Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Now Reading: March 2011

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Literary Mamas share what they are reading right now. Enjoy!

Download the list to find it fast at your local bookstore or library.

Suzanne Kamata, Fiction Co- Editor, says, Orchards, by Holly Thompson, has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to it, but this story, about a biracial girl sent to Japan to reflect after the suicide of a classmate, is far from trendy. For one thing, it takes place in a Japanese farming community, as opposed to the mall or the streets of Shinjuku. Thompson, a long-time resident of Japan, gets the details of tangerine-growing and rural life down just right, and Kana's no-nonsense Japanese grandmother is especially well-drawn. This novel-in-verse would be a good choice for mother-daughter book clubs."

Caroline Grant, Editor-in-Chief and Columnist writes, "I just finished A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood, which is a beautifully compelling memoir by LM contributor Lisa Catherine Harper. Harper explores her journey into motherhood from her daughter's conception till her 9th month, grounding her personal story in the science of pregnancy and infant development. It's a fascinating and lyrical account of those alternately disorienting and wondrous days, relevant even if you're long past them. LM published an early version of one chapter as Flying Home."

Columns Department Co-Editor, Alissa McElreath shares, "I just finished The Optimists by Andrew Miller. The writing is beautiful and hauntingly nuanced, and the characters sensitively drawn. The Optimists is the story of two broken individuals -- Clem Glass and his sister Clare. Clem, a well-known photojournalist, has returned from witnessing a terrible tragedy in Africa -- an act of genocidal violence that leaves him scarred emotionally. He wanders the landscape of his English hometown streets, unable to shake the horrors of what he witnessed. He wrestles with a sense of hopelessness and impotence about the world and about humanity -- are we all fundamentally evil? Can good prevail in the end? As he spirals further into numb despair, his sister, who has battled with mental illness before, suffers her own mental breakdown and Clem decides to take her away to a childhood cottage in the hopes that she will recover. Ironically, fragile Clare proves the more resilient of the two, but in tending to her, Clem begins to heal himself."

Kristina Riggle, Fiction Co-Editor, says, "I'm reading The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt, which jumped off the shelf at the library at me (and, at nearly 700 pages, has already taken at least one renewal to finish). I picked the book because of the author's reputation and an interview I heard on the Diane Rehm Show on Public Radio. It's a sprawling, tangled, intricate saga of families with romantic, sexual and political intrigue and, like any good familial saga -- dark secrets. It takes place in Victorian-to-Edwardian England and is woven with so much historical detail that I am truly transported as I read. The central character is the author of fanciful tales for children, and it was in this character's thoughts that I read my new favorite quote on writing: 'It made her want to write, as things delightful and things threatening, both, made her want to write.' "

Literary Reflections Co-Editor, Christina Marie Speed, writes, "I just finished Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones and Butter. Hamilton, chef/owner of NYC's Prune, deftly navigates the memoir terrain of personal past, present and future, weaving her colorful private and public life stories in such a way that makes the book impossible to put down. Of particular interest to me was the subtitle: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. No one enters into adult life truly knowing who one is or what one may become. Hamilton reflects on her life's journey thus far, and shows the reader her mile-markers along the way. Reading Blood, Bones and Butter had me wondering: where or what are my life's mile-markers? By the end, the answer emerges: it is in the hard work of Life when we place them, but only in retrospect where we may find them. A pleasure for every one of the senses, this memoir is a must-read!"

Blog Co-Editor, Karna Converse, shares, "Rebecca Skloot weaves together science and family in this two-fold biography. She knew about HeLa from her biology textbooks, but no one could tell her about the person from whom the cells -- cells scientists refer to as some of the most important tools of medicine -- had come. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks introduces readers to a poor black woman who was treated for cervical cancer at John Hopkins Hospital in 1951. Along the way, readers learn HeLa's history, from its discovery in that hospital stay to the role it's played in the polio vaccine, cancer research, gene mapping, and more. Early in her research, Skloot learns that Henrietta's family had no knowledge of what HeLa had helped accomplish. In fact, two of Henrietta's five children were too young to remember their mother at all. The book is a fascinating look at the past 60 years and the delicate balancing act between scientific discovery, societal issues, and famliy dynamics. Readers don't have to be science geeks to enjoy this book. If you're interested in how societal issues intersect with family, you'll love it."

Katie de Iongh lives in Rye, New Hampshire with her husband and their three young children. She is a community volunteer, freelance writer and college English instructor.

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Thanks for these book descriptions. These would come in handy for a rainy day! I especially like the looks of "A Double Life". It sounds like a good read.
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