Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch. You’re British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from? Brit(ish), which is part memoir, part reportage, and part commentary, is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. You can read reviews here and here.
The Parking Lot Attendant: A Novel by Nafkote Tamirat is a haunting story of fatherhood, national identity, and what it means to be an immigrant in America today. It explores how who we love, the choices we make, and the places we’re from combine to make us who we are. The story begins on an undisclosed island where the unnamed narrator and her father are the two newest and least liked members of a commune that has taken up residence there. Though the commune was built on utopian principles, it quickly becomes clear that life here is not as harmonious as the founders intended. After immersing us in life on the island, our young heroine takes us back to Boston to recount the events that brought her here. You can read reviews here and here. You might also be interested in this interview with the author.
Creative Quest by Questlove. A unique new guide to creativity from Questlove–inspirations, stories, and lessons on how to live your best creative life. Questlove–musician, bandleader, designer, producer, culinary entrepreneur, professor, and all-around cultural omnivore–shares his wisdom on the topics of inspiration and originality in a one-of-a-kind guide to living your best creative life. In Creative Quest, Questlove synthesizes all the creative philosophies, lessons, and stories he’s heard from the many creators and collaborators in his life, and reflects on his own experience, to advise readers and fans on how to consider creativity and where to find it. He addresses many topics–what it means to be creative, how to find a mentor and serve as an apprentice, the wisdom of maintaining a creative network, coping with critics and the foibles of success, and the specific pitfalls of contemporary culture–all in the service of guiding admirers who have followed his career and newcomers not yet acquainted with his story.
The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past by Shaun Walker provides a deeply reported, bottom-up explanation of Russia’s resurgence under Putin. By cleverly exploiting the memory of the Soviet victory over fascism in World War II, Putin’s regime has made ordinary Russians feel that their country is great again. Walker provides new insight into contemporary Russia and its search for a new identity, telling the story through the country’s troubled relationship with its Soviet past. He not only explains Vladimir Putin’s goals and the government’s official manipulations of history, but also focuses on ordinary Russians and their motivations. He charts how Putin raised victory in World War II to the status of a national founding myth in the search for a unifying force to heal a divided country, and shows how dangerous the ramifications of this have been. If you want to learn more, you might find this video of a talk he gave at the NYU’s Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia.
Odd Girl Out: My Extraordinary Autistic Life by Laura James is a sensory portrait of an autistic mind. From childhood, Laura James knew she was different. She struggled to cope in a world that often made no sense to her, as though her brain had its own operating system. It wasn’t until she reached her forties that she found out why: suddenly and surprisingly, she was diagnosed with autism. With a touching and searing honesty, Laura challenges everything we think we know about what it means to be autistic. Married with four children and a successful journalist, Laura examines the ways in which autism has shaped her career, her approach to motherhood, and her closest relationships. Laura’s upbeat, witty writing offers new insight into the day-to-day struggles of living with autism, as her extreme attention to sensory detail–a common aspect of her autism–is fascinating to observe through her eyes. You can read a review here, and learn more about the author’s experience here.