Teresa Radice and Stefano Turconi’s The Forbidden Harbor is an epic labor of love—and a classic story of love—told in graphic novel format.
The Forbidden Harbor is a book anchored in history. Although it is fiction, details of terminology, protocol, and appearance make its early nineteenth century nautical settings (including the port town of Plymouth, England, and the ships that dock there) utterly convincing. One of those ships, the HMS Explorer, rescues a boy, Abel, from a beach in Siam. He wakes with no memory of his past, the apparent survivor of a shipwreck. The mystery of his identity propels the plot in a number of unexpected ways.
Abel is just one of many characters with an important role in this engrossing story. It combines the action of Treasure Island or Patrick O’ Brian’s Master and Commander books with a Dickensian flair for the unexpected. Romance and the supernatural, plus a plethora of well-considered literary references alongside jaunty sea shanties, make The Forbidden Harbor a grand and satisfying tale on every level.
Turconi’s penciled art is an essential, organic part of the story, and the married authors demonstrate their seamless writer-artist partnership on every page with fully realized characters, even among bit players who only appear in a few scenes. The Forbidden Harbor is the result of thousands of work hours by two consummate professionals. More importantly, it’s that rare gift of a graphic novel that embeds itself in a reader’s memory, worthy of occupying permanent space in the mind and on the bookshelf.
PETER DABBENE (August 27, 2019)
Most human beings live with light pollution; in the US, 99 percent of people exist under blank skies, drenched in artificial light. But when you travel to dark sites, you “fill that blankness with the entire universe above you.” If seeing into infinity appeals to you, then Valerie Stimac’s Dark Skies is an ideal travel guide.
Stimac’s guide insists that the sky’s “magnificence can be even more overwhelming than terrestrial wonders.” Her recommendations begin at home, with observing constellations, the Milky Way, planets, and the Andromeda Galaxy on clear nights, and then skip between thirty-five designated dark sky sites around the world. Celestial phenomena, from the auroras to eclipses and meteor showers, are also a feature, as is a meditation on the future of space tourism.
In its presentations of dark sky parks and reserves where clear views of the night sky are consciously preserved, as well as places so far from civilization that light pollution is not an issue, the book also includes need–to-know information such as the best time of year to visit and the dates of the next major celestial events.
Bolivia boasts sunset and stargazing tours on its salt flats, and parks in Germany, Iceland, and Israel also make the list. If you’re visiting Warrumbungle National Park, choose a date in Australia’s spring to catch the wildflowers, too. Astrotourists will be interested in a section that focuses on observatories, gesturing toward Chile and stays in observatory-adjacent geodesic domes, and to the McDonald Observatory and its star parties in the West Texas mountains.
In holding up these distant and preserved places where it’s possible to be in touch with the stars much in the way that our ancestors were, Stimac encourages both exploration and a spirit of conservation. Her eyes-upward trip around the planet is an exercise in awe with an eye toward the future.
MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (August 27, 2019)
A Story About the Endless Potential in All of Us
Dream, discover, love, speak your mind, and above all follow your heart, encouraged by this collection of reveries exploring a myriad of beautiful what-ifs and maybes. Enchanting images play with scope and perspective in nature as a winsome figure in an avian-leaf hat and Mary Janes wanders and wonders. The book is a solid choice for children of any age who are in need of inspiration, encouragement, or a gentle reminder that anything is possible.
PALLAS GATES MCCORQUODALE (August 27, 2019)
Searching for Belonging and Home
Sonja Boon’s evocative, informative memoir What the Oceans Remember follows her research into her family’s history.
Invited to build her family tree, Boon was finally able to address longtime questions about her heritage, identity, and history. Although the family’s history spanned five continents, some parts of it proved easy enough to trace. However, neatly ordered names didn’t answer what Boon most wanted to know about her ancestors’ experiences and how much their lives informed her own, and so she went deeper, into archival research.
A detailed and enthralling account of finding ancestors amid archival files from around the world, the book establishes an emotional connection that spans centuries. Boon’s personal and family map includes Amsterdam and Paramaribo, England and India, and she recalls traveling to places where the pieces of her heritage puzzle waited in silence, connected by oceans said to remember the stories of those who crossed them, willing or not. Special attention is placed on ancestors who crossed the oceans as slaves or indentured workers, landing in Suriname, where Boon’s mother is from.
Family and heritage are the pillars for topics of colonialism and multiculturalism, which the book addresses through a combination of meticulous research and an empathetic perspective. Boon’s book strikes the perfect balance between fact and feeling. The almost romantic appeal of archives as holders of stories comes through with decisive clarity.
Boon’s writing elevates an already excellent book into a beautiful work of literature. Her language is precise and evocative, conjuring images of ocean voyages and sun-touched skin, deep longing, horrific suffering, and resilience against all odds.
Sonja Boon’s memoir What the Oceans Remember presents professionally conducted genealogical research tempered by emotion. It is an important book for anyone with an interest in colonialism, multiculturalism, and family as a social and emotional unit.
CAROLINA CIUCCI (August 27, 2019)
My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics
Rachael Denhollander was the first survivor to expose Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse and the last to give a victim impact statement regarding his serial molestation. Her What Is a Girl Worth? is a mature, resolute Christian memoir that lends vital perspective to abuse and institutional cover-ups.
Denhollander details her childhood and upbringing; her visits to a Michigan State University clinic as a teen; Nassar’s assaults at the clinic; and her road toward speaking out in 2016, months before the #MeToo movement gathered momentum.
The long term consequences of Nassar’s betrayal are drawn in a clear-eyed way. Denhollander’s pain balances with a tender portrait of her husband and family. Her intelligent reflections reveal a woman of faith who chose to sacrifice her privacy and to seek justice with love and determination that no child face the same pain. Separating her own future happiness and healing from the outcome of the trial, she presents peace as possible. Hers is a compelling viewpoint that isn’t imposed as a solution for all survivors.
Also an attorney, Denhollander elucidates the steps she took to bring her case to MSU police. From the first suspicion that Nassar’s treatments were anything but medical to his sentencing, the cruel realities of her survival thread with advocacy and everyday motherhood. Nassar is drawn as the thorough, renowned doctor, making his abuse even more chilling.
Treating a sensitive topic with unflinching truth, respect, and fair-mindedness, What Is a Girl Worth? fuses biblical notions with legal insights, personal journal entries, and heartbreaking data to make a lucid argument regarding the power of a single voice to inspire a chorus.
KAREN RIGBY (August 27, 2019)