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In honor of Black History Month, here are some newer titles that explore the varied experience of being black in America, some from historical perspectives and others from a contemporary point of view.
“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South.
“The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth” by Karen Branan
A provocative true account of the hanging of four black people by a white lynch mob in 1912 is written by a descendant of the sheriff charged with protecting them and draws on diaries and letters to piece together the events and motives that led up to the tragedy.
“Jam on the Vine” by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
A poor, African-American Muslim girl in rural, racially segregated turn-of-the-century Texas, Ivoe Williams discovers a passion for journalism while pilfering old newspapers from her mother’s white employer. Ivoe, together with her former teacher and lover, Ona, starts Jam! On the Vine, the nation’s first female-run African American newspaper. Loosely based on pioneering journalist Ida B. Wells and Charlotta Bass, this is a dramatic debut novel.
“The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae
These essays on the challenges of being black and introverted in a world that glorifies “cool” behavior, drawn from the author’s award-winning social media series, share self-deprecating perspectives on such topics as cybersexing, weight and self-acceptance.
My daughter, Samantha, and I joined a mother-daughter book club when she was in fourth grade. The club consisted of the two of us and Samantha’s best friend and her mother. That club lasted until we had to move just before the start of sixth grade. And even though we are now just a club of two, Samantha and I have continued reading books together. We are currently reading “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. (Samantha chooses the books even if I offer suggestions.)
When I ran across the title “Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More” by Lori Day, I couldn’t resist and requested that it be purchased for the library. I think we did fine with our book club, but now that I have read this one, I really wish we had had the benefit of its recommendations and insights from the beginning. The first part of the book gives tips on how and why to begin a mother-daughter book club and how to keep it running smoothly. Part two delves into topics such as gender stereotypes and sexism, the sexualization of childhood (and how to bypass it), body image, bullying and how to be allies, encouraging healthy relationships, how to be inclusive, female leadership and the welfare of girls and women around the world. Each topic chapter highlights one or two books, provides discussion questions, suggests activities and finishes with a list of recommended books, including some kid appropriate, adult level books, movies/TV and media with suggested age ranges.
Valentine’s Day is not the sole domain of those enveloped in romantic love, though that does seem to be the emphasis. (Notice the numerous advertisements that run for heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, bouquets of roses and dinner reservations for two in the weeks approaching February 14.) But this red-letter day, designated to celebrate love, is fair game for everyone. After all, love takes many forms and evolves in stages across all kinds of relationships – between friends, parents and children, siblings and so on.
Seeking to expand beyond this romantic aspect of Valentine’s Day (but not wanting to exclude it), I decided to treat the library’s online catalog as an oracle and ask her (or him, or them???) to provide some alternative material to use in recognizing this day of love and also to address the varying places the human heart might find itself on the love continuum. So I typed in “heart, states, matters, heal, love and poetry” in the keyword search bar and waited patiently for a response. The answer divined from our cyber sage was a wonderfully varied list of titles that deal with the spiritual, physical and emotional realms of the heart.
Here are a few of the standouts:
“To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings” by John O’Donohue is an exquisite collection of wisdom in the form of blessings that can help readers navigate both quotidian and extraordinary life events (marriage, new job, death, etc.). O’Donohue’s poetic and elegant language gives voice to the sometimes inexplicable feelings that arise in our hearts, providing a salve of both comfort and inspiration. For a taste of his eloquence in penetrating the essence of a heart state, read his blessing “For Courage” and see if your heart is moved in some way.
My iPad rarely leaves the kitchen. I use it to play podcasts or audiobooks while I do the dishes. I check Facebook while I’m waiting for the pasta water to boil. But the thing I use the device for the most is my daily meal preparation. No, I’m not like that German dad using the tablet as a cutting board in the YouTube video that made the rounds a few years ago. Through the library’s OverDrive eBook collection, I can download new cookbooks from some of my favorite foodies and make meal planning and cooking that much easier. Whether I want to consult the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman or the Food Network’s Rachael Ray, the library’s eBook collection has me covered. Here are just some of the new and popular cookbooks you can have at your fingertips in almost no time.
“NOPI: The Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully
Yotam Ottolenghi is beloved in the food world for his beautiful, inspirational cookbooks, as well as his Ottolenghi delis and his fine-dining restaurant, NOPI. In the NOPI cookbook, head chef Ramael Scully’s Asian-inspired pantry meets Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern influences and brings the restaurant’s favorite dishes within reach of the home cook.
“The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime” by Ree Drummond
The #1 bestselling author and Food Network personality at last answers that age-old question –“What’s for Dinner?”– bringing together more than 125 simple, scrumptious, step-by-step recipes for delicious dinners for the whole family. She includes her family’s favorites, like tomato soup with Parmesan croutons, buffalo chicken salad, baked ziti and shrimp scampi.
It often takes a patient viewer to sit through films about small-town life, but the rewards can be rich and powerful. Check out a few of these films that examine life at a slightly slower pace.
“Vernon, Florida” (1981)
Fire up the pickup and head down to this bizarre backwater town with Errol Morris, as he presents a pastiche of fascinating interviews with the weird and wonderful people of Vernon, Florida. From the passionate turkey-hunter to the peculiar pet collector, each member of this motley crew has a story to tell.
This classic six-part series explores both the continuity and the change embodied in the people and institutions of one Midwestern community: Muncie, Indiana. In intimate detail, the films demonstrate how society and culture have changed less than one might think.
“Nimrod Nation” (2007)
This eight-part series profiles rural Watersmeet, Michigan, where everyone follows the progress of the high school basketball team – the Nimrods. This series sympathetically observes life and conversation in local coffee shops, hunting lodges and locker rooms as the long, cold basketball season unfolds.
My library coworkers’ reading tastes vary widely. Some are graphic novel and comics experts, others are sci-fi and fantasy aficionados and some kill it at every trivia night because they are voracious nonfiction readers. Many best-of lists in book-ish publications (both in print and online) offer recommendations that lean towards what you might call literary, which I personally love (I read a lot of contemporary fiction and memoirs). The LibraryReads monthly list, however, often offers up a list as diverse as the reading tastes of our patrons. The list of books publishing in February that librarians across the country recommend clearly reflects this diversity. What other list has a stunningly written historical fiction sharing space with a steamy romance? Enjoy this month’s picks!
“Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys
“Titanic. Lusitania. Wilhelm Gustloff. All major maritime disasters, yet the last is virtually unknown. Ruta Sepetys changes that in her gripping historical novel. Told in short snippets, “Salt to the Sea” rotates among four narrators attempting to escape various tragedies in 1945 Europe. Powerful and haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful–a must read.” – Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
“Black Rabbit Hall” by Eve Chase
“Young Amber Alton and her family adore Black Rabbit Hall and the joy and peace it brings to them all. That is, until a tragic accident changes everything. Three decades later, Lorna decides her wedding must be celebrated at the crumbling hall. As the book moves between these two time periods, secrets slowly unfold. Perfectly twisty with interesting characters and a compelling story that kept me up too late.” – Deborah Margeson, Douglas County Libraries, Parker, CO
“A Girl’s Guide to Moving On” by Debbie Macomber
“Leanne and her daughter-in-law Nichole both leave cheating husbands to start over. They learn that it is never easy and that hardships abound, but they meet many wonderful people on their way to happily-ever-after. Believable characters and an enjoyable story made this perfect for relaxing reading—definitely one of Macomber’s best. An excellent choice both for long-time fans of the author and for those who have never read her novels.” – Linda Tilden, Cherry Hill Public Library, Cherry Hill, NJ
And here is the rest of the February list for your hold-placing pleasure.