Five Book Friday!

And today, we mark with a heavy heart the passing of I.M. Pei, internationally-renowned architect and MIT alum, at the venerable age of 102.

Image result for im pei
I.M. Pei, via ArchDaily

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou China, to a family that could trace their lineage to the Ming Dynasty, and made their fortune in medicinal herbs.  He was raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and despite being unable to speak English, he decided to matriculate to the University of Pennsylvania to study architecture.  UPenn, however, was a program that remained focused on the Beaux-Arts period of architecture (think 18th and 19th century Parisian architecture), and Pei wanted something more modern.  He transferred to MIT, graduating in 1940.  He enrolled in Harvard School of Design for a graduate degree, but less than a month after starting the program, he suspended his work in order to join the National Defense Research Committee, which coordinated scientific research into US weapons technology during World War II. Pei’s background in architecture made him a valuable asset to the program.  As he was told by a fellow committee member, “If you know how to build you should also know how to destroy.”  Following the war, Pei returned to Harvard, and worked with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, both leaders of the Bauhaus philosophy of architecture (a modernist movement that was influenced by arts and crafts design), which had been banned by the Nazi government.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, Pei’s career took off, and he was inundated with requests for projects and buildings.  One of the most important of his career was the John F. Kennedy library in Boston.  Although the design itself had to be modified due to location and planning trouble, the building launched Pei into the architectural stratosphere.  He would go on to design the Hancock Tower in Boston, as well as the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris.  For more on Pei’s remarkable life, architectural ethos, and design history check out this fabulous selection of books available through the NOBLE network, or check with your favorite Public Services Staff to learn more.  You can also read The New York Times’ article on Pei’s Most Important Buildings, as well as the BBC’s coverage, which includes links to articles that highlight Pei’s long and storied career.  We join the world in acknowledging the work and life of this remarkable and charming man, and rejoice in the memories his building evoke.

And now, on to the books!

A Sin by Any Other Name: Reckoning with Racism and the Heritage of the South: The Reverend Robert W. Lee, descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was a little-known pastor at a small church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests, when he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Support poured in from around the country, but so did threats of violence from people who opposed the Reverend’s message. In this riveting memoir, he narrates what it was like growing up as a Lee in the South, an experience that was colored by the world of the white Christian majority. He describes the widespread nostalgia for the Lost Cause and his gradual awakening to the unspoken assumptions of white supremacy which had, almost without him knowing it, distorted his values and even his Christian faith. In particular, Lee examines how many white Christians continue to be complicit in a culture of racism and injustice, and how after leaving his pulpit, he was welcomed into a growing movement of activists all across the South who are charting a new course for the region.  This powerful memoir, headed by a foreword by Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, is a timely exploration of American culture and religion that Publisher’s Weekly called a “revealing memoir . . . open minded readers will appreciate Lee’s perspective on race in America as well as his story of working to overcome division, bigotry, and his own family’s fraught history.”

City of JasmineGerman author Olga Grjasnowa’s latest novel is one that doesn’t turn away from the heartbreak and horror of war, but also manages to focus on the light and humanity that can be present alongside it.  When Hammoudi, a young surgeon based in Paris, returns to Syria to renew his passport, he only expects to stay there a few days. But the authorities refuse to let him leave and Hammoudi finds himself caught up in the fight against the regime. Meanwhile, budding actress Amal has also joined the protests against the government and her own father, by whom she feels betrayed. Realising that they will never again be safe in their homeland, Amal and her boyfriend Youssef decide to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to survive.  But the path to safety brings its own risks, and Amal and Youssef once again narrowly escape death when their overcrowded ship sinks. Eventually they reach Germany, but soon discover that in this new life – where they are perceived as nothing but refugees – their struggle is far from over. Grjasnowa’s books have received rave reviews across Europe, and Library Journal noted that she “provides a close-as-skin understanding of what it’s like to suffer bombardment, torture, and dislocation while remaining human and hopeful… Highly recommended.”

Exhalation: Stories: Fans of the blockbuster film Arrival, which was based on one of Ted Chiang’s short stories, will be delighted to hear that a new collection of his tales have arrived, all of which focus on humanity’s longest and deepest questions through fantasy, science fiction, and a rich love of language. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will. These stories span Chiang’s career, and earned a rave review from Joyce Carol Oates in the New Yorker, where she wrote “Chiang has explored conventional tropes of science fiction in highly unconventional ways. . . . Individual sentences possess the windowpane transparency that George Orwell advocated as a prose ideal. . . . It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with . . . ardor and earnestness. . . . Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress.”

Game of Bones: Carolyn Haines’ latest mystery featuring southern private investigator Sarah Booth Delaney has a very timely title, but her humor and flair for small-town settings set this series well apart from the current HBO show.  Dr. Frank Hafner is an archeologist working on excavating a new-found Native American temple site in the Mississippi Delta. He’s also too handsome for his own good, and a bit of a flirt. Oddly enough, it’s the first quality that gets him in trouble when he discovers the ritualistic murder of one of his archeological crew. When Coleman Peters, Sheriff and Sarah Booth’s boyfriend, takes Dr. Hafner in for questioning in the murder, the accused doctor hires Sarah Booth to clear his name. Soon, Sarah Booth has uncovered a number of possible suspects, but she can’t narrow them down fast enough to stem the continuing violence that seems to trace back to Dr. Hafner’s dig. When Peter Deerstalker, a member of the Tunica tribe, mentions a curse, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched–especially when a young graduate student on the site claims someone on the site is searching for something much more precious than ancient pottery.  Something supernatural seems to be lurking in the Mississippi Delta, and it’s up to Sarah to determine the truth of the matter in this mystery that earned high praise from Publisher’s Weekly, who noted that “Distinctive characters and an atmospheric setting elevate this paranormal cozy. Series fans and newcomers alike will be satisfied.”

The Reckoning: Fans of Icelandic noir most likely know about Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s phenomenal work, but for those who don’t consider this your invitation to get started on her brooding and complex Children’s House series.  In this pule-pounding second book in the series, a chilling note predicting the deaths of six people is found in a school’s time capsule, ten years after it was buried. But surely, if a thirteen-year-old wrote it, it can’t be a real threat–can it?  Detective Huldar suspects he’s been given the investigation simply to keep him away from real police work. He turns to psychologist Freyja to help understand the child who hid the message. Soon, however, they find themselves at the heart of another shocking case. For the discovery of the letter coincides with a string of macabre events: body parts found in a garden, followed by the murder of the man who owned the house. His initials are BT, one of the names on the note. Huldar and Freyja must race to identify the writer, the victims and the murderer, before the rest of the targets are killed.  Booklist gave this super novel a glowing review, praising how “Sigurdardottir offsets sharp procedural elements and gruesome crimes with masterful character development and social commentary, creating a riveting, affecting thriller.”

Until next week, Beloved Patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And it’s time again, beloved patrons, for the Peabody Elementary Schools Art Show here at the Main Library!

The Elementary Schools Student Art Show is scheduled for May 8 — 28 in the Peabody Institute Library’s Main Reading Room.  Anyone who comes to visit the Main Library during this time will have the opportunity to enjoy artwork from Peabody’s eight public elementary schools!  The art show is one of our favorite events of the year, filling the library with color, imagination, and a myriad of mixed media artwork.  Come on by and see for yourself!

And now, here are some of the books that have slogged through this damp spring to make it to our shelves, and are eager to pass the weekend by your side.

Sing To It: New Stories: Multiple-award-winning author Amy Hempel is a master of the short story, as proven in these fifteen stunning stories. Each of these bite-sized bits of fiction introduce characters, lonely and adrift, searching for connection. In “A Full-Service Shelter,” a volunteer at a dog shelter tirelessly, devotedly cares for dogs on a list to be euthanized. In “Greed,” a spurned wife examines her husband’s affair with a glamorous, older married woman. And in “Cloudland,” the longest story in the collection, a woman reckons with the choice she made as a teenager to give up her newborn infant. Quietly dazzling, these stories are replete with moments of revelation and transcendence. Kirkus Reviews gave this collection a starred review, cheering it as “A dizzying array of short fiction…Hempel packs a lot into her narrow spaces: nuance, longing, love, and loss. The brilliance of the writing resides in the way Hempel manages to tell us everything in spite of her narrator’s reticence, teaching us to read between the lines.”

Lights All Night Long: A moving stories about brotherhood, family, and the many meanings of home, Lydia Fitzpatrick’s debut is getting rave reviews from a number of outlets.  Fifteen-year-old Ilya grew up in a decrepit mining town in Russia, learning English from the Die Hard movies.  As an adult, he has arrived in Louisiana for what should be the adventure of his life: a year in America as an exchange student. The abundance of his new world–the Super Walmarts and heated pools and enormous televisions–is as hard to fathom as the relentless cheerfulness of his host parents. And Sadie, their beautiful and enigmatic daughter, has miraculously taken an interest in him.  But Ilya’s brother Vladimir is instead consuming his thoughts. The two have always been close, spending their days dreaming of escaping to America. But when Ilya was tapped for the exchange, Vladimir disappeared into their town’s seedy, drug-plagued underworld. Just before Ilya left, the murders of three young women rocked the town’s usual calm, and Vladimir found himself in prison. With the help of Sadie, who has secrets of her own, Ilya embarks on a mission to prove Vladimir’s innocence. Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a glowing review, calling it “A glittering debut. . . . The murder mystery is intricate and well-crafted, but the highlight is the relationship between the two brothers—the shy brainiac and the charming addict—and in the smoldering, seething resentment felt by young people. This is a heartbreaking novel about the lengths to which people go to escape their own pain, and the prices people are willing to pay to alleviate the suffering of their loved ones.”

Inspection: If you, like us, loved Bird Box and Unbury Carol, then you’ll be as delighted as we are about Josh Malerman’s newest release. J is one of only twenty-six students, at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.  Each student thinks of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father, and J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know. But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them? Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.  Unsettling, intriguing, and compulsively readable, this is a book that is sure to keep you up past your bedtime.  Booklist agreed in their starred review, calling this story “Fast-paced, tension-filled [and] with lots to think about . . . Malerman’s latest has all of the claustrophobic tension his fans crave, but this time the monsters are 100 percent human.”

Little Darlings: Another creepy play on fairy tales and folklore, Melanie Golding’s new novel is a thoroughly unsettling tale about changelings and children. Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things. A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies. Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.  This book also earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it  “A modern story of ghosts and fairy tales . . . Golding beautifully blends the supernatural with the everyday, keeping readers riveted to the page as they question what is true.”

The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris: Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu to the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles to the 1930 “parrot fever” pandemic, through the more recent SARS, Ebola, and Zika epidemics, the last one hundred years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated pandemic alarms. Mark Honigsbaum combines reportage with the history of science and medical sociology to artfully reconstruct epidemiological mysteries and the ecology of infectious diseases. We meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive or incompetent public health officials, and brilliant scientists often blinded by their own knowledge of bacteria and viruses. We also see how fear of disease often exacerbates racial, religious, and ethnic tensions, all of which harm humans, while diseases continue to rampage humanity.  Kirkus gave this engaging and enlightening book a starred review, noting that it is both “Lively, gruesome, and masterful….Honigsbaum mixes superb medical history with vivid portraits of the worldwide reactions to each [pandemic] event.”

 

Until next week beloved patrons…Happy Reading!

The 2019 Shirley Jackson Award Nominees!

Last week, the nominees for the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards were announced in Boston, and we are over the moon to add so many sensational titles to our “To Be Read” lists!

As we’ve noted here in the past,  the Shirley Jackson Awards were established in 2007, and named after the beloved and revered author of such seminal works as “The Lottery” (among a phenomenal collection of short stories), We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Haunting of Hill House.  In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.  The final winners are determined by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, who are charged with selecting the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories:  Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection and Edited Anthology.  The final announcement of the winners will be made at Readercon, right nearby in Burlington, MA!  You can click on this link here for more information on Readercon itself.

So here is a selection from the categories of winners and nominees for the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards, with links to the titles in our catalogs.  We hope you find some new books to add to your list here, and would love to help you find even more dark fiction to add to your summer reading!

NOVEL

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

Be sure to check out the Shirley Jackson Awards website for a full list of nominees and more information about the awards!  And, as ever, a hearty Free-For-All congratulations to all the nominated authors.  We can’t wait to see who is crowned the winner at Readercon in July!

Five Book Friday!

And a friendly reminder that PILCon, the Peabody Institute Library’s 3rd Annual all-ages Comic Con! PILCON will be held on Saturday, May 4th from 10am-4pm at “PIL”, aka, the Main Library, at 82 Main Street.  We can’t wait to see you there!

The Library will also be open as usual during the day on Saturday, though patrons should be advised that it might be a little louder and more hectic than usual outside of the ground floor reading area (where the new fiction, dvds, cds, and public computers live).  It’s all good fun, however, so please feel free to take part, should the mood strike you!

And now, on to the books!

The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays: Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life. In essays that range from using fashion to present as high-functioning to the depths of a rare form of psychosis, and from the failures of the higher education system and the dangers of institutionalization to the complexity of compounding factors such as PTSD and Lyme disease, Wang’s analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative.  All together, these essays form a powerful guide through the lived experiences of patients who often go understood and understudied, providing support and insight for those who experience schizoaffective disorder, and those looking to understand the condition more empathetically.  The Washington Post gave this book a ringing endorsement, noting “Wang . . . is an implicitly trustworthy guide to this netherworld of psychosis and chronic illness. . . . Her characteristic nuance more often carries the ring of wisdom, hard won.”

RoarHere’s another collection for those looking for some more bite-sized reading, this time in the realm of fiction from much-beloved author Cecelia Ahearn.  In this singular and imaginative story collection, Cecelia Ahern explores the endless ways in which women blaze through adversity with wit, resourcefulness, and compassion. Ahern takes the familiar aspects of women’s lives–the routines, the embarrassments, the desires–and elevates these moments to the outlandish and hilarious with her astute blend of magical realism and social insight.  One woman is tortured by sinister bite marks that appear on her skin; another is swallowed up by the floor during a mortifying presentation; yet another resolves to return and exchange her boring husband at the store where she originally acquired him. The women at the center of this curious universe learn that their reality is shaped not only by how others perceive them, but also how they perceive the power within themselves.  By turns sly, whimsical, and affecting, these thirty short stories can stand alone, or be read together to create a dynamic and honest look at women’s experiences today.  Kirkus Reviews agreed, calling this book “Curiously delightful…each story resonate[s] as simultaneously personal and universal…A sharp, breathtaking collection.”

Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story: From the moment a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina, put “male” on Jacob Tobia’s birth certificate, everything went wrong. Alongside “male” came many other, far less neutral words: words that carried expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be, words like “masculine” and “aggressive” and “cargo shorts” and “SPORTS!” Naturally sensitive, playful, creative, and glitter-obsessed, as a child Jacob was given the label “sissy.” In the two decades that followed, “sissy” joined forces with “gay,” “trans,” “nonbinary,” and “too-queer-to-function” to become a source of pride and, today, a rallying cry for a much-needed gender revolution. Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world–one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism. Writing with the fierce honesty, wildly irreverent humor, and wrenching vulnerability that have made them a media sensation, Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily sortable into “men” and “women.”  Their book guarantees that you’ll never think about gender the same way again.   Booklist loved this book, and gave it a starred review, noting that “Tobia writes extremely well, with insight, lucidity, occasional anger, and, when things get too serious, wit. The result is, hands down, one of the best trans narratives available; it deserves a place in every library.”

They All Fall Down: Overtones of Agatha Christie blend with the terror modern technological failures to make for a compulsively readable thriller.  Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico with six other strangers. Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is soon shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses―and all seven strangers harbor a secret. Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents stir suspicions, as one by one, they all, as the title reminds, fall down.  Publisher’s Weekly clearly got a kick out of this title, describing how “This cleverly updated version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None…slips from funny to darkly frightening with elegant ease.”

The Binding: All we can say about this book, dear readers, is that if the cover doesn’t entrance you, the story beneath it will! Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse. For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored. But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.  A haunting and nuanced tale about memory, love, and the life-changing power of books, this is a novel that The Guardian called “Truly spellbinding… Many readers of The Binding will simply sink gratefully into the pleasures of its pages, because, like all great fables, it also functions as transporting romance.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

PILCon is coming!

There are few days at the Library that are more fun, more creative, and more engaging than PILcon, the Peabody Library’s annual all-ages Comic Con!

This year’s Con, which will be taking place this Saturday, May 4, from 10am – 4pm, will feature plenty of fan-favorite events and crafts, as well as some new and innovative fun!

One young patron showing off his powers at last year’s PILCon

What is a Comic Con, you ask? According to Wikipedia, “a comic book convention or comic-con is an event with a primary focus on comic books and comic book culture, in which comic book fans gather to meet creators, experts, and each other.” PILCON is a Comic Con with a twist- in addition to meeting local artists, learning about their work, and meeting other fans, we’re giving you the chance to be artists, as well, through drawing workshops, makerspace workshops in our Creativity Lab makerspace, and kid’s crafts! Whether you’re a newbie to the world of comics or a Con expert, PILCON has something for you!

  • PILCON is an all-ages event, with storytimes and crafts for younger kids through panels, workshops, Dungeons & Dragons sessions, meetups and events for teens and adults.
  • This year KIDCON will be a full day of Jedi Academy where young padawans will learn the ways of the force, featuring even more activities, story times and games for kids!
  • Our Artist Alley will give you the chance to meet local artists and support their work, if you choose to do so. We’ll also have official PILCON swag (stickers, buttons and magnets) for sale to benefit the Library!
  • Everyone is encouraged to come in costume, as the day will end with a giant costume contest for all ages with prizes from local businesses and restaurants!
PILCon attendees from 2018!

Tickets are now available at http://pilcon.eventbrite.com! Be sure to register and snag your official PILCON lanyard that you’ll pick up on the big day!

You can also check out the schedule below for more information about the big day:

Check out the Library’s Tumblr page for more information!  And don’t forget to pick up your official PILCon merch when you attend.  We can’t wait to see you on Saturday!

Who’s ready for PILCON? Official merch is being made as we type and we couldn’t be more excited!
Don’t forgot to get your FREE tickets at http://pilcon.eventbrite.com for a free personalized lanyard badge and a chance to compete in Iron Cosplay!

PILCON is generously supported by Century Bank!

The Women’s Prize Shortlist is here!

And we could not be more excited!

Via https://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/reading-room/news/announcing-the-womens-prize-for-fiction-2019-longlist

Just as a reminder, The Women’s Prize for Fiction is the UK’s most prestigious annual book award that specifically celebrates fiction by women.  It was founded in 1996 to ” celebrate originality, accessibility & excellence in writing by women and to connect world-class writers with readers everywhere.”

Over the years, the Prize has had several sponsors, the most recent of which was Bailey’s.  From 2018, however, the prize has moved to a collaborative sponsorship model, which means that it is now just “The Women’s Prize for Fiction,” and we must admit, we like that name!

In this year’s shortlist, feminist revisions of history seem to be dominating, with chronological settings as diverse as ancient Greece and the Northern Irish Troubles.  For those eager to get reading, note that the final award will be announced on June 9, giving you plenty of time to take in these incredible novels, and make your own predictions on the winners!  And now without further ado, the shortlist for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction are:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker


My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


Milkman by Anna Burns


Ordinary People by Diana Evans


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


Circe by Madeline Miller

A big, huge, Free For All congratulations to all the shortlisted authors!

National Poetry Month, Week 4!

It’s that time again, dear readers, where we gather to share some verse in honor of National Poetry Month!  This week, we honor Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a Black poet, teacher, activist, and social advocate.National Poetry Month Poster 2019

Frances Harper was born in Baltimore Maryland on September 24, 1825, the only daughter of two free Black parents whose names are not known.  Following the death of her parents by the age of three, she was raised by her maternal aunt and uncle, Henrietta and Rev. William Watkins, whose name she also took.  Rev. Watkins ran a school for Black children, and Frances was educated there until she found work at a seamstress at age 14. During her early twenties, she published poems and articles in the local newspaper and wrote her first volume of poetry.  When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, which rendered all Black people in the United States at risk of being sent into slavery on the pretext that they were “fugitive slaves,” Frances and her family fled to the northern United States; they lived in Ohio, where Frances  where she worked as the first female teacher at Union Seminary, and eventually settled in Pennsylvania, where Frances joined the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Women of distinction - remarkable in works and invincible in character (1893) (14598047448).jpg
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1893, via Wikimedia

In addition to supporting abolition, Frances was also an active and vocal supporter of prohibition and woman’s suffrage.  She helped to found the American Woman Suffrage Association, which rejected the racist, classist ideology of the suffrage parties led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who refused to support the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gave freed Black men the right to vote.  1858, a century before Rosa Park’s protest, she refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car in Philadelphia.  A lifelong advocate of women’s personal and political rights, as well as the rights of people of color made her a mentor (and a friend) to many other African American writers and journalists, including Mary Shadd CaryIda B. WellsVictoria Earle Matthews, and Kate D. Chapman.  Today, we are honored to bring her one of Frances’ most well-known poems as part of our National Poetry Month celebration!


The Slave Mother

By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Heard you that shriek? It rose
   So wildly on the air,
It seem’d as if a burden’d heart
   Was breaking in despair.
Saw you those hands so sadly clasped—
   The bowed and feeble head—
The shuddering of that fragile form—
   That look of grief and dread?
Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
   Its every glance was pain,
As if a storm of agony
   Were sweeping through the brain.
She is a mother pale with fear,
   Her boy clings to her side,
And in her kyrtle vainly tries
   His trembling form to hide.
He is not hers, although she bore
   For him a mother’s pains;
He is not hers, although her blood
   Is coursing through his veins!
He is not hers, for cruel hands
   May rudely tear apart
The only wreath of household love
   That binds her breaking heart.
His love has been a joyous light
   That o’er her pathway smiled,
A fountain gushing ever new,
   Amid life’s desert wild.
His lightest word has been a tone
   Of music round her heart,
Their lives a streamlet blent in one—
   Oh, Father! must they part?
They tear him from her circling arms,
   Her last and fond embrace.
Oh! never more may her sad eyes
   Gaze on his mournful face.
No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
   Disturb the listening air:
She is a mother, and her heart
   Is breaking in despair.

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass