Shelf Life Blog
The personal histories included in All There Is are compelling and powerful. Some are joyous celebrations of love and companionship, while others are stoic accounts of tragedy and perseverance. Despite their differences, each narrative is characterized by an overpowering sense of authenticity. The stories recorded in All There Is were not shared for personal gain or publicity. Rather, they were collected through the efforts of StoryCorps, an oral history project that allows any willing volunteer to record his or her most precious memories and experiences. The participants share the most essential aspects of their lives in interviews that are recorded for their personal archives and, in many cases, for the American Folklife Center.
Since its debut in 2003, the StoryCorps project has spread across the United States, recording over 40,000 interviews. As Dave Isay, StoryCorps’ founder, states, “StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. With a relentless focus on recording the stories of people who are often excluded from the historical record, StoryCorps captures lives that would otherwise be lost to history and reminds the nation that every story matters and every voice counts.”
Did you know that the Cinderella story is one of the world’s oldest fairy tales? The first version can be traced back to ninth-century China and was written about a heroine named Yeh-shen. Today, more than 1500 versions of the tale exist, many with a unique twist. I recently enjoyed what I consider to be the most singular version of Cinderella that I have ever come upon in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
Cinder Linh is a cyborg – part human, part robot – who knows nothing of her birth parents or history. She is a ward of her evil stepmother, Adri, who relies on Cinder’s extraordinary talent as a mechanic to support the family all the while vilifying Cinder at every opportunity. Together with two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony, they live in technologically advanced, post-World War IV “New Beijing.” Unfortunately, New Beijing is threatened by an airborn plague called letumosis, which strikes at random and has an almost 100% fatality rate.
This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.
Virgins of Paradise by Barbara Wood: "A magnificent saga about two sisters from a rich, aristocratic Egyptian family who come of age in postwar Cairo. Inside a beautiful mansion on Virgins of Paradise Street in post–World War II Cairo, Jasmine and Camelia Rasheed grow to womanhood under the watchful eyes of their grandmother and the other women of the prominent Rasheed family. Despite the glamour and elegance of the city, women still wear the veil and live in harems. But as Egypt begins to change, so do Jasmine and Camelia.
Rebelling against a society in which the suppression of women is assumed, Jasmine and Camelia embark on turbulent personal and professional voyages of discovery. Cast out of the family, Jasmine travels to America to become a doctor while Camelia sets out to become one of the foremost beledi dancers in the Middle East." (Book Description)
If you enjoyed this book's elements of discovering other cultures, as well as the family saga aspect, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
Set in contemporary San Francisco and in a Chinese village where Peking Man is unearthed, "The Bonesetter's Daughter" is an excavation of the human spirit: the past, its deepest wounds, its most profound hopes. This is the story of LuLing Young, who searches for the name of her mother, the daughter of the famous Bonesetter from the Mouth of the Mountain. The story conjures the pain of broken dreams, the power of myths, and the strength of love that enables us to recover in memory what we have lost in grief. (worldcat.org)
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. (worldcat.org)
Ivan is a gorilla. He will tell you that isn’t as easy as it looks. It is even harder when you live in a cramped cage at the Big Top Mall and Video. Ivan is also an artist. He draws pictures with crayons that sell for $20 in the mall gift shop--$25 with a frame. Ivan’s best friends at the mall are Stella, an elephant who performs tricks she learned while part of a circus, and Bob, a stray dog.
Now that Ivan is a full-grown silverback, he no longer draws the crowds that paid to see him when he was young and cute. Some people still come to see Stella perform, but she is old and has an injured foot. The mall owner, Mack, decides the business needs a boost from another cute baby animal. And so Ruby arrives and everything changes. Caring for Ruby causes Ivan to rethink his art and his home and to dream of a better life for all of them.
Set in the first decade of the 20th century, In the Shadow of Gotham, by Stefanie Pintoff, combines the atmosphere of a gothic novel with the more invigorating pace of a police procedural. Simon Ziele has buried himself in a quiet town in Westchester County to escape the memory of his lost love. He was an up-and-coming detective in the New York City police force when tragedy drove him to seek a quieter position, far away from the violence of Manhattan’s darker quarters.
And yet, when the call came to investigate a murder at the home of one of Westchester’s finest families, Detective Ziele is drawn in by duty to find out who killed the lovely, young mathematics genius in such a shocking and brutal way before it happens again.
Someone once said, “When you finish a book that you love, it is like saying good-bye to a friend.” I felt sad when I finished Dog Man and for a few seconds thought about turning to the front of the book and starting it all over again.
Martha Sherrill has such a beautiful writing style that it was a joy to read from beginning to end. Morie Sawataishi developed a deep admiration for the rugged mountain hunting dogs of Japan. Before World War II, Japan revered the Akita, partly due to the true story of Hachiko. He was the loyal Akita who waited every day for his owner to get off of the train. His owner was a professor who died suddenly at work. Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for years hoping that he would come back. Hachiko symbolized the Japanese sense of discipline and loyalty. However, during World War II, people ate the dogs and used their pelts to line uniforms until they were almost extinct.
Cole's on the wrong track. He's been skipping school and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Mom has had it with him. So she packs his things in the car and takes him from Detroit to Philadelphia where his dad lives.
Ghetto Cowboy, by G. Neri, is based on a true story of horse raising that does actually occur in North Philadelphia. Cole has never met his dad and his mom isn't thrilled with bringing him back into their lives, but it's her last option.
"He's different is all, but maybe different is what you need."
What would you do if you discovered that you could read other people’s thoughts?
It’s not bad enough that Callie Anderson has to get glasses just before the start of middle school, but they are the ugliest glasses she has ever seen. Yet those huge, geeky lenses and fat black frames hide a secret. These glasses show Callie what other people are thinking. Maybe they will actually help her. And she can use all of the help she can get. She’s lost in math and Spanish classes. Her best friend seems to be drifting away. And her parents’ marriage is falling apart. But can Callie follow the eye doctor’s instructions and learn to use the glasses wisely?
Upon first glancing at Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, I very nearly put it aside to be reshelved. It was too beautiful. Huge and heavy--laden with photographs--and featuring a cover shot of something that looked as though it took a heck of a lot of time, money and energy to pull off, it didn’t seem like something that would work for me.
But first glances can be deceiving. Almost every recipe involves relatively normal if delicious ingredients. The techniques used are not difficult at all for someone who knows her way around a basic kitchen. These are the sort of recipes which will be made again and again--and be shared with demanding friends. Each is introduced very charmingly, in a way that conveys much about the author’s French experiences.
Peggy Orenstein has established an entire career around her ability to describe and analyze the ways young women learn, socialize, and advance into adulthood. She even wrote a highly influential book exposing how gender dynamics operate within the American education system (Schoolgirls). When her own daughter became ensnared in “girlie-girl” culture, however, Orenstein was forced to admit that her extensive academic knowledge did not prepare her to negotiate the paradoxes of growing up female in the 21st century. Cinderella Ate My Daughter chronicles Orenstein’s parenting crisis and her subsequent investigation into how femininity is being scripted by marketing, princess mania, and popular culture.