Saturday, November 3, 2012

New Memoirs On Our Shelves:

An inspirational journey from tragedy to triumph

In 2003, nineteen-year-old Private J.R. Martinez was on a routine patrol when the Humvee he was driving hit an antitank mine in Iraq, resulting in severe injuries and burns on his face and more than one-third of his body. Out of that tragedy came an improbable journey of inspiration, motivation, and dreams come true. In Full of Heart, Martinez shares his story in intimate detail, from his upbringing in the American South and his time in the Army to his recovery and the indomitable spirit that has made him an inspiration to countless fans.

J.R. Martinez always had a strong spirit. Raised in Bossier City, Louisiana, and then Hope, Arkansas, by a single mother from El Salvador, he was well known at school for his good looks and his smart mouth. At seventeen, showing an early determination and drive that would become one of his trademark qualities, J.R. convinced his mom to move to Dalton, Georgia, where he believed he would have a better chance of being recruited to play college football. His positive attitude earned him a spot on a competitive high school football squad, but when his college dreams collapsed, he turned to the U.S. Army. A few months later, he found himself serving in Iraq.

When J.R.'s humvee hit a mine and exploded--just one month into his deployment--he was immediately evacuated to a San Antonio medical center, where he spent the next thirty-four months in grueling recovery. Seeing his disfigured face for the first time after the accident threw him into a crushing period of confusion and anger. His spirits were low, until he was asked to speak to another young burn victim. J.R. realized how valuable and gratifying it was to share his experiences with other patients and listen to theirs. He'd found a calling.

His fellow soldiers, along with the local and then national media, soon latched onto J.R.'s spirit and strength. His resilience, optimism, and charm were also noted by Hollywood and scored him roles on "All My Children" and "Dancing with the Stars," where he was the season thirteen champion.

Today, J.R. tours the country sharing his story and his lessons for overcoming challenges and embracing hope, lessons that abound in this book. Full of Heart is an unforgettable story of a man who never gave up on his dreams.

In her powerful memoir His Bright Light, bestselling author Danielle Steel opened her heart to share the devastating story of the loss of her beloved son. In A Gift of Hope, she shows us how she transformed that pain into a campaign of service that enriched her life beyond what she could imagine.

For eleven years, Danielle Steel took to the streets with a small team to help the homeless of San Francisco. She worked anonymously, visiting the “cribs” of the city’s most vulnerable citizens under cover of darkness, distributing food, clothing, bedding, tools, and toiletries. She sought no publicity for her efforts and remained anonymous throughout. Now she is speaking to bring attention to their plight.

In this unflinchingly honest and deeply moving memoir, the famously private author speaks out publicly for the first time about her work among the most desperate members of our society. She offers achingly acute portraits of the people she met along the way—and issues a heartfelt call for more effective action to aid this vast, deprived population. Determined to supply the homeless with the basic necessities to keep them alive, she ends up giving them something far more powerful: a voice.

After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.

Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a charming, feckless father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), with everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon.

A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations in achieving that goal—beautifully recounted here—were to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both. Fraught with the timeless dynamic of going home again, encompassing hopes and fears and the relentless tides of familial and individual complications, this story is arresting, comic, heartbreaking, and truly beautiful, an immediate classic.

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