Amalia Frick hails from Boulder, Colorado and is a Subsidiary Rights Assistant at Penguin Young Readers. In her free time she can be found drinking coffee, pretending to star in her own comedy show, and searching for the perfect popsicle recipe.
I came to this book hesitantly, thinking that a fictional account of a historical hero told in verse might be dry or inaccessible. But within a few pages I was swept away, my reservations forgotten. This is the true story of Clara, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant to New York City at the turn of the twentieth century who worked in the clothing factories to support her family. Passionate, curious, and tenacious, Clara studied academics after working ten hour shifts, dreaming of becoming a doctor. But she found another purpose as well: advocating for fair working conditions for the factory workers. Facing her family’s disapproval, loss of employment, and brutality at the hands of police, Clara relentlessly fought for women’s rights in the workplace. A true story celebrating kindness and standing up for what is right, Clara’s story will ignite the heart of any reader.
I’ll admit that I’ve been a little slow to actually pick up this book, but when it won The Newbery Honor, The National Book Award, and the Coretta Scott King Award, I knew it was finally time to move it to the top of my list. This is the story of Jacqueline, an African-American girl who grew up moving from Ohio to South Carolina to New York during the 60s and 70s. Somewhere between lemon-chiffon ice cream cones and learning about Peter Stuyvesant, Woodson finds her brilliance in the stories she tells. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down, transfixed by the story of a girl who grew up to be as passionate and emotive in three lines as she is in thirty.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Anyone who’s spoken with me in the last three months has received some kind of regurgitated nugget from this book. It’s just that relevant. Focusing on the power of social media to shape individual behavior, Ronson interviews people who have been destroyed, professionally and personally, by a maelstrom of tweets. He discusses the actual effectiveness of shame in modifying a someone’s behavior (spoiler alert: it’s low). He investigates the various ways that people recover from shaming–from public figures to private citizens to prisoners. And, most interestingly, he wonders what motivates people to shame others in the first place. This is necessary reading for anyone who has ever felt themselves to be the victim of public shaming. Give it a look, and then share it with that friend of yours whose social media tone is one of Righteous Indignation. (If you don’t have friends like that, congratulations, you’re that friend!)
The Brothers: The Road To An American Tragedy by Masha Gessen
There are many questions associated with the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon carried out brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Just as I write this post, Dzhokar, the surviving brother, has been sentenced to death for his involvement. But what happened to these brothers, Chechen immigrants to Boston, turning them from immigrants to terrorists? This is an in-depth investigation that seeks to uncover what went wrong, and how two boys, whom no one could initially believe were involved, came to commit such an act. Masha Gessen’s reporting is detailed and clear, and avoids the sensationalism so readily available. A Russian immigrant herself, Gessen tells of the history of the family, their move to the United States, and the political forces at play with deeply relevant cultural insight. This will completely change the way you think about threats of terrorism facing America today.
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