At the end of our next podcast on The Widow Tree, we will be choosing our first Non-Fiction book for the podcast (as per our schedule). We’ve narrowed it down to 4 choices, and if you could vote for one, that would be grand! If you want to suggest one, that would also be grand! Neither Kirt nor I are huge non-fiction readers, so you may have to gently guide us as we may be a bit lost.
Blood: The Stuff of Life by Lawrence Hill
In Blood, bestselling author Lawrence Hill offers a provocative examination of the scientific and social history of blood, and on the ways that it unites and divides us today.
Blood runs red through every person’s arteries, and fulfills the same functions in every human being. However, as much as the study and use of blood has helped advance our understanding of human biology, its cultural and social representations have divided us perennially. Blood pulses through religions, literature, and the visual arts, and every time it pools or spills, we learn a little more about what brings human beings together and what divides them.
This book is a fascinating historical and contemporary interpretation of blood, as a bold and enduring determinant of identity, race, culture, citizenship, belonging, privilege, deprivation, athletic superiority, and nationhood.
Afflictions and Departures by Madeline Sonik
Literary Nonfiction. Afflictions and Departures is a collection of first-person experiential essays. However, this is not the realm of traditional memoir–in addition to incidents and feelings recaptured from memory, Sonik seeks out connections between the microcosm of the daily events of her childhood and adolescence, and the social, historical, and scientific trends of the time. Afflictions and Departures begins by considering the turbulent and changing nature of the world in the late 1950s and early 1960s–the world in which the author was conceived and born. Like many couples of that era, Madeline Sonik’s parents focused on shared social and economic ambitions at the expense of authentic personal feeling. These ambitions would erode and, by the 1970s, completely collapse. These essays are as incisive as they are moving, and leave the reader with a sense of history as it was lived, not as it is codified in countless textbooks.
The Juggler’s Children by Carolyn Abraham
Carolyn Abraham explores the stunning power and ethical pitfalls of using genetic tests to answer questions of genealogy–by cracking the genome of her own family.
Recently, tens of thousands of people have been drawn to mail-order DNA tests to learn about their family roots. Abraham investigates whether this burgeoning new science can help solve 2 mysteries that have haunted her multi-racial family for more than a century. Both hinge on her enigmatic great-grandfathers–a hero who died young and a scoundrel who disappeared. Can the DNA they left behind reveal their stories from beyond the grave?
Armed with DNA kits, Abraham criss-crosses the globe, taking cells from relatives and strangers, a genetic journey that turns up far more than she bargained for–ugly truths and moral quandaries. With lively writing and a compelling personal narrative, The Juggler’s Children tackles profound questions around the genetics of identity, race and humanity, and tells a big story about our small world, with vivid proof that genes bind us all to the branches of one family tree.
How Poetry Saved My Life by Amber Dawn
As raw and fiery as its author, How Poetry Saved My Life is a powerful account of survival and the transformative power of literature.
Amber Dawn’s acclaimed first novel Sub Rosa, a darkly intoxicating fantasy about a group of magical prostitutes who band together to fend off bad johns in a fantastical underworld, won a Lambda Literary Award in 2011. While the plot of the book was wildly imaginative, it was also based on the author’s own experience as a sex worker in the 1990s and early 2000s, and on her coming out as lesbian.
How Poetry Saved My Life, Amber Dawn’s sophomore book, reveals an even more poignant and personal landscape—the terrain of sex work, queer identity, and survivor pride. This memoir, told in prose and poetry, offers a frank, multifaceted portrait of the author’s experiences hustling the streets of Vancouver, and the how those years took away her self-esteem and nearly destroyed her; at the crux of this autobiographical narrative is the tender celebration of poetry and literature, that—as the title suggests—acted as a lifeline during her most pivotal moments.