Philosophy & Psychology
The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to
an Inspired Life.
By Jessa Crispin.
Feb. 2016. 352p. illus. Touchstone, paper, $22
Crispin, founder and editor of Bookslut.
com, brings the fruits of her deep and adventurous reading and immersion in the arts
to this unique and fascinating approach to
the tarot as a tool for overcoming obstacles
to creative endeavors. She briskly covers the
history of these illustrated divination cards
with their swords, cups, wands, and coins;
candidly shares the role the tarot plays in her
life; and explains how she uses it not for predicting the future but, rather, for “retelling
the present” with “intuition and imagination.” Crispin offers richly metaphorical
interpretations of each card, including such
figures as the Fool and the Hanged Man;
demonstrates how reading the cards can be
“a way of creating meaning”; and tells compelling true tales about how diverse artists
overcame obstacles. Each card’s anecdotal
definition is followed by a brief, enticing
list of recommended books, films, paintings,
and songs by a grand spectrum of creators,
including James Baldwin, David Cronen-berg, Mary Cassatt, and David Bowie. Even
readers with no previous interest in the tarot
will be intrigued and delighted by Crispin’s
ardently researched, spirited, creative, and
inspiring elucidation. —Donna Seaman
Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy.
By John Shelby Spong.
Mar. 2016. 400p. HarperOne, $26.99 (9780062362308).
Delightedly publishing another book as he
nears 85, Spong returns to a main theme of
his career, the Jewishness of Christianity, denial of which, he holds, amounts to a heresy
so malign that it will destroy Christianity in
the twenty-first century. It is biblical literalism, the dogmatically maintained belief that
the miracles reported in the New Testament
actually occurred. Expelled from synagogues
by the end of the first century, early Christianity became ever more predominantly gentile.
These new Christians didn’t know Jewish
ways of using and interpreting scripture and
imposed literalism on the church by default.
To demonstrate what was lost, Spong proceeds
through Matthew’s Gospel, which was specifically addressed to practicing Jews. He presents
the book as a lectionary or series of lessons
keyed to the Jewish liturgical year. Each lesson or story is suitable for a particular sabbath,
proceeding in a cycle from after Passover
(roughly, Advent) to Shavuot and through the
annual holidays, ending at Passover (Easter).
Informed by the many academic studies of
Christian Jewishness, Spong makes their findings vibrantly accessible. —Ray Olson
Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I
Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay,
and That’s When My Nightmare Began.
By Alex Cooper and Joanna Brooks.
Mar. 2016. 304p. Harper, $24.99 (9780062374608).
When 15-year-old Alex comes out, her
devout Mormon parents send her to an unlicensed residential facility in
southern Utah that promises
to “cure” her. The married
couple who run the facility
out of their home have no
therapeutic or counseling
training, and they physically
and emotionally abuse Alex.
When she tries to escape, for
example, she is punched, beaten with a belt,
and made to stand for hours at a time facing a
wall and wearing a backpack filled with rocks.
When, after months, she is finally permitted
to go to school, she finds both a supportive
friend and a courageous teacher who put her
in touch with a Salt Lake City attorney, who
agrees to represent her pro bono. Thus begins
a long legal process in a state that is less than
sympathetic to LGBT teens. Even though
readers know the outcome—Alex wins the
right to live under the law’s protection as an
openly gay teenager—the process is still suspenseful, and the well-written account of her
eight months of “reparative” therapy makes
for compelling reading. Alex’s horrifying story
is one that needs to be heard, and her book is
an eloquent testament to that. It is encouraging proof that, as Alex is told, things do get
better. —Michael Cart
YA: Teens will be fascinated, inspired, and
moved by Cooper’s powerful story. MC.
The Family Tree: A Lynching in
Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and
My Search for the Truth.
By Karen Branan.
Jan. 2016. 304p. Atria, $26 (9781476717180). 364.1.
We all have our family secrets, but most
of us don’t write about it. Branan, however,
felt compelled to visit her long-buried past,
no matter how painful it might be. In Harris County, Georgia, 1912,
a white man, the nephew
of the county sheriff, was
shot to death on the porch
of a local black woman.
A few days later, an African American woman and
three African American men
were lynched. All were innocent. Branan is the great-granddaughter
of the sheriff who sanctioned the lynching.
The way she uncovers these hard facts is an
enlightening story in its own right, as everybody, or so it seems, has something to hide
or at least something they prefer not to talk
about unless pressed. The more questions she
asks of family members, the more disturbing
the information she learns. She returns to her
hometown of Hamilton, Georgia, a small
town “still home to cousins and elderly men
and women, black and white, with strong
memories and ties to my kinfolk.” At first the
story is dismissed as the way white southerners at the time dealt with “racial matters.” But
Branan digs deeper, wondering what causes
mild-mannered, churchgoing people to become “cold-blooded killers.” An important
and sadly still relevant story. —June Sawyers
Barkskins. By Annie Proulx. Scribner, $32 (9780743288781). June 2016.
The work of a decade, this saga begins in the late seventeenth century when two
French woodsmen are sent to the New World to log the great forest, and extends to tell
the story of their part–Native American descendants, the collision of cultures, and the
destruction of the wilderness.
End of Watch. By Stephen King. Scribner, $30 (9781501129742). June 2016.
King completes his best-selling Bill Hodges trilogy, following Edgar-winning Mr. Mercedes (2014) and Finders Keepers (2015).
A Hero of France. By Alan Furst. Random, $27 (9780812996494). June 2016.
Nazi-occupied Paris is the setting for best-selling historical-espionage master Furst’s
forthcoming novel about the French Resistance.
It’s All Material. By Jennifer Weiner. Atria, $26 (9781476723402). Sept. 2016.
Mega-popular women’s fiction star Weiner shares her true-life experiences in a collection of frank and funny personal essays.
Smoke. By Dan Vyleta. Doubleday, $27.95 (9780385540162). May 2016.
This highly imaginative, dramatic, and complex tale of an England past where one’s
wickedness is revealed by a strange smoke emanating from one’s body is touted as a
breakout novel for award-winning Vyleta.
HIGH-DEMAND HOT LIST
Watch for reviews of these high-demand titles by best-selling authors and one
proverbial dark horse in forthcoming issues of Booklist. —Donna Seaman