Biography and Memoir
I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad MekhennetWashington Post national security correspondent Souad Mekhennet is a Muslim who grew up in Germany. Viewed by Muslims as an interviewer they can trust, she often has access to significant newsmakers who won't meet with other Western journalists. In I Was Told to Come Alone, Mekhennet traces her life and career, offering insight into the experiences of Arabs and Muslims living in Europe. Mekhennet also vividly portrays the people she's interviewed (including several jihadis) and the places of conflict she's visited as a reporter.
Memory's Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia by Gerda SaundersIn Memory's Last Breath, retired gender studies professor Gerda Saunders recounts her life, reports on her exploration of neurological science in relation to her memory loss, and provides notes -- presented in sidebars -- on her experience of advancing dementia. Her lyrical descriptions of growing up in South Africa, immigrating to the U.S., and receiving acclaim for her academic achievements contrast starkly with her candid depiction of losing memory and other intellectual functions. For another engrossing first-person account of dementia's effects, pick up Thomas DiBaggio's Losing My Mind.
So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley by Roger SteffensAuthor Roger Steffens toured with the Wailers reggae band in the 1970s and has made the study of reggae his life's work. Focusing on the central figure of reggae music and culture, Jamaican Bob Marley, Steffens collected interviews with Marley's relatives and associates to build a rich and lively oral history of the musician and his life. Weaving his sources expertly together and providing additional clarity or interpretation when accounts differ, Steffens brings Marley's childhood, musical formation, and career to life. Marley's fans and those who want to learn what reggae is all about will find So Much Things to Say enthralling.
Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads... by Inara VerzemnieksPushcart Prize-winning author and Pulitzer finalist Inara Verzemnieks was raised in Tacoma, Washington by her Latvian grandparents. They had immigrated to the U.S. after World War II because their family was displaced by the 1940 Soviet invasion of Latvia. In this memoir, Verzemnieks chronicles her journeys to Latvia, after her grandparents' deaths, to look for traces of her grandmother Livija's family. In Latvia, Verzemnieks meets her great-aunt Ausma, who helps Verzemnieks understand the sisters' childhood and the suffering they both endured over 70 years earlier. This compelling account also offers a thought-provoking consideration of refugee experiences that's relevant to the present day.
Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow WallsIn time for the 200th anniversary of Henry David Thoreau's birth, Notre Dame University professor of English Laura Dassow Walls offers a lively portrait of the Transcendentalist writer and philosopher. Setting Thoreau and his friends in the context of early 19th-century America, Walls examines Ralph Waldo Emerson's influence on the younger man, describes Thoreau's then-experimental educational venture, and details the background to his most famous work, Walden. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly says this displays a "merger of comprehensiveness in content with pleasure in reading."
Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. GarelickIn this thoroughly researched biography, interdisciplinary arts professor Rhonda Garelick draws on archival records to produce a multilayered and insightful portrait of the French couturiere Coco Chanel. Depicting Chanel's determination to achieve success and examining her incomparable rise in the fashion business, Garelick vividly depicts the businesswoman who capitalized on her friendships with wealthy and powerful right-wingers -- including Nazi officials during World War II. For an intriguing political portrait of this fashion leader, check out Hal Vaughan's Sleeping with the Enemy.
The Face That Changed It All: A Memoir by Beverly JohnsonAs a teenager, honors student Beverly Johnson never wanted to be a model, but with encouragement (especially from her mother), luck, and some useful connections, she made it all the way to the cover of American Vogue, the first African American to do so. But as her professional star rose, her personal life fell apart. In her memoir, she writes of the racism she encountered in the modeling industry, her struggles with drug addiction, her difficult personal relationships, and her eventual successful efforts to move past these obstacles.
My Journey by Donna KaranChronicling both her personal struggles and her fashion world triumphs, Donna Karan's memoir presents an engaging story. Though her childhood had some challenges, Karan progressed steadily from attending the Parsons School of Design through internships and working with mentor Anne Klein to global success as a designer. Her love life, spiritual explorations, and philanthropic activities add richness to this self-portrait, which Kirkus Reviews calls "elegant and satisfying." Those who were intrigued by Robin Givhan's Battle of Versailles can read Karan's account of that epic design contest in My Journey.
Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano by Dana ThomasIn the dramatic and rarefied atmosphere of avant-garde fashion design, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano may have had the most astounding careers, from brilliant spectacle to burnout. Both came from humble London origins, both studied at a famous art school, and both achieved notoriety in Paris houses of fashion. In this dual biography of artistic geniuses, author Dana Thomas, who knew the men through her work at the New York Times Style Magazine, tracks their glittering paths -- and their comedowns -- against the background of the contemporary fashion industry.
The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von FurstenbergOpening with a moving description of her mother, a concentration camp survivor who had been arrested by the Nazis for her activities in the Belgian Resistance, Diane von Furstenburg's memoir details the kind of woman she wanted to be (independent and self-sufficient) and relates how she achieved her objectives. Emphasizing the importance of her children and also providing details of her love life, von Furstenberg recounts her successes -- and some failures -- on the frontlines of couture. Readers interested in fashion or in the lives of powerful and creative women shouldn't miss this life story.
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