Word on the Street

Yoko Ono the artist

Synaesthete/Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono the artist

When Yoko Ono (right) was growing up, she felt lonely and misunderstood. Today she has 3.4 million followers on Twitter. Though she is not universally loved, she is widely recognized for her political activism, philanthropy, and creativity.

Her late husband John Lennon once called her “the world’s most famous unknown artist: Everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.” The new authorized young-adult biography “Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies” (Abrams) fills in a lot of blanks for those of us who have a passing familiarity with her, and it will introduce a new generation to the pioneering artist. Co-authored by Cambridge residents Nell Beram and Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky, the book was published last month, ahead of Ono’s 80th birthday on Monday.

Her years with Lennon have been well covered, but her life story before she met him is the gem here. She was raised in Japan and the United States and didn’t fit in either place. As a girl, she wanted to be a composer, not a singer as her father suggested. She had few friends but a tremendous creative drive. For a performance piece in a New York theater, she invited members of the audience to come up and snip off her clothing. The show wasn’t reviewed, but it created a buzz in the avant-garde world. One of the best things that happened to her career might have been the British film board’s declaration that her film “Bottoms” was obscene. Suddenly it was a must-see.


Ono approved the manuscript for this book so it’s only natural to wonder what was left out or presented in a way that might be at odds with the recollections of others. Yet there is plenty of less than admirable behavior in it, like her disastrous first two marriages. The overriding message is one that Ono knows so well: You must believe in yourself, especially in a world that shuns you.

Drue Heinz winner to get first book published

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Anthony Wallace, a casino card dealer turned fiction writer, has hit a jackpot he long dreamed of. His first book is being published. Earlier this month the Boston University writing professor won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. It carries a cash award of $15,000 and publication of his story collection “The Old Priest” by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Senior judge Amy Hempel praised the title story as “a powerhouse that has the scale and scope of a novel.” Wallace described the collection: “The stories in ‘The Old Priest’ are realistic if your idea of ‘reality’ includes 18th century footmen dealing five-dollar blackjack, dinosaurs walking across suburban back yards, and old priests battling demons that are possibly more than figments of their own imagination.” The book will be out in October.

Coming out

 “The Power Trip” by Jackie Collins (St. Martin’s)

 “Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (Twelve)


 “The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More” by Bruce Feiler (Morrow)

Pick of the Week

Kym Havens of Wellesley Books in Wellesley recommends “Midwinter Blood” by Mons Kallentoft (Atria): “During one of the coldest winters in Sweden, a naked obese man is found hanging from a tree. Is it suicide or murder? Police superintendent Malin Fors, the 34-year-old single mother of a teenage daughter, is assigned to the case. I love Scandinavian murder mysteries and here’s a fabulous new author. Lucky for us, this is the first in a series.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.