Books

Hagar’s Last Dance
By day, Jeanne Pelletier is a small-town girl toiling in obscurity at a stuffy Washington, D.C., law firm; by night, she’s Zahira, the city’s newest belly dancing sensation. When a blaze rips through the city’s premier Middle Eastern nightclub and kills Jeanne’s beloved belly dance teacher Yasmina, Jeanne is drawn into a deadly mystery. Soon, she’s assembled a zany, crime-fighting urban family consisting of her obnoxious ex-CIA agent neighbor; her commune-dwelling, wild child best friend; and a sexy Scottish hacker bent on wooing the commitment-phobic Jeanne. But as Jeanne and her friends uncover a string of lovers and a web of family secrets stretching back to the Middle East, Jeanne is forced to confront a dark family secret of her own.

In the Shadow of the Volcano
In a memoir that is at once heart-breaking and hilarious, former U.S. intelligence analyst Maureen Klovers embarks on a year-long quest to understand why so many Latin Americans are willing to risk their lives to come to America. She moves into a convent with a rogue American priest, two nuns, and dormitory full of volunteers, and begins teaching children from the poorest and most dangerous slums of Quito, Ecuador. Soon, she is fending off marriage proposals from thirteen-year-old Darwin, locked in a battle of wills with his classmate Oscar, and struggling to decode the intricacies of the junior high pecking order. As she visits slums and leper colonies, interviews inmates at the Quito Women’s Prison, and tussles with corrupt government officials, she paints a vivid portrait of a nation in transition. Everywhere, she asks the tough questions most travel writers breeze over: What separates the developed world from the developing world? Is the third world destined to be poor forever? And if so, why? But perhaps the most important question is one she never set out to answer at all: Is America headed for the same fate? In the midst of a spirited public debate about income inequality, government regulation, and political dysfunction, “In the Shadow of the Volcano” serves as a fascinating and disturbing chronicle of how ordinary citizens can be affected by a crony capitalism that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few.

 

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