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February Picks - Nonfiction

Brothers in Valor: Battlefield Stories of the 89 African Americans Awarded the Medal of Honor Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781493031740
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Lyons Press - November 1st, 2018

Since the American Civil War, scores of African Americans have served with great distinction. Through thousands of historical accounts, photographs, and documentary evidence, Robert Jefferson provides the reader with a vivid portrait of African American soldiers who carried the flag of freedom and equality and how they reshaped the very definition of courage under fire during some of the most harrowing moments in the United States military past. In turn, their courage and determination left an indelible mark on the American portrait. 

During the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863, Sgt. William Harvey Carney picked up the fallen flag from his lifeless comrade. He waved the flag for all of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry to see and led the way to the parapet to plant the colors. After Col. Robert Gould Shaw was mortally wounded, Carney inspired his infantry forward. Even after sustaining severe wounds, Carney proudly declared, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground!” After this battle, Carney became the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor. Since the American Civil War, scores of African Americans have served with great distinction. Through thousands of historical accounts, photographs, and documentary evidence, Robert Jefferson introduces the 89 black soldiers who continued forward when all odds were against them. The heroes within these pages faced certain death and definite danger without flinching. Jefferson paints a vivid portrait of African-American soldiers who carried the flag of freedom and how they reshaped the very definition of courage under fire during some of the most harrowing moments in United States military history. In turn, their courage and determination left an indelible mark on the American portrait.


Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780812995701
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - January 29th, 2019

We all write, all the time: books, blogs, emails. Lots and lots of emails. And we all want to write better. Benjamin Dreyer is here to help.

As Random House’s copy chief, Dreyer has upheld the standards of the legendary publisher for more than two decades. He is beloved by authors and editors alike—not to mention his followers on social media—for deconstructing the English language with playful erudition. Now he distills everything he has learned from the myriad books he has copyedited and overseen into a useful guide not just for writers but for everyone who wants to put their best prose foot forward.

As authoritative as it is amusing, Dreyer’s English offers lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash; the rules and nonrules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive; and why it’s best to avoid the doldrums of the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers, including “very,” “rather,” “of course,” and the dreaded “actually.” Dreyer will let you know whether “alright” is all right (sometimes) and even help you brush up on your spelling—though, as he notes, “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.”

And yes: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.”

Chockful of advice, insider wisdom, and fun facts, this book will prove to be invaluable to everyone who wants to shore up their writing skills, mandatory for people who spend their time editing and shaping other people’s prose, and—perhaps best of all—an utter treat for anyone who simply revels in language.


Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780544702486
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - January 15th, 2019

From the author of the “dazzling epic”* Brilliant, a compelling history of silence as a powerful shaper of the human mind—in prisons, in places of contemplation, and in our own lives

Through her evocative intertwined histories of the penitentiary and the monastery, Jane Brox illuminates the many ways silence is far more complex than any absolute; how it has influenced ideas of the self, soul, and society. Brox traces its place as a transformative power in the monastic world from Medieval Europe to the very public life of twentieth century monk Thomas Merton, whose love for silence deepened even as he faced his obligation to speak out against war. This fascinating history of ideas also explores the influence the monastic cell had on one of society’s darkest experiments in silence: Eastern State Penitentiary. Conceived of by one of the Founding Fathers and built on the outskirts of Philadelphia, the penitentiary’s early promulgators imagined redemption in imposed isolation, but they badly misapprehended silence’s dangers.

Finally, Brox’s rich exploration of silence’s complex and competing meanings leads us to imagine how we might navigate our own relationship with silence today, for the transformation it has always promised, in our own lives.


The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781594633157
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - January 22nd, 2019

As featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Amanpour & Company

“An informed, moving and kaleidoscopic portrait…Treuer’s powerful book suggests the need for soul-searching about the meanings of American history and the stories we tell ourselves about this nation’s past.”—New York Times Book Reviewfront page

A sweeping history—and counter-narrative—of Native American life from the Wounded Knee massacre to the present.


The received idea of Native American history—as promulgated by books like Dee Brown’s mega-bestselling 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee—has been that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. Not only did one hundred fifty Sioux die at the hands of the U. S. Cavalry, the sense was, but Native civilization did as well.

Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist, and researching Native life past and present for his nonfiction and novels, David Treuer has uncovered a different narrative. Because they did not disappear—and not despite but rather because of their intense struggles to preserve their language, their traditions, their families, and their very existence—the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention.

In The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes’ distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don’t know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.


Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780451493026
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - January 29th, 2019

An extraordinary, exquisitely written memoir (of sorts) that looks at race—in a fearless, penetrating, honest, true way—in twelve telltale, connected, deeply personal essays that explore, up-close, the complexities and paradoxes, the haunting memories and ambushing realities of growing up black in the South with a family name inherited from a white man, of getting a PhD from Yale, of marrying a white man from the North, of adopting two babies from Ethiopia, of teaching at a white college and living in America’s New England today. From the acclaimed editor of Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten (“A major contribution,” Henry Louis Gates; “Magnificent,” Washington Post).

“I am black—and brown, too,” writes Emily Bernard. “Brown is the body I was born into. Black is the body of the stories I tell.”


And the storytelling, and the mystery of Bernard’s storytelling, of getting to the truth, begins with a stabbing in a New England college town. Bernard writes how, when she was a graduate student at Yale, she walked into a coffee shop and, along with six other people, was randomly attacked by a stranger with a knife (“I remember making the decision not to let the oddness of this stranger bother me”). “I was not stabbed because I was black,” she writes (the attacker was white), “but I have always viewed the violence I survived as a metaphor for the violent encounter that has generally characterized American race relations. There was no connection between us, yet we were suddenly and irreparably bound by a knife, an attachment that cost us both: him, his freedom; me, my wholeness.”
Bernard explores how that bizarre act of violence set her free and unleashed the storyteller in her (“The equation of writing and regeneration is fundamental to black American experience”).


She writes in Black Is the Body how each of the essays goes beyond a narrative of black innocence and white guilt, how each is anchored in a mystery, and how each sets out to discover a new way of telling the truth as the author has lived it. “Blackness is an art, not a science. It is a paradox: intangible and visceral; a situation and a story. It is the thread that connects these essays, but its significance as an experience emerges randomly, unpredictably…Race is the story of my life, and therefore black is the body of this book.”


And what most interests Bernard is looking at “blackness at its borders, where it meets whiteness in fear and hope, in anguish and love.”