Bingo Love

When “happily ever after” is more like unhappily ever after, how  long does “ever after” really need to last? Is it ever too late to find your way back to that one true love?

Bingo Love, the first in a series, is the epic love story of Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray told in flashback from the year 2038. They first meet and fall in love as school girls in 1960’s Paterson NJ, but when their Christian families find out that these BFFs are more than just friends, they are forbidden from ever seeing each other again. Forced to live by the social norms of their African American community during that time, they go their separate ways, get married, raise children… and grow old. But they never forget each other nor do they ever stop loving one another. One day at the local bingo parlor these two (now grey-haired) grandmas are reunited. Their lives and their families will never be the same again.

This page-turner is a deeply moving story about rich and complex characters. Although a large section of the story is about teenagers, we also get to see how these two girls evolve over time into adults. We even get to see them grow through different stages of being seniors and all of the dramatic turns that phase of life presents. Real-to-life yet beautifully imaginative in its depiction of the future, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the timelessness of true love.

The Dark Matter of Mona Starr

When teenager Mona Starr finds herself spiraling into a depression, her best friend persuades her to begin seeing a therapist. Mona does more than see a therapist. She takes an active role in her own healing journey by meditating, journaling about her thoughts and feelings, and analyzing how her mind works with the help of a therapist. Young Mona’s visceral struggles are translated into images so deftly that people who have experienced mental illness will take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. Those who have not experienced mental illness will find this book a rare window into the inner world of people who have.

The visual language in The Dark Matter of Mona Starr avails itself of the most common school supplies found in students’ backpacks (i.e., graphite pencil, black pen, graph paper, and yellow highlighter). This palette will be recognizable to high-school-notebook-doodlers past and present. Such pedestrian materials might be overlooked by many artists, but when deployed with the level of imagination and skill possessed by Laura Lee Gulledge, they result in mind-blowing images. Beautiful graphite illustrations, lovingly blended to create soft textures, are meticulously inked in black for sharp detail.  Juxtaposed with cover-to-cover depressive grayscale, highlighter-yellow is used sparingly throughout the book to convey the magical healing powers of love, friendship, creativity, and self-compassion.

I especially love how this book is both a moving story and a practical guide! In the back of the book Gulledge’s personal Self-Care Plan is laid out in detail, and beside it, a companion note-catcher in which readers can figure out a self-care plan of their own.

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