Reviews of the Week with Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Hakeem Oluseyi, John Lewis, 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 21 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Areli Is a Dreamer, by Areli Morales and illustrated by Luisa Uribe. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, June 21

I Am a Girl from Africa, by Elizabeth Nyamayaro and read by the author

Anyone in the mood for a fascinating and inspirational story has found their next great audio. Narrated by author Nyamayaro, this memoir is undoubtedly one ofthe year’s top listening experiences. From the very first word, listeners feel a deep, intimate connection to Nyamayaro, who shares her story of a UN humanitarian worker saving her from near-starvation at the age of eight during the prolonged drought that devastated her small village in Zimbabwe. This brief encounter inspired Nyamayaro to become a humanitarian. Each chapter begins with a proverb, which Nayamayaro weaves into her brilliant storytelling, alternating between her life in Africa and her hard-won journey to becoming a UN humanitarian and founder of the organization HeForShe. Throughout, she shares the African philosophy of ubuntu, which holds that when we uplift others, we in turn uplift ourselves. 

Tuesday, June 22

Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness, by Kristen Radtke

In some ways an extension of her acclaimed graphic novel debut, Imagine Wanting Only This (2017), which explored ideas of decay and its aftermath, Radtke’s second work of wide-ranging, visual nonfiction storytelling examines isolation as a social, biological, and personal phenomenon. The hard-to-define concept of loneliness, Radtke writes, “is a variance that rests in the space between the relationships you have and the relationships you want.” In graphic-essay style, Radtke centers her inquiry around four human behaviors—listen, watch, click, and touch—and devotes rich, meandering chapters to each. “Listen,” for instance, ponders the TV laugh track, invented because humans are less likely to laugh alone. “Watch” moves from the American obsession with a certain “cowboy sensibility” to a spread filled with real headlines describing the perpetrators of mass shootings as “loners.” For “Click,” Radtke posits that the much-maligned exaggeration social media encourages existed in all the technological advances before it, and “Touch” contemplates the life and experiments of Harry Harlow, who tested the often devastating limits of estrangement in baby monkeys.

Wednesday, June 23

Run: Book One, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by L. Fury and Nate Powell

Lewis, Aydin, and Powell’s stirring March trilogy continues in this first installment in a follow-up series tracing Lewis’ life and career after the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Lewis is dedicated to but exhausted by his role as chairman of SNCC, and after the success of their earlier actions, the committee is wondering what to do next. Divisions hinted at in the March books bear fruit here, as a schism develops between factions in favor of more direct action and Lewis’ commitment to nonviolence, especially as protests against the draft escalate. This is a wordy graphic novel, with abundant speech balloons and voice-overs offering insight into Lewis’ motivations, but such a complicated moment in civil rights history deserves this kind of exploration. Particularly poignant is the focus on the limitations of the Voting Rights Act, which did nothing to stop violence directed at Black people or end systemic racism—facts all too relevant to today’s current events. 

Thursday, June 24

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, by Lauren Hough and read by Lauren Hough and Cate Blanchett

Hough’s debut personal-essay collection doesn’t hold any punches. She tells us straight away that she often lies when people ask her personal questions about her family—the lies are more comfortable than the truth. Hough grew up in The Children of God cult. She only alludes to some of the cult’s horrific practices inflicted on young children in this memoir about survival narrated by both actress Cate Blanchett and by the author. Blanchett does an amazing job adapting an American accent, and her voice is hard when it needs to be—which is often. But the chapters voiced by the author will reverberate in the listener’s soul.

Friday, June 25

A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars, by Hakeem Oluseyi and Joshua Horowitz

This illuminating and candid memoir from astrophysicist and distinguished professor Oluseyi (born James Plummer Jr.), cowritten with Horwitz, is a testament to human fortitude. This warts-and-all chronicle reveals how an African American kid from a poor and broken family who lived in the Deep South managed to overcome severe racial biases as well as a crippling crack cocaine addiction to achieve a successful and esteemed career that includes a PhD in physics from Stanford, studying solar atmospheres, and working with NASA. Oluseyi’s life has been a mixture of bleak and surreal situations. At one point, for example, he couldn’t get promoted from janitor to bellhop, yet he put together X-ray telescopes for Arthur B. C. Walker, the famed African American solar physicist who also mentored Sally Ride.'

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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