Posts Tagged Brookline Booksmith

book review: The Fact of a Body

fact of a body

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Flatiron Books| May 2017| 336 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 978-1-250-08054-7

RATING: ****/5*

Some people are true crime fanatics. I’ve read In Cold Blood and some other true crime books but don’t often gravitate toward them. Memoir appeals to me and that’s what drew me to The Fact of a Body. I also may or may not have wanted to go to law school.

Both a memoir and a true crime book, The Fact of a Body is a riveting page-turner but also a disturbing read I had to step away from a few times. To apply to Harvard Law School, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich wrote the admissions essay about her opposition to the death penalty. During a summer internship at a New Orleans law firm, Marzano-Lesnevich begins to question that stance when she’s tasked to the re-trial of convicted murderer and child molester Ricky Langley. He’s been on death row for years. Not only does her research cause Marzano-Lesnevich to question the death penalty it also brings up her own past family trauma.

Meticulous research and painstaking detail allow readers into the life and crime of Ricky Langley as well as into Marzano-Lesnevich’s terrifying childhood when her grandfather molested her and her sister. Now a law student, she wants to comprehend the why and how. Her grandfather got away with it. Ricky got sentenced to death row. While it could be academic and legal in tone, it’s a compelling, shocking, devastating, frightening and phenomenal read. There’s this chilling line: “The room where now, in the closet, Jeremy Guilory’s body stands rigid, wedged in, wrapped in the blue blanket from Ricky’s bed, a white trash bag covering his head and shoulders.” Or this: “The camera doesn’t linger. It catches the blond hair and then falters in the face of the boy. But on Jeremy’s lip right now—too small for the camera to catch, and no one’s looking at him that closely, no one wants to look at a boy that closely—there is a single dark pubic hair.” Marzano-Lesnevich balances the narrative and the facts just so. It’s a truly powerful reconciliation of past and present.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Flatiron Books.

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich will be in conversation with Kristen Radtke on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at Brookline Booksmith

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notable Boston-area book readings in February 2017


Megan Marshall
Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, February 7 at 7pm

Michael Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett
F*ck Love
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, February 7 at 7pm


Ayelet Waldman
A Really Good Day
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, February 8 at 7pm


John Darnielle
Universal Harvester
Harvard Book Store
at Brattle Theatre
Wednesday, February 8 at 6pm


Lisa Wade
American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, February 9 at 7pm


Min Jin Lee
Harvard Book Store
Friday, February 10 at 7pm


Caroline Light
Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, February 16 at 7pm


Elinor Lipman
On Turpentine Lane
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, February 16 at 7pm


Roxane Gay
Difficult Women
Porter Square Books
Friday, February 17 at 7pm


Lisa Carey
The Stolen Child
Brookline Booksmith
Saturday, February 18 at 7pm

news from the end of the world.jpg

Emily Jeanne Miller
The News from the End of the World
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, February 21 at 7pm


David Duchovny
Bucky F*cking Dent
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, February 22 at 12pm


Megan Marshall
Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, February 22 at 7pm

rise of the rocket girls

Nathalia Holt
Rise of the Rocket Girls: the Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars
WorkBar Cambridge
Monday, February 27 at 6:30pm


Gish Jen
The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, February 28 at 7pm

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Summer Book Readings in the Boston-area


Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Sarong Party Girls

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, July 27 at 7pm


Peter Kramer, Ordinarily Well: The Case for Antidepressants

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, July 26 at 7pm


Deborah Levy, Hot Milk

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, July 28 at 7pm

Crossing Swords full cover

Cindy Peyser Safronoff, Crossing Swords: Mary Baker Eddy vs. Victoria Claffin Woodhull and the Battle for the Soul of Marriage

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, August 2 at 7pm

llucy pear

Anna Solomon, Leaving Lucy Pear

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, August 3 at 7pm

nordic theory

Anu Partanen, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, August 4 at 7pm


Annie DeWitt, White Nights in Split Town City: a novel

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, August 9 at 7pm


Jennifer Haigh, HEAT & LIGHT

Newtonville Books

Tuesday, August 16, 7PM


Amy Gottlieb, The Beautiful Possible

Newtonville Books

Wednesday, August 17 at 7PM


Meg Little Reilly, We are Unprepared

Porter Square Books

Tuesday, August 30 at 7pm



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Boston-area book readings of note in May

heat and light

Jennifer Haigh, Heat & Light

Brookline Booksmith

Monday, May 2 at 7pm

RE Jane

Patricia Park, Re Jane

Beijing Bastard

Val Wang, Beijing Bastard

Porter Square Books

Monday, May 2 at 7pm

in the country we love

Diane Guerrero, In the Country We Love

Brookline Booksmith

Tuesday, May 3 at 7pm

history of great things

Elizabeth Crane, The History of Great Things

Porter Square Books

Wednesday, May 4 at 7pm

everybodys fool

Richard Russo, Everybody’s Fool

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, May 4 at 7pm

the honeymoon

Dinitia Smith, The Honeymoon

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, May 10 at 7pm

modern girls

Jennifer S. Brown, Modern Girls

two-family house

Lynda Cohen Loigman, The Two-Family House

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, May 11 at 7pm


Fredrik Backman, Britt-Marie Was Here

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, May 18 at 7pm

the gene

Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History

Harvard Bookstore

At Brattle Theatre

Wednesday, May 18 at 6pm

a country road a tree

Jo Baker, A Country Road, a Tree

Brookline Booksmith

Thursday, May 19 at 7pm


Moby, Porcelain: a Memoir

Brookline Booksmith

Friday, May 20 at 7pm

labor of love

Moira Weigel, Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating

Harvard Book Store

Monday, May 23 at 7pm

noise of time

Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time

Coolidge Corner Theatre/ Brookline Booksmith event

Thursday, May 26 at 6pm

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book review: Incarceration Nations

incarceration nations

Incarceration Nations by Baz Dreisinger. Other Press| February 2016| 241 pages | $27.95| ISBN: 978-159051-727-7

RATING: ****/5*

“Privilege cannot be discarded when convenient, however many barbed-wire fences one crosses. In fact, denial of privilege is the ultimate mark of it.”

Our criminal justice system needs a substantial overhaul. People receive lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent crimes and first-time drug offenses. It’s rather ridiculous. Death row wastes time and money. Solitary confinement deprives people in a cruel manner. The death penalty itself remains inhumane and barbaric.

Does prison work? Author Baz Dreisinger wanted to answer the question: She decided to examine what works and what does not work in prisons throughout the world. She also wanted to use these varied prisons to compare and highlight what’s wrong with the United States penal system, Dreisinger traveled to Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Jamaica, Thailand, Brazil, Australia, Singapore and Norway to find out what works, what doesn’t work and the state of the prisons throughout the world.

Dreisinger helps establish a prison visiting program in Rwanda, a country torn apart by genocide. People practice forgiveness. Dreisinger writes: “Ultimately, revenge cannot undo; it merely does again. It arises from a feeling of helplessness, from the need to re-create a painful situation with roles reversed.” She teaches a creative writing class in Uganda. She examines the music program in Jamaica. She notes: “Singing along, I come to the depressing conclusion that music in prisons is the sweet sound of a salve. Because ultimately Uganda’s prison library and Jamaica’s prison music studio add up to the same thing: a Band-Aid on an amputated limb.”

In South Africa at the Pollsmoor prison, Dreisinger assists with a restorative justice program. South Africa remains an extremely violent country in the aftermath of colonialism and apartheid. “South Africa’s rate of violent death for men—in 2012, some 16,000 cases were reported—is eight times the global average, while the female homicide rate is six times it. Over 40 percent of men report having been physically violent to a partner and more than one in four report having perpetrated rape, three-quarters of them before age twenty.” The prisoners focus on forgiveness in the restorative justice program. “Restorative justice literature outlines the four needs of victims: truthful answers; empowerment; restoration of respect, usually achieved by the repeated telling of their stories of harm; and restitution, what can be a statement of responsibility or a literal payback.” She observes the prisoners practicing scenarios in which they speak with their victims and assists in writing narratives about their crimes and the consequences of the crime.

She works on a drama workshop for female prisoners in Thailand. Globally more than 625,000 women are in prison and 70% incarcerated in the United States are in prison for nonviolent offenses. Dreisinger notes: “In Thailand about 21,000 of the 25,231 convicted women in prison are in for drug charges and a mere 550 for violent offenses.” “Thailand is a major transshipment point for heroin from neighboring Myanmar, the world’s second-biggest producer of opium, after Afghanistan.” There are vocational training classes in food catering, sports, beauty and arts. Prisoners can access yoga, massage, salons and meditation. She notes that this prison “has in some ways managed to piece together a sisterhood– a commune and community. It’s a fragmented family, rife with cracks and haphazardly glued together but a kind of family nonetheless.”

In Singapore, she learns about the prison reentry program. In Singapore prisons, the prisoners work in the bakery or the laundry which serves many hospitals in Singapore. “The result is a movement and, conveniently, a labor force. Prisoners have been the backbone of Singapore’s labor force since the country’s inception.” In Australia she visits private prisons. She investigates solitary confinement in Brazil and model prisons– focused on correction–in Norway.

A few facts about United States prisons culled from Incarceration Nations:

–2.3 million people are incarcerated

–25% of the U.S. prison population is mentally ill

–160,000 people are serving life in prison in the U.S.

–73% of incarcerated women are mentally ill

–75% of imprisoned women are mothers

–2.7 million children have parents in prison

–80,000 live in solitary confinement

–recidivism is 60%

In her travels, she meets and converses with prisoners in each country. Dreisinger shares some moving and surprising stories and interactions. In volunteering at these prisons she examines the prison structure and system in these countries. She writes: “My journey has taken me to global hellholes, and being a witness there has changed me irrevocably. It’s made me a far better teacher, enabling me to connect the dots and map injustice from one side of the world to another.”

Dreisinger is an Associate Professor in the English Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY and the Academic Director of the Prison-to-College Pipeline [P2CP] program. The P2CP program offers college courses and re-entry planning to incarcerated men in New York State. Incarceration Nations explores humane treatment, redemption, rehabilitation and re-entry into society and the workforce. It’s fascinating and intense. A must-read.

–review by Amy Steele

 FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Other Press.

Baz Dreisinger will be at Brookline Booksmith on Wednesday, April 13 at 7pm.

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purchase at Amazon: Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World

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MARCH Boston-area Book Readings of Note


Dawn Tripp
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’ Keefe
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, March 1 at 7pm


A. Igoni Barrett
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, March 1 at 7pm

couple mechanics

Nelly Alard
Couple Mechanics
Porter Square Books
Wednesday, March 2 at 7pm

glad about you

Theresa Rebeck
I’m Glad About You
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, March 3 at 7pm

lay down your weary tune

W.B. Belcher
Lay Down Your Weary Tune
Porter Square Books
Tuesday, March 8 at 7pm


Helen Oyeyemi
What is Not Yours is Not Ours
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, March 9 at 7pm

highest glass ceiling

Ellen Fitzpatrick
The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency
Newtonville Books
Thursday, March 10 at 7pm

civil wars of julia ward

Elaine Showalter
The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography
Harvard Book Store
Monday, March 14 at 7pm

don't let my baby do rodeo

Boris Fishman
Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, March 16 at 7pm

edge of the orchard

Tracy Chevalier
At the Edge of the Orchard
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, March 17 at 7pm


Kaitlyn Greenidge
We Love You, Charlie Freeman
Porter Square Books
Thursday, March 17 at 7pm

the lonely city

Olivia Laing
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
Brookline Booksmith
Friday, March 18 at 7pm

giril through glass

Sari Wilson
Girl Through Glass
Harvard Book Store
Friday, March 18 at 7pm

the nest

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
The Nest
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, March 23 at 7pm

dark sparkler

Amber Tamblyn
Dark Sparkler
Cambridge Public Library
Tuesday, March 29 at 7pm

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January/February Boston-area Book Readings of Note



Amy Cuddy–Presence

Porter Square Books

Monday, January 18 at 7pm

the guest room

Chris Bohjalian–The Guest Room

Wellesley Books

Tuesday, January 19 at 7pm

your heart

Sunil Yapa–Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, January 19 at 7pm

poor your soul

Mira Ptacin–Poor Your Soul

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, January 20 at 7pm

the past

Tessa Hadley–The Past

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, January 27 at 7pm

dogs of littlefield

Suzanne Berne–The Dogs of Littlefield

Brookline Booksmith

Thursday, January 28 at 7pm

Concord Bookshop

Sunday, January 31 at 3pm



Sayed Kashua–Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, February 18 at 7pm

ethan canin

Ethan Canin–A Doubter’s Almanac

Harvard Book Store

Friday, February 19 at 7pm

highest glass ceiling

Ellen Fitzpatrick–The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency

Harvard Book Store

Thursday, February 11 at 7pm


Hannah Tennant-Moore–Wreck and Order

Harvard Book Store

Wednesday, February 24 at 7pm

on my own

Diane Rehm–On My Own

Harvard Book Store

Monday, February 29 at 7pm

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