New Books From Local Authors
The scoop on works by Nadia Hashimi, Peter Cozzens and more
In researching his latest book, The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West (Knopf, October 2016), Peter Cozzens spent four years traveling to nearly 50 battle sites in the northern Plains, the Southwest and the Western United States. The retired Foreign Service officer from Kensington presents a balanced account of the conflicts between 1862 and 1891, explaining intertribal conflicts and government missteps. “This was a tragic era. There were a lot of good intentions on both sides that way too often went awry,” says Cozzens, who has written more than a dozen books on American history. “There were huge basic cultural gaps and misunderstandings, and very few real heroes or villains.”
Nadia Hashimi, a pediatrician and mother of four young children in Potomac, is devoting more of her time these days to writing. Her latest novel, A House Without Windows (William Morrow, August 2016)—like her best-seller, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell (Morrow, 2014)—is set in her family’s native Afghanistan. The story is about Zeba, a woman accused of murdering her abusive husband, and her fellow prison inmates, who are charged with having relationships deemed inappropriate or with getting pregnant out of wedlock. “This book was inspired by me learning about the many women who are imprisoned in Afghanistan for crimes of immorality,” Hashimi says. “I wanted to create a story that would talk about that issue, but also be an enjoyable story and have a bit of a mystery to it.”
David Bulitt’s Because I Had To (Roundfire Books, January 2017) is a novel about Jess, a 20-something woman struggling to get her life together after the death of her adoptive father. The father’s grieving best friend, J.B., a divorce lawyer, helps Jess track down her birth parents. “The book is narrated from two perspectives, and it really is about two people who are searching in their own way,” Bulitt says. A divorce lawyer who lives in Olney, Bulitt writes in the evenings and on weekends now that he and his wife are empty nesters. “I hope it touches people who have had adoption as part of their family, or mental health issues,” he says of the book.
When Maria Leonard Olsen’s parents wanted to get married at their home church in Montgomery County in the 1960s, they were forbidden by law because they were an interracial couple. “When I told my children that, they were incredulous,” says Olsen, an attorney from Bethesda. She wrote Not the Cleaver Family: The New Normal in Modern American Families (Tate Publishing, November 2016) to educate parents and their children about the growing prevalence of nontraditional families, including interracial couples, same-sex couples, single parents and couples without kids. “I wanted to shine the spotlight on how much things have changed, yet remind readers we need to remember our history and learn from it,” she says.
What’s on your bedside table?
Since he retired as a lawyer about eight years ago, Silver Spring resident Fred Bowen says he keeps a list of all the books he’s read and stars the ones he wants to recommend to others.
“If you write, you have to be a reader,” says the sports columnist for The Washington Post’s KidsPost and the author of 22 books, including Outside Shot (Peachtree Publishers, March 2017), his latest sports fiction title for 8- to 12-year-olds.
Along with titles for adults, Bowen likes to read books aimed at kids, including a recent favorite, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press, 2015), a finalist for a National Book Award in 2015. It’s about the whistleblower who released the famous Pentagon Papers detailing years of government deception in Vietnam.
“It’s a great overview of those days in the ’60s and ’70s,” Bowen says. “Ellsberg was somebody who started off as a RAND [Corporation] and Pentagon person who believed in the war. Then he went and he couldn’t believe in it anymore.”
“It’s a fun read, except for the fact that it’s so tragic,” Bowen says. “[Sheinkin] makes it very, very readable. When you write for children, you know you have to make it very readable. … [We] sometimes forget that.”Bowen credits Sheinkin with doing a great job explaining the complex story in a compelling way to middle school- and high school-age readers, and says the book also will appeal to anyone interested in the era.