Monday, March 27, 2017

This week with Boswell: Events with Boris Fishman, Greg Pearson, Jami Attenberg, Donna Seaman, Evelyn M. Perry, and Michelle Brafman

This week's events are bookended by events with two of our favorite converseation partners.

Monday, March 27, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Boris Fishman, author of Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, in conversation with Joel Berkowitz of the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies.

Maya Shulman and Alex Rubin met in 1992, when she was a Ukrainian exchange student with “a devil in [her] head” about becoming a chef instead of a medical worker, and he the coddled son of Russian immigrants wanting to toe the water of a less predictable life.

Twenty years later, Maya Rubin is a medical worker in suburban New Jersey, and Alex his father’s second in the family business. The great dislocation of their lives is their eight-year-old son Max—adopted from two teenagers in Montana despite Alex’s view that adopted children are second-class.

Searching for answers to their eccentric son, Maya convinces Alex to embark on a cross-country trip to Montana to track down Max’s birth parents—the first drive west of New Jersey of their American lives. Maya is illuminated by the journey, her own erstwhile wildness summoned for a reckoning by the unsparing landscape, with seismic consequences for herself and her family.

Boris Fishman is the author of the novel A Replacement Life, which was chosen as The New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won the Sophie Brody Medal from the American Library Association. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.

Joel Berkowitz is Director of the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM, the cosponsor of this event. Berkowitz is also Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature at UWM.

Tuesday, March 28, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Greg Pearson, author of Maybe Next Year: Long-Suffering Sports Fans and the Teams That Never Deliver.

Sports fans are a devoted bunch. They sit in the wind and the cold of December or the sizzling sun of August, watching their team slip ever further from the playoffs, only to come back for more next year. What keeps them going?

Maybe Next Year highlights more than 100 fans as they talk about their devotion to the teams they love and how we overcome the discouraging seasons, let alone the lousy decades. Of the 23 teams mentioned, the Chicago Cubs are included, whose fans waited 108 years before a World Series win.

About the Author: Greg Pearson has worked in newspapers for four decades, including 23 years at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He has also written Fenway Fanatics, a look at die-hard Boston Red Sox fans.

Wednesday, March 29, 7:00 pm, at Boswell
Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up in conversation with Wendy McClure

Who is Andrea Bern? When her therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid - she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, and the captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh - that feels the most true.  But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters.

Jami Attenberg is author of five novels, including The Middlesteins and Saint Mazie. She has contributed essays about sex, urban life, and food to The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian.

Wendy McClure is an author, a columnist, and a children’s book editor. She is the author of The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, which won the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for nonfiction in 2011, and a historical fiction series for children, Wanderville. 

Thursday, March 30, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Donna Seaman, author of Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists.

Who hasn’t wondered where - aside from Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo - all the women artists are? In many art books, they’ve been marginalized with cold efficiency, summarily dismissed in the captions of group photographs with the phrase “identity unknown” while each male is named.

Donna Seaman brings to dazzling life seven of these forgotten artists, among the best of their day, including Gertrude Abercrombie, Lois Mailou Jones, Lenore Tawney, and Christina Ramberg. These women fought to be treated the same as male artists, to be judged by their work, not their gender or appearance. Identity Unknown speaks to women’s neglected place in history and the challenges they face to be taken as seriously as men no matter what their chosen field.

Donna Seaman is an editor at Booklist, and a book reviewer for the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.. She has written bio-critical essays for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature and American Writers, and has published in TriQuarterly and Creative Nonfiction.

Friday, March 31, 7:00 pm at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E Locust
Evelyn M. Perry, author of Live and Let Live: Diversity, Conflict, and Community in an Integrated Neighborhood.

While conventional wisdom asserts that residential racial and economic integration holds great promise for reducing inequality in the United States, Americans are demonstrably not very good at living with difference. Perry's analysis of the multiethnic, mixed-income Milwaukee community of Riverwest, where residents maintain relative stability without insisting on conformity, advances our understanding of why and how neighborhoods matter.

In response to the myriad urban quantitative assessments, Perry examines the impacts of neighborhood diversity using more than three years of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews. Her in-depth examination of life "on the block" expands our understanding of the mechanisms by which neighborhoods shape the perceptions, behaviors, and opportunities of those who live in them. Perry challenges researchers' assumptions about what "good" communities look like and what well-regulated communities want. Live and Let Live shifts the conventional scholarly focus from "What can integration do?" to "How is integration done?"

Evelyn M. Perry is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rhodes College.This event is cosponsored by Woodland Pattern Book Center.

Sunday, April 2, 4:30 pm, at Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, 6255 N Santa Monica Blvd:
Michelle Brafman, author of Bertrand Court, in conversation with Judaic Education Director of the Jewish Community Center.

Bertrand Court is a captivating novel told in story form, intertwining seventeen luminous narratives about the secrets of a cast of politicos, filmmakers, and housewives, all tied to a suburban Washington, DC, cul-de-sac. Linked through bloodlines and grocery lines, they respond to life's bruises by grabbing power, sex, or the family silver. As they atone and forgive, they unmask the love and truth that hop white picket fences.

Michelle Brafman is also the author of the novel Washing the Dead. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Slate, Tablet, and The Washington Post. This event is cosponsored by the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bestsellers from Boswell. Are Swell. Inspired by the a Children's Bestseller List Filled with Poetry. Week Ending March 25, 2017

Here's what sold at Boswell this past week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, by Patty Yumi Cottrell
2. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
3. In This Grave Hour V13, by Jacqeline Winspear
4. Celine, by Peter Heller
5. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
6. The Collapsing Empire V1, by John Scalzi
7. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See
8. The Idiot, by Elif Batuman
9. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
10. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles

There's a lot of buzz on John Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire, and that's not just because of this story on Gizmodo, which discusses a competitor's book that has an almost identical title and author. Amazon pulled the knock off, but then put it back. Christian Holub in Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Modern readers, fresh from watching an 'America First' United States and Brexit-ing United Kingdom turn away from their roles as global hegemons, could probably not ask for a more relevant book title right now than The Collapsing Empire. Author John Scalzi insists that he came up with both the title and premise for his latest science-fiction novel years ago, but that’s basically the point. Scalzi has constructed a thrilling novel so in tune with the flow of politics that it would feel relevant at almost any time."

Fans should note that Scalzi will be at the Madison Public Library on Thursday, April 8, 7 pm with books provided by Room of One's Own. It's only a little more than an hour away.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Good Grief, by Theresa Caputo
2. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
3. Bright Line Eating, by Susan Peirce Thompson
4. There's More to Life than This, by Theresa Caputo
5. The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel
6. 100 Dollar Startup, by Chris Guillebeau
7. The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking
8. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
9. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney
10. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

You might have seen our staff rec for The Stranger in the Woods in a recent email newsletter. We had two great reads on this book, with Boswellian Kelli O'Malley writing: "Chris Knight was just barely out of his teens when he drove his car into the woods and disappeared for 27 years. All that time he lived on his own with no help or contact from the outside world. He had no protest agenda, no quest for the spiritual - he simply wanted to exist without human contact. It wasn't until he was caught for burglary that anyone really believed that he actually existed. This incredible story delves into the story of one man's determination to be alone. Knight’s story will resonate with those of us who crave our solitude and fascinate those who could never dream of not speaking to another person for years on end." Since we last mentioned the book in this blog, the book became a New York Times bestseller.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Windy City Blues, by Renée Rosen
2. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
3. Big Lonesome, by Joseph Scapellato
4. The Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
5. All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda
6. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
7. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
8. Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
9. In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez
10. Wait Till You See Me Dance, by Deb Olin Unferth

We had a nice pop in sales for Everyone Brave is Forgiven. It's a tough time for World War II historicals in paperback with imminent releases of All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, and The Lilac Girls, which is already out. But on the upside, it makes a good themed display. Check out this review from Hannah Beckerman in The Guardian, which was published with the book's hardcover release: "Cleave has sometimes been accused of sentimentality (albeit with the caveat that he does sentimentality extremely well), and this latest novel too pulls on the reader’s heartstrings: “…all he wanted from his city was the thing that didn’t seem to be on offer: the possibility of coming home”. But even the most cynical reader will be hard pushed to be unmoved by the pitch-perfect final line, concluding the story on a note of quiet hope and narrative symmetry."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. A Lucky Child, by Thomas Buergenthal
2. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, and David Luhrssens
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
5. Borchert Field, by Bob Buege (event at Boswell Wed Apr 5, 7 pm)
6. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn M. Perry (event at Woodland Pattern Fri Mar 31, 7 pm)
7. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
8. Accidental Saints, by Nadia Bolz Weber
9. Trump Survival Guide, by Gene Stone
10. The Politics of Resentment, by Katherine J. Cramer

We've had nice sales in advance of Bob Buege's event for Borchert Field and I suspect the upward trend will continue what with the Journal Sentinel review below and opening day around the corner. Here's Dave Luhrssen writing about the book in Shepherd Express. And here's a piece from WTMJ4's Morning Blend.

Books for Kids:
1. Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni
2. Poetry Speaks to Children, edited by Elise Paschen
3. Animal Poems, by Valerie Worth, with illustrations by Steven Jenkins
4. Bookspeak, by Laura Salas, with illustrations by Josée Bisaillon
5. Emma Dilemma, by Kristine O'Connell George, with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter
6. Toasting Marshmallows, by Kristine O'Connell George, with illustrations by Kate Kiesler
7. Insectopedia, by Douglas Florian
8. Pug, by Valerie Worth, with illustrations by Steve Jenkins
9. Lemonade Sun, by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, with illustrations by Jan Gilchrist
10. In the Spin of Things, by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, with illustrations by Karen Dugan

Just in time for National Poetry Month, our bestseller list is filled with great collections. Hip Hop Speaks to Children and Poetry Speaks to Children were both national bestsellers on their original publication. Also just out (and might have hit the list if our offsite hadn't ended so late last night) is Kwame Alexander's Out of Wonder: Poets Celebrating Poets. We brought it because one poet celebrated in the book was Naomi Shihab Nye, who was in Racine for Deb Marett's 15 Minutes of Fame.

At the Journal Sentinel TapBooks section...

Mike Fischer reviews Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle, another World War II historical novel which is the #1 Indie Next Pick for April. He writes: "While much of Shattuck’s well-researched novel takes place in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the three surviving women at its center are haunted by the dozen years of the Thousand Year Reich — 'a great unknowable continent of experience,' as Shattuck calls it, that both binds them together and threatens to tear them apart."

Scott Simon talked to Shattuck on NPR's Weekend Edition.

Chris Foran reviews Borchert Field: Stories from Milwaukee's Legendary Ballpark. Foran writes: "When it comes to Milwaukee baseball history, Buege is a perennial all-star. His The Milwaukee Braves: A Baseball Eulogy is an entertaining and definitive history of the team (you can tell from the title where his heart lies). He's also president of the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association and secretary of the Old Time Ballplayers' Association of Wisconsin. But his new book is less a history and more an engaging collection of narratives about people, events and moments in Borchert Field's — and Milwaukee's — history from the late 19th century to the 1950s.

Chris Foran also has his annual roundup of spring 2017 baseball books, including My Cubs, by Scott Simon, and Leo Durocher: Baseball's Prodigal Son, from Paul Dickinson. They also give a shout out for Greg Pearson's Maybe Next Year: Long-Suffering Sports Fans and the Teams that Never Deliver, who will be at Boswell this Tuesday, March 28, 7 pm.

And Jim Higgins reviews Evelyn Perry's Live and Let Live: Diversity, Conflict, and Community in an Integrated Neighborhood. He explains the setup: "Perry, an assistant professor of sociology at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., grew up in Whitefish Bay. To research this participant-observer study, she lived in Riverwest from 2007-'10, attending meetings, chatting with neighbors, hoisting beverages in neighborhood bars and conducting 60 in-depth, open-ended interviews with Riverwest residents, with help from research assistant Jenny Urbanek. Those interviewees, equally divided between men and women, included 30 white people, 15 African-Americans, 10 Latinas and Latinos, two Asian-Americans, two biracial people and one Arab-American — a mix that Perry reports roughly coincided with Riverwest's population." Perry is at Woodland Pattern on Friday, March 31, 7 pm.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Big event splash: Patty Yumi Cottrell tonight, plus Renée Rosen with Osher, Dan Egan at Schlitz, Theresa Caputo signing info, Boris Fishman preview, and more

What's up with Boswell this week? Also please note that Boswell may not be open to the general public until after our event with Theresa Caputo on Saturday, March 25.

Monday, March 20, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace.

I first met Patty Yumi Cottrell... Strike that. I first got to recognize Patty Yumi Cottrell as a barista at Colectivo, though I think it was still Alterra then. But it was when she was browsing in the bookstore that we first chatted. I love that when you spot someone in a different context, it gives you license to say hello. "Don't I know you from...?"

It was kind of thrilling when I got to know Cottrell in another context, through her first published novel. And what a novel it is. Sorry to Disrupt the Peace was published last week by McSweeneys, and even before publication it was a book to look out for from Buzzfeed. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and called the novel "stellar."

Here's my rec: "When Helen Moran hears that her brother has died at his own hand, she leaves her social services job in New York to come home to her family. But it’s not that easy. Helen hasn’t been home in close to five years and has a fractured relationship with her adoptive parents, and now she’s determined to figure out exactly why her brother (they are both Korean but not blood siblings) pulled the trigger. She may call herself Sister Reliable, but Helen is anything but, especially as a narrator. Hypersensitive to details, Helen is unable to connect the dots, and the continuous misses create a powerfully hypnotic narrative of estrangement." (Daniel Goldin)

McSweeneys is a well-respected publisher but it doesn't have the heft of a Knopf or Riverhead that can get all the major book reviewers to feature a key title on pub week. I think you'll be seeing stellar reviews of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, but many will be well after our event. And then you'll say, "Oh, yeah, Daniel told me to go to see that author." And then I hope you'll say, "Why don't I listen to him more often?"

Patty Yumi Cottrell, now a certified Los Angeleno, has had work appear in Bomb, Gulf Coast, and Black Warrior Review. And yes, we're serving Colectivo Coffee at this event.

Tuesday, March 21, 1:00 pm, at Boswell:
Renée Rosen, author of Windy City Blues.

I first remember hearing about Renee Rosen at a rep night (that thing we do that sometimes makes the store close early, as happened on Sunday).  Our Macmillan rep Anne was telling us about a YA novel she really liked, called Every Crooked Pot.

Much like many adult novelists turn to YA, Rosen's second work was historical fiction, set in the world of the Chicago Mob. Dollface came out in 2013 and once again we had a sales rep singing its praises. But it wasn't until Ms. Rosen tackled my sweet spot, department stores, that my head was turned. What the Lady Wants, a novel about Marshall Field and his unusual family life, wound up getting multiple reads at Boswell, and went on to be a big hit. This was followed up by White Collar Girl, which we cosponsored at the Lynden Sculpture Garden.

For her newest novel, Windy City Blues, we teamed up with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UWM. What I knew is that Rosen always has a great program that shows how she drew from real life events to create her historical fiction. And I know Osher attendees well enough to know that they would love her presentation. And they love daytime events. And we find that we can get a lot of Chicago authors to Milwaukee if we have them take the Hiawatha train up. The only problem is that they can't get back the same night. The only late return train is on Saturday, when we don't host many authors at night. (Note: as I say that, I noticed that we have at least four upcoming Saturday night events. Go figure!)

Yes I read this too! My rec noted that "the story not only weaves in Chicago music history but the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in Chicago. I recommend it as a compelling story with appealing characters and lots of historical detail."  As I noted above, this event is cosponsored by UWM's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The event is free. Let us know if you want more weekday afternoon events.

Wednesday, March 22, 7 pm, at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, 1111 E Brown Deer Rd:
Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

Congratulations to Dan Egan, who had the bestselling book in the Milwaukee metro his first week of sale, according to Bookscan. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is also getting great reviews, including yesterday's rave from John Hildebrand in the Journal Sentinel: "In his marvelous new book "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes," Dan Egan shows the lakes as a single ecosystem in which we are the keystone species, the one with the heaviest footprint, the scariest thing around. That’s quite a charge considering the cast of grotesques to enter the Great Lakes in the past century — sea lamprey, toad-faced round goby, zebra and quagga mussels, bighead carp — except that we, inadvertently, let them through the door."

The book is going to continue to get attention around the country, as Egan promotes the book at appearances. I was randomly searching for interesting stories and learned that Egan will be appearing in Cleveland in June, and then noted that Suzanne DeGaetano at Mac's Books included it as one of the books to look out for this year in a Cleveland Plain Dealer article. I guess it's not surprising that Great Lakes cities are jumping on this first--here's a great review from Eva Holland in The Globe and Mail, Canada's Toronto-based national newspaper.

Egan will be appearing at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center to discuss the book on Wednesday. Admission is free with your Schlitz Audubon membership or admission to the grounds ($8 adults). While the grounds normally close at 5, there will be a Great Lakes hike starting at 6 pm.

Saturday, March 25, 11:30 am, at Boswell:
A ticketed signing with TLC's "Long Island Medium," Theresa Caputo, author of Good Grief: Heal Your Soul, Honor Your Loved Ones, and Learn to Live Again

Here's what you need to know.

1. Tickets are $25.99, plus taxes and fees.

2. You get a signed copy of Good Grief and a photo with Theresa.

3 There is no personalization or inscriptions, no signing of backlist, no books from home.

4. There is no presentation. The program is at the Riverside Theater. Click here to buy tickets to Theresa Caputo Live! The Experience.

5. Can someone wait in line with you? Yes, even if we close the doors to the general public, we will allow one companion to wait with you.

6. You can bring a gift for Theresa. It must be unwrapped or in clear plastic.

7. There are no readings. You can apply to be on the reading waiting list here.

Monday, March 27, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Boris Fishman, author of Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, in conversation with Joel Berkowitz

Joel Berkowitz, director of the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM is one of my favorite partners to work with and not just because his events always bring a good crowd of enthusiastic attendees. No, it's also because he is a passionate about fiction in a way that makes a bookseller's heart glow. His enthusiasm is also addictive, and I couldn't help but read Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo once we had the event in place.

Let me explain this one: "In Fishman's second novel, Alex and Maya are two Eastern European Jewish immigrants, one who came over from the former Soviet Union as a child, the other an adult exchange student who left the Ukraine as an adult. As they are not able to conceive children and decide to adopt. Only the Montana-born child they adopted is now, at eight, sort of going feral, running away to hide in streams and forests. And so they decide to head back to the birth parents to try to figure out what's going on. It's a very different take on an immigrant story and cultural identity, as well as a road novel, and at least for Maya, a tale of midlife awakening. It's one of those books that alternately caresses, tickles, and occasionally punches you."(Daniel Goldin)

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo has won raves from Steven G. Kellman at the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote that "his second novel is a fresh, unpredictable departure from his first. Max may or may not do rodeo, but from now on expect Boris Fishman to do anything." And Cathleen Schine in The New York Times Book Review wrote: "Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo is a novel about finding the right words for what was once foreign but is no longer. It is suffused with sadness as well as humor, with hope as well as weary despair, and Fishman describes the turmoil of family, parenthood and cultural emotion with urgent, sly detachment. His language has the originality and imagination of someone who comes to English with unexpected thoughts and rhythms in his head, and he is, simply, a joy to read."

This event is sponsored by the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM, where he is also a Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature.

There are a few other events this week where Boswell is selling books.

Friday, March 24, 4 pm, at Marquette's Cudahy Hall, Room 001, 1313 W Wisconsin Ave: Joseph Scapellato, author of Big Lonesome: Stories. This Marquette grad's work was hailed by Claire Vay Watkins as "hailed by Claire Vaye Watkins as "Wallace Stegner on peyote, Nathaniel West in a sweat lodge, Larry McMurtry on a vision quest." Here's an interview with Scappelato in Necessary Fiction.

Saturday, March 25, 6:30 pm, at Preservation Hall, 740 Lake Ave, in Racine: Naomi Shihab Nye as part of Deb Marett's 15 Minutes of Fame event, tying in to her art exhibit. $5 admission. Additional speakers include Nick Demske, Timothy Westbrook, Paul Willis, Olu Sijuwade, Travis DuPriest and Thea Kovak. More about the project here.

Sunday, March 26, 3 pm, at the Jewish Museum, 1360 N Prospect Ave: "We Knew Then That the Jews Would be Shot: Wehrmacht’s Role in the Holocaust by Bullets," a talk based on the book Marching into Darkness, by Waitman Wade Beorn. This event, copsonsored by the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Research Center, is free with admission, but registration is requested.

Please note that Thursday's talk with Thomas Buergenthal at the Marquette Law School is full.

We've got lots more events to tell you about on the upcoming events page of the Boswell website.

And don't forget to open tomorrow's email newsletter, with important information about an upcoming event going on sale. You can sign up for it here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Boswell Bestsellers: Peter Heller's detective, James Crawford's buildings, Kwame Alexander's poetry, NBCC's award winners, plus the Journal Sentinel book review links.

Don't forget that Boswell is closing at 4 pm today for a staff meeting, followed by sales rep presentations in Oconomowoc. We normally do this at 5, but we needed an additional hour to get ourselves out to Books and Company. We'll be back to serve you with even more book knowledge on Monday morning at 10 am.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
2. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
3. The Hearts of Men, by Nickolas Butler
4. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
5. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
6. Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
7. Celine, by Peter Heller
8. Morning Paramin, by Derek Walcott
9. In This Grave Hour V13, by Jacqueline Winspear
10. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith

We had two reads on Celine, the third novel from Peter Heller. If you are browsing Boswell, you might notice a poster for our event for The Dog Stars, drawn by Nick Berg. Of the new book, Lisa Shea in Elle Magazine writes: "Like Mark Twain and Toni Morrison, Heller has a rare talent that hooks both literary and commercial readers. The book's irresistible suspense springs from the dynamic between his elegant, visionary imagination as it immerses you in the wilderness of the American West and its sleek-and-scruffy small towns, and his unerring instinct for writing classy, edge-of-your-seat, page-turning whodunits."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Eyes Wide Open, by Isaac Lidsky
2. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan (event Wed 3/22, 7 pm, at Schlitz Audubon)
3. Flock Together, by B.J. Hollars
4. From the Mouths of Dogs, by B.J. Hollars
5. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
6. The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking
7. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
8. Fallen Glory, by James Crawford
9. Identity Unknown, by Donna Seaman (event at Boswell Thu Mar 30, 7 pm)
10. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

New to the list is James Crawford's Fallen Glory: The Lives and Deaths of History's Greatest Buildings, which like Celine, came out March 7. It's about 20 buildings now not among us, from the Tower of Babel to the Pruitt-Igoe public housing in Saint Louis, to New York's Twin Towers. The Scotsman had a review from Stuart Kelly, who wrote: "Each building and city with which it is associated is a keyhole into a panorama of the times, with some assured and enlightening essayistic notes on their continuing meaning and what they tell us about history"

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
2. All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda
3. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
4. Windy City Blues, by Renée Rosen (event at Boswell Tue Mar 21, 1 pm, with Osher)
5. The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende
6. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
7. Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
8. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
9. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
10. North Water, by Ian McGuire

Quietly Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover has exceeded her recent predecessor novels' sales at Boswell. It's sold 2-3 times what we sold of Ripper and Maya's Notebook, likely stemming from a publisher change, which generally infuses a little more energy into publication on both sides, and also due to a staff rec from Boswellian Scott Espinoza, which has kept the book at the front of the store for much longer than it normally would be. Her newest novel, set at senior housing, was praised by Ron Charles in The Washington Post: "The Japanese Lover may be furnished with oxygen tanks and painkillers, but it blasts along like a turbocharged wheelchair."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
3. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn M. Perry (event Fri 3/31 at Woodland Pattern)
4. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, and David Luhrssen
5. Polygyny, by Debra Majeed
6. New American Hagaddah, by Jonathan Safran Foer/Nathan Englander
7. Spain in Our Hearts, by Adam Hochschild
8. You Are Here, by Jenny Lawson
9. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
10. How to Watch Soccer, by Ruud Gullit

Congratulations to Evicted and Lab Girl, which both won National Book Critics Circle Awards. The fiction winner was Louise Erdrich's LaRose. All three have staff recs from Boswell booksellers, which is an extra cool thing. Melissa Cronin in Popular Science wrote: "Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl reminds us that, in ways, we are strikingly like our blossoming brethren." Listen to Hope Jahren on the "On Point" show, which airs here on Wisconsin Public Radio.

 Books for Kids:
1. Throwing My Life Away, by Liz Czukas
2. Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
3. Toothpaste Millionaire, by Jean Merrill
4. Music of Dolphins, by Karen Hesse
5. Out of Wonder, by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjorie Wentworth
6. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
7. Almost Everything Book, by Julie Morstad
8. Triangle, by Mac Barnett, with illustrations by Jon Klassen
9. Bee, by Britta Teckentrup
10. A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum, by Davide Cali, with illustrations by Benjamin Chaud

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets received a starred review in Booklist: "...Here, in this beautiful book, along with his coauthors, poets Chris Colderly and Marjory Wentworth, Alexander offers a collection of 20 poems. The hook? All are written in tribute to well-known poets, such as Maya Angelou, e. e. cummings, Sandra Cisneros, Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, and William Carlos Williams, among others." Here's Kwame Alexander talking to Rachel Martin about the book on NPR's Morning Edition.

The Journal Sentinel has an extra big collection of book review this week, with so many that some of them leaked out of the TapBooks section.

First up is Dan Egan's The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, reviewed by John Hildebrand. Hildebrand offers his observations: "In his marvelous new book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, Dan Egan shows the lakes as a single ecosystem in which we are the keystone species, the one with the heaviest footprint, the scariest thing around. That’s quite a charge considering the cast of grotesques to enter the Great Lakes in the past century — sea lamprey, toad-faced round goby, zebra and quagga mussels, bighead carp — except that we, inadvertently, let them through the door."

A little drama from Mike Fischer, who in addition to books, reviews theater for the Journal Sentinel. His take on Rosalind: A Biography of Shakespeares Immortal Heroine, the new work from Angela Thirlwell: "What’s best in these discussions is Thirlwell’s anecdotes, supplemented by numerous interviews, involving actors who’ve played Rosalind during the past half century. It’s telling, for example, to hear from Adrian Lester, Rosalind in an all-male 1991 production in which he spent early rehearsals 'trying to play a woman.'"

From editor Chris Foran comes a review of Ike and McCarthy:Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy, from David A. Nichols. Foran reports: "Ike and McCarthy is Nichols' third book seeking to reassess — and upgrade — history's appreciation of Eisenhower's political ad leadership savvy in an area where some have thought Ike was lacking: 2011's Eisenhower 1956 details his role in foreign affairs, tamping down the Suez crisis before it turned into World War III, while 2007's A Matter of Justice repositions the 34th president as being more progressive on civil rights than previous biographers have suggested." Golf-loving naif? This book says no.

But wait, there's more! It's time for Carole E. Barrowman's Paging Through Mysteries column. This week two books are featured. First up is Jess Kidd's Himself, "a fabulously imaginative, darkly comic Irish tale set 'in the arse-end of beyond' in a village called Mulerigg." Barrowman offers that Kidd has taken a Tom Jones-like character and put him in the world of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Add murder and serve!

Also reviewed by Barrowman is Lola, the first novel from Melissa Scrivner Love, a noted television writer. Her story of a gang leader's girlfriend who is actually the brains behind the operation (and has 46 hours to get them out of a double cross or she will die brutally) is called "achingly beautiful" by Barrowman, and she compares Lola to Lisbeth Salander, as both "are damaged from years of sexual abuse."

Act now and you can also read this feature in the Fresh section, featuring 13 new garden books to "inspire, inform, and charm," selected by Joannee Kempinger Demski. I think it's an indication of gardening's move to niche status in publishing that none of these titles come from the large, traditional publishers, or even the traditional imprints like Workman's Storey or Sterling's Lark, let alonng Penguin Random House's Clarkson Potter. The good news is that it makes room for entrepreneurial newcomers.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Connecting the Threads: Reading Fiction About Adoption: Patty Yumi Cottrell, Boris Fishman, Lisa Ko

Did you ever notice how even when you're not actively interested in a particular area, your reading will inadvertently have a theme? I've written about this before, but it's happened again. It turns out that three recently published or about-to-be published novels are touch on adoption.

Despite a relative once telling me when I was young that I was adopted, and believing it for a bit, I am not - nor have I adopted children. But I've always had a good number of friends who were adopted and as I hit adulthood, a number of my friends and colleagues adopted as well. I was an adult before anyone told me that two of my cousins were adopted. I should have noticed that their sibling (not adopted) looked more like another mutual cousin than like his own brother and sister, but I didn't.

Just out this week is Patty Yumi Cottrell's Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, which features a Korean American woman struggling with the death of her brother. Helen has made a new life for herself in New York, but when her brother commits suicide, she returns home to Milwaukee to make sense of it. Or since she has a bit of a different sensibility about these things, she attempts to solve the case, detective style. The story has a disconnected alienation about it, and Helen's not a particularly reliable narrator. And while she sees kinship with her brother (they are adoptive siblings as well, not from the same birth family), sometimes it seems that their real bond is in their mutual lack of connection.

As Nathan Scott McNamara writes in The Los Angeles Times Review of Books: "The question of why Helen remains alive when her brother is dead is the book’s quiet obsession. Though estranged from her adoptive parents, Helen had stayed in touch with her adoptive brother via small exchanges. 'I began to scroll through our text history and I could say that many of his texts were very basic and practical. KOBE BRYANT!!! said one of them.' It’s not that the two of them shared their feelings — they basically didn’t — but they shared the understanding that there was someone out there that endured the same experiences and kept on going."

This led me to read Boris Fishman's Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo. It turns out Fishman's second novel, which was a New York Times notable book of the year in hardcover and is now in paperback, is also about adoption, from the perspective of the mother, and I think also touches on themes of alienation and connection. Father Alex is a Byelorussian immigrant while his wife Maya is a Ukrainian exchange student he met while she was studying in New York. They wind up adopting when they can't have kids.  Both are Jewish but when they ask for a Jewish orphan, the counselor laughs, and they wind up the parents of a boy from Montana. The only problem is that when he gets to be about eight, he starts acting a bit feral, running away into the winds, jumping in ponds.

Maya decides the only thing to do is drive to Montana and confront the parents, but she's also trying to get Alex out of his comfort zone, as the furthest west he's ever gone is to visit his cousins in Chicago. Like Helen, Maya has a mystery to unravel. How did their son Max get to be the way he is and why did the parents leave them with a parting plea, "Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo"? While Fishman's novel sets a different tone from Cottrell's, both sort of touch on adoption as a metaphor for our desire for connection, and the profound alienation that we're left with when the connection feels incomplete.

For the third perspective, the birth parent, I turn to The Leavers, the novel from Lisa Ko that is not coming out until May 2. I can't help it - there's already so much buzz about this book, and I desperately want to connect the three books. Don't worry - I'll have more to say about The Leavers when we get to pub date. But for now, I want to note that Ko's story is about a birth mother Peilan (Polly) and the son Deming that she leaves behind when she disappears.

Unlike the two earlier children, Deming (renamed Daniel by his adoptive parents) is older when he's sent to foster care and then adoption. He has vivid memories of his mother and can more easily verbalize his alienation of living in a small college town with his adoptive parents. That's also partly because he's an adult for much of the book, and can verbalize his feelings rather than running away into the woods. And when his childhood friend gives him a lead on his mother, now back in Fuzhou, China, he's able to act on it.

Of the three books, I found that The Leavers led me to more questions about the adoption process. Do foster parents rename their children? Apparently that has been the case if they are fostering with the attempt to adopt. Shouldn't you wait until you adopt? Or does this book take place long enough ago that we'd Americanize every name, continuing the tradition of Ellis Island where immigrant after immigrant would find themselves with a new identification when they landed. I know that the practice of taking on names is actually more common in China than other places, so I was surprised that Peilan was upset about Deming being called Daniel, even though she took the name Polly, but I think that's as much exacerbated by her situation of losing her son, and asserting his Deming identity was her way of keeping control.

Having read all three books in a short time frame, I tried to think back about other fiction about adoption, and it turns out that two of my favorite writers have touched on this subject. From Elinor Lipman comes Then She Found Me, a first novel about a woman reuniting with her birth mother. The book, by the way, has a lighter tone than the film. Then there's Anne Tyler's Digging to America, about two families adopting children from Korea. I didn't read it, but there's also The Red Thread from Ann Hood.

I remembered a novel by Michael Downing from 1999 called Breakfast with Scot, about a gay couple who take in the son of one of their sisters after she dies. Though I think the novel is old enough that adoption probably wouldn't have been the option for two men. But to me, it's a different and actually more culturally widespread story when a child is extended family.

So we'll see if my literary adoption journey will continue. And who knows what other thread I'll find in my reading.

The event details:
--Patty Yumi Cottrell appears at Boswell on Monday, May 20, 7 pm, for Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
--Boris Fishman appears at Boswell on Monday, May 27, 7 pm, for Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo, in conversation with Joel Berkowitz of the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM
--Lisa Ko appears at Boswell on Monday, June 12, 7 pm, for The Leavers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

More details on the Friends of the UWM Golda Meir Library event for Sara Paretsky on May 11, plus a link to our latest email newsletter.

Today's email newsletter announced the spring author event for the Friends of the Golda Meir Library. We're honored to cosponsor a visit from Sara Paretsky on Thursday, May 11, 7 pm. This event is free, but registration is requested. She will be appearing in conjunction with Fallout, the 18th novel in the V.I. Warshawski series, or the 19th if you include a collection of Warshawski stories.

Paretsky was last in Milwaukee for a traditional author event in 2013 for her book Critical Mass, though she was at Murder and Mayhem Milwaukee this past November. It was there that we chatted, and she noted that she really enjoys Milwaukee fans and would like to come back. And it's also where Boswellian Jen hand-sold her a copy of Girl Waits with Gun.

For those of you who get our email newsletter, you've probably already read about the book, said to be the first time that Warshawski leaves Chicago to track a killer. If you pay attention to these things, you might notice that marketing is stepped up a notch on this one, no doubt connected to her publisher change. For example, a lot of high-profile crime writers are weighing in this time. Look at this lineup of lit love!

Harlan Coben writes: "Sara Paretsky is a legend, and Fallout is her finest novel to date--an extraordinary read from an extraordinary author. If you haven t read her yet, now is the time."

And from Lee Child: "Fallout is the best yet in one of our genre s crucial, solid-gold, best-ever series. Paretsky is a genius, and she s never afraid to dig a little deeper."

C.J. Box weighs in: "Even out of her Chicago comfort zone in pursuit of a faded missing actress and a young filmmaker in Fallout, legendary V.I. Warshawski is as dogged and ferocious as ever. So is Sara Paretsky, who is at the top of her crime novel game."

Note the 1989 photo of Paretsky from her website, at right.

Jeffery Deaver declares: "Simply superb! As a fan of V.I. Warshawski from the very beginning, I can say without a doubt that Fallout finds both author and protagonist at the top of their games."

Karin Slaughter goes in for the kill: "An astonishing tour de force -- thrilling, moving, illuminating -- from an author of matchless intelligence, craft, and power. This is why Sara Paretsky reigns as one of the all-time greats."

Seating is limited, so register now for the event.

Don't get our email newsletter? Why not read it now? We've got more event features, plus staff recommendations of new picture books.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Boswell Events! Debra Majeed on Wednesday, B.J. Hollars at the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center Thursday, and Patty Yumi Cottrell next Monday.

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week.

Wednesday, March 15, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Debra Majeed, author of Polygyny: What It Means When African American Muslim Women Share Their Husbands

The first African American and Muslim woman to receive tenure at Beloit College sheds light on families whose form and function conflict with U.S. civil law. Polygyny, multiple-wife marriage, has steadily emerged as an alternative to the low numbers of marriageable African American men and the high number of female-led households in black America.

Featuring the voices of women who welcome polygyny, oppose it, acquiesce to it, or even negotiate power in its practices, Majeed examines the choices available to African American Muslim women who are considering polygyny or who are living it. She calls attention to the ways in which interpretations of Islam’s primary sources are authorized or legitimated to regulate the rights of Muslim women. Highlighting the legal, emotional, and communal implications of polygyny, Majeed encourages Muslim communities to develop formal measures that ensure the welfare of women and children who are otherwise not recognized by the state.

Thursday, March 16, 7:00 pm at Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E Park Pl:
B.J. Hollars, author of Flock Together: A Love Affair with Extinct Birds

After stumbling upon a book of photographs depicting extinct animals, Associate Professor of English at UW Eau Claire's B.J. Hollars became fascinated by the creatures that are no longer with us; specifically, extinct North American birds. And so begins his yearlong journey, one that leads him from bogs to art museums, from archives to Christmas Counts, until he at last comes as close to extinct birds as he ever will during a behind-the-scenes visit at the Chicago Field Museum.

Armed with binoculars, a field guide, and knowledgeable friends, he begins his transition from budding birder to environmentally conscious citizen, a first step on a longer journey toward understanding the true tragedy of a bird's song silenced forever. Told with charm and wit, Flock Together is a moving elegy to birds we've lost, and Hollars's exploration of what we can learn from extinct species will resonate in the minds of readers long beyond the final page.

Suggested general admission is $10 and $5 for Urban Ecology Center members.

Monday, March 20, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Helen Moran is thirty-two years old, single, childless, college-educated, and partially employed as a guardian of troubled young people in New York. She’s accepting a delivery from IKEA in her shared studio apartment when her uncle calls to break the news: Helen’s adoptive brother is dead.

According to the internet, there are six possible reasons why her brother might have killed himself. But Helen knows better: she knows that six reasons is only shorthand for the abyss. Helen also knows that she alone is qualified to launch a serious investigation into his death, so she purchases a one-way ticket to Milwaukee. There she searches her childhood home and attempts to uncover why someone would choose to die. She faces her estranged family, her brother’s few friends, and discovers what it truly means to be alive.

Cottrell’s debut has shades of Bernhard, Beckett, and Bowles, but is also a bleak comic tour de force that’s by turns poignant, uproariously funny, viscerally unsettling, and is the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell.

Here's an early review of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace in the Portland Mercury.

And my take: "She may call herself Sister Reliable, but Helen is anything but, especially as a narrator. Hypersensitive to details, Helen is unable to connect the dots, and the continuous misses create a powerfully hypnotic narrative of estrangement."