Mothers & Others: Recent Audiobook Biography and History

Robin’s Roundup May 10

With events and awards taking the limelight for the last few months, I haven’t had a chance to simply highlight some of the most interesting audiobooks we’ve recently reviewed. A classic “Robin picks a quirky group of audiobooks” roundup follows.

The Matriarch
America's Jewish Women
The Moment Of Lift

Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, so “mothers” seems like a good theme to start with. Three recent Earphones Award-winning audiobooks give us some different ways of thinking about one iconic mother, Former First Lady Barbara Bush—THE MATRIARCH—and the many Jewish mothers who are portrayed in AMERICA’S JEWISH WOMEN. My third choice in the group is Melinda Gates’s new memoir THE MOMENT OF LIFT, not just because this audiobook inspires, but also particularly because of her views on service and giving back—see the video below. That’s certainly a purpose wholly shared by Mrs. Bush as well as by 19th-century philanthropist Rebecca Gratz, who is profiled in AMERICA’S JEWISH WOMEN.

In selecting these biographies, I was also stuck by the excellent audiobook history titles recently published—and getting high marks from our reviewers. David McCullough’s THE PIONEERS, with an excellent narration by John Bedford Lloyd, is getting a lot of attention from us—in newsletters and an upcoming podcast episode. AudioFile reviewer David Walton says it’s “a feast for the ear, the mind, and the heart.”

Stony the Road
American Moonshot
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

Harvard professor and PBS regular Henry Louis Gates, Jr., offers a complex history of black identity in a racist America. The audiobook is carefully and effectively narrated by Dominic Hoffman. Hearing STONY THE ROAD makes this social and intellectual history accessible in a way the print edition might not be. I’m also seeing several new audiobooks leading up to the 50th Anniversary of the first lunar landing, and Douglas Brinkley’s MOONSHOT: John F. Kennedy and The Great Space Race is a welcome addition. We’ve highlighted several recent history audiobooks, but David Treuer’s THE HEARTBEAT OF WOUNDED KNEE is also worth your listening time. Podcast contributor Jonathan Smith talked about this carefully researched history and collection of first-person accounts of indigenous people of North America in one of our 4-minute podcast episodes.

My final array of recommendations this week looks at some audiobooks that profile contemporary activism—from a meditation on the U.S. justice system to the exposure of sexual harassment in the military to fighting for LBGTQ rights. All are presented by the authors themselves.

Doing Justice
Unbecoming
Mamas Boy

Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York,  narrates his DOING JUSTICE: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law with a clear prosecutor’s delivery. Anuradha Bhagwati is a former U.S. Marine Captain whose memoir covers her personal life and military career and her subsequent dedication to fighting the military’s culture of gender discrimination and sexual abuse. UNBECOMING: A Memoir of Disobedience is both shocking and heartbreaking—and hearing it is a powerful experience. To come full circle to mothers, I recommend Dustin Lance Black’s MAMA’S BOY: A Story from Our Americas. Black is the Oscar-winning screenwriter (Milk) and LBGTQ rights activist whose storytelling gifts are evident in this Earphones Award-winning memoir. AudioFile reviewer Julie Thompson notes, “Mother and son’s powerful connection, forged through a lifetime of shared experiences and love, forms the heart of Black’s memoir.”

Random end notes:  I wrote about Mrs. Bush’s passion for audiobooks—”Barbara Bush Loved Audiobooks“—just a year ago on this blog, in April 2018. Before titling this post “Mothers & Others,” I checked for references and found that anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy wrote an exploration of the connection of our evolutionary ancestors to modern parenting, MOTHERS AND OTHERS. This “Nova” interview tells more: “The Evolution of Motherhood.”

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

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