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Washington Reads Fall 2009 - Washington Inspires

Washington has long been considered a state of immense opportunity for its people, but living here is not without its share of challenges. Many Washingtonians have overcome the hardships they have faced and their stories are inspirational. Our state's literature celebrates the ability of Washingtonians to triumph over adversity, to learn and grow from life’s challenges - whether they are the result of birth or our surroundings, and calls upon us to embrace hope, inspiring and celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.

Brainerd, Debbi.  The Tree That Came Home:  An IslandWood Story.  Illustrated by Katherine Zecca.

A story told through the eyes of “Douglas”, an old-growth Douglas fir tree that grew up in the Puget Sound region hundreds of years ago.  Douglas witnesses the arrival of many new inhabitants and unheralded changes in its world.  It even becomes a traveler of the Pacific Northwest until returning home as a beam that enhances the Welcome Center at IslandWood’s primary building, welcoming children to experience the wonders of the natural world.
Young Adult
Deuker, Carl. Gym Candy

This young adult sports novel reveals the very real pressures of high school athletic performance and the pitfalls of steroid use.  It is a sobering and realistic look at the struggle of teens coping with both the expectations of success in the sports world and the turmoil of growing up.
Banerjee, Anjali.  Invisible Lives

This novel portrays the life of a young Indian woman trying to adhere to her family’s tradition, while being tempted to follow her heart after growing up in Seattle.  It is a light, warm and humorous portrayal, sprinkled with magic, and verging on east meets west "chick lit."
Buckholtz, Alison.  Standing By:  The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War

This vivid account of the quiet sacrifices and hardships of military families in a time of war is honest and compelling.  Readers are treated to both the humor and despair of the highs and lows of these families’ lives left in limbo.  This memoir recounts their upheavals and coping strategies, as well as their devotion to each other and to the military.
Gleason, Christine.  Almost Home:  Stories of Hope and the Human Spirit in the Neonatal ICU

Dr. Gleason tells a series of compelling and heartwarming neonatal stories so that we can better understand the challenges, the sadness, and the joy of patients and their parents in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital.  She also weaves in the trials, uncertainties, and rewards of her career as a neonatal physician as she shares glimpses into her own life story.
Ford, Jamie.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This debut novel is a stunning story of innocence and romance in Seattle during the war-torn period of World War II.  The plot has many layers, and gives us an honest portrayal of both the sentiments and dealings that were pervasive in the years after Pearl Harbor.  It is a tale of family, friendship and forgiveness. This book was the inspiration for the Washington Reads theme "Washington Inspires."
Kershner, Jim.  Carl Maxey:  A Fighting Life

Kershner has deftly used his reporter’s skills in writing this biography of Spokane’s Carl Maxey.  Maxey fought his way out of the depths of poverty to become a civil rights and social justice champion and an anti-war protester in the turbulent '60s.  This book provides an important perspective on a tumultuous period in the Pacific Northwest’s social and political history.
LeMieux, Richard. Breakfast at Sally's: One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey

Richard LeMieux tackles many of our preconceived notions about the homeless and what brings them to the street corners and shelters of our towns and cities.  As a former sportswriter and publisher who himself was plunged into homelessness, he crafts a tale that approaches these little-examined characters with great complexity and compassion.  This is a wonderful story of hope that will help us to witness the humanity of the homeless and satisfy anyone wanting to know more about the many people relegated to the margins of our society.
Notaro, Laurie.  There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might be Going to Hell:  A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble

In her first work of fiction, Notaro makes us laugh out loud at the antics of her main character, Maye, as she tries to make friends in the tight-knit community of the tiny town of Spaulding, Washington.  Tensions arise as she tries to win the local pageant.  This is a smart, witty and funny tale that you can snuggle up with on a cold night!
Turner, Steve.  Amber Waves and Undertow:  Peril, Hope, Sweat, and Downright Nonchalance in Dry Wheat Country

Turner relates the tales of the hardworking pioneer settlers, longtime residents, and Latino newcomers who cultivate Eastern Washington’s Adams County.  Beneath these absorbing stories is a thoughtful and stimulating discussion of the roles and challenges of farms and farmers in Washington’s wheat country.