Behind the Book: Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Our Book Club selection for October and November is Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris. This heart-breaking true story centers on a young woman who endures horrific hardships and unimaginable conditions. Her story of survival is a powerful testament to the triumph of human will. Half Price Books was thrilled to be able to discuss this powerful novel with Heather Morris. Read on to discover her answers to our questions below.

Can you tell us more about Cilka Klein, the inspiration behind Cilka’s Journey? What made you decide to write a story inspired by her?

Cover.Cilkas JourneyCilka Klein was a Jewish girl from Bardejov, a small town in what is now Slovakia. She celebrated her 16th birthday in March 1942; a month later she was transported, along with her father and two sisters, to Auschwitz. A few weeks later she was transferred to Birkenau where she caught the eye of two senior SS officers and was singled out to be kept as their sex slave. Placed in a special block, No. 25, she survived until the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Red Army. Her nightmare continued when she was condemned for ‘sleeping with the enemy’ and sent to a Siberian gulag.

It was Lale Sokolov who told me about Cilka – “she was the bravest person I ever met”, he told me, “she was a tiny young girl. And she saved my life”. Among all the wonderful letters, emails and questions I get from readers, it is the question I am asked over and over again – “what happened to Cilka?”.

And after having written about Lale, I wanted to write about women’s experience of Auschwitz, and of war – including the often untold stories of sexual abuse and violence. As for Cilka herself, the more I found out about her, I realized just how extraordinary she must have been, to survive all that she did, and find life and love after her time in two of the most brutal places on Earth. Continue reading

Behind the Book: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

We are thrilled to introduce our August/September 2019 HPB Book Club Selection, Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. This book addresses the struggles of Cassie Hanwell, a woman born for emergencies who uproots her life to move from Texas to Boston, where she struggles to find her place as one of the only female firefighters in the state. This heartfelt, stirring novel touches on two of the most important things in life— love and the meaning of courage. In this installment of our Behind the Book blog series, Katherine Center gives us insight into her inspiration and decision to tell Cassie’s story.

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Little Readers’ Storytime Book Club

Our friend Kristen (known on Instagram as @tojaneandrose) took summer reading to a whole new level by launching @storytimebookclub, a neighborhood book club for little readers. We encourage you to follow their weekly adventures as the kids gather on Wednesdays for a neighborhood story time play group like no other! Each week, neighborhood’s little readers join together for a new themed storytime and activity, and we’re way jealous.

We asked the @storytimebookclub creator and mom-in-chief if she had any advice to share and here are her tips and wisdom for getting something started where YOU live! Continue reading

Behind the Book: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Our current Half Price Books Book Club pick for June/July is Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. This bestselling book (over a million copies sold!) is based on the true story of one of America’s most notorious adoption agency scandal

Lisa stopped by our Dallas Flagship on May 21 to celebrate the paperback release of Before We Were Yours. While she was here, she took a few minutes to discuss the book. Take a look!

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Behind the Book: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Beautifully, exquisitely wrought, When We Left Cuba is everything you could ask for from a historical novel, and it’s our HPB Book Club pick for April and May 2019. Chanel Cleeton will break hearts with this tale of a privileged Cuban refugee and the powers and people that change her life. Full of love, revenge and deadly situations, When We Left Cuba will leave your heart racing and your mind transported. Chanel  provided us with an in-depth look into her protagonist, Beatriz, for our Behind the Book series. Continue reading

If You Liked Maid, You May Also Like…

If you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading (or perhaps just finished) Maid, by Stephanie Land, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Putting her dreams of college on hold to have a child, Land finds herself homeless and alone. Navigating government assistance and trying to find a way to provide for her daughter, she starts working for a cleaning service. As a maid, Land witnesses the lives of others while feeling invisible herself. This autobiography of Land’s struggle to provide a better life for her daughter, exposes the struggle of the working poor who long to find the American dream while living below the poverty line.

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If you (like me) liked Maid, here are a few other books you may like: Continue reading

Behind the Book: Maid by Stephanie Land

Written in raw, masterful, heart-rending prose, Maid is the story of one woman’s tenacity to survive and break free of the grips of the welfare system to give her child a better life. Stephanie Land’s work gives voice to the working poor. Her compassionate, unflinching writing is fueled by her own struggle as a low-income single mother who aspired to use her stories to expose the reality of pursuing the American Dream while being held below the poverty line. We had a chance to catch up with Stephanie Land and ask her some questions for our Behind the Book series

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What inspired you to put pen to paper and actually write down your experiences? Was there a certain catalyst that made you want to write this book?
I’ve been writing about my experiences since I was 10 years old, but it was almost entirely in a private way by journaling and not allowing anyone to read it. By the time I decided to take writing (and consequentially publishing) seriously, I’d been a daily writer for over 25 years. Maid came from an essay I’d published in Vox that went incredibly viral. I guess from all the interest it was clear that a book was bound to happen! Continue reading

Behind the Book: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Editor’s Note: When the Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel centered on the truly inspiring story of a high school teacher who surprises everyone when she breaks with tradition to become the first female high school football coach in Texas. Set during WWII, Tylene Wilson faces extreme opposition but shows what courage really means. This inspiring story has won hearts everywhere and was chosen as our Book Club selection for October and November. We had the opportunity to discuss the book with Marjorie Herrera Lewis, which you can read about below.

This is your debut novel- what did you learn about the process of crafting a book?
The biggest lesson I learned about the process of crafting a book is that it’s hard; it’s really hard. It takes discipline, passion, skill and a willingness to learn something new almost every day.

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What first interested you in Tylene Wilson’s story?
The story resonated with me the instant I was told what Tylene had done. I am a career sports journalist, and to discover that a woman had coached football in the 1940s took my breath away. I also felt connected to her in a way because I was the first woman assigned to the Dallas Cowboys beat in the 1980s. I knew firsthand what it was like to work in a male-dominated field. I was drawn to what I imagined she had endured. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

EDITORS NOTE: From debut author Imogen Hermes Gowar comes The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, an atmospheric historical fiction novel set in 18th century London. The elegant prose and magical realism transports you to a world of opulence and turmoil. Gowar’s rich visuals and detailed descriptions kept us reading and reading and reading! We had the opportunity to catch up with Imogen recently. Read on to discover her answers to our questions!

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The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is such a unique story. Where did your inspiration come from? Was there something in particular that drew you to mermaids?
I’ve been interested in the supernatural since childhood, and that definitely includes mermaids. I was particularly compelled by the traditional mermaid myths: the idea that they had a dangerous, inexorable power as much rooted in melancholy and longing as in anything erotic.

I was also really interested in the way people thought of mermaids, as opposed to how they were displayed. The goblin-like counterfeit mermaid effigies that were popular in the eighteenth century and beyond didn’t bear a huge resemblance to the sexy damsels of popular imagination, but people were willing to be taken in by them nevertheless. While I was working at the British Museum I came across one of these fake mermaids—it’s made from a monkey’s torso stitched to a salmon’s tail—and it is oddly chilling. I could immediately imagine the sort of man who might want to acquire it: how he would bridge the gulf between how it looked and what he wished to believe. Continue reading

If You Liked A Place for Us, You Might Also Like…

A Place for Us 2.jpgIf you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading (or perhaps just finished) A Place for Us, by Fatima Farheen Mirza, a heartbreaking story of family, identity and belonging. As all the members of an Indian-America Muslim family gather to celebrate the eldest daughter’s wedding, each family member looks back at crucial moments in their past as the three children have searched for the place they belong in the world, in their culture, in their faith and in their family. Mirza goes back and forth in time and from one perspective to another, letting the reader see the thoughts and feelings behind every circumstance and every consequence, showing how without understanding, even acts of love can turn into acts of betrayal. A Place for Us is the first title published under Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth.

If you liked A Place for Us, here are a few other books you might like:

 

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, by Marisa de los Santos, How Hard, Can it Be, by Allison Pearson, Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo, An American Mariage, by Tayari Jones

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward, Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, What We Lose, by Zinzi Clemmons, Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, What We Were Promised, by Lucy Tan (coming out July 10, 2018)

So, what’s your next read?

Check out what we’re reading next. Join the HPB Book Club.