April is always a big month for me. Not only is it my birth month, it’s also that of my mother, husband, goddaughter, and two close friends. I should buy stock in Hallmark considering how many birthday cards I bought this week alone.
This year, April is also the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, which caused my family and me to flee to the US. Right before we left, my mom gave each of us kids a small bag and told us to pack only essentials. I crammed in a big book I’d just gotten for my birthday and that took up all the space. Which was fine with me, but not with Mom. I had to leave the book behind and pack clothes instead. I still think about that book because it no longer exists.
Speaking of books, the following are April releases my book-blogger friends recommend. I didn’t read anything outstanding but luckily they’re here to pick up the slack.
From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:
Washington Post political correspondent Peter Slevin’s biography of the inaugural African-American first lady is informative and inspirational. With meticulous research and the anecdotes provided by those from her inner circle, Slevin depicts a hard-working, courageous woman who overcame many obstacles on her road to success.
Michelle Obama was raised with the belief that you don’t make excuses—regardless of how legit they may be—you persevere. And so she did. The other strong belief instilled in her from childhood was that once you succeed, you reach back and help others behind you. Slevin illustrates how her life has been a testament to these beliefs. Michelle Obama, A Life is a captivating, moving look at a true American role model.
How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Lessons of Racist Childhood by Jim Grimsley (Algonquin, April 14)
In his stunning and often humorous memoir, Jim Grimsley looks back at the way racism was quietly instilled in him from birth. He was in the sixth grade when his North Carolina town began integrating the schools, and his story is that of the children that carried out the mandate handed down from politicians.
While adults battled the desegregation laws, the children quietly learned to attend classes, play sports, even support causes together. Losing the deep-seeded racists beliefs wasn’t a fast or easy or even complete process, but Grimsley examines his own journey down that road and how it shaped the man he became.
Engrossing, funny, and heart-breaking, How I Shed My Skin is an honest exploration of the roots of racism and the contribution a generation of young people made to the advancement of race relations in the United States.
From Erin at In Real Life:
The Mercy of the Night by David Corbett (Thomas & Mercer, April 7)
Part legal thriller, part character study, and (large) part psychological suspense tale, The Mercy of the Night is at once interesting, scary, emotional, and perplexing. And I mean that as a compliment.
Phelan Tierney (yes, he knows he has two last names) helps people. He has a PI license, but he’s more a favors-for-friends PI than a jobs-by-the-book sort of investigator. One of his good deeds involves tutoring young women who are living in a rehab shelter, having escaped a range of desperate circumstances. When one of his students runs away, he agrees to try to find her and convince her to come back.
The young woman is question is Jacqi, whose horrific experiences as a child have set her life on a downward spiral, the force of which is apparently too strong for her to overcome. As the story develops, it becomes clear that in addition to tragedy, mystery and secrets play a part in her tale.
Corbett has a real way with words, giving each character a clear tone and painting a gorgeously clear picture of places and circumstances without getting all three-syllable-y about it. His books have won numerous accolades, and The Mercy of the Night will no doubt earn him more.
From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:
Spinster: Finding a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick (Crown, April 21)
From the time she was a little girl, freelance writer and The Atlantic contributing editor Kate Bolick found a sense of self in solitude. As an adult, she ran up against what she terms the “two questions that define every woman’s existence”—whom to marry and when. Part memoir, part sociological and feminist study going back more than 100 years, Spinster: Finding a Life of One’s Own is Bolick’s story of her two-decade journey to solve this internal conflict.
She does so by sharing the five female “awakeners” who helped guide her along various turns in her life path. These guides include poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, essayist Maeve Brennan, columnist Neith Boyce, novelist Edith Wharton, and social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Whether or not you agree with or relate to Bolick’s premise, the lives of these five women and their impact—on Bolick and societal norms—make for an engrossing read.
Which April releases are you looking forward to?