We’re always on the lookout for books that strike a chord with our readers. This week, in New & Notable, our focus is on remarkable women, from the powerful (Hillary Clinton) to the controversial (Sheryl Sandberg) to the bereaved (Somali Deraniyagala, who lost her family in the 2004 tsunami) to the “ordinary” (yet remarkable) women of Atomic City, U.S.A.
Biography & Autobiography | Personal Memoir
Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala.
On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. She has written an engrossing, unsentimental, beautifully poised account: as she struggles through the first months following the tragedy, furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny; and then, over the ensuing years, as she emerges reluctantly, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she’s mourning, from her family’s home in London, to the birth of her children, to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge, to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her. (Excerpted from the publisher, Knopf.)
“An indelible and unique story of loss and resolution written with breathtaking refinement and courage . . . . In rinsed-clear language, Deraniyagala describes her ordeal, surreal rescue, and deep shock, attaining a Didionesque clarity and power.” —Booklist
Biography | Women in Politics
The Secretary tells the story of Clinton’s transformation from popular but polarizing politician to America’s envoy to the world in compelling detail and with all the tension of high stakes diplomacy. From her evolving relationship with President Obama to the drama of WikiLeaks and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, we see Clinton cheerfully boarding her plane at 3 a.m. after no sleep, reading the riot act to the Chinese, and going through her diplomatic checklist before signing on to war in Libya—all the while trying to restore American leadership in a rapidly changing world. Viewed through Ghattas’s vantage point as a half-Dutch, half-Lebanese citizen who grew up in the crossfire of the Lebanese civil war, The Secretary is also the author’s own journey as she seeks to answer the questions that haunted her childhood. How powerful is America really? And, if it is in decline, who or what will replace it? (Excerpted from the publisher, Times Books.)
“[An] engaging look at U.S. diplomacy under Hillary Clinton . . . Ghattas presents a close-up look at the touchiest of diplomatic issues in the first Obama administration, from the Arab Spring uprisings to WikiLeaks . . . a rich portrait of the different perspectives on U.S. power and influence around the world as well as her own personal experiences and ambivalence about the U.S.”—Booklist
Self-Help | Leadership
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg.
(This book, on a topic of vital interest to women, is destined to provoke debate across the nation. You may agree with the author—see the excerpt from the review of the publisher, Knopf, below—or with the reviewer from The Washington Post. Either way, you’re bound to have a strong reaction.)
In Lean In, Sandberg [chief operating officer of Facebook] digs deeper into [why women’s progress in assuming leadership roles has stalled], combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of ‘having it all.’ ” (Excerpted from Knopf, publisher. Release date, March 11.)
“By the time she describes the pangs of guilt as a mother working outside the home—some of her most poignant passages—it is impossible to forget that she, like many of the female friends she quotes, is a wealthy, white, married woman with a “vast support system.” Surely she could have included a story or two about successful women who are more likely to have been born to nannies than to hire them. Or at least more who didn’t graduate from the Ivy League.” —The Washington Post
Nonfiction | Women and War
Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it—women who are now in their eighties and nineties—The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through [the stories of these women who, unknowingly, helped to assemble that atomic bomb in Oak Ridge, Tennessee]: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage . . . . [This] is a lasting and important addition to our country’s history. (Excerpt from the publisher, Touchstone.)
“The Girls of Atomic City is the best kind of nonfiction: marvelously reported, fluidly written, and a remarkable story about a remarkable group of women who performed clandestine and vital work during World War II. Denise Kiernan recreates this forgotten chapter in American history in a work as meticulous and brilliant as it is compulsively readable.”—The New York Times
Author Denise Kiernan on the girls who did the clandestine work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.