Skillfully bypassing the barbed wire of politics and partisanship, Nathan Thrall offers a searing picture of what it means to be a Palestinian parent in A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy (Macmillan Audio, 6 hours and 44 minutes). Abed’s terrible day begins with him racing around to make sure his 5-year-old son, Milad, will be allowed to participate in a kindergarten field trip to a theme park. Soon after Abed drops the boy off, he hears of a crash involving a school bus. Eventually the story emerges: A semi swerved out of its lane; the bus overturned and caught fire; the emergency response was delayed at a checkpoint; the surviving children were taken to different hospitals, some in parts of town where Palestinians cannot travel. Thrall follows Abed and several other parents as they desperately search for their kids, navigating both physical barriers and bureaucratic limitations that they encounter daily but in this situation become monstrous. Narrator Peter Ganim’s clear, compassionate delivery makes it easy to follow the large cast of Palestinian and Jewish characters, following the story from its festering roots in the past to its heartbreaking reality by day’s end. Our reviewer called it a “moving, often maddening portrait of the dire life straits of Palestinians in Israel.”

Although its frustrations are on a different scale, bureaucracy and inequity are also villains in Alexandra Robbins’ The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Vulnerable, Important Profession (Penguin Random House Audio, 10 hours and 23 minutes). Robbins followed three teachers for a year: Miguel, a gay, Salvadoran American elementary school teacher; Penny, a middle school math teacher with an abusive husband and a toxic workplace that also contains a new love interest; and Rebecca, a musical theater maven who sings and dances her way through her underfunded fourth grade classroom. Robbins herself evinces acting props on the audiobook as she channels Penny’s Southern drawl and Rebecca’s Noo Yawk fuhgeddaboudit accent, also voicing a host of parents, administrators, colleagues, and supporting characters. You’ll feel like slapping some of these people, and you’ll be humbled again and again by the commitment the teachers demonstrate, whether they’re spending their own money on classroom supplies or showing deep reserves of patience and understanding. As our reviewer concluded, The Teachers is an “important and eye-opening book that all parents, teachers, and educational administrators should read.”

“Not a day laps by when I don’t think of all the women in my family who bear the blood-wound fixed deep by tragedy. Whose life and deeds washed away, unsung, unknown in the tide of history. All that I write now is for them,” says poet Safiya Sinclair in her exquisite reading of How To Say Babylon: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster Audio, 16 hours and 46 minutes). The author’s recording of this finalist for the Kirkus Prize, chronicling a writer’s coming-of-age in a Rastafarian family in rural Jamaica, is a must-listen for devotees of audio memoir.  Sinclair’s voice is girlish, her Caribbean diction elegant, her rendering of patois and Rasta jargon powerful and authentic.  It was Sinclair’s gift for language that opened the door that allowed her to escape the confines of Rastafarian patriarchy and entrenched outsider status as a published poet in her teens, and it infuses this narrative sentence by transporting sentence. As the Kirkus reviewer concluded, “Sinclair’s gorgeous prose is rife with glimmering details, and the narrative’s ending lands as both inevitable and surprising.”

Marion Winik hosts the NPR podcast The Weekly Reader.