An American’s Ideas and Impressions From Istanbul

Book review: Notes on a Foreign Country, by Suzy Hansen This is a book about an American living abroad in the era of American decline…As an American abroad now, [post-Iraq and Afghanistan wars] you do not have the same crazy, smiling confidence. You do not want to speak so loud. You feel always the vague risk of breaking something. In Turkey and elsewhere…I felt an almost physical sensation of intellectual and emotional … Continue reading An American’s Ideas and Impressions From Istanbul

A Voice from the Gulag

Book review: The Day Will Pass Away, by Ivan Chistyakov So even my inner word recedes day by day into eternity until it reaches freezing point. You start believing they can make you lose all emotion. Yet every day brings you nearer to freedom. Only, what kind of path are you walking to get there? A path of defeats, misery and rage. A path that makes you even more … Continue reading A Voice from the Gulag

Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Book review: The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer I like Amy Schumer’s comedy, but I’m not enough in love with it that her book was a priority when it came out nearly a year ago. Until I happened upon a review praising it as something much more meaningful than a reiteration of Schumer’s jokes or skits from her show. The review stressed that … Continue reading Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Book review: The Hot One, by Carolyn Murnick New York magazine editor Carolyn Murnick was childhood best friends with Ashley Ellerin, growing up in suburban New Jersey. Attending different high schools, then Ashley’s relocation to her home state of California, the friendship began developing the natural divide that accompanies growing up and apart. But unlike many similar friendships, the two maintain some level of connection, and … Continue reading A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Anger As Illumination and Other Gandhi Wisdoms

Book review: The Gift of Anger, by Arun Gandhi “Bapuji often had a spinning wheel at his side, and I like to think of his life as a golden thread of stories and lessons that continue to weave in and out through the generations, making a stronger fabric for all our lives. Many people now know my grandfather only from the movies, or they remember that he … Continue reading Anger As Illumination and Other Gandhi Wisdoms

Memory, History, And Family Roots in Latvia

Book review: Among the Living and the Dead, by Inara Verzemnieks “This is why I had journeyed to my grandmother’s lost village, nestled at the edge of Latvia, which is itself nestled at the edge of Europe’s psychic north, south, east and west, or, as Pope Innocent III described it…’the edge of the known world’.  Because I imagined, maybe, I might find her again in the old … Continue reading Memory, History, And Family Roots in Latvia

The Life-Saving Magic of Poetry

Book review: Poetry Will Save Your Life, by Jill Bialosky “All poems become, to a certain degree, personal to a reader.” Poet, editor, and novelist Jill Bialosky writes a memoir structured around the poems that have helped her through life, imbuing it with deeper meaning and giving subtle guidance and reassurances through turmoil and joy. Sometimes they act as markers, anchoring her memory to a place or event. … Continue reading The Life-Saving Magic of Poetry

Perspectives On Paris

Book review: A Paris All Your Own, edited by Eleanor Brown “My time in Paris was like no one else’s ever.” “In the end, I think Paris kept us married for an extra five years.” “I should probably write an article for a women’s magazine about this: ‘Lose Weight While Eating Your Feelings in Paris!’” A Paris All Your Own is a collection of impressionistic essays … Continue reading Perspectives On Paris

A Family’s Life After A Cult

Book review: In the Days of Rain, by Rebecca Stott “No one would guess that I was raised in a Christian fundamentalist cult or that my father and grandfather were ministering brothers in one of the most reclusive and savage Protestant sects in British history.” Rebecca Stott is the daughter of Roger Stott, a minister turned defector of the Exclusive Brethren, England’s branch of a separatist Christian … Continue reading A Family’s Life After A Cult

Vignettes of Life and Memories from the American Midwest to Italy

Book review: American English, Italian Chocolate, by Rick Bailey English professor Rick Bailey writes a sweet, soft memoir in vignette-style essays stretching from the American Midwest to northern Italy. Musings include high school dramas and levitation parties, medical issues humorous and otherwise, death, home insect infestations, historical perceptions of beans, how Nutella might taste better in Italy than in America, and, a favorite: observations on espresso making in … Continue reading Vignettes of Life and Memories from the American Midwest to Italy

Snakes in the Church

Book review: Salvation on Sand Mountain, by Dennis Covington “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 … Continue reading Snakes in the Church

An American’s Insights into Russia, 1995-2005-2015

Book review: Bears in the Streets, by Lisa Dickey No fewer than six people in six different cities (and four different time zones) had informed me that this is what Americans think. “Bears in the streets,” I realized, was the apparently ubiquitous shorthand for the Russians’ feeling that the West doesn’t take them seriously enough – that we think they’re primitive or backward. Lifelong Russophile Lisa … Continue reading An American’s Insights into Russia, 1995-2005-2015