Non Fiction Recommendtions

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I get that this post looks a bit out of the blue, and the reality is that it is. I miscalculated and didn’t prepare a post for tomorrow, but then I remembered that we are heading into November. Some in the book community take the time to read some nonfiction books, especially if nonfiction isn’t something I turn to a ton. Here are some of my five stars and four stars worth looking at.

Goodreads Blurb:

There are trans people here in the past, the present, and the future. H. Melt’s writing centers the deep care, love, and joy within trans communities. This poetry collection describes moments of resistance in queer and trans history as catalysts for movements today. It honors trans ancestors and contemporary activists, artists, and writers fighting for trans liberation. There Are Trans People Here is a testament to the healing power of community and the beauty of trans people, history, and culture. 

Goodreads Blurb:

The inspiring true story of one man’s treacherous boyhood journey from a rural village in Ghana to the streets of Barcelona—and the path that led him home.

Ousman Umar is a shaman’s son born in a small village in Ghana. Though his mother died giving birth, he spent a contented childhood working the fields, setting traps in the jungle, and living off the land. Still, as strange and wondrous flying machines crisscrossed the skies overhead, Ousman dreamed of a different life. And so, when he was only twelve years old, he left his village and began what would be a five-year journey to Europe.

Every step of the way, as he traveled across the Sahara desert, through the daunting metropolises of Accra, Tripoli, Benghazi, and Casablanca, and over the Mediterranean Sea aboard a packed migrant dinghy, Ousman was handed off like merchandise by a loose network of smugglers and in the constant, foreboding company of “sinkers”: other migrants who found themselves penniless and alone on their way north, unable to continue onward or return home.

But on a path rife with violence, exploitation, and racism, Ousman also encountered friendship, generosity, and hope. North to Paradise is a visceral true story about the stark realities of life along the most dangerous migrant route across Africa; it is also a portrait of extraordinary resilience in the face of unimaginable challenges, the beauty of kindness in strangers, and the power of giving back.

Goodreads Blurb;

This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games—games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother’s games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an “it.” Dave’s bed was an old army cot in the basement, and his clothes were torn and raunchy. When his mother allowed him the luxury of food, it was nothing more than spoiled scraps that even the dogs refused to eat. The outside world knew nothing of his living nightmare. He had nothing or no one to turn to, but his dreams kept him alive—dreams of someone taking care of him, loving him and calling him their son.

Goodreads Blurb:

In the summer of 1944, Eva Mozes Kor and her family arrived at Auschwitz.

Within thirty minutes, they were separated. Her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, while Eva and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man who became known as the Angel of Death: Dr. Josef Mengele. They were 10 years old.

While twins at Auschwitz were granted the ‘privileges’ of keeping their own clothes and hair, they were also subjected to Mengele’s sadistic medical experiments. They were forced to fight daily for their own survival and many died as a result of the experiments, or from the disease and hunger rife in the concentration camp.

In a narrative told simply, with emotion and astonishing restraint, The Twins of Auschwitz shares the inspirational story of a child’s endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil.

Also included is an epilogue on Eva’s incredible recovery and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and worked toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world. 

Goodreads Blurb:

Meet the leaders and activists on the front lines of the LGBTQ movement, from the 1960’s to the present, through stunning interviews and compelling black and white photographs compiled and presented by OUTWORDS, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the stories of LGBTQ people.

The 75 individuals featured in THE BOOK OF PRIDE—including marriage pioneer Evan Wolfson, trans icon Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Stonewall-era rabblerouser Mark Segal and legendary anti-DADT activist Grethe Cammermeyer—fought battles frequently under the threat of violence and persecution.

By capturing these accounts, we honor an important chapter in American history and ensure that the story of the LGBTQ community is safeguarded for generations to come. The brave and determined activists celebrated in THE BOOK OF PRIDE inspire each of us to resist all forms of oppression with ferocity, and to do so with great pride.

Goodreads Blurb:

For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime.

On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker. In 2012, she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine.

Goodreads Blurb:

When Lawrence Anthony learned that the northern white rhino, living in the war-ravaged Congo, was on the very brink of extinction, he knew he had to act. If the world lost the sub-species, it would be the largest land mammal since the woolly mammoth to go extinct. In “The Last Rhinos,” Anthony recounts his attempts to save these animals.

The demand for rhino horns in the Far East has turned poaching into a dangerous black market that threatens the lives of not just these rare beasts, but also the rangers who protect them.

The northern white rhino’s last refuge was in an area controlled by the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the most vicious rebel groups in the world. In the face of unmoving government bureaucracy, Anthony made a perilous journey deep into the jungle to try to find and convince them to help save the rhino.

Goodreads Blurb:

Aged nine Joss came home from school to discover her father’s suicide. She’s never gotten over it.

This is the true story of Joss, 13 who is angry and out of control. At the age of nine, Joss finds her father’s dead body. He has committed suicide. Then her mother remarries and Joss bitterly resents her step-father who abuses her mentally and physically.

Cathy takes Joss under her wing but will she ever be able to get through to the warm-hearted girl she sees glimpses of underneath the vehement outbreaks of anger that dominate the house, and will Cathy be able to build up Joss’s trust so she can learn the full truth of the terrible situation?

Goodreads Blurb:

This is the shocking true story of how a young girl from Rochdale came to be Girl A – the key witness in the trial of Britain’s most notorious child sex ring.
Girl A was just 14 when she was groomed by a group of nine Asian men. After being lured into their circle with free gifts, she was plied with alcohol and systematically abused. She was just one of up to fifty girls to be ‘passed around’ by the gang. The girls were all under-16 and forced to have sex with as many as twenty men in one night.
When details emerged a nation was outraged and asked how these sickening events came to pass. And now, the girl at the very center of the storm reveals the heartbreaking truth.

Goodreads Blurb:

An urgent collection of essays by first and second-generation immigrants, exploring what it’s like to be othered in an increasingly divided America.

From Trump’s proposed border wall and travel ban to the marching of White Supremacists in Charlottesville, America is consumed by tensions over immigration and the question of which bodies are welcome. In this much-anticipated follow-up to the bestselling UK edition, hailed by Zadie Smith as “lively and vital,” editors Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman hand the microphone to an incredible range of writers whose humanity and right to be here is under attack.

Chigozie Obioma unpacks an Igbo proverb that helped him navigate his journey to America from Nigeria.
Jenny Zhang analyzes cultural appropriation in 90s fashion, recalling her own pain and confusion as a teenager trying to fit in.
Fatimah Asghar describes the flood of memory and emotion triggered by an encounter with an Uber driver from Kashmir.
Alexander Chee writes of a visit to Korea that changed his relationship to his heritage.

Goodreads Blurb:

“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’ ”

Haunted and haunting, Jones’s memoir tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.

Blending poetry and prose, Jones has developed a style that is equal parts sensual, beautiful, and powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one of a kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time. 

Goodreads Blurb:

In this searing and riveting New York Times bestseller, Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu reveals the dark underbelly of Olympic gymnastics, the true price of success…and the shocking secret about her past and her family that she only learned years later.

At fourteen years old, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the 1996 US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, the first and only American women’s team to take gold at the Olympics. Her pixyish appearance and ferocious competitive drive quickly earned her the status of media darling. But behind the fame, the flawless floor routines, and the million-dollar smile, her life was a series of challenges and hardships.

Off Balance vividly delineates each of the dominating characters who contributed to Moceanu’s rise to the top, from her stubborn father and long-suffering mother to her mercurial coach, Bela Karolyi. Here, Moceanu finally shares the haunting stories of competition, her years of hiding injuries and pain out of fear of retribution from her coaches, and how she hit rock bottom after a public battle with her parents.

But medals, murder plots, drugs, and daring escapes aside (all of which figure into Moceanu’s incredible journey), the most unique aspect of her life is the family secret that Moceanu discovers, opening a new and unexpected chapter in her adult life. A mysterious letter from a stranger reveals that she has a second sister–born with a physical disability and given away at birth–who has nonetheless followed in Moceanu’s footsteps in an astonishing way.

I tried to pick a few from various topics that I have seen being hyped in the book community, or at least not in a while.

Alex

5 thoughts on “Non Fiction Recommendtions

  1. I’ve read several on this list: Elizabeth Smart, A Child Called It, Twins of Auschwitz—all of these are thought provoking stories that showcase evil… but also how hope exists alongside it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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