Arts and Culture

Ten purple-and-gold summer reads

summer reading list news

Summer is fading fast, but there’s still time to kick back with a good book—especially one from a fellow Duke! Check out these 10 titles either written or edited by JMU alumni and faculty members. From fiction to nonfiction, children’s books to memoirs, beach reads to thoughtful analyses, there’s something on this list for everyone.


book covers voyageThis Beautiful Voyage: Poems about Life, Trauma and the Journey to Wholeness
BY VINE ADOWEI (‘17, ‘19M)

In her literary debut, Adowei explores the mind-body-soul disconnection, anxiety, resilience and the power of healing through creativity, silence and self-love. During the hiatus of a worldwide pandemic, she writes, “I started reconnecting with the creative part of me that had never left. I started processing thoughts on life, reflecting deeply on difficult experiences and trauma I had yet to unpack, and acknowledging the pain through writing and inner child work. I intentionally created space for silence, solitude and self-reflectivity. And I started embracing playfulness, childlike-ness and creativity as tools for inner healing. … The poems in this book are the result of this reawakening.”


book covers untamedUntamed
The Dial Press
There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves. For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living. Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.


book covers hansberryConversations with Lorraine Hansberry
University Press of Mississippi
Spanning from the debut of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959 to her early death from cancer in January 1965, Lorraine Hansberry’s short stint in the public eye changed the landscape of American theater. With A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry (1930–1965) became both the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway and the first to win the prestigious New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Resonating deeply with the aims of the civil rights movement, Raisin also ushered in a new era of Black representation on the stage and screen, displacing the cartoonish stereotypes that were the remnants of blackface minstrelsy in favor of complex three-dimensional portrayals of Black characters and Black life. Conversations with Lorraine Hansberry is the first volume to collect all of her substantive interviews in one place, including many radio and television interviews that have never before appeared in print. The 21 pieces collected here—ranging from just before the Broadway premiere of A Raisin in the Sun to less than six months before Hansberry’s death—offer an incredible window into Hansberry’s aesthetic and political thought.


book covers bridgeThe Buddy Bridge
Independently published
Join Cece as she takes readers on a wildly imaginative, fantastical adventure to visit her grandparents, “Baba and Yaya.” On her journey, she meets new friends, animals and characters that help her on her way. Together, they form the “Buddy Bridge.” This book is dedicated to Cece, Bud Grey’s (‘80) granddaughter who lives in the U.K. His book serves as a way for them to connect, despite the effects of COVID-19.


book covers redA Still and Awful Red
JournalStone Publications
Hungary, 1609. Maria, a young peasant girl, is an accomplished seamstress who dreams of a more prosperous life, away from the constant threat of war, famine and disease. Then an old woman arrives at her cottage and informs Maria that she has been chosen by Countess Elizabeth Báthory to sew a series of elaborate gowns. Entranced by the nobility, Maria dreams of receiving lavish attention and being invited into Countess Báthory’s inner circle. But upon arriving at the castle, she suspects she is in terrible danger. Servants are beaten and then disappear, the Countess herself is prone to fits of rage, and there are screams in the middle of the night. As Maria explores the castle and unravels its inner secrets, she finds herself a prisoner, as well as an unwilling pawn in Countess Báthory’s murderous plot to retain both her power and beauty.


book covers goldGold Rush Girl: Pioneer Life in the Black Hills
Willow Glen Publications
Betsy Kurth Quinn (‘86) began compiling her great-grandmother’s journals and diaries nearly seven years ago. Now, after researching, editing and transcribing, Quinn has published a compelling narrative that is filled with verified historical accounts and retells real-life stories that her great-grandmother experienced with famous figures such as Wild Bill Hickok, Susan B. Anthony and Calamity Jane. From surviving Native American raids to running the nation’s largest gold mine, read on as Quinn gives life to these forgotten times.


book covers compassCompass Rose
Bound to Brew
Shaun’s father, Jerry, had a gift for growing roses. Patient and kind, Jerry Murray could get anything, including the people around him, to bloom. Shaun, an aspiring writer, decides to pack up and leave behind his loved ones, the town he grew up in, and the only life he had ever known. But starting over, far away from home and family, brings new challenges—and gifts—and Shaun finds himself living a story vastly different from the one he tried to write for himself. Now, eight years later, his world revolves around his daughter, Marie, and Shaun has safely locked away the memories of his past life. But with one fateful gust of wind, Marie’s curiosity, and a trail of roses perhaps sent from beyond the grave, Shaun finds himself face-to-face with the past he tried so hard to leave behind. Will he find the courage to rewrite his story? Or is it too late?


book covers strangerA Stranger in Olondria
Small Beer Press
Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. But just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl. In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Yet even as the country simmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of becoming free by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that seductive necromancy, reading.


book covers semioticSemiotic Love [Stories]
Awst Press
Semiotic Love [Stories] draws upon symbols and objects to explore the loss of relationships. In these pages, Brian Phillip Whalen (‘07) reaches deep into the throat of anxiety with a graceful hand and understated humor as he confronts mothers and best friends dying slow or sudden deaths, disappointing vacations and vanishing sisters. While loss of all kinds permeates these compact stories, it is the tenderness and longing that attaches itself to the reader and propels them to turn the page. This book reminds us that for better or for worse, we’re all a little rougher with the people we love the most. This is Whalen’s first book.


book covers drewThis Is Drew
Mascot Books
Autism can be hard to understand, even for experts in the field. Meet Drew and join him as he teaches his classmates about living with autism. Written in honor of the author’s son, This is Drew offers thoughtful examples that illustrate differences in interpreting situations, allowing children to ultimately foster empathy and compassion for those who see the world a little differently.


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Published: Friday, July 23, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 3, 2021

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