Biting the Hand
Rage incandescent lights the reader’s path through Lee’s consuming memoir; illuminating each family member’s footsteps through the grasping roots, path-blocking boulders, unfamiliar language and our country’s overarching White Supremacy, established and defended by the firmly established. She admits how irresistible is the lure to buy into this same culture, relating that at eight she refused a black Cabbage Patch doll for lack of an Asian one, then confessing she would have accepted a White one. Asians, she asserts, “can uphold the power structure or we can dismantle it,” while urging the latter throughout. Not Japanese; not Chinese; Korean-American Lee discusses the shame and disorientation all Asians confront in finding their way in America, not just today, but over the past several centuries: it’s not new.
The Familia Grande
Camille Kouchner tr. Adrienne
“Musn’t tell!” “Tattle-tale!” We’re bound to silence from childhood, unable to discern it’s often the harm-doers planting the seeds. Camille Kouchner was raised by mother Évelyne, a feminist who put “Women’s freedom” (hers in particular) above all; whose absent father, Bernard, founded Doctors Without Borders, while stepfather, Oliver Duhamel, presided over freedom-filled, multi-generational vacations at La Familia Grande, the luxurious Provençal family estate. Anything went, including Duhamel’s ongoing molestation of Camille’s twin brother “Victor” (the narrative’s only pseudonym). Camille never told–for thirty years–through family suicides and silence’s corrosive destruction. Finally, with her brother’s permission, Kouchner brought the family story to light, publishing this book in France in 2021, finally summoning the courage needed to name names and shine light into one family’s darkness.
The Librarian of Burned Books
Three women survive pivotal eras in three countries: Berlin,1933, Paris, 1936; New York, 1944. Newly-published Althea has been invited from Owl’s Head, Maine, to join other young Americans in Berlin to celebrate the blossoming new Germany. What does a sheltered young lady know of the outside world? There she meets Hanna and friends (Hannah’s main story in Paris, 1936) and their lines are interlaced with those of Vivian (New York, 1944). Viv is striving to prevent senator Robert Taft from ruining the ASE programs she shepherds that put millions of books in the hands of armed forces serving overseas. Viv seeks the help of the enigmatic librarian curating Brooklyn’s American Library of Nazi-Burned Books. You’ll be drawn in as surely as an Owl’s Head native.
Ann-Helén Laestadius – tr. Rachel Willson-Broyles
Laestadius’s novel offers an insight into what it costs to keep to one’s traditional ways in a world changing faster than the players on either side can adjust. A coming-of-age story, and thriller, experienced through the eyes of Elsa, a Sámi girl, nine-years-old as she comes upon the body of her reindeer calf and recognizes its murderer. Elsa spots– but hides–an identifying clue. Intergenerational family conflicts, friction with non-Sámi neighbors, unhelpful police; the changing outside world affects all people of meager means. So much is stolen: Innocence, trust, livelihood, the very lives of people in this far northern reach of Sweden, together with the animals upon which Sámi economy, their core culture, has depended for generations. If friction continues, all are diminished.