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Melinda's Reviews

Melinda Powers is the head book buyer at Bookshop Santa Cruz and is therefore responsible for choosing which of the 300,000 titles published each year will make their way to our shelves (not including the children’s section). Formerly at Capitola Book Café, she can’t seem to quit this wonderful community of readers, booksellers, and books. She is okay with this addiction.

On Lighthouses by Jazmina Barrera

Both in life and in literature, lighthouses have always functioned as so much more than bringers of light. In this lovely little tome, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney, Barrera illuminates different lighthouses around the world, her experiences with them, and explores the ways we engage with these bastions at the edge of the darkness. Part travelogue and microhistory, memoir and literary criticism, this is creative nonfiction at its best, at once intimate and all-encompassing.

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On Lighthouses Cover Image
ISBN: 9781949641011
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Lines Press - May 12th, 2020

Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate by Mark Kurlansky

Kurlansky has long been praised for his all-encompassing microhistories of singular items with bestselling books like Salt and Cod but he has outdone himself here with this gorgeous, full-color, heavily-photographed gift book, Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate from Patagonia. As always, his writing is thoughtful, personable, and knowledgeable. Kurlansky explores the history of this remarkable fish and our relationship with it across centuries and around the world, as well as the environmental issues that challenge it, presenting an engaging must-read that inextricably ties the survival of salmon to that of our planet. An astonishing call-to-arms.

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Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate Cover Image
ISBN: 9781938340864
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Patagonia - March 3rd, 2020

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

I cannot recommend The Undocumented Americans highly enough—it is beautifully written, scathing in its critique of our country’s culpability, and real, real, real. Cornejo Villavicencio listens carefully and compassionately to the stories of people so often unheard and captures the complexity of their lives in raw, poignant pieces, giving a fullness to the undocumented Latinx experience beyond the narrow tropes meant to contain it. Interspersed throughout is her own story as an undocumented child immigrant from Ecuador and how she is continually coming to understand its impact on her life. Her voice is powerful—its service as a vessel for the many who are silenced is tenfold. This book is eye-opening, life-affirming, and change-making, if you listen.

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The Undocumented Americans Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399592683
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - March 24th, 2020

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore

It is evident that Moore is a storyteller at heart. Her memoir weaves together her family’s flight during the First Liberian Civil War, her childhood immigrant experience in America, and the escape narrative that bridges the two. Beginning with her fifth birthday in Monrovia, continuing through her coming of age in Texas and her return to Liberia as an adult, Moore has written a story and a history that needs to be told. More importantly, it is one that needs to be felt, and Moore’s intimate, lyrical, and harrowing account is heart grabbing from the first page and lodges bone deep to the very end.

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The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450314
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - June 2nd, 2020

Reproduction by Ian Williams

Winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada, Reproduction is a playful novel that begins with the meeting of two very different strangers in a hospital room occupied by their mothers, and weaves through three decades of the family and relationships that follow such an unexpected and unbidden encounter. Williams writes with a poet’s ear and an inventive spark, exploring love, class, race, and the multicultural community in Toronto where this artful story unfolds in ways both light and deeply felt.

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Reproduction Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609455750
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - April 21st, 2020

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Megha Majumdar has written an astounding debut novel, and my favorite book of the year thus far. Following a terrorist attack in modern-day India, A Burning explores three very different lives. It lays bare the consequences and complexities of class, gender, politics, religion, and race—the social constructs that both empower and imprison the book’s richly drawn characters. It is propulsive, it is important, it is beautifully rendered. A Burning is exactly the book it needs to be, even as it lifts you, even as it breaks your heart. I am filled to the brim with all of it.

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A Burning: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525658696
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - June 2nd, 2020

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half is the multigenerational story of a Black family spanning from the Civil Rights Era to the end of the twentieth century, centering itself around Stella and Desiree, twin sisters who are separated when one of them leaves to live a life passing as White. What follows is an exploration of family and identity, the complexity of race constructs and their very real effects, what is lost, what can be found. Bennett offers no clear answers, only much to think about, and deliciously so, as you race through to discover how these crucial life choices will affect each character, all of whom you have come to understand and care for immensely.

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The Vanishing Half: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525536291
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - June 2nd, 2020

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

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Untamed Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984801258
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: The Dial Press - March 10th, 2020

Glennon Doyle had just published her latest memoir about rehabilitating her marriage with her unfaithful husband when she fell in love with Abby Wambach and everything shifted. What followed was a full shedding of the constructs that had been holding her back from trusting herself: her understanding of marriage, religion, parenting, love, and being good, being enough. Untamed is Glennon’s new memoir, her love story, her journey to her true self, and her gift to us – her writing is so light, so intimate, honest, and available that it becomes all of our journeys, and we are all the better for it. —Melinda

Wow, No Thank You: Essays by Samantha Irby

Wow, No Thank You.: Essays Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525563488
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - March 31st, 2020

Samantha Irby’s new collection of hilarious, truth-telling essays has arrived, and not a moment too soon. This is exactly the mirror I need right now, if I dare look in a mirror at all, and I nodded, smiled, and howled my way through her book, basking in the comfort of shared humanity. Whether lamenting middle-aged girls’ nights out, skewering of-the-moment beauty regimens, or critiquing the social media wormhole, Irby has hit her stride; her honesty writ large and funny as hell, her gloriously messy but exactly right observations, her wit and heart, all are balm for our complex, conflicted, all too human souls.  —Melinda

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington

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Lot: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525533689
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - March 17th, 2020

Washington’s debut collection of short stories would be an inhalation of brisk air, except the diverse neighborhoods of Houston are so fully realized that the experience is also steamy and thick with atmosphere. Lot is an all-encompassing read, seeking unapologetic truths, following those often forced to society’s margins; here they are centered, not as problems or issues or heartstrings to be pulled, but as people living their own messy, inconsequential, uniquely essential lives. The writing is real, gritty, and can be a challenge, but there is also a lightness to it, a palpable joy, and Washington’s evident intelligence and open gaze at what humanizes a story makes for necessary reading. —Melinda


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