Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

Beautiful Country: A Memoir

Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world.

I loved that description. It is perfect for this beautifully written memoir.

The Chinese word for America, Mei Guo, translates to “beautiful country”. And when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York in 1994, coming with her mother to reunite with her father who has been here for 2 years already, she is almost paralyzed with fear.

In China her parents were Professors. In America, they are illegal and must work at menial labor jobs that barely pay the rent much less food or clothes. Her Ma Ma constantly reminds her to stay hidden.

Looked down on and shunned by the kids at school and the teachers, her only savior is the library. This is where she learns everything. Her treasures are found on the filthy streets, tossed out by other poor people. She is constantly afraid, hungry and dirty.

Her parents are always fighting. Ma Ma is tired of sweatshops and wants to go home but Ba Ba is determined to stay. When her mother enrolls in school to get a degree, her father is even angrier. And when a health emergency arrives, they are sure they will be deported.

I was amazed at how the author told her childhood story. It was raw and gritty and not at all nice. But through it all you can just see this little girl was not giving an inch! She belonged here and she made her own opportunities.

It broke my heart hearing the way they were treated. Highly educated people being looked down on and judged because they wanted a life without fear of reprisals from a corrupt government and yet when they got to this land of opportunity, the opportunity is available to those born here. It made me uncomfortable and embarrassed and I think we all need to read this and take a hard look at how we treat immigrants.

I hope we hear more of her story. Very Well Done!

NetGalley/September 7th, 2021 by Doubleday Books

Three Dreamers A Memoir of Family by LORENZO CARCATERRA

Three Dreamers: A Memoir of Family

“By the time you reach my age,” he writes, “you have witnessed too much loss to not be aware of what lies ahead.”

From the author of Sleepers and an incredible body of work, Carcaterra takes us down a totally different road with Three Dreamers.

This is the homage to the three women in his life who taught him to be strong, kind as well as how to tell a killer story. We are talking about his Grandmother, Nonna Maria where he spent summers on an island called Ischia off the coast of Naples.

I loved this woman. She was kind, funny, and strong. She had survived the war and come out even stronger and now she is happy to have this boy she can share her life with in the summers because she knows his home life is hard.

Rafaella, his mother, spends her days in an abusive marriage, miserable and dreading the future. She is really negative and goes through some stuff and that in itself teaches her son lessons he will need in his future.

And third, his beloved Susan. Wife, editor, and his best cheerleader. For thirty years they loved each other until her death from cancer. Their faith in each other and the complete support he found was inspiring.

What did he learn from these amazing women? Find your joy. Overcome your circumstances. Give life your all.

What a beautiful tribute to these three women. What a beautiful memoir.

NetGalley/April 27th, 2021 Random House Ballentine



BLACK WIDOW by Leslie Gray Streeter

Leslie Gray Streeter offers us a portrait of widowhood we haven’t seen before, one that “will make you laugh and cry, sometimes on the same page” (James Patterson).

Palm Beach Post columnist Leslie Gray Streeter entered her late thirties with her husband Scott, moving in together and starting the process of adopting a baby. Yes, she is Christian and a black woman and he is neither. He is a white Jewish man. But together they are perfect for each other.

And just like that, they were making out and he died. Right there. And this is the story of her path and how she traveled it. I loved this book. I am this book. My husband died the same way at 36. There should be a period of a week at least before you have to start making decisions that are probably all bad. I laughed, I cried, I understood. Someone said you never understand death until it knocks at your door. So true. Thank goodness for friends who will not let you wallow in quicksand, but show up and care and drag you back from the edge and tell you that you aren’t crazy and it’s okay to laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.

I am honored to have read this!

NetGalley/ March 10th, 2020 by Little, Brown, and Company

 

 

 

Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir by Jake Shears

Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir

In the bestselling tradition of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, the lead singer of the multiplatinum-selling band Scissor Sisters explores his evolution as a young artist: coming of age in the Pacific Northwest and Arizona, his entry into New York City’s electrifying, ever-changing music scene, and the Scissor Sisters’ rise as they reached international fame in the early 2000s.

Before hitting the stage as the lead singer of the iconic glam rock band Scissor Sisters, Jake Shears was Jason Sellards, a teenage boy in Arizona living a double life and unable to hide it any longer, resulting in a confusing and confining time in high school as his classmates bullied him and teachers showed little sympathy.

It wasn’t until years later, during a trip to visit a childhood friend in New York City, that Jake met a talented musician nicknamed Babydaddy—the stage name of Scott Hoffman. Jake had found a kindred spirit, someone thirsting for stardom and freedom. Their instant bond led them to form Scissor Sisters. First performing in the smoky gay nightclubs of New York City, then finding massive success in the United Kingdom, Scissor Sisters would become revered by the LGBTQ community, reach platinum status, and also win multiple accolades with hits like “Take Your Mama” and “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” as well as their cult-favorite cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

Candid and courageous, Shears’s writing sings with the same powerful, spirited presence that he brings to his live performances. Following his development from a misfit boy who grew to a dazzling rock star, this entertaining and evocative memoir will be an inspiration to anyone with determination and a dream.

In his memoir, Jake takes us from his childhood in Arizona and the Pacific Northwest, and in neither place did he fit in. He was too flamboyant, too out there, just too over the top. But he didn’t know how to be anything other than what he was. Gay, in a time and place that could get you ostracized and hurt.

The relationship with his mother was one of total acceptance. His father more stoic silence.

Trying to find his own identity and voice, he realizes he wants to sing. On stage. Be the center of attention, which he loves. When he moves to New York, his meeting with Babydaddy is pivotal and begins the formation of the band Scissor Sisters.

The beginning was pretty good. The description of the gay community as well as the Seattle music scene was very interesting. Then we got to the middle and I was really trying hard to step over the names being dropped.

I would have liked to know more about his depression and how the band wasn’t that huge in the U.S. and why.  Were there parts that were a little slow? Yes. Was the gratuitous name dropping necessary? Not that I could tell. I would read the first half again.

Netgalley/Atria  February 20, 2018