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Vacation voices

Heading out for a summer vacation? Bring a bit of home with you—a book by a local author! Choosing a staycation instead? Read and relax in your garden with one of the titles below. You can check out copies at your public library or order one from an indie bookstore. Author Elizabeth Everett (see below) recommends her favorites, Another Chapter Bookstore, and Ampersand Books. Happy reading!

Don’t Look Back: A Memoir of War, Survival, and My Journey from Sudan to America

By Achut Deng and Keely Hutton 

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2022, hardcover, $18.99

In 1990, five-year-old Achut Deng’s world fractured when her Baba was injured in the Second Sudanese Civil War. Her Mama was summoned to help him, leaving Deng with her grandmother. Soon after, soldiers attacked their village, driving Deng from her home and leaving her to wonder if she would survive, let alone ever be reunited with her parents.

This page-turning memoir of children forced to endure the atrocities of adults is a reminder of what is going on in the world at any one time. Tears will be in the readers’ eyes for the losses endured by families and children. Though some tears will be the happy kind once they reach the end. The resilience and strength that some people in this book possess is truly amazing.

Deng is an American citizen, mother to three sons, and human resources worker in South Dakota. She paired up with Hutton, who lives in Rochester with her husband, two sons, and adorable dog, to write Deng’s memoir. The two quickly became friends. Hutton is the author of two young adult novels and was the 2009 Ryu Karate World Champion in empty-hand kata and weapons kata for her gender and age category. You can find her two ridiculously large trophies in her living room and more information about her writer life at


A Perfect Equation

By Elizabeth Everett 

Berkley, 2022, paperback, $16.00

Letty Fenley has been given an important task: she must keep Athena’s Retreat, a secret place for women scientists, running. Viscount Greycliff, the acting steward of the retreat, is catching Letty’s attention as England’s masses argue that women have no place in science. Letty must decide if she can allow herself to fall for Grey or just dedicate her life to a world of facts and figures.

The comedic banter between Letty and Grey is a laugh-out-loud highlight of this novel. Letty is based on a real woman, Parisian Sophie Germain, which adds another layer to this historical fiction. Letty’s story is number two in The Secret Scientists of London series, and each book features a different female lead and male counterpart. Books one and three are out now, and more tales of rule-breaking women are to come.

Elizabeth Everett is the pen name for a morning person who votes DogTown garbage plates as the best in the city and walks in Mt. Hope Cemetery for inspiration. She and her children are RCSD graduates, and Everett has a healthy obsession with the Fox Sisters. Learn more at


The Prison Guard’s Daughter: My Journey Through the Ashes of Attica

By Deanne Quinn Miller with Gary Craig 

Diversion Books, 2021, paperback, $17.99

Miller was five when her father was murdered during the Attica Prison Riot of 1971. After decades of silence, she spoke to others about what really happened when state and local police stormed the prison, killing hostages and inmates in the process. She joined the Forgotten Victims of Attica in part to make New York State right the wrongs it still upholds to this day.

This story is very emotional, especially when the reader learns how many children were left fatherless. It is maddening to learn that New York State will not apologize for the deadly way it “retook” the prison. The book also illustrates how all of us are more alike than different no matter what our background and that working together as a group for support can help accomplish physical goals and emotional healing.

Miller, a mother of two, lives in Batavia with her husband and is the award-winning program coordinator for the Veterans Defense Program of the New York State Defenders Association. She worked with Craig to bring her story to book form. Craig, a father of two, lives with his wife in Brighton where he writes for the Democrat & Chronicle. He is also the author of Seven Million and can be found at his local Starbucks, library, and on Twitter at @gcraig1. Learn more at


Excuse Me While I Disappear: Stories

By Joanna Scott

Little, Brown, 2021, hardcover, $27.00

A Middle Ages apprentice learns to write and leaves his mark for the future. A future researcher tries to find the stories of little-known writers from the past. A baby on a subway vanishes—then reappears. These are some of the short stories in this collection, where words are discovered and where words reappear.

The through line of these stories is storytelling through writing and art, which gives it a meta feel. This is especially true since the author slips in what the reader assumes is at least one true, first-person account. They are all quiet literary tales, meant for reading slowly and pondering.

Scott is the award-winning author of numerous novels and short story collections. Quotes from her work can be found on a museum wall on the Island of Elba and in the opening of a Criminal Minds episode (season 13, episode 17). She teaches English at the University of Rochester. Visit her here:


Soft-Boiled: An Investigation of Masculinity and the Writer’s Life

By Stephen J. West

Kelson Books, 2022, paperback, $20.00

West’s dream is to write books, but he struggles to find a worthy topic. Meanwhile, he supports his wife through her vision loss and parents their infant son. Enter Frank Streets, a private investigator who agrees to let West join him on the roads of West Virginia. West is sure this is the story he is meant to tell. But it turns out to only be part of the narrative.

West’s self-reflection as a husband and father is blended with literary references and his time spent with Streets. It makes for a unique book that is difficult to categorize. Memoir? Essays? Detective story? Either way, there is humor, heart, honesty, and more to ponder in this book.

When not teaching English at St. John Fisher College, West enjoys Bagel Land bagels, Record Archive records, and playing ice hockey at Paul Louis Arena. He can also be found walking his fifteen-year-old Australian Shepherd at Mendon Ponds Park. Follow West on Twitter @iamstephenwest for a look at the Undead Darlings broadside art series he works on at Flower City Arts Center.

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