Review: Reading with Patrick

A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship
by Michelle Kuo

A memoir of race, inequality, and the power of literature told through the life-changing friendship between an idealistic young teacher and her gifted student, jailed for murder in the Mississippi Delta.

From page one, Michelle Kuo's extraordinary memoir, Reading with Patrick, pulled me into a journey from Arkansas to Harvard, and places in between. It challenged my assumptions about the label "murderer" and reinforced my own professional experience teaching at-risk students. Kuo's entertaining writing style and honesty fuel a deeper conversation about education, race, and justice in contemporary America.

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Torrey Douglass
Review: Confusion of Languages

Confusion of Languages is a nail-biting thriller that invites readers into an off-limits world, written with vivid details of place and culture. "Every embassy residence is equipped with a panic room with bulletproof door. If you feel you are in danger, lock yourself in your panic room and radio the embassy immediately." These are the rules. However, no sanctuary exists for the vulnerable emotional situations that Cassie and Margaret encounter as ex-pat military wives living in Amman, Jordan.

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Torrey Douglass
Review: Woman No. 17

Cycles of addiction, neglect, or “maternal bad choices” tend to revolve through generations. Relationships between mothers and their children fuel the compelling-if-somewhat-tangled plot of Woman No. 17. Complex dynamics between the mom (Lady), The Sitter (S), and her charges (Devin, 3, and Seth, 18) play out while The Sitter attempts to sort her own “mom-issues” and Lady wavers between divorce or reconciliation with her absent husband.

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Torrey Douglass
Review: Last Days of Café Leila

Bay Area chef Donia Bijan's yummy prose pulls readers behind the headlines of contemporary Tehran. Last Days of Café Leila reads like a love letter to the author’s childhood homeland. We follow Noor, who returns to Tehran nursing a broken heart and seeking reunion with her father, Zod, who is the patriarch/proprietor of an elegant restaurant. The cast of characters includes Noor's rebellious teen daughter, Lily, and her own childhood nanny, Naneh Goli. Flashbacks excavate secrets about Noor's mother, Pari, who died mysteriously.

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Torrey Douglass
Review: Sweetbitter

This book is a feast of small plates and generous pours of lyrical, poetic prose. Insecure main character Tess, 22, isn't sure what she wants out of life but plunges into a high-paced, intense job serving at "one of the top" NYC restaurants. Yearning for sensual experiences - and an alluring bartender, Jake - Tess finds herself spinning in binges of booze, drugs, and emotions. The tension between Tess' entrapment and freedom is just as seductive as her first sliver of heirloom, "tie-dyed pink and red" tomato.

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Torrey Douglass
Review: Lost City of the Monkey God

In the vein of Matthiessen’s Snow Leopard or Strayed’s Wild, Douglas Preston brings readers to a place beyond roads in Honduras. Preston joins filmmakers, archaeologists, staff from the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), and a cadre of machete-wielding trailblazers and security guards on a quest for vanished treasure left by a civilization that thrived before Columbus or Cortés set foot on the continent.

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Torrey Douglass