Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

May 27, 2014

Theresa Bernstein: A Century in Art
Edited by Gail Levin

This book was published in conjunction with two Bernstein exhibits at college galleries in New York City. Bernstein’ art career spanned each decade of the twentieth century and she was a contemporary of Edward Hopper and John Sloan. Much of the history of American art is contained in the history of America’s art colonies and my first contact with her work was through an exhibit of her and her husband, William Meyerowitz, also a painter, at the Cape Ann Historical Museum in Gloucester, MA, in 2006. Gail Levin, the editor, has written other books on American artists Lee Krasner and Edward Hopper. This book is divided chronologically with section contributions by Levin’s seminar graduate students and visiting scholars.

Bernstein’s career was extensive, spanning most of the 20th century. She passed away in 2012 at an age estimated to be 111. Bernstein’s life as an artist reflected the social mores of the times and Levin feels that without the bias against women artists that she encountered, she would be a more recognizable artistic presence to the American public. Levin’s book contains very detailed chapters about Bernstein’s life, her influences, and the social aspects of her paintings. Her relationship with Meyerowitz, and their Jewish background, is fundamental to understanding Bernstein as both a person and an artist. His death is a very poignant moment in Levin’s book. Each section of the book is thoroughly documented with footnotes and also contains numerous high quality reproductions from different periods of her artistic growth.

Theresa Bernstein: A Century in Art provides a fascinating glimpse into the long life of an important but neglected regional and national artist.


May 19, 2014

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People
By Farahad Zama

In this charming book, Mr. Ali, a retiree and resident of Vizag, India, starts a matchmaking business on his front porch. Himself a Moslem, he finds matches for local Moslem, Hindu and Christian people looking for a spouse, either for themselves, or, more commonly, for a family member. His wife is concerned how hard he’s working and finds him an assistant in Aruna, a young Hindu woman who passes their house one day. Aruna’s desire for an advanced degree has been stymied due to her family’s financial troubles. And without a dowry it is unlikely she could ever get married herself. While the Bureau is successful, the Alis worry about their son, who is an activist for the poor and stands up against corrupt government.

More of an introduction to the culture and traditions of southern India than a plot-driven novel, the reader learns about the Hindu caste system and how it affects marriageability, how a prospective bride or groom – and his or her family – is evaluated for acceptability, and what is the de rigueur cuisine for a South Indian Moslem wedding.

An easy read, the book shows an India in transition, where some families look upon a “love-marriage” as a great shame and scandal, while in others, young women are attending graduate school and becoming engineers.

A dictionary of Hindi terms is available in the back of the book but it would have been more useful in the front. Further explanation of Indian traditions, especially in contrast to Western ones, can be found at the end in the form of Mrs. Ali’s English-class homework essays. The author, who is also from Vizag, has written several sequels to The Marriage Bureau for Rich People; see also The Wedding Wallah, Mrs. Ali’s Road to Happiness, and Many Conditions of Love.


May 12, 2014

Death Sworn
By Leah Cypess

Leah Cypess’s new YA series opener introduces Ileni, a young sorceress who is gradually and irretrievably losing her magic. Because the Elders of her community now view her as disposable, Ileni is assigned to live among a secret society of assassins, posing as their new magic instructor. Her true purpose is to secretly investigate the mysterious deaths of two former teachers. Ileni struggles to maintain her role as instructor, preserve the magic she has left, uncover the fate of her deceased predecessors—all while fearing for her life and surrounded by expertly trained killers. To complicate matters, Ileni begins to fall for her one protector among the assassins, Sorin. Even while her feelings for Sorin grow, she knows that she can’t trust him. The longer she remains in the caves of the assassins, the weaker she becomes. She begins to suspect that she is a piece in a game being played by the Master of the Assassins.

This sort of dystopian/fantasy/forbidden romance tale feels familiar. Many readers of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series will find parallels. If you have a reader who’s reluctant to read any new books after Hunger Games and Divergent, give this one a try. If you’re tired of para-romance dystopian survival coming of age stories…maybe pass over this title.


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