The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

girl who smiled beads

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: The author’s refugee experience escaping the Rwandan genocide and the years she spent traveling from one camp to another before immigrating to the US.

What made me pick it up: It was really well reviewed.

My favorite parts: Wamariya escapes at such a young age she almost doesn’t understand death and war and why they are walking and not stopping. She yearns her whole life to go back to her family, as it was, even as she reconnects with them. It is heartbreaking, both reading of the little girl who does not comprehend and as the adult who cannot stop grieving all that is lost. I so admire her indomitable spirit and the unbreakable will of her older sister who helped her survive through multiple countries and camps. Wamariya examines the many ways to move past trauma, especially that caused by civil war and genocide, with no easy answers only her personal truth and what she sees others attempting as well. If you are American you will feel shame for the atrocities we ignored in 1994 and the ongoing ones we continue to ignore worldwide. You will also be immensely grateful for all you have lucked into based on the geography of your birth. Mostly, you will want to help refugees any way you can.

Who it’s great for: Readers who want to learn more about the unending trauma of war.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

thisisgoingtohurt

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A (former) doctor in the National Health Service in the UK on why it’s great and why it’s awful and why he eventually had to leave.

What made me pick it up: I love memoirs. I love medicine and all things miscellany about the body. And I enjoy humor writing. This had it all.

My favorite parts: This book is hilarious for the first ¾. Kay tells ghastly stories with heart and levity like you expect he’d do at any party, if he could get out of work in time to attend. Then it reverses completely and the reveal he promised you takes up the next ¼ of the book – why he left. It’s so sincere, and powerful, and profoundly sad you will be in tears. Failed relationships, rocky friendships, low pay, and no breaks bring him to his decision to walk away. Anyone who has ever had a job they invested much of themselves in for a long period of time, trained for, and overspent resources qualifying to do can relate. Now add the horrific pressure to save lives, and the catastrophic realization that sometimes you can’t.

Who it’s great for: Fans of medical memoirs, tv shows, movies/documentaries. Former or current medical professionals or their close relatives.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells

 


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Brazen by Penelope Bagieu

brazen

Originally published in: 2017 (English translation in 2018)

What’s it about: A collection of brief biographies of a variety of extraordinary women whose lives have left lasting impact on history – all in graphic novel form.

What made me pick it up: I couldn’t not pick it up.

My favorite things: Bagieu profiles a wide variety of women from artists to activists, doctors to astronauts. Each woman gets several pages for her story to paint a more full picture of her life and impact

Who it’s great for:  For teens and adults who are fans of Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders and Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky.

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Dear World by Bana Alabad

dear world

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A child’s account of surviving and escaping the ongoing war in Syria.

What made me pick it up: Bana Alabed’s pleas for peace and assistance reached the world through Twitter, but I knew her book would tell a more complete story.

My favorite things: Bana’s clear voice is heartwrenching, a reminder to care for refugees. Her mother, Fatemah, includes essays written for Bana, explaining her point of view and her experiences. Their words in concert with each other serve to humanize the numbers and news reports and give a personal story to the images of Syrian children that have circulated widely.

Who it’s great for:  Adults and teens trying to understand the war in Syria. Readers who to understand what the day to day struggle is like in the Syrian Civil War, and those wanting to build empathy for refugees.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison

little leaders

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A collection of 40 brief biographies of Black women who have made significant contributions throughout US history, geared toward children and complete with charming illustrations of each woman.

What made me pick it up: I couldn’t not pick it up.

My favorite things: I love the variety of women profiled! There are women from early US history, those alive and achieving today, and those from all the time in-between. Harrison includes women who were pioneers in science, education, law, activism, athletics, and the arts among others. Each biography is long enough to learn about each woman’s life and work, but still short enough to fit on one page so you can easily read a few at a time. I learned a lot!

Who it’s great for:  Readers looking for inspiring stories of Black women’s achievements. Young readers of all identities and backgrounds looking for strong role models. Fans of Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A collected biography of some great female icons throughout history.

What made me pick it up: It seemed like a fitting book to kick off my 2018 reading with.

My favorite things: I liked that this profiled Claudette Colvin, who predated and inspired Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. It’s always great to see women who are not the usual reference points for a specific time in history also get their stories told.

Who it’s great for: Everyone. Especially little girls who need role models from all walks of life.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers by James Gulliver Hancock

artists writers

Originally published in: 2014

What’s it about: A visual biographical encyclopedia of innovative individuals throughout history.

What made me pick it up: I was intrigued when I stumbled across it while browsing an ebook and downloadable audiobook collection curated to inspire writers during NaNoWriMo.

My favorite things: Hancock believes that the objects and people that individuals surround themselves with can be very revealing. He enhances the understanding of notable historical figures by focusing on these aspects of their lives, rather than simply on their achievements. Hancock’s cartoonish drawings are an engaging jumble of small images that help to paint a picture of each subject’s life.

Who it’s great for:  Readers intrigued by the daily lives of famous artists and thinkers. Fans of graphic biographies.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Hunger by Roxane Gay

hunger

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Roxane Gay reflects on her life in her body. She explores struggles with size, eating disorders, assault, and what it’s like to exist in a world that wasn’t designed to accommodate your body.

What made me pick it up: I love Roxane Gay’s work and I thought this book sounded important.

My favorite things: Take a deep breath before you dive into this because it is deep, raw, and painfully honest. She doesn’t shy away from details of her assault or the ways she thinks of her assailant to this day. She even takes the time to explain why she’s more comfortable identifying as a victim of sexual violence rather than as a survivor – without condemning or questioning those who do identify as survivors. The courage and openness throughout Hunger is consistently inspiring.

Who it’s great for: Fans of Roxane Gay’s other work. Memoir readers looking for something heavy to dig into.

Abby’s rating: five-shells


Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.


 

Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A graphic biography following the never dull life of Zora Neale Hurston.

What made me pick it up: I love reading graphic memoirs and biographies, so this was a must-read for me.

My favorite things: Bagge introduces the biography by explaining some of his choices and how he came to write it, which I appreciated. I also enjoyed delving into the extensive background information at the end that gives more insight into some the supporting cast of Hurston’s life. The biography itself was fast-paced and fun, hitting the highs and lows of her life with equal interest. It’s a fun way to learn about what of the great American writers of the 20th century.

Who it’s great for: Hurston fans looking to learn more about her adventurous life. Fans of graphic biographies and non-fiction.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.