Book News: September 2019

The Lost Painting - The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece

The Lost Painting : The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece

by Jonathan Haar

“The Taking of Christ”, a masterpiece painted by the controversial genius known as Caravaggio, an Italian Baroque artist, was assumed to be lost to the ages. It depicts Christ being brutally arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before Good Friday.  Lo and behold, in 1990 it was discovered by two Italian art history students, Laura Testa & Francesca Cappelletti, and Sergio Benedetti, an Italian art conservator. This riveting true story recounts how they researched centuries of archives in local Italian villages and located records kept by Caravaggio’s 17th-century patrons. The narrative brings to life their journey investigating auction houses, galleries & museums in England, Scotland and Italy. The first time Francesca viewed Caravaggio’s art, she was eleven years old. “the paintings seemed to breathe, to pulse with heat and light, capturing a moment in time, like a scene glimpsed through a window.”

Sir Denis Mahon, an  85 year old renown art historian and the world’s leading Caravaggio scholar, helped in their search. “Sir Denis believed that a painting was like a window back in time, that with meticulous study he could peer into a work by Caravaggio and observe that moment, four hundred years ago, when the artist was in his studio, studying the model before him, mixing colors on his palette, putting brush to canvas. Sir Denis believed that by studying the work of an artist he could penetrate the depths of the man’s mind. In the case of Caravaggio, it was the mind of the genius. A murderer and a madman, perhaps, but certainly a genius. And no copy, however good, could possibly reveal those depths. That would be like glimpsing a man’s shadow and thinking you could know the man.”

Caravaggio’s tumultuous short life is briefly discussed along with his incomparable, powerful, & passionate art. One of my favorite artists, it’s a consummate historical & detective story about both him and the amazing discovery rolled into one sensational page turner. 

Hindsight - Coming of Age in the Streets of Hollywood

Hindsight : Coming of Age in the Streets of Hollywood

by Sheryl Recinos, MD

“During my medical school clerkships, an attending recognized a truth within me that I’d hidden for many years. Just a few hours into my pediatrics rotation, the attending asked me, “You had a rough childhood, didn’t you?  I was astonished. How had he known? I asked him, needing to know what gave away my most deeply kept secret. And he said something that surprised me. “You don’t react. When patients tell you about risky behaviors, you treat them like regular people and just keep talking to them. You don’t look shocked by anything they say.”

In Recinos’s moving memoir, she describes the trauma of being homeless as a teen and young adult in Los Angeles, her dysfunctional family, her drug use, a pregnancy, and eventually  overcoming challenges to achieve phenomenal success by becoming a physician. Stalwart &  courageous to relate her life story to the world, she states “I wrote the story because I realized that people didn’t have a resource to better understand what it’s like to be a youth experiencing homelessness or struggling with many of the life obstacles that I faced when I was a teenager.”  Her life experiences have enabled her to respond to people in meaningful ways.  Not only is “Hindsight ” informative, profound, heart breaking & utterly inspiring, it will make you reconsider judging others superficially. Everyone has their own story.

A Woman Is No Man

A Woman Is No Man

by Etaf Rum

Born in Brooklyn to Palestinian immigrants, Rum felt compelled to write about women’s inequality in the Arab-American families she witnessed in the U.S. and abroad. She’s  “aware of breaking an unwritten “code of silence” about domestic abuse and fear and being labeled a traitor by Arab Americans”.  She states ” Arab-American society will never advance until women are free, that we hurt ourselves if we do not treat women equally and with respect.”  “in some Arab-American families, domestic violence is the norm. But it’s important to recognize that it’s rooted in culture. Our mosques favor equality between men and women, and they’re completely opposed to domestic abuse. Still, in the home, and in the wider community, it is tolerated. The novel traverses 1990 to 2008 for a reason. This was my world growing up, but I did not want to write a memoir. I was not allowed to attend public school because my parents were afraid that my Arab values would be corrupted and I’d want to behave like an American girl. They wanted me to maintain my reputation, so I was not even allowed to mingle with Americans.” 

This compelling novel follows the lives of three women within three generations : Isra , a 17 year old Palestinian young woman whose favorite pastime is reading  ;  Deya, her first born daughter who is born in the U.S. ; and  her grandmother, Fareeda. I intentionally chose to reveal little about this riveting novel. I knew very little about it when I chose to read it. Had I known more, I may not have been interested in reading it, which would have been a great loss. It’s the brave & extremely talented  Rum’s debut novel.