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1950s

Socialite Wannabe in Amber Brock’s “Lady Be Good”

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In 1924, George and Ira Gershwin wrote one of their most famous songs: I am so awf’ly misunderstood So, lady be good to me. . . The heroine of Amber Brock’s Lady Be Good is indeed a misunderstood young woman, tormented by desires both frivolous and serious. Beautiful and wealthy, the only daughter of a hotelier whose money is unacceptably nouveau, Kitty Tessler devotes much of her time to figuring out how to be welcomed into New York City’s Knickerbocker crowd. Her friendship with a former schoolmate Henrietta (“Hen”) Bancroft, whose patrician family is listed in the social register, has not yielded the entrée she craves. It is 1953 and American culture and society have been upended in the postwar…

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Interview with Maxine Rosaler, Author of “Queen for a Day”

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It is bold work to invite us into the world of children who are eligible for special education—and their long suffering parents. Maxine Rosaler does this in her novel, Queen for a Day, through her main character, Mimi Slavitt and her young son, Danny. We, the audience, are alongside Mimi as she attempts to accept and comprehend her autistic son’s world. In the process, Mimi — and so we the readers — are introduced to the other mothers and their children, whom she encounters along the path, and the social system that provides aid. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015-2016, 6.7 million students between the ages of three and 21 received special education services. Among the…

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The Hype About New Psycho Thriller And Its Debut Author

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It’s one of the most talked about books, included on every list of recommendations, no matter what the occasion. Tangerine, the psychological thriller by debut author Christine Mangan, is not only beautifully written prose, but electric in imagery. Taking place in Tangier, Morocco, in the 1950s, the novel is vivid and full of heat, winding the characters up tighter and tighter as events around them begin to fall apart, only adding further to the feelings of claustrophobia and anxiety that are the hallmarks of every great thriller. Alice and Lucy used to be best friends and roommates, practically inseparable. But after an accident, the two haven’t spoken in over a year – which is why Alice is so startled when Lucy shows…

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‘The Last Suppers’ by Mandy Mikulencak Weaves a Complicated Story about Food and Sacrifice

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Set in a 1950s Louisiana penitentiary, The Last Suppers is a captivating novel. Ginny, the young daughter of a murdered prison guard, is now all grown up and cooking for the inmates at the jail.  She meets with the prisoners on death row to find out what they want for their last meal and does her best to create the requested dishes. The drama began two decades prior, when Ginny’s father was killed and his supposed murderer was put to death while she and her mother were present.  Her dad’s best friend, Roscoe, promised to take care of Ginny and her mother; now Ginny and Roscoe, currently the jail warden, work together and are a couple, intimately involved.  Despite the age difference, their…

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A Serious Switch Occurs in ‘The Two-Family House’

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Initially, I was drawn to The Two-Family House because of its premise. My first novel, Garden of Lies, is also about babies switched at birth. How would another author handle it? Brilliantly, in the case of Lynda Cohen Loigman, I discovered. I loved this novel about two Jewish families, brothers and their wives and children who occupy a two-family house in Brooklyn in the 1950’s and whose lives are intertwined in more ways than expected. Two sisters-in-law who live in a two-family house give birth on the same night. Rose had wanted to give her husband the son he longed for. Helen had wanted a daughter after four sons. Each woman gets what the other wished for. They secretly switch…

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‘Windy City Blues’ Explores Racial Tension and Music in 1950s Chicago

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windy city blues review

Read on for a review of Renée Rosen’s Windy City Blues by Modern Girls author Jennifer S. Brown. The world Renée Rosen creates in Windy City Blues sounds not just with the rhythms of the music of Chicago in mid-20th century, but with the beats of racial tension, of women’s struggles for independence, and of the difficulties of immigrants trying to succeed in a new country. The novel spans the years from 1947 to 1969 and is rooted in the real doings of the legendary blues recording studio, Chess Records. The story alternates between the perspectives of historical figure Leonard Chess and fictional characters Leeba Groski and Red Dupree. Leeba is a young Jewish Polish immigrant who takes a job in…

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