Dreaming in Hindi

Katherine Russell Rich hit the skids with a bump and crash. Recovering from two bouts of cancer and getting fired from her magazine job left her with a life that, she says, "no longer made any kind of sense to me." So the tradition of Eat Pray Love, she set herself on the path to reinvention by studying Hindi. "I no longer had the language to describe my own life. So I decided to borrow someone else's." Using her skills as a journalist, Russell Rich dove into researching second-language acquisition (SLA) and how it affects the brain. Living like a college student for a year in Udaipur with a local family while attending classes was at first a welcome distraction. "This book was going to be solely about the near mystical and transformative powers of language," Russell Rich writes. She found that words have destructive powers too, "to reshape people" and leave them twisted and broken. During her sojourn, Russell Rich witnessed a teacher's violent accident, a fellow student's mental breakdown, and her own views of both home and host countries -- and herself -- tested in the wake of 9/11. Though eloquent and thorough, Russell Rich's memoir bears a hint of apology for falling short of clearly illustrating the changes wrought by the ephemeral nature of language and communication. It's okay, though, for as she pulls us through her year, we too are ensnared in the tendrils of speech and culture, caught up in the colorful world they define.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."