Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

lab-girl

Adult Biography

Hope wants to be a scientist, a field that makes it hard for women to do so. She succeeds despite overwhelming odds and becomes a biologist with her own lab. Her voice is quirky, witty and acerbic. (Submitted by Sharleen)

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The Dead Zone by Stephen King

deadzoneI came across Stephen King’s 1979 book The Dead Zone by happy accident when I had nothing to read. Though I have read many King novels, I somehow hadn’t heard of this one before, and the story piqued my interest: young Johnny Smith awakens from a five year long coma to find the world a changed place. His beloved fiancée has moved on to another man and now has two children; his ultra-religious mother has lost her mind; and his body needs extensive surgical repair if he ever wants to walk again. Johnny’s once promising teaching career is in question, and on top of all of this, he seems to have developed a supernatural power of precognition in connection with his brain injury. This ability is a blessing and a curse to Johnny: he is able to help loved ones avoid misfortune, but he also sees terrifying flashes into the depraved mind of an active serial killer who has been terrifying the New England area for years. Johnny’s unwanted new ability does not go unnoticed: it attracts the vulture-like attention of reporters and scammers looking to make a quick buck. While he mourns the loss of his old life and longs for solitude in rural Maine, the growing number of women falling victim to the serial killer and the strengthening connection force Johnny to use his new power for good. Johnny has another connection to a force even more sinister than the killer: a local politician with the darkest of intentions. I couldn’t put this book down. Though I had never heard of it before, it will remain one of my favorite Stephen King books from here on out. It was thrilling as well as deeply moving. I’d definitely recommend this on a chilly fall weekend! (Submitted by Mandi)

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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

american marriage“Until Death Do Us Part” or… until jail sets us apart – that’s a focal point of this well written, discussion-stirring novel by Tayari Jones. Celestial and Roy are a married couple, just one year into their love-filled relationship, doing well financially, planning for a child – when something unexpected happens and overturns their lives, sending Roy to prison for 12 years. Now, Celestial is at the cross roads and it seems like no matter what she chooses there is no joyful solution for either her or Roy. The first half of the book just zoomed by me; it was easy flowing and intriguing. The second half did slow down a bit, but it was still very good. The book touches on multiple subject matters including: racism, injustice, love & friendship, obligations, search for happiness. A good book for a book club discussion – evokes various feelings and opinions. (Submitted by Mariya)

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Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace

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I’ve read a few biographies by or about musicians but this one was the most passionate, honest, but brutal in its way, so far. The title pretty much says it all; Laura Jane Grace started life as Tom Gabel, became involved in the punk music scene as a teenager and eventually fronted a punk band called Against Me! What I learned in between those 3 points is the struggle someone goes through when they feel like they aren’t who they are supposed to be and how self-destructive that feeling can make you all the while trying to live, work, create music, and to love. Reading about what Tom did to himself was tough, but I’ve never been close to anyone who has struggled with their identity like this, but it all felt very honest and upfront and I wanted to know how Laura Jane made it work. The book touched on her new life but I’m hoping she has the courage to tell us more in the future. (Submitted by Renee)

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Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan

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I can’t remember why I placed a hold on Tell Me More, but I’m happy that I did. On the dust jacket it cites the Huffington Post, who call her “the poet laureate of the ordinary.” This book evoked all sorts of responses from me; I laughed, I cried, I sent photos of passages to friends. It was the recounting of experiences in life that provide suggestions about how to handle heartbreaks and joys that a reader might encounter in their own life. I plan to re-visit it. (Submitted by J.Wilson)

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The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris

deepest wellThere are many facets to stories of childhood trauma, and many layers. As we see in Nadine Burke Harris book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, trauma is no stranger to anyone: if we haven’t experienced ourselves, we know a loved one who has had experience with or witnessed it. When I read this book, I could not help but think of the children who are now separated from their parents at the borders and of children fleeing Syria. There are many places where trauma is a fact of life, and the inner city can be one of them.  WHO recognizes that social conditions are important factors in health, and the all contribute to our total health. Nadine Burke Harris’ in The Deepest Well, gives a gripping account of her exploration of the link between adverse childhood experience or (ACE) and toxic stress. She is a social innovator in public health and serves a vibrant community, in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point (BHP). She describes the challenges she faced personally and professionally when she opened the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) as well as her attempts to have ACE and toxic stress, recognized as serious issue in children’s health, which included getting pediatricians to use screening protocols for ACE in pediatric assessments.

Burke Harris, a pediatrician with a Master’s in Public Health, writes with compassion and balance about connecting the stress of her patients with their emotional and physical well-being. When offering free pediatric care to children via her clinic, CYW, in BHP, an area that is on the extreme end of San Francisco’s social and economic inequality, Burke Harris saw clear relationships between the trauma that the community’s children experienced and their emotional and physical health. Toxic stress can, and often does, manifest itself in disease and poor health. Her examination discusses how poverty in the inner city can result in greater incidence of poor health with difficult living conditions, more exposure to violence, and untreated mental illness. While San Francisco’s median income was above $100,000 in 2016, City-Data shows that 31% of residents of Bayview Hunters Point live below the poverty line as of the last U.S. Census.

Poverty contributes to trauma, but Burke Harris reminds her audiences that trauma crosses all socio-economic boundaries. She tells us not only the stories of the children that she treated, and still treats, at the BHP Center, but also about her personal journey of trauma. Trauma does not stop in the wealthier neighborhoods. Helping overcome childhood trauma depends on your caregiver. There are engaged and nurturing caregivers in every community, just as there are neglectful caregivers in any community; however, if you live in inner city poverty, your chance of seeing violence randomly outside the home is likely. In one of Burke Harris’ case studies, a teenage boy, recovering well from childhood abuse, sees his best friend is killed on the street in front of him. Understandably, this incident is a setback for his health. The children Burke-Harris treated suffer from multiple adverse reactions, and have debilitating physical and psychological challenges ranging from asthma, obesity, failure to thrive, to stunted growth.

Although Burke-Harris’ accounts of traumatic experience can be shattering, such as the boy who stopped growing at age four when he trauma is exclusive to inner city poverty.  Burke Harris reminds her audience repeatedly that toxic stress is an issue in any income bracket. Bringing this to a wider audience, Burke Harris shows us that society suffers when it ignores childhood trauma.

Thankfully, something can be done to help children (and adults) suffering from toxic stress. In fact, according to Burke Harris, part of the antidote to toxic stress is truly integrated health treatment including a combination of healthy relationships, counselling, meditation, exercise, and nutrition. The  caregiver and their response to trauma play a huge role, but, sadly for those in underserved areas, so do  the resources available to the child.

Though the subject matter is tough, the book and its author are inspiring, positive and passionate. This title comes as a hardcopy, eBook and is also available as an audiobook narrated by the author, which I highly recommend.

Watch Dr. Nadine Burke Harris here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95ovIJ3dsNk or find her book at your local library in audio, eBook or hardcopy: Burke Harris, Nadine. (2018) The deepest well: Dealing with the long-term effects of childhood adversity. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

(Submitted by J.Wile)

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

 

 immortalistsHow would your life change if you knew the date on which you will die?  This is the premise of Chloe Benjamin’s novel, The Immortalists.  It follows the lives of the Gold Family from 1960’s New York City to San Francisco in the 1980’s, Vegas in the ‘90s, to the present day in Upstate New York, and everything in between.  The trajectory of the lives of the Gold siblings is permanently altered when they meet a psychic who reveals to each of them the date they will die.  Benjamin takes us along for the ride as they grow from curious and innocent children in the summer of 1969, to adults with full and complex lives.  One by one, we discover how their lives unfold, and how knowing when the end will come both burdens and frees them in unimaginable ways.  Benjamin tackles the question of fate with clarity and heart, and I highly recommend The Immortalists for fans of thought-provoking, sweeping family sagas. (Submitted by Sarah J.)

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