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The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.
The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of October 18 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Borders, by Thomas King, illustrated by Natasha Donovan. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, October 18
★ 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, by Ai Weiwei
World-acclaimed artist of conscience Ai Weiwei’s exceptional facility with language is as essential to his profoundly imagined, audaciously produced, and deeply humanitarian creations as his courageous opposition to Chinese authoritarianism. His eloquence and commitment to freedom of expression mirrors that of his father, the revered poet Ai Qing, who was labeled a traitor, harshly abused, and exiled during Mao’s reign of terror. As a boy, Ai Weiwei lived with his father in a totalitarian hell in China’s “Little Siberia.” Ai Weiwei felt impelled to tell his father’s story and share his own harrowing experiences after he was cruelly detained, and tortuously separated from his son, in 2011, the culmination of relentless government surveillance and harassment. Ai Weiwei’s bone-deep empathy and utter devotion to the fight for truth and justice shape every page in this galvanizing record of his and his father’s ordeals which embody a century of valorous artistic exploration in spite of diabolical tyranny.
Tuesday, October 19
★ Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life, by Marilyn Nelson
Just as Nelson revived the importance of George Washington Carver in her Coretta Scott King award-winning Carver, she gives the once lesser-known Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage full recognition in this biography in poems. From Savage’s birth in Florida as a leap year baby, in 1892, to her final years making art in Saugerties, New York, the sophisticated poems, divided by time periods, vary in form, style, and voice. Some evoke the pain of a father who did not understand her gift, young widowhood, missed opportunities due to racism, and economic setbacks. Others celebrate her first commission for a bust of W. E. B. Du Bois, her work as a teacher and mentor to other artists at the Harlem Community Art Center, her ownership of the country’s first Black-owned gallery, and her acclaimed piece (The Harp) at the 1939 World’s Fair. Perhaps the most fascinating poems, however, are those inspired directly by Savage’s sculptures, detailing her artistic process, and even written in the shapes of the sculptures.
Wednesday, October 20
★ Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr, Read by Marin Ireland and Simon Jones
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Antonius Diogenes tells the farcical tale of Aethon, a simple shepherd searching the world through the bodies of various animals for utopia in the sky only to discover his true happiness was always at home. A copy of this fictitious manuscript finds its way to each of the main characters and has a profound impact on their lives. Ireland’s vivid narration brings both levity and compassion to this wondrous novel. Her Australian, Italian, and English accents, along with her enunciation of classical Greek, sound authentic. Both Ireland and Jones perform with appropriate pace and cadence for listeners to become immersed in this ambitious, imaginative novel.
Thursday, October 21
Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution, by De Nichols
This attractive offering serves as a primer on using graphics and visuals as forms of public communication. Author Nichols is a social- and racial-justice activist who provides considerable and helpful artistic advice through the lens of public protest. Assuming no previous knowledge, she introduces past and current protest movements, identifies the meanings behind their associated slogans and symbols, and explains why these choices make an impact. Nichols encourages readers to create their own protest art, offering practical guidance on basic components (color, font, word choice), media (sticky notes, poster board, chalk, collage, photography), and display (leaflets, signs, T-shirts, memes, guerrilla art, flash mobs, culture jamming, and projection art).
Friday, October 22
★ Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World, by Wil Haygood
There are familiar names here as well as those of many who were undeservedly forgotten. Dorothy Dandridge was one of several who triumphed in a breakthrough part (Carmen Jones) only to see plum scripts go to white actors. Even after the astounding success of Roots in 1977, Black actors like Lynne Moody “watched her white actress friends go on audition after audition” while her career remained stalled. “It was like we did our quota, and now that’s it for the rest of time.” Haygood reflects on “Mammy” and “Uncle Tom” stereotypes, Blaxploitation, and the power of independent video in achieving social justice, yet he wistfully concludes with the cautionary tale of Spike Lee, who has yet to win a best director or best picture Oscar. Haygood’s defining history is as moving as it is enlightening.
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