Reviews of the Week with Sophia Benoit, Edith Widder, Liselle Sambury, and More!

The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of June 14 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, I Am a Girl from Africa, by Elizabeth Nyamayaro and read by the author. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, June 14

Well, This Is Exhausting, by Sophia Benoit

Readers looking for an entertaining escape from their everyday grind will appreciate the opportunity to take a moment or two to see the world from sex and relationship advice columnist, comedian, and Twitter darling Benoit’s point-of-view. This collection of 30 brief personal essays, some with bonus content in the form of footnotes that feel like a friend’s whispered asides, spans the years from her less than idyllic childhood to the present. Benoit’s engaging writing style invites laughter while she sparks serious contemplation on a variety of topics, from being caught between warring divorced parents to considering the damage done when expectations about someone are based solely on gender and society’s skewed judgement of different body shapes and sizes.

Tuesday, June 15

Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution, by Judith Heumann and Kristen Joiner

“I don’t think my life is a tragedy because I’ve had a disability,” says disability rights activist Judy Heumann in this inspiring and wryly humorous young readers edition of her adult memoir Being Heumann (2020). Paralyzed at 18 months after falling ill with polio, Heumann, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, relates her lifelong fight to be treated as an “equal citizen.” From being denied kindergarten attendance because the principal thought she was a “fire hazard” to being humiliated at her public high school graduation because the stage had no wheelchair ramp, she took on the New York City school system and won after they denied her a teaching license because she was disabled. She was the driving force behind a rousing 24-day San Francisco sit-in by disabled activists that forced the passage of regulations supporting disability rights in federally funded programs. 

Wednesday, June 16

Below the Edge of Darkness: A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea, by Edith Widder

Marine biologist and MacArthur Fellow Widder endured dire medical struggles while in college, including a temporary loss of sight, which taught her to value every moment and made her an exceptionally sensitive investigator of the how and why of bioluminescence, the light generated by a wondrous variety of sea creatures, from the crystal jelly to the lantern shark. Widder innovated ways to study the “language of light” deployed by bioluminescent marine species, a demanding and risky undertaking requiring deep dives and new photographic strategies and instrumentation. A superbly captivating writer, Widder fluently elucidates complex scientific inquiries and findings pertaining to how bioluminescence helps marine species thrive in the watery realm where “there’s nothing to hide behind.” 

Thursday, June 17

Blood like Magic, by Liselle Sambury

In Sambury’s downright dazzling debut, Voya has finally started menstruating, which means she’s ready to come into her family’s magic and receive her gift from her ancestors. To receive this gift, each witch needs to complete a task given to them by an ancestor, and failing is not an option. To Voya’s misfortune, Mama Jova, who suffered at the hands of slavers, imparts her task: to echo the family’s mantra of “suffer and survive,” Voya is instructed to destroy her first love or risk losing her family forever. This engrossing novel features a world both familiar and unfamiliar, in a near-future Toronto. 

Friday, June 18

Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, by Anne Sebba

Betrayed by her family, accused of espionage, subjected to an appalling miscarriage of justice during the Cold War outbreak of political extremism and toxic lies, and condemned to death by electrocution, along with her husband, Julius, Ethel Rosenberg vowed “to die with honor and dignity.” Sebba, an accomplished biographer specializing in besieged women, portrays Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg in her own right in meticulous detail and through fresh and incisive analysis. Ethel’s Lower East Side childhood was poisoned by her unloving mother, who much preferred her sons, especially David, whose lies about his sister led to her cruel death. A brilliant student passionate about music, Ethel dreamed of attending college, but instead she had to work, becoming active in the labor movement, which brought her and Julius together. Sebba tracks the treacherous path to spying for the Soviet Union taken by Julius and his brother-in-law, who worked at Los Alamos, while Ethel channeled all her thwarted ambitions into raising their two young sons destined to be orphaned.'

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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