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Season's readings: Books to choose
by Terri Schlichenmeyer
2019-12-02

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So, it's a wrap.

Everything's under paper and under the tree. You're done with all your shopping, except for one person. Or two. Maybe four.

So what do you get for that hard-to-buy-for person who never likes anything? Well, as they say, a book is a present they'll open again and again, so why not head to your local bookstore for these great gifts:

Biography/autobiography/memoir

For the fiercest of fierce women on your gift list, look for Passionate Spirit: The Life of Alma Mahler, by Cate Haste. It's the story of Mahler, wife of the artist, who was also the first woman to write an opera at a time when women were supposed to be shadows of their husbands. It's one of those little-know stories you should know.

The giftee who needs a boost of confidence will love unwrapping More Than Enough, by Elaine Welteroth. It's the story of the author's realization that she really WAS everything she needed to be and if that's a great lesson to take into the new year…

They say that this country's royalty sprang from the New England area and if your gift recipient is a fan or follower, then wrap up The Kennedy Heirs, by J. Randy Taraborrelli. This big book is all about the JFK kids and their generation, as well as their cousins.

For the person who's spent time this year as caregiver to a parent, How to Forget, by Kate Mulgrew, is the book to wrap. It's the story of caring and loss, and coming to terms with a past that one may or may not know until secrets are no longer kept…

The Anglophile on your gift list will love having Our Rainbow Queen, by Sali Hughes, under the tree. It's a celebration of Queen Elizabeth's colorful style and the splashy fashions she favors.

For the lover of music, feminism, and fierce women, Ani Di Franco's No Walls and the Recurring Dream will make a perfect gift. It's the story of Di Franco's first 30 years on Earth as well as her activism, life and music.

If there's a Hollywood watcher on your gift list this year, then wrap up Seduction: Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood, by Karina Longworth. It's the story of a very rich man, the women who wanted him ( or his money, or both ) and the women who got what they wanted—much to their regret.

Historians and connoisseurs alike will love reading The Bourbon King, by Bob Batchelor. It's the story of George Remus, his crimes, and his totally illegal prohibition-era empire.

History

The historian who's likewise fascinated with architecture will probably never get a book they'll love more than Cities: The First 6,000 Years, by Monica L. Smith. This book takes your reader on a down-the-road trip into cities and villages, above them and below them. Hint: giftees who travel will enjoy it, too.

The person who longs for a gentler time when women dressed for dinner will love What Would Mrs. Astor Do?, by Cecelia Tichi. It's a book about manners and social expectations in the Gilded Age, and how people were supposed to behave. It's also about the woman who set the tone for it all, the lovely and suffers-no-fools-gladly Caroline Astor. Wrap it up with Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, by Pamela D. Toler. Mrs. Astor would approve.

Dad or Grandpa is always hard to buy for, right? Wrong: There's The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942, by William K. Klingaman and it's available now. This book reminds readers about how we "pulled together and won" during World War II, and he'll love it. Don't discount Mom or Grandma; it's a book she'll enjoy, too. Wrap it up with No Surrender, by Chris Edmonds and Douglas Century. It's a story of Edmonds' father, his brave actions during World War II, and how he impacted many people for many generations.

Anyone who's fascinated with military history from World War I through Vietnam will want to add The Girls Next Door, by Kara Dixon Vuic, to their bookshelves. This tale of a little-known bit of history explains why "respectable young women" and Hollywood starlets volunteered to go overseas so that men at war could enjoy recreation and a bit of home in a foreign country. For more military history to make your history buff smile, look for Tom Cotton's Sacred Duty—a peek inside the workings of Arlington National Cemetery.

Here's a unique gift for the railroad buff or historian: Ghosts of Gold Mountain, by Gordon H. Chang. It's the true account of the Chinese immigrants who were hired to build the transcontinental railroad. Part personal ( Chang introduces readers to some of the men, specifically ) and part danger-adventure, it's a story you'll love reading.

For the person who grew up during the 1950s, A Good American Family, by David Maraniss, will be a great gift to unwrap. It's the story of the "Red Scare" of the 1950s, how one family was unfairly caught up in it, and how they got through it all.

African-American studies

For the thinker on your gift list, We Can't Breathe, by Jabari Asim, might be the perfect thing to give. In essays that provoke thought and invite discussion, Asim tackles Black culture, Black families, the necessity of Black writers, and how Black America has its own narrative to claim from history. Wrap it up with this book for the poetry lover, My Eternity in Time, by Carol Coles. It's filled with verse on love, life, and death, and it offers plenty of food for thought.

The reader who works to understand racial issues will want to see When I Was White, by Sarah Valentine, beneath the tree this year. It's the true story of a little white girl who grows up to be a woman who learns that her father was a Black man. Complicated, yes. Fascinating? That, too. Also look for Self-Portrait in Black and White, by Thomas Chatterton Williams—the story of an entire family's reckoning with race. Also take a look at Black Indian: A Memoir, by Shonda Buchanan, a story of a biracial woman who embraces both her Native American and her African-American roots.

The teenager on your list who loves history will love Emancipated: My Family's Fight for Freedom, by Cheryl Wills. It's the personal story of Wills' father, and her great-great-great grandfather, who was a Tennessee slave who fought in the Civil War. Included is information so your young giftee can start his or her own family tree. Wrap it up with I Missed the Bus, But I Arrived on Time, by Willis S. Drake—a memoir by a Renaissance man and his dreams of doing it all.

LGBTQ interest

For the person who loves someone who doesn't identify strictly as male-female will appreciate unwrapping Robyn Ryle's She He They Me this year. It's a book that acts a bit like those old "choose-your-own-adventure" as it examines and explains gender, its definitions, and the way it's been perceived historically. Hint: This is fun, and it's also a book for someone who's questioning.

If your gift recipient is exploring the ideas and limits of gender, you can't go wrong by wrapping up Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, edited by Micah Rajunov and Scott Duane. This is a book filled with tales of those who've examined ( or are examining ) questions of gender, sexuality, age, and race.

For the child with two Mommies or two Daddies, and for the kids in that child's preschool session, The GayBCs, by M.L. Webb, will make a great class gift. It's the A-B-Cs, but with terms familiar to the LGBTQ community and their families, so it's for them, too. Or it might make a great gift for the adult who still possesses the wonder of a child. Or for an adult, just because.

For the newlywed ( or the about-to-be-wed ), The Gay Marriage Generation, by Peter Hart-Brinson, is the book to give. It takes a look at how same-sex marriage became law across the country, and how it changed the way America looks at gay men and lesbians. The gay gift recipient might also like Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men's Lives, by Walt Odets, in that same wrapped gift.

The person on your list who enjoys reading short stories will love Every True Pleasure: LGBTQ Tales of North Carolina, edited by Wilton Barnhardt. It's absolutely filled with tales from the South and from the heart.

For the parent of someone who's come out this year, consider giving Embracing the Journey, by Greg and Lynn McDonald, with Beth Jusino, foreword by Greg McDonald Jr. It's a guide, really, for Christian parents who learn that their children are LGBT, and how it fits with your spiritual beliefs.

The movie buff on your list will love reading Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films, by writer Arthur Dong, whose work focuses on Asia America and anti-gay prejudice. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Chinese and Chinese American actors from the first films shot in Chinatown, to modern times and contemporary film professionals. How can you go wrong?

Lastly, for the person who is searching for new meaning in life, wrap up My Buddha is Pink: Buddhism for the Modern Homosexual, by Richard Harrold. It's a book of essays being a gay Buddhist and reconciling old beliefs with a new way of mindfulness and fulfillment in a new lifestyle.

Season's readings!


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