Reviews of the Week with Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, the Zhou Brothers, Jeffrey H. Jackson and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

As we shine our spotlight on the arts, make sure you catch the beautiful imagery and inspiring stories in this week’s #ReviewsOfTheDay. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, October 19

Black Futures, edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham

Loosely arranged into categories like Power, Joy, and Ownership and designed like an art-exhibition catalog, Black Futures is an intriguing and beautiful book meant to inspire. Art curator Drew and New York Times Magazine culture writer Wortham sought to answer the question, “What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?”. To this end, they have curated conversations, art, poetry, and essays by an incredible array of creative people. Some contributors will be familiar to many—Hanif Abdurraqib, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Eve L. Ewing, Samantha Irby—but readers will also likely discover new-to-them voices, covering topics as wide-ranging as poet June Jordan, artist Kerry James Marshall, the viral meme “Muslamic ray guns,” and even a fantastic ode to shea butter. Punctuated throughout with photography and other artwork and using vibrant colors smartly, the book is as interesting visually as intellectually.

Tuesday, October 20

Flying Paintings: The Zhou Brothers; A Story of Revolution and Art, by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by ShanZuo Zhou and DaHuang Zhou

It’s unusual for the subjects of an arts biography to illustrate the story of their own lives, but that’s only one of the elements that set this compelling picture book apart. The Zhou brothers, critically acclaimed contemporary artists known for their large-scale, abstract works, began their lives in the People’s Republic of China under the oppressive atmosphere of the Cultural Revolution. Shaoli (who now goes by ShanZuo), the oldest, loved hearing stories in his grandmother’s bookstore, and after his younger brother, Shaoning (now known as DaHuang) was born, the pair played and painted—and fought, as brothers sometimes do. Alznauer homes in on that fighting, as it becomes a key part of their unique collaborative process. Also key to their art is the crushing effects of the Cultural Revolution, which drove their family from their home and drastically censored the art they could make while living in China. 

Wednesday, October 21

Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis, by Jeffrey H. Jackson

Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe were two singular, if long unsung, figures of WWII—French artists, lesbians, subversive and unapologetically empathetic to humanity. As gender-bending creatives in Paris, Schwob and Malherbe were known as Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, respectively. As residents of the English Channel island of Jersey, they were a two-woman resistance movement against the Nazi occupation. The paper bullets of the title refer to insults against Hitler and the Nazis that they wrote on scraps of paper and ingeniously and secretly distributed around the island to lower the morale of German soldiers. It is a remarkable story of creative courage.

Thursday, October 22

Latinx Photography in the United States: A Visual History, by Elizabeth Ferrer

This remarkable history of Latinx photography documents more than the emergence of the art as a popular form practiced by many talented individuals. It’s also a powerful testament to a people’s artistic legacy. Ferrer profiles 80 Latinx photographers, with an emphasis on artists and movements of the 1960s onwards, when the turbulent political climate in the U.S. inspired a flowering of activist artists. Stunning photographs capture the early days of the United Farm Workers strikes and the Young Lords marching in New York, fists raised in solidarity. Subjects shift with the times, and Ferrer curates an illustrated narrative with an emphasis on diversity in regard to both geographical representation (including primarily artists who claim heritage from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba) and aesthetic taste, including the earliest portraiture of the 1860s as well as conceptual work of more recent times.

Friday, October 23

In One Ear and Out the Other: Antonia Brico and Her Amazingly Musical Life, by Diane Worthey and illusrated by Morgana Wallace

Covering an unusual career type and a pioneering woman, this attractive, intriguing work is by a violinist who was conducted by her book’s subject, Antonia Brico. After attending a concert in Chicago at age 12 in 1914, Brico decided to become a conductor, and when naysayers said women couldn’t do that, “it went in one ear and out the other.” The story covers many episodes of determination as Brico enrolls at Berkeley, plays piano at a dime store for tuition, studies with the Berlin State Academy of Music, and more. Still, she could only get guest conductor jobs and other unsatisfying work. Explaining that Brico was ahead of her time (thereby creating what is relatively unusual in this kind of profile: a sad ending), Worthey closes the main portion of the text with short accounts of women conductors who came after and were able to make it.

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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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