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All posts by Mia Clement

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine – Alexandra Kleeman

A woman known only by the letter A lives in an unnamed American city with her roommate, B, and boyfriend, C, who wants her to join him on a reality show called That’s My Partner! A eats (or doesn’t) the right things, watches endless amounts of television, often just for the commercials—particularly the recurring cartoon escapades of Kandy Kat, the mascot for an entirely chemical dessert—and models herself on a standard of beauty that only exists in such advertising. She fixates on the fifteen minutes of fame a news-celebrity named Michael has earned after buying up his local Wally Supermarket’s entire, and increasingly ample, supply of veal.

Meanwhile B is attempting to make herself a twin of A, who hungers for something to give meaning to her life, something aside from C’s pornography addiction, and becomes indoctrinated by a new religion spread throughout a web of corporate franchises, which moves her closer to the decoys that populate her television world, but no closer to her true nature.

One of These Things First – Steven Gaines

One of These Things First is a wry and poignant reminiscence of a 15 year old gay Jewish boy in Brooklyn in the early sixties, and his unexpected trajectory from a life behind a rack of dresses in his grandmother’s bra and girdle store, to Manhattan’s fabled Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, a fashionable Charenton for wealthy neurotics and Ivy League alcoholics, whose famous alumni include writers, poets, madmen, Marilyn Monroe, and bestselling author Steven Gaines.

With a gimlet eye and a true gift for storytelling, Gaines captures his childhood shtetl in Brooklyn like an Edward Hopper tableau, with all its dramas and secrets: his philandering grandfather with his fleet of Cadillacs and Corvettes; a trio of harpy saleswomen; a giant, empty movie theater, his portal to the outside world; a shirtless teenage boy pushing a lawnmower in front of a house on Long Island; and a pair of tormenting bullies who own the corner candy store whose taunts drive him to a suicide attempt.

Scream: A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction – Tama Janowitz

In Scream, her first memoir, Janowitz recalls the quirky literary world of young downtown New York in the go-go 1980s and reflects on her life today far away from the city indelible to her work. As in Slaves of New York and A Certain Age, Janowitz turns a critical eye towards life, this time her own, recounting the vagaries of fame and fortune as a writer devoted to her art. Here, too, is Tama as daughter, wife, and mother, wrestling with aging, loss, and angst, both adolescent (her daughter) and middle aged (her own) as she cares for a mother plagued by dementia, battles a brother who questions her choices, and endures the criticism of a surly teenager.

Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.

Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon – Rosa Brooks

Rosa Brooks traces this seismic shift in how America wages war from an unconventional perspective—that of a former top Pentagon official who is the daughter of two anti-war protesters and a human rights activist married to an Army Green Beret. Her experiences lead her to an urgent warning: When the boundaries around war disappear, we risk destroying America’s founding values and the laws and institutions we’ve built—and undermining the international rules and organizations that keep our world from sliding towards chaos. If Russia and China have recently grown bolder in their foreign adventures, it’s no accident; US precedents have paved the way for the increasingly unconstrained use of military power by states around the globe. Meanwhile, we continue to pile new tasks onto the military, making it increasingly ill-prepared for the threats America will face in the years to come.

Shining Sea – Anne Korkeakivi

Beginning in 1962 with a shocking loss, Shining Sea quickly pulls us into the lives of forty-three -year-old Michael Gannon’s widow and offspring. Brilliantly described and utterly alive on the page, the Gannon clan find themselves charting paths they never anticipated, for decades to come. Told with a cinematic sweep, Shining Sea transports us from World War II to the present day, crisscrossing from the beaches of Southern California to the Woodstock rock festival, from London’s gritty nightlife in the eighties to Scotland’s remote Inner Hebrides, from the dry heat of Arizona to the fertile farmland of Massachusetts.

Epic, tender, and beautifully rendered, Shining Sea is the portrait of an American family-a profound depiction of the ripple effects of war, the passing down of memory, the making of myth, and the power of the ideal of heroism to lead us astray but sometimes also to keep us afloat.

I Will Send Rain – Rae Meadows

Annie Bell can’t escape the dust. It’s in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children’s dry, cracked lips. It’s 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie’s fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain.

As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love.

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko – Scott Stambach

Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement.

Until Polina arrives.

She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.

She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live.

Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.