Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Narrative

My calendar tells me it’s 2018 but as I look around I see society backpedaling and losing ground on important concepts I used to think were simple, like personhood and what it means to be a human being. Equality, empathy, acceptance, and even just tolerance are becoming lamentably scarce these days. When the world seems like it’s lost its way, I turn to books. Here are some new and forthcoming books on my TBR that offer different perspectives and keen insight into lives that are very different from my own.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women
I don’t know if you got the memo, but the real Pocahontas was nothing like Disney wanted us to believe. Different but united voices rise together in this collection of poetry, prose, and art created by Native women. Leave your preconceived notions–and stereotypes–at the door.

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi
Based on the author’s real diary entries, Americanized tells the story of a girl who discovered–at age 13–that she and her family were undocumented citizens. Her parents had fled Iran when Sara was two, and she didn’t uncover her family’s undocumented status until her sister wanted to apply for an after-school job but didn’t have a Social Security number. This book sounds like a good mix of seeing life in a new–and terrifying–way, all while struggling through the more typical adolescent changes and experiences.

Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages
Laid out in chronological order, this collection of stories by over thirty women is set up as a book to inspire young girls and teens to persevere in their own struggles. In these stories, the authors talk about barriers they’ve faced and how they overcame them to become successful. I’d also look at this collection as a book for people who don’t identify as female, or who may have forgotten what it’s like to be a teen, to read and gain some understanding as to what’s going on inside a teenage girl’s mind.

Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction by Erica Garza
Society leads us to believe that sex addiction isn’t a real thing, and if it is, well it’s something that only affects men, right? Not true! And here to tell us about it in raw detail is Erica Garza. Early reviews mention it can be difficult to get through due to the subject matter and the raw emotions facing the author as she painfully recounts her journey from addiction to recovery. But for anyone wanting to understand a struggle that may be far outside their own world of experiences, this is the book to read.

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad
“I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”
The Last Girl is a survivor’s memoir. Nadia tells her story and recounts how six of her brothers and her mother were killed and how she and thousands of other Yazidi girls were forced into the ISIS slave trade. A refugee, rape survivor, and incredibly strong woman, Nadia brings attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq and forces us to come to the realization that individuals and families are torn apart by war every day; forced to become refugees in search of community who can never return home.

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
I was fortunate enough to read an early copy of this book and I plan to write a full review in a future blog post. To whet your appetite: This is a completely compelling debut novel that exposes the prejudices in America and how difficult it can be to be a teenager struggling with growing up in a conservative, traditional household. Maya is living a small town life but has big city dreams. She struggles with pleasing her parents and pursuing her own goals and ideals for her future. And then a terrorist strikes, a terrorist with the same last name as Maya. Whether it’s choosing between two guys or dealing with a hate crime, the author does an outstanding job getting to the heart of the matter and exposing the raw emotions associated with each.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
These essays are being touted as an accessible take on the racial landscape in America. Topics include privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, microagressions, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Ijeoma’s writing is being compared to Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates, two of my most favorite writers. The holds list is really growing quickly on this book, so be sure to get in the queue now.

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
Morgan Jerkins is topping my list of most-anticipated authors I want to read this year. She’s also being compared to Roxane Gay, who wrote a glowing review of this book. Morgan writes about being young and Black in America. She tackles the important but tough topics of intersectional feminism and racism and I am so here for it.

To My Trans Sisters edited by Charlie Craggs
Exploring the diversity of the trans experience, this collection of letters by successful trans women from all walks of life and from all over the world offers advice to those transitioning or wanting to learn more about the different struggles trans women face. I’ve never had to endure life as someone other than I know I’m meant to be, so reading this will help me better understand the beauty and nuance of the personal struggles and successes of trans women.

When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & asha bandele; foreword by Angela Davis
Learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement and get to know it from the inside. Patrisse is a co-founder of BLM and is an ardent speaker, artist, organizer, and freedom fighter. For those like me who want to learn more, and especially for anyone doubting the reason for even needing something like BLM, we all definitely need to hear and internalize what Patrisse passionately has to say.

I want and need to read books not aimed directly at me as the target audience, a straight white cis woman. These books definitely fit the bill. There’s also no way I can be as inclusive as I’d like with the limited space here, so please let me know in the comments of other books we can read to better understand each other. Let’s spend 2018 building empathy and compassion together.

De-tech-tives

detechtives

Recently I’ve noticed that television detectives’ detection skills have been replaced by technology. Between cell phones, email, tracking devices and the multitude of cameras that cover every nook and cranny of the earth, it’s nearly impossible for a modern TV criminal to operate in anonymity. This is a strange and drastic change from Dragnet days when phone dialing, ledger collation, footwork and thinking were involved in any arrest.

The YardThe Yard by Alex Grecian
What fascinates me is that, before modern techniques and technologies were created, police could catch criminals at all! In the novel The Yard author Alex Grecian portrays a squalid, horrifying London of 1890 where five-year-old children work dangerous jobs, living conditions for many are abysmal, and human life is held in little regard. Scotland Yard’s murder squad consists of 12 detectives who have roughly 400 murders per year to crack, and after the unsolved Jack the Ripper killings of 1888 public opinion of the police force’s skills is extremely low. Then the unthinkable occurs. A member of the murder squad, one of the men attempting to keep London safe, is brutally slaughtered. The team’s newest member is put in charge of the investigation, but there seems no hope in unearthing the crime’s perpetrator. Even after the Ripper murders, the idea of killing for pleasure is foreign to the detectives and they don’t know where to begin to find this new type of killer. But with the aid of Dr. Kingsley, the Yard’s first forensic pathologist (and somewhat of a Sherlockian figure) the squad makes slow progress, although the murders do continue. This is crime solving at its most basic – follow paltry clues, cogitate, and find a killer.

keystone-kops-granger

These 1890’s were a time when it was relatively simple to be a successful murderer. Police had few tools-of-the-trade and criminals were able to easily disappear in obscurity. Here are a few titles that examine various aspects of the infancy of crime fighting.

Devil in the white cityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
While examining the amazing feats that went into constructing the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Erik Larson also describes the activities of H.H. Holmes, a Chicago serial killer who used the draw of the World’s Fair to murder somewhere between 27 and 200 people in relative anonymity. In fact, it wasn’t until he left Chicago, continuing to commit homicides and other crimes, that Holmes was finally arrested in Boston a year later. His Chicago killings, however, remained unknown until the custodian of Holmes’s Chicago murder castle (you’ll have to read the book for those details) tipped off the police and Holmes’s murder victims were found. This true story shows how easy it was to operate as an invisible killer in the days before advanced technologies.

Great Pearl HeistThe Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace by Molly Caldwell Crosby
This non-fiction account of an early 20th-century jewel heist details both the plans of the thieves and the methods used by Scotland Yard to catch them. In addition to being an engaging read, Crosby’s book highlights the importance of this case to the future of British crime fighting.

Poisoner's handbookThe Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
This entertaining book looks at the careers of New York’s first medical examiner and toxicologist. Surprisingly, these positions didn’t even exist until after World War I. Blum makes a potentially dull topic intriguing and understandable.

police corruption

As police forces moved into the 20th-century, corruption came to be accepted as a normal facet of law enforcement.

Breaking blueBreaking Blue by Timothy Egan
In 1935, during the dust bowl years, a spate of dairy robberies in the Spokane area resulted in the shooting death of Marshal George Conniff. Decades later, Sheriff Tony Bamonte of Pend Oreille County tried to shed light on the robberies and Conniff’s death. Author Timothy Egan paints a vivid picture of Spokane’s dirty underbelly and the role that law enforcement played in these crimes.

LA ConfidentialL.A. Confidential
This Oscar-winning movie portrays a shady LA police force that is rife with injustice and brutality. At a time when Hollywood was king, justice was elusive (put that on your movie poster!) and criminals often dwelt on both sides of the law.

victorian police

Certainly TV policing has little in common with reality, but then again, reality is far more interesting. So set aside your new-fangled DVDs and give an old-timey police investigatory book a try. At the very least, you’ll gain an appreciation for the accomplishments that were made with minimal means in less-than-hospitable conditions.

The State of Mysteries

If everybody had a murder
Across the U.S.A.
Then everybody’d be killing
Like Cal-i-forn-i-a. 

Perhaps you woke up one morning wondering if there is a mystery novel set in every state of the union.  Well, I am here to tell you, “Yes, yes there is.” In fact, there are mystery series set in nearly every state.  Here are some of the series, and a few single titles, that you can find at Everett Public Library.

Alabama                Southern sisters mysteries
                                         by Anne George

Alaska                 Maxie and Stretch mysteries
                                         by Sue Henry

Arizona                Sheriff Joanna Brady mysteries
                                          by J. A. Jance

Arkansas            Sheriff Arly Hanks mysteries            
                                         by Joan Hess

California            Sarah Woolson mysteries
                                         by Shirley Tallman      

Colorado           Goldy Bear mysteries
                                        by Diane Mott Davidson

Connecticut     Dirty business mysteries
                                         by Rosemary Harris

Delaware                Hawkes Harbor
                                        by S. E. Hinton

District           White House chef mysteries
 of Columbia                by Julie A. Hyzy

Florida               Dixie Hemingway mysteries
                                         by Blaize Clement

Georgia               Trudy Roundtree mysteries
                                        by Linda Berry

Hawaii                Right from the Gecko: a reigning cats & dogs mystery
                                         by Cynthia Baxter

Idaho                    Sheriff Bo Tully mysteries
                                        by Patrick F. McManus

Illinois                   Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels mysteries
                                        by Joe Konrath

Indiana                  Roger Knight mysteries
                                         by Ralph M. McInerny  

 Iowa                     Sam McCain mysteries
                                          by Edward Gorman                         

Kansas                 Mad Dog & Englishman mysteries
                                          by J. M. Hayes

Kentucky           Who Killed Art Deco?
                                         by Chuck Barris

Louisiana          Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire mysteries
                                        by Charlaine Harris                                            

Maine                  Gray Whale Inn mysteries
                                        by Karen MacInerney      

                                                        

Maryland         Tess Monaghan mysteries
                                        by Laura Lippman

Massachusetts      Carlotta Carlyle mysteries
                                               by Linda Barnes

Michigan           Chocoholic mysteries
                                         by Joanna Carl

Minnesota         Cork O’Conner mysteries
                                          by  William Kent Krueger                                        

Mississippi             Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries
                                          by Carolyn Haines 

Missouri              Torie O’Shea mysteries
                                          by Rett MacPherson

Montana              C.W. Sughrue mysteries
                                            by James Crumley

Nebraska              Things Invisible : a Nebraska Mystery
                                             by William J. Reynolds

Nevada                      Tattoo shop mysteries
                                              by Karen E. Olson                                                              

New Hampshire      Booktown mysteries
                                             by Lorna Barrett    

New Jersey               Tamara Hayle mysteries
                                             by Valerie Wilson Wesley

New Mexico          Sister Agatha mysteries
                                             by Aimee Thurlo

New York               Molly Murphy mysteries
                                              by Rhys Bowen                                                      

North Carolina      Judge Deborah Knott mysteries
                                               by Margaret Maron    

North Dakota        The Plague of Doves
                                               by Louise Erdrich

Ohio                          Kate Burkholder mysteries
                                              by Linda Castillo

Oklahoma              Sheriff Milt Kovak mysteries
                                             by Susan Rogers Cooper

Oregon                   Barbara Holloway legal thrillers
                                            by Kate Wilhelm

Pennsylvania     Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries
                                           by Tamar Myers                                                    

Rhode Island         Haunted bookshop mysteries
                                            by Alice Kimberly  

South Carolina    Death on demand mysteries
                                             by Carolyn G. Hart

South Dakota       Julie Collins mysteries
                                             by Lori Armstrong

Tennessee             Taylor Jackson mysteries
                                             by J. T. Ellison

Texas                      Judge Jackson Crain mysteries
                                             by Nancy Bell                                                                                   

Utah                         Sam Kincaid mysteries
                                            by Michael Norman 

Vermont                 Joe Gunther mysteries
                                           by Archer Mayor

Virginia                Meg Langslow mysteries
                                           by Donna Andrews

Washington        Donna Rose mysteries
                                           by Norma Tadlock Johnson                                                              

West Virginia    Owen Allison mysteries
                                          by John W. Billheimer                 

Wisconsin           Maggy Thorsen mysteries
                                          by Sandra Balzo

Wyoming            Sheriff Walt Longmire mysteries
                                          by Craig Johnson

Ron



Tokyo Year Zero and Occupied City

Certain books just get inside your head. The language somehow finds your resonant frequency and refuses to leave. There is no choice. You have to finish the book as quickly as possible. The experience can be exhilarating and exciting but also disturbing and disorienting at times. If you find yourself staying up too late or missing your bus stop to finish the next chapter, you have come across the kind of book I’m talking about.

Two books that I read recently fit into this category: Tokyo Year Zero and Occupied City both by David Peace.

The plot description will only tell you so much. Set during the Allied occupation of Japan, Occupied City is technically about a mass poisoning that took place at a bank and the attempts to find the killer. Tokyo Year Zero shares the same setting and deals with a police detective tracking down a serial murderer. Both crimes are based on historical events.

Defining these books as mysteries or historical fiction would be a grave mistake, however. Who did it and why, while important, really isn’t the author’s prime concern. Instead he uses an intense stream of consciousness narrative to get inside the head of the characters. The question is whether you want to be there or not.

If you are up for a challenge, and don’t mind going down a few very dark alleys, both of these books will reward you with an addictive reading experience.

Richard