The Daily Beast Recommends
This week: Bill Clinton remembers the Little Rock Nine, Tracy Kidder on an immigrant’s journey to Harvard Med School, and a novel about the man who invented the jigsaw puzzle.
A Mighty Long Wayby Carlotta Walls LaNier
A memoir about the Little Rock Nine, with a foreword by Bill Clinton.
It’s the story of a lanky 14-year-old girl who just wanted to go to school. When Carlotta Walls LaNier signed her name on a sheet of paper that was being passed around the ninth-grade classroom of her all-black high school, she could never have guessed she’d end up in the middle of the civil-rights movement. LaNier was the youngest member of the “Little Rock Nine”—the group of black students who showed up to their first day of school at the all-white Little Rock Central High School, only to be barred by a mob of protesters and the National Guard. Forty years after the incident, LaNier has written a memoir, A Mighty Long Way, in which she chronicles the incident at Central High, the bombing of her home, and many of the horrors she endured during integration. In a forward to the book, President Bill Clinton writes about his experiences with the Little Rock Nine—he remembers the group as an 11-year-old in Little Rock, and returned to honor the Nine throughout his political career. Clinton writes: “This book shares how the Little Rock Nine, in a simple quest for a good education, opened new horizons for themselves and for future generations, but only after they paid a very high price.”
The Puzzle Kingby Betsy Carter
Three sisters escape Hitler’s Germany and attempt to put the pieces of their lives back together.
The rags-to-riches story of immigrants in America never gets old. The Puzzle King, Betsy Carter’s new novel, is work of genealogical fiction—rooted firmly in the story of Carter's uncle, who invented the jigsaw puzzle. It unfolds between the end of the 19th century to the beginning of World War II, and tells the story of Flora Grossman, who leaves Germany to seek a better life in America—and ends up falling in love with a Lithuanian immigrant who starts an advertising business that grows into an empire. The sisters return to find their descendents, and what unfolds is a heart-wrenching tale of combating anti-Semitism, and finding family. According to the L.A. Times, “the tone here is perfect.” Carter, a veteran magazine editor, is the author of The Orange Blossom Special, Swim to Me, and the acclaimed memoir Nothing to Fall Back On.
Strength in What Remainsby Tracy Kidder
A young man’s voyage from the mountains of Burundi to Harvard Med School.
Here's the much-anticipated new book from the author of Mountains Beyond Mountains. Tracy Kidder's Strength of What Reamins tells the story of Deogratias, a young man from Burundi who arrives in America in pursuit of a fresh start in 1993. After surviving the Hutu-Tutsi conflict and resultant genocide in his homeland, Deo finds himself at New York’s JFK International Airport without any knowledge of English, any comfort of contacts, and just $200 in his pocket. He is able to get by delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and reading dictionaries in bookstores to learn English. As time goes on, Deo encounters the kindness of strangers who eventually change his life, leading him to Columbia University, Harvard Medical School, and then an eventual return to improve conditions in the country that nearly killed him. Kidder, who traveled with Deo back to his native Burundi, is able to retell the memories Deo would likely want to forget in what Publishers Weekly calls “a work of the utmost skill, sympathy, and moral clarity.”
L.A. Noir by John Buntin
Gangsters and police go head-to-head in Los Angeles’ dark side.
Los Angeles was built on gangsters, crooked cops and blond hookers—and Raymond Chandler, L.A Confidential, and Chinatown made sure of that fiction was worthy of the truth. Crime reporter John Buntin’s new book, L.A Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City, dashes no stereotypes with his narrative nonfiction account of the same dramatic period. He follows two historical characters, a cop and a robber, in their head-to-head struggle to control a debauched city. Mickey Cohen is a pint-size Mob boss with friends like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Billy Graham. William Parker is a straight-laced cop with dreams of ridding L.A of its crime and endemic corruption. According to Publishers Weekly, L.A. Noir is “Packed with Hollywood personalities, Beltway types and felons … Buntin's riveting tale of two ambitious souls hell-bent on opposing missions in the land of sun and make-believe is an entertaining and surprising diversion.”
A.D.: New Orleans After the Delugeby Josh Neufeld
A graphic novel depicts the nightmare of Hurricane Katrina.
American Splendor artist Josh Neufeld tackles a weighty subject in his graphic novel A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. The book tells the story of how Hurricane Katrina affected the lives of seven survivors in New Orleans. There’s Denise, a sixth-generation New Orleanian who lives with her mother and daughter in an apartment above a boxing club; Abbas, the owner of a convenience store, and Kwame, a pastor’s son about to enter his senior year of high school when the storm strikes. The idea for the novel came to Neufeld while he was volunteering with the Red Cross as a disaster relief worker in Biloxi, Mississippi, after the hurricane. The graphic novelist originally published his Katrina stories online, where he was able to include audio and video interviews along with a message board. Color illuminates the different scenes: The days leading up to and including the storm are dark green, while a muted pink portrays the aftermath. George Gene Gustines of The New York Times notes that Neufeld’s use of color “resonates like the soundtrack of a film.”