Occasionally, a work of nonfiction comes along that completely changes the way we look at a problem—or brings an issue into focus for the first time. Such was the case with Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, first published in May 1994 and now available in a revised and updated 20th anniversary edition. Author Hope Edelman was only 29 years old when the book was released, and as she notes in a recent blog post, promotional events like an appearance on the "Today" show left her terrified. Despite the author's inexperience, the book went on to sell more than a half a million copies, prompted considerable thought and discussion, and was translated into 11 languages. Motherless Daughter support groups sprang up to help women deal with the lifelong after effects of growing up without a mother's love and guidance.
Motherless Daughters grew out of Edelman's own experience of losing her mother to breast cancer when she was 17. Using skills she honed at the Medill School of Journalism and the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, she began to investigate what happens to girls and young women whose mothers die. After reviewing scientific studies and conducting hundreds of interviews with women, Edelman concluded that a mother's death can have lasting repercussions in many areas of a daughter's life, including her sibling relationships, her romantic relationships and her relationships with her own children. "Losing my mother wasn't just a fact about me," she writes in the book's introduction. "It was the core of my identity, my very state of being."
After Motherless Daughters was published, hundreds of women wrote to Edelman with their own stories of grief and healing. Excerpts from these personal accounts were compiled in Letters from Motherless Daughters, a companion volume also available in an updated edition with new letters. In addition, Edelman's book has inspired a new HBO documentary, The (Dead Mothers) Club, which follows three young women dealing with the deaths of their mothers. The film debuts May 12 on HBO and includes interviews with Rosie O'Donnell, Jane Fonda and Molly Shannon, who all lost their mothers early in life.
Edelman's groundbreaking work stands the test of time, offering not only comfort and understanding to mother-loss survivors, but also valuable information for anyone coping with devastating loss and grief.
The fun will actually begin on Tuesday (April 22) evening, though, with more than 20 author events planned to kick things off. Check out all of the who, when and where details to see if there will be a celebration near you.
Then, next Wednesday night, thousands of volunteers will be giving away 550,000 copies of books to light or non-readers in under-served communities. The list of 38 books to be distributed includes fiction and nonfiction, new books and classics, as well as several YA titles and even a collection of poetry.
The WBN folks have created a handy interactive map detailing all of the giveaway locations across the country, and there's also a list of participating bookstores and libraries, sorted by state.
All participants are encouraged to write about their experiences and enter the WBN ebook essay contest. The winning essays will be featured in an ebook to be distributed at next year's World Book Night. Check out all of the contest details here.
The World Book Night tagline says it all: spreading the love of reading, person to person. Will you be taking part? If so, we'd love to hear about it! Share your plans—or past WBN experiences—in the comments section, below.
Why does the same joke leave one person LOLing and another yawning or stone-faced? Why do we laugh? Does humor have a dark side? Is laughter really the best medicine? These thought-provoking questions—and more—are tackled head-on in The Humor Code, the fascinating, thoroughly entertaining new book by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner—released just in time for National Humor Month.
McGraw—founder of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder—and award-winning journalist Warner traveled the globe on a quest to get to the root of what makes things funny, stopping in Los Angeles, Tanzania, Palestine, Copenhagen and even venturing into the Amazon. Among the experts they consult are a head writer for The Onion, Hunter "Patch" Adams (yes, that Patch Adams), New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff and several "top members of the Japanese Humor and Laughter Society."
Their around-the-world romp ended in Montreal, where Warner drew upon their newfound wisdom by attempting stand-up at Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy festival, which is basically the Olympics of comedy fests. How did he do? I won't spoil it for you.
If you're still scratching your head over why Tanzania, wonder no more. In this excerpt from the fourth chapter, the authors explain what drew them to the East African country:
Good news greets us in Uganda as we disembark our plane: "Uganda has defeated the outbreak of Ebola," announces a large placard standing in the airport's main hall. "Please have a nice stay."
Well, that's a relief.
We actually have a different malady in mind—one far less lethal than Ebola, but evocative nonetheless. We're here in East Africa on the trail of the so-called 1962 Tanganyika laughter epidemic. As the story goes, in 1962 in the northwest corner of Tanganyika (a country now known as Tanzania), hundreds of people began laughing uncontrollably. The affliction, if you could call it that, spread from one person to the next, and nothing seemed to stop it. Schools shut down. Entire villages were caught in its throes. When the laughing stopped months later, a thousand people had some down with the "disease."
Since then, the Tanganyika laughter epidemic has captured imaginations the world over. Newspaper articles have been written about it, radio shows have explored it, and documentaries have dramatized it. But many of these accounts detailed the incident from afar, relying on secondhand sources, scraps of information, and rumors. Few people have investigated the event themselves, tracking the laughter all the way to its source. That's why we're here.
To be honest, we're a bit skeptical of the whole account. Uncontrollable laughter, jumping from person to person like a devilish possession, doesn't make sense. But something happened in Tanganyika in 1962. There are enough firsthand accounts and medical reports to confirm that. But what that something is—and what, if anything, it has to do with humor—is still up for debate.
What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out The Humor Code?
• "Mad Men" returns this weekend. Which of these books do you want to see Don Draper (or other characters) reading on the iconic show's final season?
• Pop quiz time! Don't panic—it's a fun pop quiz. Check the books you've read on BuzzFeed's list to find out just how scandalous your reading taste skews.
• Did you know that Shakespeare's 450th (!) birthday is coming up this month? Perhaps you didn't know that there are several online Shakespeare courses that you can take—for free!
• Since you were such good sports about the quiz, how about a super-cute game called How to Be a Writer?
The twists and riffs of an Eoin Colfer story combined with the gleeful quirkiness of Oliver Jeffers' illustrations? That's what I call an unbeatable team. Their first-ever picture book collaboration, Imaginary Fred, is coming this fall from HarperCollins.
Here's what we've got to look forward to:
Imaginary Fred is a unique take on the concept of imaginary friends. It’s the story of two little boys and their shared love of movies, music, and comic books. It is about how a little bit of electricity, a little bit of luck, and a little bit of magic can spark a friendship like no other. The perfect chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s text and Oliver Jeffers’s artwork will make for a treasured new picture book.
The publisher's already calling it an "instant children's classic," "genius" and "the stuff of dreams." It's way too soon to be throwing labels like that around, but we're nevertheless excited to see what fun this duo whips up.
Random House will release Leaving Time, formerly titled “Elephant Graveyard,” on October 14. The story mines territory familiar to Picoult—family, memory and identity—as it follows 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf, whose mother Alice (a scientist specializing in elephant behavior) went missing in the wake of a tragic accident more than a decade ago. Refusing to believe she would be abandoned as a toddler, Jenna scans her mother's old journals for clues and enlists the help of a famous psychic and the now-jaded detective who originally investigated Alice's case.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter below:
My first memory is white at the edges, like a photo with too bright a flash. My mother is holding spun sugar, on a cone, cotton candy. She raises her finger to her lips—This is our secret—and then tears off a tiny piece. When she touches it to my lips, the sugar dissolves. My tongue curls around her finger and sucks hard. Iswidi, she tells me. Sweet. This is not my bottle; it's not a taste I know, but it's a good one. Then she leans down and kisses my forehead. Uswidi, she says. Sweetheart.
I can’t be more than nine months old.
This is pretty amazing, really, because most kids trace their first memories to somewhere between the ages of two and five. That doesn't mean that babies are little amnesiacs—they have memories long before they have language but, weirdly, can't access them once they start talking. Maybe the reason I remember the cotton candy episode is because my mother was speaking Xhosa, which isn't our language but one she picked up when she was working on her doctorate in South Africa. Or maybe the reason I have this random memory is as a trade-off my brain made—because I can't remember what I desperately wish I could: details of the night my mother disappeared.
Are any of you BookPage readers particularly interested in Leaving Time? If so, find more information and an even longer excerpt at Picoult's website.
Author photo by Adam Bouska.
There are few writers as prolific as T.C. Boyle who consistently produce such high-quality and varied work—he is the author of 24 books of fiction and has been the recipient of several literary awards, including the PEN/Faulkner—so it's both unsurprising and exciting to receive news of upcoming novels.
After three decades with Viking, Boyle will publish his next two novels with Ecco, an imprint of Harper. The first, The Harder They Come, will be published in March 2015. As with many of Boyle's books, it will be set in California and will feature multiple interwoven storylines, featuring an aging ex-Marine, his unstable son and the son’s much older lover.
Boyle commented on his move to Ecco:
“This is an occasion for my books to reach a new and ever-widening audience, a circumstance that every author, however successful, yearns for. We live for and through our work and hope to bring illumination and entertainment at the deepest and most joyous level to our readers. So look out: here we come.”
No word on the second novel, but we'll keep you posted.
Author photo by Pablo Campos
Lena Dunham's envelope-pushing HBO series "Girls"—which recently wrapped up its third season—has won her legions of fans and plenty of critical praise. The irreverent and witty 27-year-old actress, director, show runner and writer will soon be adding "author" to her résumé with the release of her feverishly anticipated first book, Not That Kind of Girl.
Random House is officially set to publish Dunham's blend of advice and memoir on October 7.
Duhman recently unveiled the simple, '70s inspired cover via Instagram:
Hungry for more details? Read a description of Not That Kind of Girl in Dunham's own words below:
If I can take what I’ve learned in this life and make one treacherous relationship or degrading job easier for you, perhaps even prevent you from becoming temporarily vegan, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile. This book contains stories about wonderful nights with terrible boys and terrible days with wonderful friends, about ambition and the two existential crises I had before the age of twenty. About fashion and its many discontents. About publicly sharing your body, having to prove yourself in a meeting full of fifty-year-old men and the health fears (tinnitus, lamp dust, infertility) that keep me up at night. I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you with this book, but also my future glory in having stopped you from trying an expensive juice cleanse or having the kind of sexual encounter where you keep your sneakers on. No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist or a registered dietician. I am not a married mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in self-actualization, sending hopeful dispatches from the front lines of that struggle.
I know we've got some "Girls" fans out there! What do you think, readers? Are you excited to pick up a copy of Not That Kind of Girl?
• The HuffPost rounded up a collection of simply delightful—some downright amusing—bookplates.
• You may want to bookmark Flavorwire's roundup of 50 (!) of the best Southern novels for the next time you're craving a richly rewarding read set below the Mason-Dixon line.
• In other news, what do you think about Daniel McCaig's Ruth's Journey, the forthcoming (in October) prequel to Gone with the Wind, which will focus on the character of Mammy?
• I need another mug about as much as I need another tote bag. But this series of literary-themed cups compiled by BuzzFeed has me contemplating adding to my collection.
• We've all mused over which of our favorite authors or characters we'd like to invite to a gathering. In a refreshing (and amusing) twist, The Toast offers up six literary characters who, let's face it, would probably be terrible dinner party guests.
• Can Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory really be 50 years old? To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers and Dylan's Candy Bar are offering a pretty sweet contest.
Jane Smiley has never been a novelist who lacked ambition, but her new project might be her biggest yet. She's embarked on a trilogy that covers the last century of American life—and the first volume, Some Luck, will be published on October 7.
The action begins in 1920s Iowa, where the Langdon family—Rosanna, Walter and their five children—live on a farm, and each chapter covers roughly a year. As the children grow up and move away (or not), Smiley takes a panoramic look at the first half of the century, encompassing the Depression, World War II and the early 1950s. Early buzz is that this one is old-fashioned storytelling at its best.
Smiley has already completed the next two novels in the trilogy (or "cycle," as her publisher has dubbed it), and they're tentatively scheduled for publication in the spring and fall of next year. Like Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, which concludes this fall, the Langdon books take a look at some of this century's most epic events—although with a smaller, more intimate cast of one everyday family.
Check out the opening lines:
Walter Langdon hadn’t walked out to check the fence along the creek for a couple of months—now that the cows were up by the barn for easier milking in the winter, he’d been putting off fence-mending—so he hadn’t seen the pair of owls nesting in the big elm. . . . Right then, he saw one of the owls fly out of a big cavity maybe ten to twelve feet up, either a big female or a very big male—at any rate, the biggest horned owl Walter had ever seen—and he paused and stood there a minute, still in the afternoon breeze, listening, but there was nothing. He saw why in a moment. The owl floated out for maybe twenty yards, dropped toward the snowy pasture. Then came a high screaming, and the owl rose again, this time with a full-grown rabbit in its talons, writhing, then hanging limp, probably deadened by fear. Walter shook himself.
Will you read it? What books are you looking forward to this fall? Click here for more news on 2014 releases.