Reviews of the Week with Toni Tipton-Martin, Michelle Roehm McCann, Elif Shafak, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Discover the legacy of African American cuisine; unite in the fight against gun violence; renew your love for an American cooking classic; alert yourself to the emerging danger of microplastics in food; experience an extraordinarily resilient protagonist’s final moments. Regale your senses in this week’s Reviews of the Day, posted between September 30 and October 4, below.

Monday, September 30

Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, by Toni Tipton-Martin

James Beard Award–winning culinary journalist and community activist Tipton-Martin spent decades collecting and researching more than 200 years of Black cookbooks before compiling that work into an anthology (The Jemima Code, 2015) and pop-up exhibit which traveled across North America. This cookbook embodies that research and honors the ancestors who crafted and honed those recipes. Tipton-Martin’s knowledge and understanding of the caricatures and stereotypes so rampant throughout this history allow for a nuanced, respectful, loving view of the legacies of the cooks, chefs, and food experts she cites. The depth of context provided here is unusual but both appropriate and necessary today. Recipes—appetizers, breads, soups, salads, sides, vegetables, main dishes, desserts, and beverages— include a paragraph or two about each dishes’ history and Tipton-Martin’s process for the version presented here. Easy to follow and elegantly precise, it is clear that these recipes are the result of years of devoted artistry.

Tuesday, October 1

Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety, by Michelle Roehm McCann and illustrated by Katie Hill

“America is the gun-craziest country in the world,” McCann writes passionately in her deeply researched and highly informative book about guns in America. The statistics she cites are staggering: a total of 1,297 American children are killed by guns each year; 5,790 more are injured; gun violence is the number-two killer of young people, second only to car accidents; 31 percent of all gun deaths and nearly 50 percent of gun homicides are of young people; and there are many more, a number of them presented in the numerous charts and graphs. This lively and smoothly written book is replete with sidebar features as well, including, notably, profiles of student activists, like survivors of the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings.

Wednesday, October 2

Joy of Cooking (revised edition), by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker, and Megan Scott

The pillar of American cookbooks for generations, Joy of Cooking appears anew for the first time in over a decade, fully revised by Rombauer’s great-grandson, John Becker, and his wife, Megan Scott. Those who esteem Joy as the indispensable home-cooking guide will rejoice that this new edition expands on and brings their favorites up to date in ways that will excite its old fans as well as a new generation of home cooks. This revision adds several hundred new recipes, but, more importantly, it gives its readers access to even more basic data on cooking than previous iterations. Huge sections define and describe spices both common and not-so. As ever, the sections on freezing, canning, drying, and other preservation methods are meticulous with technical instructions to ensure food safety. Current fascination with foraged foods earns a place, with advice on avoiding toxic wild plants. New technologies like electric pressure cookers and sous-vide cooking are explained. Cooks in high-altitude locales will appreciate the advice on adjusting all recipes, not just baked goods. Even the effects of climate change are addressed in expanded guidelines on sustainable fish selection and cooking.

Thursday, October 3

You Are Eating Plastic Every Day: What’s in Our Food? by Danielle Smith-Llera

Meet microplastics, the world’s grimmest sprinkles. Part of the Informed! series (4 titles), this book comprehensively and convincingly presents the dangers single-­use plastics pose to the environment and its animals, including humans. Smith-Llera opens with the haunting photo of a seabird carcass, reduced to feathers, bones, and a stomach full of colorful bits of plastic. This bird’s fate is common among animals that live in or feed from the ocean, which is steadily filling with plastics—with bags, straws, bottles, fishing nets, and nearly invisible microplastics being the biggest offenders. The text uses infographics, fact boxes, and photos as it describes the pros and cons of plastic’s resilience, its journey into oceans and the food chain, the trouble with recycling, and environmental activism by young people. The book’s shocking statistics will make readers look at seafood (and salt!) in new ways and compel some to take action.

Friday, October 4

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, by Elif Shafak

Leila cannot believe that she’s been murdered and dumped in a trash bin on the shadowy edge of Istanbul. Ever-courageous Turkish writer Shafak (Three Daughters of Eve, 2017) creates another resilient woman protagonist at odds with Turkey’s repressive society in this Man Booker shortlist title, though, in irrepressible Leila, Shafak raises her literary dissent to a new level. The first half of this seductively imaginative, rambunctiously humorous, complexly tragic, and lyrically redemptive tale presents Leila’s tough life in enrapturing and enraging flashbacks as her brain lights up with a final 10-minute-and-38-second surge of memories, from the cruel betrayal of her mother, a tyrannized second wife, to the sexual abuse that finally induces Leila to run away to Istanbul, where she finds some safety and love in a brothel. Leila also remembers her five beloved friends—Sinan, her childhood ally; Nalan, a trans woman; Jameelah, a trafficked Somalian; Zaynab, a dwarf and fortune-teller; and Humeyra, a singer who fled domestic violence. This band of squabbling, traumatized, loyal, witty, and heroic outcasts carry the story forward as they seek Leila’s grave in the grim Cemetery of the Companionless.



About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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