In the Stacks: Biographies on Hepburn, Castro, Eminem, Jung, and many others

Posted: Sunday, February 01, 2004

Biographies: we've got the scoop on everyone from the obscure to the sublime (or at least notorious) at the Juneau Public Libraries.

"Audrey Hepburn, an elegant spirit," by Sean Hepburn FerrerL Aphoto-biography written by her son, this is a sentimental look at Hepburn. Family photos show her evolution from babe-in-arms to budding ballerina during WWII, and professional photos are added to the mix, illustrating a life full of family and career responsibilities.

"The Last Alchemist," by Iain McCalman: Count Cagliostro was, depending on your perspective, either a brilliant and benevolent healer or else a dangerous rogue with the power to undermine monarchies. This biography looks at seven major episodes in Cagliostro's life, using them to bring him back to life and place him in historical context. A street urchin who gave himself the title of Count, he was a skilled con man as well as genuinely effective doctor. Being a self-appointed ambassador of Freemasonry made him a target, and, in fact, he was eventually betrayed by his wife to the Inquisition and died in prison.

"The Real Fidel Castro," by Leycester Coltman: Coltman, the former British ambassador to Cuba, has written a biography of Castro based on their many years of association and friendship. From his Cuban childhood to his exile to Mexico and eventual return to Cuba to rule, the Castro of this book is portrayed as the principled and proud leader of a country that is working towards parity.

"Whatever you say I am: the Life and Times of Eminem," by Anthony Bozza: Less a biography than a study of hip-hop culture with an emphasis on Eminem, this is a well-written introduction to the world that Eminem moves in. Bozza, a writer for The Rolling Stone is deeply knowledgeable about the behind-the-scenes of music life and knows Eminem better than perhaps any other writer.

"Joothan," by Omprakash Valmiki: Born in the 50's into a caste of untouchables, Omprakash, his parents and siblings continued to be treated as untouchables even after "untouchability" was officially outlawed. They scavenged scraps from the tables of other households (the meaning of the title), and were forced to do the most menial labor. It was only because of his parents' strong determination that he be educated and not remain bound by his caste, that Valmiki went to school. He is now a respected author, but even today is dogged by old attitudes that continue to influence his life and his choices.

"The Language of Blood," by Jane Jeong Trenka: As Trenka tells it in this mesmerizing memoir, baby Kyong-Ah lived to be six months old, and then she became baby Jane, and her big sister Mi-Ja lived to the age of four, when she became Carol. Adopted into a Midwestern family from Korea at a very young age, Jane never really had a sense of herself as Korean or as American. This is her story, and the story of her two families: her adoptive family and her birth family, with whom she was reunited as a teenager.

"Autobiograpy of a Geisha," by Sayo Matsuda: When Matsuda was six years old, she was sent to work as a nursemaid, and when she was twelve, sold to a geisha house. After disgracing her house by trying to commit suicide, shewas reunited with one of her little brothers, and together they formed a tiny family, looking out for one another in wartime Japan. Matsuda's life was a far cry from the glamorous life of Arthur Golden's fictional geisha, and is all the more heartwrenching because it is true.

"Land of the Radioactive Midnight Sun," by Sean Michael Flynn: Written by an Air Force Lieutenant stationed at Eielson Air Force Base during his first year in Alaska, this is a fun read that captures much of the sense of otherworldliness that newcomers to our state feel. From his first December in Fairbanks, when he turned a doorknob with his bare hands at 43 degrees below zero, to the following December when he spent an afternoon drinking beer and listening to a hockey game with a buddy in front of the campfire that was keeping the beer from freezing, Flynn tells it like it was for him.

Also look for new biographies of George Gershwin, Yasir Arafat, Arthur Gelb, Margaret Sanger, Carl Jung, Mark Twain, Franklin Roosevelt, and Nikita Khrushchev.

If you'd like to place a hold on any of these titles, call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249. If you have internet access, your library card, and a PIN, you may place your own holds by going to our website ( and looking at our catalog. Placing holds on items featured in In the Stacks is now even easier! The new columns are hyperlinked to the catalog: simply look up the column, click on the title you want, and you will be ready to place a hold.

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