The Boomerang

Understand history. Understand the world.

Book Review Round Up Part 6: Foreword Reviews

It’s time for another round up of books I have reviewed for Foreword Reviews, a trade magazine that covers independently published books for libraries and independent bookstores. The theme that bind these books together is that of diversity and equity. From the experiences of women of color in the United States and the fight for the right to health care among Black Americans to searching for one’s family roots in Hong Kong and the American Midwest, to antisemitism in France and a toxic codependent relationship among Russian émigré artists.


The text within quotation marks are excerpts from the reviews. The reviews can be read in full on Foreword Reviews’s website and in the September/October 2022 issue of the Foreword Reviews magazine.

Darien Hsu Gee and Carla Crujido (eds.), Non-White and Woman. 131 Micro Essays on Being in the World (Woodhall Press, 2022).

“Edited by Darien Hsu Gee and Carla Crujido, Nonwhite and Woman is an intimate, honest collection of microessays by women of color. Each entry is 300 words or less, forcing its story into focus. The anthology demonstrates the power and accomplishments of its distinguished contributors, who represent immigrant communities from all over the world, as well as Indigenous nations from the North American continent and Hawai’i. Nonwhite and Woman is an intimate essay collection whose contributors discuss carving out living spaces in a hostile world.”

Teresa Lim, The Interpreter’s Daughter: A Family Memoir (Pegasus Books, 2022).

“Teresa Lim’s memoir The Interpreter’s Daughter reveals hidden family secrets amid accounts of love, loss, migration, and memory. Based on extensive genealogical and historical research, The Interpreter’s Daughter weaves historical notes from China, Singapore, and the British Empire together with stories from Lim’s family. It suggests that every life story is worth telling, but also makes evident the fragility of memory. The Interpreter’s Daughter is an expansive memoir about family, migration, and the delicate nature of remembrance.”

Martha Anne Toll, Three Muses (Regal House Publishing, 2022)

Memory and traumas interfere with romantic love in Martha Anne Toll’s historical novel Three Muses. John, an American psychoanalyst, is in Paris when he is handed a ticket to see a performance of Boris Yanakov’s masterpiece Three Muses, put on by the New York State Ballet. Though he’s skeptical about attending, John’s life is changed by the ballet after prima ballerina (and Yanakov’s muse) Katya takes the stage. Enamored, he hands her a bouquet of white roses after the performance. What follows is an intense romance. John and Katya’s attraction surprises them both, in part because their backgrounds are so different: he is a Holocaust survivor with a new name; she is a girl from Queens, New York, who is performing under a Russian moniker. In the background looms Yanakov, Katya’s much-older mentor, teacher, and lover.”

Russell Wangersky, Same Ground. Chasing Family Down the California Gold Rush Trail (ECW Press, 2022).

“In 1849, William Castle Dodge gave up training to become a lawyer to travel to California and join the gold rush. Anticipating the adventure of a lifetime, he kept a diary to chronicle his experiences. More than a century later, that diary ended up in the hands of Dodge’s great-great-grandson, Russell Wangersky. It’s a story of family, belonging, and roots, in which the frontier experience is juxtaposed with the fate of Native Americans—who, after fighting for their right to remain on their ancestral lands, are just about erased from their own history. Same Ground is an American travel odyssey that chronicles the birth and demise of the American dream in the West.”

David Chanoff and Louis W. Sullivan, We’ll Fight It Out Here. A History of the Ongoing Struggle for Health Equity (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022).

“In the 1890s, Fredrick Hoffman, the leading statistician of the Progressive Era, wanted to find out why Black Americans suffered more from serious illnesses, and had shorter life expectancies, than other groups in the US. His 1896 report concluded that Black Americans were racially inferior. Chanoff and Sullivan set the record straight, showing that emancipated Black Americans were often ignored, and that discrimination in higher education prevented Black Americans from entering the medical profession. Due to the lack of access to health care, health crises ensued. We’ll Fight It Out Here is an important, detailed account of the hard-won victories in the fight for equal health care access in the United States.”

Heather Camlot, Sophie Casson (illustr.), The Prisoner and the Writer (Groundwood Books, 2022).

“Heather Camlot’s The Prisoner and the Writer tells the story of the Dreyfus Affair for early readers. In 1895, Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason against France. He was sentenced to prison on remote Devil’s Island, where he languished alone in his cell with his prison guards as his only company. Meanwhile, France’s most famous author, Emile Zola, realized that Dreyfus had been made into a scapegoat because he was Jewish, while the real culprit was still at large. Wracked by his conscience and risking everything he had worked hard to achieve, Zola decided to use his position to prove Dreyfus’s innocence. Written in verse, The Prisoner and the Writer alternates between showing Dreyfus in prison on Devil’s Island and focusing on Zola in France. The visual language of Sophie Casson’s illustrations resembles photography. Using light and perspective, her electrifying drawings increase the dynamism of the narrative, bringing into focus the most important moments of the story.”

Please click here to read my interview with Heather Camlot, author of The Prisoner and the Writer.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

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