American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is an amazing read.  I will think about the characters in this book every time I watch the news and see immigrants trying to get into the USA.  I will think about the characters in this book every time I see someone who does not look like me.  I will think about this story, this novel, this fiction, as the truth.  I see the world differently now.  I want to thank Jeanine Cummins for writing it, and writing it so well that I believe every moment, every detail, every bit of pain and suffering it takes to flee your home and try to find a new life.

This book will come out on January 21st–and Loganberry Books has signed copies!

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Book Reviews: Great New and Upcoming Children’s/Teen Lit

Hello Everyone,

I have been making a point to learn more about children’s literature recently, and to that end, I have been checking out review copies of many upcoming children’s and teen books.  Here are the most engaging ones I have read:

1) Stuffed – by Liz Braswell

This is, simply put, a fun read for the discerning middle-grade reader.  It will probably appeal the most to those on the younger end of that spectrum, but may be enjoyable for older children who have a big imagination, too.  Clark is a child whose parents think he is too old to play with stuffed animals, and go to great lengths to get him to be more “normal” – including sending him away to summer camp.  But it turns out that his “stuffies”, as they are called here, have minds of their own after all!  This delightful book mixes things up between Clark’s story and the perspective of his bravest and most beloved stuffie of all, Foon, as they fight against indifferent adults and a King Monster plaguing his household.  There are also detailed instructions for children to make their own stuffies included in this book!  (Out Now)

2) Here in the Real World – by Sara Pennypacker

This book, for middle-grade readers, tells the story of an 11 year old boy, Ware, who has a big imagination and little tolerance for social interaction or anything else that would make him the “normal kid” that his mom seems to desire.  When he is signed up for a recreation center summer camp, he rebels by climbing a tree over a wall and finding a magical world in a lot containing a demolished church – as well as a girl his age, Jolene, who is growing a garden of papayas on the abandoned property.  Though Jolene is gruff and unfriendly at first, he quickly takes a liking to her, and they somewhat begrudgingly become friends.  Jolene mocks his inability to live in the real world, where life isn’t fair, but Ware’s big dreams lead to the church becoming a castle, complete with a moat!  And then the terrible news comes – the property is being sold over to developers, who are going to turn it into a strip mall!  Will Ware be able to use his big imagination to find a way to save Jolene’s garden?  Read and find out!  (Out February 4, 2020)

3) Be Not Far From Me – by Mindy McGinnis

In this book for teens, Ashley goes out hiking in the Smokies with her friends – who are clueless about survival, but totally at home getting drunk in the woods – and in her boyfriend’s case, cheating on her with her ex!  In a drunken rage, Ashley runs down a ravine blindly, until she hurts herself and realizes that she has no idea where she is or where her friends are.  In a survival story reminiscent of Hatchet, but darker, Ashley walks around for 15 days alone in deep mountain forest, lacking even shoes on her feet.  Will she make it out of the woods intact?  This book was so engaging that I did not want to put it down the entire time I was reading it (though of course, work and real life intervened at points).  Perfect for any teen who likes a good story.  (Out March 3, 2020)

4) Fighting Words – by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is an intense but incredibly tastefully and well-written book for middle-grade children, dealing with topics like sexual abuse, consent, mental illness, poverty, bullying, and addiction.  Della is a ten year girl who has always been taken care of by her older sister Suki, as their mother went to prison early on for meth addiction, and her boyfriend, who supposedly took care of them after that, left them home alone for most of the week.  But one day, something terrible happened, and the sisters had to leave in a hurry and end up together in foster care.  Luckily, their foster mother, while a bit rough around the edges, is kind, and does anything she can to help the girls get through their trauma.  The book deals with these subjects in a compassionate, but realistic way.  For example, Della is quite prone to cursing – hence the title – but in the book, her curse words are represented with variations on the word “snow”.  The story is very worthwhile, and I didn’t want to put this book down, either.  Highly recommended for both children and adults.  (Out August 11, 2020)


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GLAAWC Readers

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GLAAWC Author Showcase Saturday, September 21, 2019 @ noon READINGS 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Dr. Marilyn Mobley presents a tribute to Toni Morrison Lisa Langford reading from Rastus and Hattie Brittany Ervin reading “Unrealistic“ from Real Talk Michael Payne … Continue reading

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New and Upcoming Books on Poverty

Hello everybody.  Hope you had a great summer!  Today’s book reviews cover the subject of poverty in America.

  1.  Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back-Row America by Chris Arnade (Available now)

Much like the 1890’s classic How the Other Half Lives, Dignity seeks to expose the true deprivations and downfalls of poverty with both words and pictures – in this case, in all different environments throughout the United States, from the inner cities to impoverished rural areas.   With the liberal use of photography, Arnade humanizes those that he writes about, instead of allowing them to be cast off as “those people.”  The writing is fresh, often quoting his participants directly, and allows new perspectives on issues that are often associated with poverty, like prostitution and drug use, without any excessive moralizing.  I highly recommend this book to anybody, but particularly if you’ve never taken the time to talk to a street person.


2. Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises by Jodie Adams Kirshner (Out November 19, 2019)

This book, written by a lawyer, combines street level stories of poverty in the city of Detroit during the bankruptcy years with accounts of state and city-level mismanagement of funds and resources that allowed people to fall so easily through the cracks.  The stories are heart-wrenching at times – I was particularly rooting for one man who got caught up in the vagaries of the legal system.  The accounts of the badly managed city, which led to bankruptcy in 2013, are concisely linked with those personal stories in a way that holds the city’s so-called leaders accountable for the suffering of the citizens.  A story of poor urban policy leading directly to poor outcomes for the community has never been so riveting. 


3.  Free Lunch by Rex Ogle (Out September 10, 2019)

This book, written for middle-schoolers but easily thought provoking for older teens and adults alike, is a true account of Rex’s life growing up in poverty in what appears to be the early 1990’s.  Rex experiences grinding hunger, faces domestic violence aimed at both himself and his mother, combats a discriminatory teacher, has his prized CD player pawned, and worst of all – for a 6th grader concerned with social standing – he is signed up for the Free Lunch program at his new middle school.  The embarrassment of having to give his name daily for his lunch, along with never having clothes that fit or a house he feels comfortable bringing friends to, would make a lesser kid depressed, but somehow Rex never loses hope that things will get better – and by the end of the book, things do improve for the family.  This book should be read by every child – poor kids can commiserate with the main character, and richer kids would get a very good sense of what it is like to live in poverty from Rex’s masterful writing.



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GLAAWC Author Showcase

Loganberry Books announces exciting line up for the second annual Great Lakes African American Writers Conference (GLAAWC) book fair and author readings to be held Saturday, September 21st from 12 pm to 4 pm at Loganberry Books. This event is a part of Cleveland Book Week, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation and the Anisfield Book Awards.

Andrea Campbell, The Beautiful Journey

Wanda Coleman, Taking Off the Makeup

Jameel Davis, In Between the Sheets

Rochelle Gilbert, Cleveland Stories

Clara Jean Mosley Hall, Paris in America

Simone Jelks, One-On-On: A Gentleman’s Guide to Dating an Ambitious Woman

Dr. Marilyn Mobley, The Strawberry Room

Konnie Peroune, The Escapentures of Esperanza

Ava Reiss, Fall of Ima

Chasity Strawder, Broken for the Promise

Zachary Thomas, Writers in Residence

Carmella Upshur, Against All Odds

Abby Vandiver, Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies

J.J. Winston, The Anniversary

Dameka Woods, The Chronicles of the Hair Follicles

The people of color participating in the GLAAWC Book Fair event are artists exploring themes from perspectives unique to Cleveland and its nearby regions. Readers will be featured each hour. The event is free, inclusive, and open to the public.

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Book Reviews – Social Justice

On my ongoing quest to find excellent sociology books, I have come across some great books related to social justice, including sexual assault and racial relations.  Have a look…

  1.  Good Kids, Bad City, by Kyle Swenson.  This book is an account of three
    African-American Cleveland boys who were wrongfully accused of murder and imprisoned for many years – nearly half a natural lifetime – based entirely on the testimony of a visually impaired twelve year old boy.  The details of the history of the city of Cleveland and the racist bias that led to the conviction are sad, but impeccably researched and dramatically narrated by the author.  The miscarriage of justice is dramatic, yet the three men had maintained hope all those years that the wrongs against them would be righted, and in the end they prevail.  This is a great, engaging read.
  2.  Shattering Silences, by Christopher Johnston.  This book discusses the rape crisis throughout America, and solutions that might work to alleviate issues like cases not going to trial because of untested rape kits (which has been an issue in Cleveland).  Much of the book, in fact, is based in Cleveland, talking about rape from the viewpoints of victims, a nurse, a police commander, the sex crimes laboratory, the head of the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, and a researcher seeking best practices going forward.  There are no punches pulled, all of these resources describe their problems and potential solutions in great detail.  Though it may seem overwhelming, the solutions to the crisis that are discussed seem to have been feasible in many communities around the country, and I look forward to these solutions being universally implemented.  Fantastic read.
  3.  I’m Saying No!, by Beverly Engel.  This book is designed specifically for woman who have dealt with sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or rape.  It discusses how to mentally fortify oneself to be able to say no in certain situations where a man is pushing for a sexual encounter (unless it threatens a woman’s life, of course, which is also discussed).  The book deals with the feelings of shame, anger, and body dysmorphia surrounding a body violation.  There is also specific discussion of childhood sexual abuse that I found very enlightening.  If you’re a bit of a “too nice” woman, this book will help level the playing field with men who might want to take advantage of that niceness.
  4. Bonus:  How To Be An Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi.  This one isn’t out yet, but I got to read an advance copy and I’m so glad I picked it up.  I took copious amounts of notes because I learned so much about racial relations, and I didn’t want to forget anything or forget his fantastic style of writing (much of the notes were direct quotes, that I am unfortunately not allowed to share).  It turns out that a white girl raised in a tiny Midwestern country town full of white people, sure had a lot to learn from a black guy the same age but raised in New York City and then the south.  Ibram really conveys a lot of truths in a compelling way, and made me think of things I haven’t thought about before.  For example, he talks about the ways that Black people can be racist towards each other by valuing lighter over darker skin.  He talks about how being “color blind” is a sham for maintaining racist structures.  And he talks about how racism is a construct wholly invented by elites to maintain their power.  He also mentions possible solutions, related to active anti-racism activism, that can reduce the problems that are induced by this fantasy that we all participate in.  This is one of the best books that are coming out this year, and in my opinion, everyone should read this and be prepared to learn.  (Out August 20, 2019)
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Forbidden Love: Lisa Jones Gentry and Joe Steele

Forbidden Love, penned by Harvard graduates Joe Steele and Lisa Jones Gentry, reminds one of Colleen McCoullough’s 1977 epic bestseller, Thornbirds, intertwined with the 2016 award winning movie, Loving.  Forbidden Love is a retelling of the sexual-romantic relationship between Father William Grau, a black Catholic priest educated at the Vatican, and Sister Sophie Legocki, a first generation Polish immigrant from Buffalo who took her vows of celibacy at age 14. Vows were broken, and Joe Steele was born in a home for wayward girls in Cincinnati.

Far from prude themselves, authors Steele and Gentry don’t pull any punches in describing the heated details of Bill and Sophie’s affair, wherever those details lead, such as a motel in Canada, a car in a secluded park, or a rectory. What’s fascinating about Forbidden Love is how Bill and Sophie violate the rules of the Catholic Church (sometimes right in the church) and the racial rules of 1960’s America. Bill and Sophie faced hostility from both black and white people for their miscegenation before the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision in 1967 and before the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This smart and sex book is a great read for its erotic content, scandalous tidbits, and its historic context.

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Five Tips on Writing from novelist Angela Crook

Novelist Angela Crook, who most recently authored the thriller Chasing Naveh, held her book launch at Loganberry Books on Sunday, March 10.  During the question and answer period in her well-attended event, she shared her wisdom about writing:

  1. Get support from a writing community.  Angela belongs to a writers’ group, named the LLAMAS. They helped her edit her books for content, style, and grammar. They encouraged to keep writing. If you cannot find a physical group, then Angela recommends linking with an online community, such as #writingcommunity on Twitter.
  2. Attend writing conferences. Angela, a lifelong devotee of the thriller genre, attends Killer Nashville which specializes in crime novels. She believes craft talk with other writers is essential.
  3. Find your ideal reader and let them read your stuff. Angela recommends reading Stephen King’s writing guidebook, called On Writing. In “On Writing,” King insists that writers must understand their ideal readers, the readers most likely to get attached to your work.  Angela effectively created a Dickens-esque serialized version of her first novel, Fat Chance. She gave individual chapters to her friends. After a while, those friends demanded new chapters weekly. Angela says they got perturbed if she delivered new material late.  She knew she had a winning novel.
  4. Whether you self-publish or find an independent publisher, make sure your work is well edited. Angela admonished the writers to curb their enthusiasm about getting their novel into the world before making sure that the novel is error-free. You present yourself to the world through your novel; don’t be shabby.
  5. Write at least one page every day. Yes, you must.

You can follow Angela Crook on Twitter at @navah74. You can buy her novels at Loganberry Books, the largest supplier of books by local authors in Cuyahoga County.

If you need more guidance on writing, check out local author J. Thorn, a frequent lecturer at the CCPL Skirball Center for Writing. He offers great tips on building an audience, marketing, and making money in self-publishing.

Looking for a conference? Literary Cleveland holds a big writing conference each year in August in connection with Cleveland Public Library.  Also, Loganberry Books will host a discussion panel for children’s book (picture books, middle grade, and young adult) writers during Children’s Book Week on Saturday, May 4 at 10:30 AM.

Are you ready to bring your book into the world? Loganberry Books’ Author Alley happens Saturday, July 6.  Registration is open.  Author Alley offers you a free opportunity to sell your book during Larchmere Festival and meet 50 other local writers.

Miesha Wilson Headen

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COMING SOON: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (May 2019)

Sara Collins’ debut novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, is simultaneously the heir to Sarah Waters and Toni Morrison that I’m always looking for, and also a completely new voice and incandescent love story I didn’t know I needed.

The person of slave-turned-English lady’s maid, Frannie, that Collins brings to life is so passionate and singular, I followed along breathlessly as much for her voice and keen vision of the her world (a world bent on destroying her) as to untangle the horrible crimes at the heart of her life. This is literary historical fiction at its best: a portrayal of an ostensibly different time and place that catches the reader off-guard with its immediacy and familiarity of human experience. To boot, Frannie and Marguerite’s love story is the most dazzling and unforgettable I’ve encountered in a very long time.

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Top New and Upcoming Psychology Books!

We are in the process of revitalizing our social sciences section, and there are two new, and one upcoming, psychology books in particular that I have found are wonderful reads!

1. The Collected Schizophrenias, by Esme Weijun Wang.  I cannot recommend this book enough!  Esme details her struggles with both schizoaffective disorder and chronic illness, relating her personal demons to the greater world.  Her essays cover everything from the failure of the higher educational system to appropriately deal with students’ mental illnesses, to medical disagreements over the form and function of diagnoses, to issues with the mental hospital system; but also go into great (and spooky) detail on her various psychoses and how it affects how she presents herself to the world.  For anybody wanting to understand either a person with severe mental illness, or the forces they are fighting against, this book is quite enlightening.  (Available Now)

2.  Never Enough, by Judith Grisel.  When it comes to addiction, there are many competing theories and it can be hard to make sense of it all.  Judith has written a book that condenses the latest research on how addiction affects the brain, as well as presenting chapters on each class of drug that explains exactly how they affect the brain and the person taking them, making it so that there is “never enough” of a drug for an addict.  Her book contains snippets of her personal experience, as she was addicted for many years prior to sobering up and getting into neuroscience, and she also suggests public policy reforms that are more in line with the latest research.  Highly recommended for anybody in recovery, anybody who knows an addict, those who work with the addicted population, and those in public service who have the power to change policies that hurt addicts – who are just people with broken brains.  (Available Now)

3.  The Wisdom of Anxiety, by Sheryl Paul.  Like many adults in the United States, I have suffered with anxiety for a significant portion of my life.  If you also fit into this category, this book is for you!  Sheryl reveals that those feelings of anxiety that we want to hide from are actually signals from the body that are trying to tell us that something is wrong.  Whether that something is internal or external, Sheryl is here to help with a combination of Jungian theory and practical exercises designed to increase mindfulness and access the body’s hidden knowledge.  She explains how various life transitions can increase anxiety – everything from the changing of day into night to the fear of death.  Learning that many other people have anxiety about the same things that I do was rather comforting in itself!  I have also been finding the exercises she prescribes to be immensely useful; I feel that my anxiety has decreased dramatically since I got a hold of this book and started to discover my inner wisdom (thanks, Harriett!)  (Available May 28, 2019)

–Reviews by Julie

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