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You might believe that the golden age of exploration is far behind us. Editor Jeff Wilser’s The Explorers Club: A Visual Journey Through the Past, Present, and Future of Exploration proves otherwise, revealing that we are in a tremendously exciting new era of discovery. The titular club is an actual New York City-based organization that defines exploration as “curiosity acted upon.” Among its 3,400-strong ranks are some of the world’s most intrepid and determined individuals, and Wilser offers a visually stunning front-row seat to club members’ game-changing explorations past and present. There’s storyteller Asha Stuart, looking at how the Himba people of Namibia are being affected by climate change, and Justin Dunnavant, who dives to explore sunken slave ships. Marine biologist Margaret O’Leary Amsler has revealed secrets of Antarctic krill, and astronaut Ed Lu deflects potentially dangerous asteroids. Today’s explorers both build and provide a needed corrective to the work of those who came before: Their missions ward off environmental devastation, increase conservation and alter perspectives for the better. Armchair explorers, or anyone with a curious mind, will be sucked right into the incredible stories gathered here. 

Jeff Wilser’s stunning The Explorers Club showcases some of today’s tremendously exciting scientific expeditions.

When 44-year-old Sergei Rachmaninoff packed a single bag and boarded a tram in November 1917, he “was aware that I was leaving Moscow, my real home, for a very, very long time . . . perhaps forever.” 

Vladimir Lenin toppled Czar Nicholas II earlier that year, hastening a revolution that overturned the social class structure. Wealthy landowners were under threat. Some supporters of the czar left behind their estates, fleeing elsewhere in Europe or to the United States. As a member of the social elite, Rachmaninoff was among those who chose exile. 

In Goodbye Russia: Rachmaninoff in Exile, Fiona Maddocks, the classical music critic at The Observer, draws on archival materials including newly translated ones, as she paints a riveting portrait of the Russian composer’s struggles to adapt to a new life outside his beloved homeland.

In the U.S., he would move among other groups of Russian emigrés and establish friendships with stars such as Walt Disney and Charlie Chaplin, but his deep longing for his country estate and for his life in old Russia weighed heavily on him. While he reinvented himself as a virtuoso pianist, he composed very little, and he rejected modernist music and its cacophonous sonic structures that reminded him of the upheaval of the Revolution. Some friends even reported that they never saw him laugh. 

Rachmaninoff, writes Maddocks, felt like a “ghost wandering in a world made alien,” longing always for his Russian homeland. In 1940, three years before his death, he composed his “Symphonic Dances,” a haunting melodic orchestral suite dedicated to Russia. Maddocks provides illuminating glimpses of Rachmaninoff’s rigorous preparations for his performances, and his insistence on “dismantling every work he played in order to understand it, and then to reassemble it in performance.” 

A fan’s affectionate ode to Rachmaninoff, Goodbye Russia provides a spirited tour through the evolution of his music while he was in exile, as well as a glimpse of the cultural history of classical music in the early to mid-20th century in the U.S.

In Goodbye Russia, Fiona Maddocks paints a riveting portrait of Rachmaninoff’s struggles to adapt to a new life outside his beloved homeland.
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Our Top 10 books of December 2023

This month’s top titles include a chilling historical mystery from Ariel Lawhon and a ripsnorting true crime collection from Douglas Preston.
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Book jacket image for The Ferris Wheel by Tu¨lin Kozikoglu

A beautifully profound yet subtle story about refugees and global connection, The Ferris Wheel engages its text and illustrations in conversation, capturing the essence of

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Book jacket image for Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

Lex Croucher offers readers a quirky, queer Arthurian remix in which lighthearted, entertaining banter alternates with political machinations and intense battlefield scenes.

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Book jacket image for Happy by Celina Baljeet Basra

Happy’s unexpected climax is handled so masterfully that it seems, in retrospect, inevitable. The humanity underpinning this story will speak to anyone with a heart

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Book jacket image for The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon

Atmospheric, unique and elegantly written, The Frozen River will satisfy mystery lovers and historical fiction enthusiasts alike.

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Book jacket image for The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

Charlotte Vassell’s blisteringly funny The Other Half is a murder mystery written a la Kingsley Amis.

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Book jacket image for Here in the Dark by Alexis Soloski

Theater critic Alexis Soloski’s debut thriller, Here in the Dark, is flawless from curtain up to curtain call.

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Book jacket image for Chasing Bright Medusas by Benjamin Taylor

Chasing Bright Medusas is an inspired biography of Willa Cather’s life and work that conveys the author’s complexity with affection and admiration.

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Book jacket image for Sonic Life by Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore’s long-awaited memoir offers a prismatic view on the sonic democracy that was Sonic Youth.

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Book jacket image for Gator Country by Rebecca Renner

Rebecca Renner’s Gator Country follows an undercover mission to expose alligator poachers in the Everglades, revealing the scraggly splendor of the region’s inhabitants.

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Book jacket image for The Lost Tomb by Douglas Preston

A haunting compendium of Douglas Preston’s true crime tales, The Lost Tomb delves into the shadowy uncertainty cloaking things that resist being brought to light.

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This month’s top titles include a chilling historical mystery from Ariel Lawhon and a ripsnorting true crime collection from Douglas Preston.
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Bob Dylan is an artist of many faces: poet, folk hero, rock genius, visual artist, writer, welder, songsmith, Nobel Prize winner. He is, perhaps, what we project onto him of ourselves and our world. Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine is a 605-page immaculately designed compendium that seemingly encompasses all possible sides of the legend. The book expands on the inaugural exhibits at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which opened in 2022 and houses the complete Dylan archives. If you can’t get to Tulsa, Mixing Up the Medicine is the next best thing.

If you are expecting beautiful photos, art and memorabilia, you’ll find those here. If you want to read personal correspondence from Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Jack White and other luminaries, look no further. And if you’d like to attempt to decipher Dylan’s chicken-scratch handwriting, you have your work cut out for you. But what sets Mixing Up the Medicine apart from other books of its type is the writing. Authors, artists and musicians visited the Tusla archive and were asked to choose a single item that “enticed, beguiled, stirred, perplexed, or galvanized them,” and then write an essay about it.

Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo selects a painting of the first record that Dylan—as 15-year-old Robert Zimmerman—recorded, a breathless cascade of radio hits tracked in a music shop’s recording booth with two friends for $5. Ranaldo imagines that evening in the songwriter’s youth with aching specificity. Poet Gregory Pardlo uses a letter written to Dylan by Black Panther Party leader Huey P. Newton to explore Dylan’s relationship with Black activists and artists. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo chooses the Japanese album cover of Blood on the Tracks, lyrically riffing on “Tangled Up in Blue.” Author Tom Piazza takes inspiration from a typewritten draft of “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” to pen a short play about a self-serious scholar who seeks the input of an exhausted, half-mad Dylanologist. And there’s more.

In the epilogue, Douglas Brinkley writes, “Dylan is an experience more like a meteorite than a mummified artifact of scholarly pursuit.” Mixing Up the Medicine, with all its heft and weight, keeps the man in motion—dazzling, beguiling and multidimensional. For Dylan acolytes, the joy of this tome is in combing its pages for the people we once were—our own changing faces, and those we will become.

Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine keeps the legendary artist in motion—dazzling, beguiling and multidimensional.
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There’s a subcategory of hardcore Beatles fans who, unprompted, will ardently opine that George Harrison—the humble writer of classics like “Here Comes the Sun” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”—is in fact the best Beatle. Forget the saccharine songwriting of Paul, whose hubris was what ultimately led the group to implode, and heady John who left Earth’s orbit, taking only Yoko with him. And, um . . . Ringo who? It’s George, they argue, and you can look no further than Philip Norman’s new biography George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle for all the proof you need.

In Norman’s biography, these George-heads can get a full serving of Beatlemania through the specific lens of the group’s youngest member, though the book will undoubtedly be of interest to all Beatles fans. Because of Harrison’s unique position as the poorest and youngest of the group, the entire dynamic of The Beatles is on full display in these career-spanning chapters, showing how class, religion and maturity played a role in the functioning of the band both when they were together and long after they broke up.

Norman underscores the emotion and intensity of Harrison’s life, as the Beatle moved from a young rebel without a cause into a pious guitar guru. Norman highlights Harrison’s distinctly well-adapted family, who, despite having limited resources, nurtured Harrison into a passionate creative. In his school days, we see Harrison wriggle free of draconian English expectations and meet his soon-to-be bandmates who are both impressed by his precociousness and turned off by his inexperience. Eventually, Harrison becomes so talented at playing songs by ear, replicating the solos of Buddy Holly note for note, that the others have to let him join. From there, the group slowly ascends, working grueling yet colorful days in Germany, and shoots into stardom all at once.

Norman layers the story with fascinating and intimate details about The Beatles’ complex relationships. John and Ringo, for example, were on vacation during Harrison’s wedding, which the groom apparently brushed off with a laugh. And, “have a laugh,” in the band’s joking vernacular, meant smoking marijuana, which they did frequently after Bob Dylan famously introduced them to it. With these anecdotes and many more, any Beatles fan will be enthralled page after page.

Philip Norman’s new biography George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle only adds to the case that George was lowkey the best Beatle.
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At age 65, she is still one of the most recognizable women in America, making news with every appearance and regularly posting to her 19.1 million Instagram followers. But Madonna in the 1980s and 1990s? It’s impossible to describe how thoroughly she dominated pop culture: groundbreaking videos like the sleek black-and-white “Vogue” and the gorgeously provocative “Like a Prayer”; the “Like a Virgin” wedding cake performance at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards; the infamous coffee table book, Sex.

In this vivid and memorable biography, journalist Mary Gabriel draws on previous interviews and reporting to paint a satisfyingly full picture of the life of Madonna Louise Ciccone. Born in 1958 to devout Catholic parents in Michigan, Madonna’s earliest years were spent in a boisterous and loving family. But her mother died of breast cancer when Madonna was only 5, and her remaining childhood was marked by deep sadness and chaos. Madonna escaped through performance—she was a serious dancer and immersed herself in the Detroit music scene.

She chased her dreams to New York City, living in apartments crawling with roaches and working dead-end jobs while pursuing music and acting. Gabriel brings 1980s New York to life: the gritty city where young talents went to find fame, and where gay men (including many of Madonna’s dear friends) were getting sick and dying of a mysterious new disease. The biography deftly sets Madonna’s story against the backdrop of the times, reflecting on how her art was influenced by religion, race, sex and women’s rights.

The artist is such a provocateur that her philanthropic work has sometimes been overshadowed. Gabriel provides a reminder of Madonna’s efforts to raise money for AIDS research and other causes. While Madonna: A Rebel Life can occasionally smack of research paper (it is chock-full of footnotes), it is still a thoroughly entertaining and deeply nostalgic look at one of the true icons of our time. Gabriel manages to tell a fresh story, even with a subject as scrutinized as Madonna. As the star once said, “There’s a lot more to me than can possibly be perceived in the beginning.”

Mary Gabriel’s vivid, memorable biography of Madonna takes a fresh look at a true icon of our time.
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STARRED REVIEW

December 9, 2023

Poppin’, rockin’ reads for the music lovers in your life

Get cozy with Bob Dylan, Thurston Moore, Madonna and George Harrison in biographies that reveal the men and women behind the music.

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Book jacket image for Sonic Life by Thurston Moore
Memoir

Sonic Life

Thurston Moore’s long-awaited memoir offers a prismatic view on the sonic democracy that was Sonic Youth.

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Book jacket image for Madonna by
Biography

Madonna

Mary Gabriel’s vivid, memorable biography of Madonna takes a fresh look at a true icon of our time.

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Book jacket image for George Harrison by Philip Norman
Biography

George Harrison

Philip Norman’s new biography George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle only adds to the case that George was lowkey the best Beatle.

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Get cozy with Bob Dylan, Thurston Moore, Madonna and George Harrison in biographies that reveal the men and women behind the music.
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It is often said that novelists find their best material in their own childhoods. In Chasing Bright Medusas: A Life of Willa Cather, Benjamin Taylor convincingly argues that for Cather, this supposition is the key to fully appreciating her work. 

Taylor, an award-winning memoirist, novelist and biographer, freely admits his great affection and admiration for Cather and her writing. In this relatively short but well-researched biography, he conveys Cather’s complexity, her strengths and her frailties: headstrong and independent, but also easily hurt by a negative review; ruthlessly honest in her writing, but unable (or unwilling) to come to terms with her own sexuality and her love for Isabelle McClung Hamburg; clinging to her values and idealism, but also aware that humans are frail vessels. Many of Cather’s letters have recently come to light, and Taylor uses them sensitively and effectively to tell her story. The letters humanize her, revealing a woman of tremendous genius and touching vulnerability. 

Taylor is at his most convincing when he links Cather’s literary works—from her first articles to her final story—to her life. Very few authors have embedded their past so seamlessly and beautifully into their works as Willa Cather. Taylor draws direct lines between episodes in O Pioneers! and My &Aacutentonia to Cather’s childhood in Red Cloud, Nebraska. But he also shows how even her later, less obviously autobiographical works, such as The Professor’s House and Death Comes for the Archbishop, are imbued with the experiences, observations and values she acquired over her lifetime. Taylor demonstrates that her books and stories are as much the product of the young Willa who moved from Winchester, Virginia, to Red Cloud at age 6 as they are of the 49-year-old novelist at the height of her powers. 

Not only is it a true delight to read these selections of Cather’s beautiful descriptions and wry observations of human nature, but her words seem to have truly inspired Taylor. His interpretations of the interplay of memory and description in Cather’s work are some of the most lyrical and moving passages in this highly polished and heartfelt book. 

Chasing Bright Medusas is an inspired biography of Willa Cather’s life and work that conveys the author’s complexity with affection and admiration.
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Albert Einstein is the best known scientist of the 20th century. As Samuel Graydon explains in his insightful Einstein in Time and Space: A Life in 99 Particles, “Einstein’s fame can get in the way of an objective assessment of his life . . . so it’s easy to fail to see what an astounding life Einstein did actually live.” The author describes his book as “a mosaic biography.” Through it, we see Einstein’s complex personal life and intense public life within the context of his times.

Graydon writes that “Einstein’s finest work was all produced before he was famous, and for much of his early life he was a reasonably obscure figure. It took him nine years to secure an assistant professorship, and even then he wasn’t first choice for the job.” In 1905, while working six days a week at the patent office in Bern, Switzerland, and with family responsibilities, he “wrote twenty-one reviews for an academic journal” and “managed to produce five scientific papers in six months, three of which would eventually transform physics.” For reasons both of differences of opinion about scientific approaches and anti-Semitic prejudice against him, Einstein did not receive the Nobel Prize until 1922, and not for his work on the general theory of relativity, on which his fame was based, but for his discovery of the modern understanding of light as a particle.

Einstein was a nonconformist, not a joiner of groups, indifferent to the opinions of others about him and awards he received. A lifelong pacifist, he was passionate about opposing social injustice and taking moral responsibility for events in the world. But he was also realistic. As Hitler gained power in Germany, Einstein understood the necessity of opposing him with military force. Einstein’s social activism led to accusations that he was a communist, frequently taking on the tone of “gossipy slander.” The FBI kept tabs on him for 20 years, and his file runs to 1,400 pages. The agency accused him of being a “personal courier from Communist Party Headquarters.” Despite these rumors, Einstein lent his name to various causes that worked for a fairer and more peaceful world.

Einstein once wrote that he understood Judaism as a “community of tradition,” rather than as a religion. He became a strong supporter of the Zionist cause and against anti-Semitism and was most helpful in helping many Jewish people emigrate from Europe. When asked if he believed in God, Einstein replied: “I believe in [17th-century philosopher Baruch] Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

Graydon is the science editor of England’s Times Literary Supplement, and his discussion of Einstein’s work is approachable for those of us who have limited scientific literacy. This engaging account of a legendary figure should be of interest to many.

Samuel Graydon’s new biography of Albert Einstein is an approachable portrayal of the legendary figure’s life and times.

It’s no accident that Mark Twain scholar Mark Dawidziak begins A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe with Poe’s mysterious death in 1849 at the age of 40. As Dawidziak reminds us throughout his ambitious, well-researched book, the circumstances of Poe’s death remain a topic of debate and conjecture, as much a part of the Poe mystique as his short, stormy life. “It is,” Dawidziak notes, “one of the great literary stage exits of all time,” and its notoriety has done much to keep Poe’s reputation alive, making him one of the most famous American authors of all time, with a pop culture following as well as a solid place in middle school and high school literary curricula.

Dawidziak adopts a clever—and appropriate—organizational approach, alternating chapters set in the last months of Poe’s life with chapters exploring his early family life, career and influences. Readers who know little of Poe’s origins may be surprised to learn that this quintessential American author spent part of his formative years abroad. Poe’s mother was a talented actor who died at the age of 24, leaving three children behind. Poe became the foster child of John and Fanny Allan (thus his middle name), who, during the War of 1812, moved to England, where Poe spent five years soaking up impressions of old houses and graveyards that fed his literary imagination.

Throughout the book, Dawidziak draws readers into the mystery of Poe’s death, which occurred shortly after he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, delirious and disheveled. Dawidziak, of course, has a favorite theory about the likely cause, gleaned from the various opinions of medical experts, Poe scholars, historians, horror specialists and others—but it would spoil the mystery to reveal it here. Nonetheless, his argument demonstrates one of the pleasures of Dawidziak’s excellent book: his ability to weave quotations from Poe together with first-person observations from Poe’s 19th-century contemporaries and commentary by modern experts. In this way, Dawidziak’s biography reaches beyond the myth of Poe to reveal the actual man and writer, all while painting a vivid picture of the era in which he lived. A Mystery of Mysteries makes possible a deeper appreciation of a complicated, often troubled author whose success after death surpassed anything he knew in life.

Mark Dawidziak’s biography of Edgar Allan Poe reaches beyond the myth of his troubled life and mysterious death to reveal the actual man and writer.
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Everyone should know the story of Ellen and William Craft, the subjects of Ilyon Woo’s Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey From Slavery to Freedom. In 1848, Ellen, a light-skinned Black woman, disguised herself as a wealthy, young white man in a wheelchair. William, her husband, accompanied Ellen as an enslaved man, tending to his “master’s” needs. Together they traveled in disguise from the mansion in Georgia where they were enslaved to freedom in the North. Every step of their journey depended on them keeping their wits about them, especially for Ellen. Ship captains, train conductors and even a friend of her enslaver were fooled by Ellen’s ability to perform a role that transformed her demeanor in every conceivable way—from woman to man, Black to white, slave to master. Their self-emancipation was a triumph of courage, love and intelligence.

Yet the Crafts’ story is more than a romantic adventure, and Woo does an excellent job of providing historical context for the dangers they faced without losing the thread of a terrific story. The Crafts’ lives were not magically transformed merely by crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, Woo explains. The North, while free, was still hostile territory for self-emancipated Black people, with rampant bigotry and racism even among abolitionists. However, the greatest danger to Ellen and William was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which required everyone to return formerly enslaved people to their enslavers and forced the Crafts into exile in England until after the Civil War.

The real strength of Master Slave Husband Wife comes from Woo’s exploration of how Ellen was perceived and treated after her spectacular escape catapulted her into celebrity. Woo, whose earlier book, The Great Divorce, explored another convention-defying 19th-century woman, makes the excellent point that Ellen’s method of escape was not only brilliant but transgressive, defying conventions of gender and race. Even the fair skin tone that allowed her to pass as white was the product of generations of rape, giving the lie to myths of the “happy slave.” With empathy and admiration, Woo details Ellen’s quiet refusal to conform to the racist, classist and sexist expectations of her enemies, benefactors, supporters and even her husband. Thanks to Woo, Ellen is finally at the center of her own story as someone who heroically challenged America’s myths of equality and freedom.

Ilyon Woo tells the remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who came up with an ingenious and daring plan to emancipate themselves from slavery.

In 1999, author Kate Zernike, then a reporter for The Boston Globe, broke an enormous story: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology had admitted to a long-standing pattern of discrimination against women on its faculty. Zernike, now a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, tells the full inspiring story in The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science.

Zernike begins by focusing on molecular biologist Nancy Hopkins’ life and career path. In the spring of 1963, Hopkins, a Radcliffe junior, became so enthralled by a Harvard lecture on DNA by Nobel Prize winner James Watson that she sought work in his molecular biology lab. But like other women then and now, Hopkins faced difficult choices as she weighed the demands of science against marriage and potential motherhood. Zernike situates the tensions that led to the end of Hopkins’ first marriage within the broader context of the women’s movement of the 1960s. Eventually Hopkins earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1971, and by 1973, she had accepted a position at MIT’s Center for Cancer Research.

While the biographical sections are intriguing, Zernike’s narrative picks up speed in the later portions of the book, which delve into the ways male colleagues appropriated Hopkins’ work and used it for financial gain. By the 1990s, Hopkins realized that “a woman’s work would never be valued as highly as a man’s. It had taken her twenty years to see it—she’d understood it about other women before she’d realized it was true for her, too.”

Hopkins’ revelation led her to reach out to female colleagues, resulting in a letter by 16 women at MIT compiling evidence of discrimination, including unequal access to research resources and pay. The women spent the next four years doing fact-finding as a committee, and by March of 1999, they had compiled a report. Although it was only scheduled to appear in a faculty newsletter, news of the report reached Zernike’s ears—and when Zernike’s article appeared on the front page of the Globe, the story took off. Hopkins arrived on campus the next day to camera crews, and she received emails from women across the world. Overnight, MIT became a “pacesetter for promoting gender equality,” and other universities soon undertook similar efforts to examine their biases.

Zernike closes her narrative with updates on Hopkins’ continued successful career, short bios of the 16 women who signed the original letter and an examination of the progress for women in academia—and the work still to be done. These women’s efforts—and the subsequent impact this revelation had for women across academia—make for a gripping, page-turning read.

Kate Zernike’s impeccably researched book about MIT’s discrimination against its female faculty members is both enlightening and inspiring.
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In 1767, Phillis Wheatley arrived in Boston via a slave ship at the age of 7. In the years leading up to the start of the American Revolution in 1775, she became famous across New England and in London for her poetry. For all her talent and influence on the issues of her day, such as abolition, emancipation and revolution, the details of Wheatley’s life are still unknown to many. Award-winning historian David Waldstreicher sets out to change that with his in-depth, engrossing biography, The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence.

At a time when enslaved—and free—Black people were regarded by many colonists as barely literate “barbarians” and possible threats to Massachusetts’ rebellion against England, Wheatley earned her fame with words. Recognizing her unique ability, Wheatley’s wealthy, white enslavers gave her the time and privacy to write. Her poems, such as “On Being Brought From Africa to America,” were metered, not free verse, and spoke to the intellectual and impassioned Christian beliefs of her times. Wheatley’s elegies for the dead were distributed as broadsides at funerals, and her poems—which managed to praise British soldiers as well as American patriots and abolitionists—were published in newspapers on both sides of the churning political divide. Waldstreicher includes the text of many of Wheatley’s poems, explaining them well for those less familiar with the classical forms she used.

When an enslaved man fled his captors while they were visiting England, the ensuing public and legal controversy revealed the hypocrisy of a group of colonies seeking freedom while allowing slavery to persist. Within this context, Wheatley’s own position was precarious. She often had to prove that a young enslaved Black girl could indeed be a brilliant poet. In 1773, she achieved her emancipation with the help of her many patrons in Boston and England after the publication of her first book—at a time when very few women could get published.

Waldstreicher documents the long, tortuous journeys toward independence for both the poet and the American colonies in The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley. Along the way, the likes of Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Abigail Adams cross Wheatley’s path, and events like the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre feature prominently. This account of Wheatley’s life adds much to the tumultuous Revolutionary chapter of America’s political and racial history.

David Waldstreicher’s engrossing biography of the enslaved poet Phillis Wheatley adds much to the tumultuous Revolutionary chapter of America’s political and racial history.

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