Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tolog Review: Stealing Heaven

Stealing Heaven

by Elizabeth Scott
reviewed by Natalie Niu, class of 2015

This is an amazing and impressive book, which depicts an 18 years old girl’s struggle to let go of her former, dangerous life that her family established for her. Instead of being a normal, happy girl as other do, Daniel is a thief and all she pursuits are silver. The most surprising things I first read was about her mom. Her mom has been raised her that way, with not education, no future, only a life of deception and thievery. Since her father in jail and her mom is becoming more and more obsessed with stealing, Daniel gradually grows disenchanted with her current lifestyle. However, she cannot abandon her mom. It made me even more curious about what things will save Daniel from this dangerous situation. The change comes when they arrive in a beach town Heaven. She feels the human connection in there as she made two friends. She longs for that human connection because she has never get to know about the world around her since she starts being a thief when she is little. Then she starts to recognize the choice she has to make—go back to the life she’s always known, or choose a life that she’s always expecting secretly. Besides the story, Daniel is a really wonderful, cute character for me. Even though at the beginning it was hard to believe a 18-years old girl being a thief, however, I changed my views on her after reading more about the story. She’s always been a quiet and mysterious girl who secretly dreams of having friends, longs for human connections. This lukewarm novel is really impressive and deals with some very teenage girl problem. I believe this book can be very inspiring and amazing for any teenage girls! I highly recommend you to read it. 

A New (Better?) Way to Think About College

College Guide

2013 Table of Contents

Welcome to the Washington Monthly College Guide and Rankings. UnlikeU.S. News and World Report and similar guides, this one asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. Are they educating low-income students, or just catering to the affluent? Are they improving the quality of their teaching, or ducking accountability for it? Are they trying to become more productive—and if so, why is average tuition rising faster than health care costs? Every year we lavish billions of tax dollars and other public benefits on institutions of higher learning. This guide asks: Are we getting the most for our money?

We designed the Washington Monthly college rankings to embody the American higher education compact at the institutional level. Instead of lauding colleges for closing their doors to all but an elite few, we give high marks to institutions that enroll low-income students, help them graduate, and don’t charge them an arm and a leg to attend. Universities that bring in research dollars are rewarded by our standards, as are those whose undergraduates go on to earn PhDs. And we recognize institutions that are committed to public service, both in the way they teach and in encouraging students to enter service-focused careers.

Our rankings aim to identify institutions that are acting on behalf of the true public interest. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tolog Review: Mayflower

by Nathaniel Philbrick
reviewed by Claire Ruder, class of 2015

 "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick, is a historical novel that gives an in-depth look at the life of the newly-settled Pilgrims in the New World. The writing style of the book really separates it from other historical non-fiction novels, because Philbrick doesn't just give data and details about events, he connects these historical events to personal primary documents like letters and diaries to give the reader an image of the relationships between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, as well as the personal motives and insights to the reactions of both sides. The Native Americans and Pilgrims have a very tumultuous and untrusting relationship from the start, filled with misunderstandings from both ends of their rivalry. They lead to many conflicts and even some alliances, as the Pilgrims struggle to maintain a foot-hold in the New World.
I found the novel to be very engaging, especially during the battle descriptions. Philbrick found a way to explain these wars and skirmishes strategically while still implicating the emotions of both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans and evoking suspense within the reader. I was also pleased by the neutrality of "Mayflower". It is often assumed that historical accounts are told with out bias, but there is always more than one perspective, and that of the Native Americans has often been left out in a lot of retellings of the settling of the New World. The Pilgrims are portrayed as manipulative, violent, and even cruel at times, giving the reader of this book a very naked look into life as a settler during the 17th century. Overall, "Mayflower" is a very informative and enjoyable read, giving its audience seldom-known details and new perspectives to a commonly told chapter in the history of America. This book would appeal to those who enjoy history and books like "The Diary of Anne Frank".

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

As we head into the holiday break...

Andy Warner’s comic journalism has been published by Symbolia, Slate,, American Public Media, Campus Progress and more. You can see more of his work at: and
see original post at KQED

Tolog Review: The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic
Julie Otsuka
reviewed by Marika Munday, class of 2015

The Buddha in the Attic, a national bestseller written by Julie Otsuka, is a story about Japanese mail order wives immigrating to America in the early 1900s. The novel follows the women through their journey to San Francisco and the hardships they face once they arrive. Otsuka divided the book into eight sections (chapters) about the women’s lives once they depart from their homeland. By Otsuka breaking the book up into eight different sections resulted in a clear, chronological style. The writing style of the novel, as opposed to other books broken up into many chapters, is favorable to me because the information in each section was specific to the title of it, which allowed for a straightforward recitation of the women’s experiences.

Another unusual characteristic of her writing in The Buddha in the Attic is that the main character is a cast of many nameless Japanese women. The story is told in a first-person plural voice, a collective “we.” This allows the reader to see the various types of people within a group, including their similarities and differences. Keeping the main character(s) nameless permits the reader to identify more closely with the collective “we.” Ultimately the reader can see their self in the women’s stories because a named character doesn’t occupy them. In some cases it was challenging for me to relate to the women’s stories because I haven’t had to deal with marrying a strange man, delivering a child, or moving to a foreign land. Despite having not had similar experiences I was still able to take the broad idea of the women’s suffering and utilize it in my own life. For example, no I have not moved to a new country with different customs, but I have switched schools mid semester and felt like the outcast in a school of strong friendships stemming from first grade.

Differing from other novels, Julie Otsuka’s prose is similar to poetry. I found the writing to be extremely beautiful even when speaking about some not so beautiful topics such as the rape of the women by their newly met husbands. Otsuka’s poetic diction lessens the dramatic tension because it shows that the women accept their struggles as every day occurrences.

Overall I did enjoy this novel, however the relentless style of the book was annoying. There was much repetition of ideas and phrases, and the style stayed constant. On a different note, the overall ideas of the book are what won me over. I have never read anything like this book and it was a nice cultural change. I would recommend this book to anyone who lacks knowledge of cultures and wants to become more aware of the hardships others had to face while traveling to America. 

Even though this novel is specifically about Japanese mail-order brides this book would appeal to all women because the predicaments that the brides face are relatable to all women. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tolog Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty Smith
reviewed by Jessica Mijares, class of 2015

Betty Smith writes simply and elegantly when telling the story of Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Although it was written in the early twentieth century, Smith writes in a present and modern way that makes it seem like she just wrote it a week ago. The book starts with eleven-year old Francie looking out of her window at the tall lush tree that grows in a poor environment, but still survives. Francie grows up in poverty and struggles under the poor conditions she faces. Her family supports her though and she becomes thankful for her life and the future. The stories about her Aunt Sissy and Uncle Willie are genuine and funny. The novel was entertaining because Smith delved into the lives of the minor characters in the story, which later come to connect to Francie’s life. Smith makes the reader care about the characters because of their great charisma and hilarious stories. The novel is life-affirming and hopeful, especially as the reader sees Francie’s strength prevail through the tough situations she encounters. Instead of wishing for a better life and complaining about the poverty she experiences, she loves her impoverished neighborhood and is grateful for it. I admired her optimism and love for life. The book was a fast read because there was never a boring page or insignificant scene in the story. The ending was sad, but also happy because although the reader doesn’t know what will happen to Francie he or she realizes that she did live an adventurous life and that it was worth it. 

Tolog Review: Just Listen

Just Listen
by Sarah Dessen
reviewed by Miranda Spears, class of 2015

Just Listen, written by Sarah Dessen, follows the complicated and extremely difficult life of the teenage model Annabel Greene. Annabel used to be known as the girl with everything, she was the perfect "model" and had many friends and her family seemed perfect in their glass house. The whole plot changes once she attends a party with her two best friends (Emily and Sophie). At the party Sophie's boyfriends rapes Annabel, but he claims Annabel came onto him, which causes Sophie to hate her. One of Annabel's sister becomes diagnosed with an eating disorder, which makes Annabel feel her parents have enough to deal with, so she often doesn't tell her mom or dad about her problems, or the fact she wants to quit modeling. Due to the event that happened between Sophie's boyfriend and Annabel, Annabel loses all her friends because no one believes her (and she doesn't stand up for herself). Annabel befriends Owen, an outcast who is a diehard music fan and doesn't care what anyone thinks. He teaches Annabel to be completely honest about her opinions and feelings. Owen is the one that teaches Annabel it's okay to reach out for help and talk about her problems. Of course, like any good teenage romance story, they eventually fall for each other. Towards the middle of the story Annabel realizes she wants to quit modeling, but her mom loves modeling and play such a big role in her career she doesn't want to feel like she is failing her mother, especially while Whitney has anorexia. In the beginning of the book Annabel describes what their house looks like, it's all glass. She says from the outside looking in the family looks like the perfect, happy, content family eating dinner at the table together, but in reality their family has many problems they are just very good at hiding. I thought this book was very good because it shows that you need to speak up for yourself, as well as it taught me that you can't always assume you know what’s happening in someone life. You should never assume their day is going better/or worse than yours. It also taught me that making friends with someone who may be very quiet (Owen) could possibly become one of the best relationships you could have. This novel follows the path of Annabel conquering her fears and the truth. If you read this story you will find out if she gets the right help in time, or if she is too far lost to find her way "home". I think this book would appeal to any girl who likes romance/general fiction/teenage drama. This book opens a new perspective on how to view other people. You never know if someone's family really is perfect, or if they've been through things no one should have to go through at ages 16 and 17. I think if you like any of Sarah Dessen books then you will like this one. She is a very consistent and good author, and always manages to connect to the reader somehow.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tolog Review: Colors of the Mountain

Colors of the Mountain
by Da Chen
reviewed by Chelsea Cheung

The Colors of the Mountain tells a story of a child who did not grown up from a poor family in China. Due to the social class that the Chen family was in, the government and the people in his community did not respect them at all. The marginalization of their family did not change the way how the parents educate their children; they were well education in the way of treating other with respect than the others who were richer than the Chen’s. When one of the children from the Chen’s family first went to school, he was accused and punish by a teacher for something that he did not do. That child was then forced to write a reflection paper to apologize to the teacher. He then went home and told his father about what has happened in school, but his father told him not to write it and not to apologize to anyone when he has not done anything wrong. In this novel, I can see the poor were treated awfully by government and other people as well as everything they do were seen as a sin back in the days in China. However, the poor has more integrity than the others think. Similarly to Black Boy by Richard Wright, Richard was poor and black therefore people look down him, but he does have more faith and integrity in himself than others do. Da Chen, the author of Colors of the Mountain tells us that being poor does not mean anything; integrity and diligence is what makes someone successful. If you like books that are realistic and books that tells a story of someone's life, you would love this book !

Tolog Review: Paper Towns

Paper Towns
by John Green
reviewed by Dominika Wilczek, class of 2015

Paper Towns by John Green (summed up) is basically a twisted love story that ends up not really making any sense and you just want to lie down and be frustrated at Mr. Green for doing this to you, yet again. Relating back to The Fault in Our Stars, Green hands you an unexpected love story and leaves you with a cliffhanger. The two main characters in this book almost exactly resemble Alaska and Miles from Green’s book Looking for Alaska.This book will make you both angry and happy, and you will have pity for Quentin (the main character/narrator). The spectrum of emotions the book will give you range from snickering to making you want to throw the book across the room. I recommend, that if you do read this book, you set out an entire day just to read it, because I guarantee you it’ll be too hard to put the book down once you’ve picked it up. I enjoyed reading this book because it was believable. Everything that took place could potentially happen to anyone around us. If you enjoy any other John Green book, I guarantee that you will enjoy this one. Although it isn’t as intense or heartbreaking, I still found it exciting. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tolog Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
by John Green

reviewed by Camille Trevor, class of 2015

Looking for Alaska, by John Green, is widely considered an unmistakably bestseller and one of his best works. The story is based on teenager Miles Halter and his experiences in transferring to Culver Creek, a boarding school. He transfers from public to boarding school in order to escape his home life of having no friends and receiving little attention. The first part of the book, “Before,” is solely based on his involvement with several characters in Culver Creek, including Alaska. His life as a Culver Creek student is dramatically impacted by Alaska because he falls in love with her secretly. The first section is separated by the number of days “before” what happens, which creates a great mystery for the reader to unravel. In addition, the second part of the book, “After,” picks up the pace of the story and consists of more consequential affairs. Because the novel is divided in terms of time and a specific event, it is highly unpredictable and suspenseful.

Although this book is seen as an extraordinary success, I find it to be adequate. The story is good, but the overall emotional depth seems insufficient. My main concern is that the story seems choppy in terms of plot and character development. The last part of the book encompasses thought-provoking ideas of life, including suffering, death, afterlife, and purpose on earth. Moreover, the first half does not contain half of the concepts displayed in the second half, which makes it seem dry in comparison. Regardless of these issues, the story does portray an excellent ongoing subject of friendship throughout the entirety of it. The significant occurrence between “Before” and “After” brings the characters together in times of hardship and pain. Furthermore, this story demonstrates the enigma of unanswerable questions, including an escape from the “labyrinth of suffering.” I enjoyed reading these reflective topics because there is no right or wrong answer. Finishing this book leaves you questioning for more because it is all interpretation. You decide what to believe. You decide the characters’ fate. The control shifts from the author to the reader, which leaves countless possibilities.If you like anything by John Green, you'll love this book! If you liked Paper Towns, you'll love this!

Tolog Review: The Truth About Forever

The Truth About Forever
by Sarah Dessen
reviewed by Kayla Montgomery, class of 2015

Sarah Dessen’s books are not just romance novels, they are masterpieces beautifully crafted tying in an addictive love story and real life events. This makes the relationship you have always dream of seem more attainable. The Truth About Forever is about a senior in high school named Macy who has always strived to be “perfect”, the perfect daughter, the perfect girlfriend, and the perfect sister. However, when she finds a new job over the summer at a catering company she realizes that no one can really be perfect, but everyone has their own flaws that make up who they are. Sarah Dessen’s novels always have an underlying message. She does not just talk about your typical love story, but she teaches you a moral lesson that you can take away and really reflect on and apply it to your life. The Truth About Forever teaches us that not only should we take chances in life, but also we should live life enjoying it and taking in every moment because life does not go on forever. She also teaches that sometimes in life we have to take risks and not be afraid of the results. She states in her novel, “It’s just one of those things…You know, that just happen. You don’t think or plan. You just do it”(Dessen 360). Dessen explains to us that some things in life happen for a reason. We do not have to plan things or worry about the consequences. She demonstrates that we have to sometimes be impulsive and take risks and not be afraid of the outcome because if we are, we will always be left wondering what would happened if I took that chance, that leap of faith would my life have ended up differently? So what I take away from the story is, that we are all capable of finding not only our one true love, but also life does not go on forever. Life is always changing and what we should focus on is living in the moment and taking in all that life has to offer. I think Sarah Dessen stated it beautifully in her final words of the novel, “You just never knew. Forever was so many different things. It was always changing; it was what everything really was about. It was twenty minutes, or a hundred years, or just this instant, or any instant I wished would last and last. But there was only one truth about forever that really matters, and it was this: it was happening. Right then”(Dessen 374). I have not been able to call a book one of my favorites in a long time, however The Truth About Forever I now consider one of favorite books hands down. Her novel really touched me, and I would recommend it to any one.  If you liked any of the books written by Sarah Dessen such as Lock and Key, Just Listen, and Along for the Ride you will love this book.

Friday, December 13, 2013

the N-Peace Network

Have you heard of the N-Peace Network?  I hadn't.  Take a look:

N-Peace is a multi-country network of peace advocates in Asia seeking to advance Women, Peace & Security (WPS) issues. It supports women’s leadership for conflict prevention, resolution and peace building, and promotes the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, and related resolutions, at regional, national and community levels.

We are active in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, the Philippines and Afghanistan. Our members represent civil society, government, non-government organizations, academia, United Nations agencies, religious groups and the media. N-Peace’s mission is to Engage for Peace, Equality, Access, Community and Empowerment.

N-Peace was established in October 2010 by women peace advocates at a meeting held by the United Nations Development Programme Asia Pacific Regional Centre (UNDP APRC) to mark the ten-year anniversary of UNSCR 1325. Today, 800 practitioners are connected though this vibrant network.

Sounds great, right?  Take a look at their 2013 award winners.  I am sorry to say I've not heard of a single one. You?  What can you find out about these extraordinary women?

Tolog Review: Abandon

by Meg Cabot
reviewed by Irene Niu, class of 2015

This book is about a girl Pierce Olivia coming back from car crash. The most thing that bothered her is the fact that her parents are divorced and no one seemed to understand her. Pierce is moved to a new school and had to get familiar with new school. Cabot did really well on describing her social issues with others at school that were cataloged as kids having severe issues. However, a charming guy called John Hayden, keeps popping up in her life. Her crash over this mysterious and handsome guy and fear to get hurt were really very detailed ad captivate the reader in the book. For most people in her age, they are curious with first love but are also easy to get in trouble with friends and families. Pierce especially came back from death, she is still filled fear and unable to trust. This book also involves the social issue that exist in high schools since it was around this age people get isolated and sensitive. The one thing I thought was incredible was how the author vividly described emotions and actions through out the novel even in this tale story. Cabot didn’t give the readers a whole lot of recollection that can easily mess up one’s mind. The story is developing as she recalled her memories, the unfolding events in Pierce’s life, makes more sense and this character relatable to the readers. The mood in this book is little frustrating and full of memoires of past events.  To the people who has friendship, social, family, relationship issues. If you like to find someone who may share the same feeling and someone you can relate. If you liked sullen romance story of a charming mysterious boy and sensitive, delicate girl.

Tolog Review: Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie
by Katie Davis
reviewed by Dominique Pittman, class of 2017

Kisses from Katie was an inspiring novel written by a high school graduate that sacrificed her own wants for what she felt God was calling her to do. Katie Davis graduated high school planning to spend just one year volunteering in Uganda, not even suspecting she may be adopting not one but 13 girls to care for. Seeing the lack of so many things we take for granted in the United States caused Katie to begin her own ministry to reach the starving people of Uganda. Her beliefs led her on her tough journey to go completely beyond her comfort zone and accept the new life God was calling her to live, despite how angry it might make her parents and how much she'll miss everyone. Katie placed God first and abandoned all luxuries she previously had to move into a small home filled with her sick and suffering new neighbors. Quickly becoming well known in Uganda, Katie currently lives there still leading Amazima, her ministry, in bringing the light of God's love to those who otherwise may never have felt loved. Katie enters into villages with food and blankets to help fill everyone's plain dirt homes with no furniture. Along her journey, she has saved many lives and been forced to face the loss of a child. Lessons have been learned, and every day Katie reads the bible with her family and anyone else with a desire to listen. This novel is inspiring and causes readers to rethink whether or not we should complete about our own circumstances, but instead being left with a want to be more generous.

Looking for a Good Book?

King Dork by Frank Portman
As John Green, New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars said, “King Dork will rock your world.” The cult favorite from Frank Portman, aka Dr. Frank of the Mr. T. Experience, is a book like no other. Music plays a huge part in the book, which features hilarious original lyrics throughout.
When Tom Henderson finds his deceased father’s copy of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, his world is turned upside down. Suddenly high school gets more complicated: Tom (aka King Dork) is in the middle of at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, a secret code, girls, and rock and roll. As he goes through sophomore year, he finds clues that may very well solve the puzzle of his father’s death and—oddly—reveal the secret to attracting semi-hot girls (the secret might be being in a band, if he can find a drummer who can count to four.
A brilliant story told in first person, King Dork includes a glossary and a bandography, which readers will find helpful and hilarious.

Where the Truth Lies by Jessica Warman

On the surface, Emily Meckler leads the perfect life. She has three best friends, two loving parents, and the ideal setup at the Connecticut prep school where her father is the headmaster. Then the enigmatic Del Sugar enters her life, and Emily is immediately swept away-but her passionate relationship with Del is just the first of many things that aren't quite what they seem in Emily's life. As the lies she's been told start to unravel, Emily must set out to discover the truth, a journey that will lead her to question everything she thought she knew.

Almost a Woman by Esmerelda Santiago

Following the enchanting story recounted in When I Was Puerto Rican of the author’s emergence from the barrios of Brooklyn to the prestigious Performing Arts High School in Manhattan, Esmeralda Santiago delivers the tale of her young adulthood, where she continually strives to find a balance between becoming American and staying Puerto Rican. While translating for her mother Mami at the welfare office in the morning, starring as Cleopatra at New York’s prestigious Performing Arts High School in the afternoons, and dancing salsa all night, she begins to defy her mother’s protective rules, only to find that independence brings new dangers and dilemmas.

Forbidden Fruit by Betty DeRamus

Forbidden Fruit is a collection of fascinating, largely untold tales of ordinary men and women who faced mobs, bloodhounds, bounty hunters, and bullets to be together — and defy a system that categorized blacks not only as servants, but as property.
Here you'll meet, among other extraordinary characters, a fugitive slave from Virginia who spends seventeen years searching for his wife. A Georgia slave couple that sails for England with federal troops trailing behind. A white woman who falls in love with her deceased husband's slave. A young slave girl who is delivered to her fiancé inside a wooden chest.
Acclaimed journalist Betty DeRamus gleaned these anecdotes from descendants of runaway slave couples, unpublished memoirs, Civil War records, census data, magazines, and dozens of previously untapped sources. This is a book about people pursuing love and achievement in a time of hate and severely limited opportunities. Though not all of the stories in Forbidden Fruit end in triumph, they all celebrate hope, passion, courage, and triumph of the human spirit.

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black
It’s a question as old as time itself: Which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? This all-original, tongue-in-cheek anthology edited by Holly Black (Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie), makes strong arguments for both sides in the form of spectacular short stories. Contributors include bestselling authors Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan.
Discover how unicorns use their powers for evil, why zombies aren’t always the enemy, and much more in this creative, laugh-out-loud collection that will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

This unforgettable memoir, by one of our most gifted writers, introduces us to the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move, yet they develop an extraordinarily close, almost telepathic relationship. As Toby fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather, his experiences are at once poignant and comical, and Wolff does a masterful job of re-creating the frustrations and cruelties of adolescence. His various schemes - running away to Alaska, forging checks, and stealing cars - lead eventually to an act of outrageous self-invention that releases him into a new world of possibility.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

It's been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever. Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan. Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.
It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.
In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

When she was 19 months old, Helen Keller (1880-1968) suffered a severe illness that left her blind and deaf. Not long after, she also became mute. Her tenacious struggle to overcome these handicaps-with the help of her inspired teacher, Anne Sullivan-is one of the great stories of human courage and dedication. In this classic autobiography, first published in 1903, Miss Keller recounts the first 22 years of her life, including the magical moment at the water pump when, recognizing the connection between the word "water" and the cold liquid flowing over her hand, she realized that objects had names. Subsequent experiences were equally noteworthy: her  joy at eventually learning to speak, her friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edward Everett Hale and other notables, her education at Radcliffe (from which she graduated cum laude), and-underlying all-her extraordinary relationship with Miss Sullivan, who showed a remarkable genius for communicating with her eager and quick-to-learn pupil. These and many other aspects of Helen Keller's life are presented here in clear, straightforward prose full of wonderful descriptions and imagery that would do credit to a sighted writer. Completely devoid of self-pity, yet full of love and compassion for others, this deeply moving memoir offers an unforgettable portrait of one of the outstanding women of the twentieth century.

Wake by Lisa McMann
Not all dreams are sweet.
For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.
She can't tell anybody about what she does -- they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can't control.
Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant....

Hunger of Memory: the education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez

Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in the stately quiet of the reading room of the British Museum.
Here is the poignant journey of a “minority student” who pays the cost of his social assimilation and academic success with a painful alienation — from his past, his parents, his culture — and so describes the high price of “making it” in middle-class America.
Provocative in its positions on affirmative action and bilingual education, Hunger of Memory is a powerful political statement, a profound study of the importance of language ... and the moving, intimate portrait of a boy struggling to become a man.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

In 1949 four Chinese women-drawn together by the shadow of their past-begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and "say" stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club. Nearly forty years later, one of the members has died, and her daughter has come to take her place, only to learn of her mother's lifelong wish-and the tragic way in which it has come true. The revelation of this secret unleashes an urgent need among the women to reach back and remember... In this extraordinary first work of fiction, Amy Tan writes about what is lost-over the years, between generations, among friends-and what is saved.
In 1949, four Chinese women begin meeting in San Francisco for fun. Nearly 40 years later, their daughters continue to meet as the Joy Luck Club. Their stories ultimately display the double happiness that can be found in being both Chinese and American.

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world. Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revaled that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destory the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara—Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him....
Long ago, the wars of the ancient Evil had ruined the world and forced mankind to compete with many other races--gnomes, trolls, dwarfs, and elves. But in peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knew little of such troubles. Then came the giant, forbidding Allanon, possessed of strange Druidic powers, to reveal that the Warlock Lord was plotting to destroy the world.

The Long Walk by Stephen King

On the first day of May, 100 teenage boys meet for a race known as "The Long Walk". If you break the rules, you get three warnings. If you exceed your limit, what happens is absolutely terrifying...

The Art of Fielding by Chris Harbach

"[The Art of Fielding] is not only a wonderful baseball novel--it zooms immediately into the pantheon of classics, alongside The Natural by Bernard Malamud and The Southpaw by Mark Harris--but it's also a magical, melancholy story about friendship and the coming of age that marks the debut of an immensely talented writer...Mr. Harbach has the rare abilities to write with earnest, deeply felt emotion without ever veering into sentimentality, and to create quirky, vulnerable and fully imagined characters who instantly take up residence in our hearts and minds. He also manages to re-work the well-worn, much-allegorized subject of baseball and make us see it afresh, taking tired tropes about the game (as a metaphor for life's dreams, disappointments and hopes of redemption) and interjecting them with new energy. In doing so he has written a novel that is every bit as entertaining as it is affecting....You don't need to be a baseball fan to fall under this novel's spell, but THE ART OF FIELDING possesses all the pleasures that an aficionado cherishes in a great, classic game: odd and strangely satisfying symmetries, unforeseen swerves of fortune, and intimations of the delicate balance between individual will and destiny that play out on the field." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

Salt to Summit: A Vagabond Journey from Death Valley to Mount Whitney by Daniel Arnold

From the depths of Death Valley, Daniel Arnold set out to reach Mount Whitney in a way no road or trail could take him. Anything manmade or designed to make travel easy was out. With a backpack full of water bottles, and the remotest corners of desert before him, he began his toughest test yet of physical and mental endurance.
Badwater Basin sits 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley, the lowest and hottest place in the Western Hemisphere. Mount Whitney rises 14,505 feet above sea level, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Arnold spent seventeen days traveling a roundabout route from one to the other, traversing salt flats, scaling dunes, and sinking into slot canyons. Aside from bighorn sheep and a phantom mountain lion, his only companions were ghosts of the dreamers and misfits who first dared into this unknown territory. 

Typical American by Gish Jen

From the beloved author of Mona in the Promised Land and The Love Wife comes this comic masterpiece, an insightful novel of immigrants experiencing the triumphs and trials of American life.
Gish Jen reinvents the American immigrant story through the Chang family, who first come to the United States with no intention of staying. When the Communists assume control of China in 1949, though, Ralph Chang, his sister Theresa, and his wife Helen, find themselves in a crisis. At first, they cling to their old-world ideas of themselves.  But as they begin to dream the American dream of self-invention, they move poignantly and ironically from people who disparage all that is “typical American” to people who might be seen as typically American themselves. With droll humor and a deep empathy for her characters, Gish Jen creates here a superbly engrossing story that resonates with wit and wisdom even as it challenges the reader to reconsider what a typical American might be today.

Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni

As far back as she can remember, Azadeh Moaveni has felt at odds with her tangled identity as an Iranian-American. In suburban America, Azadeh lived in two worlds. At home, she was the daughter of the Iranian exile community, serving tea, clinging to tradition, and dreaming of Tehran. Outside, she was a California girl who practiced yoga and listened to Madonna. For years, she ignored the tense standoff between her two cultures. But college magnified the clash between Iran and America, and after graduating, she moved to Iran as a journalist. This is the story of her search for identity, between two cultures cleaved apart by a violent history. It is also the story of Iran, a restive land lost in the twilight of its revolution.
Moaveni's homecoming falls in the heady days of the country's reform movement, when young people demonstrated in the streets and shouted for the Islamic regime to end. In these tumultuous times, she struggles to build a life in a dark country, wholly unlike the luminous, saffron and turquoise-tinted Iran of her imagination.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other — a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.
From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue — it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and — the author's favorite — historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

Old School by Tobias Wolff

The protagonist of Tobias Wolff’s shrewdly—and at times devastatingly—observed first novel is a boy at an elite prep school in 1960. He is an outsider who has learned to mimic the negligent manner of his more privileged classmates. Like many of them, he wants more than anything on earth to become a writer. But to do that he must first learn to tell the truth about himself.
The agency of revelation is the school literary contest, whose winner will be awarded an audience with the most legendary writer of his time. As the fever of competition infects the boy and his classmates, fraying alliances, exposing weaknesses, Old School explores the ensuing deceptions and betrayals with an unblinking eye and a bottomless store of empathy. The result is further evidence that Wolff is an authentic American master.

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson--the acclaimed author of The Lost Continent--brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can't), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world's largest growth industries.
Clever, insightful, often hilarious, The Mother Tongue is an engaging jaunt through the quirks and byways of the world's most important--and baffling--of languages. Readers will learn why island, freight, and colonel are spelled in such unphonetic ways; why four has a u in it but forty does not; why Noah Webster was a liar, a cheat, and a plagiarist; and other fascinating facts about our mother tongue.

The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich

On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. After being orphaned in a most peculiar way, they seek refuge in the butcher shop of their aunt Fritzie and her husband, Pete; ordinary Mary, who will cause a miracle, and seductive Karl, who lacks his sister's gift for survival, embark upon an exhilarating life-journey crowded with colorful, unforgettable characters and marked by the extraordinary magic of natural events.
The bestselling, award-winning author of The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich dazzles in this vibrant and heartfelt tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love that explores with empathy, humor, and power the eternal mystery of the human condition.

When Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him

Chanrithy Him felt compelled to tell of surviving life under the Khmer Rouge in a way "worthy of the suffering which I endured as a child."
In the Cambodian proverb, "when broken glass floats" is the time when evil triumphs over good. That time began in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia and the Him family began their trek through the hell of the "killing fields." In a mesmerizing story, Him vividly recounts a Cambodia where rudimentary labor camps are the norm and technology, such as cars and electricity, no longer exists. Death becomes a companion at the camps, along with illness. Yet through the terror, Chanrithy's family remains loyal to one another despite the Khmer Rouge's demand of loyalty only to itself. Moments of inexpressible sacrifice and love lead them to bring what little food they have to the others, even at the risk of their own lives. In 1979, "broken glass" finally sinks. From a family of twelve, only five of the Him children survive. Sponsored by an uncle in Oregon, they begin their new lives in a land that promises welcome to those starved for freedom.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

One of the most influential books about children ever published, NurtureShock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library's worth of conventional wisdom. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, the authors demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring--because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn and live.
Released in hardcover in September 2009, NurtureShock remained on the New York Times best seller list for three months, and was one of Amazon's best selling books for 2009. The book has become a worldwide phenomenon with editions published around the world - in fifteen languages, to date. In addition to Bronson and Merryman's writings on praise -- first made famous in New York magazine -- there are nine more equally groundbreaking chapters. Among the topics covered: Why the most brutal person in a child's life is often a sibling, and how a single aspect of their preschool-aged play can determine their relationship as adults. When is it too soon - or too late - to teach a child about race? Children in diverse schools are less likely to have a cross-racial friendship, not more - so is school diversity backfiring? Millions of families are fighting to get their kids into private schools and advanced programs as early as possible. But schools are missing the best kids, 73% of the time - the new neuroscience explains why. Why are kids - even those from the best of homes - still aggressive and cruel? The answer is found in a rethinking of parental conflict, discipline, television's unexpected influence, and social dominance. Parents are desperate to jump-start infants' language skills. Recently, scientists have discovered a series of natural techniques that are astonishing in their efficacy - it's not baby videos, sign language, or even the richness of language exposure. It's nothing you've heard before.

Eleanor Rushing by Patty Friedmann

 New Orleans Times-Picayune
A zany, disturbing novel set amid the splendors and excesses of New Orleans Eleanor Rushing is a first-person narrative tour de force. While Eleanor is blessed with acute powers of observation and the ability to remember everything, her recollections and impressions are nevertheless often at odds with those of the people around her. As her "relationship" with a local married Methodist minister spins out of control, the loquacious and endearing Eleanor manages to charm us completely. Even as we begin to realize that surviving a childhood marred by tragedy has exacted a terrible toll, we can't help being her willing and faithful admirers.

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