college, Chung discovered a way to work around the legalities of what had been a closed adoption to find out more about her birthparents. However, it was not until she became pregnant a few years later that she decided to make contact. Eager to know why she had been given up for adoption but troubled that she was betraying the trust of her adoptive parents, the author quietly moved forward with her quest. Much of what she learned—e.g., that she had been born premature and had two sisters—she already knew. Other details, like the fact that her parents had told everyone she had died at birth, raised a host of new questions. Just before Chung gave birth, her sister Cindy made contact. She revealed that their mother had been abusive and that their father had been the one who had decided on adoption. Fear of becoming like her birth mother and anger at both parents gradually gave way to the mature realization that her adoption “was not a tragedy” but rather “the easiest way to solve just one of too many problems.” Highly compelling for its depiction of a woman’s struggle to make peace with herself and her identity, the book offers a poignant depiction of the irreducibly complex nature of human motives and family ties. A profound, searching memoir about “finding the courage to question what I’d always been told.”

About the Author

Nicole Chung has written for The New York TimesGQLongreadsBuzzFeedHazlitt, and Shondaland, among other publications. She is Catapult magazine’s editor in chief and the former managing editor of The ToastAll You Can Ever Know is her first book.

Her website is www.nicolechung.net

Around the Web

All You Can Ever Know on Amazon

All You Can Ever Know on Barnes and Noble

All You Can Ever Know on Goodreads

All You Can Ever Know Publisher Page

Endurance by Scott Kelly

Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There (Young Readers Edition) by Scott Kelly. October 16, 2018. Crown Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9781524764258.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.5; Lexile: 1070.

Newly adapted for young readers from the New York Timesbestseller comes the awe-inspiring memoir from NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a record-breaking year in space. 

How does a boy struggling in school become an American hero and a space pioneer?

Daredevil behavior? Check. Whether it is sailing leaky boats in the Atlantic Ocean or joining an ambulance corps to race to the rescue, living on the edge is required behavior for an astronaut.

Sibling rivalry? Check. An identical twin brother who both cheers you on and eggs you on is the perfect motivator.

Inspiration? Check. Finding the right book can unexpectedly change the course of your life by providing a dream and a road map for achieving it.

Courage? Check. Mastering skills that could mean the difference between life and death as a fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut takes bravery.

Endurance? Check. The grit and can-do spirit that enables you to get up every time you’re knocked down and fuels the power to meet each challenge head-on and then ask, “What’s next?”

Scott Kelly believes, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” This checklist put Scott on a rocket that launched him into space, allowed him to break a record during his inspiring year aboard the International Space Station, and showed human beings the qualities needed to go from Earth to Mars–and beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcoholism

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 6-9. Kelly, the author of My Journey to the Stars (2017), an autobiographical picture book, now presents a young readers’ edition of Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery (2017). Like the original book, it traces Kelly’s childhood, his initially unpromising academic background, and what motivated him to change. But mainly, it focuses on his years as an astronaut and the accomplishment for which he’s best known, living for almost a year continuously on the International Space Station (ISS). Few people have such an unusual story to tell, and Kelly makes the most of his experiences as an astronaut, offering vividly detailed accounts of daily life in orbit, anecdotes about hair-raising moments during space walks and reentry, and heartening stories of cooperation between Russians and Americans working and living together on the ISS. Black-and-white photos appear throughout the book, and a 16-page insert offers color photos. While the amount of detail may be daunting for some readers, those who are intrigued by space travel will find this a fascinating book.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Kelly recalls piloting space shuttles and living aboard the International Space Station. Pared down from the 2017 version for adults, stripped of its profanity, and rearranged into a linear narrative, this memoir still manages to be slow off the launch pad, woodenly conventional (if infused with deadpan humor), and anticlimactic at the close. Kelly begins with his very earliest memories and traces his youth from an epiphanic encounter with Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (“I closed the book that night a different person”) to military-style nautical training (“a different person”) and graduation from New York’s Maritime College (“a completely different person”). Experiences as a U.S. Navy test pilot led to astronaut training, two shuttle flights, and two ISS gigs. In an apparent bid for attention from young readers he comes off throughout as positively obsessed with space toilets and the diapers American astronauts wear when bathroom trips are not an option. Of (perhaps) greater interest are his memories of working and living with colleagues from Russia and other countries after the space shuttle program ended. These are enlivened by comments about space food (“The Russians also have something called ‘the Appetizing Appetizer,’ which it is not”) and other details seldom if ever found in other astronaut biographies. He closes with a tally of general-issue life lessons. Finished photos and backmatter not seen. Occasionally amusing, rarely fresh, this expands the author’s picture-book account, My Journey to the Stars (illustrated by André Ceolin, 2017), without adding much significant. (Memoir. 10-16)

About the Author

Scott Kelly is a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and NASA astronaut. Kelly retired from the Navy at the rank of captain after twenty-five years of service. A veteran of four spaceflights, Kelly commanded the space shuttle Endeavour in 2007 and twice commanded the International Space Station. He has spent more than 520 days in space and holds the record for the longest single mission by a U.S. astronaut. He lives in Houston.

Her website is www.scottkelly.com

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A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America’s Secret Desert by Karen Piper. August 14, 2018. Viking, 336 p. ISBN: 9780399564543.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A poignant, surreal, and fearlessly honest look at growing up on one of the most secretive weapons installations on earth, by a young woman who came of age with missiles

The China Lake missile range is located in a huge stretch of the Mojave Desert, about the size of the state of Delaware. It was created during the Second World War, and has always been shrouded in secrecy. But people who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, with domestic routines and everyday dilemmas, and four of them were Karen Piper’s parents, her sister, and–when she needed summer jobs–herself. Her dad designed the Sidewinder, which was ultimately used catastrophically in Vietnam. When her mom got tired of being a stay-at-home mom, she went to work on the Tomahawk. Once, when a missile nose needed to be taken offsite for final testing, her mother loaded it into the trunk of the family car, and set off down a Los Angeles freeway. Traffic was heavy, and so she stopped off at the mall, leaving the missile in the parking lot.

Piper sketches in the belief systems–from Amway’s get-rich schemes to propaganda in The Rocketeer to evangelism, along with fears of a Lemurian takeover and Charles Manson–that governed their lives. Her memoir is also a search for the truth of the past and what really brought her parents to China Lake with two young daughters, a story that reaches back to her father’s World War II flights with contraband across Europe. Finally, it recounts the crossroads moment in a young woman’s life when she finally found a way out of a culture of secrets and fear, and out of the desert.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
For designing and detonating missiles, China Lake was perfect—a desert wasteland within driving distance of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. But for Piper’s family, life at the military base was full of secrets and challenges, as she reveals in this fascinating memoir. The family moved there when Piper was a girl, so that her father, a WWII veteran, could work on the Sidewinder missile. Eventually, they all got into the missile business, her mother helping create circuit boards after taking a class for housewives and Piper herself working as a clerk in the summers. War surrounded them at China Lake, where streets were named after admirals, ships, and combat zones. But Piper was not allowed to know much of what went on there, even the work her own parents were doing, and years later she returned in search of answers. Here she offers an incredible view of a little-known community, from WWII all the way through 9/11, and examines how her family navigated life in a town built for war.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
A smart, self-aware memoir of life in a Cold War outpost.If you’re a government agency, there are three reasons to hide your activities from public view: because they really need to be kept secret, because the activities are fundamentally useless, or because “you want to rip the money bag open and get out a shovel, because there is no accountability whatsoever.” So an official told Piper (Literature and Geography/Univ. of Missouri; The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos, 2014, etc.) in what amounts to a mantra for all of China Lake, a test facility in the hottest, most forbidding part of the Mojave Desert. The author writes of a childhood spent in a household headed by two project workers at China Lake. It was a world of missiles and launches and secrets in a time when the world seemed to be falling to bits—there was Vietnam, for one thing, and then the Manson family zipping around in the nearby desert in their dune buggies (“The Mansons even shopped at our 7-Eleven in Ridgecrest, where Christine and I bought our candy”). By Piper’s account, it was a preternaturally strange place in a strange time punctuated by Amway rallies and enlivened with unhealthy spats of interoffice politics. But interesting things happened there, too, including experiments to turn the weather into a weapon, to say nothing of the business of turning hardscrabble China Lake, a place of prewar brothels and hermits, into a place suitable for straight-arrow military personnel, civilian contractors, and their families. Piper’s account moves among the personal and the universal, with fine small coming-of-age moments. The narrative threatens to unravel a little when, following her father’s death, Piper acts on clues he left behind to follow his footsteps in other arenas of the Cold War, but she pulls everything into an effective—and affecting—whole meant to “ensure that history was not erased.” A little-known corner of the Atomic Age comes into focus through Piper’s skilled storytelling.

About the Author

Karen Piper is the award-winning author of The Price of Thirst, Left in the Dust, and Cartographic Fictions. She has received the Sierra Nature Writing Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award and fellowships from the Huntington, Carnegie Mellon, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is currently a professor of literature and geography at the University of Missouri.

Her website is www.karenpiper.com.

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Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad

Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtijah Muhammad. July 24, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780316477000.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 960.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ibtihaj Muhammad smashed barriers as the first American to compete wearing hijab, and made history as the first Muslim-American woman to medal. But it wasn’t an easy road–in a sport most popular among wealthy white people, Ibtihaj often felt out of place. Ibtihaj was fast, hardworking, and devoted to her faith, but rivals and teammates (as well as coaches and officials) pointed out her differences, insisting she would never succeed. Yet Ibtihaj powered on. Her inspiring journey from a young outsider to an Olympic hero is a relatable, memorable, and uniquely American tale of hard work, determination, and self-reliance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

Author Video

Short Biography via ESPN

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 6-12. “Black but Muslim. Muslim but American. A hijab-wearing athlete.” Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic medalist in fencing and the first Muslim woman to represent the U.S. in international competition, explores identity, her path to the 2016 Olympics, and their intersection in this eye-opening memoir adapted for young readers. Muhammad was always competitive, especially when it came to sports. Wearing a hijab and coming from a large family, she realized that fencing allowed her an easier way to maintain her faith than in other sports and work toward a scholarship for college. And it turned out she was excellent! More difficult than the rigorous physical and mental training, however, was trying to fit into a predominantly white, male sport. Muhammad describes her struggles with classmates, teammates, referees, and even the public at large, who only saw her as an outsider. She also relates how finding a community of fencers of color, supportive family and trainers, perseverance, and, above all, her faith helped her overcome adversity. As she succeeded and gained media attention, she recognized that she could be a role model for other young women, young Muslims, and young people of color. Indeed, Muhammad’s story is an inspiring one that will encourage readers to question what it means to be American.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
Muhammad, Olympic medalist for the U.S. fencing team, presents a memoir emphasizing the role of sports in her life. Muhammad, a black, Muslim American who grew up in New Jersey, was raised by loving, supportive parents in a stable home. Her parents had many expectations of her and her siblings, one of which was that they would always participate in a sport. Some readers know the general story of how Muhammad finally picked and stayed with fencing—a sport in which she could wear the team uniform without compromising the modest attire required of her faith—but there are surprises in the details. Muhammad’s experiences in schools, in sports, in social situations, and in national and international competitions include moments of joy and exhilaration as well as many periods of isolation and self-doubt. The honesty in her writing makes it easy to connect with her journey, so that even readers who are not interested in the details of fencing will want to keep going to see how she made it all the way. Her dedication is impressive, and the many other people populating the pages of her memoir create a portrait of what it takes to make a champion. Readers who are already fans of Muhammad will love her even more, and all readers will gain much inspiration from this heartfelt memoir of a true American hero. Like Muhammad herself, this book is a timely gift to us all. (glossary, interview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American sabre fencer, is a 2016 Olympic medalist, 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion in the sport of fencing. In August 2016, she became the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab and is also the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal for the United States. Ibtihaj is a 3-time All American from Duke University, with a dual degree in International Relations and African Studies. In 2014, Ibtihaj launched her own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring affordable modest fashion to the United States market.

Ibtihaj is a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative, and works closely with organizations like Athletes for Impact and the Special Olympics. Named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list, Ibtihaj is an important figure in a larger global discussion on equality and the importance of sport. Her voice continues to unite both the sports and non-sports world

Her website is www.ibtihajmuhammad.com/

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Proud on Amazon

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