The American Association of University Women's

¡Adelante! Books of the Month 2015-16

Personal growth and branch change go hand in hand. That's the idea behind the ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club, a component of AAUW's diversity outreach program.

Book clubs are a fun, social way to open a dialogue on women, diversity, and change. Many AAUW members share a love of reading, and that love, partnered with a desire to seek out books written from diverse perspectives, launched a new component of AAUW's diversity outreach program in 1996 - AAUW's ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club.

Since then, AAUW members have enjoyed exploring new ideas and perspectives through monthly discussions, both in person and through e-mail. ¡Adelante! book groups meet in book stores, libraries, other public venues, and online, gathering both members and nonmembers to talk about issues of social justice based on the month's selection.

Should any of these selections not seem suitable for your group, feel free to select an alternative book of your choice.


September 2015: National Hispanic Heritage Month

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

By Julia Alvarez

In Julia Alvarez's debut novel, the García sisters - Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía - and their family must flee their home in the Dominican Republic after their father's role in an attempt to overthrow a tyrannical dictator is discovered. They arrive in New York City in 1960 to a life far removed from their existence in the Caribbean. In the wild and wondrous and not always welcoming United States, their parents try to hold on to their old ways, but the girls try to find new lives: by forgetting their Spanish, by straightening their hair, and by wearing fringed bell bottoms. For them, it is at once liberating and excruciating to be caught between the old world and the new. How the García Girls Lost Their Accents sets the sisters free to tell their most intimate stories about how they came to be at home - and not at home - in America.


October 2015: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

By Susannah Cahalan

When 24-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she'd gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: She was beginning her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Cahalan tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family's inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen. Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance.


November 2015: Native American Heritage Month

The Cherokee Rose

By Tiya Miles, 2012-13 AAUW Community Action Grantee

This luminous and highly accessible work examines a little-known aspect of America's past - slaveholding by Southern Creeks and Cherokees - and its legacy in the lives of three young women who are drawn to the Georgia plantation where scenes of extreme cruelty and extraordinary compassion once played out. The novel is based on historical sources about the Chief Vann House in Chatsworth, Georgia, and the Moravian mission sponsored there in the early 1800s. Author Tiya Miles uncovered this history while researching her book The House on Diamond Hill. In The Cherokee Rose, she has retold the story in fiction. The characters in The Cherokee Rose include Jinx, the free-spirited historian exploring her tribe's complicated racial history; Ruth, whose mother sought refuge from a troubled marriage in her beloved garden and the cosmetic empire she built from its bounty; Cheyenne, the Southern black debutante seeking to connect with a meaningful personal history; and, hovering above them all, the spirit of long-gone Mary Ann Battis, a young woman suspected of burning a mission to the ground who then disappearing from tribal records. As they discover the secrets of a Cherokee plantation, these women attempt to connect with the strong spirits of the past and reconcile the conflicts in their own lives.


December 2015

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed

At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her marriage was destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State - and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.


January 2016: National Mentoring Month

The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know

By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

The authors of the bestselling Womenomics provide an informative and practical guide to understanding the importance of confidence - and learning how to achieve it - for women of all ages and at all stages of their careers. Working women today are better educated and better qualified than ever before. Yet men still predominate in the corporate world. In The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the key factor in that gap is confidence. Combining cutting-edge research in genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition with examples from their own lives and those of other successful women in politics, media, and business, Kay and Shipman go beyond admonishing women to "lean in." Instead, they offer the inspiration and practical advice that women need to achieve the careers they want and deserve.


February 2016: Black History Month

Disgruntled: A Novel

By Asali Solomon, 2001-02 AAUW American Fellow

Kenya Curtis is only 8 years old, but she knows that she's different. It's not because she's black - most of the other students in the fourth-grade class at her West Philadelphia elementary school are, too. Maybe it's because she celebrates Kwanzaa, or because she's forbidden from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe it's because she calls her father "Baba" instead of "Daddy." What Kenya does know is that her difference is connected to what her Baba calls "the shame of being alive." Effortlessly funny and achingly poignant, Asali Solomon's long-awaited debut novel follows Kenya from West Philadelphia to the suburbs, from public school to private, from childhood through adolescence, as she grows increasingly disgruntled by her inability to find any place or thing or person that feels like home. A coming-of-age tale, a portrait of Philadelphia in the late '80s and early '90s, an examination of the impossible double binds of race, Disgruntled is a novel about the desire to rise above the limitations of the narratives we're given and the painful struggle to craft fresh ones we can call our own.


March 2016: Women's History Month

The Invention of Wings

By Sue Monk Kid

Hetty "Handful" Grimke, a slave in early 19th-century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls of the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimkes' daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something important in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Kidd's sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah's 11th birthday, when she is given ownership of 10-year-old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next 35 years, as both women strive for lives of their own, dramatically shaping each other's destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement, and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented.


April 2016: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

A House in the Sky: A Memoir

By Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself visiting its exotic locales. At the age of 19, working as a cocktail waitress, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through many Latin American countries, Laos, Bangladesh, and India. Emboldened by each adventure, she went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia, often cited as the most dangerous place on earth. On her fourth day there, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road. Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda survived on memory - every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity - and on strategy, fortitude, and hope.


May 2016: Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

A Tale for the Time Being

By Ruth Ozeki

In Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who has lived for more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace, and it will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox - possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of the lunchbox's contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. Full of Ozeki's signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.


June 2016: LGBT Pride Month

Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America

By Rachel Hope Cleves

Conventional wisdom holds that same-sex marriage is a purely modern innovation, a concept that was unheard of in the United States' early history. But as Rachel Hope Cleves demonstrates in this eye-opening book, same-sex marriage is hardly new. Revered by their community, Charity and Sylvia operated a tailor shop in the 19th century that employed many local women, served as guiding lights within their church, and helped raise their many nieces and nephews. Charity and Sylvia is the intimate history of their extraordinary 44-year union. Drawing on an array of original documents including diaries, letters, and poetry, Cleves traces the couple's lives in sharp detail. Providing an illuminating glimpse into a relationship that turns conventional notions of same-sex marriage on their heads and reveals early America to be a place both more diverse and more accommodating than modern society might imagine, Charity and Sylvia is a significant contribution to our limited knowledge of LGBT history in the United States.


July 2016

Soldier Girls

By Helen Thorpe

A sizeable percentage of American soldiers sent overseas since 2001 have been women. Surrounded and far outnumbered by men, embedded in a male culture, looked upon as both alien and desirable, women soldiers have a decidedly different experience. In Soldier Girls, Helen Thorpe follows the lives of three women over 12 years on their paths to the military, overseas to combat, and back home. These women, who are quite different in every way, become friends. We see their families, their lovers, their spouses, their children. We see them work extremely hard, deal with the attentions of men on base and in war zones, and struggle to stay connected to their families back home. We see some of them drink too much, have illicit affairs, and react to the deaths of fellow soldiers. And we see what happens when one of them survives driving a truck into an explosive device. Carefully reported, beautifully written, and powerfully moving, Soldier Girls is a groundbreaking work.


August 2016

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

By Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hill (editor)

Hidden away since the 1930s, Laura Ingalls Wilder's never-before-published autobiography reveals the true stories of her pioneering life. Some of her experiences will be familiar to readers of her famous Little House series; some will be a surprise. Pioneer Girl reintroduces readers to the woman who defined the pioneer experience for millions of people around the world. Through her recollections, Wilder details the Ingalls family's journey through Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Dakota Territory, documenting 16 years of travels, unforgettable stories, and the everyday people whom she immortalized through her fiction. Using additional manuscripts, diaries, and letters, Pioneer Girl builds on Wilder's work by adding valuable context and explores her growth as a writer. This groundbreaking volume develops a fuller picture of Wilder's life and times for readers who wish to learn more about this important American author.


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