“The Moment Before” by Jason Makansi (Blank Slate Press, $16.95)
At times this new novel by Tucsonan Jason Makansi seems to whip around like those fast, dark films set in war-torn countries: Points of view change, locations change, time settings change.
Sexy, 40-something Cheryl Halia Haddad is unmoored but on a mission. The product of the ill-conceived union of an American and a Syrian immigrant, she is determined to locate her father, who disappeared years before. Through flashbacks, journal entries and changing perspective, we know that he had been lured back to Syria, captured and conscripted, and imprisoned and tortured by the Americans in Gitmo. Cheryl Halia’s search for him will uncover unexpected betrayal.
With sympathetic characters, echoes of Syrian culture, the complexities of Middle Eastern policies and politics, and elements of art and music, “The Moment Before” is an engaging and thoughtful read. — Christine Wald-Hopkins
“Nesci’s Arizona DUI Defense: The Law and Practice, Fifth Edition” by James Nesci (Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company, Inc., $197)
Tucson defense lawyer James Nesci offers an impressive compendium of laws, statutes, case histories and prosecutorial advice in this substantial (666-page) fifth edition of his reference work on how to defend against DUI charges in Arizona. Presented as “a practical guide from the defense perspective; ... useful in the office ... and the courtroom,” it seems comprehensive and extensively documented. Its prose is accessible; and illustrations, charts, and tips are clear — even to the lay reader. — Christine Wald-Hopkins
“Stories Tell What Can’t be Told: My Story” by E. Reid Gilbert (A3D Impressions, $14.95)
Elizabeth Taylor once kissed him on the cheek. He once sat up with Marcel Marceau until 2 a.m., as Marceau complained that white-face mime lacked respect. He once saw his father turned away from the factory he supervised. He was once transferred from one Methodist parish to another because the congregation couldn’t handle two bachelor clerics. E. Reid Gilbert has had experiences.
Out of impoverished Appalachia, Gilbert grew up to be an ordained Methodist minister, a Unitarian pastor, a mime, a Fulbright Scholar, a college teacher, a theater producer, a writer, father, and three times a husband. In this memoir, he turns family and mentor portraits, professional life narratives and societal observations into interesting stories that dramatize his life. — Christine Wald-Hopkins
“Dewey: The Silent Boy” by Brant Vickers. (Black Rose Writing. $14.95 paperback, $6.99 Kindle.)
“Welcome to the world of autism,” is Dewey’s foster mother’s explanation for his failings. Dewey doesn’t communicate. Dewey doesn’t make eye contact. Dewey fights in class. And, at night, Dewey dreams of a wild-haired man with dark, dangerous eyes. But Dewey is disturbed, not autistic. In a flawed foster system where the greater the disabilities the bigger the state check, his foster parents bully the school administration for the diagnosis — enabling Dewey to drift through his days until a prank causes an accidental death and he takes flight in search of his family and haunted past.
Vickers, a retired special education teacher, draws from his classroom experiences to capture the pain and indignities suffered by the students. Through Dewey’s dispassionate interior monologue, readers also suffer for the children in this gritty, enlightening, young adult novel.
Vickers’ stories appeared in periodicals and anthologies. “Dewey” is his debut novel. — Vicki Ann Duraine
“Reflections of My Heart Through Jesus Christ, Our Only Hope” by Ruthann Bond. (Christian Faith Publishing. $12.95 paperback, $9.99 Kindle.)
Beginning in 2008, Bond felt called to write “story poems” celebrating the presence of Jesus Christ in her life. Born again almost a decade prior, she became a vessel for the words that Jesus put in her heart.
Whether experiencing trials or rewards, Bond’s days are filled “with His mercy, grace and love” and the poems illustrate the meaning of living a life in the presence of the Lord. Bond wrote this book of praise and affirmation to offer hope and a fresh perspective to those struggling through difficulties and discontent. — Vicki Ann Duraine
“American Prisoner of War Camps in Arizona and Nevada” by Kathy Kirkpatrick. (Arcadia Publishing. $22.99 paperback.)
While Kirkpatrick covers the evolution of the war camps, including the lessons learned from World War I, less considered was the impact that the prisoners had in their surrounding communities. Through work furloughs and weekend passes, German and Italian prisoners mingled in areas where much of the population was of the same descent, leading to friendships and entanglements that lasted lifetimes. Though the Geneva Convention mandated that all POWs be returned to their country of origin, many traveled back to the United States.
Kirkpatrick concludes with chapters listing the POW camp locations, the prisoners who died in Arizona and the burial sites as well as an appendix of websites and museums, and a bibliography.
In addition to her archival research, Kirkpatrick utilized her genealogy background to incorporate family anecdotes and photographs. Her prior books covering war camps include American Prisoner of War Camps in Idaho and Utah and Prisoner of War Camps across America. — Vicki Ann Duraine
“The Wonder That Was Ours“ by Alice Hatcher. (Dzanc Books. $26.95.)
St. Anne doesn’t wear its legacy of colonialism well. While pleasure-seeking tourists soak up rum in the Caribbean sun, tensions fueled by a history of poverty and racism seethe just beneath the surface of the tiny island paradise. Catastrophe, just a port-of-call away, arrives in the form of two passengers, left behind on St. Anne by a cruise ship that now reports being ravaged by a mysterious, fatal disease. Violent conflicts and power grabs erupt among panicked islanders fearful of contagion.
Wynston “Professor” Cleave, part-time cabbie and full-time philosopher, finds himself in the middle of the mayhem while the cockroaches that infest his taxi provide the novel’s first person-plural narration. This is not as weird as it sounds. As resilient as they are reviled, cockroaches are no strangers to prejudice, intolerance and insecticide, and they have opinions about people behaving badly. Their observations are clear-eyed, frequently humorous, and spot-on. One could learn a lot about humanity from the cockroaches in this highly readable debut novel.
Alice Hatcher, who is a former academic historian, lives in Tucson. — Helene Woodhams
“The Shadow of the Wall: Violence and Migration on the U.S.-Mexico Border” by Jeremy Slack, Daniel E. Martinez, and Scott Whiteford, editors. (University of Arizona Press. $35.)
An appalling human tragedy is playing out on the southwest border as vulnerable people are subjected to family separations, violence and death. Rumors and “alternative facts” from anti-immigrant groups fan the flames of national xenophobia, producing a lot of heat but no light. To counter rhetoric with facts to help inform public policy, the Migrant Border Crossing Study (MBCS) was instituted. A binational team of researchers from universities, including the University of Arizona, and advocacy groups, left their institutions and went into migrant shelters to collect meaningful, methodologically-rigorous data from deportees.
This book is a comprehensive report of their findings. Common themes emerged, including the unintended consequences of the war on drugs on migration; the fact that criminalizing migration has not acted as a deterrent, for all that it has increased suffering; and that deportees will cross again, multiple times, because strong social and familial connections to the U.S. outweigh the punishments they risk.
Although by no means a casual read, this volume will enlighten anyone with an interest in border policy and should be required reading for those responsible for crafting or enforcing it. — Helene Woodhams
“Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage” by Linda Strader. (Bedazzled Ink Publishing. $14.95. $8.99 Kindle.)
For a 20-year-old with a love of the outdoors and a taste for adventure, nothing could be sweeter than a gig with a U.S. Forest Service fire crew. That’s the remarkable place Linda Strader found herself when, in the summer of 1976, she left a boring desk job for a far more fulfilling assignment at a ranger station in the Santa Rita Mountains.
She was one of the first women in the U.S. to be so employed. Not surprisingly, the challenges she faced extended far beyond fighting wildfires. Her candid and engaging memoir details the discrimination she faced from hostile and sexist colleagues with no confidence in her ability. Fighting for acceptance and respect meant doing her job twice as well as any man, she recalls, and it was cold comfort to know that the men with whom she served worked harder just to impress her.
Toiling in a man’s world was not without its pleasant distractions, she admits, and her story is also a bittersweet recollection of love found and lost. Strader gave her all to the job she loved for seven years, until painful knee injuries forced her retirement. Now a successful landscape architect, she lives in Green Valley. — Helene Woodhams