Biography and Memoir
After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America's Greatest Poet by Julie DobrowWhat it's about: Relatively unknown during her lifetime, much of Emily Dickinson's work was published posthumously by family friend Mabel Loomis Todd and her daughter, Millicent, who attracted controversy with their strong editorial oversight of Dickinson's manuscripts.
Why you might like it: Author Julie Dobrow utilizes the pair's diaries and correspondence to illuminate their relentless drive to bring Dickinson's work to wider public recognition, arguing that the poet and her editors alike were "women pushing up against the boundaries of their times."
Reagan: An American Journey by Bob SpitzWhat it is: an evenhanded cradle-to-grave biography of America's 40th president, extensively researched to include numerous interviews and personal family documents.
About the author: Bob Spitz is the bestselling author of The Beatles: The Biography and Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child.
Reviewers say: "Readers need not be Reagan fans or Republicans to enjoy this outstanding biography" (Publishers Weekly).
The Fox Hunt: A Refugee's Memoir of Coming to America by Mohammed Al SamawiWhat it's about: Raised in a devout Muslim family in Yemen, Mohammed Al Samawi began to question his childhood teachings in college, developing an interest in interfaith activism. He soon started receiving death threats -- and then the Yemeni Civil War broke out in 2015.
Read it for: Al Samawi's suspenseful account of his social media-aided escape to America, where he now works for several NGOs.
Further reading: For another hopeful memoir about fleeing the violence of civil war, try Somali author Abdi Nor Iftin's Call Me American.
Dear World: A Syrian Girl's Story of War and Plea for Peace by Bana AlabedWhat it is: a gripping chronicle of the ongoing Syrian Civil War as told by eight-year-old Bana Alabed, whose now-famous Twitter account brings much-needed attention to the conflict.
Is it for you? While this brave child's-eye portrait provides little context for the violence, it offers striking descriptions (including how Alabed came to recognize the sounds of various weapons) and photos juxtaposing her happy home life with the devastation of bombed-out Aleppo.
My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food by Lidia Matticchio BastianichWhat it's about: After fleeing Tito's communist regime in Yugoslavia and spending two years in an Italian refugee camp, Lidia Bastianich and her family immigrated to America in 1958. As a teen, she worked in several New York City restaurants before opening her own in 1971.
Author alert: Bastianich is the Emmy Award-winning host of Lidia's Kitchen and best-selling author of Lidia's Celebrate Like an Italian.
Who it's for: This charming, upbeat memoir will satisfy Bastianich's many fans -- and court new ones, too.
The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi BuiWhat it's about: Faced with a life of poverty and constant surveillance in postwar Vietnam, author Thi Bui's family immigrated to America in 1976. In present day New York City, Bui, now a mother herself, reflects on her parents' complicated reasons for leaving their homeland.
Art alert: Subtle colors and expressively-drawn characters offer depth and clarity to complement the intimate and poetic narrative.
Book buzz: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer) calls The Best We Could Do "a book to break your heart and heal it."
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth WeilWhat it's about: In 1994, six-year-old Clemantine Wamariya escaped the Rwandan genocide with her older sister Claire. Separated from their parents, the pair spent the next six years in refugee camps throughout Africa before they were granted asylum in the United States.
What happened next: Settling in Chicago, Clemantine and Claire were featured on a 2006 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, where they were reunited with the parents they believed to be dead.
Reviewers say: "a soulful, searing story about how families survive" (Booklist); "A must read" (Library Journal).
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