A young woman figures out how to belong in Kyle Lucia Wu’s novel Win Me Something.
Willa isn’t passionate about being a nanny, but it beats working at another coffee shop. Her latest charge is Bijou, a precocious nine-year-old next to whom Willa feels inadequate. As Willa navigates this new world of privilege, feelings about her own childhood float to the surface, pushing her toward a reckoning with her past—and into possible futures.
In Willa’s eyes, Bijou’s family is light years away from her own: well off, whereas hers is working class; attentive, whereas hers is neglectful and absent; devoted to Bijou, whereas Willa’s divorced parents are preoccupied with their younger children. Adding to Willa’s sense of disconnect is her ethnicity: she is half Asian and half white, which prompts confusion and nosy, insensitive questions from strangers who think that they are entitled to her life story. The contrast between her current life and her childhood is made plain through painful, lonely flashbacks. It is also implied in Willa’s reactions to events that, for anyone else, would be ordinary.
Willa is a compelling but unreliable narrator: there is much more to Bijou’s family than she is ever aware of. Her desire to belong—such a human instinct—makes her relatable, as do her occasional, mild indiscretions, such as sneaking into her boss’s room to try on make-up. She spends so long wondering why she doesn’t fit in that she never thinks about how her own actions might contribute to her present situation. That realization, as late as it comes, may allow her to find a place for herself at last.
Win Me Something is a wistful novel about how much effort it can take to find and settle into your place in the world.
EILEEN GONZALEZ (October 27, 2021)
How to Work for Change without Losing Your Joy
Karen Walrond’s The Lightmaker’s Manifesto issues a rousing call to get involved in changing the world without destroying one’s self.
Concerned with selflessness and sacrifice, this book also emphasizes self-care, which is vital both to individuals and to the world. It works to help its audience find causes that truly stir them—and to develop practices to help them flourish in their work for the long haul. It focuses on joy—both what brings joy to people, and the joy that they, in turn, derive from their activism. Its concerns are internal and emotional—heart-based, rather than concerned with mere ideals about doing what’s right. From this deep-rooted place, the book suggests ways of identifying and developing one’s gifts and skills.
Walrond also encourages her audience to see how their work impacts the causes they care about. Her inside-out approach stands to be life-giving, and to result in long-lasting success. Her whole-person view leads to the naming of self-care practices that are grouped under the Wholebeing Institute’s acronym SPIRE (spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational, and emotional), and that also emphasize the importance of having community for one’s well-being and impact.
The book’s prominent personal narratives include Walrond’s stories and those of other change makers whom she’s encountered. They are vibrant, relatable, and inspiring, and Walrond unpacks the values, implications, and themes of each well. Her work concludes with stirring mantras for encouragement, including “I listen” and “I honor my own inner wisdom,” complemented by a practical manual for putting the book’s self-care strategies into practice. Prompts for journaling and identifying personal values, and charts to track SPIRE self-care practices, are included.
The Lightmaker’s Manifesto is a self-care guidebook designed to bring light to change makers and, by extension, the world.
MELISSA WUSKE (October 27, 2021)
How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World
Jeff Fleischer’s A Hot Mess is a substantial, science-based guide that explains climate change through history, its deniers, and the current evidence, all in a candid, accessible format that invites young people to take action.
With a journalist’s knack for finding the human angle behind compelling issues, Fleischer begins with the Tuvalu Islanders, whose livelihoods are threatened by rising sea levels, and whose story is a signpost of the climate crisis. This dynamic introduction illuminates how the “worst-case forecasts” have already arrived, setting the stage for a skillful blend of honed facts and historical overviews, from industrialization to modern politics and its too-frequent deference to energy companies. The result is an incisive portrait of how people arrived at a pivotal moment.
The chapters cover basic terminology, such as the difference between weather and climate; the effects of droughts, wildfire devastation, rising sea levels, and glacier melts; and the fallout on the animal world, including coral bleaching. References to extreme weather events in the recent past build a convincing message about climate change’s pervasiveness, while crisp sidebars enrich the subject. It’s the powerful section on the humanitarian crisis and climate refugees, though, that’s most urgent, as it’s here that the impact of wealthier nations’ choices comes to roost.
Without downplaying consequences of people’s actions, the book’s tone is cautionary, yet not defeating. It addresses the mistaken belief that it’s too late with the apt, practical message that even if that’s true about certain problems, “that’s no reason not to try stopping” elsewhere, since “we have to live with the outcome either way.” Suggestions for concrete actions to reduce carbon footprints and useful resources conclude the book.
A Hot Mess is an unvarnished introduction to climate change that’s refreshing about sharing the supporting science.
KAREN RIGBY (October 27, 2021)
Primary colors pop in this celebratory picture book about supporting children’s senses of being. Frankie couldn’t be more excited for her garden party, where there will be pickles, and jelly beans, and decorations galore. But her mom picked out three dresses for her to wear, and none suit her spectacular expectations. She wants to wear something marvelous: “with lightning bolts and stars and style.” She has little hope that such an outfit exists, but with help from her family, her dream is achieved!
MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (October 27, 2021)
Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen
Suitable for Jewish audiences at all levels of observance and culinary skill, Faith Kramer’s 52 Shabbats is an informative, treat-laden cookbook full of ideas for those who want to set their weekly holiday tables in style.
Honoring traditional tastes and suggesting delectable twists on family favorites, Kramer’s smart and seasonal cookbook introduces enough recipes to feed its audience well throughout the year, beginning in the fall, with Rosh Hashanah. Each section is preceded by an introduction to the Jewish holidays that fall in the period in question.
Though the book includes instructions for classics like tzimmes, hummus, latkes, and challah, it prioritizes fusion dishes that highlight the worldwide spread of the Jewish community. Recipes for dishes like Brisket Fried Rice, Matzo Ball and Pozole Chicken Soup, and Winter Borscht with Lamb are accompanied by boxes explaining where they might fit in a Friday night meal; their instructions are clear. Periodic explanations of the meanings of single ingredients within Jewish traditions, as with the place of fish in Ashkenazi and Mizrahi cuisine or the symbolism of carrots, are edifying additions.
Kramer is a thoughtful guide who makes sure to drop recommendations for those who need to prepare their meals ahead of Shabbat, or who may want to substitute ingredients to guarantee a kashrut flow to their dishes (she reminds her audience early on that meat and dairy don’t mix, for example; and dishes that can easily be made vegan or vegetarian are noted as such). In this way, and because of the appealing, rich nature of the dishes themselves, her “food becomes almost a form of prayer.”
Kramer knows that “the main ingredient of a Friday night dinner menu is intention … As long as you have that, you have Shabbat.” Her educational and tantalizing cookbook is the perfect aid for creating such spaces in one’s own kitchen.
MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (October 27, 2021)