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Everything is Personal

Photograph of Julie Eakin After reviewing the contents of this issue in search of a recurrent theme in the books we’re featuring, it seems clear that it’s nearly impossible to do anything at all without personally investing yourself in the process.

Our profile of children’s publisher Barefoot Books reveals a unique business concept born of two mothers seeking to “nurture their [children’s] imaginations, introduce them to different cultures, and inspire their creativity.” Today that vision continues to resonate with like-minded families on two continents. Similarly, northern Michigan bookseller Pamela Grath, who contributed the current “Bookseller’s Corner” column, started out wanting to purge her own burgeoning collection. Nineteen years later, she’s the go-to source locally for new and old titles on the natural world. Among the business books reviewed in these pages is You According to Them: Uncovering the Blind Spots that Impact Your Reputation and Your Career. Business is personal.

It’s no surprise that our memoir feature should be filled with intimate accounts of people becoming who they are. But it’s especially noteworthy given the political subject matter. These important stories vary from those of Che Guevara’s wife, Aleida March, to the adolescent struggles of a Romanian dissident’s daughter and the decidedly nontransparent upbringing of a Greek mobster’s child. A trio of history books in the review section tracks various aspects of the Roosevelt men’s ascendancies, beginning with Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of a New Century, which situates its famous subjects’ politics in relation to the Industrial Revolution; On Dupont Circle: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Progressives Who Shaped Our World views several leading thinkers in FDR’s immediate geographical region; and Final Victory: FDR’s Extraordinary World War II Presidential Campaign discusses the human machinery necessary to have kept the ailing president’s personal health concerns secret from the country’s voters. History is personal.

While the old adage has it that we vote with our pocketbooks, a point I won’t argue, the current crop of books featured in our politics article proposes that our hearts are equally responsible for our commitments to public policies. The Reckless Presidency of George W. Bush, for instance, will incite passion based on its title alone, as will Nation of Cowards: Black Activism in Barack Obama’s Post-Racial America. Politics is personal.

Both fiction and nonfiction books about Alzheimer’s are increasingly plentiful of late. In this issue we spotlight the remarkable graphic novel Tangles: A Story About Alzhemier’s, My Mother, and Me, about which our reviewer says, “Visually [Leavitt] creates a growing sense of isolation, loss, and distance through restrained usage of silhouettes and brilliantly placed stretches of white space.” Remaking the page to convey a personal sentiment is also a hallmark of Israeli photographer and video artist Ori Gersht. Featured in our arts commentary, his tender yet unforgiving scenes of endangered places make clear why landscapes are often considered portraits. Landscapes and even white space are personal.

Rounding out our selection of over one hundred fascinating, personal stories is a children’s book in which a little girl ponders the concept of infinity. Infinity and Me traces Uma’s search for a way to connect to the world at large. An adaptation of her lesson is perhaps instructive: stories, it would seem, like concepts, aren’t real until they’re personal.

Julie Eakin

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