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The big fat Consortium Books catalog arrived last week and there were several books that caught my eye. Here is the quick & dirty catalog copy on them along with a comment or two from me on what made them jump off the page:

Unmentionables by Laurie Loewenstein (Akashic Books) Marian Elliott Adams, an outspoken advocate for sensible undergarments for women, sweeps onto the Chautauqua stage under a brown canvas tent on a sweltering August night in 1917, and shocks the gathered town of Caledonia with her speech: how can women compete with men in the workplace and in life if they are confined by their undergarments?

It's not due out until January so be sure to check out the full description (which is a little confusing) at the pub site. I love the time period and the topic (women's suffrage) and I've got high hopes.

I wrote about Palmerino by Melissa Pritchard (Bellevue Literary Press) a little while ago and I'm still looking forward to this fictional look at the real life of Violet Paget, the "brilliant gender-bending, lesbian polymath known for her chilling supernatural stories". (Due in January.)

Also from Bellevue, I think this would be a good choice for my column: Then They Started Shooting by Lynne Jones. The author interviewed over forty Serb and Muslim children who "came of age during the Bosnian War and now returns, twenty years after the war began, to discover the adults they have become." (Due in October.)

The River Detroit by Paul Vasey (Biblioasis): What is the Detroit River? It's dumps, dogpatches, ships, steamers, storms. It's month-long salvage operations. It's the Zug Island stacks, belching clouds of purple and yellow....It's the reflection of a city in riot. And it's the singing motormen, the agitators and the autoworkers who look into its waves every day and see something of their future.

I am endlessly fascinated by Americana, especially of unexpected angles to see features of this country and how they inform who we are. This sounds wicked cool. (Oct)

Baghdad Central by Elliot Colla (Bitter Lemon Press). I love Bitter Lemon mysteries - they are very similar to SoHo Press in that they share foreign locales, a hardboiled sensibility and a lack of "coziness". (Not that there's anything wrong with that - I enjoy a cozy every now and again as well.) Here's the gist of Baghdad Central:

"...a noir debut novel set in Baghdad in September 2003. The US occupation of Iraq is a swamp of incompetence and self-delusion. The CPA has disbanded the Iraqi army and police as a consequence of its paranoid policy of de-Baathification of Iraqi society. Tales of hubris and reality-denial abound, culminating in Washington hailing the glorious mess as "mission accomplished."

Into all this walks Inspector Mushin al-Khafaji, forced into a deal with the Americans and investigating the disappearance of young women translators working for the US Army. I love the setting - I've been waiting for a Baghdad series from this period. Check out more Bitter Lemon titles at the website. (Oooh - a new Leonardo Padura is on the way - great Cuban author whose Mario Conde series I really enjoy.)

A Commonplace Book of Pie
by Kate Lebo w/art by Jessica Lynn Bonin (Chin Music Press). Here's all you need to know: "a collection of facts, both real and imagined about pie." No, wait - here's more: "Lebo explores the tension between the container and the contained while also busting cliches and creating new myths around strawberry rhubarb, vanilla cream, mincemeat and many other pies."

Just go see more at Lebo's website - the book started as a zine and now it is a book! Huzzah! (October)

Afghan Box Camera by Lukas Birk and Sean Foley (Dewi lewis Publishing). This is the most unique title I've heard of in ages: ...Afghanistan is one of the last places on earth where the box camera continues to be used as a way of making a living. Handmade out of wood - a camera and darkroom in one - generations of Afghans have had their portraits taken with it. Spanning decades, from peacetime to war, box camera photography exists within a more sophisticated photographic history....the story is told through a rich mixture of contemporary and archive photography, ephemera, illustrations, interviews and storytelling. (October)

Check out the Dewi Lewis site - some really interesting books over there.

Play Pretty Blues by Snowden Wright (Engine Books): The mysteries of blues legend Robert Johnson's life and death long ago became myth. Part researched reconstruction, part vivid imagination, this lyrical novel brings Johnson alive through the voices of his six wives, revealing the husband and son inside the legend. (November)

More here - Robert Johnson never gets old to me; I'd love to see what Wright does with his legend.

Next week, the YA titles from Consortium that caught my eye.....


Thanks for the shout-out. Let me know what you think when Unmentionables comes out.

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