Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Some say that prostitution is a “victimless crime,” because presumably everyone involved participates willingly. Rachel Lloyd, in Girls Like Us, demonstrates that many girls and young women recruited and trafficked into the commercial sex industry are clearly victims of the system.
Lloyd, the executive director of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, was once a victim of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE.) She was eventually able to escape, through the support of a caring church community and some adults—surrogate parents, in essence-- who reached out to her, offering her a chance for educational and professional success, beyond the life she knew.
In Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World where Girls are not for Sale, an Activist Finds her Calling and Heals Herself, Lloyd breaks it all down: how the neglect and abuse most girls experience prior to exploitation sets them up to become victims of CSE; the methods pimps use to keep the girls from leaving; the stigma that surrounds girls, once they’ve become commercially sexually exploited. She also describes in detail what factors must be present to support someone leaving and successfully thriving, after living ‘in the life.’
Lloyd, along with several of the girls served by GEMS, successfully persuaded the New York State legislature to enact the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, which aims to protect –rather than prosecute—children subjected to sex trafficking.
Girls like us: fighting for a world where girls are not for sale an activist finds her calling and heals herself
When I read that Rin Tin Tin: the Life and the Legend was Library Journal’s pick for top nonfiction title of 2011, I was intrigued.
Author Susan Orlean has written a wonderfully readable book, not only about Rin Tin Tin, the iconic dog star of films and TV. Her story ranges widely and touches on the early history of Hollywood and films, the bravery and use of animals in war, and much more.
The story begins on a battlefield in France during World War I. A young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovers an orphaned German shepherd puppy in a bombed out kennel. He has left his own dog behind in America, and adopts the small pup. Duncan, who was raised in an orphanage, feels an affinity with the abandoned dog, whom he names Rin Tin Tin. He immediately senses that this is an extraordinary dog, and is fortunately able to bring “Rinty” back to the US. The rest, as the saying goes, is history—and what a ride it is!
Susan Orlean is a respected reporter who spent ten years researching and writing this book, the story of a dog born in 1918 and his descendants, and the people who loved them and helped to insure their legacy.
This is a book for all people who have ever had or loved a dog.
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
There are several elements that I feel, that while not required, certainly make for better reading when it comes to essays, reviews and personal reflections. They are: 1.) an energetic prose that flows well and that doesn’t become bogged down in obtuse jargon and esoteric detail 2.) an economy and focus (most pieces should not exceed 7 pages in length) when summarizing a particular subject’s value or importance to either the audience or the writer 3.) a calm passion and genuine curiosity for the subject matter and lastly 4.) an engagement with complex ideas or cultural values by mixing together an element of wit with a fierce and independent intelligence.
Geoff Dyer’s nonfiction prose really hits the spot for me and for those who love writers willing to tackle a multitude of subjects with a fresh perspective, check out his Otherwise Known As the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews. Fans of the late cultural critic John Leonard or those who enjoy the inventive observations of Greil Marcus may also enjoy Dyer’s work. Dyer tackles the books of writers like Richard Ford, Don Delillo, Lorrie Moore, and John Cheever along with personal takes on comic strips and life as an only child. He delves into the inner essence of works of art like J.M.W Turner’s painting Figures in a Building, linking its evocative power with that of Tarkovskii's masterpiece, Stalker. Along the way, you’ll learn about the impact of Richard Avedon’s mixing of high art with fashion photography and how Susan Sontag’s fiction pales in comparison to her contributions as a cultural critic. Dyer is never boring even when you may take issue with his opinions. You’ll never end up with just a straight, descriptive review with Dyer. He’s a deft craftsman with a talent for bringing out new readings on old subjects. Highly recommended.
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition
In her acceptance speech for the 2011 National Book Award for fiction, author Jesmyn Ward said “…I wanted to write about the experiences of the poor and the black and the rural people of the south so that the culture that marginalized us for so long would see that our stories were as universal, our lives as fraught and lovely and important as theirs.” If this was the goal for her award-winning novel Salvage the Bones, I certainly believe she achieved it. Salvage the Bones, set in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, tells the story of the Batiste family struggling to survive daily life in the shadow of a hurricane. Esch, the narrator, is fifteen and pregnant, and alone in a household of men. Her father, an alcoholic since her mother passed away, can think only of protecting the family from the hurricane, while her brother Skeetah is obsessed with his prize fighting pit bull and her pups. Her brother Randall is focused on winning a scholarship to basketball camp, and her little brother Junior relies on Esch to act as mother. Their lives seem dangerously close to falling apart even without the assistance of one the worst hurricanes in American history, and the threat of impending doom creates an uneasy tension in the novel. Salvage the Bones is the story of human struggle, endurance, and love, and I don’t what could be more “fraught and lovely and important” than that.
Salvage the bones