Richard Blanco, Charles M. Blow, John Lahr, Brian Turner, Sheila Weller | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Sept. 2014, Pt. 4

Blanco, Richard. Untitled Memoir. Ecco. Sept. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780062313768. $25.99. MEMOIR
Blanco has won Agnes Starrett, Tom Gunn, Patterson, and PEN/American Beyond Margins honors for his poetry. What’s more, he was appointed the fifth inaugural poet of the United States, the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay poet to receive that post. Here he explores his coming of age as the child of Cuban immigrants (by way of Madrid) and blowcharlesmhis negotiating his conflicted artistic, cultural, and social identities. That broadens the book’s appeal; even those who don’t read poetry will know Blanco from Anderson Cooper 360, CBS Sunday Morning, Morning Joe, and other TV shows. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Blow, Charles M. Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780544228047. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780544302587. MEMOIR
If you don’t know Blow from MSNBC, CNN, Fox, BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, HBO, and other media outlets, you surely know him from the op-ed pages of the New York Times, where his Thursday and Saturday columns explore incisively key social and political issues with the help of informative graphics. His memoir encompasses his coming of age as an African American in the Deep South, as can be expected from his often deeply felt columns, but also roams over less expected issues like black fraternity hazing, his mother’s emergence as an accomplished professional woman, and his complicated sexual identity. With an eight-city tour to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Lahr, John. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. Norton. Sept. 2014. 736p. ISBN 9780393021240. $37.95. BIOGRAPHYlahrjohn
One cannot imagine a more appropriate subtitle for a biography of Tennessee Williams or a more appropriate author. Senior drama critic of The New Yorker, Lahr has what it takes to detail Williams’s challenging family life, messy love life, and overwhelming guilt as well as the genius of his plays. Meanwhile, we get to visit with Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Bette Davis, Maureen Stapleton, and a host of other drama luminaries associated with Williams. With an author tour to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston/Provincetown.

Turner, Brian. My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir. Norton. Sept. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780393245011. $23.95. MEMOIR
A U.S. Army veteran who was deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999–2000 and subsequently served for a year as an infantry team leader in Iraq, Turner lit up the poetry scene with his first collection, Beatrice Hawley Award winner Here, Bullet (“If a body is what you want,/ then here is bone and gristle and flesh”). He has since won numerous awards and published a second collection, the T.S. Eliot Award shortlisted Phantom Noise, but is perhaps best known for the poem “The Hurt Locker.” In this unusual memoir, more a meditation on the soldier’s life and its turnerbrianlarger implications, Turner reconstructs his wartime experience from predeployment to homecoming, sometimes surrealistically imagining himself as a drone hanging above Iraq and Bosnia, Vietnam and Cambodia, and Europe’s World War II death camps. Expect beautiful writing and a shock to the system.

Weller, Sheila. The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News. Penguin Pr. Sept. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781594204272. $27.50. JOURNALISM/WOMEN’S STUDIES
As she did with her New York Times best seller Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation, Weller examines the impact of three women in their field of endeavor and beyond. Diane Sawyer was the first female correspondent for 60 Minutes before landing at ABC World News, Katie Couric conquered the world as Today show cohost and has since had choice jobs like CBS Evening News anchor, and Christiane Amanpour is currently Chief International Correspondent for CNN, with a nightly foreign affairs program of her own. Together, they have racially reformed TV journalism, previously reserved strictly for males.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.