Books in Brief: John L Williams, Gene Luen Yang and Richard van Emden

Three new books you may have missed.

America’s Mistress: the Life and Times of Eartha Kitt
John L Williams

Orson Welles once called her “the most exciting woman in the world”. Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein and T S Eliot were among her many admirers. Yet the American actress and singer Eartha Kitt (the sonorous voice of “C’est Si Bon” and “Santa Baby”) was deeply troubled. She was born on a cotton plantation in South Carolina in 1927 and never knew her father. In the 1950s, she became involved in the civil rights movement and she continued to support women’s charities and LGBT rights until her death in 2008. John L Williams, the author of recent biographies of Shirley Bassey and the London-based Black Power leader Michael X, offers an affectionate account of a woman who was ahead of her time.
Quercus, 336pp, £20

Boxers and Saints
Gene Luen Yang

In 2006, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese became the first graphic novel to be shortlisted for the National Book Award. His new diptych, Boxers and Saints, is set during the Boxer Rebellion in the late 19th century, in which nationalists in northern China rose up to “exterminate the foreigners”. In Boxers, a peasant boy named Little Bao is inspired by a vision to join the uprising. In Saints, a girl with no place in her village is taken in by Catholic missionaries. One story leads to massacre, the other to martyrdom.
First Second, 336pp, £12.99 (“Boxers”) and 176pp, £10.99 (“Saints”)

Meeting the Enemy: the Human Face of the Great War
Richard van Emden

In Meeting the Enemy, the historian Richard van Emden shifts his focus from the grim fields of the First World War to the small, all but unknown instances of compassion across enemy lines. A high-ranking British POW sings his troops’ praises to the kaiser; German soldiers try frantically to make contact with the families of British captives; married couples refuse to be split by a historical rift far beyond their control.
Bloomsbury, 384pp, £20

An independent book shop in central Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Getty Images.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 02 September 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Syria: The west humiliated

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SRSLY #45: Love, Nina, Internet Histories Week, The Secret in Their Eyes

This week on the pop culture podcast, we chat Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Nina Stibbe’s literary memoir, our histories on the internet, and an Oscar-winning 2009 Argentinian thriller.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

...or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on StitcherRSS and SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s web editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The Links

Love, Nina

The first episode on iPlayer.

An interview with Nina Stibbe about the book.

Internet Histories Week

The index of all the posts in the series.

Our conversation about MSN Messenger.

The Secret in Their Eyes

The trailer.

For next week

Anna is watching 30 Rock.

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]gmail.com.

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we’d love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

We love reading out your emails. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we’ve discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at]gmail.com, or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.

Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 

See you next week!

PS If you missed #44, check it out here.