Hello! I'm Sarah, the co-owner of Women & Children First. I read personal essay collections, memoir, and contemporary fiction. I love local and emerging authors!
Required reading for all Americans. The most vital book I read in 2014.
Drawing on her own and others' experiences of pain, violence, heartbreak, and addiction, as well as the work of Sontag, Kundera, Didion, and others, Leslie Jamison's extraordinary collection of essays had me tripping over myself to underline especially insightful passages and gasp over quiet revelations. I wanted to press this book into the hands of strangers because I think these questions about how we strive toward, shy away from, and/or deftly perform empathy are necessary--now and always.
In one of the essays in Once I Was Cool, Megan describes going to a Jane's Addiction concert when she was just 16. She describes the moment when the band started playing her song and how she began singing all of the lyrics at the top of her lungs. Then, teenage Megan looks around and sees thousands of people singing the lyrics to her song. The beautiful and powerful humanity of that moment is what I felt rippling through every essay in this incredible collection. READ LOCAL! READ THIS.
I binged on these dark short stories that crackle with hilariously biting dialogue! No one talks the way Moore's characters talk, and I can't get enough. One of my favorite writers at her best.
When fourteen-year-old June Elbus loses her beloved uncle Finn to AIDS, she is devastated. At the funeral, she catches sight of a lanky stranger, whom her older sister tells her is Toby--Finn's "special friend" and also his "murderer." Toby doesn't look like a murderer to June, so when he reaches out to befriend her, she decides to accept the invitation. As their friendship grows, June discovers the only other person on earth who seeems to understand why she can't "move on" and forget Finn's death like her mother wants her to. Set in the late 1980s--in the thick of the AIDS crisis--Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a gorgeously written and honest portrait of a young girl's evolving understanding of the different shapes that love can take. June is a robustly "weird" teenager, a romantic, who adores anything related to Medieval times, wears fiercely non-trendy boots and long corduroy skirts, plays alone in the woods, and watches A Room with a View every chance she gets. She will break your heart as she, so vulnerably, navigates through the treacherous middle place between kid and adult.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this absorbing story follows a fearless group of young children in Zambabwe. 10-year-old Darling is the effortlessly likeable, sharply clever leader, who runs wild with her friends (Godknows, Bastard, and Chipo to name a few). As they steal guavas and play games like "Find Bin Laden," they also occasionally, solemnly discuss what life was like Before--before the paramilitary came and bulldozed all of their homes, regardless of who was inside. The story follows Darling when she moves to "Destroyed" Michigan, escaping extreme poverty and hunger, only to land in an America nothing like the one she imagined.
Meaty is a gutsy and hilarious book of essays by local author Samantha Irby. If you’ve read her hugely popular blog, bitches gotta eat, you know that for Irby no topic is taboo. In this collection, she discusses regrettable sex, fantasy sex, her cat named Helen Keller, and the unpredictable bodily functions that come with having Crohn’s disease. Sure, some of the subject matter may seem crass, but at its core these essays are dissecting weighty stuff like race and gender and the loneliness of being orphaned before the age of 20. I missed this book the moment I finished it; good thing she still updates her blog.
Zadie Smith's most invigorating novel yet! Each of the four sections is helmed by a different narrator, all of whom grew up in Caldwell, a council estate in a low-income area of London. They are now adults living within vastly different income brackets and enjoying different levels of professional and personal happiness. Along with a slew of fully fleshed peripheral characters, the main storylines of Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan are told in distinct voices, at a breakneck pace and feature crisp and funny and/or tragic dialogue. This is not an easy read. The first section, Leah's, is especially fractured, making it at times difficult to differentiate what is real from what isn't. What remains very real throughout the novel is the complex and evolving friendship between Leah and Natalie, as they both struggle with their separate decisions about having/not having children. NW sometimes reads like a series of individual short stories, but together they create this spellbinding conversation about what factors determine where we end up even when we begin in the same place.
It’s astonishing that a book this slim can be so powerful—and punishing. This novel (that reads like a memoir), centers upon a single, seemingly small moment in which the narrator runs into a childhood playmate in the halls of his new high school and chooses to ignore him. Gripped with guilt, Maxwell recounts the life of this ex friend and the terrible murder that forever changed the boy’s life. In this profound meditation on truth and memory, Maxwell writes, “In talking about the past, we lie with every breath we take.”
A suspenseful graphic memoir about a deeply troubled family--as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.
You’ll never look at a telephone pole or a babydoll the same after reading this incisive book of essays by Chicago author, Eula Biss. Biss draws upon history, pop culture, and her own personal experiences--as a teacher at a Harlem school and a reporter for an African American newspaper--to examine race and racial identity in America. Each essay is riddled with unfiltered observations, meticulously drawn connections, and plain old facts that had me gasping aloud.
A must-read for anyone who writes about real people and struggles with the ethics of doing so.
The absolute best, so perfect, most timeless, very great children's book ever written! The sentiment captured in the final page gets me every time.
I'm just very glad that this book exists.