Visiting with Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, Fang Lizhi, & More | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Feb. 2016, Pt. 5

Bell-Scott, Patricia. The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship; Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice. Knopf. Feb. 2016. 464p. ISBN 9780679446521. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781101946923. HISTORY
This work from Bell-Scott, professor emerita of women’s studies and family science at the bellscottUniversity of Georgia and co-founding editor of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, is being billed as a groundbreaker, and one can see why. The author treats the 28-year friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and black lesbian Pauli Murray, the granddaughter of a slave, who became a lawyer, activist, Episcopal priest, and poet. Murray’s views on race in America helped shape those of the First Lady, which in turn helped shape policy within FDR’s administration. Twenty years in the making; with a tour to Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC.

Coutts, Marion. The Iceberg: A Memoir. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Feb. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9780802124609. pap. $16. MEMOIR
British artist Coutts’s husband, critic Tom Lubbock, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008, eventually losing his ability to speak and taking his life. This chronicle of his illness and death—which parallels Coutts’s efforts to raise their two-year-old son, Ev, who was just learning the magic of language as his father’s voice shut down—is assuredly moving, having won the Wellcome Book Prize and been shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Book Award. Lots of Best Book honors, too.

Fang Lizhi. The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State. Holt. Feb. 2016. 352p. ISBN 9781627794992. $32; ebk. ISBN 9781627795005. AUTOBIOGRAPHY
A leading astrophysicist who worked on China’s first nuclear program, Fang was also a renegade who continually got himself into trouble, starting in 1957, when he was just 21 years old. He was cast out of his job, deprived of his Party membership, and shipped off to a remote village to become a farm laborer, all for promoting reforms within the Communist Party. Repeatedly denounced, rehabilitated, and renounced again, he proved an inspiration to the Tiananmen Square protesters and fled the country with his wife when the government cracked down, becoming professor of physics at the University of Arizona until his death in 2012. Here’s his life story.

Goyal, Nikhil. Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice. Doubleday. Feb. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9780385540124. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385540131. EDUCATION
When Goyal criticizes the American education system, he’s coming from an up-close and goyalpersonal space; he was 17 years old when he wrote One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, having just graduated from a big high school in a wealthy suburb, and is now just 20. In the interim, he’s been called a future education secretary by the Washington Post, received numerous honors, appeared many times on television, and written for publications from the New York Times to Psychology Today. Here he decries the teach-to-the-test environment that kills initiative and a love of learning.

Rehm, Diane. On My Own. Knopf. Feb. 2016. 160p. ISBN 9781101875285. $23.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101875292. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR
Rehm has hosted the Diane Rehm Show on WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington, DC, since 1979—it’s now heard in about 60 cities nationwide—so she’s got quite a following. Her listeners will want catch up with this latest memoir about her husband’s death in 2014. Her work both decries the painfully extended process of his dying—she’s now a right-to-die advocate—and details how she has survived the sorrowful aftermath. With an eight-city tour to Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, New York, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Washington, DC.

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.