Book Reviews

Review: ‘The Last Black Unicorn’ by Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish has just been nominated for an Emmy for her “Saturday Night Live” hosting duties. OVERJOYED to be nominated for an #Emmy for when I hosted @nbcsnl!!  I might even splurge for a new dress for this one!!  Thank you everyone for your love and support!  #sheready — Tiffany Haddish (@TiffanyHaddish) July 12, 2018 She is very funny, and this book and its multiple, episodic stories adds to the story of her success. Some of the stories are already…

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Book review: ‘Insurrections’ by Rion Amilcar Scott

I recommend the story collection Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott. The stories offer glimpses of life in the fictional town of Cross River, Maryland, a largely black settlement founded in 1807 after the only successful slave revolt in the United States. In “Good Times,” a troubled man with a wife and child finds his way back into the good graces of his family through the help of a neighbor and a ratty old Cookie Monster costume. In “Everyone Lives in…

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Review: Following Tommy by Bob Hartley

Following Tommy by Bob Hartley is a gem of a book: hard, brilliant and valuable. It tells the story of Jacky O’Day, a bookish teen who lives in a changing Irish neighborhood in 1962 Chicago with an alcoholic father and a troubled older brother, Tommy. All of them live in the devastating aftermath of the early death of the woman in their life, the clear-headed mother and wife who had kept the three on the straight and narrow. Without her,…

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Book review: ‘A War of Frontier and Empire’

First published: Sunday, October 7, 2007, in the Albany Times Union As President Bush tries to shape his legacy in regards to the Iraq war, he should pick up David Silbey’s engaging history “A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902” (Hill and Wang; 272 pages; $26). Though both were wars of choice, the details are quite different. Still, the generalizations that can be gleaned from Silbey’s account are eerily familiar: a quick and stunning conventional military victory…

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Book review: Banana Yoshimoto’s ‘Hardboiled & Hard Luck’

The review originally appeared in September 2005 in the Albany Times Union. Supernatural is a natural in ‘Hardboiled’ Banana Yoshimoto became a literary sensation in Japan with her first book, “Kitchen,” in 1987. Spare prose, novella-length stories and quirky characters combined to make difficult themes, such as sexual identity and death, easily accessible and emotionally involving. Since then, her books have been translated around the world, but a typical reaction in the United States has been: “Who? Is that her…

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Book review: Umberto Eco’s ‘The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana’

This review originally ran in May 2005 in the Albany Times Union. Memory, identity evaporate in ‘Queen Loana’ Among life’s great chores is the sorting through of old papers, books, records and magazines long ago left in the attic. Few events combine such tedium with unexpected moments of rich nostalgia, in which a single image can rise from junk and make the past profoundly present and vital. This is the magic of the intriguing but ultimately disappointing new novel by…

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Book review: ‘Ash’ by Holly Thompson

This review originally appeared in the March 2002 edition of Multicultural Review. Ash Thompson, Holly. Ash. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 2001. 292 pp. ISBN 1-880656-65-5, $16.95.   Thompson excels in her first novel at making Japan, from the volcanic-ash strewn streets of Kagoshima to the temples around Kyoto, accessible while conveying her protagonist’s “rootless expatriate world.” Caitlin Ober, though, is unlike other foreigners. She is an American who returns to Japan 15 years after a traumatizing childhood experience in…

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