The American Association of University Women's

¡Adelante! Books of the Month 2013-14

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 2013 - National Hispanic Heritage Month


By Sandra Cisneros

Every year, Celaya "Lala" Reyes' family - aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and Lala's six older brothers - packs up three cars and, in a wild ride, drives from Chicago to the Little Grandfather and Awful Grandmother's house in Mexico City for the summer. Struggling to find a voice above the boom of her brothers and to understand her place on this side of the border and that, Lala is a shrewd observer of family life. But when Lala starts telling the Awful Grandmother's life story, seeking clues to how she got to be so awful, her grandmother accuses Lala of exaggerating. Soon, a multigenerational family narrative turns into a whirlwind exploration of storytelling, lies, and life. Like the cherished rebozo, or shawl, that has been passed down through generations of Reyes women, Caramelo is alive with the vibrations of history, family, and love.

October 2013 - National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Icy Sparks

By Gwyn Hyman Rubio

Icy Sparks is the sad, funny, and transcendent tale of a young girl growing up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky during the 1950s. Gwyn Hyman Rubio's beautifully written first novel revolves around Icy Sparks, an unforgettable heroine in the tradition of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird or Will Treed in Cold Sassy Tree. At age 10, Icy, a bright, curious child orphaned as a baby but raised by adoring grandparents, begins to have strange experiences. No matter what she does, her "secrets" - verbal croaks, groans, and physical spasms - afflict her. As an adult, she will find out she has Tourette's syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, but for years her behavior is a source of mystery, confusion, and deep humiliation.

Gwyn Hyman Rubio's Icy Sparks is a fresh, original, and completely redeeming novel about learning to overcome others' ignorance and celebrate the differences that make each of us unique.

November 2013 - Native American Heritage Month

Ride the Wind: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker and the Last Days of the Comanche

By Lucia St. Clair Robson

In 1836, when she was 9 years old, Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Comanche Indians. This is the story of how she grew up with them, mastered their ways, married one of their leaders, and became, in every way, a Comanche woman. It is also the story of a proud and innocent people whose lives pulsed with the very heartbeat of the land. It is the story of a way of life that is gone forever.

December 2013

A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Khaled Hosseini

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss, and by fate. As they endure the escalating dangers around them - in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul - they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.

January 2014 - National Mentoring Month

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

By Sheryl Sandberg

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women's voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women's progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TED Talk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than 2 million times on the TED website, encouraged women to "sit at the table," seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

February 2014 - Black History Month

The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White

By Henry Wiencek

Winner of the 1999 National Book Critics Circle Award

The Hairstons is the extraordinary story of the largest family in America, the Hairston clan. With several thousand black and white members, the Hairstons share a complex and compelling history: divided in the time of slavery, they have come to embrace their past as one family.

For the past seven years, journalist Wiencek has listened raptly to the tales of hundreds of Hairston relatives, including the aging scions of both the white and black clans. He has crisscrossed the old plantation country in Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi to seek out the descendants of slaves. Visiting family reunions, interviewing family members, and exploring old plantations, Wiencek combs the far-reaching branches of the Hairston family tree to gather anecdotes from members about their ancestors and piece together a family history that involves the experiences of both plantation owners and their slaves. He expertly weaves the Hairstons' stories from all sides of historical events like slave emancipation, Reconstruction, school segregation, and lynching.

Paradoxically, Wiencek demonstrates that these families found that the way to come to terms with the past was to embrace it, and this lyrical work, a parable of redemption, may in the end serve as a vital contribution to our nation's attempt to undo the twisted legacy of the past.

March 2014 - Women's History Month

The Girls of Atomic City

By Denise Kiernan

At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians - many of them young women from small towns across the South - were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war - when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed.

Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it - women who are now in their 80s and 90s - The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country's history.

April 2014 - Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The Slave Across the Street

By Theresa L. Flores

While more and more people each day become aware of the dangerous world of human trafficking, many people in the United States still believe this is something that only happens to foreign women, men, and children - not within this country's borders.

In this powerful true story, Theresa L. Flores shares how she, an all-American, blonde-haired 15-year-old teenager, was enslaved and forced into the dangerous world of sex trafficking while living in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit. Coerced into a large underground criminal ring, Flores endured more as a child than most adults face in their entire lives. And it all happened at home, without her parents ever knowing about it. Her story peels the cover off of this crime, giving dedicated activists as well as casual bystanders a glimpse into the underbelly of trafficking. Flores discusses how she healed the wounds of sexual servitude, offers advice to parents and professionals on preventing this kind of abuse from occurring again, and presents significant facts on human trafficking in modern-day America.

May 2014 - Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

In the Shadow of the Banyan

By Vaddey Ratner

For 7-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. Soon the family's world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood - the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father - and fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author's extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of hope and transcendence.

June 2014 - LGBT Pride Month

Lives of Lesbian Elders: Looking Back, Looking Forward

By D. Merilee Clunis, Pat A. Freeman, Nancy M. Nystrom, and Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen

Lives of Lesbian Elders: Looking Back, Looking Forward illuminates the hopes, fears, issues, and concerns of gay women as they grow older. Based on interviews with 62 lesbians ranging in age from 55 to 95, this very special book provides a historical account of the shared experiences of a part of the lesbian community that is so often invisible or ignored in contemporary society. The book gives voice to these women's thoughts and feelings on a wide range of issues, including coming out, identity and the meaning of life, the role of family and personal relationships, work and retirement, adversity, and individual sources of strength and resilience.

July 2014

A Taste of Molecules

By Diane Fresquez

Do men and women experience taste and smell differently? And what happens when you eat a meal completely in the dark? Diane Fresquez, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, spent a year on the trail of obsessive scientists and entrepreneurs who are trying to reveal the secrets of flavor. In this picaresque jaunt, Fresquez seeks out the people working to uncover the truths about taste, including a brewery owner who's developed a banana-flavored beer meant to appeal to young women, and an entrepreneur who won't rest until he develops the perfect mead - the ancient liquor considered the ancestor of all fermented drinks. We meet a young mother and a doctorate student whose research shows that what a mother eats can influence the flavor of her breast milk, and a scientist in the Netherlands who researches flavor and memory at an Orwellian university lab called the Restaurant of the Future. A Taste of Molecules will delight foodies and scientists alike. Recipes included!

August 2014

The Shape of the Eye: A Memoir

By George Estreich

In this wise and moving memoir, George Estreich tells the story of his family as his younger daughter is diagnosed with Down syndrome and they are thrust into an unfamiliar world. Estreich writes with a poet's eye and gift of language, weaving this personal journey into the larger history of his family, exploring the deep and often hidden connections between the past and the present.

Engaging and unsentimental, The Shape of the Eye taught me a great deal. It is a story I found myself thinking about long after I'd finished the final pages.

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