January-February 2018 | Featured Article

Book Report: Works by Local Authors

Our roundup of new reads, from parenting advice to history tomes

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Chris Palmer believes parents can have more influence on their kids than they think—if they step up. “You have to stay involved, be assertive and have standards,” says the author of Raise Your Kids to Succeed: What Every Parent Should Know (Rowman & Littlefield, October 2017). The book stems from the 70-year-old Bethesda resident’s experience in learning to connect with his three daughters and working as a professor of film and media arts in the School of Communication at American University, where, he says, students often arrive on campus unprepared and anxious. Among his ideas for raising resilient, happy and kind kids: Create a family mission statement, develop fun traditions, allow kids to teach parents something new each day, spend one-on-one time with each child, have firm boundaries and express love often.

After years of women pushing for the right to vote, what finally got the issue over the finish line? That question fascinated Bethesda’s Johanna Neuman and led her to write Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote (Washington Mews Books, September 2017). Neuman, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, discovered that wealthy women with last names such as Astor, Vanderbilt and Whitney joined the cause in the early 1900s, and that their involvement added a “buzz and excitement” that was a magnet for the press corps. “When [these socialites] declared for suffrage, it was like the first celebrity endorsement of the 20th century,” says Neuman, a writer with a doctorate in history. “They traded their social cache for political power.”

Howard Bennett’s new book, The Fantastic Body: What Makes You Tick & How You Get Sick (Rodale Kids, November 2017), uses humor, bright illustrations and fun stories about animals to get kids interested in everything from why their ears pop to the purpose of saliva. The 248-page book is geared toward 8- to 12-year-olds, but the pediatrician, who lives in Bethesda, says it can interest parents, too. “The human body is just an awesome machine, and we all take it for granted to some degree,” says Bennett, a columnist for KidsPost in The Washington Post. “We think about our outsides—our fingers, our toes, our eyes, our nose. Dipping into a book like this gives you a taste of what it’s like on the inside and how things work.”

A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial (Arcade Publishing, September 2017) by James Reston Jr. chronicles the artistic, political and emotional struggle nearly 40 years ago over how to honor the men and women who died in one of the nation’s most controversial wars. It’s a story worth revisiting because the design by Yale architecture student Maya Lin became “arguably the most successful war memorial that’s ever been done in all of the history of art,” says the Chevy Chase author. “It’s become a place for the contemplation of all war. The experience of going to that wall, when you look at it as a whole, is the focus on the cost of war, and that transcends the Vietnam generation.”