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

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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 a world 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

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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.

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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

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

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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.