Incredibly — ‘Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice’ by Yusef Salaam an inspiring read

Better Not Bitter by Yusef Salaam

The set of blazing emotions provoked by Yusef Salaam’s memoir, “Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice,” includes strong doses of disgust, shame, anger — and inspiration. In 1989, five teenagers, all Black or Hispanic, were convicted in the notorious case of a young White female jogger who had been raped, beaten, tortured, and left for dead in Central Park. Salaam was one of those five teenagers.

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‘Poppy in the Wild’ by Teresa J. Rhyne a story of love and determination

Poppy in the Wild by Theresa Rhyne

The title of the story, “Poppy in the Wild: A Lost Dog, Fifteen Hundred Acres of Wilderness, and the Dogged Determination that Brought Her Home” by Teresa J. Rhyne is a bit misleading. It’s not really just the story of a beagle from China who escapes from her foster family and gets lost in a California wilderness area. It’s also the story of Teresa (I feel as if we are on a first name basis) and her love for animals. 

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‘I Just Wanted To Save My Family,’ a memoir by Stéphan Pélissier

I Just Wanted to Save My Family by Stéphan Pélissier

Stéphan Pélissier’s memoir, “I Just Wanted to Save My Family,” enlightens us by aiming an unforgivingly bright beam on the injustices engendered by the network of dark systems and practices that define governments and authoritarian figures all over the world. Unfettered nationalism. Corrupt populism. Cruel tyrannies. Stubborn bureaucracies and the frustrating red tape that characterizes them. Pélissier came face to face with all those dark realities because he dared to attempt to save his Syrian in-laws from the terrors of the government of Bashar al-Assad. The narrator/protagonist/attorney simply wanted to bring his wife’s family to France, his home.

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‘When Harry Met Minnie’ by Martha Teichner is a touching and heartbreaking story of dogs, friendship, and serendipity

When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner

I picked up “When Harry Met Minnie,” by Martha Teichner, thinking it was a story about dogs. I was wrong. While the dogs, two adorable but quirky bull terriers named, obviously, Harry and Minnie, are part of this story — it’s so much more. Teichner writes about serendipity, chance meetings that change lives, our love for our dogs and how they enrich our lives, the utter failure that our medical system can be for us in times of need, and above all, a friendship that arose quickly but became of supreme importance and changed the lives of both friends.

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‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama (review by Jack Kramer)

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

For those readers who are soon to launch into Barack Obama’s memoir, “A Promised Land,” be forewarned: if you think you’re about to enjoy anything like a light-hearted romp through a very successful 2008 presidential campaign and an arguably quite successful first-term presidency, it would be wise to radically adjust your expectations. Much of the memoir is serious — often deadly serious. It’s an extraordinarily (near-obsessively) detailed account of several tumultuous years of world-changing, earth-shaking decisions, ideas, ideals, events, and frightful dilemmas. It’s also a seven hundred page roller coaster journey of emotions — joy, depression, celebration, sorrow, anger, love, fear, courage, desperation, confidence, and crippling self-doubt.

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‘They Called Us Enemy’ by George Takei is a graphic memoir that brings home the horror of racism and judging people by their race and is a must-read for teenager readers

I’ve read about the internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII, and there are many historical fiction books for children that are set in those camps (see some listed at the end of this review), but George Takei’s powerful memoir instilled in me a broader sense of what this country was like when this atrocity was implemented — taking away the property and rights of American citizens because of their ancestry and separating them from their homes. Continue reading

‘The Light in Hidden Places’ by Sharon Cameron is an inspiring and unforgettable YA novel based on a real story that must be shared

light in hidden

Sharon Cameron’s genius is clearly demonstrated by the careful and masterful text she has created in “The Light in Hidden Places.” This is a real story of heroism and courage brilliantly re-crafted into a novel that takes readers directly into the heart of the darkest days of WWII Poland.

Stefania Podgórska has grown up on a large farm with her parents and many siblings. When she turns 13, she wants to escape the farm, so she travels to the larger city of Przemyśl, where she finds work with the Daimants, a Jewish family that owns a grocery store. Continue reading

Children’s nonfiction books for Black History Month 2020 and beyond

The importance of diverse children’s books cannot be overstated. Many readers and educators know that when they were growing up, children’s books were about one group of people — young, white, Christian people. And while I loved reading, I don’t remember reading one book about a young Jewish girl, much less anyone of color. That is gradually changing. And there are some great recent releases of children’s books for classroom teachers and librarians and parents to consider adding to their collections.

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‘An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival’ by Françoise Malby-Anthony

elephant

While this memoir, “An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the Herd Taught Me About Love, Courage and Survival” is, in a way, a sequel to “The Elephant Whisperer,” it’s a different story with a different writer. Françoise Malby-Anthony is a fabulous narrator, and her story brings readers to tears at times, but her strength and her determination shine through, as do her compassion and her inner goodness.

Both books are about Thula Thula, the game reserve that Françoise and her late husband, Lawrence, built together. He was the animal guy, and she took care of the lodges, booking guests and running the marketing. He was out in the field, solving elephant problems and issues with poachers, while she dealt with bad Tripadvisor reviews.

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‘Our Symphony with Animals: On health, empathy and our shared destinies’ by Aysha Akhtar is filled with science and affirmations about the importance of animals in our lives

symphony animals

First posted in Bookreporter.com.

“Our Symphony with Animals: On health, empathy, and our shared destinies” by Aysha Akhtar, M.D., is a memoir, an informational text, and a paean to the joys of sharing our lives with animals. Akhtar shares that she was abused as a child. She writes about her childhood dog, Sylvester, whom she loved with all her heart. She also shares that it wasn’t until she finally stood up to a family member who was abusing Sylvester that she was able to stand up to her abuser, as well.

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