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Brendan Dowling Author Archive


Email: bdowling@ala.org  


Cover Photo of Ray Scott's Memoir

“That Little Brown Ball Saved My Life” — Ray Scott On His Compelling New Memoir and Groundbreaking Career in the NBA

Ray Scott played a formative role in the creation of the modern day NBA, not only through his years playing for and coaching the Detroit Pistons, but also for his contributions to establishing the NBA players’ union in the 1960s. Now, in his richly told memoir, The NBA in Black and White: The Memoir of a Trailblazing NBA Player and Coach, Scott gives readers and basketball fans an unprecedented look at those early years, from growing up playing against Wilt Chamberlain on the basketball courts of Philadelphia, to unexpectedly being named head coach of the Detroit Pistons in the 70s. Scott also details his role in the civil rights movement, from meeting Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to working alongside Coretta Scott King. Scott guides readers through the intimate moments of his professional life with warmth and humor, recounting the past with integrity and compassion. Critics have praised Scott’s book, with Publishers Weekly proclaiming it “a valuable addition to hoops history.” Scott recently spoke with us about his early days on the court against Chamberlain, his unexpected path to coaching, and growing up in the library.

Natalie Jacobson Author Photo

“Whatever Job You Give Me, I’ll Learn” — Natalie Jacobson Reflects on Her Illustrious Career in Television News

For over three decades, Natalie Jacobson was a hallmark of the Boston media landscape, anchoring the nightly news on WCVB. In her new memoir, Every Life A Story, Jacobson reflects on her trailblazing career, from her circuitous career path to the seminal stories that highlighted her time on air. With candor and wit, Jacobson guides the reader through these key moments, showing how her childhood in a close-knit Chicago neighborhood prepared her for a career where she would go toe to toe with key political figures. Jacobson also pulls back the curtain and reveals the nuts and bolts of a television reporter’s life in the seventies and eighties, whether it’s diving deep into a local news story or navigating a television career while being a parent. Throughout her illustrious career, Jacobson remained committed to keeping the focus of her story on her subject. In this book, readers gain a sense of how her reverence and admiration for her community made her such a beloved figure in New England. Jacobson spoke to us about finding the right entry point into her life story, her choice to focus on local news, and her lifetime fandom of Ted Williams.

Jennifer Close Author Photo

Jennifer Close on How Politics, Pasta, and 90’s Cover Bands Informed Her Hilarious New Novel About a Family in Crisis

For nearly thirty years, the Sullivan cousins—Teddy, Jane, and Gretchen—have found solace in their family restaurant, JP Sullivans, a cozy establishment in Oak Park, Illinois. But in the fall of 2016, the cousins find themselves unmoored when their grandfather unexpectedly dies, their beloved Cubs finally win the World Series, and Donald Trump is elected President. Jane suddenly questions whether her husband’s newfound obsession with CrossFit is just an innocent hobby or an indicator that something is amiss in her once-stable marriage. Her younger sister, Gretchen, is unsure whether her popular 90’s cover band, Donna Martin Graduates, still has a chance at rock and roll stardom when the majority of their income comes from playing wedding receptions. Their cousin, Teddy, struggles to get his aunts and uncles to take him seriously as the new manager of JP Sullivans, all the while trying to figure out why his snobbish ex-boyfriend is suddenly frequenting the restaurant so much. What follows is a delightful comedy of manners as the three Sullivans navigate the unexpected twists of life, fortified by family and the restaurant’s phenomenal grilled cheese sandwiches. As she has done in her previous books, Jennifer Close depicts the complex of family and romantic relationships with a graceful charm and easy wit. Critics have raved about Marrying the Ketchups, with The New York Times singling out Close’s “merry sense of humor…[and] the knack she has of inventing story lines that have the feel of extremely good gossip told across a hightop table over a beer with an old friend.”

Sara Baume Author Photo

“I’m Always Writing in Extremity of My Life” — Sara Baume on Her Gorgeous and Poetic New Novel

Sigh and Bell, drawn to each other by their similarly distrustful views of society, are relatively early in their relationship when they decide to ditch their dead-end jobs in Dublin and move to a cottage in the countryside. Over the next seven years, the two lovers, along with the dogs each person brought into the relationship, adapt to the steady rhythm of the natural world, shedding their past relationships and committing to a parsed-down life. The one constant in their life is the mountain that looms over them, a watchful presence that serves as the touchstone of their lives. Sara Baume’s Seven Steeples charts this unique love story—not only between the two lovers but also with each individual and their lush environment—with a graceful force that accumulates as the novel progresses. In spare and evocative prose, Baume pays tribute to living life on one’s own terms and forging a deeper connection to the natural world. Baume spoke with us about writing in extremity of her life and how her background as a visual artist impacts her writing.

Azar Nafisi Author Photo

Azar Nafisi on How Reading Is Crucial To Our Survival

Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times is Azar Nafisi’s exhilarating examination of the role literature plays in understanding political systems and those who uphold opposing beliefs. Structured as letters to her deceased father, a compassionate man who instilled a profound respect for the art of storytelling in his children, Nafisi writes about authors who have engaged with the darkest aspects of their societies. In celebrating and studying these disparate writers, Nafisi notes how they created humane works that not only deepens the reader’s understanding of their own world, but also makes them more empathetic in the process. Nafisi also reflects on her family’s fascinating history in the letters, including her father’s imprisonment in Iran for political reasons, her own experience as a young professor living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and her observations living in the United States for over two decades.

Ruchika Tulshyan Author Photo

“To Make Meaningful Long-Term Change We Have to Take a Systemic Approach To It”—Ruchika Tulshyan on Creating a More Inclusive Workplace

Ruchika Tulshyan combines her years of expertise as a DEI consultant for global companies along with her journalist’s acumen to write Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work, a ground-breaking and user-friendly guide to making workplaces more inclusive environments. Tulshyan articulates that inclusion must be a practiced habit rather than an acknowledged theory, and gives leaders the tools to transform their companies into more inclusive spaces. Tulshyan’s meticulously researched management book also serves as a workbook for leaders, ending each chapter with prompts for writing and reflecting on how the issues covered in the chapter show up in the reader’s life. Tulshyan might be familiar to readers for her appearance on Brené Brown’s podcast as well as her frequent essays for The New York Times. Her previous book, The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace, focused on leadership strategies to advance women at work.

Jane Pek Author Photo

Jane Pek on Subverting Genre Tropes and the “What If” Scenario at the Heart of Her Ingenious New Mystery

Twenty-something Claudia Lin spends her days biking around New York City, working for a very unusual (and exclusive) detective agency. Lovelorn New Yorkers hire Claudia’s company to investigate their potential romantic partners, and Claudia must determine if the online persona on the partner’s dating profiles matches up to their real life identity. When one of Claudia’s clients dies under mysterious circumstances, the lifelong lover of detective fiction immediately suspects foul play. Despite strict instructions to the contrary from her boss, Claudia launches her own investigation. In the midst of tracking down a potential murderer, Claudia must also fend off her mother’s prying questions about her dating life, keep her job secret from her high-achieving siblings, and navigate the confusing waters of New York’s dating scene. Jane Pek’s witty and incisive The Verifiers is a love letter to the Golden Age of mystery, and with Claudia, Pek has created a brilliant and endearing detective for the current age. Critics have heaped praise on The Verifiers. Buzzfeed hailed it as an “astute, page-turning debut [that] sheds light on the necessities and limitations of interpersonal interaction, the role technology plays in its evolution (and de-evolution), and what it means to be human and looking for love in the 21st century,” while Poets & Writers wrote, “Through Claudia’s perceptive and entertaining narration, The Verifiers underscores the pitfalls and absurdities of modern technology. The novel is also an intimate portrait of a young, queer Chinese American person forging her own path.”

Renee Branum Author Photo

Renée Branum on Buster Keaton, Giving Herself More Freedom, and Her Secret Shelf at the Library

At the beginning of Renée Branum’s sly and perceptive Defenestrate, Marta finds herself confronting an almost unfathomable loss: her beloved twin brother Nick lies in the hospital after falling out a window, seemingly a victim of their family’s longstanding curse. Years ago, their Czech great-great grandfather pushed a stonemason off a window ledge to his death. Since then, the family has been beset by unusual (and sometimes fatal) falls. As Nick begins his precarious recovery, Marta reflects on not only her family’s unusual history, but also on her own fraught relationship with her mother, who stopped speaking to Nick when he came out. In her debut novel, Branum casts a compassionate and generous gaze upon her deeply relatable characters, dissecting the intricacies of family relationships with luminous prose. Critics have raved about Defenestration. The New York Times Book Review listed it as one of their Editor’s Choice selections, and The Washing Post raved “in a feat of literary archery, Branum’s lyrical prose hits its mark again and again, rich but never overly ripe, delicate but with a tautness that propels the narrative.”

Book Cover of Correctional by Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar on His Revelatory Memoir and The Embrace of The Totality of The Experience

Ravi Shankar is a Pushcart Prize-winning poet and editor of more than fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry, whose work has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, and PBS NewsHour. In 2008, he had a thriving career in academia when he was pulled over by a New York City police officer for a supposed traffic violation. The police officer promptly arrested Shankar, who is of South Indian descent and weighs 200 pounds, on a warrant for a 150-pound white man. A judge eventually dismissed the case, but not before Shankar had to spend seventy-two hours in jail. That experience (which also involved the arresting officer using racist language) understandably traumatized Shankar. Shankar had a later run-in with the law a few years later when he received a DUI after having some celebratory beers with members of his soccer team. In 2013, he violated his probation for his DUI by driving with a suspended license. This infraction caused him to be sentenced to a 90-day pretrial detention at Hartford Correctional Center, a level four facility for adult males. While incarcerated, Shankar was promoted to full professor, an event that the local media sensationalized in their coverage and politicians used to score points during a contentious election. Shankar ultimately chose to resign amidst the media and political pressure placed upon him, and his marriage ended during this experience as well. In his elegantly wrought and emotionally transparent memoir, Correctional, Shankar recounts his own experience with the criminal justice system, exploring how race, class, and privilege shaped his time in the correctional facility.

Tim O'Brien Author Photo

“Memoir is a Strange Word When you Don’t Remember a Whole Lot” – Tim O’Brien on How Memory, History, and Literature Inform his Joyous New Book

Tim O’Brien’s vividly wrought Dad’s Maybe Book is equal parts a love letter to his children, a thoughtful analysis on war’s lifelong effect on those who serve, and a joyful celebration of the written life. Told in thoughtfully crafted letters to his young sons, O’Brien ruminates on becoming a father later in life, American history, his relationship with his own father, and his approach to writing. The result is an incredibly moving summation of a life, one where O’Brien brilliantly articulates his well-considered philosophy on a variety of subjects. O’Brien is perhaps best known for his story collection Things They Carried, and his other books include the National Book Award -winning Going After Cacciato and In the Lake of the Woods. Critics have been equally enthusiastic about Dad’s Maybe Book as O’Brien’s earlier work, with Time Magazine hailing it as “a work that’s the spiritual inheritor of John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley and Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country.”

Lynne Truss Author Photo

“Anything That Strikes You As Very Different From Now Is A Very Good Place to Start” – Lynne Truss On Creating The Delightfully Funny World Of Constable Twitten

In Psycho By The Sea, the fourth installment of Lynn Truss’ hilarious Constable Twitten series, the Brighton detective squad squares off against their most confounding case yet. A renowned American sociologist is found murdered in the music section of Brighton’s high-end department store at the same time a local criminal (and valued police station informant) disappears from his local spot. To top it off, a serial killer intent on beheading police detectives has recently escaped from Broadmoor Hospital and is rumored to be heading to Brighton. As always, Truss nimbly balances an intricately plotted crime story with the comic workings of the officers’ personal lives. Inspector Steine contends with his newfound fame (and over-efficient secretary) after his success in a previous high-profile case, Officer Brunswick agonizes over a budding romance, and the redoubtable Constable Twitten continues his struggle for power with Mrs. Groynes, the police station’s charwoman whose true identity as Brighton’s criminal mastermind is only known to Twitten. Critics have raved over the series, with Publisher’s Weekly noting, “In her ability to blend crime and farce, Truss is in a class of her own.” The latest book is no exception, having already been long-listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Historical Dagger Award. Truss talked to us about fleshing out her characters from her radio series that inspired the books, getting inspired by her research, and placing her characters in stressful situations.

Jeffrey Lewis Author Photo

“My Process is Usually One of Necessity and Escaping Disaster” — Jeffrey Lewis On His Haunting New Novel

In Jeffrey Lewis’ emotionally resonant Land of Cockaigne, an older couple find themselves unexpectedly battling their community when an outreach program based on their late son’s dream sparks an unexpected controversy in their small town. Walter and Charley Rath have taken their windfall from savvy financial investments to support a life in Sneeds Harbor, an idyllic community in coastal Maine. There they buy not only a beautiful home, but also a neglected 220-acre camp that Charley uses as studio space. Although outsiders, they have spent over two decades there, raising their son Stephen and forging deep connections with their neighbors. As they head towards late middle age, their lives are upended when Stephen dies in a random act of violence. Struggling to carve meaning out of his death, they decide to put in motion one of his last goals, to create a program where teenagers from the Bronx would be able to spend two weeks in Maine. Walter and Charley’s opening up their home, and thus Sneeds Harbor, to young people predictably provokes huge reactions from their fellow community members, resulting in a shocking act the last night of the young men’s visit. Lewis plunges the reader into the rich interior lives of his characters, including not only Walter and Charley but also Stephen’s grieving girlfriend Sharon, various townspeople who oppose their action, and the visiting young men themselves. The result is an extraordinarily compassionate look at race, class, and community.

Kevin Young Author Photo

Kevin Young on the Poets in Conversation in His Extraordinary New Anthology

Kevin Young’s African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Strong represents an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of American poetry, creating an anthology where readers can see poets in conversation with each other as well as the time in which they lived. Young, who currently serves as the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, assembled the collection with extraordinary care and compassion, bringing lesser-known poets to the forefront and highlighting the critical work African American poets have played in both the country’s culture and history. The result is a thrilling collection that will allow readers to discover new writers as well as celebrate beloved favorites.

Jo Hamya Author Photo

Jo Hamya on Virginia Woolf, The Worst Bits of Twitter, and The Smell of Library Hand Soap

Jo Hamya’s perceptive and acidic Three Rooms springs from Virginia Woolf’s observation, “A woman must have money and a room of her own,” chronicling the year in the life of an unnamed British scholar as she shuttles among three rooms while attempting to launch her career. From the room in Oxford where she finishes up her academic career, to renting space on a couch while she ekes out a precarious existence as a copywriter at a society magazine, to a room in her childhood home, Hamya charts her protagonist’s attempt at financial independence with wit, compassion, and uncompromising insight. The result is a rich exploration of a character’s inner life as well as a sharp social critique of early twenty-first century Britain. Critics have met Hamya’s debut novel with universal acclaim, with The New York Times Book Review saying it “invokes the reality of living in a world where a reasonable demand is resolutely categorized as unreasonable” and The Boston Globe calling it “an excellent evisceration of contemporary life.” She spoke to us about Woolf’s influence, treating the internet as a physical space, and how poetry helped shape her narrator’s voice.

Elinor Lipman Author Photo

Elinor Lipman On How The Secret Service, An Optometrist, and Shirley Maclaine Helped Craft Her Delightful New Comedy of Manners

In Rachel to the Rescue, Elinor Lipman’s effervescent new novel, the astute and observant Rachel finds herself in a dead end job in the White House Office of Records Management, archiving the various paperwork President Trump rips up by painstakingly taping them back together. One night, made over-confident by too much alcohol, Rachel inadvertently sends an all-staff email eviscerating her job’s pointlessness and tediousness. The next morning, Rachel is promptly fired. Yet when she crosses the street she’s hit by a car, the driver of which is a mysterious figure en route to a clandestine meeting with the President. Recovering from her concussion, Rachel finds herself thrust into a new world, working for an inept investigative journalist, fending off overprotective parents, and navigating a new relationship with the charming proprietor of the wine store near her apartment. The result is a delightful comedy of manners that mixes political intrigue with deeply felt relationships.