Category: Non-Fiction

'Trans Mission,' 'Little Sister,' & 'Knockout'

Bookstr’s Three to Read This Week 6/13/19

Sometimes, the most incredible stories are true. Yes, that includes the anecdotes of party fouls and beach meet-cutes you’re surely hearing from your friends as summer rolls in. But it mostly refers to true stories on a much grander scale: tales of overcoming adversity and accomplishing incredible things. This week, Bookstr is bringing you three life-changing works of nonfiction, from a trans man’s memoir-slash-guide to pursuing the life you want, to a financier raised in a cult, to the legacy of an enduring cultural icon. All three of our authors have faced difficult circumstances, whether it’s coming out and undergoing surgery; being isolated from TV, music, and the outside world through adolescence; or growing up under segregation. Keep reading to get a look at three stories as powerful as their narrators.

Check out Bookstr’s Three to Read, the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week!



Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard 


'Trans Mission' by Alex Bertie



Being a teenager is difficult enough, but having to go through puberty whilst realising you’re in the wrong body means dealing with a whole new set of problems: bullying, self-doubt and in some cases facing a physical and medical transition.

Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.

Throughout this book, Alex will share what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness. This is an important and positive book, a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir with a broad appeal.



Twenty-three-year-old Alex Bertie is a popular YouTuber who has been profiled for both BBC and The Times—and, more importantly, he’s chronicled his gender transition online for the last six years. With 300,000+ subscribers, he’s made his platform count with educational videos on binding safely, preparing for top surgery, and avoiding offensive language to describe trans people. While trans issues have recently moved into the public consciousness, activists like Alex who have bravely publicized their experiences for years. In addition to these educational videos, Alex also shares his opinions and experiences having sex as a trans person, attending pride, online dating, and coping with mental health issues. For young people who may not have found a LGBT+ community of their own, Alex’s open discussion of gender & sexual identities provides support and advice that some may not otherwise have access to. Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard is a profoundly honest and potentially lifesaving resource for anyone questioning their gender identity: Bertie discusses self-harm, dysphoria, and how he gradually came out and began his path to emotional healing. Perfect for LGBT+ pride month!



 Little Sister: A Memoir 


'Little Sister A Memoir' by Patricia Chadwick



They promised her heaven, but there was no savior.

Imagine an eighteen-year-old American girl who has never read a newspaper, watched television, or made a phone call. An eighteen-year-old-girl who has never danced—and this in the 1960s.

It is in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Leonard Feeney, a controversial (soon to be excommunicated) Catholic priest, has founded a religious community called the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Center’s members—many of them educated at Harvard and Radcliffe—surrender all earthly possessions and aspects of their life, including their children, to him. Patricia Chadwick was one of those children, and Little Sister is her account of growing up in the Feeney sect.

Separated from her parents and forbidden to speak to them, Patricia bristles against the community’s draconian rules, yearning for another life. When, at seventeen, she is banished from the Center, her home, she faces the world alone, without skills, family, or money but empowered with faith and a fierce determination to succeed on her own, which she does, rising eventually to the upper echelons of the world of finance and investing.

A tale of resilience and grace, Little Sister chronicles, in riveting prose, a surreal childhood and does so without rancor or self-pity.



In the tradition of Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir, Patricia Walsh Chadwick’s Little Sister: A Memoir tells a story of success despite harrowing odds. Featured in the New York Post, the gripping memoir depicts a childhood as impossible to imagine as it must have been to inhabit. As a child, Chadwick had never watched TV or read a newspaper. After being indoctrinated into a sequestered religious life since birth, a series of natural teenage crushes led to the cult community determining she was not fit to serve God. They allowed her to finish her senior year of high school, and then—not even an hour after her graduation—she was exiled from everything she had ever known. Despite all this, Chadwick became an incredible success with an accomplished thirty-year financial career and a CEO position in theLGBT+ health organization she founded herself. Powerful and moving, this is a memoir you’re unlikely to forget—a memoir unlike any other you’ve ever read before.



Knockout: The Art of Boxing 


'Knockout: The Art of Boxing' by Ken Regan




Ken Regan was a young photographer in 1964 when he covered Muhammad Ali’s first fight: his historic victory over Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. Afterward, the young photographer embarked on a life-long love affair with the sport of boxing.

For the next four decades, Regan would go on to chronicle the greatest fights and the greatest fighters of the age. His extraordinary photographs include many of the most enduring images ever created in the annals of boxing, as well as portraits of notable trainers, managers, promoters, writers, and the whole panoply of celebrities associated with the sport. Featuring some of the greatest ring action in boxing history, Knockout takes us from sparring sessions and press conferences to weigh-ins and post-fight sessions.

Knockout also features Regan’s compelling stories and firsthand accounts of his amazing photographic journey into the heart of boxing. Beginning with his early magazine work shooting prizefights and throughout the following decades, Regan developed close personal friendships with some of the greatest fighters. Regan captures intimate moments showing fighters with their families at home and on the road. With numerous black-and-white and color images, many of them seen here for the first time, Knockout is destined to be one of the most celebrated books ever published on the subject of boxing.



Although it’s been three years since Muhammad Ali’s passing, the legendary boxer remains a cultural icon. Just last month, HBO released What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali, a powerful documentary depicting not only his athletic career but also his legacy as an activist. Knockout: The Art of Boxing contains an introduction from actor Liam Neeson and never-before-seen photos from Ken Regan, a world-renowned photographer who has profiled the likes of Bob Dylan and Madonna, among others. Regan’s photography expertly juxtaposes the brutality inherent in the sport with the grace and strength of Ali’s character. If you’re short a gift for Father’s Day, why not check out this beautiful release from Insight Editions? It’s sure to be a winner.




All In-Text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Made With PhotoCollage.

What’s Going on with Singapore’s Robot Libraries?

In a world where every independent bookstore is at risk of shutting down, it feels almost impossible to accept that Singapore has nearly doubled the quantity and quality of its libraries over the past two decades.

Singapore’s National Library Board has been collaborating with the country’s Urban Redevelopment and Land authorities to ensure an information-first future for libraries, according to an exclusive interview with GovInsider. This top-to-bottom initiative aims to make Singapore a global leader in information technology while vastly improving the quality of life of inhabitants ranging from toddlers to retirees.


Via GovInsider


In other words, these aren’t your mother’s dusty stacks in some university basement.

These new user-friendly libraries speak a language of QR codes and automation rather than the Dewey Decimal System, but physical books are very much still present. Visitors can just scan their phones for easy access to hard-to-find items while behind-the-scenes robots sort returned books and process late fees, according to Asia One.

While readers might initially step into the libraries for free WiFi and air conditioning, futuristic amenities like 3D printing stations, augmented-reality storytelling rooms, and expansive waterfront views — like those available at library@harbourfront, a newly relocated and popular library branch — convince them to stay a little.


Via GovInsider


More and more libraries are popping up in densely commercial areas, like Harbourfront, but this doesn’t mean crowded browsing, necessarily. Singapore’s new libraries are meant for high-capacity, and the cozy lounge rooms and separate areas for supervised children make for an inviting and tranquil oasis.

Disclaimer: The NLB was the source of massive public backlash, and support, in 2014 when it chose to remove three books containing homosexual characters from the children’s section. After notable poets and writers withdrew from two prestigious literary ceremonies and a 4,000-signature petition reached the NLB offices, the board decided to relocate the books, including And Tango Makes Three, to the adult section instead.



Featured Image Via


Top 3 Books to Read For D-Day Anniversary

With D-Day’s 75th anniversary this Thursday, June 6th, we at Bookstr would like to recommend three non-fiction books for you to read. From inspiring to harrows, these books will go beyond painting a picture in your mind of what happened that day but instead give you an on the ground look as well as a bird’s eye view of that day in human history.


3. D-Day: The Battle for Normandy

Anthony Beevor's "D-Day" Cover

Image Via The Telegraph


Published September 28th, 2010, this book has renowned historian Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad and The Battle of Arnhem“presents the first major account in more than twenty years of the Normandy invasion and the liberation of Paris”. It goes beyond D-Day and shows us how important that day was. From the experiences of American, British, Canadian, and German soldiers, as well as the French civilians and resistance groups, this book chronicles “more than thirty archives in six countries”.



Image Via The Boston Globe


The Guardian writes that the book “…moves from the weather drama to surveillance of the assault beaches, to individual accounts of each beach, to the breakout for Paris, the action never lets up,” and highlighted how many perspectives of the same side were shown, such as showing the Germans with “with a proper view of the difference between those who retained a moral sense and those in whom it had long disappeared”.

When asked if any accounts he researched epitomized the Battle for Normandy, Anthony Beever replied to The Telegraph that:

Well, there was a wonderful account from a young anti-tank gun officer in the Warwicks [the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment] which had been captured after trying to engage a German Panzer Division. The Germans treated them terribly well and gave them wine.

2. Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany

Stephen E. Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers" Cover

Image Via Goodreads

If you want to go further than the liberation of France and instead go from D-Day to all, literally all, that happened after it, then pick up Historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s hefty non-fiction book. Published September 24th, 1998 by Simon & Schuster, this 528 page book will move you through “ordinary men in the U.S. army” continues where Ambrose left off in his #1 bestseller D-Day. Citizen Soldiers, starting from 0001 hours, June 7th, 1944 until the end at 0245 hours, May 7th, 1945, with the allied victory.



Image Via Washington Post

Kirkus Reviews stated that “[w]ith remarkable immediacy and clarity, as though he had trained a telescopic lens on the battlefields, Ambrose offers a stirring portrayal of the terror and courage experienced by men at war” and Publishers Weekly signed off with calling the book “an excellent and engrossing new look at the Normandy invasion”

1. Operation Bodyguard: The History of the Allies’ Disinformation Campaign Against Nazi Germany Before D-Day

Operation Bodyguard: The History of the Allies’ Disinformation Campaign Against Nazi Germany Before D-Day might say exactly what it is about, but few today know the true story.

You should.


"Operation Bodyguard" Cover

Image Via Amazon

Taking a key from the maxim, “He who defends everything, defends nothing,” the Allies hired theater actors to act as troops, created fake radio shatter, fake reports on troop movements, and put General Patton in charge to give this faux army some credibility. Keying in on this fake radio chatter, the Nazis drew their focus away from the Normandy beaches.

As a result, this operation thinned out their troop movements, combined with General Eisenhower ordering the invasion on a day the Nazi believed the Allies wouldn’t attack, was able to give the Allies an edge on that day on the beach.



Image Via

Now, for curiosity’s sake, if you had to pick two books out of this list of three, which would you choose? And what will you be doing to commemorate D-Day?





Featured Image Via BBC

New Zealand Teen Wows the World With Spoken-Word Poem About Racism

This is the age of division—of crowded twenty-six lane highways existing alongside speeding motorcycles about to hit a T in the road. An age of shiny watches and clothes draping suffering souls; cultures on a collision course. A time of CGI, and action-packed prose—a great medium; but, where does poetry fit in?

William Wordsworth once said, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”  The type of expression formed through reflection and contemplation—as we prepare to address the things that bother us. I remember reading the preface to a little book of poetry once (a tiny back pocket volume), it said that poetry is meant to enrich, ennoble and encourage. These are the first things I thought of when I heard Takunda Muzondiwa speak.


Takunda Muzondiwa
Image Via


A New Zealand high school student at Mt. Albert Grammar School, Muzondiwa has been making news for a speech she made at the Human Rights Commission’s annual Race Unity Aotearoa Speech awards. At these awards, six of New Zealand’s best high school speakers addressed how we can improve race relations. Thanks to the past twenty years of technological influx, someone recorded the speech, which sees Muzondiwa delivering a poem she wrote. The video has been viewed over half a million times.

“Yesterday I was African, today I am lost.”



In the above video, Muzondiwa recounts her experience immigrating from Zimbabwe to Aotearoa at the age of seven. She has, unfortunately, had to deal with the type of cultural assimilation and the racism that seems to plague so many. Her poem, which she wrote to a man who had the audacity to touch her hair on the bus (because it was curly? Different?) describes the pitfalls of assimilation; such as aligning with societal beauty standards.

“I believe unity comes from a better understanding of one another as people. The best way I know how to share the perspective of those I represent as a black immigrant woman is through my writing. I write my poetry and I send it to the man who sat behind me on the train last week who had the audacity to touch my hair without even asking.”

“I guess the basic human concept of respecting personal space doesn’t apply to you?” I didn’t say that which is crazy because I almost always have something to say but at that moment, like my split ends, my mouth was too dry to speak.

The Takunda Muzondiwa in this video is a young woman who refuses to feel shame; she realizes how important her culture is (if by some weird reason you haven’t watched it and realized that yet).

“But luckily my hair, my hair speaks volumes. Tangled and twisted there are stories in these in curls. Stories of a mother, father stamped with a number marked as objects sold for property. Stories of my ancestors shackled in cages displayed in zoos the same way you stroke me like an exhibit in a petting zoo.”

I watched that video and literally mouthed the word “wow” (before thinking of obscure quotes about poetry). The kind of words coming out of this person’s mouth, the way in which they are being expressed, is the type of thing I can’t see on any silver screen or within the context of any story—other than a real one. It’s the kind of thing Wordsworth and my long-since-lost pocket book of poetry were talking about; Muzondiwa’s words enrich, ennoble and encourage.

At the end of her speech, Muzondiwa, after true contemplation and reflection, addresses the real recipient of her powerfully crafted words. The thing that she, and so many others, find themselves simultaneously alongside whilst racing towards.

“So dear racism, I’m rewriting the history you gave me because I know the future belongs to those who prepare for it and you have been preparing me for centuries.”

This is the age of unity.


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