The Truth Behind a D.C. Mystery and Media Frenzy

Book review: Finding Chandra, by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz Washington Post reporters and Pulitzer Prize winners Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz expand on their thirteen-part series about the truth of the Chandra Levy disappearance and murder investigations, revealing how police focused on Congressman Gary Condit, with whom the Bureau of Prisons intern was having an affair, at the expense of more viable suspects, one … Continue reading The Truth Behind a D.C. Mystery and Media Frenzy

Snakes in the Church

Book review: Salvation on Sand Mountain “Snake handling didn’t originate back in the hills somewhere. It started when people came down from the hills to discover they were surrounded by a hostile and spiritually dead culture.” At some point last year, I read an article, I think either about a preacher getting arrested or else bitten and killed, and I learned about the Southern Pentecostal groups that interpret a … Continue reading Snakes in the Church

Tea Partiers in Their Own Words

Book review: Strangers in Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild In the last decade, but especially the last few years, we’ve seen an especially polarizing shift between the American political left and right, culminating in the election of a previously non-politically-involved narcissistic billionaire (or is he?) bully with an inferiority complex. But even before that menace was in the White House, the unrest and dissatisfaction from the … Continue reading Tea Partiers in Their Own Words

Images of Apocalypse in the Everyday

Book review: The World is On Fire, by Joni Tevis Joni Tevis has a strange talent for writing essays that combine the most unlikely, unrelated subjects, skipping without any obvious connection between topics and somehow making it work as a coherent, emotional, interesting piece. I’ve never read anything quite like it before. As one example, she writes an essay contrasting her own struggles with fertility … Continue reading Images of Apocalypse in the Everyday

Kitchens of Manhattan, Kitchens of Minnesota

Book review: Give a Girl a Knife, by Amy Thielen Amy Thielen, host of the Food Network’s Heartland Table, is a girl of two worlds – the ultra-high-end, gourmet restaurant kitchens of New York City, one of the most competitive restaurant environments ever; and her folksy home of rural Minnesota, where she honed her cooking skills and “taste memories” drawing on her parents’ French-Canadian, German, and Eastern European immigration backgrounds and … Continue reading Kitchens of Manhattan, Kitchens of Minnesota

Defending Hillary

Book review: The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, by Susan Bordo Professor, scholar, and Pulitzer Prize-nominee Susan Bordo is, like many others, astounded at the events of the past year that culminated in Donald Trump assuming power in Washington instead of Hillary Clinton. And like many, she’s struggled to make sense of it all: of the complex, obfuscated political and media machinery that contributed so heavily … Continue reading Defending Hillary

Murders in Indian Country and the FBI’s Beginnings

Book review: Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann It’s a deeply unfortunate, painful characteristic of American history that crimes against Native Americans are often lost to history. If you read a book like Dee Brown’s classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, you’re hit with wave after wave of frustration with each successive incident of their treatment at the hands and laws of white Americans. Killers of the … Continue reading Murders in Indian Country and the FBI’s Beginnings

Not-So-Sunny Sides of the Sunshine State

Book review: Sunshine State, by Sarah Gerard Sunshine State, up and coming literary darling Sarah Gerard’s essay collection rooted in her childhood home state of Florida, hits some high highs and low lows. The opening essay, “BFF”, starts the book out as strongly as it could possibly be started; I was hooked. Gerard dreamily, wistfully details the twists and turns of a toxic young female … Continue reading Not-So-Sunny Sides of the Sunshine State

A Demagogue With Eerie Resonance Today

Book review: The Road to Jonestown, by Jeff Guinn Bestselling investigative journalist Jeff Guinn writes a comprehensive biography of Jim Jones and his infamous Peoples Temple cult, drawing heavily on interviews with former members and a wealth of Temple and FBI documents. Beginning with Jones’ parents and childhood in small-town Lynn, Indiana, and progressing via sections divided by the Temple’s successive locations in the United States and Guyana, the narrative … Continue reading A Demagogue With Eerie Resonance Today

Food As Love in Any Language

Book review: The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber I’m falling in love with “foodoirs” lately. Those are food-themed memoirs, in case you’re late to the genre, like I was. This one moved me more than I unexpected. Novelist Diana Abu-Jaber was born in America to a Jordanian immigrant father and an American mother. Her family, including two younger sisters, lived in upstate Syracuse, New York, … Continue reading Food As Love in Any Language

A Childhood in Polygamy

Book review: The Polygamist’s Daughter, by Anna LeBaron with Leslie Wilson Anna LeBaron is a daughter of Ervil LeBaron, the notorious polygamist Mormon cult leader whose sprawling family (she opens the prologue with, “At age nine, I had forty-nine siblings”) underwent a vicious divide as Ervil ordered the murders of those who questioned his leadership or defected from the cult. Much of the family lived in Mexico while … Continue reading A Childhood in Polygamy

Down and Out in Rhode Island

Book review: Down City, by Leah Carroll Leah Carroll’s mother died when Leah was four years old, strangled in a motel room by two drug dealers with mafia connections to Rhode Island’s Patriarca crime family and a misguided paranoia. She’s then raised by her father and stepmother, with the ghost of her mother a constant haunting presence. Down City chronicles her childhood and adolescence with a … Continue reading Down and Out in Rhode Island