What would you do if you couldn't look in a mirror for an entire year? Kjerstin Gruys did exactly that, covering every pane of glass in her house, avoiding windows, and learning to put on makeup sans mirror in order to reform her troubled relationship with her body.
Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall, by Kjerstin Gruys
She stuck to the plan for 365 days–one of which was her wedding day. The resulting book, Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall, is an eye-opening examination of how mirrors can be our enemies, informed with interesting concepts from Gruys' day job as a sociologist (fun fact: the average woman spends five whole days a year in front of the looking glass). While you might not foreswear mirrors for good, it'll encourage you to spend a little less time staring at them and a little more doing what actually drives you.
Appearances: Books Inc. Opera Plaza, Thursday at 7 pm
Big Little Man, by Alex Tizon
Appearances (and how they can be deceiving) is also a key component of Pulitzer-winning journalist Alex Tizon's Big Little Man, an examination of how Asian men are desexualized and mistreated in American culture. After emigrating to the US from the Philippines as a child, Tizon felt intensely ridiculed for his height and appearance, and struggled to find love in college. The book is part memoir and part of-the-moment examination of Asian-American male life, from the good (the success of paradigm-shifting figures like actor Ken Watanabe and basketball phenom Jeremy Lin) to the bad (the representation of Asian men in film and TV). For more on the issue, check out this The Bold Italic essay.
The Stager, by Susan Coll
Since these are both pretty heavy reads, here's a lighter one. Susan Coll's The Stager is a black comedy set in the DC suburbs, as the Jorgenson family prepares to sell their home and move to London for wife Bella's new job. Problem is, the house won't sell (because its "planned community" is in shambles), and when a stager is brought in to make it look uninhabited, she turns out to have a surprising connection to Bella. The resulting suburban satire of addiction, infidelity, and pot-growing neighbors is a more thoughtful and creative take than you might expect, a tough job given how overmined this territory usually is.
Appearances: Book Passage SF, Tuesday, July 22, at 6 pm