The Clothing of Books, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Review by Deborah Karahalis

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(Vintage, 2016)

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri’s most recent book is an 80-page memoir filled with deeply personal reflections on book covers and authors.  This novella started life as a lecture for a literary festival in Italy which Lahiri then expanded into a larger piece. This is Lahiri’s first book written in Italian. It was translated by Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush.  Lahiri explores how a book cover impacts the potential reader and how the book cover reflects on the author; “The right cover is like a beautiful coat, elegant and warm, wrapping my words as they travel the world, on their way to keep their appointment with my readers.”

Lahiri’s exploration of the significance of book covers begins when she compares them to her own experiences of being the child of Indian immigrant parents who wished her to dress traditionally while she, a rebellious teenager in America, wanted to dress exactly like her friends; “When I was a child, expressing myself through clothing was a source of anguish. I already felt different, conspicuous because of my name, my family, my appearance. Continue reading

Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

Review by Jennifer Spiegel

Simon & Schuster, 2016


Bruce likes to write.

Actually, Bruce loves to write.

Over 500 pages, this memoir covers a lot. From his Italian/Irish/Working Class/Catholic/Crazy Dad/Longsuffering Mom/Freehold, New Jersey childhood to his happily-married/empty nest/post-Clarence Clemons/horseback-riding sixties. Bruce is headed into old age, my friends.

The Word on the Street: Springsteen wrote the whole thing himself, by longhand, over the course of seven years. I believe it. Typically, I’m mildly cynical about “celebrity memoirs”—but the book is so wonderfully Springsteen-esque, which is to say it’s rambling, poetic, repetitive, heartbreaking, a little longish, sometimes profound, and totally engaging. A ghostwriter wouldn’t have lingered so long over every single album. Every. Single. Album. (I highly recommend the audiobook because Bruce narrates it; however, I’d be listening and he’d say, “Chapter Fifty-three . . . Chapter Sixty-seven . . . Chapter Nine Thousand.”)

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Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home, by Leah Lax

1st Place Winner for Memoir in the Wordwrite Book Award Contest, 2016

Reviewed by James Knight

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(She Writes Press, 2016)

Leah Lax’s stunning memoir, spanning forty-plus years of her life, from her searching teens in the turbulent ‘70s to her rebirth in the first decade of the twenty-first century, begins, appropriately, in a moment of transformation: her marriage, when she abandons life as “Lisa,” child of decidedly liberal Reform parents—“hoarding artist mother and mentally ill father”—and becomes Leah, “Hasidic woman.” Though she fails to feel the “wonder moment of recognition” at the sight of her contractually betrothed—stable, doctrinaire Levi—she is “gleeful” before her mirrored reflection the day after the wedding. It’s just such moments of affecting ambivalence, most rendered in the intimate immediacy of the present tense, that organize a narrative of astonishing honesty and admirable (at times saintly) equanimity.

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Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Review by Jill Moore

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(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1961)

I finished Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin on the morning of November 8, 2016. The day stands out because of the election and all of the information that swirled around it. As it turns out, it was a bad day for me. What I had read in a book published in 1961 was not so different from the news I was seeing in my Facebook feed. It has taken me more than a week to process my thoughts on that day and this book.

 
John Howard Griffin was born in Texas. He studied music and medicine in France and joined the French Resistance in 1939 at age 19, where he helped to transport Austrian Jews to safety in England. Griffin joined the Army and spent 1943-1944 as the only European-American (read: white guy) on Nuni, one of the Solomon Islands, where his assignment was to study the local culture. These two pieces of his personal history form the basis of his interest in and writings surrounding ethnology.