We cannot conceive of another’s reality, especially when we are young. Growing up in a safe household, I was insulated from the difficulties that some children, such as the author, encounter every day. Breaking Night is an autobiographical account of Liz Murray, who was born into a severely dysfunctional family. Her parents loved their daughters, but were consumed by an over-riding and consuming need for their drug-induced high. Liz was so protective of her parent’s safety that as young as 5 years old she watched over them preparing their paraphernalia and made sure that they didn’t hurt themselves in their eventual euphoria. The stress of this home life led to a life of school truancy and eventual homelessness at age 15. Her gritty account of several years on the streets of New York led to her discovery of an alternative high school which made all of the difference in her young life. She was able to pull herself together and begin the hard work of creating a stable life for herself and the family that remained.
This book was very reminiscent of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, not only in its basic theme of a child working through terrific difficulties, but the forgiveness and love the child still holds for her damaged parents.
Adrianna Trigiani writes about her grandmothers in her latest, Don’t Sing at the Table
. Both of my grandmothers were similarly born near the turn of the century, and I found myself musing about my own grandmotherly memories while reading this book. Their generation needed to know how to do all of the domestic chores and niceties that Martha Stewart is teaching our generation, such as canning, baking, knitting, making sausages, etc. My Nana made bread every week and I especially remember when she pinched some of the dough off at breakfast to make fried cakes with brown sugar. Don’t Sing
is full of advice, admonitions and anecdotes from Viola, her no-nonsense businesswoman grandmother; and Lucy, her gentle seamstress grandmother. Both lost their husbands at an early age and never remarried, but lived fulfilling and long lives delighting in their grandchildren. Trigiani used some of their characteristics in her Big Stone Gap fiction series. Some advise from the back cover; make your own living, leave your children your values not your stuff, be bold, be direct, be different. Trigiani specifically wrote the book for her daughter Lucia, but its universal advice spans the years and generations.
Putnam native David Margolick has made a career of chronicling our nation’s historical records through the people who lived it. A contributing editor of Vanity Fair, Margolick has written four books, including Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society and an Early Cry for Civil Rights
about Billie Holiday and Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling
. Elizabeth and Hazel
follows the lives of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the “Little Rock Nine”, and Hazel Bryan, who was photographed yelling racial slurs to Elizabeth on the fateful morning of September 4, 1957. Both girls were 15 years old and starting the year at Central High School in Little Rock. The picture, which is deliberately placed on the front cover, evokes the sentiments which divided Little Rock when desegregation was mandated by Brown vs the Board of Education in 1954. Elizabeth walked alone before a crowd of children and adults who were not in favor of blacks and whites attending the same school. Years later Hazel contacted Elizabeth to apologize, but the complications of race relations in their Southern society made the relationship difficult to sustain. Margolick skillfully tells the stories of the two women with compassion and candor.