An American swami recounts the days he spent wandering through India in the 1960s in search of his true identity.
Swami grew up near Chicago during the ’50s as Richie Slavin, a middle-class Jewish kid. In his teens, he discovers the ’60s counterculture, takes part in civil rights demonstrations, grows his hair long, smokes pot and takes LSD. His best friend, Gary, invites him to Europe for three months during summer vacation after attending his first year at Miami Dade College. The author leaps at the chance; it’s the power of destiny calling. Swami tells the absorbing tale of his travels through Europe and his many adventures and wanderings through India. The intriguing coming-of-age story follows Swami on his spiritual search as he encounters saints, gurus and holy people. He meets Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama and stays with the fearsome Naga Babas, who, the author says, float in midair. He becomes a sadhu, a mendicant beggar who goes from cave to temple to ashram in a ceaseless quest to find his true teacher. Most yogis he encounters want to be accepted as his master, but time after time he refuses, for he has a special fate. Swami is a simple, ingenuous narrator, and he tells a straightforward tale adorned by brief descriptive passages that convey the magic and mystery of India during the early ’70s. The author spices his narrative with intriguing stories that will not only amuse readers, but also convey his deeper yearnings and uncertainties: Is God personal or impersonal? What is the role of meditation, humility and service in spiritual life?
A straightforward, engaging spiritual quest and life adventure.
Troncoso tells the story of a Mexican-American family as they come to terms with their cultural heritage over a span of 40 years.
The new novel from Troncoso (Crossing Borders, 2011, etc.) follows Cuauhtémoc and Pilar Martinez and their four children in the border town of Ysleta, Texas. As the children grow up, they feel the pull of their parents’ love for Mexico and the opposing force of their own identities in America. Cuauhtémoc is able to retire early from working as a draftsman and travels with his wife, living off the income from the apartments owned by the family. Pilar, a Catholic mother who is stern but instills strong values in her children, is a hardworking housewife who sold Avon to help with the bills. However, she worries that she hasn’t done enough to fill her children with her beliefs: “Pilar was overcome with incredible sadness. Why had her children abandoned the church? Why had they become like grains of sand scattered throughout the desert?” The oldest, Julia, becomes Aliyah, converting to Islam and moving to Tehran with her husband and three children. Francisco is overweight and attending community college but works tirelessly at the apartments, playing the role of the good son. Marcos becomes a teacher and a member of the Army Reserve, marrying a white woman and living near his family in Ysleta. Ismael, the youngest, goes to Harvard and marries a Jewish woman, escaping the confines of his home in Texas only to meet with the labors of life as a man torn between his duties as a husband and his aspirations as a writer. Troncoso seamlessly intertwines the struggles the grown children face with their parents’ desire to help them become independent and proud Mexican-Americans. The prose is powerful in an unassuming way, making for a captivating read. The author carefully paces the book, with each chapter plotting an era in the family’s lives, ultimately joining the family’s collective narrative of religion and family obligation with the current events of the time. Troncoso is clearly adept at his craft, telling a story filled with rich language and the realities of family life and closing with a son reassuring his mother and literature reassuring them both.
With its skillful pairing of conflict over religious and familial obligations with the backdrop of a Mexican-American family’s love for one another, Troncoso’s novel is an engaging literary achievement.
An irreverent, honest look at life outside the mainstream Mormon Church.
Townsend’s (Mormon Bullies, 2012, etc.) timely book presents a number of touching vignettes focused on quirky characters struggling to reconcile their own beliefs with the rigid doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He focuses much of his attention on the struggle between homosexuality and acceptance within the faith, providing a number of stories focused on gay men who have fallen away from the church. These men have been excommunicated because of their lifestyle, yet they find themselves unable to completely cut ties and walk away from the belief system in which they’d spent years being indoctrinated. Other characters are also struggling with alternate life choices that have placed them outside the mainstream faith. One couple struggles with the decision to remain childless; a devout man questions his own relevance within the church after being overlooked for a higher calling; a depressing LDS singles cruise leads a desperate man to realize he may be too far outside the norm to truly fit into the Mormon community. Townsend touches on family, addiction, sex and love, concepts that should resonate with all readers. Throughout his musings on sin and forgiveness, Townsend beautifully demonstrates his characters’ internal, perhaps irreconcilable struggles. As appropriate for a compilation of stories that present real characters in gritty reality, nothing is black and white. Townsend condemns facets of the religion yet manages to present conflicted viewpoints with balance. Rather than anger and disdain, he offers an honest portrayal of people searching for meaning and community in their lives, regardless of their life choices or secrets.
A perfect read for the election season, though its appeal will endure.
An unapologetic, perverse, yet spiritual first novel that follows one man’s mistakes and triumphs when he learns that he can live forever.
David’s novel follows Israel “Izzy” Stern, a recent Boston University graduate living alone in Providence, R.I. All the family Izzy has is his grandfather’s friend, Uncle Jack, who meets with him at a Starbucks the summer after college to play chess, ogle the busts of coeds from Rhode Island School of Design and Brown, and for Uncle Jack to tell Izzy his secret—he’s immortal. Jack’s wisdom, money and immortality—a gift Izzy learns he shares with Uncle Jack—catapults Izzy from his life of womanizing and grappling with his insecurities to one of wandering, helping and learning. But Izzy’s transformation comes not without him first hitting rock bottom: “He had become a riches-to-rags cliché. Izzy too, like Aqualung had stared at young girls with bad intent. And Izzy, like Mrs. Robinson in the Simon and Garfunkel song, now prayed for a place in heaven with God. His agnosticism was now completely suspended due to his new low standing in the world.” David’s writing is punchy and incorporates lyrics to classic songs as well as pop culture and perversity. Although the occasional authorial interruption is distracting, David makes up for it with his honest prose that questions societies’ beliefs about God and discusses the growing problem of militant and persecutory views that jeopardize human lives. In the style of Salman Rushdie—though David is not quite as ambitious—magical realism is used to explore religion, spirituality and the state of our world today. This work should secure David a place within the genre as a writer who will tickle the reader, make her think and then take a hard look at the world around her.
David’s compelling debut successfully incorporates pop culture, profanity and religion into a resonant exploration of existence.
Psychotherapist and life coach Light explores psychology and spirituality in her debut self-help title, offering a new model for personal change.
Light’s profound book offers a clear program for personal growth that is both well-researched and well-explained. Demonstrating expertise in a program she has practiced for more than 30 years, Light promotes Personality Integration Theory and Therapy as a unique blend of psychology and spirituality that can lead to empowerment and awareness. She suggests that this psychological approach is more successful than models based on pathology, reasoning that many issues can be attributed to a lack of maturity rather than mental illness. Light challenges many of Freud’s notions and builds on others, clearly explaining how Personality Integration empowers patients to acquire self-knowledge, embrace adult behaviors and integrate the parts of the self that remain fragmented or unconscious. In her explanation of the theory and therapy, Light explains how her program is both similar to and different from other self-help approaches, including the 12-step programs: Hers begins with the development of a healthy inner relationship—“the first relationship”—and discusses how to move through the stages of survival to end up in a state of thriving. Modern self-help readers will find a satisfying balance of existing and revolutionary concepts. For those who wish to begin exploring this therapy, Light offers workbook-style exercises and quizzes. Readers shouldn’t let the trippy cover fool them into thinking this book is ungrounded—this title is a well-substantiated, fascinating breakthrough in therapy and transformation. Light’s marriage of psychology and spirituality is sure to satisfy modern seekers of self-enhancement.
Fans of Eckhart Tolle, Pia Mellody and Deepak Chopra will enjoy this unique and powerful book.