The Cook Up
D. Watkins (Grand Central Publishing)
From the first pages of his memoir, Watkins plunges us into a world of heartbreak and violence, where life hangs in the balance. The day the then-teenaged D. Watkins discovers he has been accepted to Georgetown University, his older brother—his hero, the one who had pushed him to escape the streets—is shot and killed. While processing his grief and struggling to find his place in the world, a disillusioned Watkins takes over for his brother in the East Baltimore drug business after a short stint in college. That is where the book hurtles forward in riveting detail, bringing us into a world of crack cooks and turf wars, neighborhood hierarchies, Rolexes, Polo apparel, and Mercedes-Benzes, Belvedere vodka, and chicken boxes. Watkins weaves together characters and situations that are equal parts hilarious, painful, and unforgettable. And when he begins to question his involvement in the drug business, and his role in the community, he proves just how difficult it is to transcend. Watkins’s work is an important one, showcasing a gifted writer who has much to contribute to our understanding of our city.
Do Guns Make Us Free?
Firmin DeBrabander (Yale University Press)
“We thought Sandy Hook would change things,” begins DeBrabander’s book, referencing the December 2012 elementary school shooting in Connecticut where 20 children were massacred. But, he continues, the pleas for gun control that followed were met with little action, and one year later, “the country had loosened more gun regulations than it tightened.” DeBrabander, an associate professor of philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art, examines why gun control has become such an emotionally charged debate in our country. He explores the role of the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment, our founding fathers’ intentions, and how gun ownership fits into democracy. He presents startling statistics on the decreasing number of Americans who own guns and the significant drop in crime nationally—which DeBrabander says seems to contradict gun advocates’ increasing desire for self-protection. Do Guns Make Us Free? is an informative and thought-provoking work that forces us to examine our own beliefs as we search for resolution to this polarizing issue.
Laura Lippman (HarperCollins Publishers)
Families have always provided abundant material for writing, both fiction and nonfiction. There’s the exploration of long-established dynamics, hidden resentments, shared histories—and, perhaps, family secrets. Lippman—the renowned Baltimore author and wife of TV writer/producer David Simon—dives into this territory in her newest novel, providing us with a book rich in the examination of truth and memory. Lippman’s main character is Luisa “Lu” Brant, a newly elected Howard County state’s attorney who has prosecution in the blood—her father held the same post when she was a child. Her first murder case brings back pieces of the past that cause her to question what she holds as true and lawful. Lu is far from one-dimensional—she’s a feisty, independent, and competitive woman who’s not afraid of who she is, or what she represents. Her story, set in Columbia and told in a braided narrative style that alternates between her childhood and the present day, has all the elements of a great, page-turning crime novel. And as usual, Lippman delivers.