THE BOOK MARK | Books that inspire us to make change during protest season

May has arrived and with it, protest season. Regardless of our personal beliefs, we are reminded that one of the most sacred rights we possess is freedom of speech and the right to question the status quo, and books are often a big part of that process.

Whether it’s in the form of a political tome, a controversial cultural analysis or a children’s book about right and wrong, books inspire us to ask questions, take action and change things. It’s a great time to head to your local bookstore and get inspired!


Historical Buzz Book: “Daughters of the Samurai,” by Janice P. Nimura

This is a beautifully descriptive, painstakingly researched account of the lives of five young Japanese girls who were daughters of the samurai. Hand-chosen from elite families by the empress herself, they were sent to America to be educated and then return to their homeland to become examples of the westernization and instruments in the modernization of 19th-century Japan.

Written from historical correspondence and journals kept by the girls and their host families, the story is rich in personal details and takes you through their difficulties and triumphs, many times in their own words.

This is a fascinating time in world history and an incredible account of the five girls who became the bridge between feudal Japan and the modern era.

Janice Nimura will be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum (1400 E. Prospect St.) to discuss her book on May 14, at 7 p.m.


Nonfiction Buzz Book: “Stuffocation,” by James Wallman

Discussions about rampant materialism have been going on for more than a century. From Thoreau to Fromm to Elgin, we have been challenged to question this phenomenon and the toll it can take on people, society and the environment.

In “Stuffocation,” James Wallman revitalizes this discussion not by rejecting modern life and mainstream culture but, instead, by emphasizing the relationship an individual has with material things. Are they trying to find meaning, identity, status and happiness in “stuff,” and if so, how can they maintain a better balance between the material and the experiential?

His challenge is to value experiential living more than “stuff” and uses current case studies, relevant statistics and obtainable alternatives to breathe new life into the subject.

The reader will appreciate his incredibly insightful cultural analysis and be inspired to continue the discussion.


Kids Buzz Book (ages 8-13): “Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer,” by Kelly Jones

Meet Sophie Brown, a self-assured, matter-of-fact tween who is thrust into the world of chickens after her family inherits a poultry farm. Her story unfolds through a series of letters and tutorials that teach her more about her new pets than she ever imagined possible. But as things progress, Sophie realizes these seemingly ordinary chickens have unusual powers that make things very interesting.

Filled with fun, mischief and a little magic, this beautifully written story hits on themes of responsibility, friendship and community, while also touching on tougher themes like dishonest adults and the gray areas between right and wrong.

Sophie is a smart, funny new heroine that will inspire young girls everywhere.

Here’s what local author Kelly Jones had to say about her wonderful, new book.


How did this book come about?

Kelly Jones: My favorite book as a kid was “The Hoboken Chicken Emergency,” by Daniel Pinkwater, which Sophie reads in my book — I think that was the start. I got my first chickens as an adult, took a class on chicken keeping and the story grew from there.

Initially, I thought I was writing a fantasy novel, but it kept getting more and more real. Eventually, it took its current form, which is reality blended with touches of magic. Some people call it “contemporary real fantasy.”


I like that Sophie has to navigate some moral dilemmas. What are your thoughts on this?

KJ: I didn’t set out to intentionally teach moral lessons, but I feel there are a lot of gray areas in the world, especially when it comes to right and wrong, and I don’t think we should sidestep that or dumb it down for kids. It’s a part of life.


We love supporting local authors! Also, I heard you have ties to Queen Anne.

KJ: Yes, I used to live on Queen Anne Hill. I got my Bachelor of Arts (English and anthropology) and Master of Arts (library sciences) from the University of Washington, then worked in the King County Library System for several years. I left that to pursue writing. I currently live in Shoreline.

Kelly Jones will launch her book with a reading at Queen Anne Book Co. (1811 Queen Anne Ave. N.) on May 15 at 6:30 p.m.


JOANN MORENO is a community bookseller. To comment on this column, write to