Welcome back to receive Rec’d!
I’ve been working upstairs in our children’s section at the bookstore lately, so my recs skew a bit more toward kiddos. Not a poor thing! I’ve also included a personal recommendation I gave to my mom the other day.
What about you? Have you given or gotten any good recommendations?
The Crab Ballet
Pulled this book for a little girl who loves crabs. Seriously, how can you not be charmed by these illustrations?!
When the tide is out, the curtain is up on this intelligent tale of an underwater, watercolor ballet featuring dancing crabs and all of their aquatic friends
Welcome. Enter. Sit correct there. The Crab Ballet is approximately to begin! This spectacular seaside show, starring dancing crabs, an aquatic corps de ballet, and a cast of French ballet terms, is certain to delight ballet dancers of all stripes.
Love in the Library
Maggie is such a talented writer in all the genres she’s explored so far and this picture book is no different. It’s an upcoming staff pick for me and tells the story of how her grandparents met in a Japanese incarceration camp.
Set in an internment camp where the United States cruelly detained Japanese Americans during WWII and based on true events, this moving love story finds hope in heartbreak.
To fall in love is already a gift. But to fall in love in a place like Minidoka, a place built to make people feel like they weren’t human—that was miraculous.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Tama is sent to live in a War Relocation Center in the desert. All Japanese Americans from the West Coast—elderly people, children, babies—now live in prison camps like Minidoka. To be who she is has become a crime, it seems, and Tama doesn’t know when or whether she will ever leave. Trying not to think of the life she once had, she works in the camp’s tiny library, taking solace in pages bursting with color and light, love and fairness. And she isn’t the only one. George waits each morning by the door, his arms piled with books checked out the day before. As their friendship grows, Tama wonders: Can anyone possibly read so much? Is she the reason George comes to the library every day? Beautifully illustrated and total with an afterword, back matter, and a photo of the real Tama and George—the author’s grandparents—Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s elegant love story for readers of all ages sheds light on a shameful chapter of American history
Portrait of a Thief
I’ve been recommending this one left and correct, most recently for someone shopping for their dad’s birthday. There’s a local tie-in if you’re in New England, whodunnit vibes, an ensemble cast, and the dismantling of art theft by Western countries.
Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in Portrait of a Thief, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums; about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity.
History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.
Will Chen plans to steal them back.
A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.
His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with stable hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.
Because whether they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But whether they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.
Equal parts beautiful, considerate, and thrilling, Portrait of a Thief is a cultural heist and an examination of Chinese American identity, as well as a necessary critique of the lingering effects of colonialism.
The Unfit Heiress
I actually just recommended this one to my mom, who has been reading a lot of Old Hollywood biographies. Be warned, this one is pretty disheartening, especially when tied to our current climate.
For readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, a page-turning drama of fortunes, eugenics and women’s reproductive rights framed by the sordid court battle between Ann Cooper Hewitt and her socialite mother.
At the turn of the twentieth century, American women began to reject Victorian propriety in favor of passion and livelihood outside the domestic. This alarmed authorities, who feared certain “over-sexed” women could destroy civilization if allowed to reproduce and pass on their defects. Set against this backdrop, The Unfit Heiress chronicles the fight for inheritance, both genetic and monetary, between Ann Cooper Hewitt and her mother Maryon.
In 1934, aided by a California eugenics law, the socialite Maryon Cooper Hewitt had her “promiscuous” daughter declared feebleminded and sterilized without her knowledge. She did this to deprive Ann of millions of dollars from her father’s estate, which contained a child-bearing stipulation. When a sensational court case ensued, the American public was captivated. So were eugenicists, who saw an possibility to confine reproductive rights in America for decades to come.
This riveting story unfolds through the brilliant research of Audrey Clare Farley, who captures the interior lives of these women on the pages and poses questions that remain relevant today: What does it mean to be “unfit” for motherhood? In the battle for reproductive rights, can we forgive the women who side against us? And can we forgive our mothers whether they are the ones who inflict the deepest wounds?