AuthorCharlotte Self

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

A memoir by the eminent scholar who wrote so impressively about the Hemings family of Monticello is not to be missed. The importance of Juneteenth made it especially appealing to me because a beloved professor I knew organized a Juneteenth celebration every year at our local community college. Gordon-Reed admits to having felt some resentment when celebrations of Juneteenth outside Texas began to...

Monogamy by Sue Miller

This is a close examination of an unusual marriage and those tangentially connected to it. It was billed as the story of a widow who learns that her husband had been unfaithful, so I was surprised to find that I was more than half way through before Annie made her discovery. Besides the chief couple, Graham and Annie, there are other fully active characters. Most important of these is Frieda...

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

I was thunderstruck by this wonderful book and have listened to it again. It was a finalist for the National Book Award. Philyaw brings you into the intimacies of the lives of these black women with just a few words and uses a variety of storytelling approaches to do so. Some are first person narratives. In “Eula” the narrator Caroletta tells of her long-time friendship with Eula...

Tangled Up in Blue by Rosa Brooks

Rosa Brooks is the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, the political activist who wrote Nickled and Dimed. Brooks was unable to explain to her mother, her fellow law professors at Georgetown University, and her friends why she became a part-time volunteer police officer in Washington. If she had told them she wanted to write a book about her experience, they would have understood, but that was not...

The Performance by Claire Thomas

This one will be nominated to my list of favorites for the year. For the duration of the performance of the absurdist play “Happy Days” by Samuel Becket we get to know three women. It begins as one of the women is being seated and ends as the women make their way to the parking lot after the play. Somehow within these limits, a novel emerged with characters we come to know well along...

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Finally I’ve listened to this book–it’s been on my list for years, but I was hesitant to take on the 35-hour audiobook commitment. It has been a pleasing undertaking, so many dishes washed and weeds pulled while I heard about Dorothea and her misguided marriage to the dreadful Mr. Casuabon, Mr. Lydgate and his hopes to be a worthy medical man, the beautiful and willful Rosamond...

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey was the US Poet Laureate in 2012 and 2013; this book is a memoir that tells of her connection with her mother who was killed when Trethewey was 19. Gwendolyn Grimmette was killed by her second ex-husband (not Trethewey’s father). For the ten years Joel Grimmette was in their lives, he beat her mother and though he tormented Trethewey, there was no mention of physical abuse...

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession

Leonard and Hungry Paul are two 30-something friends who lead quiet and largely contented lives.  Leonard works as a writer for children’s encyclopedias and is diligent and careful in his work. His mother has recently died; his social time is spent largely with his friend playing Monopoly one evening each week. Hungry Paul lives with his parents and works for the post office only on days...

A Million Aunties by Alecia McKenzie

I think it was the New York Times review that took me to this book. It was pleasant to be transported to Jamaica where we meet the loving Auntie Della. Christopher, a young artist recently bereaved was sent to her by his agent Stephen who had been plucked out of an orphanage by her when he was young. With her healing care, especially those hearty breakfasts, Christopher broadens his  horizon to...

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

What a wonderful book–I love an author who came make me fall for an old drunk called Sportcoat. The book is set in 1969 in Brooklyn around projects called the Cause Houses when drugs had become a significant business. The story begins with Sportcoat shooting a young smart drug dealer that he had taught to play baseball and had cared for in church. And, oh yes, Sportcoat is a Deacon in the...

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