- “Imagery of Destruction and Reconstruction: Giuseppe de Nittis’ forthright approach to Post-Commune Paris,” Konsthistorisk tidskrift LXVII (1998): 157-173.
- “Measuring the Temper of her Time: Joan of Arc in the 1870s and 1880s,” Konsthistorisk tidskrift LXVIII (1999): 117-125.
- “Monuments to Prior Glory: The Foreign Perspective on Post-Commune Paris,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 62 (1999): 512-526.
- “Spatial Engineer: The Role of Italian artist Giuseppe de Nittis in the development of Cityscape Imagery in the late 19th century.” Van Gogh Museum Journal (1999): 94-103.
- “Italian Artists in Paris in the Late Nineteenth Century and the Establishment of La Polenta,” Storia dell’Arte 97 (2000): 131-138.
- “William Holman Hunt’s Portrait of Fanny: Inspiration for the artist in the late 1860s.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 65 (2002): 232-241.
- “Jealousy or genuine fear of contamination: Critical peer reaction to the assimilation of Italian artists in Paris in the late nineteenth century,” Studi di Storia dell’Arte 15 (2005): 227-336.
- “Constructing an Image: The Development of La Vie Moderne in Third Republic Paris,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 69 (2006): 109-114.
- “Reviving the Rococo: Enterprising Italian artists in Second Empire Paris,” Art History 28 (2005): 341-356.
- “Restoring Guillaume Coustou’s Samuel Bernard to its Baroque Heritage: An argument for formal analysis,” Studi di Storia dell’Arte 17 (2006): 1-12.
- “Conceiving the Child: British illustrator Kate Greenaway’s determining influence on the graphic work of Mary Cassatt,” Aurora 7 (2006): 19-34.
- “Framing the Present for Posterity: The Synergy of Early Photography and the Painted Cityscape in Third Republic Paris,” The Journal of Architecture 11 (November 2006): 559-568.
- “Servants to patronage, witnesses to change: Italian artists abroad and the modern cityscape,” Visual Resources 23 (2007): 183-202.
- “Victor Burgin’s meaningful cityscape and the legacy of socially-responsive narrative view painting,” Journal of Visual Arts Practice 7 (2008): 57-73.
- “The Search for a Story: George Lukàcs’ “Narrate or Describe?” and the Parisian Cityscape,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 73 (2010): 99-114
- J.D. Kirszenbaum (1900-1954): The Lost Generation—A Journey from Staszow to Paris via Weimar, Berlin and Rio de Janiero, Somogy-Editions d’Art, Paris, 2013.
- “The Restoration of Loss: J.D. Kirszenbaum’s exploration of personal displacement,” Ars Judaica 14 (2014): 69-92.
- Book Review. Nadine Nieszawer, with Claude Lanzmann (pref.), and Deborah Princ, Arthur Princ, Boris Princ, Marie Boyé Taillan, and Paul Fogel. Artistes Juifs de l’École de Paris 1905–1939. Paris: Somogy Éditions d’Art, 2015 in Images: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture. Vol. 10 (2017).
The Book of V. Anna Solomon
I am giving Solomon’s novel a five-star rating primarily on ingenuity. This is simply a brilliant and masterful take on the Story of Esther. The means she uses, weaving together female characters (one of whom is Esther herself) from different time periods, including our own modern age, and exploring their struggle with the roles handed to them, with their effort to be comfortable within their skin as women in their particular time periods, is so clever and intriguing. Solomon’s writing is also solid and evocative. This is a wonderful book and a must for those interested in the re-envisioning of history (biblical history in this case).
The Push. Ashley Audrain
Thought-provoking, heartbreaking, crushing. Audrain’s novel lays out the unbearable possibilities that sometimes interfere with what is supposed to be the most natural thing of all: mothering. Her story of four generations of women, their struggles as mothers, as daughters, and as women simply trying to find their way, is both beautiful and tragic. Hold on tight for this one. It’s a tough ride.
A Promised Land. Barack Obama
Lucid, engaging, warm, informative. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe Obama’s tale of his journey into the office and the first years there. He’s a very strong writer with a strong voice so what could be dry comes across as both lively and interesting. It’s fascinating to read his version of certain world events that I’d only known through the words of commentators, reporters, etc. Lovely man and that comes through in spades.
Interior Chinatown. Charles Yu
This book uses an unusual construct to make its point, places us on the scene of a movie made in Chinatown as a means of hurling us (the reader) right into the experience of being Asian in America. Along the way we get to know one family and its pain, the difficulties it faces trying to assimilate and acculturate, the blocks put on their way by both Americans and American cultural constructs. It’s effective, even brilliant, and perfectly conveys an experience that many of us cannot even begin to imagine. Don’t be thrown off by the beginning. The screenplay format makes the beginning a bit rough going. Persevere and you’ll fall in love with the main character, a man who’s trying to find both his way and his place.
Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth
I have to admit that I might have skipped this book if Israel hadn’t just had yet another war with Gaza and the world hadn’t, yet again, jumped all over its back with accusations and pronouncements that clearly smacked of antisemitism. I discovered Noa Tishby to be a very well-spoken spokesperson at a time when it was desperately needed and, after following her on Instagram, purchased the book. To my delight, I discovered a well-considered, well-written, lucid, and even-keeled presentation of history both ancient and more modern. Tishby is basically a peacenik so I liked her politics from the start, the way she was willing to judge Israel poorly when it failed but for the most part, was eager to clear up misunderstandings, exaggerations, blatant lies, and the purposeful distortion of facts. I would recommend this book very highly for those who want to step back and hear about the Jewish people’s extremely long relationship with the land of Israel, the difficulties faced by the Palestinians trying to establish their own homeland, and the bold facts behind platforms solely meant to do damage (BDS) when constructive measures are so sorely needed. I recommend the audio version. She’s an actress and has a very engaging voice and manner!
Migrations. Charlotte McConaghy
This is such a beautiful novel. It’s about nature, both human and animal, and how it cannot be thwarted but must run its course. It’s about love, not the kind with expectations, the kind that insists on controlling, but instead, that which embraces the gift with which it has been bestowed.
The words, the language, the story about migrations, both human and animal, all add up to a real masterpiece. I have almost no interest in birds but it made not one difference. I just loved every bit of this book.
Memorial. Bryan Washington
This is one beautiful book. Washington’s prose is exquisite and precise. It never gets fancy but is consistently spot-on in terms of both energy, expression, and emotion. This story of hope, love, desire, and survival in the face of life’s challenges is just extraordinary. Wonderful way to usher in another year of reading.
Homeland Elegies. Ayad Akhtar
Brilliant, stimulating, thought-provoking, and compassionate. Akhtar’s novel/memoir is simply amazing, managing to animate a subject that is intensely germane to the world in which we live. His exploration of his own experience as an American besides those of his parents, who immigrated to America from Pakistan, in an America that has slowly but most definitely migrated toward Trump culture, is absolutely fascinating. It’s a history lesson, a civics lesson, a contemporary culture wake-up, and an extremely personal tale of finding one’s way all rolled up into one.
Anxious People. Fredrik Backman
I love Fredrik Backman’s writing and his lovely and hopeful homilies. I’ve adored several of his other books. But this one somehow wasn’t quite up to par. I never once thought to close it, or give up on it, because there’s always something so charming about his characters and the predicaments in which they find themselves, but I felt uninvested this time around. This book is great as a simple tale of how people can learn, can change their feathers, can right their wrongs, and can step outside of themselves to lend a hand to others. It’s a book that emphasizes the fact that we’re all in this together! But again, it doesn’t reach thems of ones like A Man Called Ove, Beartown and Us Against You.
Aftershocks. Nadia Owusu
Owusu’s story is startling, unexpected, and crackles with the energy of a young life already lived. The author moved around the world, first after her parents, then with her father. Her journey reflects her exposure to a variety of cultures, disruptions, and personal upheavals. I think that what made this a special book was the language–it positively buzzes, her words linking together in jarring sentences that were almost poetry more than prose. Finding it difficult to follow her twisted path, I clung to the visceral descriptions of moments and I found them quite beautiful.
The Mothers. Brit Bennett
I absolutely loved this book. The story, the writing, the exploration of the characters, the thoughtful consideration of what daughters seek from their mothers, and the consequent pressure on mothers to get it right when so much is wrong– it comes together seamlessly.
This book is both a fabulous and meaningful read. I really enjoyed the author’s The Vanishing Half bu thought that The Mothers was even better.
Of Women and Salt. Gabriela Garcia
Garcia’s prose is vivid, tactile, and masterful, making reading this book like eating an especially tasty meal. The story she weaves together, of mothers and daughters separated by generations, misunderstandings, secrets, and longings they cannot overcome, is heart-breaking and moving and occasionally, hopeful. I think I felt sadder more than uplifted but that didn’t detract from the experience. The strands cross time and countries and sometimes I felt the distance between them was too great to bring together, but Garcia manages it with a beautiful stroke at the end. (No spoiler here). There’s a beautiful lesson about everything we want to be and achieve as mothers and the cold realities that frustrate their realization.
Burnt Sugar. Avni Doshi
This novel is excruciatingly painful but absolutely beautifully written. The protagonist has suffered a lifetime of bad, and even cruel or nonexistent, mothering but now steps in to take care of her mother who is suffering signs of dementia. The push and pull between these characters over the course of two lifetimes is explored in a back and forth timeline. The exploration of mothering becomes more and more
Intense as the history of the two unfolds and the tables continue to turn. It is truly Doshi’s beautiful way with words that holds the reader’s rapt attention. Not an easy read otherwise.
Infinite Country. Patricia Engel
A beautiful picture about the dominance of family over country, about the woes of immigration tangles, about surviving systems set up to frustrate and depress. This story of a family torn in two and their struggle to stay together and eventually find their way back to one another is very timely, extremely engaging, and many times, heartbreaking. Although the author gives us a vivid description of Colombia as well as the kind of America experienced by new immigrants (legal and not), her best gift is the depiction of a family trying to find its way and never losing hope.
What’s Mine and Yours. Naima Coster
I adored this exploration of two families, of relationships between sisters, of how challenging it can be to get the mother-daughter relationship right. Naima’s writing is fluent, her characters well-fleshed out and the story is both engaging and moving.
Of course, on top of the human story is one exploring race: Black, Latino, White, over the last few decades. (The story moves back and forth over time). Never-ending, tortured, painful and with little chance of not playing a pivotal role in the lives of the characters.
Very strong read.
The Death of Vivek Oji. Akwaeke Emezi
A heartbreaking book about the difficulties, cultural, familial, and societal of truly being who you are. No spoilers here. Emezi paints a gorgeous picture not of Nigerian society and its customs. The delineation of the characters, especially the main two male characters, rings true. The novel is well-written and really a pleasure to read. Its delineation of traditional gender assignment is riveting and timely.
Sharks in the Times of Saviors. Kawai Strong Washburn
Gorgeous writing. Full stop. Wow. What a plethora of exquisite, perfectly crafted sentences! On top of that, this is a beautiful story of a broken family desperate to heal, of working against the grain to survive. I have never been to Hawaii but I imagine if I had been, it would have been all the more meaningful. Washburn describes it so well, in such a heart-breakingly “felt” manner.
Girl in Translation. Jean Kwok
I really enjoyed Jean Kwok’s Searching for Sylvie Lee and was eager to get back to the beginning and see where she started. I have to admit that although Girl in Translation is a solid read, I found it predictable and a lot less impressive. That being said, it was her debut! And since her storytelling has become that much stronger (as made evident in Sylvie Lee) I have to say that she started on sound footing. This story describes the very difficult life of a young girl and her mother, fresh from China, making their way with absolutely nothing in NYC. Kimberley’s willpower and brains eventually pull them out of a poverty-stricken life defined by the loans that got them to the US in the first place, and endless hours spent working at the kind of factories we know are illegal. The twist at the very end of the book is one of the only ones I hadn’t seen coming. I think I wanted to love the book and that’s where it fell short for me.
Yellow Wife. Sadeqa Johnson.
Compelling, horrific story of life in Antibellum South from the perspective of a slave of mixed parentage. The author loosely based it on actual historical reports of the slave experience and one particularly interesting story of a slave prison owned and run by a man who married a mulatto woman. The story feels true from start to finish due to Johnson’s strong writing and succeeds in both horrifying and offending. The possibility that slaves of mixed race found alternative ways to survive the nightmare is intriguing and feels genuine. Great listen.
What Comes After. JoAnne Tompkins
I would call this novel a thriller with a heart. Tompkins effectively draws us into the characters’ extremely complex lives, making us sigh and cry with them while unrolling a roller coaster of a tale. Her writing is clear, her exploration of real conflict within the soul of her characters–good doesn’t always prevail over evil–, and her ability to build up tension are all very strong. I found the fact that one of the characters was Quaker, a religion that encourages reflection and silent prayer as a means of healing and living, absolutely fascinating. It added a very interesting layer of spirituality to his inner struggle. For the record, I’m not a fan of thrillers and was, accordingly, less drawn into the details of the storyline. Nevertheless, the exploration of human flaws was strong enough to make it a very good, compelling, read.
Good Neighbors. Sarah Langan
Langan offers a cutting and succinct portrayal of American suburban dysfunction! The story of one neighbourhood is positively frightening. I felt as though I were reading a thriller. And perhaps that’s what the author intended. The terror and mess created by one terribly unstable resident bring the entire neighbourhood to its knees. This story shows the very worst of humanity, most especially their willingness to rally behind whatever cause seems, on the surface, most just. I found it a painful read saved by Langan’s clear and fluid writing style and the especially hopeful voice she gives to the children despite their parents’ refusal to truly see.
The Nature of Fragile Things. Susan Meissner
Very nice book with twists and turns that keep you turning the page. Meissner’s prose is clear and fluent. Three stars seems a little meek. I would have given it 3 1/2. For me it was missing a bit more depth in writing, a feeling that would have made me feel more connected, or at least, invested, in the main characters. That being said, it’s a lovely tale of women bonding in the worst of situations. Nice read.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
This book is beautifully written. Wilkerson makes a very impressive argument of the existence of a kind of caste system in the United States as indicated by the treatment, over the centuries, of African Americans. I think it makes for an effective wake up call. At the same time her comparisons between the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis abs African Americans by white Americans is problematic. I am willing to accept, only, the idea of the untouchables. Beyond this I don’t think the comparison holds water.
Still. Very impressive and well researched.
Greenlights. Matthew McConaughey
I really enjoyed this book on audible. I love McConaughey’s voice and his spirit. But I’m not sure if I would have been as enthusiastic if I’d read it in text. It’s a nice story of his life–and very amusing–but not anything to write home about. That being said, listening to him tell his tale and learn his lessons along the way was a complete pleasure. Seriously. I would give it a four star rating as an audible book.
Corregidora. Gayl Jones
This book was recommended to me. Otherwise, I never would have discovered it.(It was first published in 1974!) But what a gem! This is a heartbreaking and beautifully crafted story about what mother’s pass to their daughters–highlighting the nightmares of generations past and the means to survive them. The picture of life for the main character, a young black woman trying to make her way while struggling with relationships with a man and continuing to sing the blues, is just exquisite.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Jared Diamond
This is a brilliant book, albeit not always the easiest read. Diamond has stuffed it chock full of information that truly boggles the mind. I found myself having to go back, again and again, to see that I’d understood the significance of his theory. But it was well worth it as he effectively explains how geography and environment have favored development and prosperity, not necessarily intellect or moral superiority. He really transforms the assumptions about Eurasian hegemony, insisting on an entire reassessment of the history of the world. And for the record, he writes clear as day, it’s just that the book is so full of gems, so many revelations and facts, that it takes a slow and careful reading to take them all in. Well worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.
Great Circle. Maggie Shipstead
This is one sweeping novel. It’s about a brave woman who just wants to fly, to conquer the skies, at a time when women weren’t supposed/allowed to, and another woman almost a century later who’s afraid to fly both literally and emotionally. It explores how difficult it was to be a woman who wanted to remain independent one hundred years ago, accentuating the privilege by describing a woman who continues to feel she’d be better off not independent in our contemporary world. It’s one of those novels that sweeps you away, back and forth across the centuries, back and forth across the surface of the earth. Shipstead’s writing is simply beautiful, her long descriptive passages reminiscent of Dickens. She knows how to set a scene. This is a very long novel but once the reader is in, the pages literally fly by. Although fiction, it incorporates a lot of factual information regarding airplanes, navigation, women in flight in the first half of the twentieth century (including during WWII), and our planet. It will make any reader want to sprout wings.
We Run the Tides. Vida Vendela
I really loved Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. Vida writes very well. I was less fond of We Run the Tides. It’s the kind of book that you can read straight through, the writing is strong, the characters well-conceived, the storyline compelling. I love San Francisco, and the descriptions of the city, from the viewpoint of an adolescent, are just lovely. All that being said, somehow the book fell short for me. I think I had trouble feeling empathy for the main character. That’s really critical to me, even if I have nothing in common with them. One note: It’s not officially YA, but it could be.
I’m Supposed to Protect you from all this. Nadja Spiegelman
Spiegelman’s memoir, an attempt to untangle the relationships between several generations of mothers and daughters, is a beautiful elegy to love, to resilience, and to parenting. Traveling across the world to figure out her own mother’s relationship with her grandmother, she discovers that there is no one version; that memory is saturated with desire and hope; that parenting is tainted by individual needs and dreams; that suffering is not exclusive to the younger generation. Spiegelman takes us back and forth between New York, Paris, and other French destinations with exquisite details, making this book a voyage of both place and the heart. Just wonderful.
The Last Thing He Told Me. Laura Dave
A page-turner with a heart. Dave manages to offer a thriller that grips the reader not only through the construction and revelation of the mystery but additionally, through empathy. We read onward because we care! Her writing is strong and evocative, her characters, a woman, her husband, and her teenage stepdaughter, are developed beautifully and believable. This is what I would call a strong summer book.
Count the Ways. Joyce Maynard
Maynard has written yet one more beautiful, point-perfect, book about families, the multiple challenges they face, and the way those challenges can unravel everything solid, and assumed permanent, both quickly and completely. The story is told by the mother, and her voice, hopeful, desperate, starry-eyed, frustrated, and heart-broken, comes through very clearly. I believe that any mother reading this book will both sympathize and empathize, mostly because of the rich descriptions with which Maynard describes the situations, sometimes complicated, sometimes not, with which her characters must deal. This is really a wonderful read.
The Light of Days. Judy Batalion
Batalion’s book is simply excellent. The story she reveals, of the resistance efforts of women in Poland during WWII, is simply extraordinary. It’s a real game-changer in terms of Holocaust literature. I’ve read a great deal of both non-fiction and historical fiction on the subject, yet nothing prepared me for the bravery, the guts, the pure hardened will of the group of women whose stories she shares. Coming across this material in the form of a small book of memoirs written by one of these women, Batalion took it upon herself to dig deeper and reveal the atrocities experienced by these women in their efforts to survive, to rebel, to save those they loved. I finished it and immediately started reading it a second time. It’s simply chockful of details that both astound, appall, and inspire. This book is a MUST for Holocaust lit readers.
West with Giraffes. Lynn Rutledge
I adored Rutledge’s novel. Based on a true fact, the miraculous survival and then, safe transportation of two giraffes across the US in 1938, the author has woven a beautiful tale of hope, love, and belief in the goodness in humanity. Woody has lost everything, both family and home. But he identifies something beautiful and genuine in these two creatures and decides to attach his own luck to their own. Thus begins an incredible journey which, although imagined by the author, comes off entirely believable. We follow the beautifully described cast of characters along their journey, rooting for them along the way, our hearts rising and falling as they are alternatively thwarted and then, successful. This novel has an old-fashioned “feel good” quality that I found refreshing.
Beautiful Country. Qian Julie Wang
This was an extremely well-written and absolutely crushing book. It reads like a novel so I would recommend it to those who don’t usually read memoirs. But hold on tight. Wang’s story of immigrating to the US as a child is harrowing and quite heart-breaking. She offers a boldly honest picture of what it was like to have no status, no money, and very little hope. The cost of the difficulties to her family life are described vividly. Debilitating at best. Most interesting to me were the parts where she described life at school, including her interactions with other students from both similar and different backgrounds as well as her teachers. One small disappointment: The very last section is kind of a fast-forward and I wanted to know a bit more about how that went (college, living away from her family, etc.).
Intimacies. Katie Kitamura
Strange, compelling, and haunting. Kitamura’s protagonist is a translator at the International Court of Justice in The Hague deeply disturbed by the accused war criminals for whom she must translate. Her role as a transmitter of words whose significance extends far beyond their meanings unmoors her world–already destabilized by her incessant search for a place she can call home. The reader is swept in by the author’s gorgeous language and joins the protagonist in a fog of concerns, disturbances and eventually, self-revelation.
Firekeeper’s Daughter. Angeline Boulley
I am not a huge fan of YA but this book is just terrific. The story is interesting and eye-opening, the characters well-developed. It focuses on Native Americans in the area of the Upper Peninsula (Michigan), most specifically the issues they face regarding maintaining their identity within American culture and the problem of serious Meth addiction. The main character, a young woman about to graduate high school, is extremely amiable. We follow her desperate effort to maintain the dignity of her people in the face of extraordinarily difficult threats, rooting for her from start to finish. The dialogue is snappy and the characters well-articulating, keeping the readers on their toes. I would imagine that this book will win awards for both technical execution and topical significance. Just wonderful.