Copy of Maven's December Pick: Rainwater
Ella Barron operates a boarding house in Gilead, Texas, during the Great Depression. A single mother of a mentally-challenged son, Ella must provide a way for her family to survive during such uncertain times. In addition, a drought has pushed local farmers to the verge of financial collapse, and the Federal Government’s new relief program is causing a divide amongst Gilead residents. At the suggestion of an acquaintance, Ella rents an open room to David Rainwater, a terminally ill man with only a couple of months to live. The newest guest quickly becomes a lightning rod for change, not only within the confines of Ella’s boarding house but also within the community at large. As bitter unrest and racial tensions erupt, Mr. Rainwater is put to the ultimate test when he takes a stand against a local gang bent on creating further distress in the town. Author Sandra Brown presents a timeless story that provides insight into the tough times of the 1930s and presents a powerful truth: love equals sacrifice.
Maven's November Pick: They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky
Quietness lingers across the African bush as the Dinka tribesmen of West Sudan awake to another morning. Cattle graze, children play and life goes on uninterrupted as it has for generations, but life as the Dinka knew it would forever change on a fateful day in 1987. Benjamin, Alepho and Benson were all under the age of seven when the Sudanese Civil War arrived at their distant village. Forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs, the boys began an inconceivable trek across Africa's unforgiving terrain. For five years the Lost Boys, as they would later be called, journeyed over one thousand miles on foot through sun-scorched wilderness and crocodile-infested waters until they reached Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp. Ultimately, the boys survived the horrors of war, overcame starvation and endured disease for a second chance at life. In 2001 Benjamin, Alepho and Benson were relocated to the United States as part of an international relief program.
Maven's October Pick: The Secret Life of Bees
TCU graduate Sue Monk Kidd introduces audiences to 14-year-old Lily Owens in her debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees. Lily lives with her abusive father T. Ray on the family peach farm in Sylvan, South Carolina, in 1964. Lily often finds herself thinking about her mother who passed away when she was just a child, but the only memories she has are those hidden in tin box buried outside. The contents include a photo of her mother, a pair of white cotton gloves and a small wooden picture of a black Virgin Mary with the words “Tiburon, S.C.” written on the back. After a confrontation erupts between Rosaleen, the family’s African-American housekeeper, and three local men over Rosaleen’s intention to register to vote, Lily is forced to take matters into her own hands. She concocts a plot to spring Rosaleen from jail, and the two flee to Tiburon. There, Lily realizes that the picture of black Mary is actually a label for a local honey maker. Lily convinces Rosaleen to visit the honey maker’s home, where she enters an unbelievable world and uncovers the secrets of her past.
Maven's September Pick: Speak
Author Laurie Halse Anderson recreates the high school experience in her debut novel, Speak, through the story of Melinda Sordino. Sordino begins her freshman year on the outside looking in, lost amongst the teenage cliques that comprise Merryweather High in upstate New York. Her banishment to the social fringes begins after an incident at a summer party leaves her emotionally scarred and unable to express her feelings through words. As a result, readers are forced into the secret places of Sordino's mind as she deals with the harsh reality of attending high school as a loner. Sordino withdraws from her environment and seeks refuge in an abandoned janitor's closet, where she finds temporary solace from her day-to-day problems. Readers will stay entertained with Sordino's witty personality, her interactions with an ensemble of eclectic characters and her ability to overcome trying circumstances. In the end, Sordino confronts her fears and unlocks her silenced voice.
Maven's August Pick: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced
Nujood Ali was like any other 10-year-old girl: she enjoyed attending school and playing with her siblings. But life as she knew it would forever change when her father forced her to marry a man three times her age. Lost in a world she didn’t belong, Nujood was separated from her family and sent to live in an isolated village in rural Yemen. There her nightmare began. Her husband initiated his torment by stealing her innocence, betraying an oath made to her father to postpone sexual relations until she was physically mature. After weeks of mental and physical abuse, Nujood fled to a courthouse in the capital city of Sana’a, where she demanded unprecedented action for a girl her age: a divorce. An international firestorm soon erupted with media traveling far and wide to meet the girl who defied Yemeni custom. Her heroic actions have initiated reform in a country where 50 percent of brides are married under the age of 18. In 2008, Nujood was honored alongside Hillary Clinton as one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year.
Maven's July Pick: To Kill a Mockingbird (50th Anniversary Edition)
Originally published in 1960, 2010 marks the 50th Anniversary Edition of Harper Lee’s American classic To Kill a Mockingbird. The Pulitzer-prize winner was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in 1999 by the Library Journal and remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. Set in Southern Alabama during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird chronicles the lives of Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus. The story begins innocently enough with the children and their new friend, Dill Harris, as they devise methods of catching a glimpse of their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley. Lee reveals her story through the eyes of 8-year old Scout, and in doing so masterfully navigates the book’s central themes by way of an inquisitive, impish and unforgettable character. The novel moves from child’s play to a drama-filled plotline of race and justice as one man’s legal trial takes center stage; a trial whose implications will be felt long after the courtroom proceedings have adjourned.
Maven's June Pick: Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, author Sherman Alexie introduces readers to 14-year-old Arnold Spirit Jr., a Spokane Indian who dreams of life beyond the Washington reservation where he was born and raised. Alexie incorporates his own personal experiences of growing up on a Spokane Indian Reservation and the challenges he was forced to overcome at an early age. Junior is a likeable character whose physical limitations make him the ideal target for local bullies. However, his talents as a cartoonist provide him the creative outlet of escaping the day-to-day realities of the “rez,” a place where failure is destiny and where life is consumed with poverty, alcoholism and depression. After a heart-to-heart talk with one of his teachers, Junior makes an unprecedented decision to alter his future, and in doing so, he provides valuable insight on the themes of identity and community.
Maven's May Pick: Son of Hamas
The eldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member of the Islamic resistance movement known as Hamas, Mosab Yousef offers a gripping memoir of his childhood in Ramallah during heightened conflicts between Israeli and Palestinian forces, his subsequent incarceration in one of Israel’s maximum security prisons and his role as a spy for Israel’s national security arm, the Shin Bet. Yousef worked with the Shin Bet for 10 years, providing top-secret security details on Hamas’ operations and logistics while maintaining a key position within the militant organization. Appropriately code named the “Green Prince” for his direct family ties as well as the green color associated with the Hamas flag, Yousef offers a chilling behind-the-scenes perspective on major political and military events that affected the stability of the region and captured international headlines along the way. Yousef ended his role as spy and moved to the United States in 2007.
Maven's April Pick: The Freedom Writers Diary
Erin Gruwell faced a daunting task when she began her teaching career at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, in the fall of 1994. The 23-year old student teacher was assigned to a classroom of undisciplined and unmotivated students with checkered pasts and disappearing futures. But over the next four years, Gruwell oversaw an educational renaissance for 150 students, introducing them to an undiscovered world of knowledge they never knew existed. The students studied the diaries of Anne Frank and Zlata Filopvic and were later inspired to start a classroom journal documenting their personal struggles. They wrote under the name “The Freedom Writers” as a way of honoring the 1960s Freedom Riders who fought for racial equality by riding interstate buses into the segregated south.The Freedom Writers Diary chronicles the students’ journeys as they implement change in their own lives and spark a second wave of equality within their generation.
Maven's March Pick: The Things They Carried
A finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried offers a complex narrative on Vietnam by contrasting the battles waged in the jungles and rice paddies with the battles waged in the minds of the soldiers who lived to tell their story. The men carried things of many kinds. They carried maps, compasses, ammunition, boots, helmets, flak jackets, machetes, bug repellant and assault rifles. They carried rations, bayonets, grenades, tear gas, radios, tranquilizers, pictures, and M&Ms. They carried all they could bear and then some. They carried shame. They carried guilt. They carried grief, cowardice, responsibility, fear and blame--they carried both the tangible and intangible. O’Brien describes the burdens that weighed on the soldiers by utilizing a writing style that walks the line between truth and fiction, between the physical and the metaphysical, hope and hopelessness, life and death.
Maven's February Pick: There are No Children Here
Imagine a place where the American Dream disappears faster than the faded orange of a setting sun, a place where violence chokes away life and where nightmares mesh with reality. Unbeknown by most and neglected by many, the name of this place is the Henry Horner housing projects, and for Lafayette and Pharoah [sic] Rivers, this place is home. In There are No Children Here, Wall Street Journal reporter Alex Kotlowitz chronicles the lives of the two brothers as they come of age in an inner-city Chicago public housing complex. Lafayette and Pharoah, ages 11 and 9, respectively, live on the front lines of an urban war: gangs terrorize the neighborhood, poverty engulfs the residents and the legal and political systems are in disarray. Life in Henry Horner is summed up best by the boys’ mother when she responds to a question from Kotlowitz about the neighborhood children. She replies by saying, “There are no children here. They’ve seen too much to be children."
Maven's January Pick: Firehouse
In Firehouse, David Halberstam chronicles the men of Engine 40, Ladder 35, a New York City fire station located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A brotherhood built on loyalty and sacrifice is revealed as Halberstam dissects the firehouse’s complex social structure.Whether it’s battling a blazing inferno or coming together to repair a fellow man’s house, the firehouse culture of serving others permeates every aspect of life. But the bond between the men of 40/35 was pushed to its limits on the morning of September 11, 2001, when 12 of the 13 men who responded to the terrorist attacks lost their lives at ground zero. Halberstam details these courageous men’s lives: their personalities, attitudes, relationships and the values by which they lived. He describes the aftermath of that fateful day as well as the effects it would inevitably have on the lives of the firefighters, family and friends who survived.