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Celebrating Lovely Imperfections in “Branching Out”

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Emotional and satisfying, Kerstin March’s novel Branching Out is a skillfully written love story that will truly touch the heart of readers. This isn’t a story about a perfect marriage, and that’s what makes it so very lovely in its deeply moving journey of love between two people. This is a story about loss, love, and forgiveness that readers will not want to put down until the very end. Written as a sequel to March’s novel Family Trees, we join Shelby Meyers and Ryan Chambers at their wedding, which is right where readers want them to be, but this stage of their journey may not be the happily-ever-after they have been dreaming about. Shelby and Ryan couldn’t come from more…

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Fireworks Ensue When Past Meets Present in ‘The Distance Home’

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During the holiday season, many of us will be heading back to a place we think of as home. Orly Konig’s debut novel shows us that, no matter how many miles you’ve put between you and your formative experiences, they’ll still beg for attention when you reach that heart-tugging, familiar turf—and maturity may not be enough to counter returning feelings of awkwardness. Emma Metz isn’t necessarily interested in nostalgia. She’s all business these days, and plans a quick return to put her deceased father’s affairs in order. But as if of its own accord, the wheel of her rental car turns in at Jumping Frog Farm, where secrets and old wounds rise to greet her. The home world of this story…

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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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TED Talks: How Does Theaster Gates Revitalize Crumbling Neighborhoods?

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How to you rebuild a crumbling neighborhood? For Theaster Gates, the answer can be found in art and community building. Gates, who is a potter by trade and a social activist artist by vocation, discusses his inspiring method for reviving his Chicago neighborhood in this talk from TED2015. By teaming up with community members and rebuilding old and abandoned buildings into artistic hubs, like museums and movie theaters, Gates discovered his neighborhood changing for the better. This passionate talk shows that using what you’ve got to create culture and beauty can be an amazing catalyst for social change. Recommended reading: Theaster Gates (Contemporary Artists), Carol Becker, Achim Borchardt-Hume and Lisa Yun Lee (Phaidon Press, October 2015) This is the first…

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