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Beyond the Book Articles

Beyond the Book Articles

For every book we review, we also write a "beyond the book" article that focuses on a cultural, historical or contextual topic related to the book. You can browse by category below, or use the search box at the top of the page (check "Article").

Recent Articles

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Sickle Cell Disease

...a beyond the book article for A Kind of Madness
In the story 'Milk and Oil' from Uche Okonkwo's collection A Kind of Madness, Soty, a girl befriended by the main character Chekwube, has sickle cell disease. This fact is revealed to Chekwube slowly through certain habits and rituals that seem part of a foreign and sometimes strangely privileged world: Soty avoids the sun, drinks a glass...

Religious Deconstruction

...a beyond the book article for The Wings Upon Her Back
The heart of the story in The Wings Upon Her Back lies in Zenya's hard-fought battle with her faith. Indoctrinated into the service of the mecha god in her youth, she has only ever known faith without question. The deconstruction of that faith and the rebuilding of her identity as a freethinking woman with agency isn't entirely assured by...

The Bond Dance Hall Explosion

...a beyond the book article for The Flower Sisters
Michelle Collins Anderson's historical novel The Flower Sisters draws inspiration from a tragic event that occurred in the author's hometown of West Plains, Missouri: the explosion of a dance hall packed with young dancers, the cause of which was never determined.

It was Friday, April 13, 1928. The Bond Dance Hall was located on the ...

The Symbolism of Urine

...a beyond the book article for Cecilia
From the first pages of K-Ming Chang's novella Cecilia, narrator Seven is preoccupied with urine. She describes overhearing the strong flow of a chiropractor's urine in the toilet, and remarks upon the receptionist's quieter stream. She holds her own urine until her bladder 'tautens into a grape of pain'; later, while dreaming of Cecilia,...

Desegregation Activist Daisy Bates

...a beyond the book article for We Refuse
In We Refuse, Kellie Carter Jackson recalls the courageous and tireless efforts of civil rights activist Daisy Bates and her husband, L.C., to integrate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Bates home became a place of refuge for the students known as the 'Little Rock Nine' — the first group of Black children to attend the ...

An Overview of Black Land Loss in America

...a beyond the book article for Long After We Are Gone
In Terah Shelton Harris's novel Long After We Are Gone, the family at the heart of the story is at risk of losing their land because it's considered 'heir property' (aka 'heir's property' and 'heirs' property'). The author defines this as 'a form of ownership in which descendants inherit an interest in the land, similar to holding stock ...

Fiji and the Girmit System

...a beyond the book article for A Disappearance in Fiji
The country and archipelago of Fiji is in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,300 miles north of Auckland, New Zealand and 2700 miles southwest of Hawaii. It consists of more than 300 islands, about 100 of which are inhabited. The largest island, at approximately 66 miles long and 91 miles wide, is Viti Levu, or 'Great Fiji.' The ...

V-E Day

...a beyond the book article for The Librarianist
Patrick deWitt's The Librarianist depicts main character Bob Comet's childhood experience of being driven home by a sheriff, after having run away, on the day that officially marked the end of World War II.

May 8, 1945 is the day when German troops throughout Europe surrendered to the Allies, and is known as V-E Day (Victory in Europe...

The Collapse of Reconstruction

...a beyond the book article for His Name Is George Floyd
In His Name Is George Floyd, authors Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa explain how Floyd's ancestors were dispossessed of their lucrative North Carolina farmlands via shady financial documents and restrictions on their literacy rendering them unable to read those very documents. This is just one example of the reassertion of white ...

Book Translation

...a beyond the book article for My Husband
In Maud Ventura's novel My Husband, we get a glimpse into the main character's work as a book translator. Translated books give readers the chance to step into the shoes of characters living in different countries and cultures. When it comes to American books in translation (like this English-language version of Ventura's novel, ...

Is Separate Equal? The Sarah Roberts Case

...a beyond the book article for The Great Abolitionist
At the age of four, when Sarah Roberts was ready for school, her father Benjamin was insistent that she have the best education. It was the late 1840s in Boston. Benjamin Roberts had been traumatized by educational segregation. It incubated shame within him as a young black boy to attend inferior schools with inadequate resources. He didn...

Montreal in Literature

...a beyond the book article for Mood Swings
Much of Frankie Barnet's novel Mood Swings takes place in Montreal. Nestled in the southwest of Canada's francophone province of Quebec, Montreal is a multicultural and largely bilingual city with a thriving arts scene, which makes it an appealingly unique backdrop for all sorts of literature. Below are some notable books that have been ...

The Vietnamese Folktale of Chú Cuội (The Man in the Moon)

...a beyond the book article for Banyan Moon
In Banyan Moon, author Thao Thai interweaves references to a Vietnamese folktale about a 'man in the moon.' In the story, a woodcutter called Chú Cuội is walking through the jungle one day when he sees a trio of tiger cubs. He approaches, thinking he might be able to catch one and sell it, then use the money to buy an ox. He ...

The Poor Clares of Sant'Orsola Convent

...a beyond the book article for Fair Rosaline
In Natasha Solomons' novel Fair Rosaline, the eponymous heroine is destined for life in a convent – specifically Sant'Orsola in Mantua, Italy. Margherita Gonzaga d'Este, a wealthy widow, commissioned the convent in the early 17th century, sparing no expense; she hired architect and artist Antonio Maria Viani to design the building, ...

Shakespeare's Henriad

...a beyond the book article for Henry Henry
Allen Bratton's Henry Henry is a retelling of Shakespeare's "Henriad," a term used in Shakespearean scholarship to refer to the four plays chronicling the rise of Henry V, or Prince Hal, to the throne.

These four plays begin, chronologically, with Richard II, based on the life of King Richard II, who ruled from 1377 ...

En Puntas by Javier Pérez

...a beyond the book article for Exhibit
During a pivotal scene in R.O. Kwon's novel Exhibit, a character mentions a short film he's viewed. In it, a ballerina performs atop a piano lid in customized pointe shoes; long kitchen knives have been attached to them, so she is literally dancing on points. This real-life film is the video-installation piece En Puntas ('on tips'), ...


...a beyond the book article for Women and Children First
In Women and Children First, the debut novel from Alina Grabowski, teenager Lucy Anderson has epilepsy, a neurological disorder involving recurring seizures. Lucy has to deal not only with her distress at experiencing the seizures themselves but also with the stigma associated with the condition.

Epilepsy is one of the most common...

The Devil Personified: How He Shapeshifts in Literature

...a beyond the book article for Craft
The Hebrew word 'Satan' can be translated as 'adversary,' or 'accuser,' so in his nomenclature, he wasn't exactly set up for success. Satan, or the devil, is a figure who has origins in Abrahamic religions, well-known in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Conceptually, he has been depicted as a fallen angel, ghoulishly evil, as both an ...

The Death Doula Profession

...a beyond the book article for The Collected Regrets of Clover
The protagonist of Mikki Brammer's The Collected Regrets of Clover is a death doula. Just as a doula (or midwife) helps in childbirth, a death doula helps people who are approaching death. The profession has grown remarkably since 2000, when a New York City program co-funded by NYU Medical Center and the Shira Ruskay Center of the Jewish ...

Insects as Food

...a beyond the book article for Blue Skies
In T.C. Boyle's Blue Skies, environmentally conscious Ottilie tries her hand at raising her own livestock—not chickens or pigs, but crickets. In Western society today, people often react with horror at the idea of eating insects, but there are advantages to including them in your diet. Many insects are an excellent source of ...

Non-Speaking Authors Writing About Experiences of Language

...a beyond the book article for Happiness Falls
In Angie Kim's Happiness Falls, Eugene is diagnosed with Angelman syndrome, or AS, a neuro-genetic disorder caused by a chromosome-15 gene deletion on the maternal side. Most people with AS have limited speech and motor abilities. It is important to distinguish Angelman syndrome and other conditions that involve learning disabilities from...

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

...a beyond the book article for How Can I Help You
The power of a book is unquantifiable, depending on who reads it. When the character Margo Finch in Laura Sims's How Can I Help You catches her new colleague, Patricia Delmarco, fondly touching a particular title on the shelf at the Carlyle Public Library, it pulls her deep into a world where fantasy and reality often overlap.

Fans of ...

Greek Words for Love

...a beyond the book article for Somehow
Love is a universal and history-spanning feeling. What would we be without the Romantic movement or the Renaissance, fairy tales or the chivalry of the Middle Ages? Even further back, ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle took note of the many variations of this ubiquitous emotion, creating and describing different words ...

An Interview with Carvell Wallace

...a beyond the book article for Another Word for Love
Carvell Wallace's debut memoir, Another Word for Love, explores how spirituality and embracing his queer identity helped him heal from childhood trauma. The journalist and podcaster is known for co-writing basketball player Andre Iguodala's 2019 memoir The Sixth Man and for his Peabody Award–nominated podcast series Finding ...

Black Utopias

...a beyond the book article for One of Our Kind
As Jasmyn Williams and her husband King arrive in the fictional Black utopian suburb of Liberty, California in Nicola Yoon's One of Our Kind, Jasmyn reminds her husband 'that Black utopias ha[ve] been tried with little success before.' She names two examples of real-world short-lived utopian experiments: Allensworth and Soul City. While ...

Artificial Intelligence and Brain Science

...a beyond the book article for The Last Murder at the End of the World
In The Last Murder at the End of the World, a small group of people have survived the deadly fog that destroyed mankind. These survivors have managed to create a peaceful, productive society on their small island, benefiting from the sense of community bestowed by Abi. Abi is a mysterious intelligence that is part of the minds of all the ...

Eat a Bowl of Tea by Louis Chu

...a beyond the book article for Orphan Bachelors
In her book Orphan Bachelors, Fae Myenne Ng recalls her life-changing discovery of Louis Chu's 'defiant, subversive novel' Eat a Bowl of Tea (1961), now considered a classic of Asian American literature, which depicts Manhattan Chinatown bachelor society in the late 1940s.

The novel begins with two friends living in this milieu, Wang ...

Pioneering Women Botanists

...a beyond the book article for Brave the Wild River
Throughout their careers, botanists Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter helped to break barriers for women in their field. Beyond this, they became the first people in all of Western science to officially catalogue the plant life growing within the Grand Canyon. Despite their obvious expertise, much of the press coverage of their work at the ...

A Shooting Star of American Astronomy: Maria Mitchell

...a beyond the book article for Enlightenment
The central mystery of Sarah Perry's Enlightenment concerns an astronomer, Maria Văduva, and Thomas's uncovering of her hidden scientific contributions. Many real-life historical women partook in exploration of the night sky and space only for their discoveries to be similarly buried or forgotten. One such woman was the nineteenth-...

The Mysterious Life of Pirate Captain Jacquotte Delahaye

...a beyond the book article for The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye
Briony Cameron's debut novel, The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye, is an imagined look at the life of a female pirate captain sailing the Caribbean in the 17th century. While some of her contemporaries, like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, have become well known, Delahaye has been largely lost to history due to a lack of reliable records. Cameron ...

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Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Last Murder at the End of the World
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    The word "madness," like many others that can be used to stigmatize mental illness — e.g., "...
  • Book Jacket: Long After We Are Gone
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    by Terah Shelton Harris
    Terah Shelton Harris's marvelous family drama Long After We Are Gone begins with the death of the ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhibit
    by R O. Kwon
    Exhibit, R.O. Kwon's sophomore novel (after The Incendiaries, 2018), introduces readers to Jin Han, ...

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