Isaiah Quintabe, the protagonist of this fabulous debut crime novel set in Long Beach, is nicknamed IQ for a reason. A brilliant young man who excels in school, he loses his parents and revered older brother as a teenager, leaving him orphaned and adrift. After turning to crime – and using his brains to pull off artfully conceived robberies – he shifts his attention to solving crimes in his inner-city neighborhood and eventually becomes a local folk hero. Ide gives readers a richly developed character in IQ, as well as other sidekicks and antagonists who grace the narrative, and a plot that is absorbing, refreshing, and at times very funny. One of my favorite novels of the past year.
The Book of Gutsy Women (Simon & Schuster, $35) is the first book that Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton, both prolific authors, have written together. In it they identify 103 women they define as “gutsy”—women who have changed the world through their ideas, actions, creativity, courage, and persistence. The list is diverse. It includes women across generations, races,
cultures, ethnicities, geographical boundaries, vocations, and avocations. And while some are well known—former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, tennis champion Billie Jean King, and teenage
climate activist Greta Thunberg, for example—others work or worked in virtual anonymity: scientists like Ada Lovelace and Flossie Wang-Staal, education activists like the rebellious 17th-century nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and modern crusaders like child marriage activist Fraidy Reiss and workers’ rights champion Ai-Jen Poo, and dozens more. In recounting these stories, the authors give voice to women collectively, helping to flesh out a historical narrative that has systematically excluded, ignored, or discounted the experiences, perspectives, and accomplishments of half of the world’s inhabitants. For that alone, and on behalf of womankind, thank you Hillary and Chelsea. P.S. Hope there is a volume 2!
Here All Along (Spiegel & Grau, $28) is a little literary gem. The author, Sarah Hurwitz, is a lawyer-turned-speechwriter who landed in the Obama White House and penned most of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speeches. Toward the end of the administration, after breaking up with a boyfriend, Hurwitz was looking for ways to fill her evenings and a friend suggested a class on Judaism at the Jewish community center. She went, and thus began a several-year plunge into a religion she had only been exposed to through Hebrew school and her Bat Mitzvah. Hurwitz spent thousands of hours studying ancient texts, querying rabbis and scholars, and debating with herself about the contradictions and paradoxes of Judaism as she explored how to apply its ethical teachings day-to-day. Hurwitz is a fluid, eloquent writer whose humility, honesty, and humor infuse each page, whether she is discussing conflicting interpretations of Jewish ritual and prayer or her own (often hilarious) adventures as she rediscovers the meaning and place of Judaism in her life. By the way, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy and learn from this wonderful book.