Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: October 31-November 4, 2022

How We Live Is How We Die

Book Cover
Pema Chödrön
Shambhala Publications
Hardcover $24.95 (240pp)
978-1-61180-924-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

In How We Live Is How We Die, Pema Chödrön contemplates the spiritual, psychological, and physical aspects of death from a reasoned, resonant Buddhist perspective.

Chödrön is a teacher and a Buddhist nun. Now in her mid-eighties, she draws upon decades of study within Tibetan Buddhism to explore the recurring cycles of life and death. She cites the ancient Tibetan Book of the Dead as an integral guide to “optimize one’s chances for a peaceful death, a peaceful journey, and a favorable rebirth.”

Here, Bardos are introduced as representative of transitional states; among the book’s six bardos are the present, dying, and becoming. The bardo of dying involves a consciousness of impending death, until the final moment of existence. And in the bardo of becoming, “we make the transition to our next life.” Further, the realization that there are continuous bardos “because impermanence never takes a break” can enhance life’s natural flow, Chödrön says, and ease the passage toward death. Conversations begin and end; the weather changes from sun to rain; a meal is prepared and enjoyed. Furthermore, working to identify and neutralize toxic emotions, or kleshas, can transform the present and ready the soul for its next incarnation.

Throughout, death is recognized as being both unpredictable and inevitable. The book details the bodily aspects of dying, such as a final heaviness of the limbs, followed by intense thirst, chills, and a struggle to breathe. This gravity, however, is lightened by Chödrön’s tone of caring wisdom; she also relates distinct personal experiences that reinforce a sense of humanity, humor, and connection.

Instructive, compassionate, and welcoming, the spiritual text How We Live Is How We Die works to ease fearful attitudes toward death and improve people’s daily lives through spiritual renewal and release.

MEG NOLA (August 27, 2022)

Case Study

Book Cover
Graeme Macrae Burnet
Biblioasis
Softcover $18.95 (288pp)
978-1-77196-520-0
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A psychology enthusiast dives into writings by and about his favorite psychologist in Graeme Macrae Burnet’s literary novel Case Study.

Upon discovering that her sister had been seeing rogue psychologist Collins Braithwaite before committing suicide, a young woman, known as “Rebecca,” sets out to prove that he drove her sister to despair and is, therefore, a murderer. Her efforts consist of several sessions with Braithwaite where she spins yarns based on actual experiences, delving into her deepest secrets. She records these in her notebooks, which find their way to a distant cousin, who, in turn, passes them along to an author, initials GMB, with a known interest in all things Braithwaite.

The fictional author and Burnet share the same initials, which should be a clue as to how close the book will come to breaking the fourth wall. It is a small detail, overlooked and forgotten as the recollections within the notebooks unfold. Until the narrative changes. The chapters alternate between Rebecca’s notebooks and a biography of Braithwaite, following him from childhood through his dissolute adulthood. Rebecca’s personal explorations of her innermost thoughts and suppressed experiences, spurred by her conversations with Braithwaite, contrast with Braithwaite’s depersonalized biography. Even so, they are complementary, one offering insight into the other.

Braithwaite’s biographical information is detailed, including the moment he developed an interest in psychology and his therapeutic approach. Of particular interest is his writing career, which is where Rebecca begins her research and comes to her initial conclusion. The meticulous attention to the contents of Braithwaite’s books calls their actual existence into question. The matryoshka-style layering of narratives, each dependent on the other, is engaging and disorienting.

Case Study is an immersive novel that stretches its fiction to fact-like proportions.

DONTANá MCPHERSON-JOSEPH (October 27, 2022)

Mending the Moon

Book Cover
Emma Pearl
Sara Ugolotti, illustrator
Page Street Kids
Hardcover $18.99 (32pp)
978-1-64567-560-0
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

One night, the moon crashes to Earth, shattering into pieces across the mountain where Luna and Poppa live. With the help of the forest animals—and a few far-flung birds—Luna and Poppa repair the moon, leaving their mark before returning it to the sky. Whimsical illustrations use detailed lines and splatters of color to display darkened night skies, wildflower-streaked woods, and glowing moon shards in this magical story reminiscent of beloved folk tales.

DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (October 27, 2022)

Chingona

Owning Your Inner Badass for Healing and Justice

Book Cover
Alma Zaragoza-Petty
Broadleaf Books
Hardcover $27.99 (195pp)
978-1-5064-8318-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In Chingona, Alma Zaragoza-Petty’s life story intertwines with compelling advice that strikes at the heart of Latina women’s needs to claim the strongest parts of their identities.

In her childhood, Zaragoza-Petty was often called a “chingona,” or an unruly, rebellious girl. It was an undesirable box to be put in. But as she grew up—succeeding in school and becoming not only the first in her family to graduate high school but also the first to attend college and earn a PhD— she realized that being a chingona was her greatest asset. Her book is a manifesto, both an analysis and a public service announcement about American culture and its pressures on women of color to assimilate despite feeling unwanted and undervalued.

The narrative merges elements of a memoir with those of a self-help manual, isolating significant moments from Zaragoza-Petty’s life and extrapolating powerful meanings that are applicable to all. This work is vulnerable, and its unflinching rawness makes it inspiring and authentic. Stories of Zaragoza-Petty’s international separation from her mother in her youth, teenage gang activity, and disjuncture from herself to fit in with the white American workplace are a moving rallying cry against the fear of not belonging.

The book’s assertive language pulses with honesty and authority, urging women of color to stop being complicit in society’s expectations for them. Intellectual analyses delve into how living in the contexts of culture and family result in strains, but also offer opportunities to subvert historical attitudes. There are poignant arguments for assessing “what we are being socialized into” and redefining ourselves for the future.

In telling her own story, Alma Zaragoza-Petty energizes others to own, celebrate, and embody the truths of their own personalities, histories, and beliefs.

AIMEE JODOIN (October 27, 2022)

Battle at Cobán Rock

Mezo: Volume 2

Book Cover
Tyler Chin-Tanner
Val Rodrigues, illustrator
Gab Contreras, illustrator
Varga Tomi, illustrator
A Wave Blue World
Softcover $19.99 (152pp)
978-1-949518-19-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Brave tribal members battle religious warriors who are bent on exterminating those who don’t follow their god in the Mesoamerican-inspired fantasy graphic novel Battle at Cobán Rock.

A large cast of characters populates this world, including Kyma, who seeks an alliance with her estranged mother and her tribe of warriors. Kyma believes that such a partnership is the only way to defeat the Tzalekuhl Empire, which seeks to eliminate anyone who doesn’t convert to its religion. Incredible creatures and magic play important roles; and an impending eclipse has serious implications, unless the missing pieces of a celestial seed are found and brought together.

This vibrant world with Mesoamerican influences features Mayan- and Aztec-inspired architecture, clothing, and sports, all incorporated as parts of a larger imaginative landscape. People on all sides of the narrative have rich backstories and a variety of perspectives on the unfolding events. Drama permeates the book as questions of loyalty and betrayal are cast alongside the complications of family, friendships, and religion.

The full-color artwork is outstanding, featuring lush landscapes, dynamic action, and attention to details. Large-scale battles are crucial to the story, filling more than half of the book, and they are delivered in an intense, compelling visual language.

Battle at Coban Rock blends historical and fantastical elements into its rousing, satisfying graphic novel adventure.

PETER DABBENE (October 27, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

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