Boston Girl Readalikes

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For those of you waiting for The Boston Girl, I have a few suggestions while you wait. First, let me tell you are in for a treat in Anita Diamant's latest, about a young woman who works her way from tenement child to a social worker. Addie Baum is as old as the century when her granddaughter […]

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Perseverance is Triumph: Lalita Tademy

Cane River cabin

Lalita Tademy used to have a high-powered job at Sun Microsystems before delving into her genealogy, leading to three books (so far) imagining her family's history. The  results are historical novels that tell of little-known parts of the American narrative, which we forget to our peril. All three family sagas are moving, atmospheric, and accurate down to the smallest […]

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Epic Yarns in Teen Fiction

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Back in the day knitting used to be grandmas making ugly, itchy sweaters that never fit right and that you never EVER wanted to wear in public. Now, thanks to the DIY revolution, I'm getting some of my favorite patterns from teens and there are at least two video games featuring yarn (Kirby's Epic Yarn […]

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“It’s About This Nurse…” Favorite Stories Retold

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It sometimes happens when I go to the theater, or the movies, or read a book, that I find the minor characters more interesting than the people the story is supposed to be about. This often means that I am paying more attention to the servants or the villain than the young lovers or other main characters, […]

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The Problem With Virtue


Often when I read historical fiction, it seems that the 21st-Century world view is imported with the characters.  No more is this true than with the themes of sex and religion.  Fortunately, Marci Jefferson manages to avoid this pitfall in Girl on the Golden Coin. Young Frances Stuart, the protagonist, wishes only to make a good […]

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The Midwife of Venice and the Harem

Roberta Rich has written only two books so far, but I enjoyed both of them immensely. In The Midwife of Venice, Hannah Levi, a midwife of legendary skill and confined to the Jewish Ghetto, makes a decision to help a countess in natal distress. She takes along her "birthing spoons", a form of forceps, with her despite the […]

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Afghan Women Breaking the Mold

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Though the past decade and a half has brought enormous change to Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan, very little has changed in the villages, especially for women. Nadia Hashimi's The Pearl That Broke Its Shell tells the parallel stories of Shekiba, a woman at the turn of the last century, and her great-great-granddaughter Rahima just after […]

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Between the Unspeakable and the Unknowable

Israeli Menorah

After the Holocaust, many of the surviving European Jews went to British Palestine, soon to become the nation of Israel. However, the forces that destroyed their families often destroyed their vital documents as well, so those without official papers or family already in Palestine were put in detention camps until things could be sorted out.  Anita Diamant […]

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Sarah Waters Tells Some Tales

Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters hit the mainstream big time with The Little Stranger a few years ago, but she was already a superstar among lesbians and historical fiction buffs for her novels depicting gay and lesbian life in England. Her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, is a picaresque tale that combines Charles Dickens with Henry Fielding.  Sheltered Nan […]

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Living with the Complexities


Axie Muldoon wants: nice clothes, a big house, a meal in her belly.  As an orphan on the streets of 19th century New York, these things seem out of reach. And yet, by the time she is thirty, Axie (AKA Madame Beausacq) has them all. Along the way, she rides the orphan trains, delivers her mother's baby, apprentices […]

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