STRANGER IN THE SHOGUN'S CITY: A JAPANESE WOMAN AND HER WORLD, by Stanley NOTE: Meeting Online

Women's Biography
Monday, May 9, 7:30 pm

The Women's Biography Book Group is led by Doris Feinsilber and meets the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The book group is meeting online. Participants limited to 20 sign ups. Please contact bookgroups@politics-prose for information to connect with the group.

Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World By Amy Stanley Cover Image

Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Paperback)

$18.00


In Stock—Click for Locations
Politics and Prose at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW
1 on hand, as of Jun 25 5:20am
*Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography*
*Winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award*
*Winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography*

A “captivating” (The Washington Post) work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo—the city that would become Tokyo—and a portrait of a city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.

The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life much like her mother’s. But after three divorces—and a temperament much too strong-willed for her family’s approval—she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo, a bustling metropolis at its peak.

With Tsuneno as our guide, we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just prior to the arrival of American Commodore Perry’s fleet, which transformed Japan. During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno’s life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture—and a rare view of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions.

“A compelling story, traced with meticulous detail and told with exquisite sympathy” (The Wall Street Journal), Stranger in the Shogun’s City is “a vivid, polyphonic portrait of life in 19th-century Japan [that] evokes the Shogun era with panache and insight” (National Review of Books).
Amy Stanley is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband and two children, but Tokyo will always be her favorite city in the world.
Product Details ISBN: 9781501188534
ISBN-10: 1501188534
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: July 6th, 2021
Pages: 352
Language: English
"Stanley ... renders the world of that rebellious woman, Tsuneno, so vividly that I had trouble pulling myself back into the present whenever I put the book down. Stranger in the Shogun’s City is as close to a novel as responsible history can be ... What makes the book so captivating are not merely Tsuneno’s stubborn attempts at self-determination, but also Stanley’s enviable ability to make us feel as if we lived in 19th-century Edo with her." 
—Washington Post

"Absorbing ... A compelling story, traced with meticulous detail and told with exquisite sympathy."
—Wall Street Journal

"Through Tsuneno, Stanley conjures a teeming world… This sped-up reversal of the city’s demise is like a magic trick, the same one Stanley has accomplished over the previous two hundred pages, where a lost place appears to the reader as if alive and intact."
—Harper's Magazine

"A visit to the past that is a refreshing antidote to the histories of great men—and the occasional great woman—at times of flux...The paper trail Tsuneno left behind is remarkable; it makes clear the obstacles a strong-willed woman faced in trying to make a living in a man’s world...a vivid portrait of village life and of the parts of Edo where Tsuneno lived."
—The Economist

"[A] masterfully told and painstakingly researched evocation of an ordinary Japanese woman’s life in Edo on the eve of the opening of Japan ... Stranger in the Shogun’s City is the most evocative book this review has read about Japan since The World of the Shining Prince by Ivan Morris."
—Asian Review of Books

"Revelatory ... deeply absorbing."
—The Guardian

"A vivid, polyphonic portrait of life in 19th-century Japan ... Stanley evoke[s] the Shogun era with panache and insight."
—National Review of Books

"Tsuneno’s rebellious trajectory, preserved in her family’s archive, was unusual, yet even her most commonplace steps are absorbing. Although her squabbles and triumphs (a dispute about a kimono, a new job as maid of all work to a samurai family) can only be glimpsed, Stanley’s careful speculation fills the lacunae, evoking Edo’s back alleys and law courts, its fashion and food."
—The New Yorker

"This gracefully written book is mostly concerned with imaginatively reconstructing the life of an ordinary yet extraordinary woman. The author does this by teasing meaning out of fragmentary sources, especially the letters from and about the woman in a family archive."
—Los Angeles Review of Books

"Carefully archived and catalogued along with the bulk of her family’s correspondence, Tsuneno’s letters, lists and expense diaries remain as small but important pieces of a mosaic that Stanley has elegantly and expertly reassembled into a life. In fact, the first thing one notices about Stranger in the Shogun's City is that it often reads like a novel or biography, but every turn of phrase remains steadfastly true to historical fact. Nearly 90 pages of notes, bibliography and indexing attest to Stanley’s diligent and painstaking research."
—Bookreporter

"In addition to presenting a portrait of a city on the brink of a major cultural shift ... the work conveys a strong sense of its subject’s personality, from her stubborn independent streak to her perseverance and self-described 'terrible temper.' Drawing on letters, diary entries and family papers, Stanley revives both the world Tsuneno inhabited and the 'wise, brillient, skillful' woman herself."
—Smithsonian Magazine

"An evocative and deeply researched portrait of 19th-century Japan through the events of one woman’s life in the decades before Commodore Perry’s 1853 arrival and the opening of the country to the West. Japanophiles and readers of women’s history will be entranced."
—Publisher's Weekly

“Historian Stanley brings a deep knowledge of Japanese culture to a vibrant portrait of the Asian nation centered on the struggles of one defiant woman… an absorbing history of a vanished world.”
—Kirkus

“Tsuneno belongs to a vanished world, but historian Stanley brings both her and the Japanese city of Edo back to life in this breathtaking work. This is an eye-opening account of an extraordinary ordinary life.”
—Booklist

"Amy Stanley found a strand of vibrant life in the archives, and used it to weave a gorgeous tapestry of early 19th-century Edo. When a meticulous historian is also a gifted storyteller, time travel becomes possible."
—Janice Nimura, author of Daughters of the Samurai

“A fascinating book. Even before it was Tokyo, the city of Edo was the most urban place in the world. Amy Stanley leads us through Edo following the experiences of Tsuneno, a headstrong woman from a country temple, as she careened through four marriages, desperate to escape stultifying country life. Along the way, she breaks all the stereotypes of docile Japanese womanhood. Bringing Tsuneno to life through her letters and family records, Stanley weaves a compelling and unusual story with a rich description of Japan on the cusp of opening to the West.”
—Dr. Liza Dalby, author of Geisha

"Amy Stanley’s breathtaking recreation of the world of Tsuneno—a forgotten but far-from-ordinary woman in early 19th-century Japan—is as entrancing as it is evocative, a model of the historian’s craft. This is a magical book."
—Stephen R. Platt, author of Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom and Imperial Twilight

"An imaginative account of an ordinary woman with extraordinary determination in nineteenth-century Japan.  Capturing her soul as well as the society that batters it, the narrative brings her story into history with compelling force."
—Carol Gluck, author of War Memory 

"Scrupulously analyzed in intimate detail, the well-preserved letters of a priest’s daughter illuminate a lifelong drama certain to dispel any stereotypical notion of “traditional” Japanese womanhood. Outside a specific time and place the protagonist lived in, her frustrations and determination, as well as her sober pragmatism, are honest sentiments of women everywhere. The book interweaves the parallel story of the foreboding drumbeat of the approaching Western powers that enhances and validates, rather than diminishes, the significance of this woman’s true-to-self life experiences. Written in crisp prose, the book exemplifies the skillful art of elevating women’s history above and beyond the so-called mainstream historiography."
—Hitomi Tonomura, author of Women and Class in Japanese History

"A carefully researched, elegantly crafted, boldly imaginative work of historical recreation. Amy Stanley, combining the roles of the historian as detective and the historian as storyteller, weaves together the tale of an ordinary yet extraordinary woman and a special city at the cusp of two ages. Stranger in the Shogun's City deserves a spot on the bookshelf near The Return of Martin Guerre, The Question of Hu, and Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace."
—Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

STORYTELLER'S DAUGHTER, by Shah NOTE: Meeting Online

Women's Biography
Monday, April 11, 7:30 pm

The Women's Biography Book Group is led by Doris Feinsilber and meets the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The book group is meeting online. Participants limited to 20 sign ups. Please contact bookgroups@politics-prose for information to connect with the group.

The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland By Saira Shah Cover Image

The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland (Paperback)

$24.00


Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Imagine that a jewel-like garden overlooking Kabul is your ancestral home. Imagine a kitchen made fragrant with saffron strands and cardamom pods simmering in an authentic pilau. Now remember that you were born in London, your family in exile, and that you have never seen Afghanistan in peacetime.

These are but the starting points of Saira Shah’s memoir, by turns inevitably exotic and unavoidably heartbreaking, in which she explores her family’s history in and out of Afghanistan. As an accomplished journalist and documentarian–her film Beneath the Veil unflinchingly depicted for CNN viewers the humiliations forced on women under Taliban rule–Shah returned to her family’s homeland cloaked in the burqa to witness the pungent and shocking realities of Afghan life. As the daughter of the Sufi fabulist Idries Shah, primed by a lifetime of listening to her father’s stories, she eagerly sought out, from the mouths of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the rich and living myths that still sustain this battered culture of warriors. And she discovered that in Afghanistan all the storytellers have been men–until now.
Saira Shah lives in London and is a freelance journalist. She was born in Britain of an Afghan family, the daughter of Idries Shah, a writer of Sufi fables. She first visited Afghanistan at age twenty-one and worked there for three years as a freelance journalist, covering the guerilla war against the Soviet occupiers. Later, working for Britain’s Channel 4 News, she covered some of the world’s most troubled spots, including Algeria, Kosovo, and Kinshasa, as well as Baghdad and other parts of the Middle East. Her documentary Beneath the Veil was broadcast on CNN.
Product Details ISBN: 9781400031474
ISBN-10: 1400031478
Publisher: Anchor
Publication Date: October 12th, 2004
Pages: 272
Language: English
“Brilliant and moving.” –The New York Times Book Review

The Storyteller’s Daughter is the work of a confident yet modest and self-effacing woman who is drawn to danger and whose greatest desire is to understand her ‘incompatible worlds of East and West.’ ” –The Washington Post Book World

“Absorbing, heartbreaking. . . . A book about myths and their double-edged power to inspire and delude. . . . Filled with memorable sounds, sights and insights.” –Los Angeles Times

“Both tender and haunting. . . . A stylized work of humility and heartbreaking devastation and dignity.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Heartstopping. . . . Rich and startlingly eventful. . . . The Storyteller’s Daughter has the energy of a necessary catharsis.” –Vogue

“An extraordinary book by a remarkable young woman. . . . There is not likely to be a better one about Afghanistan.” –Doris Lessing

“Her courage takes the breath away.” –O: The Oprah Magazine

“Saira Shah takes us on an extraordinary journey from an English childhood, laced with Afghan myths handed down from her forebears, to the terrors and complexities of present-day Afghanistan. . . . At the end of it you are left with the truest sense of this magical country together with the recognition this exceptional English writer is still unmistakably Afghani.” –Jon Snow

“Invaluable. . . . A beautifully related journey to enlightenmment.” –Rocky Mountain News

“A remarkable and essential book about Afghanistan. . . . It is alive with detail, emotion, myth, fable, bleeding reality, and those laughs and freedoms which arise defiantly out of the darkest of times to assert the human spirit.” –Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, author of Imagining the New Britain

“A rare, much-needed glimpse into a still-closed society.” –Asian Week

“Deeply moving. . . . Here is a book written with resolute grace, much humour and underpinned by an unflinching spirit of enquiry.” –Jason Elliot, author of An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan



AFTERSHOCKS by Nadia Owusu NOTE: Meeting Online

Women's Biography
Monday, March 14, 7:30 pm

The Women's Biography Book Group is led by Doris Feinsilber and meets the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The book group is meeting online. Participants limited to 20 sign ups. Please contact bookgroups@politics-prose for information.

Aftershocks: A Memoir By Nadia Owusu Cover Image

Aftershocks: A Memoir (Paperback)

$17.99


In Stock—Click for Locations
Politics and Prose at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW
1 on hand, as of Jun 25 5:20am
In the tradition of The Glass Castle, this “gorgeous” (The New York Times, Editors’ Choice) and deeply felt memoir from Whiting Award winner Nadia Owusu tells the “incredible story” (Malala Yousafzai) about the push and pull of belonging, the seismic emotional toll of family secrets, and the heart it takes to pull through.

“In Aftershocks, Nadia Owusu tells the incredible story of her young life. How does a girl—abandoned by her mother at age two and orphaned at thirteen when her beloved father dies—find her place in the world? This memoir is the story of Nadia creating her own solid ground across countries and continents. I know the struggle of rebuilding your life in an unfamiliar place. While some of you might be familiar with that and some might not, I hope you’ll take as much inspiration and hope from her story as I did.” MALALA YOUSAFZAI

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2021 SELECTED BY VULTURE, TIME, ESQUIRE, NPR, AND VOGUE!

Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Her Armenian American mother, who abandoned Nadia when she was two, would periodically reappear, only to vanish again. Her father, a Ghanaian, the great hero of her life, died when she was thirteen. After his passing, Nadia’s stepmother weighed her down with a revelation that was either a bombshell secret or a lie, rife with shaming innuendo.

With these and other ruptures, Nadia arrived in New York as a young woman feeling stateless, motherless, and uncertain about her future, yet eager to find her own identity. What followed, however, were periods of depression in which she struggled to hold herself and her siblings together.

“A magnificent, complex assessment of selfhood and why it matters” (Elle), Aftershocks depicts the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life’s perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand.

“Full of narrative risk and untrammeled lyricism” (The Washington Post), Aftershocks joins the likes of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and William Styron’s Darkness Visible, and does for race identity what Maggie Nelson does for gender identity in The Argonauts.
Nadia Owusu is a Brooklyn-based writer and urban planner. She is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award. Her lyric essay So Devilish a Fire won the Atlas Review chapbook contest. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Times, The Wall Street JournalGranta, The GuardianBon Appétit, Electric LiteratureThe Paris Review Daily, and Catapult. Aftershocks is her first book.
Product Details ISBN: 9781982111236
ISBN-10: 1982111232
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2021
Pages: 320
Language: English
PRAISE FOR AFTERSHOCKS BY NADIA OWUSU

A Most-Anticipated Selection by * The New York Times * Entertainment Weekly * O, The Oprah Magazine * New York magazine * Vogue * Time * Elle * Minneapolis Star Tribune * Electric Literature * Goodreads * The Millions *Refinery29 * HelloGiggles *

“In Aftershocks, Nadia Owusu tells the incredible story of her young life. How does a girl—abandoned by her mother at age two and orphaned at thirteen when her beloved father dies—find her place in the world? This memoir is the story of Nadia creating her own solid ground across countries and continents. I know the struggle of rebuilding your life in an unfamiliar place. While some of you might be familiar with that and some might not, I hope you’ll take as much inspiration and hope from her story as I did.”MALALA YOUSAFZAI 

"In a literary landscape rich with diaspora memoirs, Owusu’s painful yet radiant story rises to the forefront. The daughter of an Armenian-American mother who abandoned her and a heroic Ghanaian father who died when she was thirteen, Nadia drifted across continents in a trek that she renders here with poetic, indelible prose."—O MAGAZINE

"[Owusu] dispatches all of this heartache with blistering honesty, but does so with prose light enough that it never feels too much to bear."—ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

"[A] gorgeous and unsettling memoir."—THE NEW YORK TIMES (EDITOR'S CHOICE)

"Owusu’s life has been a series of upheavals: She has lived across the world, thanks to her Ghanaian father’s work with the United Nations, and was all but abandoned by her Armenian-American mother. Eventually, settling in New York as an adult gives the author a chance to make sense of her identity. Images of earthquakes and their aftermaths recur throughout the narrative: As Owusu notes, aftershocks are the 'earth’s delayed reaction to stress.'"—THE NEW YORK TIMES

"Owusu devotes a portion of this memoir to surveying the ruptured histories of the many countries she's connected to, but it's her striking personal story and charged language that makes Aftershocks compelling. [L]yrical...[A] well-wrought, often powerful memoir."MAUREEN CORRIGAN, FRESH AIR

"Nadia Owusu's first full-length book, Aftershocks, is about all of these parts of what is her single, complex life. In her capable writing, stories become nearly tangible objects she holds to the light, turns over and over, eager to discover a never before glimpsed sparkle or a surprising divot in their familiar shapes."—NPR

"Full of narrative risk and untrammeled lyricism, [Aftershocks] fulfills the grieving author’s directive to herself: to construct a story that reconstructs her world." —WASHINGTON POST

"Throughout the book, Owusu writes poignantly about belonging and assimilation...as she grapples with identity and her willingness to erase the most vibrant parts of herself in an attempt to belong. Owusu is unflinching in examining herself, which is commendable... In the end, Owusu ultimately answers what home is. Her definition is pure and restorative to read. 'I am made of the earth, flesh, ocean, blood and bone of all the places I tried to belong to and all the people I long for. I am pieces. I am whole. I am home.'”—THE NEW YORK TIMES

"Earthquakes are a metaphor for psychological struggles, family ruptures, and centuries of diasporic and colonial history in this ambitious memoir. The author, a Tanzanian-born American citizen, grew up with her father, a Ghanaian official for the United Nations, in Europe and Africa, witnessing poverty and violence. Her feelings of rootlessness were compounded by her mother’s early abandonment and her father’s untimely death. Against a backdrop of global events—wars, occupations, genocides—Owusu charts the rifts and convergences that have shaped her life. The book’s roving structure, encompassing meditations on race, belonging, and fluid identity, reflects Owusu’s fragmented efforts to understand herself."—THE NEW YORKER

"In her searing debut memoir, Owusu analyzes her shaky sense of belonging and identity as she reflects on her fractured family unit and upbringing."—TIME

"Nadia Owusu’s debut memoir, Aftershocks, has those residual tremors that follow an earthquake as its central metaphor, and the author had plenty of life-shaking events around which to orient her narrative. There is something fairy tale–like about Owusu’s story, an orphan-like existence of struggle and survival, but there is no fairy godmother who rescues this heroine—just a growing sense of self-awareness to orient her in a troubling world."—VOGUE

"This is a magnificent, complex assessment of selfhood and why it matters.”—ELLE

"It takes a skillful hand to weave complex concepts so seamlessly into a narrative, and Owusu executes this masterfully. By relating the events of her upbringing, she is also telling the story of her father and the history of the countries that had become home to her. Whether it’s coming to understand her sexuality or examining herself through the lens of race, Owusu takes the reader deeply through her thoughts and experiences."—LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS 

"Aftershocks offers an incredible account of a life both privileged and fraught, and a rigorous accounting of living as heir and stranger to so many histories, voices and identities."—SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

"Powerful and devastating — and a reminder that usually the only hero any of us have is ourselves — Nadia Owusu's memoir Aftershocks is a fascinating exploration of the difficulties inherent to growing up and going between different cultures, never knowing if you belong everywhere or nowhere."—REFINERY29

"Aftershocks is a stunning, visceral book about the ways that our stories—of loss, of love, of borders—leave permanent marks on our bodies and minds."—BOOKLIST

"Aftershocks is deeply intimate, heartbreakingly honest, and a book that will likely reverberate throughout our hearts and minds long after we’ve finished reading."—LITHUB

"Aftershocks is an intimate work told in an imaginative style, with the events that shaped its author rippling throughout her nonlinear story. The structure mimics the all-consuming effect that a moment--a personal earthquake--can have on a life."—BOOKPAGE

"Aftershocks is the intimate, deeply moving memoir about where [Owusu] came from and how she found herself."HELLOGIGGLES

"A poetic coming-of-age story, Nadia Owusu's Aftershocks thoroughly scrambles the usual genre classifications, combining memoir with cultural history and contemporary resonance."GOODREADS

"Enthralling...readers will be moved by this well-wrought memoir."PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Engrossing…an impressive debut memoir. [Owusu is] a promising writer."—KIRKUS REVIEWS

"This extraordinary memoir is a seismic tale of unravelling her sense of self from a tangle of different languages and homelands. Owusu is a writer to watch."—BOOKSELLER (UK), EDITOR'S CHOICE

"Whiting Award-winner Owusu recounts her past through the metaphor of earthquakes, with a memoir that broods on lost identity and statelessness."—ELLE (UK)

"'I have lived in disaster, and disaster has lived in me,' writes one of the literary world's most promising new voices, Nadia Owusu, in this astonishing memoir. After her mother left and her father died, Owusu became a woman of many homelands and identities: she grew up in many countries including Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Italy, and the UK. [Aftershocks] is Owusu's account of hauling herself out of the wreckage; an intimate look behind the division of today's world."—RED (UK)

“An engaging and reflective new memoir focused on universal themes of home, abandonment, identity and autonomy.”MS. MAGAZINE

“Nadia Owusu's Aftershocks bleeds honesty. It is a majestically rendered telling of all the history, hurt and love a body can contain. A wonderful work of art made of so many stories and histories it is bursting with both harshness and perseverance. An incredible debut.”—NANA KWAME ADJEI-BRENYAH, author of New York Times bestseller Friday Black

"Aftershocks is a triptych feat of style: the lucid language, the masterful handling of time, the brilliance of its seismic theme. It’s also an astute exploration of the long legacy of colonialism. Owusu is a product of that political and cultural collision, and one of the great gifts of this compelling memoir is the moving narrative of her reconciling that identity. And if that weren’t enough, Aftershocks is an indelible portrait of Owusu’s resilience in the face of almost unfathomable familial trauma as well as her immortal love for her father."—MITCHELL S. JACKSON, author of Survival Math

“Nadia Owusu has lived multiple lives and each has demanded much of her. She has met and surpassed those demands with her memoir, Aftershocks. Owusu is half-Armenian, half-Ghanaian; socially privileged and psychologically wounded. She spends her life moving between Europe, Africa and New York, reeling from her mother’s desertion and her father’s death. Her task and burden are threefold: to chronicle the historical wounds and legacies of each country; to chart her own descent into grief, mania and madness; to begin the work of emotional reconstruction. She does so with unerring honesty and in prose that is both rigorous and luminous.”—MARGO JEFFERSON, author of Negroland: A Memoir, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award 

“Aftershocks is more than just a book—it is delicate, intricate choreography. This memoir is a testimony to how certain books and writers can tell you their story in a way that mirrors your own. Even if the facts of that story are different, the emotion is familiar. Owusu is that writer. She has created a book full of shared emotional memories and I wanted to sit in those memories with her for as long as I could. Nadia Owusu is powerful, beautiful, poetic, and Aftershocks is a testimony to her commitment to constructing towering, lovingly-rendered sentences. Quite simply, Aftershocks is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.”—BASSEY IKPI, New York Times bestselling author of I'm Lying but I'm telling the Truth

"A white-hot interrogation of the stories we carry in our bodies and the power they have to tear us apart. Owusu illuminates the blood and bones wrought by our borders and teaches us the necessity of owning our narratives when personal and collective histories have been shattered by violence.”—JESSICA ANDREWS, author of Saltwater

Pages