In the trees is just about the only place in Carly Simon’s world that there aren’t boys, suggests this unputdownable memoir by the beloved singer and the first artist in history to win a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award for the same song (“Let the River Run” from the movie Working Girl). Growing up the privileged but congenitally anxious daughter of a high-flying publishing executive, Simon learned early on – perhaps from her mother, who moved a much younger male “assistant” into the house when the Simon sisters were small – to crave love and attention. Some of this she got, of course, from performing, even though she famously suffers from crippling stage fright. The rest she sought from men – and her encounters with guys known mostly by their bold-faced first names – Mick, Warren, Jack – are well (and sometimes painfully honestly) documented here. (And yes, she finally reveals who her song “You’re So Vain” refers to – sort of.) But it is the story of her marriage to fellow musician and Martha’s Vineyard resident James Taylor – whom she met first as a young teenager – that is the most resonant. Although the union lasted two decades, and produced two children – and despite the fact that Simon and Taylor are now not in touch – it is clear that JT is Simon’s real-life torch song, the original man who got away.
Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon on December 21st at Lori’s house December 7, 2017
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates on September 28th at 6:15 at Radio Maria hosted by Danda September 11, 2017
Readers of his work in The Atlantic and elsewhere know Ta-Nehisi Coates for his thoughtful and influential writing on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his teenaged son, his new memoir, Between the World and Me, walks us through the course of his life, from the tough neighborhoods of Baltimore in his youth, to Howard University—which Coates dubs “The Mecca” for its revelatory community of black students and teachers—to the broader Meccas of New York and Paris. Coates describes his observations and the evolution of his thinking on race, from Malcolm X to his conclusion that race itself is a fabrication, elemental to the concept of American (white) exceptionalism. Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina are not bumps on the road of progress and harmony, but the results of a systemized, ubiquitous threat to “black bodies” in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Coates is direct and, as usual, uncommonly insightful and original. There are no wasted words. This is a powerful and exceptional book.
It Can’t Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis’s later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.
Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.
Called “a message to thinking Americans” by the Springfield Republican when it was published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here is a shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news.
The journalist Mona Eltahawy is no stranger to controversy. Through her articles and actions she has fought for the autonomy, security, and dignity of Muslim women, drawing vocal supporters and detractors. Now, in her first book, Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy has prepared a definitive condemnation of the repressive forces-political, cultural, and religious-that reduce millions of women to second-class citizens.
Drawing on her years as a campaigner for and commentator on women’s issues in the Middle East, she explains that since the Arab Spring began in 2010, women in the Arab world have had two revolutions to undertake: one fought alongside men against oppressive regimes, and another fought against an entire political and economic system that represses women in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and other nations.
Eltahawy has traveled across the Middle East and North Africa, meeting with women and listening to their stories. Her book is a plea for outrage and action, confronting a “toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.” A manifesto motivated by hope and fury in equal measure, Headscarves and Hymens is as illuminating as it is incendiary.
Books and places for Fall/Winter 2014 October 6, 2014
And the winners:
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran at Susan’s house on Thursday November 6th (I took liberty and shortened this to 5 weeks so the next rotation wouldn’t land on Christmas)
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed at Danda’s house on Thursday December 18th
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenbergat Heidi’s house on January 29th