On The Feminine Side Of Things…

January 17, 2012

We have new non-fiction books on our shelves this month that will please readers interested in women’s issues. These include biographies of two queens whose reigns almost could not be more different; an exploration of the emotional lives of women in the 21st century; and an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival-and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship. Check them out!

The Lost Kingdom : Hawaii’s last queen, the sugar kings and America’s first imperial adventure by Julia Flynn Siler
Around 200 A.D., intrepid Polynesians arrived at an undisturbed archipelago. For centuries, their descendants lived with little contact from the western world. In 1778, their isolation was shattered with the arrival of Captain Cook. Deftly weaving together a memorable cast of characters, Lost Hawaii brings to life the ensuing clash between a vulnerable Polynesian people and relentlessly expanding capitalist powers.  At the center of the story is Lili’uokalani, the last queen of Hawai’i. Born in 1838, she lived through the nearly complete economic transformation of the islands. Lucrative sugar plantations gradually subsumed the majority of the land, owned almost exclusively by white planters, dubbed the “Sugar Kings.” Hawai’i became a prize in the contest between America, Britain, and France, each seeking to expand their military and commercial influence in the Pacific. The monarchy had become a figurehead, victim to manipulation from the wealthy sugar plantation owners. Lili’uokalani was determined to enact a constitution to reinstate the monarchy’s power but was outmaneuvered by the U.S.

Elizabeth the Queen : the life of a modern monarch by Sally Bedell Smith
In this magisterial new biography, a “New York Times”-bestselling author brings to life one of the world’s most fascinating and enigmatic women: Queen Elizabeth II. Compulsively readable and scrupulously researched, “Elizabeth the Queen” illuminates the lively personality, sense of humor, and canny intelligence with which she meets the most demanding work and family obligations.

The Magic Room : a story about the love we wish for our daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow
The New York Times bestselling journalist and author of The Girls from Ames , Jeffrey Zaslow, takes us to a multi- generational family owned small-town bridal shop to explore the emotional lives of women in the 21st century. You may not have heard of Fowler, Michigan, much less Becker’s Bridal. But for the thousands of women who have stepped inside, Becker’s is the site of some of the most important moments of their lives-moments that speak to us all. Housed in a former bank, the boutique owners transformed the vault into a “magic room,” with soft church lighting, a circular pedestal, and mirrors that make lifelong dreams come true. Illuminating the poignant aspects of a woman’s journey to the altar, The Magic Room tells the stories of memorable women on the brink of commitment. Run by the same family for years, Becker’s has witnessed transformations in how America views the institution of marriage; some of the shop’s clientele are becoming stepmothers, or starting married life for a second time. In The Girls from Ames , beloved author Jeffrey Zaslow used friendships to explore the emotional lives of women. In The Magic Room , he turns his perceptive eye to weddings and weaves together secrets, memories and family tales to explore the hopes and dreams we have for our daughters.

A Train In Winter : an extraordinary story of women, friendship, and resistance in occupied France by Caroline Moorehead
They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled “V” for victory on the walls of her lycÉe; the eldest, a farmer’s wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers. Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie. In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France. A Train in Winter draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival-and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.

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