One of the most popular humanitarian nonfiction books of the 2000s was Greg Mortenson’s best seller Three Cups of Tea. Three Cups of Tea was marketed as a call for humanitarian aid to impoverished Central Asian nations such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Mortenson’s life story of dedicating himself to providing education to the people of Central Asia was the emotional connection that sold many readers on the book. Mortenson traveled across the U.S., giving lectures, setting up charities to provide money for his Central Asia Institute (CAI), and appearing on numerous talk shows to promote his book. As beautiful as his humanitarian mission seemed, it was ultimately revealed as too good to be true by writer Jon Krakauer, whose expose Three Cups of Deceit explored the lies in Mortenson’s story and the lack of effectiveness in the CAI’s schools program. Although Three Cups of Deceit can be a depressing read at times, it also makes for a fascinating study in media awareness and image manipulation.
Sumo, by Thien Pham, is a quiet tale about a sport of epic proportions. Scott is a twenty-something football player who has missed his shot at NFL glory. Now that his girlfriend has left him, he has no sense of himself anymore. So like any lost youth pining for a change, he moves to Japan to become a sumo wrestler.
To fight a duel, whether with swords or pistols, remains one of the most romantic and violent tropes of the 17th through the 19th centuries. From Alexandre Dumas’ D'artagnan to the Firefly episode, “Shindig,” the deadly side of an old and polite society remains fascinating to today’s audiences. But are the scenarios laid out in fiction exaggerated for our amusement? Surely, no civilized people would resort to such violence over mere words—or, would they?
Andrew Jackson, later the seventh President of the United States, fought in more than a dozen duels, and received a bullet in his lung from one of them that remained there until his death nineteen years later. What did he duel over? His first opponent was an attorney who made him look foolish in court. It ended with shots fired in the air. He later chose to duel the first governor of Tennessee, a political rival, when that man accused him of adultery—technically true as Jackson’s wife’s divorce from her first husband wasn’t finalized when she remarried. And what was the cause of the duel that got him a bullet in the lung? An argument about a horse race. Wounded for life or not, Andrew Jackson won that duel. He took the hit in the chest and then killed his opponent.
I admit that I have not read this book, but one of my customers just called to say that he enjoyed The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin, so much that he couldn’t put it down. It is the story of Ann Morrow Lindbergh. I was given Gift From the Sea, by Ann Morrow Lindbergh, as a Christmas present and was struck by the beauty of this wonderful, little book. I was immediately impressed by the tremendous intelligence and fierce independence of this famous woman. How could anyone not admire such an incredible woman who struggled to maintain her own identity with such a famous husband?
In Andrew Peters’ Salt Is Sweeter than Gold, an old king has three daughters, but only one will inherit his kingdom. Who should it be? When it’s time to decide, the king holds a grand ceremony and asks in front of huge crowd a simple question: how much do you love me? The first answer pleases him very much: “I love you more than all the jewels that encrust your fingers and all the gold that lies hidden in the vaults of this castle!” The second daughter also gives a charming answer: “I love you more than all the land that spreads like an ocean beyond this castle!” But when the youngest, who did truly love him, says simply, “Father, I love you more than salt,” the king is so insulted he banishes her immediately and tells her she is no longer his…. until the day that salt becomes more precious than gold.
You've seen the attention-grabbing headlines while you're standing in line at the grocery store. You know you look at them. In the tabloids there are always lurid accounts of death - gruesome, improbable, and even the ones that are funny-except-someone-died. So losing your mum in a botched hold up attempt really doesn't even rate. Sad, yeah, tragic even, but only to those directly involved.
In Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May, Billy Smith is 19, working at a social history museum for his gap year, when his mother is killed. He is suddenly responsible for his six-year-old half-brother, Oscar. He thinks they're doing fine, but his aunt, the social workers, Oscar's teachers and even his friends think maybe not. Even Oscar's dad shows up, which he's never done before.
When the courts decide that Oscar will be better off with his aunt, Billy decides there is only one way that he and Oscar can stay together forever.
The bare, forlorn branches and thorny sticks of her rose bushes give Galilee Garner something to look forward to all winter in The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns: “Something to hang my daydreams on like the ornaments on a Christmas tree. In the spring, they will bloom again.”
Roses have long been used in metaphors for love in literature, and Margaret Dilloway continues the tradition in her charming novel. Dig right in with Gal Garner as she grows and breeds her difficult and obstinate Hulthemia roses, which thrive under a set of specific and limited conditions. The roses she breeds pretty much describe Gal, who was born with kidney problems, has gone through two kidney transplants, and has been on dialysis for eight long years waiting for another donor. Learn about love, roses and thriving under difficult conditions as you read this sweet, beautifully-written story.
Free Lance, Tuesday, March 6, 1888
VIRGINIA EDITORS IN A DEADLY DUEL
A Newspaper War Ends in a Tragedy—Ellis Williams Shot Through the Heart, and Edwin Barbour Seriously Wounded— [illegible]
CULPEPER, VA, March 1. — One of the most desperate and deadly shooting affrays that ever happened in this vicinity occurred here this morning, between Edwin Barbour, editor of the Piedmont Advance, and Ellis B. Williams, son of Governor Williams, editor of the Culpeper Exponent, resulting in the death of Williams and the serious wounding of Barbour. Both are young men and their families are highly-connected. The cause of the trouble seems to have grown out of a newspaper article, in the shape of a letter, dated from Washington and Signed “Jack Clatterbuck,” which was published some weeks ago in the Piedmont Advance. The letter made some sharp and caustic allusions to Mr. Williams, of the Exponent. Last Friday’s issue of the Exponent contained a bitter article denouncing the editor of the Advance and all connected with it, saying the editor was more an object of pity than of resentment, and that he was not the principal, but was put up to it by someone else. To day’s issue of the Advance contains an editorial in which the editor brands Mr. Williams as a liar, and further says that “his conduct in this matter has been cowardly in the extreme, and highly unbecoming a gentleman, of which class we shall no longer consider him a member,” and winds up the article in this wise “At times it becomes necessary for a gentleman to turn and strike the dog that is barking at his heels.”
Young Lee Bennett Hopkins was an unlikely candidate to go down in the Guinness Book of World Records for having edited the most poetry anthologies ever. He spent half his childhood in the projects of Scranton, New Jersey, and hated school. His father left the family when Lee was fourteen, leaving him to look after his younger brother and sister. His mother had her own problems, but she did love her children.
What made the difference for him was a special teacher who gave him hope. In eighth grade, Mrs. Ethel Kite McLaughlin encouraged him in his writing and urged him to go to as many plays as possible, some of which he managed to see by slipping into the theatres during intermission and catching this second act. This opened a new perspective for Lee, and he was soon on different path, away from the poverty and street life he had known.
A lot of writers for teens have excellent memories for very painful things. Some remember what it was like to be a targeted teen--the dread of going to school every day knowing what would probably happen, whether it was going to happen in a hallway, a locker room, a classroom, or on a school bus. Being pulled apart emotionally and humiliated was often just an everyday occurrence for them. The usual.
But some writers remember high school very differently. They were the people who just stood to one side AND DIDN’T DO ANYTHING while watching their friends and classmates being bullied. And in a few, a very few, cases they did the bullying themselves. Dear Bully is a collection of reflections of writers for teens who share their true stories of hurt and regret and how these experiences changed them.