Floating Underwater is a new Women’s Fiction novel by Tracy Shawn. It was released in September 2021, published by Turbulent Muse Publishing. Recommended for readers who enjoy works from authors such as Brunonia Barry, Alice Hoffman, and Sue Monk Kidd.
Part psychological fiction and part mystical fiction with a dash of magical realism, Floating Underwater follows a woman’s astonishing journey through the extraordinary and, ultimately, to her own self-actualization and power.
Fearful that her lifelong premonitions not only predict the future but can also change its very course, Paloma Leary is devastated when her latest vision predicting a third miscarriage comes true.
Falling into a mystifying world of increasingly bizarre phenomena, including a psychic connection with her mysterious neighbor, out-of-body experiences, and visits from her long-dead mother, Paloma grows desperate for answers. She is also desperate to start a family. But when a life-changing vision reveals a tragic secret from the past, Paloma learns to accept her gifts and embraces a far different future than she ever could have imagined.
A Note from the Author:
Floating Underwater was inspired by my own personal history, past work experience, and sheer imagination. Having suffered through two miscarriages myself, I wanted to write about how a character deals with that particular loss. Motivated from my past work as an intern at a psychiatric center, I also wanted to explore what it’s like for a daughter when her beloved mother has severe schizophrenia. I added in the narrative element of magical realism and otherworldly events because I believe loss and grief can make our day-to-day reality too difficult to bear without the hope that something magical is just beyond this realm. I created these extraordinary experiences for my protagonist, readers, and for myself to help us all feel as if everything in this crazy, upside-down world (and beyond!) will somehow, someday be okay.
“The author delivers spot-on dialogue, believable and enchanting characters, and surprising twists. It’s easy to imagine the novel as a talked-about book club selection (in fact, there’s a list of questions at the book’s conclusion).” – STARRED REVIEW, BlueInk Review by Reviewer Patricia Moosbrugger
“One woman’s mystical journey to move forward while confronting a troubled, mysterious past. Beautifully written; an ethereal, eloquent pleasure.” – Marlene Adelstein, author of USA Today bestseller Sophie Last Seen
“…mysticism, feminism, friendship, and love… The women in this novel represent different forms of strength … The writing is stunning… This book will remind you to listen to the wind when it speaks and to look for what’s floating beneath the surface of the water.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Jenna Swartz, San Francisco Book Review
(from Chapter 1)
Paloma smiled at Reed as she clenched the sides of her chair. They sat at their usual spot—a small table outside their favorite deli. Pedestrians slogged by through an unseasonably humid June. A heat wave had intruded on the small town of Sunflower Beach; even the window-box geraniums were wilting in defeat. Paloma doubted they’d survive the summer.
She directed her attention back to her husband. She had to tell him. But she kept her mouth shut as she caught sight of a small bird flitting by and out of view so quickly it could have been her imagination. She swallowed down the murky taste of dread. Maybe it would be better for Reed not to get his hopes up. But he had a right to know—and besides, she wanted him to know.
He cocked his head, grinning. “What is it?”
“I’ve got some good news.” She reached over and held his hand, knowing he had already guessed.
“We’re pregnant,” he said.
She laughed and nodded in confirmation.
“Honey, that’s great.” He squeezed her hand and smiled as if loss were never an issue. “This time will be different. I just know it.” He got up to hug her. She stood and received his embrace, the glow of his positivity radiating through her body. “I hope so.” She sat back down, wishing she could catch sight of the bird again. She didn’t tell him how two days earlier, as she was mindlessly driving to work, one of her visions had struck. With both hands fixed on the steering wheel, she had managed to pull off the road. She’d tried to will the image away, yet it grew even more vivid. A corpse of a baby sparrow floated down a creek. With its thumb-sized frame and bruised eyelids, it looked like it had plummeted to its death before it even had a chance to breathe. She waded in and scooped it out of the water, but its translucent form had slipped through her cupped hands. She watched, paralyzed, as it tumbled toward the waiting mouth of the ocean—lifeless, distant, gone.
When the vision ended, she had eased her car back onto the street, shutting out the message. But, as before, she could not forget it, even here with Reed. Especially here with Reed. “Of course it’s going to be okay,” he said. “Wait just a minute.”
He went into the deli and walked up to the counter.
Paloma held her stomach as she watched her husband point to a row of Russian tea cakes. He beamed at droopy-eyed Manny behind the counter, who never changed his just-give- me-your-order expression. With Reed’s tall, robust frame constrained inside his Oxford shirt and his brown, grey- flecked curls brushing his collar, her husband’s bouncing-on-his-toes earnestness made her want to cry. Even though his optimism could be annoying, it also saddened her in its naïve vulnerability.
He returned and handed Paloma a crisp white bag with two conjoined butter stains already seeping through. “Just a little treat to enjoy later,” Reed said, “for my wife—and baby.” He flashed his big-toothed grin as though nothing bad would ever happen again.
Paloma opened the bag and inhaled the sugary aroma.
Reed chuckled as he folded his large body back into his chair and leaned in, eagerness lighting up his face. “When’s the due date?”
For some reason, she couldn’t remember. She knew the date marked something else, something that made her nervous. “The doctor says I’m due…” She stopped and took a sip of ice water, trying to shake off the apprehension.
“If we count the months from your last period, wouldn’t it be around April?” Reed drew closer, the lunch-crowd noise closing in around them.
She nodded, her memory jogged. “The baby is due April twenty-first.” As soon as she said it, she remembered: April 21 was her mother’s birthday. Paloma gagged; the smell of a pastrami sandwich the ponytailed guy at the next table was wolfing down eliciting sudden nausea.
“Yeah,” she said. “Just feeling queasy.” She picked up a napkin and wiped her forehead. “I guess my hormones are kicking in.”
Reed’s eyebrows shot up. “They are? That’s a good thing. You never felt any morning sickness before.” He beamed at her, his conviction reeling her in.
“You’re right.” Maybe her vision of the dead sparrow was about something else—or maybe it meant nothing at all.
“Sure I am,” Reed said with utter finality.
Manny’s impatient voice burst through an open window as he called out their number and rang the counter’s bell five times in a row—then, impatiently, five more times. Reed stood up and raced back into the deli. But as he brought back his tuna on rye and her turkey sandwich, he gripped the bright orange tray like a little kid who was afraid everything might crash to the ground at the slightest misstep.
Paloma held her sweaty glass to her forehead. “Thank you.” She ignored the foreboding that sank into her gut.
Reed bit into his sandwich and chewed with gusto. Paloma watched him, envious of—but also heartened by—his ability to believe in the future. She reminded herself that happiness was not going to turn into tragedy the second she allowed herself to trust it. Noticing a dab of tuna on Reed’s chin, she smiled as she reached over to wipe it off.
“Don’t worry.” Reed winked. “Our kid can’t ever be as sloppy as I am.”
“I wouldn’t bet on that. Your messy gene runs pretty deep.”
She had missed their silly bantering. They hadn’t been this playful with each other since the last pregnancy, but his jokes and her bursts of laughter had dissipated over time. She wagered, though, that most couples eventually lose sight of what first brought them together.
Reed patted her hand. “It is going to work out this time, Paloma…”
Paloma smiled, then took a bite of her sandwich. Maybe Reed was right; everything would be okay—the future did not have to be defined by the past.
And then, out of the corner of her eye, Paloma saw her. Bone-thin Serena raced across the street and planted herself next to the bumper of a parked car. In her ragged skirt and barely there T-shirt, Serena could be mistaken for one of Sunflower Beach’s many homeless people, who tucked themselves into alleys, behind bushes dotting the hillsides, and around trash-strewn paths by the railroad tracks. Yet the bedraggled Serena lived with her family, who tried their best to care for her in their own, private way. Serena stared at Paloma with her mismatched eyes, one blue and the other an unnatural shade of milky green. Slowly, Serena shook her head as her gaze misted over with what looked to be pity. Even though she had followed Paloma around ever since she’d moved into town, when she was in sixth grade and Paloma in fifth, Paloma’s heart raced now, and the nausea returned.
Reed leaned away and averted his face from Serena’s scrutiny. “She’s been showing up even more, you know.”
“I know,” Paloma whispered. “I think she’s trying to tell me something.” Paloma shoved her plate away. Eating would be impossible now.
“She’s not trying to tell you anything.” Reed sighed. “She’s just more unhinged than usual.”
Paloma dared to look again. Serena pinned her down with those unnerving eyes, and then her mouth suddenly twisted into a grimace. Not knowing what else to do, Paloma waved. Serena turned abruptly. Passersby shook their heads and stared as she skipped barefoot down the street. Paloma watched the last coiled ends of Serena’s long, tangled hair as it floated out of view.
About the Author:
Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California with her husband, two mischievous cats, and loyal pit bull. Her debut novel, The Grace of Crows, won several indie book awards. Floating Underwater is her second novel. Tracy Shawn’s short stories have appeared in Literary Brushstrokes, Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, and Steel House Review Literary Journal. She’s written numerous articles for print and online publications and is currently working on her third novel.
To request a review copy or an interview with Tracy Shawn, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or (805) 807-9027.
The Special Relationship by Frederica Hendricks Noble describes how one American woman fell in love with a British man and learned the rules of engagement in order to make her life in England successful.
Are you thinking about dating (or marrying) a British man and heading off to the United Kingdom to be with him? Have you found your Mr. Darcy? This book offers insider tips and advice from an American who found her Prince Charming. Her beguiling “prince” affectionately refers to her as the “original Meghan Markle”. This practical, easy-to-read, and sometimes humorous guidebook will help modern women better understand British men, English culture and how to create their own special relationship.
Frederica Hendricks Noble is a trained psychologist and life coach, she is the Principal Consultant and Lead Life Strategist at Noble & Noble Consulting. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she met her Englishman while living in Los Angeles. A thoroughly modern woman, Frederica subsequently moved to England to live and work. She has dual citizenship and considers both Nashville, Tennessee and Somerset, England home. To learn more, go to https://www.fredericanoble.com
(Los Angeles, CA) – Robert J. Davis, PhD, a.k.a. The Healthy Skeptic, announced the upcoming release of his new book Supersized Lies: How Myths About Weight Loss Are Keeping Us Fat – and the Truth About What Really Works. Supersized Lies will be released on September 21, 2021, published by Everwell
“Robert Davis always tells it like it is. This book reveals surprising truths that even the savviest dieters may be shocked to learn — but also lays out practical and thoroughly researched steps to finding your own success. Truly a fantastic resource!” – Lisa Lillien, a.k.a. “Hungry Girl,” New York Times bestselling author
We’re bombarded with advice on how to shed unwanted pounds: Count calories, cut carbs, exercise more, eat earlier, skip meals, drink more water, sip apple cider vinegar, pop a pill. Yet as more of us try to follow such prescriptions, our waistlines continue to expand.
As Robert J. Davis argues in this meticulously researched book, this failure isn’t our fault. Instead, much of the blame lies with those who peddle hype, half-truths, and unproven solutions, which often steer us into fruitless quests that inflict emotional and physical harm.
In addition to revealing how and why we’re being led astray, Supersized Lies shares weight-control strategies that research shows actually work. And it provides practical information that will help you avoid wasting time, money, and energy.
Written in a lively, easy-to-understand style, this myth-shattering book sheds surprising new light on old assumptions and offers a way forward to those caught in the cacophony of weight-loss advice.
“Robert Davis does a masterful job imparting his expert insights about the many distortions that stand between you and a healthy weight.” -David L. Katz, MD, MPH, Founder, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center & co-author, “How to Eat”
“Robert Davis always tells it like it is. This book reveals surprising truths that even the savviest dieters may be shocked to learn — but also lays out practical and thoroughly researched steps to finding your own success. Truly a fantastic resource!” – Lisa Lillien, a.k.a. “Hungry Girl,” New York Times bestselling author
(from Chapter 1)
Husky. Full-seated. Spare tire. They’re words I vividly remember clothing store clerks and family friends using to describe my physique when I was a child. Though intended to be polite, the observations still stung because even at age 8, I knew exactly what they meant: I was fat.
In an effort to help me slim down, my mother instructed me to forgo bread. The advice reflected what she’d learned growing up, that starchy foods are the main culprit when it comes to weight. I complied with her directive (at least in her presence) even at my favorite restaurant and reluctantly removed the buns from my McDonald’s hamburgers.
When I got to college in the 1980s and became interested in nutrition, I laughed as I recalled Mom’s weight-loss prescription. According to what I was now learning, she’d had it backwards. The main cause of weight gain was fat, not starches. So she should have told me to skip the burger, not the bun.
Had I been an overweight child today, my mother—who keeps up with the latest nutrition thinking—might well have fingered a different culprit and put the kibosh instead on the sugary soda that I typically ordered with my hamburgers.
Luckily for me, I became thinner as I grew. But our society has not outgrown our insatiable desire to find a dietary villain that we can blame for our expanding waistlines. We lurch from one to another, from fat to carbs to gluten to soda. Or, depending on which diet you follow, the enemy might be animal products, legumes, cooked foods, acidic foods, or foods that our ancestors didn’t eat.
It’s human nature to gravitate toward good-versus-evil explanations for complex problems. We see the same phenomenon in other areas of life, including politics. While having a clearly defined enemy may satisfy our primal need for a simple narrative to make sense of things, it can do harm if it distracts us from what really matters.
That’s what’s happened in our battle with weight. We’ve been led down one dead end after another chasing elusive bad guys that keep changing. A variety of forces have cheered us on in this chase, including diet peddlers, the news media, and food manufacturers that are more than delighted to sell us all the fat-free, carb-free, or other enemy-free foods we can eat.
Nutrition researchers, obesity experts, and government agencies also bear responsibility for leading us astray by overstating the certainty of the science when it comes to culprits. What research does show is that weight-loss diets that demonize whole categories of foods may work in the short term, but in the long run, they’re rarely sustainable. And they can make matters worse.
Title: Supersized Lies: How Myths About Weight Loss Are Keeping Us Fat – and the Truth About What Really Works
Available Formats: Hardcover / Paperback / eBook / Audiobook
Size of Print Edition: 6×9 trade
Publication Date: 9/21/21
Publisher: MediVista Media LLC; Everwell Books
About the Author:
Robert J. Davis, PhD, a.k.a. The Healthy Skeptic, is an award-winning health journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, PBS, WebMD, and in The Wall Street Journal. The author of three previous books on health, he hosts the “Healthy Skeptic” video series, which dissects the science behind popular health claims. Davis holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a master’s degree in public health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, and a PhD in health policy from Brandeis University, where he was Pew Foundation Fellow.
Readers can connect with Robert J. Davis on:
To learn more, go to www.healthyskeptic.com
Other Books by Robert J. Davis, Phd:
For more information, to request a review copy or an interview with Robert J. Davis, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or (805) 807-9027.
Ms. Flygirl’s Fantastic Five Days is a new children’s book by Miho Madarame.
This collection of short fantasies for kids (ages 6-8) chronicles the adventures of Ms. Flygirl. Independent and creative Ms. Flygirl, who lives in a yellow helicopter named Sky Daisy, is ready to bravely embark upon new escapades. She bakes pastries with letters inside, takes part in a chorus contest with creatures in the forest, helps a kitty to look for his twin brother, and plants a remarkable flower garden. Readers will enjoy her happy, warm personality and getting to know a variety other interesting characters in these witty short stories.
About the Author:
Miho Madarame was born and grew up in Tokyo, Japan.
She graduated from Tokyo University of Education (now Tsukuba University) and then studied in graduate school in Humanities at The University of Chicago. She holds a BA in English literature, MA in Humanities, and ABD in History of Culture.
In 1984 she won a literary competition of children’s literature, and her first book Princess Flies in the Sky was published by Poplar Publishing, one of the biggest publishers for children’s books in Japan. Subsequently, she wrote 30 more books. She also translated many children’s books from English into Japanese, including Peter Pan and the Thomas the Tank Engine series.
After she moved to the United States, she studied drawing at the Glassel Art School in Houston, TX.
She currently divides time between Scottsdale, Arizona and San Diego, California.
Los Angeles Times Bestselling Author Paul Haddad (10,000 Steps a Day in L.A.;High-Fives, Pennant Drives, and Fernandomania) has released his new book Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob (published by Black Rose Writing on July 8, 2021).
Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob is a hard-boiled noir crime fiction set in Los Angeles. As a native Angeleno himself, Haddad has leveraged his deep knowledge of the city to inform the book’s historical fiction, with many scenes based on real-life locations and events.
Recommended for readers who enjoy family sagas and crime fiction – fans of Elmore Leonard, L.A. Confidential, The Godfather, and The Sopranos. Paradise Palms is driven by a gangster underworld and a family with dark secrets emanating from a Jewish family patriarch. Though it takes place in the ‘50s, its themes resonate today. Systemic racism and LGBTQ stigmas form important subplots. It would appeal to readers who appreciate more depth and humanity in their characters.
Kirkus Reviews says “the writing is vividly descriptive, snarky, and funny, but it doesn’t shy away from engaging with serious issues, such as homophobia, racism, and police corruption” while the U.S. Review of Books calls it “an intricate tale that rings with authenticity.”
It is October 1957. A time of Eisenhower conformity, police and mob strongholds, and Red Scare paranoia. A relic of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the aging Paradise Palms Hotel is on the brink of change. David Shapiro – eldest son of recently widowed Max Shapiro – has assumed a leadership role. But the more he digs into the hotel’s business, the more he questions who his father is. It’s not just the tenuous ties to gangster Mickey Cohen, who is trying to commandeer ‘The Palms,” but also the sudden appearance of a mysterious African American guest named Rae Lynn, who improbably rises in stature. As long-buried secrets come to light, David’s battle to keep the family intact takes a tragic turn. His actions mirror an America lurching from the surface simplicity of the ’50s to the turmoil of the 1960s in this riveting neo-noir family saga.
Book Trailer: Available on YouTube
NOTE: This book contains a criminal character who, on very rare occasions, utters ethnic and racial epithets in a manner consistent with social mores of the time (America in the 1950s). Please be advised the book is not for children or those who may take issue with reading offensive language.
“A neo-noir flash bang with heart and dark humor… the Cohen Brothers meet James Ellroy.” — Donald H. Hewitt, Screenwriter, Oscar-winning Spirited Away
“Paradise Palms is a hopeless hotel located at the bitter end of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The story hums, the historic setting shines, and the colorful cast of characters keeps the pages turning.”— S.W. Lauden, Author of the Greg Salem PI series
“A finely-detailed story that recalls the period aesthetics of Mad Men and mixes it up with a noirish vibe… The read goes down smooth as champagne and leaves the reader wanting more.”— Slamdance Film Festival, Writers’ judges
“The setting is ‘50s L.A., but it plays contemporary. Racial prejudice, LGBTQ stigmas, and law/order corruption are among the themes effortlessly woven into this coil-tight yarn.”— Jake Gerhardt, Author, My Future Ex-Girlfriend
“A very strong historical period drama, revealing just enough compelling information without deflating the suspense with too much too soon… A lot of intriguing characters, placed in a clear moment of Hollywood and U.S. history.”— Austin Film Festival, Writers’ judges
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 7:
The Shapiro family’s declining Paradise Palms Hotel is a microcosm of late-1950s Hollywood, renting out to hangers-on and misfits amidst a sea of vacant rooms. And things just haven’t been the same since the death of MARTA SHAPIRO, who ran the hotel’s small dinette, The Easy.
But The Easy gets an unexpected shot in the arm with the arrival of a mysterious 18-year-old African American guest named RAE LYNN. Longtime tenant DIRK HAVENHURST is the first to notice, putting LEO, one of Marta’s adult sons, in an awkward position.
The dining room is sparsely filled with the usual cast of characters. Dirk peruses the Daily Variety between sips of a Bloody Mary while Elron regales a doe-eyed betty with his Hollywood misadventures as a “can’t miss” actor. Leo pores over receipts on the bar counter, nursing a glass of milk. Squinting over his specs, he asks Art, “How was the birthday party?”
Franny returns with a large salad for Dirk, a scotch for Art. “Everything was peachy till I got to the balloon animals,” Art asserts, taking a satisfying sip. “The mom accused me of making a penis and kicked me out!”
“What were you trying to make?” Leo asks. “A dachshund?”
The room breaks out in dirty laughter – all except Dirk. Chewing on his first bite of salad, he works the lettuce around his mouth and furrows his brow as if discovering a hair ball. He drops his fork with dramatic flourish.
“What the hell’s eating him?” Art says, drawn by the fork’s clank.
Dirk peers down at his plate, slack-jawed. All heads are now turned in his direction.
Leo drops his pencil. “Dirk?”
Dirk slides out of his booth and decamps for the kitchen.
“Shit,” Leo says, taking off after him, Franny on his tail.
Dirk swings through the doors and ambushes the food prep station, where Francisco is chopping onions. Seeing the excitable Dirk come toward him, he steps away from his stall, butcher’s knife between them. Leo and Franny linger at the doorway, ready to pounce if need be.
Dirk lifts his walking staff and shakes it at Francisco. “What did you do to the Shrimp Louie?!”
“W-what do you mean?”
“It hasn’t tasted this good since Marta died. She was the only one who did it right. You always use too much mayo and not enough lemon zest.”
Francisco lowers the knife, visibly relieved. “Heh. Must’ve just gotten lucky.”
Dirk’s not buying it. He thrusts his stick at Rae, who watches the stand-off from her post at the sink. An epiphany dawns on Dirk’s face.
“It was… yoooouuu,” he says slowly to the part-time dishwasher. He turns to Leo. “She did it. She brought it back to the way it was.”
Rae returns to her dishes. For a long moment, no one says or does anything. Finally, Francisco places his knife on the counter and walks over to Rae. He gently spins her around to face the others – a united front.
Leo looks confused. “Rae? Are you… cooking?”
Francisco slings an avuncular arm over her shoulder. Rae gazes at the floor, toying with her apron strings, embarrassed by all the fuss.
“I needed help,” Francisco maintains. “We never replaced your mother, y’know. I kept telling you” – he looks at Franny – “me and Franny, we can’t do everything. I was overwhelmed!”
Leo, ignoring his cook’s protestations, says to Rae, “You’re not even earning anything close to cook’s wages…”
“It’s okay.” She looks at Francisco. “I wanted to prove myself first.”
“Last few weeks, I’ve had more customers than usual complimenting my dishes,” Francisco attests. “But it’s been all her.”
“Not so sure I’d want to admit to something like that…” quips Dirk to no one in particular.
“You should try her desserts,” Francisco raves. “Word is out among the guests. We can barely keep up with the to-go orders.”
Leo scans the kitchen’s takeout counter. His eyes feast on an array of culinary treats that have heretofore never passed through these kitchen doors – blueberry muffins, peanut-butter cookies, lemon squares and sweet potato pie.
“Where’d you learn to make all this?” asks Leo.
“Val Verde Residential,” Rae says.
“What is that, like, a group home?”
“Yes, sir. I learned to cook for sixty-five kids. Ran the whole kitchen by the time I left.”
“Why’d you leave?”
Rae shrugs. “Turned eighteen. I had no choice.”
Leo bobs his head, lost in thought. “If we hire you as a full-time cook, you’d practically be living in the kitchen. But understand” – he winces in embarrassment – “living at the hotel… that would be problematic.”
Francisco gives Rae a squeeze. “She’s not looking to move in. She’s got a place at Nickerson Gardens.”
Rae offers Leo a tight-lipped smile. Leo forces one back, still trying to process it all. Once again, Dirk breaks the silence.
“Well, hell… someone hire this young lady, because if you don’t, I’ll make her my personal chef.”
About the Author:
Paul Haddad is a Los Angeles Times Bestselling Author and multiple-Emmy nominated television writer/producer. Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob, his third novel, was inspired by dark family secrets that coincided with his obsession with old Hollywood. Also the author of several nonfiction books about L.A., he can found at www.paulhaddadbooks.com and on Instagram and Twitter: @la_dorkout
To request a copy of Paradise Palms to review or an interview with Paul Haddad, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or (805) 807-9027.
B. H. James and Elizabeth James are public high school teachers in Stockton, CA. Their second book, “A Sea of Troubles” has just been released, published by Rowman and Littlefield Publishing. This book focuses on strategies schools can use to discuss the “sea of (societal) troubles” students are currently dealing with: from abuses of power, to systemic racism, to surviving school shootings, the book aims to honor issues students are dealing with daily.
A Sea of Troubles: Pairing Literary and Informational Texts to Address Social Inequality has been designed for classroom teachers struggling to address the overwhelming issues facing our world today.
Written for educators at the middle-school, high-school, and college levels, A Sea of Troubles pairs iconic, often-taught works of literature (Shakespeare, Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird) with nonfiction works to address social, racial, and gender inequities. As high school English teachers themselves, Elizabeth James and B. H. James, have included concrete activities, assignments, and discussions ready for the classroom.
By embracing the Common Core’s emphasis on the inclusion of more nonfiction, the authors have demonstrated how to incorporate meaningful informational texts into their favorite units of literature. A Sea of Troubles shows teachers how literature and informational texts can work together, to enhance each other, and, by extension, enhance student’s abilities to critically think and respond to the sea of troubles that pervades society.
“Are you keen to explore contemporary issues with students but more than a little bored with the titles in your curriculum? Sea of Troubles offers a model for re-envisioning how traditional texts are taught. Elizabeth and B.H. James describe instructional moves designed to demonstrate how literature “reflects the world and the world is reflected in fiction.” Whether you teach online or in person, their lessons integrating informational readings with literary works are sure to enliven classroom conversations.” – Carol Jago, past president, National Council of Teachers of English; author, “The Book in Question: Why and How Reading Is in Crisis”
“Elizabeth and B.H. James have written an elegant, sophisticated, and eminently useable text that English teachers will find energizing to read, even if they don’t teach the texts under consideration. Not only do the pair offer us new ways to both think about some of the most commonly-taught texts (Merchant, Raisin, Mockingbird) and teach these texts in conversation with nonfiction, but they do so in a way that is respectful and deeply optimistic about the possibility that English teachers might use literature to arm students with the skills to meet the sea of troubles that is our world and write the new book that we all need.” – Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle, authors of the “Using Informational Texts” series
“This book is designed to begin a very needed conversation in our classrooms today about social, racial, and gender inequities, done in the hope to help heal our nation of its acquiescence toward injustices that surround us today, guiding teachers to help students articulate and connect their own lived experiences to find meaning and relevance in the textbooks on the shelf. As we hope students forge their own ‘brave new world,’ the lessons in this book will activate the innate student and teenage desire to question and challenge the world around them, to state what goes unsaid about power and control in their own lives, to see the function of literature as more than an academic exercise, but as a call to embrace the full humanity of every human being.” – Natalia Trevino, author of VirginX and Lavando La Dirty Laundry
“Always student-centered, Elizabeth and B.H. James marry their cutting-edge call to pair literary and informational texts with concrete activities and assignments that are ready for the classroom. Activating old texts canonized in Common Core Standards for of-our-moment conversations, they show othering—where one gender, race, religion, or identity is stigmatized—to be a central, troubling feature of both literature and life. That agenda-setting insight opens doors for students to learn of bigotry today via Shakespeare, redlining in Chicago via A Raisin in the Sun, authoritarianism in 2020 via 1984, and structural sexism via The Handmaid’s Tale.” – Jeffrey R. Wilson, author of Shakespeare and Trump
The Way Forward: Final Words on Our “Sea of Troubles”
Romeo and Juliet and To Kill a Mockingbird: two books that demonstrate the tragedy of growing up in a world that is not as it should be. A world in which the adults have failed to create a world, for their children, that is safe and that is just.
But, two books in which the children, initiated into that world, move it forward.
On the morning of February 14, 2018—for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL—it was just Valentine’s Day. By the end of the day, for those who survived, it was a new world. A world in which the adults had failed to keep them safe.
And for several of those surviving students, it was a coming-of-age, and a call to action. They organized. They marched. They changed minds. They changed laws. They are still going, moving their new world forward.
Just over two months later, the Parkland students—specifically Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, and Alex Wind—were featured on the cover of Time Magazine as part of the 2018 Time 100, with an accompanying essay by former President Barack Obama.
President Obama said the following:
America’s response to mass shootings has long followed a predictable pattern. We mourn. Offer thoughts and prayers. Speculate about the motives. And then—even as no developed country endures a homicide rate like ours, a difference explained largely by pervasive accessibility to guns; even as the majority of gun owners support commonsense reforms—the political debate spirals into acrimony and paralysis.
This time, something different is happening. This time, our children are calling us to account.
The Parkland, Fla., students don’t have the kind of lobbyists or big budgets for attack ads that their opponents do. Most of them can’t even vote yet.
But they have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom.
The power to insist that America can be better.
Seared by memories of seeing their friends murdered at a place they believed to be safe, these young leaders don’t intimidate easily. They see the NRA and its allies—whether mealymouthed politicians or mendacious commentators peddling conspiracy theories—as mere shills for those who make money selling weapons of war to whoever can pay. They’re as comfortable speaking truth to power as they are dismissive of platitudes and punditry. And they live to mobilize their peers.
Already, they’ve had some success persuading statehouses and some of the biggest gun retailers to change. Now it gets harder. A Republican Congress remains unmoved. NRA scare tactics still sway much of the country. Progress will be slow and frustrating.
But by bearing witness to carnage, by asking tough questions and demanding real answers, the Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency. The NRA’s favored candidates are starting to fear they might lose. Law-abiding gun owners are starting to speak out. As these young leaders make common cause with African Americans and Latinos—the disproportionate victims of gun violence—and reach voting age, the possibilities of meaningful change will steadily grow.
Our history is defined by the youthful push to make America more just, more compassionate, more equal under the law. This generation—of Parkland, of Dreamers, of Black Lives Matter—embraces that duty. If they make their elders uncomfortable, that’s how it should be. Our kids now show us what we’ve told them America is all about, even if we haven’t always believed it ourselves: that our future isn’t written for us, but by us.
It’s worth repeating: “Our history is defined by the youthful push to make America more just, more compassionate, more equal under the law.”
Romeo and Juliet, through their deaths, ended the feud between their parents. Their tragedy healed the rift that had caused so much violence.
Tom Robinson was dead. Atticus wanted to appeal, but Tom was shot seventeen times in the back, desperately trying to escape a world that he knew would offer him no justice.
But after her brother had been already hardened by the fact of that injustice, Jean Louise Finch looked at the novel’s other Other—deemed “Boo” Radley by the society that had decided he was a monster—and called him by his name: Arthur.
And in the novel’s final image, she stands on the Other’s porch and sees the world—her world—through his eyes.
If Boo Radley is a metaphor for the dehumanizing effects of Otherness, it takes Scout to move it forward.
It is our children who will guide us through the Sea of Troubles. And we have the honor and the duty, as teachers, of preparing them to do so. That is the true work of an educator.
In order to dismantle historically ingrained patterns and systems of oppression and inequality, our students must recognize them.
So the only way to, in good conscience, allow students to meet the Sea of Troubles that they will inevitably inherit, is to show them—to arm them against those systems and those patterns. Perhaps then, they’ll have the chance to do better than we’ve ever done…and write the new book.
About the Authors:
B. H. (or Bill) and Liz James met in 2008 when they were both young teachers in the English department at Franklin High School in Stockton. They fell in love and married in 2011, and published their first book together, “Method to the Madness: A Common Core Guide to Creating Critical Thinkers through the Study of Literature” in 2016. That book focused on making sure the shift to Common Core was not a shift away from rigor or high expectations in the classroom. Since 2016, Bill and Liz have worked with school districts all over California, bringing strategies they use in their socio-economically diverse Title 1 classroom in Stockton to teachers all over the state.
Their philosophy is simple: everyone craves and responds to great storytelling. Therefore, they insist on keeping challenging, difficult, often college-level material in their classroom–every classroom, despite age, so that students can truly understand literature.
In the midst of 2020, their new book, “A Sea of Troubles” was born. When they found themselves overwhelmed by not just the amount of pertinent news all around them, but the anxiety and uncertainty that accompanied such a daily deluge of (often troubling) information, they knew their students were dealing with it, too.
This book aims to take real-life issues of injustice and model how to discuss these historic patterns in a classroom. The idea is simple: injustice is both very personal and very universal. Therefore, incorporating applicable informational texts within a unit of study provides both a personal narrative of the human cost of injustice, as well as a way to look at one character’s story as part of a larger historical narrative that is still playing out in students’ lives today.
So, for instance, a student studying “A Raisin in the Sun” can study it as great literature, and learn about characterization and climax and syntax. But with the James’ approach, that unit of literature will also include the supreme court case “Hansberry v. Lee” and red-lining maps of their own neighborhoods so that they also understand how a prejudiced housing system resulted in a lack of investment in the neighborhoods that they may still live in today.
The Jameses used books and plays already in most classrooms (like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “1984”) and reimagined how education can pivot toward a 21st century study of how these stories are reflections of inequalities and abuses of power that, despite time and place, keep happening.
For more information, to request a copy of A Sea of Troubles to review or an interview with the authors, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or (805) 807-9027.