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Focus on the New: Nonfiction

Posted about 4 years ago by Lisa Crisman

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nonfiction as “writing or cinema that is about facts and real events.” Nonfiction titles may express an author’s point of view. Some nonfiction attempts to inform the reader. Often a nonfiction title does both. The writing contains real characters or relates an event that actually occurred. It may give instructions on a craft, a recipe, or a way of life. Scroll through this list of recent nonfiction, a small sample of newly published items available at your library.

Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward. (New York: Scribner, 2020) In 2018, Ward delivered the commencement address for the graduating class of Tulane University. This slim, beautifully illustrated volume contains the text from that address. Her words inspire perseverance and dedication. RPL was fortunate to have a visit from this author in October 2019.

Six Square Metres: reflections from a small garden by Margaret Simons. (Melbourne: Scribe, 2020) Covering the course of a year, the author describes her small, urban garden and the changes that occur. Some are celebrations and others are quiet reflections. This book is a great reminder of all that is continuing around us while we hold our breath and wait. First published in Australia in 2015.

The ABCs of Diversity: helping kids (and ourselves!) embrace our differences by Carolyn B. Helsel & Joy Harris-Smith. (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2020) Written for adults by two educators who are also parents, this recent title “will help you learn the language of difference and diversity.” The ABCs are divided into three personal experiences: Automatic ABCs, Intentional ABCs and Interpersonal ABCs. The authors cover sexual identity, race and religious differences with a chapter devoted to media and diversity. Included are booklists from picture books to young adult and activities for parents and teachers of youth.

Go to sleep/I miss you written and illustrated by Lucy Knisley. (New York: First Second, 2020) Fans of graphic novels may be familiar with this author/artist who has mastered the autobio-graphic novel. This title is a follow-up to last year’s, full color Kid Gloves: nine months of careful chaos. With simple line drawings and genuine humor she highlights the emotional roller coaster ride of new parents.

A Map is Only One Story: twenty writers on immigration, family, and the meaning of home. Edited by Nicole Chung & Mensah Demary. (New York: Catapult, 2020) This collection of essays is the first anthology from Catapult magazine. Each personal story straddles the border “between languages and cultures.”

Kid Quixotes: a group of students, their teacher, and the one-room school where everything is possible by Stephen Huff. (New York: HarperOne, 2020) One teacher and twenty-five students tackle the translation of Don Quixote in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Physical violence, emotional trauma, and the fear of deportation are part of the daily routine at the school. Some can read Spanish, others need help, and together they transform this classic into a performance piece, The Traveling Serialized Adventures of Kid Quixote. The one rule of the class is “Everyone listens to everyone.”

Fathoms: the world in the whale by Rebecca Giggs. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020) Giggs is an environmental journalist based in Perth, Australia. For this, her first nonfiction book, she began her research spurred by the sight of a stranded, humpback whale on her local beach. This encounter led her to consider the whale in multiple contexts. She covers the whale’s natural environment, the effect of pollution on the whale’s habitat, and the influence whales have had on humans throughout recorded history. Giggs successfully tackles writing on the natural world while in the midst of environmental crisis.

Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and ideas for big and small spaces by Tara Nolan. (Beverly, MA: Cool Springs Press, 2020) Along with baking and handcrafts, gardening has “blossomed” during the pandemic. This new entry into the gardening collection gives straightforward advice on redesigning your front yard as a social center. Excellent tips for containers, patio makeovers, rain barrels, hedges, arbors and more. Nolan is known for her website Savvy Gardening.

Honey and Venom: Confessions of an urban beekeeper by Andrew Coté. (New York: Ballantine Books, 2020) Coté is a fourth-generation beekeeper and the founder of the New York City Beekeepers Association. He is now considered one of the top in his field. This book follows a year of beekeeping in the city, from managing rooftop hives to rescuing bees from the most unlikely places. Coté also visits locations around the world to teach others how to keep bees through his nonprofit Bees Without Borders. A thoroughly engaging read.

A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings: a year of keeping bees by Helen Jukes. (New York: Pantheon Books, 2020) Jukes is a British writer, a beekeeper and a writing tutor. Part memoir, beekeeping history and part guide, this book reflects on dislocation, finding home and the ways we create and live in our personal space. Her writing questions what it means to “keep” wild things and the reality of our existence alongside the natural world.

Edge: turning adversity into advantage by Laura Huang. (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2020) Need some encouragement or a bit more self-confidence? Check out this new title full of ways to beat the odds, hone your communication skills, overcome stereotypes and get your voice heard. This is the first book by Huang, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and a widely published research journalist.

Wild Words: rituals, routines, and rhythms for braving the writer’s path by Nicole Gulotta. (Boulder: Roost Books, 2020) The author offers a fresh approach to the writer’s life, breaking it into ten “seasons. She includes wonderful quotes and writing prompts to stimulate the process. For beginning writers and seasoned writers who need a bit of inspiration.

And just one more, for fun…

I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf by Grant Snider. (New York: Abrams Comic Arts, 2020) Orthodontist by day and artist by night, Snider’s comics have been widely published. He is the creator of Incidental Comics and The Shape of Ideas. With humor and insight he illustrates his thoughts on writing, books and living in a world of words.

Lisa Crisman

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