And now it is summer. My children have been compiling their lists for various reading clubs, and I find myself vaguely longing for the days when I used to do the same, with every expectation that I would actually read my selected titles. As of this writing, I am in the middle of reading six books, and I hardly dare aspire to finish any of them before my boys return to school. Yet surely summer doesn’t require aspiration; surely possibility is enough. This month, our staff has been particularly generous with recommendations for your own stack of possibilities.
Editor-in-Chief Caroline Grant writes, “Julia Fierro’s debut novel Cutting Teeth will resonate with anyone who has navigated the complicated social dynamics of the toddler playgroup, and especially with those in the thick of it now! Set over the course of one weekend, as Nicole hosts her fellow moms and dads at her parents’ somewhat shabby beach house, the novel looks closely at how becoming parents affects our friendships and our marriages, our ideas about parenting and our priorities.” (Leave a comment here by July 15th for a chance to win a copy of Cutting Teeth!)
Profiles Co-Editor Rachel Epp Buller shares, “I recently finished Hooman Majd’s The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran. Having lived in Iran only as a child, Majd returns to spend a year in the country as an adult, accompanied by his American wife and infant son. He weaves between historical events and contemporary Iranian culture and politics, things that are at once strange and familiar to him, all the while navigating the terrain of new fatherhood and helping his family to cross cultures.”
Jenny Hobson, Blog Co-Editor, has some suggestions with intergenerational appeal: “I’ve been reading a stack of children’s books this month. I’m getting psyched up for summer and summer reading. I was surprised to learn how much I still love Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary. Cleary is so amazing at portraying the small joys of childhood and also the worries and fears, without being grim or defeatist. Kevin Henkes takes up that kind of work in The Year of Billy Miller. The most ‘exciting’ thing that happens in that book is the successful memorization and recitation of a poem, and yet it was a page-turner. It’s good to be reminded that kids’ books can be riveting because of character development, and they don’t require vampires or grim crimes to be compelling.”
Literary Reflections Co-Editor Christina Marie Speed has also chosen a book for all ages: “I just finished Lona by Dare Wright. In this fairy tale written in 1963, the protagonist is a strong female character who must overcome three challenges to save the surrounding lands and rescue a frog prince. Instead of succumbing to the temptations of an evil wizard, she demonstrates perseverance, grit and grace with neither saccharine dialog nor timid action. There is no trace of female helplessness here. The book was passed on to me by a dear friend, and for this reason it has particular resonance for me; but this tale–as with any fairy tale–can be interpreted in many different ways and inspire the reader to reconsider the form of a challenge as well as one’s own responses in the face of it. Highly recommended.”
Karna Converse, Blog Co-Editor, gives hope to those not up for aspiration: “Looking at 450 pages, I wasn’t sure I’d make it through Joyce Carol Oates’ 1996 novel, We Were the Mulvaneys, but I found I couldn’t put it down. The Mulvaneys are the typical 1970s small-town American family—close-knit, hard-working, respected in the community—but their lives are turned upside down and inside out when something ‘unspeakable’ happens to the 16-year-old daughter. Oates masterfully weaves together six individual stories and seventeen years of pain and suffering endured by the parents, the daughter and the three sons, all of which culminates in a family reunion that’s filled with healing and hope. I grew up and currently live in small-town America; Oates is spot-on with her descriptions, the reactions of her characters and the impact ‘this type of event’ can have on a family and a community.”
Christina Consolino, Profiles Co-Editor, says, “In preparation for a vacation, I plucked Lori Nelson Spielman’s The Life List off the library shelf. It tells the story of Brett Bohlinger, a thirty-four year old woman with a wonderful life, complete with a good job, a successful boyfriend and a nice home. Then her mother, who has just passed away, stipulates in her will that before Brett can inherit, she must complete a list of goals that she had written down twenty years before. Despite self-doubt, Brett takes on the challenge, and with a cast of multifaceted supporting characters, completes the list. I truly enjoyed this summer read–at times endearing, at times funny, and always entertaining.”
Fiction Co-Editor Suzanne Kamata adds, “I’ve just started reading Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus, a lively biography of the author of The Runaway Bunny and other children’s classics. Like many parents, I memorized one of her best known books, Goodnight Moon, through repeated bedtime readings when my children were small. I didn’t know until recently, however, that Brown herself never had children. Nevertheless, she had a profound understanding of and respect for her young audience. She also had a major impact on children’s literature as we know it today. As a writer, I’m fascinated by her artistic journey.”