Books: 747

Hand resting on the pages of an open book.
Photo courtesy of BigStock/DLeonis

The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation
Raquel Willis
St. Martin’s Press

Willis’s memoir, written with courage and openness, offers hope to other Black trans individuals, and all struggling to express and live fully as themselves. Exactly what that “self” is, is not always clear, but Willis holds aloft a lamp that can help illuminate the path for other seekers. Raised in strong Catholic family, Willis grew up surrounded with love and support, even acceptance of her gayness, but attending the University of Georgia, realized she was not a gay man, but a trans woman. She participated in LGBTQ+ groups on campus, all helpful in later work in journalism and as an activist. Her frankness, her willingness to open to her listeners and readers, set forth the difficulties and rewards in bridging the Black and trans experience.

Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines, and the Health of Nations
Simon Schama

Beyond detailing the search for cures for mankind’s plagues and pestilences, historian Schama illuminates early politics and powerplays–not unknown today. The public has always feared the unknown, often balked at touted cures, but so, too have every era’s medical institutions been unwillingn to yield control over power and lucrative financial flow from patients. Schama’s overview ranges through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (smallpox in London, cholera in Paris, waves of plague in India), but concentrates on one Waldemar Haffkine, a Jewish student from Odessa who became a microbiologist at the Pasteur Institute and saw to the successful vaccination of millions in British India against cholera and the bubonic plague, his successes  incurring the dislike/envy of medical officials of the Raj. A fascinating, well-argued text.

The Other Profile
Irene Graziosi
Europa Editions

Neither protagonist will warm the cockles of your heart, in fact, your initial reaction of, “Well, that would never work on me!” will lure you in. Whether it’s Maia (26) with her server’s job at the seedy Galeone and dysfunctional relationship with her older lover, or teen Gloria, an influencer already making big bucks but needing a minder. Urged by a friend, Maia lies her way into that very job. As the two are thrown together, the reader is first caught up in Graziosi’s savvy send-up of social media’s impact on our lives (yes, ours) then invested  in the building­­–then unraveling–of the women’s friendship. We’re all a short step from bad decisions, self-deceit, in the longing to belong, succumbing to social siren songs.

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord
Celeste Connally
Minotaur Books

Winter weather’s rolling in, time to snuggle under a warm fleece with a rousing Regency mystery. Young Lady Petra rides astride in her brother’s togs, views marriage dimly, enjoys her independent wealth and friends of all persuasions. She also has a doting dad, a malevolent uncle who covets her wealth and has tentacles out to harm many women in their rarefied circle with a dastardly scheme involving incarceration and abuse of wealthy wives. One fly in the ointment is a childhood pal towards whom Lady P has certain unwelcome feelings. Stir in a bit of murder, the villainous abduction of our heroine, all wrapped in high Regency ribbons, and you’ll keep reading till the embers in your fireplace turn to ash. Well-crafted fun in store.

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