Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Winter, 2008

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This month at Literary Mama we asked our editors and columnists to share recommendations from titles they are currently reading. Their offerings include novels, biography, memoirs, short stories and graphic novels that span the globe from Iran to Central America -- this list truly has something for everyone:

Caroline Grant, Senior Editor and Columnist, contributes: "I'm reading Janet Wallach's amazing and timely biography, Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell. A colleague of TE Lawrence and friend and confidant of many Arab leaders, an independent adventurer who nevertheless maintained some Victorian customs (like always dressing properly for tea in the desert), Bell helped map the Middle East and create modern Iraq. Reading it now, it's hard not to wish we didn't still have access to her thoughtful and diplomatic counsel."

Susan Ito, Fiction Co-Editor and Columnist,
offers up two books:"The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan -- a moving memoir about a young mother's struggle with cancer at the same time as her beloved father battles the same disease. Without A Map, by Meredith Hall, is another moving memoir about a young woman who is shunned by her community and family when she becomes pregnant at 16."

Rachel Sarah, Columnist, writes: "I just finished these two books... Loved them! The novel Year of Fog by San Francisco writer Michelle Richmond was terrifying to read, a page-turner in which six-year-old, Emma, disappears on the beach. The narrator -- who's the fiancé of the missing girl's father, "delves into the bereft missing children subculture and into the vagaries of memory," according to Publishers Weekly. I couldn't put it down. Last night I finished the memoir Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside, that came out this summer by Bridget Kinsella. I met Bridget when we read together at Litquake this year in San Francisco, and was very taken by her. As I assumed, the book was honest and bold. Kinsella, Publishers Weekly's West Coast editor, writes about her divorce from her husband of nine years, after he declares that he's gay. Out west, Kinsella became a literary agent for a short time, which is how Rory Mehan reached her. He's a novelist -- and also a convicted murderer doing life without parole at a maximum-security prison in northern California. It's a very tell-it-all depiction of their relationship. I was floored by Kinsella's honesty -- not only about their romance, but also about her own feelings as she came to terms with the fact that, at 40, she probably would not have children of her own."

Columnist 12-Step Mama shares:"I just finished Eva Hoffman's (former NY Times Book Review editor) Lost in Translation, a memoir about growing up in Poland post WWII, then emigrating to Canada at age 13. The book was published in 1989, but it's timeless -- a poetic account of her soul's true homeland, and an intriguing cultural criticism on North American values (particularly the U.S.). I wish I had read it years ago. It works for anyone who has felt exiled."

Literary Reflections Co-Editor Violeta Garcia-Mendoza, reports: "I just finished reading Mark Brazaitis The River of Lost Voices, a collection of short stories set in Guatemala. I loved the lack of pretension and the touches of magical realism. It's among the few books I've found that do justice to the hopeful, heartbreaking, haunting Central America I encountered in my travels."

Sarah Raleigh Kilts, Literary Reflections Editorial Assistant, adds: "I recently began reading graphic novel memoirs -- practically inhaling Marjane Satrapi's incredible Persepolis (now also a French language, black and white animated movie, written and co-directed by Satrapi, which has won a multitude of accolades -- including the Cannes Jury Prize in 2007.) Immediately afterwards I plowed through the sequel, Persepolis 2, and then moved on to Satrapi's Chicken With Plums. Heartbreaking, hysterical, and historical in scope, the books follow her life as a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and her parents' ultimate decision to send her to Europe at age 14 for her safety. Intoxicated with the excellence of this newly discovered genre, I quickly picked up Alison Bechtel's (Dykes To Watch Out For) highly acclaimed, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which sealed my conversion to graphic novels. Simple "comics" these are not! In her own signature style, Bechtel, like Satrapi, manages to capture complex relationships and issues through her use of deft dialogue and thought-provoking artwork. Each of these novels had me laughing out loud as I read them, yet in the end, left me weeping. I couldn't ask for more."

Sarah Raleigh Kilts is a proud member of the amazing Motherlode Writers Group (I love you guys!). Her writing has been published in Common Ties. Following her passions led her to discover a new career that’s tons of fun — as an elementary school music teacher to 220 fabulous 3rd 4th and 5th graders she gets to share her love of music and world culture with a captive — though often wiggly and giggly — audience. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area and can sometimes be found (even on school nights!) performing in local watering holes plucking the bass and singing with her hubby Thom in their Indie Rock duo, Diablo’s Dust. Three of their albums are currently available on iTunes.

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