Hold You Down

The choices of two mothers and how it impacts their sons….

TitleHold You Down
AuthorTracy Brown
Publisher, Year &
Macmillan, November 2022,
336 pages
Summary from Publisher“Mercy and Lenox Howard have always only had each other. Growing up on the mean streets of Harlem with an absentee mother meant that they had to have each other’s backs. Now young, smart mothers they are determined to survive in New York City while raising their two sons, who have bright futures ahead of them.

Mercy is the quiet, straight laced hospital administrator, struggling to make ends meet. At night and on weekends, she pours her heart into her cooking and her dream of owning her own restaurant. Lenox is the diva, the wild child, looking for excitement and her big come up in life and love. Their boys, Deon and Judah, have been raised more like brothers than cousins, forging a bond that is unbreakable.

When Lenox heads down a path that she believes will bring success and power, it changes the entire course of her life and her family’s life forever. As a result of their mother’s choices, cousins Deon and Judah soon find themselves in uncharted territory.”
GenreFiction, Multicultural
ThemesFamily, African American, Coming-of-Age, Romance, Racism, Sisters
Who should read this book?There’s a lot here to unpack and I think it would be an ideal read for a book group. The story unfolds really smoothly and it is hard not to get caught up in this book.
Why I liked itI had read and enjoyed Tracy Brown’s book Single Black Female so I was happy to dig into a new book from her. It is both a sad story and a story filled with warmth. Ponder that. Your heart will bleed for the characters and the hardships, bad luck, and situations they face. Even characters that should be unlikable simply come across as… still very human. The story reads so smoothly that you almost forget that there are lessons to be learned and issues to consider. There’s a lot here to unpack and I think it would be an ideal read for a book group.

Bake Anime: 75 Sweet Recipes Spotted In—and Inspired by—Your Favorite Anime (A Cookbook)

A nice vehicle for a cookbook of Japanese sweets.

TitleBake Anime: 75 Sweet Recipes Spotted In—and Inspired by—Your Favorite Anime (A Cookbook)
AuthorEmily J. Bushman
Publisher, Year &
Simon & Schuster, November 2022,
208 pages
Summary from Publisher“Embark on a sweet journey through the world of anime! Not only does Japanese animation have beautiful design, fascinating characters, and engaging story lines, it is also overflowing with scrumptiously rendered desserts that leave viewers craving. Don’t you wish you had the recipe for bouncy soufflé pancakes from Your Name? Or even custard Taiyaki from My Hero Academia? Now you can make these desserts right at home with Bake Anime!
In addition to each recipe, discover facts behind each dessert, such as history, culture, tips, and more. With Bake Anime, you can finally make your cravings a reality and enjoy the sweet, delicious desserts you’ve been dying to try.”
GenreNonfiction, Reference, Cookbook, Multicultural
ThemesAnime, Japan, Food
Who should read this book?Though the recipes come from anime, if you’re not a fan, you can still appreciate this cookbook as it covers a whole range of Japanese sweets. It is quite thorough.
Why I liked itIn addition to each recipe, discover facts behind each dessert, such as history, culture, tips, and more. With Bake Anime, you can finally make your cravings a reality and enjoy the sweet, delicious desserts you’ve been dying to try.
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Morning Sun in Wuhan

Read it along with your 8-12 year old child!

TitleMorning Sun in Wuhan
AuthorYing Chang Compestine
Publisher, Year,
, & Age Range
Clarion Books, November 2022
208 pages, Age Range 8-12
Summary from Publisher“Weaving in the tastes and sounds of the historic city, Wuhan’s comforting and distinctive cuisine comes to life as the reader follows 13-year-old Mei who, through her love for cooking, makes a difference in her community. Written by an award-winning author originally from Wuhan.
Grieving the death of her mother and an outcast at school, thirteen-year-old Mei finds solace in cooking and computer games. When her friend’s grandmother falls ill, Mei seeks out her father, a doctor, for help, and discovers the hospital is overcrowded. As the virus spreads, Mei finds herself alone in a locked-down city trying to find a way to help.
Author Ying Chang Compestine draws on her own experiences growing up in Wuhan to illustrate that the darkest times can bring out the best in people, friendship can give one courage in frightening times, and most importantly, young people can make an impact on the world. Readers can follow Mei’s tantalizing recipes and cook them at home. 
GenreFiction, Children’s Fiction, Multicultural
ThemesChina, COVID, Food, Community
Who should read this book?I think it would be a good parent-child read because it could spark conversation. Any American child might want to know what it was like in China as the pandemic began.
Why I liked itIf you’re looking for something different, this may be your book. I was intrigued by the title and blurb for this book. I wanted to know what it was like in Wuhan as the Corona virus was first discovered and spread. And I got what I came for, albeit through the eyes of the young protagonist. Her story is interspersed with recipes which gives the book a sort of forced feel; is it a cookbook or a story? It feels a little choppy to me and not quite succeeding entirely on either level. However, the recipes look enticing and the author herself is from Wuhan which gives it some authenticity. And, after all, this is a children’s book, not particularly aimed at adults, though adults will be intrigued. I think it succeeds well as a children’s book but would love to see a review from a child. It does feel like an honest depiction of Wuhan during COVID and for that, I am so glad that this book exists. People are people no matter where they live and it is important to never forget that.

Hiroshima Twins: The True Story of a Ground-Zero Family

It’s quite a story.

TitleHiroshima Twins: The True Story of a Ground-Zero Family
Authorby Fumiko Takahashi, translated by Paul Kyriazi
Publisher, Year &
Tenbosha, November 2022,
177 pages
Summary from Publisher“When the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima, the Nakamura family lived at ground zero. Miraculously, the entire family of ten survived. The father stopped at a friend’s house for tea before going to work. … That saved him. One daughter was late for work hanging laundry. … That saved her. One son was working in the hull of a ship. … That saved him.
You’ll read how the others were saved, often told by the twins and other family members in their own words.
And remember this … Even the most impossible parts of the story, really happened.”
GenreNonfiction, Multicultural, History
ThemesJapan, War, Hiroshima, Family
Who should read this book?Anyone who’d like another perspective on how the people of Hiroshima experienced the bomb.
Why I liked itA unique and touching story of a large family that experienced the bomb in Hiroshima and survived… and went on to find their place in the world–in fact all over the world. It’s an interesting addition to the real life stories of survivors of the bomb and adds to the readers knowledge of life after the bomb was dropped.
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Savor: A Chef’s Hunger for More

A gripping memoir

TitleSavor: A Chef’s Hunger for More
AuthorFatima Ali
Publisher, Year &
Ballantine Books, October 2022,
384 pages
Summary from Publisher“Fatima Ali won the hearts of viewers as the Fan Favorite of Bravo’s Top Chef in season fifteen. Twenty-nine years old, she was a dynamic, boundary-breaking chef and a bright new voice for change in the food world. After the taping wrapped and before the show aired, Fati was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Not one to ever slow down or admit defeat, the star chef vowed to spend her final year traveling the world, eating delicious food, and making memories with her loved ones. But when her condition abruptly worsened, her plans were sidelined. She pivoted, determined to make her final days count as she worked to tell the story of a brown girl chef who set out to make a name for herself, her food, and her culture. 

Including writing from Fatima during her last months and contributions by her mother, Farezeh, and her collaborator, Tarajia Morrell, Savor is a deftly woven account and an inspiring ode to the food, family, and countries Fatima loved so much. Alternating between past and present, readers are transported back to Pakistan and the childhoods of both Fatima and Farezeh, each deeply affected by cultural barriers that shaped the course of their lives. From the rustic stalls of the outdoor markets of Karachi to the kitchen and dining room of Meadowood, the acclaimed three-star Michelin restaurant where she apprenticed, Fati reflects on her life and her identity as a chef, a daughter, and a queer woman butting up against traditional views. “
GenreNonfiction, Memoir, Multicultural
ThemesFood, Life, Family, Work, Travel, Identity, Pakistan
Who should read this book?An amazing person wrote this book. May she rest in peace. You should read it. It has so so much in it!
Why I liked itA heartbreaking read since we know the outcome right from the start of the book. A young chef is determined to tell her story before she dies of cancer. And tell it she does, with the help of her family and the co-author she chooses to help with the project. Her story is fascinating and takes the reader all over the world both geographically and culturally. It’s also a story of generational differences and change. And mostly it is the story of a Pakistani family and all that they endured to follow their dreams and find success.
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Blackwater Falls

Complex characters make for a meaty mystery!

TitleBlackwater Falls
AuthorAusma Zehanat Khan
Publisher, Year &
Macmillan, November 2022,
384 pages
Summary from Publisher“Girls from immigrant communities have been disappearing for months in the Colorado town of Blackwater Falls, but the local sheriff is slow to act and the fates of the missing girls largely ignored. At last, the calls for justice become too loud to ignore when the body of a star student and refugee–the Syrian teenager Razan Elkader–is positioned deliberately in a mosque.

Detective Inaya Rahman and Lieutenant Waqas Seif of the Denver Police are recruited to solve Razan’s murder, and quickly uncover a link to other missing and murdered girls. But as Inaya gets closer to the truth, Seif finds ways to obstruct the investigation. Inaya may be drawn to him, but she is wary of his motives: he may be covering up the crimes of their boss, whose connections in Blackwater run deep.

Inaya turns to her female colleagues, attorney Areesha Adams and Detective Catalina Hernandez, for help in finding the truth. The three have bonded through their experiences as members of vulnerable groups and now they must work together to expose the conspiracy behind the murders before another girl disappears.”
GenreFiction, Mystery, Multicultural
ThemesFaith, Racism, Small Towns, Women, Family, Religion, Immigrants
Who should read this book?If you like a complex mystery that deals with different issues that are relevant to us today, this is your book.
Why I liked itI have read previous works by Khan and enjoyed them so I was very pleased to read this one. It did not disappoint. I had a little trouble following and keeping track of all the characters at first, but by the middle of the book I was fully immersed. Khan gives us timely issues, romance, and mystery in a very thoughtful way. The setting, a small town in Colorado, is interesting as well. I am glad this is going to be a series!
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Kumo: The Bashful Cloud

A very sweet little picture book

TitleKumo: The Bashful Cloud
AuthorBy Kyo MaClear, Illustrated by Nathalie Dion
Publisher, Year,
and Age Range
Tundra Books, September 2022,
64 pages, Ages 4-8 years old
Summary from PublisherThe uplifting journey of a bashful cloud (“kumo” in Japanese) who discovers the rewards of feeling seen.

Kumo is a cloud whose only wish is to float unseen. When she’s assigned cloud duty for the day, she feels overwhelmed by self-doubt and her fear of being noticed. But after learning that closing your eyes isn’t a good solution to your troubles, Kumo pulls her fluff together and does her duties — drifting, releasing rain and providing shelter — meeting some new friends along the way and inspiring the imagination (and capturing the heart) of a small daydreamer like her. 
Kyo Maclear’s sweetly humorous and lyrical parable about shyness, vividly brought to life by Nathalie Dion’s ethereal illustrations, is an affirmation of the pleasures of community and the confidence that can arise from friendship and visibility.”
GenreChildren’s Fiction, Picture Book
ThemesCommunity, Friendship, Nature
Who should read this book?A good picture book to spark plenty of conversation with a shy child.
Why I liked itThis is a very sweet little book with charming illustrations that both adults and children will appreciate. When I review a picture book, I always consider the possibilities for conversation that it holds and Kumo has both words and visual cues that will encourage questions from little ones and prompts from adults.

A Very Asian Guide to Korean Food

If you like Korean food, you should get this book!

TitleA Very Asian Guide to Korean Food
AuthorMichelle Li
Publisher, Year &
Gloo Books, October 2022,
No page count given
Summary from Publisher“Explore the delicious world of Korean Food! A Very Asian Guide to Korean Food introduces little readers to classic and modern Korean dishes and provides fun facts about the foods and culture of Korea. Learn how kimchi is made or discover what makes a Korean fried chicken so crispy. Author, Michelle Li, brings pride and energy for her Korean culture in her debut children’s book. Illustrated by Sunnu Rebecca Choi in mixed media, each page is a colorful exploration of a dish that is sure to make every reader hungry.”
GenreChildren’s Nonfiction, Reference, Picture Book, Multicultural
ThemesFood, Korea
Who should read this book?If your family has Asian ties, you’re going to love this book.
Why I liked itThis book hits the mark in all of the important ways. First of all, it is visually attractive and immediately draws the reader in. Secondly, it is informative, but uses kid-friendly language that the target readers will be drawn to and probably start quoting around the house. Korean food is delicious and what kid wouldn’t want to become an expert on it?! I would hope the publisher would consider a whole series; kids these days are more adventurous in their eating and what a thrill it would give them to go out to a restaurant and be able to already know some of the dishes! If I have any criticism, I’d say that I wish the book was even longer!
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Be sure to check out the New York Times review of this book.

AuthorCho Nam-Joo, Translated by Jamie Chang
Publisher, Year &
Norton, November 2022,
240 pages
Summary from Publisher“Disenfranchised and tightlipped, the Saha are forced into harsh labor, squatting in moldy units without electricity. Braiding the disparate experiences of the Saha residents—from the reluctant midwife to the unknowing test subject to the separated siblings—into a powerful Orwellian parable, Nam-Joo has crafted a heartbreaking tale of what happens when we finally unmask our oppressors.”
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
ThemesKorea, Dystopia, Privilege, Survival, Misfits
Who should read this book?It was a challenging and confusing read in some ways, but I find, having read it, that I can’t forget it and I’m drawn back to it. I recommend it if you like something quite unusual.
Why I liked itI love a good dystopian novel in an intriguing location. And I was definitely caught up in this one, though it was very hard to keep track of the characters and the story line. I think the translation was probably a little awkward in that sense and the translator should have given us a little help. I wish I could read it in the original, but I also suspect that the unfamiliarity with Korean names also challenged me. Yet, I enjoyed the story and was able to picture Saha in my mind as I read. It may be that type of book that you need to read a couple of times to full appreciate with the author has weaved together. Read it if you like that sort of challenge.
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Poison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us

You knew this… but wait, there’s more!

TitlePoison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us
AuthorEvan Mandery
Publisher, Year &
The New Press, October 2022,
400 pages
Summary from Publisher“Mandery—a professor at a public college that serves low- and middle-income students—contrasts the lip service paid to “opportunity” by so many elite colleges and universities with schools that actually walk the walk. Weaving in shocking data and captivating interviews with students and administrators alike, Poison Ivy also synthesizes fascinating insider information on everything from how students are evaluated, unfair tax breaks, and questionable fundraising practices to suburban rituals, testing, tutoring, tuition schemes, and more. This bold, provocative indictment of America’s elite colleges shows us what’s at stake in a faulty system—and what will be possible if we muster the collective will to transform it.”
GenreNonfiction, Exposé
ThemesEducation, Privilege, Parenting, Politics
Who should read this book?This book would be useful for anyone working for more equity in education because it is filled with statistics, reports, and information that could be used by nonprofits to request grants. All the work is presented here. But, it is also a very readable and personal account as the author relays stories of students and others that he’s interacted with. High school guidance counselors, please take note!
Why I liked itAs I began reading this book, I thought that it simply confirmed everything I suspected and had read about the inequities in our higher education system. But as I continued, the author got into the weeds and I found even MORE proof in far different areas than I had considered previously. If you’ve any interest at all in this topic, you already know that the ivy is pretty poisoned. This will both affirm and enhance your understanding of how systemic and endemic the poison is.