Weekly Book News

February 9, 2016

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

From the Pulitzer Prize winner, a surprising, powerful, and eloquent nonfiction debut

In Other Words
is at heart a love story--of a long and sometimes difficult courtship, and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language. For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college. And although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterward, true mastery had always eluded her. So in 2012, seeking full immersion, she decided to move to Rome with her family, for "a trial by fire, a sort of baptism" into a new language and world.

In Rome, Lahiri began to read, and to write--initially in her journal--solely in Italian. In Other Words, an autobiographical work written in Italian, investigates the process of learning to express oneself in another language, and describes the journey of a writer seeking a new voice. Presented in a dual-language format, it is a book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with an intensity and clarity not seen since Nabokov. A startling act of self-reflection and a provocative exploration of belonging and reinvention.

Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. Buy now

West of Eden by Jean Stein

The first book in thirty years from Jean Stein, author of the classic work of oral history Edie: American Girl

West of Eden is an epic oral history depicting Hollywood and Los Angeles, told through the stories of several larger-than-life figures and their families. Each story is a portrait of an outsider coming to Los Angeles with an all-but-impossible dream, and the dark legacy of those illusions for their families, future generations, and the city itself. The book’s subjects include movie moguls, studio bosses, an oil tycoon, a legendary actress, and many others. As she did in Edie, Stein has woven together oral accounts by hundreds of people to create a mesmerizing tapestry of voices that tell the saga of a place like no other. Over four decades in the making, West of Eden is grand in scale, intimate in detail, and a cautionary tale about the dark side of Eden. Buy now

Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis

A bold challenge to the conventional wisdom about early childhood, with a pragmatic program to encourage parents and teachers to rethink how and where young children learn best by taking the child’s eye view of the learning environment

Parents of young children today are embattled: Pick the “wrong” preschool and your child won’t get into the “right” college. But our fears are misplaced, according to Yale early childhood expert Erika Christakis. Children are powerful and inventive; and the tools to reimagine their learning environment are right in front of our eyes.

Children are hardwired to learn in any setting, but they don’t get the support they need when “learning” is defined by strict lessons and dodgy metrics that devalue children’s intelligence while placing unfit requirements on their developing brains. We have confused schooling with learning, and we have altered the very habitat young children occupy. The race for successful outcomes has blinded us to how young children actually process the world, acquire skills, and grow, says Christakis, who powerfully defends the preschool years as a life stage of inherent value and not merely as preparation for a demanding or uncertain future.

In her path breaking book, Christakis explores what it’s like to be a young child in America today, in a world designed by and for adults. With school-testing mandates run amok, playfulness squeezed, and young children increasingly pathologized for old-fashioned behaviors like daydreaming and clumsiness, it’s easy to miss what’s important about the crucial years of three to six, and the kind of guidance preschoolers really need. Christakis provides a forensic and far-reaching analysis of today’s whole system of early learning, exploring pedagogy, history, science, policy, and politics. She also offers a wealth of proven strategies about what to do to reimagine the learning environment to suit the child’s real, but often invisible, needs. The ideas range from accommodating children’s sense of time, to decluttering classrooms, to learning how to better observe and listen as children express themselves in pictures and words.

With her strong foundation in the study of child development and early education and her own in-the-trenches classroom experience, Christakis peels back the mystery of early childhood, revealing a place that’s rich with possibility. Her message is energizing and reassuring: Parents have more power (and more knowledge) than they think they do, and young children are inherently creative and will flourish, if we can learn new ways to support them and restore their vital learning habitat. Buy now

Now in Paperback

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