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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

June 18, 2017

A Pair of Powerful Memoirs Deal With Painful Struggles

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. The bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Difficult Women writes with honesty, intimacy, and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological stru ggles to explore shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. Gay also writes candidly about an incident of sexual abuse that occurred when she was young and how that impacted her life. As she says in the book, "I ate and ate a nd ate i n the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe."

Gay clearly understands the tension between desire and denial, and she draws on that to cast an insightful eye on her childhood, young adult years, and the present. This is a candid memoir of food, weight, and self-image from a talented writer and leading feminist voice.
    
 
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A  Memoir by Sherman Alexie. The award-winning writer (Reservation Blues, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, to name just two) delivers an unflinching memoir of his conflicted relationship with his mother, who both loved and abused him. Alexie's writing prowess adds to the emotional power of his often wrenching story.

Here's a description from the publisher: "Family relationships are never simple. But Sherman Alexie's bond with his mother Lillian was more complex than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit, but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past, but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers, but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It's these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated, and very human woman." 

Among those praising the book was publishing trade magazine Kirkus Reviews, which said in part, "Written in his familiar breezy, conversational, and aphoristic style, the book makes even the darkest personal experiences uplifting and bearable with the author's wit, sarcasm, and humor...a powerful, brutally honest memoir about a mother and the son who loved her."
National Book Award Finalist Makes For Fine Fiction Reading    
 
News of the World by Paulette Jiles. One of independent booksellers' most eagerly awaited paperback novels of the summer is here; don't be surprised to see it in We Recommend displays at your local store. News of the World is already on a lot of book group lists as well, which speaks to the good discussions it will provoke. It's historical fiction and a western of
sorts, set in 
post-Civil War Texas. But at its heart, this is a story of two engaging and totally disparate lead characters - a retired Civil War officer and a 10-year-old girl.   

The year is 1870 and elderly Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to audiences hungry for news of the world. In Wichita Falls, he is offered $50 to deliver a young orphan, Johanna, to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. She's been recently rescued by the U.S. army and is being returned to her  aunt and uncle. Kidd agrees to take her the rest of the way and thus begins a 400-mile journey through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain.

It soon becomes clear that Johanna may not perceive her "rescue" as such and that she considers herself Kiowa for all intents and purposes. She's forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act civilized. Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that grows stronger as they face numerous obstacles on their dangerous journey. 

Unfortunately, the San Antonio reunion is neither happy nor welcome, and Kidd must decide whether to hand Johanna over to family who regard her as an unwanted burden or keep her in his own life. Jiles delivers a clear-cut and believable resolution that should satisfy readers.
 
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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

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