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Conflicts Over Credit: CRISPR and HIV (05/22)
When a scientific breakthrough is achieved, it can be a moment of major celebration. Depending on the implications of that advancement, previously unknown individuals can find themselves vaulted into the highest levels of celebrity. Yet, the challenge of deciding who is truly responsible for the scientific advancement can be contentious. ...
The Guatemalan Civil War (05/22)
The narrator of Francisco Goldman's autobiographical novel Monkey Boy, like Goldman himself, was a journalist who reported on the Guatemalan Civil War. The brutal war began in 1960 and lasted a total of 36 years. Over 200,000 were killed or 'disappeared,' more than 600 villages were attacked or completely destroyed by the army and 150 ...
Door Locks Throughout History (05/22)
In Ashley Weaver's novel A Peculiar Combination, the heroine is a safe-cracker who breaks into houses by picking door locks. Locks that operate with keys, including those typically used on doors, haven't changed all that much within the past century and a half. In fact, personal door locks in use today are of the same basic design ...
The Bielski Partisans (05/22)
In The Forest of Vanishing Stars, persecuted Jews in Eastern Europe take shelter in the Naliboki Forest, located west of Minsk in contemporary Belarus. The area, then known as Byelorussia, was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 at the same time as Germany invaded Poland as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that established a non-...
W.E.B. Du Bois (05/22)
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (aka W.E.B. Du Bois) was a noted author, historian, activist and sociologist as well as a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His philosophies play an important role throughout Honorée Fannone Jeffers' novel The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois; each ...
Poison from the Sky in Oregon (05/22)
In Ash Davidson's Damnation Spring, residents in a sparsely populated Northern California logging enclave in the late 1970s face a disturbing epidemic of miscarriages, stillbirths, birth defects and other ailments linked to the local timber company's use of herbicide sprays. While the specific location, people and events chronicled in the...
How TV & Film Portrays Capital Accumulation (05/22)
Hernan Diaz has said about writing his novel Trust that, despite the numerous books depicting 'the symptoms of wealth,' 'there are very, very few novels that deal with the process of accumulation of capital. This, to me, was baffling.' This isn't surprising to me, as the accumulation of capital seems narratively uninteresting, at least ...
Small Aircraft Transport in Alaska (05/22)
Small airplanes are a common form of transport in Leigh Newman's collection of short stories, Nobody Gets Out Alive, set primarily in Alaska. Several of the stories take place on a lake where homes boast 'seaplane docks.' Alaska is a vast, sparsely populated region where it's estimated that around 80% of communities exist beyond the reach...
Naturalist Ernest Harold Baynes (05/22)
In Unlikely Animals, Clive Starling pals around with a hallucination of Ernest Harold Baynes, a real-life figure sometimes called the American Dr. Dolittle. Through his deep reverence for animals, Baynes helped save bison in America, educated the public about songbirds and befriended all manner of creatures.

Born in Calcutta in 1868 ...
Deep Space Travel Technologies (05/22)
From the first description of its maiden launch in the year 2072, the fictional Lazarus is more than just a spaceship in Riley Redgate's Alone Out Here. It is a cryogenic ark filled with extensive samples of Earth's faunal DNA, and an integrated archive for preserving a cross-section of humanity's archaeological treasures. Moreover, the ...
Søren Kierkegaard (05/22)
Born in 1813 in Copenhagen, Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and theologian best known for his critical discourse on the Christian faith, which solicited both critics and admirers while he was alive. Known today as the 'father of existentialism,' he was one of the first philosophers to delve into themes that would be ...
The Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme (05/22)
In Lianne Dillsworth's novel Theatre of Marvels, a settlement plan resembling the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme comes to represent the possibility of a fresh start, freedom and community for the story's heroine, Zillah, and fellow Black people living in Victorian Britain who are struggling to feel like they belong.

Located on the ...
"Degenerate Art" in Nazi Germany (05/22)
In David R. Gillham's Shadows of Berlin, the protagonist's mother was a modern artist whose work was banned by the Hitler Regime.

Adolf Hitler didn't originally intend to have a career in politics, planning instead to be a professional artist. In 1907 at the age of 18, he applied to Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts, but was rejected &#...
The House of the Seven Gables (05/22)
In We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart, the main character, Mallory, visits the House of the Seven Gables, a historic landmark in the town of Salem, Massachusetts that inspired a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. She does so following a conversation with a character known only as 'the woman,' with whom she had an affair years ...
Rewilding Scotland (05/22)
In Charlotte McConaghy's novel, Once There Were Wolves, the heroine leads a project to reintroduce wolves to the Highlands, the mountainous region of northern Scotland. As they were hunted to extinction around the end of the 17th century, there is a very real debate surrounding the possibility of bringing wolves back to this area, and ...
Skinship in Korean Culture (05/22)
'Skinship' is a term commonly used to describe physical affection in Korean culture. It can be read as a portmanteau of the words 'skin' and 'kinship.' In the eponymous story from her book Skinship, Yoon Choi puts a different spin on the word's agreed meaning and uses it in an unexpected way. In the last scenes, instead of any kind of ...
Village de L'Est and Hurricane Katrina (05/22)
When the Vietnamese family depicted in Things We Lost to the Water arrives in New Orleans, they move into an apartment building called Versailles located in the eastern part of the city. The setting is based on the real-life Versailles Arms public housing project in the neighborhood of Village de L'Est, which attracted a large Vietnamese ...
Overcoming Childhood Sexual Assault: Survivors' Stories (05/22)
In her debut memoir, Ashley C. Ford reflects on the lasting impact of her childhood, most notably the sexual assault she suffered at the age of 14. The process of dissecting trauma through literature is certainly not easy, but doing so can bring catharsis to writers and readers alike.

With assault affecting everyone differently, ...
West Windsor and Plainsboro, New Jersey (05/22)
As Fabian Nicieza comments in an author's note for Suburban Dicks, 'fiction means it is not real.' But that said, the two towns he uses as the setting for the novel—West Windsor and Plainsboro—are definitely real places. Let's take a trip to explore these suburban paradises, shall we?

The area where West Windsor and ...
Colonization and the Irish Language (05/22)
In Audrey Magee's The Colony, one of the characters dedicates his career to salvaging a language that is under threat of extinction: Irish. The source of his research is a multi-generational family, the oldest of whom speaks Irish exclusively, while the youngest is very much Anglicized. This family's linguistic patterns are representative...
A Brief History of Feminist Organizing in Spain (05/22)
A significant part of Elena Medel's The Wonders is devoted to the feminist awakening of the character Maria. She grows up in a poor neighborhood during Spanish dictator Francisco Franco's rule in the 1960s and early '70s, a time of strict gender roles. As Spain moves out of the Francoist era and comes to a new threshold of feminist ...
Tawaifs (05/22)
Aamina Ahmad's debut novel, The Return of Faraz Ali, takes place in 1968 in Lahore's red-light district, and several of the characters are tawaifs — sex workers.

'Tawaif' comes from the Urdu word 'tauf,' which means to go round and round. While the term is considered derogatory now, originally it was one of respect for a highly-...
Captivating Fantasy Worlds to Explore Next (05/22)
A trip to Elsewhere in the young adult debut Hotel Magnifique is enough to give anyone the itch to travel. The question is, where to next? Here are some suggestions of fantasy worlds to explore once you've checked out of Emily J. Taylor's wondrous hotel.

Battle Magic (2013): Tamora Pierce's worldbuilding is famed, with fans ...

The Soviet Atomic Bomb Project (05/22)
In Atomic Anna, the protagonist Anna Berkova is the Soviet Union's top nuclear scientist. Collaborating with famed German chemist Otto Hahn at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin, Anna helps discover nuclear fission, the reaction which serves as the basis for nuclear power. As World War II begins, Anna escapes Germany and...
Religious Sectarianism in Glasgow: Then and Now (05/22)
One theme of Douglas Stuart's Young Mungo is the quotidian experience of violence. In part, this violence comes from warring sectarian gangs, whose vicious rivalry wreaks havoc in Glasgow's East End. Enmity between Protestants and Catholics has a long history in Glasgow, as well as Scotland more generally. It can be traced back to the ...
Your Early 20s, Joan Didion's "On Self-Respect," and Social Media Culture (05/22)
For a moment, I can pretend I am a professor, like Joan Didion-obsessed NYU English professor Nick Harrison in Grant Ginder's Let's Not Do That Again, as he discusses her 1961 essay 'On Self-Respect' with his undergraduate class. For a moment, I can pretend that in the high evening before one of my part-time jobs, I am not 23, sitting in ...
The Four Treasures of Chinese Calligraphy (05/22)
In Four Treasures of the Sky, heroine Daiyu arrives at Master Wang's calligraphy school as an orphan looking for work. She quickly becomes his best student as she learns about the titular four treasures: brush, ink, paper and ink stone. Since the time of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420–589 CE), these items have been ...
Creative Writing MFA Programs (05/22)
The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a graduate-level degree earned by students who seek to pursue work as authors, editors, playwrights, or to teach at the college level. As of 2019, there were more than 200 Creative Writing MFA programs according to Poets & Writers' MFA Index, of which 158 were full-time residency and 64 low-...
Mabel Dodge Luhan (05/22)
Rachel Cusk reveals through a note at the end of her novel Second Place that the book is based on Lorenzo in Taos, a 1932 memoir by Mabel Dodge Luhan recounting the time the author D.H. Lawrence spent with her in Taos, New Mexico. Luhan, whose full name was Mabel Ganson Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan (as the result of multiple marriages), was a...
Creation Myths (05/22)
Woven into Guido Tonelli's Genesis are origin myths from different cultures and religions throughout history. He frames his work using the first book of the Hebrew Bible and often brings up creation myths from around the world. So what are these myths, and what do they have in common?

In the creation story found in the Hebrew Bible ...
HarperVia (04/22)
In 2019, HarperCollins, the world's second-largest book publishing group, announced a new imprint for international literature: HarperVia. With a planned 24 releases per year, HarperVia focuses on works from around the globe. Staff in the US and UK work to streamline the acquisitions process: Rather than waiting for a manuscript to be ...
Wildlife Trafficking in Latin America (04/22)
In Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer, the main character is left a taxidermied hummingbird as a clue. Early on in the book, it is revealed that this hummingbird belongs to a now-extinct species; wildlife trafficking and environmental degradation both become themes of the novel.

Although poaching and wildlife trafficking in ...
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (04/22)
In Julietta Henderson's The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, the title character is a 12-year-old boy who wants to perform his stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Also known as 'the Edinburgh Fringe' or simply 'the Fringe,' this event started out as an unofficial offshoot of the Edinburgh International Festival in Edinburgh...
Ariadne in Greek Mythology (04/22)
In her novel Ariadne, Jennifer Saint retells events from the life of the mythological title figure. In Greek mythology, Ariadne is known for helping the hero Theseus slay the Minotaur — a beast who was the offspring of Ariadne's mother and a bull — and find his way out of the Labyrinth, the maze beneath her father's palace. In...
Open Adoption in the United States (04/22)
Around 140,000 children are adopted in the U.S. each year. This equates to nearly 100 million Americans having some experience of adoption within their immediate family. While the process was once shrouded in secrecy and stigma for many, it is much more commonly discussed and celebrated today. In fact, many U.S. agencies now encourage ...
Novels About Inheritance (04/22)
In Housebreaking by Colleen Hubbard, protagonist Del finds herself in the position of having inherited her family's home and being tasked with what to do with it. Inheritance, whether of a home, money, information or an object of unique value, has long proven to be a fertile plot point in fiction. The revelation of an inheritance can ...
Involuntary Sterilization in the United States (04/22)
In Take My Hand, the protagonist Civil Townsend works at a family planning center in Montgomery, Alabama in 1973. She visits a Black family and administers birth control shots to two sisters, ages 11 and 13, at the behest of her supervisor, a man who later orders the girls to be sterilized. This story is based on the real-life ...
Au Pair Exchanges (04/22)
The novel The Caretakers centers on several young women who are au pairs in France, living there on special visas that allow them to stay with a family, take language classes and immerse themselves for a year in Parisian social life.

The term 'au pair' refers to a (usually young) person who lives with a family in a foreign country in ...
Writing Residencies (04/22)
In Lee Cole's Groundskeeping, the protagonist is offered a fellowship to take up the (fictional) Harry Crews Cottage writing residency in Florida, and his love interest is the writer-in-residence on their shared college campus in Kentucky. Writing residencies vary greatly in terms of what they entail. Some can be like a free working ...
Mapping the Ocean Floor (04/22)
In Charmaine Wilkerson's novel Black Cake, one of the main characters has made a career as an oceanographer, concentrating on mapping the ocean floor.

Water covers about 70% of the Earth's surface. And yet surprisingly little is known about what lies beneath it; just a little over 20% of the seabed had been mapped as of 2021. It's ...
True Crime (04/22)
Sarah Weinman's Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free sits squarely in one of today's hottest genres: true crime. Consumers of the genre may crave the rush that comes from real-life crime stories, especially ones that prove the cliché that...
The 1970 Great Bhola Cyclone: A Climate Change Warning (04/22)
In The Vortex, Scott Carney and Jason Miklian explore the environmental and societal impacts the 1970 Great Bhola Cyclone had upon South Asia, specifically what was East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The tropical storm began brewing in the Bay of Bengal on November 8, 1970, gaining strength to eventually achieve winds of up to 140 mph when ...
Young Adult Novels Written in Verse (04/22)
Novels written in verse for a young adult audience can be an excellent way to encourage reluctant readers of poetry to embrace the unique power of the form. While retaining a focus on character and narrative, the loose approach to structure and hints of more experimental language can increase the pace and heighten the emotional intensity ...
Social Media Addiction (04/22)
In The Candy House, the allure of social media, with its illusions of security, comfort and happiness are frequently described in terms similar to those related to addiction. Egan presents characters who struggle with substance abuse and deal with their isolation by withdrawing into the social media platform Own Your Unconscious.

While...
Joan Miller, Unlikely Spy (04/22)
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and in the case of An Unlikely Spy, fiction mirrors reality with a protagonist whose escapades parallel those of a real MI5 spy, Joan Miller.

Don't worry, An Unlikely Spy strays from the real-life story just enough in the end for me to assure you there are no spoilers here.

Joan Miller was ...
LGBTQ+ History and Community in Richmond, Virginia (04/22)
In S.A. Cosby's Razorblade Tears, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins attempt to solve the murder of their sons, Isiah and Derek, by sorting through the married couple's former lives in Richmond, Virginia. As they speak to Isiah and Derek's friends and acquaintances, they put together a better picture of who their sons were, and of the ...
Black Americans in Paris (04/22)
In The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, Opal Jewel finds solace in Paris when her music partner, Nev Charles, has become increasingly unreliable due to an opioid addiction.

It begins at Versailles with a charity fashion show designed to raise money for the palace's restoration, where celebrity attendees include Stephen Burrows, one of the ...
Fiction by Indian Diaspora Authors (04/22)
Sindya Bhanoo, author of the story collection Seeking Fortune Elsewhere, writes about South Indian immigrant and diaspora communities and the connections people in them maintain (or lose) with family in India. Bhanoo, who lives in Texas, was born to immigrant parents in the United States. The Indian diaspora is the largest in the world ...
The Evolution of the Pipe Organ (04/22)
The protagonist of James Runcie's novel, The Great Passion, is an organist and organ builder. The pipe organ has been referred to as the 'king of musical instruments' due to its size, complexity and power. Though its structure is similar to that of a piano, it has not one keyboard but as many as seven, plus a pedalboard played with the ...
Cocaine Use in the British Military During World War I (04/22)
In his historical novel Two Storm Wood, Philip Gray portrays the reality of World War I mostly from the perspective of a young British officer, showing everything from the gruesome and harrowing details of war to lesser-known facts of everyday life for those serving in it. This reality includes substance use and abuse among troops. Drugs ...

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  • Book Jacket: The Colony
    The Colony
    by Audrey Magee
    The Colony opens with Mr Lloyd, a London artist, being transported to a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) ...
  • Book Jacket: The Return of Faraz Ali
    The Return of Faraz Ali
    by Aamina Ahmad
    In Aamina Ahmad's debut, The Return of Faraz Ali, the eponymous character is a police inspector in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wonders
    The Wonders
    by Elena Medel
    Spanish poet Elena Medel's debut novel The Wonders (translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead) ...
  • Book Jacket: Four Treasures of the Sky
    Four Treasures of the Sky
    by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
    '…when our Chinese customers come asking for millet and green onions, buying licorice and ...

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Book Jacket
Shadows of Berlin
by David R. Gillham
A captivating novel of a Berlin girl on the run from the guilt of her past and the boy from Brooklyn who loves her.

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