From the Necrocene to the Beloved Community
John P. Clark’s Between Earth and Empire is an expansive work that considers the broad and chilling consequences of ecological disaster.
The Earth is in such dire straits that Clark labels the present “the Necrocene,” or “the new era of death.” In his view, ecological damage was inflicted by the “Empire,” or human nations and societies. These dark concepts underpin his essays, which tackle topics including ecological crisis, the struggles of Indigenous peoples, the “commodity economy,” and societal ills.
One of the book’s more powerful examples is the lasting impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans coupled with the city’s fragility. In one essay, instead of recounting the immediate effects of the storm, Clark dissects the post-Katrina environment. He notes that the “official story” of the city’s resilience, as told by politicians, masks realities around the difficulties of recovery. According to Clark, “Many have not come back to New Orleans because of lack of opportunities locally and because the dominant model of redevelopment has created obstacles to their return.” In a subsequent essay, Clark writes that New Orleans represents “an apocalyptic city” because of its very impermanence. In fact, he believes “it is inevitable…that New Orleans will meet its final apocalyptic fate before long.”
Clark’s other essays, whether they concentrate on the plight of New Guinea natives or the communal legacy of Oakland’s Black Panthers, are equally powerful, perceptive, and at times startling. The book is breathtaking in breadth, but there is a singular message: while humans brought the Earth to the brink, there remains hope that the planet and its creatures will be able to reassert themselves. May Clark’s sobering assessment of the current state of humanity’s relationship to the world be taken to heart.
BARRY SILVERSTEIN (June 26, 2019)
The Teen Titans’ resident mystery girl goes solo in Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo’s graphic novel Teen Titans: Raven.
The latest in DC Ink’s line of young adult graphic novels focuses on Raven, a super-powered heroine best known as a cloaked and hooded member of the Teen Titans. Here, Garcia takes elements of Raven’s long-established origin story and adds new situations and details, setting her in New Orleans as Rachel Roth, the survivor of the car accident that killed her mother.
Rachel has a limited memory of who she was before the accident, but as she begins a new life with her aunt and foster sister, clues begin to present themselves. Rachel hears people’s thoughts, sees things that aren’t there, and develops powers of telekinesis. Things come to a head at the prom, where her demon father Trigon appears to claim her, voodoo magic aids in her defense, and a mysterious masked figure appears, claiming knowledge of how to stop Trigon.
Garcia brings Rachel to life as a kid drawn to darkness—Bram Stoker’s Dracula figures prominently—who’s also trying to figure out typical adolescent stuff, like her feelings about a certain boy. The book’s colors are muted, with a limited color palette of black, white, gray, and shades of red and purple—enough to set the book’s mood and give Picolo’s art a bit more kick than standard black and white would have provided. Relatable to its intended modern audience but true to the spirit of the character, Teen Titans: Raven is a refreshing and entertaining take on teen heroism that builds a solid foundation for future stories.
PETER DABBENE (June 26, 2019)
When partnering up in math class leaves Adelaide the odd one out, she is happy to rely on Bear to complete her twosome. He looks cozy in his knit, math-themed sweater, and it becomes apparent that bears are superior at sorting, sums, counting, and calculations. Through this engaging companion to Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies, students will clamor to find their very own buddies, perhaps even learning a bit about applying mathematical concepts along the way.
PALLAS GATES MCCORQUODALE (June 26, 2019)
As satisfying as it is suspenseful, Natalie Murray’s Emmie and the Tudor King presents itself as a young adult romance and tiptoes into mystery and action genres, too.
When eighteen-year-old Emmeline Grace is assigned to write a history report on the notorious King Nicholas Tudor, she wants nothing more than a (hopefully) passing grade so that she’ll be accepted into her dream design college and can pursue her passion for jewelry making. A strange neighbor, a yard sale, and a beautiful blue diamond ring have other plans for strong-willed Emmie.
Suddenly finding herself imprisoned in sixteenth century England, Emmie realizes that the mysterious ring holds the key to her time traveling. All she has to do is regain possession of it. The only problem is that its owner—the one and only King Nicholas—is not known for playing nice. It seems that he’s captured her heart right along with her only means of returning home.
A tale of two teens torn between desire and duty, Murray’s novel is rich with raw emotion and timeless ideals of sacrifice and loyalty. Fast-paced and intriguing, the book sometimes borders on rushed, while its slower, more intimate scenes stir up sympathy for the lovers’ dilemma.
A cast of colorful characters includes a sweet friend, Alice, and adorable Princess Kit. They are crafted with care, relatable both in their strengths and their weaknesses. Nicholas’s fierce loyalty to his sister is an underlying cause of his temper; this raises age-old questions about identity and destiny. Spirited heroine Emmie wrestles with pursuing what she really values and risking everyone she cares about.
From prison beds to palace ballrooms, Emmie and the Tudor King is an inspiring young adult romance. More than just another tearjerker, it is a tale of hardship, second chances, and the power to change.
VIVIAN TURNBULL (June 7, 2019)
Tara Johnson’s Christian romance Where Dandelions Bloom places a strong heroine at the center of the Civil War.
In 1861, sixteen-year-old Cassie is desperate to avoid the loveless marriage arranged by her drunken father, so she poses as a boy and joins the Union army. At the same time, Gabe, a young photographer, lands an assignment creating a visual record of the Civil War. Gabe is embedded with Cassie’s unit, and the two become friends, though Cassie hides her true identity.
The story is dominated by Cassie, a strong and convincing heroine who’s determined to fulfill her duties as well as a man would. Gabe is bland for a romantic lead, prone to tepid introspection. Cassie’s first flicker of attraction to Gabe feels more like danger than romance, a yearning that could expose her, and indeed Gabe feels tricked when he discovers Cassie’s femininity.
The first half of the book is powered by suspense over whether or not Cassie will be found out, and battle scenes amplify its settings. Cassie and Gabe are brought together by the book’s midpoint, after which the book struggles to keep their relationship unresolved. The book is clearly headed for a happy ending, so suspense is sometimes hard to come by, though at one point Cassie rescues wounded and unconscious Gabe, and her stint as a spy behind rebel lines is dramatic.
In the slower moments of the book, scenes are glowing and surprising, as when rebel prisoners who sing “Dixie” in defiance are drowned out by the mournful beauty of black troops singing “Oh, Freedom,” and the book’s imaginative epilogue is fulfilling. Subtle messages about the power and necessity of forgiveness weave in.
Where Dandelions Bloom is a refreshing historical romance with surprising takes on gender roles.
SUSAN WAGGONER (June 26, 2019)