Books

A Boy Named Trout

by Mercy Strongheart

Available on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

In 1976, in the fields of Northern New Mexico’s scrub grass and coyote fences, a twelve-year old boy named Trout searches for integrity in an increasingly volatile family that is free of moral inhibition. Trout takes it upon himself to protect his mute younger sister, Heaven, and seek out a better life for the two of them. All the while, he must avoid abusive anger of his parents. Before he can take action, a series of events fractures his family forever. Trout and his siblings are left to pick up the pieces and determine if they can ever manage to forgive their parents and each other.

A Boy Named Trout is a story about inter-generational patterns of addiction and abuse, and the power of familial bonds to save us and destroy us. Set against the backdrop of the hippie movement in the 1960s and ‘70s, when dictums such as “If it feels good do it” guided personal philosophies, A Boy Named Trout examines the creation of social morality and looks at how one follows their own inner compass when it contradicts cultural norms. Ultimately an uplifting message of strength and love, A Boy Named Trout is an important story for anyone touched by alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse, poverty, and cataclysmic social movements. In 1976, in the fields of Northern New Mexico’s scrub grass and coyote fences, a twelve-year old boy named Trout searches for integrity in an increasingly volatile family that is free of moral inhibition. Trout takes it upon himself to protect his mute younger sister, Heaven, and seek out a better life for the two of them. All the while, he must avoid abusive anger of his parents. Before he can take action, a series of events fractures his family forever. Trout and his siblings are left to pick up the pieces and determine if they can ever manage to forgive their parents and each other.

I Am Terezin

by Richard D. Bank

Available on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

I Am Terezin is a memoir unlike any other, written as a gripping narrative in the voice of the concentration camp itself. Situated in Czechoslovakia, Theresienstadt, or Terezin, as the locals called it, was touted by the Germans as a model city where Jews could live their lives in tranquility. Despite the sheer audacity of the claim, the world chose to believe this and ignore the truth looming behind the granite walls encircling the fortress-town. In I Am Terezin, the collective voice of its 140,000 inmates reveals the true story of the camp, imploring that we must look past all deceptive facades shrouding human suffering.

The Black Alabaster Box

The Last Crystal Trilogy, book 1

by Frances Schoonmaker

Available on Amazon, and Barnes and Nobles

Westward ho! It had been quiet along the Santa Fe Trail for more than a year when the Stokes Company set out for California in the early 1840s, the Willis family among them. A reluctant traveler, twelve-year-old Grace Willis longs for her comfortable, safe, and privileged life at home. Just as she is learning to negotiate life on the trail, Grace is kidnapped by fellow travelers and taken into Oklahoma Territory. She must decide if she will cave in to despair or muster the courage to run away and search for her parents. Grace finds help in unlikely places. She discovers that there really is such a thing as magic and there are some things only a child can do.

The Black Alabaster Box is an historical fantasy about growing up and facing terrible circumstances without being overcome by them. Grace learns to face her fears with courage, and that even magic can’t rescue her from the consequences of her choices. Written for middle grade children, the book is one the whole family can enjoy together. Grace’s experiences can provide a springboard for talking about grief and loss as well as the wonderful, funny, and magical adventures life has to offer. The setting and attention to historical accuracy make it an ideal read-aloud for the schoolroom where children are studying the great migration West.

The Red Abalone Shell

The Last Crystal Trilogy, book 2
by Frances Schoonmaker

Available through major distributors like AmazonBarnes & Nobles, etc.

The Red Abalone Shell is the perfect story for any middle grade reader who loves fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, and adventure all in one book. This second book in The Last Crystal Trilogy is the perfect companion to the first book, The Black Alabaster Box, or as a stand-alone novel. The book is set during early 20th century American life. Historical accuracy is obviously paramount to Schoonmaker and lessons on inclusivity and bullying are seamlessly woven in to create a story with rich detail and life lessons. Children won’t even realize how much history they are learning while reading this epic tale.

Of Love and Death: Young Holocaust Survivors’ Passage to Freedom

by Miriam Segal Shnycer

Available on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, as well as other distributors

September 1, 1939, bombs thunder across Krakow, Poland. Three families are trapped in the horror of Germany’s invasion. Only five young people out of fourteen members survive the Holocaust.   

Did inclusion on the coveted Schindler’s List ensure escape from danger? Did a family member’s dealings with Amon Goeth, the monster of Plaszow, keep them alive or lead to murder? Did clinging to a lifeline as tenuous as a pole in a latrine prevent capture? Of Love and Death:  Young Holocaust Survivors’ Passage to Freedom answers these questions and more.

All events are true in this creative nonfiction book. Five storytellers chronicle the lives of these families as they remember the halcyon days of their youth and see them ripped apart by the genocide. Amidst all this misery is a blossoming love story.

Dry Run: A Memoir

Nikki MacCallum

Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other distributors

Dry Run is a story of human transformation from confusion, despair, and brokenness to wholeness, healing, and the beginnings of self-love and acceptance, paralleling a physical progression through self-doubt, exhaustion, power and persistence. 

Consisting of 26.2 chapters, Dry Run is coming of age memoir that compares the challenges of running a marathon with the struggles of growing up as an only child with an alcoholic parent.  Both of my parents were long-distance runners.  My mom ran five marathons and my father’s total was thirty-two which included him doing Boston in two hours and forty-two minutes.  I guess you could say running (and carb loading) is in my blood.

The Last Crystal

The Last Crystal Trilogy, book 3

by Frances Schoonmaker

Available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and other distributors

When they board the L.A. bound Santa Fe Chief in Kansas City, the Harrison kids have never heard of the Last Crystal or the magic surrounding it. Worried about their father, who has been injured in World War II, they dread a summer with their boring, old Uncle James. But before the train is half way to L.A., J.D., Mary Carol, Robert, and Grace have crossed paths with a Nazi spy and one of the four has been kidnapped. Then, without warning, they find themselves off the train, drawn into a quest for the Crystal. To get home again, they must cross two thousand miles of wilderness and find the Crystal, with nothing to guide them but their wits, each other, and an old map that only the youngest can read.

Winner of 2019 Agatha Award for Best Middle Grade/Young Adult Mystery

The Borderland Between Worlds: A Memoir

by Ayesha F. Hamid

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles

The Borderland Between Worlds is the true story of author, Ayesha F. Hamid, where she details her journey towards self-acceptance. Growing up as a Pakistani immigrant in the United States, Ayesha had to deal with the constant struggle and pressure of not being able to fit into worlds that oftentimes demanded total conformity.

In this beautifully written memoir, the author gives us a space for dialogue and candidly narrates her personal experiences that extend from the deepest questioning about her identity and belonging to the vivid details of a journey filled with struggles related to race, religion, family, friends, marriage, and finally to the most precious moments of self-discovery for which we all long.

Shemhazai’s Game

by Harry Ringel

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and other book distributors

Fallen Angels, Nephilim giants–how prolific these Biblical figures from Genesis 6 have become in popular culture! Bare-chested male hunks and huge-bosomed temptresses, semi-divine or semi-demonic, grace the covers of innumerable novels. They are illustrators’ favorites in card and

video games from Magic the Gathering to Final Fantasy. Azazel, Lilith, and their like have propelled the Supernatural TV series through many seasons.

Shemhazai’s Game, a novel of Jewish fantasy, spins these legends in an entirely different direction. It carries the reader not into traditional Judaism but the realm of Kabbalah, the collective term for Zohar, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, and other works of Jewish mysticism. It opens doors for curious readers wishing to explore this “Other Judaism.”

Above all, it is a work of fiction–one in which two all-too-human characters, rooted in disharmony, are challenged to find each other in the labryinth of Shemhazai’s Game. Forty-year-old Debbie and her mentally handicapped 37-year- old brother Jacob are not simply strangers to each other, they are enemies. Fallen angel Shemhazai enters their battle . . . and carries his own agenda with him.

Shemhazai’s Game is not only for readers interested in Judaica in general and Kabbalah in specific. Anyone seeking a new direction in fantasy fiction will find inspiration and entertainment in the book.

My Two Journeys in Cancer World

by Mike Metzler

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book distributors

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cancerworld_cover-jpg-final.jpg

As chemo and radiation treatments for Stage 4 head and neck cancer began in early 2009, the author started a blog called “Mike Metzler Beats Cancer.” The purpose of the blog was to keep friends and family informed about Mike’s progress towards recovery and to welcome friends and family as a part of “Team Mike,” led by his wife Terry. Mike was confident that his treatments would be successful and that he’d return to his normal life within a few months; it took ten months before he received the “No evidence of disease” (NED) result from his doctors. His journey in Cancer World was over, or so he thought; almost immediately after his NED result, signs of serious side-effects of treatments started to emerge. Over the next ten years, those side effects would reveal themselves as serious, and a number of them would leave Mike with physical deformities and disabilities for the rest of his life. So, what was first hoped to be one journey, the months from diagnosis to NED, turned into two, the second being the long and unpredictable path of discovering and coping with the side effects of being treated for head and neck cancer. The blog entries from 2009 to 2018 provided the raw material for this book, with other stories and memories added later to give additional insights into each journey.

The book shows how Mike’s unwavering optimism, his sense of humor, his resolve to endure brutal cancer treatments, and his determination to handle each and every side effect helped him to persevere. The book also shows how Mike’s primary caregiver, his large network of support and number of medical professionals pulled together to get Mike through Journey 1 and have helped to keep Journey 2 going for more than ten years now. The author notes that, for him, all he has gone through in Cancer World beats the alternative of being a cancer victim.

Our Dementia: A Memoir

by Tracy Kauffman Wood

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book distributors

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dementiacover_epub.jpg

When vivacious and universally-beloved Sylvia is struck by a debilitating depression and an encroaching dementia, her daughter Tracy launches a desperate, unrelenting, unrealistically optimistic campaign to save her mother from oblivion, and to keep herself from acknowledging the inevitable. You may have run into them at the supermarket— that

determined woman pushing forward on her mother’s wheelchair while pulling her toddler in the shopping cart behind. They would not have noticed you. In this painfully honest memoir, Tracy explores her role as daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, wife, mother, and caregiver within the context of a large Jewish family spawned from Eastern European immigrants who settled in South Philadelphia in 1909. The story follows their journey from the rich intimacy and warmth of spirited family life– through Sylvia’s agonizing losses of independence, home, dignity and identity— to redemption and a remembered promise. It’s a graphic portrayal filled with poignant and humorous anecdotes that pushes through the challenges of multi-generational care giving, pulling back the curtain on one family’s dilemma.

Nirer Maya

by Dipti Chakrabarti

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book distributors

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is nirer-maya-cover.jpg

Nirer Maya (Nest-Nostalgia) is a compilation of a variety of poetry and prose in Bengali language. The name of the book, Nirer Maya, reflects the author’s feeling of nostalgia for her home and memories in India. Through these writings she expressed her love for children, love for Nature, feeling about different aspects of life such as greed, destiny, pursuit, etc. She embraced her past and present social and and historical contexts to ratify her analysis about how we should pursue our life as a journey.

The Phantom of Skid Row

by Harry Ringel

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is phantom-of-skid-row-cover-1.jpg

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book distributors

1965. Young Tito Scaffone loves old horror movies more than life itself–especially Lon Chaney’s 1925 The Phantom of the opera. Tito stumbles into a chance to manage the Dreamland, a shuttered movie house in Philadelphia’s Skid Row section. He is joined in his efforts by Lois Koff, daughter of an aging theater manager. Together, Toto and Lois bring life to the Dreamland; together, they explore the charm and mystery of theater with its own secrets. The Phantom of Skid Row is a ghost story, of sorts. It is also a love letter to the magic of classic and non-classic movies; to the eccentric charms of film exhibition in the days before theaters became homogenized; to the mystery of love sheltered in young hearts.

The Tree of Sorrow: Growing up in the Shadow of the Holocaust

by Richard D. Bank

In his youth, when Richard Bank entered his grandparents’ bedroom, he would be drawn to a photograph of his grandfather as a young man standing side by side his brother with both accoutered in WWI German military uniforms. Richard always thought that his great-uncle Berthold was Opa’s only sibling and more than six decades would pass before he learned otherwise. In fact, Opa had two other brothers and two sisters, all of whom perished in the Holocaust. No one—not his Oma and Opa, nor his mother and her sister, nor extended family members ever spoke of this. Such was the way some survivors coped with living in the aftermath of humanity’s most horrific crime. Bank’s memoir is a tale about life in the shadow of The Tree of Sorrow.

Scheduled to be published in May/June, 2021

Unclaimed Soul

by Patti Callahan

In the author’s word, “Identity is complicated. At least it was for me. I lost decades to its uncertainty. To questioning my worth, my value, my very existence. Viewing myself through the tainted lens of unimportance guided every decision. I was on a quest to validate a truth I mistakenly believed to be gospel. An unexpected epiphany led to more questions and the discovery of a lifelong coverup. To proof that I had been living the wrong truth. Finding peace took me to the greatest cities in Europe, to New Orleans, to psychics, therapists, and to energy healers. But ultimately, it took me to myself.”

Scheduled to be published in June/July, 2021

  

Abandon All Hope

by Scott Spires

It’s 1998. Bill Clinton is embroiled in a sex scandal, the Internet is starting to permeate our world, Titanic is breaking box-office records, and we’re supposedly enjoying a “boom economy.” In the Chicago area, two young men, disaffected by their suburban upbringing, take contrasting paths through life. Eric Freeman is a cynical, aesthetically inclined slacker who enjoys an aimless, hedonistic life dedicated to his hobbies, while working at a job he hates. Evan Jarrett is an idealistic college dropout and would-be author who styles himself a “philosopher and activist.” Their clashes with the world around them and with each other strike comic sparks.

In a story that evokes such 1990s classics as High Fidelity and Fight Club, our two antiheroes struggle against unsympathetic employers, uncomprehending relatives, meaningless jobs, romantic frustration, and social isolation, all while searching for a life of meaning and purpose, each in his own way. Abandon All Hope is a comic novel of ideas that asks the questions: How do you make your way in a world where stability is illusory, fraud and lies are ubiquitous, and happiness is always elusive? Should you be a realist or an idealist? And how’s life working out for you, anyway?

Scheduled to be published in Aug./Sept., 2021