Tag Archives: memoir

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke. April  18, 2017. Pantheon Books, 278 p. ISBN: 9781101870839.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A gorgeous graphic memoir about loss, love, and confronting grief

When Kristen Radtke was in college, the sudden death of a beloved uncle and the sight of an abandoned mining town after his funeral marked the beginning moments of a lifelong fascination with ruins and with people and places left behind. Over time, this fascination deepened until it triggered a journey around the world in search of ruined places. Now, in this genre-smashing graphic memoir, she leads us through deserted cities in the American Midwest, an Icelandic town buried in volcanic ash, islands in the Philippines, New York City, and the delicate passageways of the human heart. Along the way, we learn about her family and a rare genetic heart disease that has been passed down through generations, and revisit tragic events in America’s past.

A narrative that is at once narrative and factual, historical and personal, Radtke’s stunning illustrations and piercing text never shy away from the big questions: Why are we here, and what will we leave behind?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
When Radtke was in college, studying art in Chicago, the uncle she’d grown up adoring died of a heart condition. Around the same time, she visited Gary, Indiana, and began to cultivate a deep interest in the ruins of cities and decaying places. The idea of “how something that is can become, very suddenly, something that isn’t” obsessed her. Radtke’s neat, grayscale drawings are detailed and coloring-book precise, and her thoughtful, meticulous narration makes true visual essays of them. In grad school, she travels to the Philippines, Burma, Singapore, and Vietnam, seeking and studying international “ruin-porn,” as she notes some call it. Her story cartwheels, too, exploring the science behind her uncle’s defect and the probability that she has it, too. She tells the story of the infamous fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, her home state, which decimated the area and took thousands of victims but remains regional lore after occurring on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. In her cerebral journey of a first book, Radtke, an illustrator, designer, and managing editor of a small press, asks and answers: Why do ruins fascinate, and why is this fascination considered perverse? Why are ruins there at all?

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Insights and images combine in a meditation on loss, grief, and the illusions of permanence.  Sarabande Books managing editor Radtke isn’t an artist who also writes a little or a writer who scrawls but a master of both prose narrative and visual art. Like memory, the narrative loosens the binds of chronology, playing hopscotch through the author’s girlhood, college, formative years as an artist, and apocalyptic fantasy of her current home in New York. A strain of heart failure seems to run in Radtke’s family, and the key to this memoir is the death of her favorite uncle, who was recovering from the surgery that ultimately killed him and whose death made the author and her family all the more concerned with the family medical history. The event also planted the seed for this book and its larger thematic focus, as Radtke became “consumed by the question of how something that is can become, very suddenly, something that isn’t.” On her return home for the funeral, the author discovered an abandoned mining town that she would later revisit. During art school, she became fascinated by Gary, Indiana, a city in ruins, where she discovered the photos of someone whose attempts to document the city led to his death. She left a fiance and what she imagined to be a “stagnant future” for vagabond travels taking her from the ruins of Italy to the ravages of Southeast Asia, while her own heart condition gave notions of impermanence and loss a personal emphasis. “I couldn’t comprehend why the dead couldn’t be made undead,” she writes. “Why a heart that caved couldn’t be filled out again.” In a way, what she has done in this impressive book is to revive the dead and recover the lost while illuminating a world in flux, in which change is the only constant. Powerfully illustrated and incisively written—a subtle dazzler of a debut.

About the Author

Kristen Radtke is a writer and illustrator based in Brooklyn. Her graphic memoir, Imagine Wanting Only This, is forthcoming from Pantheon Books in April.

She is the managing editor of Sarabande Books and the film & video editor of TriQuarterly magazine. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.

Her website is kristenradtke.com

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Imagine Wanting Only This on Amazon

Imagine Wanting Only This on Goodreads

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Imagine Wanting Only This Publisher Page

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders. April 1, 2017. University of Nebraska Press, 224 p. ISBN: 9780803285309.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 920.

Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.

Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.

Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Sexist verbal abuse, Sexual harassment

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Beginning in middle school, Ila Borders played on all-male teams and was the first woman to receive a baseball scholarship to college, where she continued shattering gender barriers as a left-handed pitcher. In 1988, she became the first female pitcher to win a professional men’s baseball game. Her résumé included playing for the St. Paul Saints, Duluth-Superior Dukes, Madison Black Wolf, and Zion Pioneerzz. Besides being a fascinating sports story, this is also a moving biography of a closeted gay athlete pursuing her dreams while struggling with her own identity. Her faith as a Christian helped her navigate the insurmountable challenges. Borders endures taunts from the stands (“Go home, you don’t belong here”) that switched to requests for autographed baseballs when her prowess became obvious. Cowritten with noted baseball writer Ardell (Breaking into Baseball, 2005), this is a welcome contribution to women’s sports biographies. Baseball fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes details of life in the minors and numerous game highlights; gay athletes will connect to her struggles. A worthy companion to Jennifer Ring’s A Game of Their Own (2015) and an important addition to baseball-history and LGBTQ collections.

Library Journal (April 1, 2017)
The story of Ila Jane Borders (b. 1975), the first woman to win a men’s college baseball game and a pioneer for women in professional baseball, has faded into history. Twenty years ago, she signed a minor league contract with an independent men’s baseball team, proving herself in the clubhouse as well as on the pitcher’s mound. While we are still waiting for the first woman to appear on a major league roster, Borders made meaningful progress, maintaining her poise and sense of humor, despite teammates and fans who wanted to test her resolve, even enduring stalkers and death threats. A difficult childhood and struggles with her sexual orientation gave her the inner fortitude to endure the isolation of being far from home in an often hostile environment, and her personal history, as chronicled here with the help of Ardell (Breaking into Baseball), is related with painful honesty. Borders’s conversational style and intriguing life story make this title a winner for both public and academic libraries. VERDICT An inspiring and important account, told with grace and self-awareness that will appeal to baseball and sports fans along with readers interested in LGBTQ memoirs.-Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT

About the Author

Ila Jane Borders is the first woman to win a men’s professional baseball game. She has been honored twice at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals.

Her website is www.ilajaneborders.com.

 

Around the Web

Making My Pitch on Amazon

Making My Pitch on Goodreads

Making My Pitch on JLG

Making My Pitch Publisher Page

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Borstein. March 7, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 352 p. ISBN: 9780374305710.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 890.

In 1945, in a now-famous piece of archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved Michael’s life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat.

Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Genocide, Harsh realities of the Holocaust, Antisemitism, Desecration of corpses, Sexual assault

 

Book Trailer

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. In 1940, Michael Bornstein was born in Zarki, Poland—then a Nazi-occupied ghetto. In 1944, Michael and his family arrived at Auschwitz. Miraculously, in 1953, Michael celebrated his bar mitzvah in New York City. Here, with the help of his television news producer daughter, he recounts the spectacular story of his survival. The duo chronologically document the Germans’ ruthless occupation—and eventual liquidation—of Zarki; the Bornsteins’ compulsory stint at an ammunitions factory; their tragic trek to Auschwitz; and the aftermath of the war in a land ruptured by unconscionable brutality and bigotry. But this account is shaped less by events than it is people: Michael’s father, Israel, with his dangerous devotion to a crumbling community; Michael’s infinitely courageous Mamishu; his ever-resilient grandmother; and his stubbornly spirited slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sprinkled with Yiddish and appended by an informative afterword, captioned photos, and brief glossary, the first-person narrative is a tenderly wrought tribute to family, to hope, and to the miracles both can bring. A powerful memoir for the middle-grade set.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
Michael was only 4 when he miraculously survived the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945.Filmed by Soviets liberating the camp, he saw his image years later, but he was not ready to tell his story until he saw his picture on a Holocaust-denial website. He enlisted his daughter, a TV journalist, to help him uncover further information and to co-author this book. In the preface, Holinstat writes: “we tried to keep the book as honest as possible. While the underlying events are entirely factual, there is fiction here.” The father-daughter pair found documents, diaries, and survivors’ essays to supplement the limited memories of a very young child, and they write about this process in the preface. The first-person narrative begins with the events of September 1939, even though Michael was not born until May 1940, which feels artificial. Horrific as the experience was, the Auschwitz chapters are just part of Michael’s journey. Living in an open “ghetto” in his hometown, moving to a forced-labor camp, then to the extermination camp where his older brother and father die, returning home where Jews are not welcomed, and then living in Munich as a displaced person for six years until he can emigrate to the United States with his mother, the chronicle of Bornstein’s first 11 years parallels the experiences of many other surviving victims of the Final Solution. In today’s world, it remains more important than ever to remember these survivors. (afterword, photos, characters, glossary) (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

Michael Bornstein survived for seven months inside Auschwitz, where the average lifespan of a child was just two weeks. Six years after his liberation, he immigrated to the United States. Michael graduated from Fordham University, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and worked in pharmaceutical research and development for more than forty years. Now retired, Michael lives with his wife in New York City and speaks frequently to schools and other groups about his experiences in the Holocaust.

His website is www.mbornstein.com.

Teacher Resources

Survivors Club Teachers’ Guide

Around the Web

Survivors Club on Amazon

Survivors Club on Goodreads

Survivors Club on JLG

Survivors Club Publisher Page

The Dead Inside: A True Story by Cyndy Etler

The Dead Inside: A True Story by Cyncy Etler. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 288 p. ISBN: 9781492365734.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious “tough love” program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”

I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.

From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Drugs, Sexual abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Cyndy Etler was by all accounts a “normal” teenager until her mother, for ill-conceived reasons, pushed her into a drug rehab facility known as Straight, Inc., kicking off 16 months of hell. Straight’s methods of treatment were unconventional and abusive; they used “healed” teen graduates of their program as counselors, and their methods ranged from locking the teens inside rooms, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, spit therapy, and brainwashing disguised as positive peer pressure. The only way Etler knew how to survive was to confess to nonexistent sins and earn praise for her “honesty.” Etler weaves her story with conviction, self-deprecating humor, and hard facts, showing how Straight left in its wake people who were terrified of the real world. This memoir will leave readers scouring the Internet for more survivor stories and info about Straight (some of which is in the epilogue). Readers will come to respect the fighter that Etler is and the advocate she became for other teens in similar situations.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
In this debut memoir, Etler takes readers on a harrowing journey into Straight Inc., a nightmarish drug rehab that used controversial methods to “treat” its patients. At 14, Cyndy Etler was a white teenager desperately looking for a place to belong. Trying to escape from the abusive hands of her stepfather, she finds solace in Pink Floyd, God, and Bridgeport, the Connecticut city where she can escape with her best friend on weekends. When her mother reports her as a runaway, she sets off a chain of events that lands Cyndy at Straight Inc., a drug-rehabilitation facility in Virginia. Bewildered, Cyndy is sure she will be released as soon as the staff realizes she is not a drug addict. She cannot imagine that she will be stuck in this place—“a warehouse, literally…where, for a fee, parents can disappear their fuckups and rejects”—for the next 16 months. The treatment at Straight is bizarre and abusive, consisting largely of peer-led intimidation, emotional abuse, and mind games where the extensive rules are strictly enforced by the “group.” Cyndy’s progression into Stockholm syndrome is shocking yet wholly believable. Etler channels her younger self’s voice with pitch-perfect verisimilitude as Cyndy goes from wide-eyed disbelief to acquiescence, having finally found a place where she feels like she belongs. An epilogue offers a redemptive conclusion, and an author’s note provides chilling context for Straight’s history and Cyndy’s story. Raw and absorbing, Etler’s voice captivates. (author’s note) (Memoir. 15 & up)

About the Author

A modern-day Cinderella, Cyndy Etler was homeless at fourteen, summa cum laude at thirty. Currently a young adult author and teen life coach, Etler spent sixteen years teaching troubled teens in schools across America.

Before she was paid for teaching Etler did it for free, volunteering at public schools and facilities for runaway teens. Today she speaks at fundraisers, schools and libraries, convincing teens that books work better than drugs.

After years of hopscotching, Etler now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and dogs.

Her website is http://www.cyndyetler.com

Teacher Resources

The Dead Inside Teaching Guide

Around the Web

The Dead Inside on Amazon

The Dead Inside on Goodreads

The Dead Inside on JLG

The Dead Inside Publisher Page

Girl Code by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser

Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser. March 7, 2017. HarperCollins, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062472502.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Perfect for aspiring coders everywhere, Girl Code is the story of two teenage tech phenoms who met at Girls Who Code summer camp, teamed up to create a viral video game, and ended up becoming world famous. The book also includes bonus content to help you get started coding!

Fans of funny and inspiring books like Maya Van Wagenen’s Popular and Caroline Paul’s Gutsy Girl will love hearing about Andrea “Andy” Gonzales and Sophie Houser’s journey from average teens to powerhouses. Through the success of their video game, Andy and Sophie got unprecedented access to some of the biggest start-ups and tech companies, and now they’re sharing what they’ve seen. Their video game and their commitment to inspiring young women have been covered by the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, CNN, Teen Vogue, Jezebel, the Today show, and many more.

Get ready for an inside look at the tech industry, the true power of coding, and some of the amazing women who are shaping the world. Andy and Sophie reveal not only what they’ve learned about opportunities in science and technology but also the true value of discovering your own voice and creativity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-10. Here’s a welcome addition to STEM shelves. Teenagers Gonzales and Houser met at a Girls Who Code computer camp in 2014, and, for a final project, they created the game Tampon Run, which aims to break down menstruation taboos. To the girls’ surprise, the game took off, and soon they were minicelebs in both pop culture and the tech world, with lots of opportunities. Their experiences are recounted in alternating chapters. Sophie, the girl terrified of public speaking, finds her voice, while Andrea, who comes from a strict Filipino household, must deal with making her own choices. (Though their story lines are distinct, the girls tend to sound the same.) The paucity of women in computer science is a thread, but there are plenty of mentors here, women and men, urging the duo on. Readers who come to this knowing nothing about coding will get an introductory primer—and, at the book’s conclusion, the opportunity to try coding on their own. This shows both the ups and downs of success and celebrity, and the wisdom of keeping options open.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
The teens behind the web video game “Tampon Run” tell how they got started in programming.This is a first-person account of how Filipina Andrea “Andy” Gonzales from the East Village and the Bronx and white Sophie Houser from the Upper West Side met at the Girls Who Code summer program and joined forces to create a video game that received viral media attention. The chapters are organized chronologically and, inside each, switch between the two authors’ lively narrations. First, they introduce themselves and their backgrounds with programming: Sophie was a high achiever crippled by self-doubt and terrified of public speaking who was drawn to the GWC program to learn a new way to express herself; Andy was a lifelong gamer and programmer’s daughter who had already attended coding programs by the time she attended GWC. What brought the two together for their project was a desire to combine social commentary with their coding, resulting in their successful game. The game (and networking opportunities from GWC) has brought them attention and many more opportunities, but it also took more time and energy than they had to spare. By book’s end, they find themselves evaluating their futures with technology. The psychology of self-doubt and value of persistence are well-presented—the co-authors stress that the greater the frustration, the better the payoff. Tech-centered empowerment for those who feel voiceless. (coding appendix with glossary, sample code, resources) (Memoir. 12-17)

About the Authors

Andrea “Andy” Gonzales is a graduate of Hunter College High School and is now attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Robertson Scholar. The summer before her freshman year of high school, Andy started learning to code. Since then, she’s been passionate about computer science and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). When Andy attended Girls Who Code, she learned the power of working with other girls, and that led to the creation of the video game Tampon Run, which she co-built with Sophie Houser. Tampon Run’s success exceeded all expectations, and Andy was thrown into a world outside of her high school. Beyond her passion for computer science, Andy is a music, comic book, and video game enthusiast. She looks forward to remaining an active advocate for women in computer science.

Sophie Houser is a student at Brown University who learned to code at the Girls Who Code summer program. As her final project she co-created a game called Tampon Run with Andrea Gonzales to break down the menstrual taboo in society. The game went viral, throwing her into the limelight of the press, the public, and the tech world. In addition to coding, Sophie also enjoys laughing with her friends, wearing socks with interesting patterns, and Photoshopping funny scenes. She is pursuing all of these passions as well as many more at college and beyond.

Around the Web

Girl Code on Amazon

Girl Code on Goodreads

Girl Code on JLG

Girl Code Publisher Page

Balcony on the Moon by Ibtisam Barakat

Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine by Ibtisam Barakat. October 25, 2016. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 240 p. ISBN: 9780374302511.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 970.

Picking up where Tasting the Sky left off, Balcony on the Moon follows Ibtisam Barakat through her childhood and adolescence in Palestine from 1972-1981 and chronicles her desire to be a writer. Ibtisam finds inspiration through writing letters to pen pals and from an adult who encourages her to keep at it, but the most surprising turn of all for Ibtisam happens when her mother decides that she would like to seek out an education, too. This memoir is a touching, at times funny, and enlightening look at the not often depicted daily life in a politically tumultuous area.

Sequel to: Tasting the Sky

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; War; Suicidal thoughts

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (August 29, 2016)
In this companion memoir to Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood (2007), Barakat continues her tale of growing up in Palestine from 1972-1981, a politically turbulent time. As a high school student, Barakat reminds herself that while she “cannot do anything about Iraq and Iran, the American hostages, Lebanon, the civil war and the Palestinian camps,” she can study for her exams. Themes of equal rights and education for girls become especially poignant as Barakat’s mother acknowledges that leaving school for marriage felt “worse than death” and decides to resume her high school studies. Divided into five parts correlating with the family’s five homes, the book captures Barakat’s growing understanding of the complex dynamics in her parents’ marriage, her outrage at gender-based restrictions, and her determination not to live a life like that of her mother. When her willingness to question and explore opens doors for her, Barakat receives encouragement and support from surprising sources, validating her sister’s statement that “being Palestinian teaches you to be ready for any destiny.” This is a compelling personal history, brimming with humor, wisdom, and empathy. Ages 12-up.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2016)
This intense memoir paints a dark picture of growing up in Israeli-occupied Palestine, where “we are made to live with no land, no country, no rights, no safety, and no respect for our dignity.” The author, a poet, picks up in 1971, where her earlier memoir, Tasting the Sky (2007), left off. She recounts her years from second grade through high school, dividing the book into five sections based on their different homes in Palestine. Told in a first-person, present-tense voice, the episodic narrative deftly combines personal and political events. Evocative details convey her family’s everyday life, in which her father’s despair looms large. A memorable chapter recounts his threat to kill himself by crashing his truck; the whole family insists on accompanying him on the ride. As she grows older, Barakat feels embattled as a Palestinian surrounded by soldiers and hampered as a girl by societal restrictions. Starting in seventh grade, she connects to the larger world through pen pals and then through an eminent magazine editor who encourages her writing. A top student, Barakat grows in knowledge and also compassion, evident when she tutors her strong-willed mother, who returns to high school. A pervasive sense of loss informs much of her childhood, with a growing realization that no promising future exists for her or her siblings in Palestine. A poetic, deeply felt coming-of-age story. (resources) (Memoir. 12 & up)

About the Author

Ibtisam Barakat is a Palestinian-American bi-lingual author, poet, artist, translator, and educator. She was born in Beit Hanina, near Jerusalem. Barakat received her Bachelor’s degree from Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah in the West Bank.

Her website is www.ibtisambarakat.com

 

Around the Web

Balcony on the Moon on Amazon

Balcony on the Moon on JLG

Balcony on the Moon on Goodreads