BookBrowse Highlights

This week, we're excited to bring you a truly unique First Impressions pick celebrating the history of American democracy: Stories from Suffragette City, edited by M.J. Rose and Fiona Davis, offers short stories from 13 authors all focusing on October 23, 1915, the day of a historic march for women's suffrage in New York City.

Our Editor's Choice review features Bryan Washington's debut novel Memorial, a bittersweet exploration of a stalled relationship that takes place between Houston and Osaka, and an accompanying "beyond the book" article that dives into the fascinating topic of the use (or not) of quotation marks in novels.

Plus, browse through our current and upcoming book club discussions; enter our giveaway to win a copy of Stuart Evers' The Blind Light, a sprawling and captivating multi-generational family saga; and enjoy our final (at least for now) issue of Culture Corner.

Lastly, if have not already done so and would like to, please do take a few minutes to vote for our Best of Year books (closing end of tomorrow, Friday).

Very best,
First Impressions
Each month we give away books to BookBrowse members who live in the U.S. to read and review. Members who choose to participate receive a free book about every 3-4 months. Here are their opinions on one recently released title.
Stories from Suffragette City
edited by M.J. Rose & Fiona Davis

"Until now I had never read an anthology where every story was a gem. The writing was excellent. All the stories engrossing. All made me feel as though I was there. This little book gave me new insights into the suffragette movement. It made me proud of and grateful to all those brave souls who struggled so hard and against all odds." - Carole P. (Natick, MA)

"Although I rarely choose to read short stories, I'm so glad I made an exception in requesting Stories from Suffragette City. While each story is set in New York City on October 23, 1915, the day when thousands of women marched up Fifth Avenue demanding the right to vote, each story is unique... I enjoyed seeing that the right to vote was important to all women, not just those of a certain social class. This would make a great 'car book.' You know, the book you leave in your car for the times you are stuck in traffic or find yourself at an appointment, having forgotten the book you are currently reading. I recommend it to those readers who care about justice - and to those who don't care but should." - Gail K. (Saratoga Springs, NY)

"How timely to compile a collection of short stories showcasing the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The women's right to vote has become a given but there was a time in our history it was denied... The stories in this collection are centered on the same event – the 1915 New York City Suffragette march; however, each story approaches this event from a different and personal angle... While I did read the collection straight through, it would also be a grand book to keep by the bedside to read one at time or to clear your palate between full-length books. This collection serves as a history lesson of sorts and as a call to action to remind women to use their collective voices to effect change and that our freedoms were not easily won." - Carole A. (Denver, CO)
Henry Holt and Company. Short Stories. 272 pages. Published Oct 27, 2020
Number of Reader Reviews: 13, Readers' Consensus: 4.5/5.0
The Best of Culture Corner
For almost six months, we've posted a weekly "Culture Corner" blog sharing experiences you can access from home during the pandemic--such as online concerts, theater and art. This has been great fun, actually almost too much fun, I've spent way too much time going down internet rabbit holes researching what to recommend! Although clearly the pandemic is still very much with us, I'm drawing the posts to a close for now as we're getting close to the holiday season and will have a number of "best of year" posts to share. Plus, in a few weeks we'll be releasing the findings from our October 2020 "Book Clubs in Lockdown" survey. We're working hard to get this finished so we can share it with you as soon as possible, and I can tell you now that it is filled with fascinating information.

Of course, there is a world of culture still to explore, enough to fill many lifetimes. This week, we highlight some of the best places to continue your journey.
Editor's Choice
by Bryan Washington

After four years together, Benson and Mike are in a rut. "There's a point when you're with someone, and it's all just reaction. You've done everything there is to do," Benson observes. It's not just a matter of being bored; there are fundamental problems in their relationship, including domestic violence, cheating and a dearth of genuine communication. In a way, then, it's a relief when Mike hears that his estranged father, Eiju, is dying of cancer back in Japan. He decides to go take care of him until the end. Ironically, though, Mike's mother Mitsuko has just arrived for a stay in Houston, so she'll be Benson's responsibility.

They make an odd couple, this African American daycare teacher and the middle-aged Japanese woman he'd never met before who's now sleeping on his couch. Mitsuko is prickly to start with, but gradually she and Benson come to an understanding, thanks mostly to food. They shop for groceries together, and she teaches him how to cook. Both Mike and his father have worked as chefs, so initiating Benson into Japanese cuisine is Mitsuko's way of welcoming him into the family. Benson has a lot of other things on his mind, though: He's concerned about his alcoholic father, he's getting ready for his boss Ximena's wedding and he can't seem to stop flirting with the older brother of one of his daycare kids.

Both young men are still shaken by their parents' separations, and haunted by patterns of abuse and addiction. Mike hasn't spoken to his father in the 16 years before going to Japan. Now, living with Eiju and managing his Osaka bar, he works to rebuild their bond even though he knows it can't last. Meanwhile, Benson has trouble trusting his family, who still pretend he isn't gay. ... continued
Beyond the Book:
Using (or Not Using) Quotation Marks in Fiction
A lack of quotation marks around dialogue is a pet peeve for some readers. Yet it seems to be an increasingly popular stylistic choice in literary fiction, and one that Bryan Washington opts to use in his debut novel Memorial. You may have also encountered this approach in books by Jesse Ball, Junot Diaz, Bernardine Evaristo, Kate Grenville, Kent Haruf, Daisy Johnson, Miranda July, Cormac McCarthy, Sarah Moss, Sigrid Nunez, Max Porter, Ali Smith, Sarah Winman and Jacqueline Woodson.

Quotation mark usage as we know it only dates back to the 16th century, making it a relatively new form of punctuation. Earlier manuscripts indicated speech in a variety of other ways: with the speaker's name, by italicizing speech or by underlining. The visual predecessor to quotation marks was the diple (>), a mark originating in ancient Greece that was placed in the margins of texts to draw attention to significant sections. When quotation marks ('') — or inverted commas, as they're called in British English — were first introduced, they appeared in the left margin beside lines of speech. A collection of English poems, the Mirour for Magistrates (1574), is the first documented work to use quotation marks within the text to separate speech. However, the practice didn't become common in English until the 18th century, gaining popularity with the realist novels of authors like Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson.

The forefather of omitting quotation marks in modern English literature is James Joyce, who referred to inverted commas as "perverted commas" and chose to mark speech with a dash instead. He may have been influenced by living in France, or by playwrights' customs. ... continued
Riverhead Books. Novel. 320 pages. Published Oct 27, 2020
BookBrowse Rating: 4/5, Critics' Consensus: 4.8/5
Review and article by Rebecca Foster
More Recent "Cultural Curiosities" Articles

The above "beyond the book" article for Bryan Washington's Memorial is just one of many in our Cultural Curiosities category available for your enjoyment on the BookBrowse website. Here are a few other recent articles.

  • The American Roadside Motel
  • Entertainment in the Georgian Era
  • Minecraft and the Uncensored Library
  • The Sidekick Character in Detective Fiction
  • Stave Churches
  • Palimpsests
Current & Upcoming Book Club Discussions
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The Blind Light
by Stuart Evers

A multi-generational story about two families bound together by the tides of history and the bittersweet complexity of love.

England, 1959: two young soldiers―Drummond and Carter―form an intense and unlikely friendship at "Doom Town," a training center that recreates the aftermath of atomic warfare. The experience will haunt them the rest of their lives. Years later, Carter, now a high-ranking government official, offers working-class Drummond a way to protect himself and his wife, Gwen, should a nuclear strike occur. Their pact, kept secret, will have devastating consequences for the families they so wish to shield.

The Blind Light is a grand, ambitious novel that spans decades, from the 1950s to the present. Told from the perspectives of Drum and Gwen, and later their children, Nate and Anneka, the story brilliantly captures the tenderness and envy of long relationships. As the families attempt to reform themselves, the pressures of the past are visited devastatingly on the present, affecting spouses, siblings, and friends.


"[E]ngrossing…with its slow burn, Evers's vivid, perceptive chronicle of secrets and desperation satisfies." - Publishers Weekly

"Unpredictable character arcs will keep readers wondering what will happen next, and the many tragedies and triumphs of each family evoke the same epic feel of generational change as Edna Ferber's Giant." - Library Journal
W.W. Norton & Company. Novel. 544 pages. Published Oct 13, 2020
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Published every Thursday, BookBrowse Highlights is one of BookBrowse's four free newsletters. We also publish Publishing This Week every Sunday; and Book Club News and Librarian News monthly.
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