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Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss

Anita Heiss compiled these 50 short pieces by Aboriginal people in Australia and has gathered a pleasingly varied anthology of voices. I read that some of the stories are by well-known figures, but they were all unknown to me. Some were successful in sports, some are musicians, some were quite young. I loved them all and grew addicted to the six readers. Many spoke of their parents’...

Spies by Michael Frayn

When I recently read A Life of My Own by Claire Tomlin, I learned that she is married to Michael Frayn. I so admired his book Headlong, I was moved to read this one. I was surprised by how disconcerted I was by this book, as I was expecting a light-hearted romp involving young boys playing spy games during wartime. The narrator begins the tale by describing the sensation he has each spring when...

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

It’s the time of year for beach reads and this book qualifies as pleasingly as you could imagine. I’ve had hours of happy entertainment as I weeded, cooked, and cleaned. Not exactly the beach, but there it is. The multi-generational story is set on a fictional island off the coast of Sicily and begins around the turn of the 20th century. The characters abound:  the doctor who began...

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

This short book came out of a series of interviews Hurston had done as an anthropology student several years before she wrote the book in 1931. She interviewed a man brought to the US on the last ship importing enslaved men and women which had been illegal for 50 years by that time. The account of her conversations with Cudjo Lewis about his life in Africa, his time as an enslaved person, and his...

A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin

What a wonderful book this has been. Claire Tomalin is a British biographer of such august and challenging subjects as Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, and Jane Austen. Now in her 80s she undertook her own biography and seems to have applied the skills and thoroughness to her own life as to her other subjects. And fortunately her life has been biography-worthy. Her early life was affected by her...

The Parade by Dave Eggers

Dorothy described this short book as having a twist at the end.  As I listened, I developed several speculations for what that twist might be, making this a fun book for me. Otherwise, it is a pretty odd one. Two men are given the task by their company to surface an already created roadbed in an anonymous country just emerging from 10 years of civil war. The company had countless rules for...

Books to Read

List of the 50 best memoirs of the past 50 years from the NYT. Nice to see Amos Oz, Barack Obama, Clive James, and some other beloved books there. And some good ones to read like All God’s Dangers:  The Life of Nate Shaw by Theodore Rosengarten and Te Nahisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Stories of Perth by Alice Grundy on kindle. Reading Matters. CJ Hauser, Family of Origin. NPR...

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This polemic against intolerance toward gay men, is vehement about the church in Ireland. It begins with the day the narrator’s 16 year old mother was denounced by the priest from the pulpit in a village in the west of Ireland because she was pregnant. Not only was she denounced as a whore, she was driven from the village that same day by the priest who himself fathered two children. Her...

Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park

It was Reading Matters’ announcement that it won the 2019 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year that took me to this book. I had read Park’s book The Light of Amsterdam in 2012 and greatly admired it and now I want to read his other books. The tone of this short book is claustrophobic:  a man named Tom set out to pick up his son from college after a snowstorm that closed the airports...

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Well, this one is going on my best-of-the-year list for sure. I can’t decide whether it’s best described as a fairy tale or as operatic. The story by Dalton, a newspaper crime writer, was inspired by his beloved mother and stepfather who dealt heroin, by his 70-something convicted murderer babysitter, and by his severely alcoholic father. My question is how it is that these folks inspired such a...

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