From Lampedusa to Black Lives Matter | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Jan. 2018

Bartolo, Pietro & Lidia Tilotta. Tears of Salt: A Doctor’s Story. Norton. Jan. 2018. 224p. tr. from Italian by Chenxin Jiang. ISBN 9780393651287. $25.95. MEMOIR
Born into a family of fishermen, Bartolo has run the only medical clinic on the Italian island of Lampedusa for 25 years, tending to his fellow islanders while also helping to rescue and care for the hundreds of thousands of desperate migrants from the Middle East and Africa who have landed there. And if that story sounds familiar, it’s because Bartolo is the beating heart at the center of the Academy Award–nominated documentary film Fire at Sea. In this international best seller, already translated into 13 languages, Bartolo details his life, his island, and the belief that drives him: “We can’t and we won’t be governed by our fears.” Bless you, Dr. Bartolo.

Bartov, Omer. Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz. S. & S. Jan. 2018. 480p. ISBN 9781451684537. $30. HISTORY
Genocide: it’s unimaginable, and it happens all too often. The John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History at Brown University, Bartov challenges the commonly held belief that genocide results when a divisive political leader preaches hatred backed up by military power. Instead, he argues, genocide works from the bottom up, with friends and neighbors storing up small slights that are easily exploited. To make his point, he focuses on the Eastern European border town of Buczacz, now a part of Ukraine and before the Holocaust home to a reasonably peaceable mix of Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews. Bartov draws on first-person testimonies from victims, perpetrators, collaborators, and rescuers to chronicle the violence that then descended while warning how to avoid such violence in the future.

Coetzee, J.M. Late Essays: 2006–2016. Viking. Jan. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780735223912. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780735223936. LITERARY CRITICISM
Coetzee has certainly made his mark in fiction, having won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 and been the first author to be awarded the Booker Prize twice, for Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace. But he’s also an insightful critic, and the 23 recent essays here range from Daniel Defoe, Samuel Beckett, and Philip Roth to Goethe, Irène Némirovsky, and Patrick White. For all your smart readers, not just scholars; with a 20,000-copy first printing.

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse & asha bandele. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781250171085. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250171092. CD: Macmillan Audio. MEMOIR
Artist and social justice advocate Khan-Cullors is also, not surprisingly, a NAACP History Maker, having cofounded Black Lives Matter with Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Poet/activist bandele, author of the best-selling memoir, The Prisoner’s Wife, is currently a senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance. Together they’ve written a memoir that celebrates social activism as rooted in love for all humanity and particularly those most vulnerable. With a national tour and outreach to African American, LGBTQ, and resistance organizations and, one hopes, everyone else.

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.

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