July-August 2021

Book report

New works by Bethesda-area writers

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Ann McCallum Staats tried skydiving, rode in a Formula One race car, and went scuba diving. The Kensington writer says the experiences helped her convey the passion and drive of the people she profiled in Thrill Seekers: 15 Remarkable Women in Extreme Sports (Chicago Review Press, March 2021). “I had a taste of why these women would do it,” Staats says of the mountain climber, snowboarder and others she covered. “To me, it was a feeling of freedom…doing something outside the ordinary that pushes yourself, but makes you feel alive.” Staats, who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages at Rockville High School, says she hopes the book (aimed at ages 12 and older) will motivate readers to persevere in whatever sport or activity they pursue.


Mei Xu arrived in the U.S. from China in 1991. In department stores, she was struck by the contrast of the fashion floors with stylish designer products and the home furnishing floors that reminded her of a grandma’s house. Xu says being an immigrant gave her a fresh eye to identify gaps in the home decor market. The Bethesda resident tells of her journey as the founder of Chesapeake Bay Candle in Burn: How Grit, Innovation, and a Dash of Luck Ignited a Multi-Million Dollar Success Story (Wiley, March 2021). “Many people think about innovation when they think about ideas that relate to technology. But innovation can reside in very mundane objects, such as candles,” says Xu, who recently launched Yes She May, an e-commerce website to support women-owned businesses.


After a career as an anesthesiologist, Dr. David Sherer became a consumer health advocate and writer—and now a novelist. His new book, Into the Ether (Armin Lear Press, February 2021), traces the story of a burned out, middle-aged physician who gets caught up in a financial scheme and skips the country under a new identity. “I found fiction writing was infinitely more fun,” says Sherer, who grew up in Bethesda and now lives in Chevy Chase. “I had a smile on my face when I was writing because I could create whatever I wanted.” Still, Sherer continued with his health writing, and in March released What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You: The Real Reasons You Don’t Feel Good and What You Can Do About It, published by Humanix Books.


Morowa Yejidé’s second novel, Creatures of Passage (Akashic Books, March 2021), draws on her family roots in Washington, D.C., which go back more than a century. She creates a mystical world that includes the realm of Anacostia and the Kingdoms of Virginia and Maryland. Just as her grandmother drove a cab in D.C., so does the book’s main character—but with a twist of fantasy as she takes passengers on supernatural journeys. “The magical realism is deliberately placed to give an opportunity for people to have a different view of Washington—a familiar, yet a different view—because of the magical aspects,” says Yejidé, who lives in Silver Spring. “The chapters morphed along with the city over the years.”