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In Battleborn, a collection of short stories, Claire Vaye Watkins recreates the rich and complicated history of the desert regions of California and Nevada. The title is derived from one of Nevada’s nicknames, The Battle Born State, which it earned by becoming a state during the Civil War. Similarly, the ghosts of past battles are never far away from the characters’ minds as they struggle through life. Watkins succeeds at using regional details to ... Read More
  Oksana Marafioti’s memoir brings to light a minority culture that most people have very little knowledge of beyond TLC’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Yes, Marafioti does write about one of those extravagant affairs, in which she donned a mango-colored taffeta gown and teased her hair to the heavens, but the strength of her book lies in the way it makes her Romani family, who moved to California in the early ’90s, and their over-the-top ... Read More
In Overdressed, New York-based writer Elizabeth Cline explores the extreme decline in the cost of fashion, and the political, economic, and social implications of this change. Cline begins with a personal yet familiar anecdote: she once bought seven pairs of $7 shoes in a single haul, only to eventually throw half of them out without having worn them once. Most of us who grew up in the ’90s practice Cline’s former shopping ritual: consistently buying ... Read More
You run up the stairs before you go to bed instead of walking. You hear a creaking noise and you hold your breath. You spin around far too quickly when you're raiding the cabinets for a snack because you sense someone behind you. There's no one there. Why do you feel so creeped out in your own house? I don't know if you have ever felt this weird sense of fear in your own home, but I know that I have. I know that it's inexplicable, that there's no real reason to be ... Read More
 Reviewed by Molly Labell Lizz Winstead is responsible for creating The Daily Show and for setting the progressive tone of the now defunct Air America, platforms that—bless her!—brought both Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow into the national spotlight. With her new book of personal essays, Winstead will undoubtedly be responsible for inspiring sc-ores of creative and opinionated young women. Her first collection chronicles the events and ... Read More
 Girl Walks into a Bar is a memoir by former Saturday Night Live cast member Rachel Dratch, perhaps best known for her character Debbie Downer. Here, Dratch recounts her career experiences (before, during, and after SNL), her attempts at dating, and her unexpected yet welcomed pregnancy at age 43. As you might expect, “Girl” is laugh-out-loud funny, with humorous tangents aplenty. Dratch describes her long, persistent journey (often being passed ... Read More
 Reviewed by Erica Wetter Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life By Natalie Dykstra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) You’ve probably never heard of Clover Adams, but as English Professor Natalie Dykstra illuminates in this detailed biography of the 19th-century Washington socialite, she rubbed elbows with many of the nation’s elite. “A perfect Voltaire in petticoats,” friend Henry James commented. “Certainly not handsome” her husband-to-be ... Read More
 Reviewed by Melynda Fuller Barnheart: The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own By Jenna Woginrich (Storey) At some point, every city-dweller utters the words, “I wish I could just move to the country and start a farm.” In her new memoir, writer Jenna Woginrich lays out that idyllic landscape found so often in the deep sighs of those who feel trapped by urban life. After a short stint as a homesteader in Idaho, Woginrich takes a job in rural ... Read More
  Reviewed by Maria Elena Buszek Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop Edited by Laura Barcella (Soft Skull)   If the way the Interwebz blew up the minute she hit the stage at the 2012 Super Bowl is any indication, Madonna has not lost her ability to provoke and fascinate—even as she approaches the end of her third decade as a pop icon. This fact is on abundant display in the new anthology Madonna and Me, edited by journalist (and BUST ... Read More
Paula Scher, one of the key players and leading ladies of graphic design (she is the first and currently the only female partner at design firm Pentagram), likes to paint really big and really intricate maps. The sizes of the maps alone are impressive (some are as tall as 12 feet) but it's the obsessiveness over the details that's really stunning. Scher's maps are made up entirely of words and packed with an insane amount of information; continents and oceans ... Read More
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