12 Days of Giveaways – Day 4: For the Memoir/Biography Lover

Over my many years as a reader, I’ve been lucky to find many interesting memoirs and biographies about some pretty fascinating people. Some that stand out in particular are Augusten Burroughs, John Elder Robison, and Elizabeth Bard. One  of my favorite things about memoirs and biographies is seeing the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that people overcome, and having hope that you can overcome your own obstacles. See below to find out how you can win one of the two memoir/biography packages in this giveaway!

Memoir/Biography Package 1:

ttyscThe Three-Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway – In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians.

They faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The children were Japanese-American, were malnourished and barefoot and had no pool; they trained in the filthy irrigation ditches that snaked down from the mountains into the sugarcane fields. Their future was in those same fields, working alongside their parents in virtual slavery, known not by their names but by numbered tags that hung around their necks. Their teacher, Soichi Sakamoto, was an ordinary man whose swimming ability didn’t extend much beyond treading water.

In spite of everything, including the virulent anti-Japanese sentiment of the late 1930s, in their first year the children outraced Olympic athletes twice their size; in their second year, they were national and international champs, shattering American and world records and making headlines from L.A. to Nazi Germany. In their third year, they’d be declared the greatest swimmers in the world, but they’d also face their greatest obstacle: the dawning of a world war and the cancellation of the Games. Still, on the battlefield, they’d become the 20th century’s most celebrated heroes, and in 1948, they’d have one last chance for Olympic glory.

They were the Three-Year Swim Club. This is their story.

(Giveaway is a paperback ARC)

yotdYear of the Dunk by Asher Price – We all like to think that (with a little practice) we could run faster, learn another language, or whip up a perfect soufflé. But few of us ever put those hopes to the test. In Year of the Dunk, Asher Price does, and he seizes on basketball’s slam dunk–a feat richly freighted with distinctly American themes of culture, race, and upward mobility–as a gauge to determine his own hidden potential. The showmanship of the dunk mesmerized Asher as a child, but even with his height (six foot plus) and impressive wingspan, he never pushed himself to try it. Now, approaching middle age, Asher decides to spend a year remaking his body and testing his mind as he wonders, like most adults, what untapped talent he still possesses.

In this humorous and often poignant journey into the pleasures and perils of exertion, Asher introduces us to a memorable cast of characters who help him understand the complexity of the human body and the individual drama at the heart of sports. Along the way he dives into the history and science of one of sports’ most exuberant acts, examining everything from our genetic predisposition towards jumping to the cultural role of the slam dunk. The year-long effort forces him to ask some fundamental questions about human ability and the degree to which we can actually improve ourselves, even with great determination.

(Giveaway is a paperback ARC)

Memoir/Biography Package 2:

tioatThis is Only a Test by B.J. Hollars – On April 27, 2011, just days after learning of their pregnancy, B. J. Hollars, his wife, and their future son endured the onslaught of an EF-4 tornado. There, while huddled in a bathtub in their Alabama home, mortality flashed before their eyes. With the last of his computer battery, Hollars began recounting the experience, and would continue to do so in the following years, writing his way out of one disaster only to find himself caught up in another. From tornadoes to drownings to nuclear catastrophes, he is forced to acknowledge the inexplicable, while attempting to overcome his greatest fear―the impossibility of protecting his newborn son from the world’s cruelties. Hollars creates a constellation of grief, tapping into the rarely acknowledged intersection between fatherhood and fear, sacrifice and safety, and the humbling effect of losing control of our lives.

(Giveaway is a paperback ARC)

ltdahLeave the Dogs at Home by Claire S. Arbogast – Claire and Jim were friends, lovers, and sometimes enemies for 27 years. In order to get health insurance, they finally married, calling their anniversary the “It Means Absolutely Nothing” day. Then Jim was diagnosed with cancer. With ever-decreasing odds of survival, punctuated by arcs of false hope, Jim’s deteriorating health altered their well-established independence as they became caregiver and patient, sharing intimacy as close as their own breaths. A year and a half into their marriage, Jim died from lung/brain cancer. Sustained by good dogs and gardening through the two years of madness that followed, Claire soldiered through home repairs, career disaster, genealogy quests, and “dating for seniors” trying to build a better life on the debris of her old one.Leave the Dogs at Home maps and plays with the stages of grief. Delightfully confessional, it challenges persistent, yet outdated, societal norms about relationships, and finds relief in whimsy, pop culture, and renewed spirituality.

(Giveaway is a paperback ARC)

srSamurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner – Minamoto Yoshitsune should not have been a samurai. But his story is legend in this real-life Game of Thrones.

This epic tale of warriors and bravery, rebellion and revenge, reads like a novel, but this is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history.

When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family—and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his brothers sent away. Yoshitsune was raised in his enemy’s household until he was sent away to live in a monastery. He grew up skinny and small. Not the warrior type. But he did inherit his family pride and when the time came for the Minamoto to rise up against their enemy once again, Yoshitsune was there. His daring feats, such as storming a fortress by riding on horseback down the side of a cliff and his glorious victory at sea, secured Yoshitsune’s place in history and his story is still being told centuries later.

(Giveaway is a paperback ARC)

Giveaway Instructions – (Special thanks to Indiana University Press, Charles Bridge, Grand Central Publishing, and Crown for our ARC giveaway copies!)

Two lucky winners will have the opportunity to win ONE of the two packages listed above! For your chance to win simply leave a comment below about a person whose story you’d like to hear about.  Comments will be accepted through midnight on Thursday, December 31, 2015.  The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday, January 1, 2016.  Open to US residents only. Good luck!

Sam Asks: What About Biographies?

biologoBiographies. I have been thinking a lot about this genre lately and have come to the conclusion that there really needs to be better definition within the biography genre. Let me explain.

Last week I went into the biography section at the library and I was frankly puzzled by what I found. Biography isn’t a genre that I tap into much, so I haven’t been in that part of the library in quite some time.

I’m not sure if I’m way off base here, but I just don’t like the idea of Justin Bieber’s biography sitting on the same shelf as Madame Curie, Mother Theresa, William Shakespeare, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Beethoven, etc. My expectation of biography is that the person being written about has done something truly special to earn themselves a place in the library. This is not to say that these celebrity type people have asked for their biographies to be written, as they are of course authored by others. I’m also not saying that there isn’t any value in knowing exactly what Sandra Bullock’s childhood was like…because I’m sure it was fascinating. I would just like a section for “famous people who are very popular because we see them everywhere” and a section for “people who made a difference.”

I think there is something to be said for a person like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr. who put their lives on the line for what they believed in. Who stood up and said something that many people didn’t have the courage to say. I think that those innovators and inventors like Edison, Einstein, and even Bill Gates have accomplished feats of greatness that deserve a certain level of respect. For me, seeing the One Direction crew in the company of people such as these makes me pause for a moment.

I still remember my 5th grade biography project. It was 1997, so the US Olympic Gymnastics team from Atlanta was still a pretty big deal. Obviously, I chose to read about Dominique Moceanu. I remember reading about her life, diet, and training schedule and thinking about how cool she was. Cool. I think that pretty much sums her up. She is a really talented, athletic, cool person. I think she is definitely biography worthy. However, I don’t think that she’s of the same caliber of biography as Winston Churchill.

What I’m trying to say is that the biography genre generally needs to be more specific. Within fiction there are categories: fantasy, science fiction, realistic fiction, and so on. I suppose biography is a sub genre of non-fiction, but I think we can do better. So far I propose these categories:  cool people, famous people, people who changed the world (so broad, I know…I’ll work on it!)

What do you think? Is one huge biography category enough? Who was your elementary school biography project about?