I spent the better half of the morning lost in a pile of books stacked on my bedside table. I recently read Diana Abu-Jaber’s novel Birds of Paradise and was reminded once again how much I loved the book.
If you haven’t read one of her books you should. Start with The Language of Baklava, then read Birds of Paradise, a spellbinding novel set in beautiful and culturally diverse Miami about a 13 year-old girl, Felice Muir who runs away from home and lives on the streets in search of food and drugs as self-punishment for something she has done.
The rest of the Muir family, including: Avis, a perfectionist mom and superb pastry chef; Brian, a quiet, hardworking dad; and Stanley, a committed brother and health food storeowner, are forced to look at their personal shortcomings after Felice leaves. On her eighteenth birthday, when Felice becomes an adult, she and her family must decide what’s truly important to them.
Birds of Paradise explores larger social and cultural issues, such as teen runaways, adolescent cruelty, parental self-absorption, histories of political violence and tragedy, and the politics of sugar and food production. Abu-Jaber’s sumptuous prose, complex characters, vivid imagery, and suspenseful plot captivate—you won’t be able to put the book down once you begin.
Maira Kalman’s And the Pursuit of Happiness is a beautifully illustrated book documenting the author’s yearlong study of democracy and how it works. Part artist’s journal, history book, and snapshot of contemporary America, Kalman’s visual and written observations made along her national tour are smart and witty.
I only made it through the first four pages of The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt in this sitting, but it’s one I’m excited to read. Hewitt examines how the rural blue-collar community of Hardwick, Vermont developed a local, sustainable food system in the middle of an economic crisis threatening to sideline smalls businesses and privately owned farms.
A group of young and innovative entrepreneurs bring change to the area new food-based start-ups and agricultural models and must find a way to work with long-established farmers cautious of the region’s speedy growth. If you’re at all interested in the future of food in the U.S., you’ll want to read this book.
What are you reading now, any recommendations to add to this list?