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A new take on Baldwin by Kim McLarin, a slew of honors for local children’s publisher Candlewick, and a new book that thinks about what we eat, and why

Kim McLarin's new book explores her own life and a novel of James Baldwin.LISA FISCHER

Bookingmarking Baldwin

Kim McLarin, award-winning author of “Womanish: A Grown Black Woman Speaks on Love and Life” and associate professor at Emerson College, explores the James Baldwin novel “Another Country” in a new book part of Ig Publishing’s “Bookmarked” series in which authors examine how a famous text influenced their path to both writing and being. In lucid, stirring prose, McLarin writes of her childhood, understanding herself as an outsider in her family and in school; she writes of her struggles at Exeter Academy, and her career in journalism, including at the New York Times. Through the lens of Baldwin’s novel, she looks at womanhood and manhood, sexuality, racism, learning from Baldwin about clarity, courage, fear, innocence, obligation, and, above all, “how to pay attention.” McLarin is forthright, candid, clear, demonstrating on every page “a willingness to look at things and see them as they are.” As she writes, “This sounds simple. It is not.” The book is a sensitive look at the nuances of Baldwin’s novel and its role in McLarin’s coming of age as a writer and a welcome addition to the series: of the 14 books in the Bookmarked series so far, only two of the authors are women, and only one concerns a work written by a woman.


Candlewick triumphs

At the recent American Library Association Youth Media Awards, the Somerville-based publishing house Candlewick Press took home three Newbery Medals, the first time a publisher has received three Newbery awards since Viking did the same in 1937. The Newbury Medal is given annually to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Christina Soontornvat was awarded two Newbury honors for her books “All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team,” about the 2018 rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team, and “A Wish in the Dark,” a Thai-based fantasy inspired by “Les Misérables.” The last author to receive two Newbury Medals in the same year was Meindert DeJong in 1954. Carole Boston Weatherford was honored for “BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom,” which takes a poetic form to tell the story of a man who shipped himself out of enslavement. Besides the Newbury honors, Candlewick writer and illustrator David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka were awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished American book for beginning readers for “See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog.” And Vermont-based author Kekla Magoon, whose book “X” Candlewick published in 2015, was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award for a significant contribution to YA literature.


Food issues

“The cultural distance . . . between commercial farmers and quality-conscious food consumers has become dangerously wide,” writes Harvard professor and Massachusetts resident Robert Paarlberg, and his persuasive new book “Resetting the Table: Straight Talk about the Food We Grow and Eat” (Knopf) tries “to straddle this divide.” Paarlberg pushes back against fashionable trends touted by the likes of Michael Pollan and Alice Waters, arguing that locavore and pre-industrial practices require a lot of dough, and won’t work for society writ-large. “I want a food solution for all, including people who live on a budget and those without a lot of spare time.” He insists on following the evidence, offering a vision that mixes “science, economic realism, ethical humanism, and practical politics” in a compelling take for anyone interested in food and its future.


Coming Out

Rabbit Islandby Elvira Navarro, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Two Lines)

Kink: Storiesedited by R. O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell (Simon & Schuster)

Tonight Is Already Tomorrow by Lia Levi, translated from the Italian by Clarissa Botsford (Europa)

Pick of the Week

Barbara Lubin at White Birch Books in North Conway, New Hampshire, recommends “Migrations” by Charlotte McConaghy (Flatiron): “Against the backdrop of climate destruction and greed by humans, a young woman with grief and loss sets out on a dangerous mission to follow the last migration of the last bird species on earth. A story for our times and our future.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at