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New and notable books out this week: a delve into a rough childhood, a mystery-novel veteran keeps things short, and satirist P.J. O’Rourke returns

New and notable books out this week: a delve into a rough childhood, a mystery-novel veteran keeps things short, and satirist P.J. O’Rourke returns
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Popular and prolific author Walters says this is the most important book he’s ever written. It’s certainly the most personal — it’s based on his own childhood growing up in poverty with a mentally ill parent. For those of us who have lived through that experience — the emotions and the details of living a double life, pretending things are OK and putting up defences so you can fit in, but going home to distress and worry, never thinking you’re good enough — Walters’ first-person narrative has the voice of authenticity. He provides an intimate and hopeful perspective and a glimpse into a world we rarely see closely enough to understand.

The Awkward Black Man, by Walter Mosley, Grove Press

A collection of 17 short stories from the author we’ve become familiar with through his 14 Easy Rawlins mysteries, among dozens of other novels and volumes of non-fiction. The characters are complex, often troubled, some in dark straits and vulnerable: one feels more confident after losing weight, but trouble lies ahead; another registers for college after an encounter with police; another is a mailroom clerk who tries to forge a romance with a girl at work.

Like A Bird, by Fariha Roisin, The Unnamed Press

Roisin, known as a poet and activist, has been writing this, her debut novel, for 18 years. The main character, Taylia Chatterjee is mixed-race, born to a Jewish mother and Bengali-Indian father. She and her sister Alyssa are privileged, growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West side and spending summers in the Catskills, but feel the pressure of succeeding in a racist society. A coming-of-age story about building a community and life of one’s own.

A Cry From the Far Middle: Dispatches From a Divided Land, P.J. O’Rourke, Grove Press

Satirist O’Rourke’s take on America and American politics has been amusing us for decades. The Daily Beast columnist’s new book features essays such as “An Inauguration Speech I’d Like To Hear” (”Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask me how I can get the hell out of here”).

And a bit of whimsy: Seaweed: An Enchanting Miscellany by Miek Zwamborn, Greystone Books, fits into a trend lately for smaller books looking at specific objects. This exploration of the history, culture and science of seaweed runs about 130 pages, has lovely illustrations and line drawings. Included at the end is a section with recipes and another index with individual “portraits” of different types of seaweed.
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