All posts by peaadmin

Five Book Friday!

We also wanted to let you know, beloved patrons, that our elevator will be out of service all day on Monday, April 8.  Our West and South Branches will be open and functioning as usual.  Our staff will also be on hand to help you access any area of the library over the course of the day.  We are very sorry for the difficulties this will cause, but we hope that the results (namely, a fully functioning elevator) will be worth it!

But now, on to the books!

The ParadeDavid Eggers has not only made great contributions to literature himself, but his work with young writers and literacy programs is ensuring that lots of other young wordsmiths will also be making contributions as well.  And thus, we’re quite excited to showcase his newest novel. An unnamed country is leaving the darkness of a decade at war, and to commemorate the armistice the government commissions a new road connecting two halves of the state. Two men, foreign contractors from the same company, are sent to finish the highway. While one is flighty and adventurous, wanting to experience the nightlife and people, the other wants only to do the work and go home. But both men must eventually face the absurdities of their positions, and the dire consequences of their presence.  These men are introduced only by numbers, and their pasts are hidden from us, replicating the odd, and subtly disconcerting tone of the state in which they are working. The result is a story that Kirkus described as “An unassuming but deceptively complex morality play, as Eggers distills his ongoing concerns into ever tighter prose.”

The Lost Night: Andrea Bartz’s debut has muscled its way onto a number of ‘best of’ lists, and is raising the eyebrows and pulses of readers, as well.  In 2009, Edie had New York’s social world in her thrall. Mercurial and beguiling, she was the shining star of a group of recent graduates living in a Brooklyn loft and treating New York like their playground. When Edie’s body was found near a suicide note at the end of a long, drunken night, no one could believe it. Grief, shock, and resentment scattered the group and brought the era to an abrupt end.  A decade later, Lindsay has come a long way from the drug-addled world of Calhoun Lofts. She has devoted best friends, a cozy apartment, and a thriving career as a magazine’s head fact-checker. But when a chance reunion leads Lindsay to discover an unsettling video from that hazy night, she starts to wonder if Edie was actually murdered—and, worse, if she herself was involved. As she rifles through those months in 2009—combing through case files, old technology, and her fractured memories—Lindsay is forced to confront the demons of her own violent history to bring the truth to light.  We love ourselves a good unreliable narrator here at the Free For All, so this book is on our To Be Read list, as well!  Milwaukee Magazine gave this book a great review, noting “.If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers with strong female protagonists, like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, put The Lost Night on your must-read list.”

A Woman Is No Man: Here is another stunning debut from Brooklyn-based author Etaf Rum, that looks at the immigrant experience inside one very unique family.  Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children—four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.  In Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family—knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past, and her own future.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a powerful review of this book, describing it as “A dauntless exploration of the pathology of silence, an attempt to unsnarl the dark knot of history, culture, fear and trauma that can render conservative Arab-American women so visibly invisible…. The triumph of Rum’s novel is that she refuses to measure her women against anything but their own hearts and histories…. Both a love letter to storytelling and a careful object lesson in its power.”

Murder By The Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’ LondonIn May 1840, Lord William Russell, well known in London’s highest social circles, was found with his throat cut. The brutal murder had the whole city talking. The police suspected Russell’s valet, Courvoisier, but the evidence was weak. The missing clue, it turned out, lay in the unlikeliest place: what Courvoisier had been reading. In the years just before the murder, new printing methods had made books cheap and abundant, the novel form was on the rise, and suddenly everyone was reading. The best-selling titles were the most sensational true-crime stories. Even Dickens and Thackeray, both at the beginning of their careers, fell under the spell of these tales–Dickens publicly admiring them, Thackeray rejecting them.  One such phenomenon was William Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard, the story of an unrepentant criminal who escaped the gallows time and again. When Lord William’s murderer finally confessed his guilt, he would cite this novel in his defense.  In this recounting of the case and its literary roots, Claire Harman combines a thrilling true-crime story with an illuminating account of the rise of the novel form and the battle for its early soul among the most famous writers of the time.  Kirkus Reviews gave this wonderfully-researched book a starred review, calling it “An endlessly fascinating, bookish tale of true crime in Victorian England . . . Lovers of Drood, Sherlock, Jack the Ripper, and their kin real and fictional will relish the gruesome details of this entertaining book.”

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System; A Tale in Four Lives: A terminal cancer patient rises from the grave. A medical marvel defies HIV. Two women with autoimmunity discover their own bodies have turned against them.  Through these fascinating human stories, Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Matt Richtel takes us on a journey of the human immune system winding from the Black Plague to twentieth-century breakthroughs in vaccination and antibiotics, to the cutting-edge laboratories that are revolutionizing immunology. Based on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists, Matt Richtel’s new work is both an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our immunological defense system. Kirkus also gave this book a starred review, hailing it as  “An expert examination of the immune system. … Richtel illuminates a complex subject so well that even physicians will learn.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Announcing The Peapod!

We’re delighted to introduce you our newest initiative: The PeaPod: Peabody’s Community Seed Exchange!

Starting April 6, we invite you to come and take part in this ground-breaking initiative (pun entirely intended), and begin building your own garden–whether it’s in a window box, a rooftop oasis, or a piece of land.  Below are some questions and details that will help you become familiar with PeaPod and how to get involved!

What is a seed exchange?
A seed exchange, or a seed library, is a community resource that provides people with flower, herb, and vegetable seeds, free of charge!  Gardeners of all skills, from beginner to master, all ages, and all types of gardens are invited to browse the PeaPod’s seed selection and take what is needed for gardens, containers, backyards, and green spaces.

Where do the seeds come from?
For this first 2019 growing season, the PeaPod is stocked with extremely generous donations. For the 2020 growing season (and beyond!), we hope that the PeaPod will become self-replenishing. With the help of gardeners who choose to save, preserve, and donate seeds at the end of the harvest, the PeaPod will continue to grow every year and to offer a true community experience!

How Does the PeaPod Work?

  • Come to the library!
  • Fill out a PeaPod membership form, and browse the PeaPod seed catalog.
  • When you’ve decided which seeds you’d like to plant, ask library staff for empty seed packets.
  • Fill out the label on your packet with important planting information.
  • Take 2-3 seeds per planned plant, or a pinch of seeds if they’re very small, and remember- sharing is caring!
  • Return the PeaPod’s seed packet to the catalog.
  • Happy Planting!
  • At the end of your harvest, you can try your hand at seed saving to help keep the PeaPod replenished for next year. A donation of a few un-opened packs of seeds would also be appreciated, to help stock next year’s PeaPod!

We have lots of books and resources to help you get started on your garden, so stop on by and learn more about The PeaPod and all its wonderful potential!

The Pea Pod is open during normal library hours,
from April 6th through September 5th, at all three library locations.

April is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States, and, since 1998, it’s also been celebrated in Canada.  The idea for the celebration came when the Academy saw the success of Women’s History Month (in March) and Black History Month (in February), and wanted a way to celebrate and promote the work of poets, and the power of poetry.  So, as a Library who always enjoys a celebration, we are happy to oblige!

National Poetry Month Poster 2019

Every year, the AAP put out a poster as part of the National Poetry Month campaign.  You can see this year’s poster right above this paragraph. This year, for the very first time, the official National Poetry Month poster features artwork by a high school student: tenth grader Julia Wang from San Jose, California, who has won the inaugural National Poetry Month Poster Contest. Julia’s work incorporates quotes from the poem “An Old Story” by current U. S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. SmithYou can read more about Julia’s art, as well as the judges’ comments on her poster here!

Because one of our goals here at the Free For All is to bring a little poetry into your life, we are looking forward to sharing some verses with you this National Poetry Month.  We’ll also be featuring a display table with poetry selections for you to savor.

John KeatsToday, we bring you and old favorite poem by John Keats (pictured on the left).  Although now considered one of the leaders of the English Romantic movement, Keats wasn’t very well known in his life time, and died of tuberculosis at the age of 25.   Born on October 31, 1795 to Thomas Keats, a hostler who worked with horses at the stables attached to the Swan and Hoop Inn  (which he would later manage) and his wife, Frances Jennings.  The family was unable to pay for an advanced education, so John was made an apprentice to a neighboring surgeon and apothecary named Thomas Hammond. Keats proved to be very talented at medicine, and enrolled at Guy’s Hospital (now part of King’s College London).  However, the work detracted from his writing time, just at the time when Keats’ poetry was being recognized by literary scholars and publishers.  Already suffering from health problems, Keats decided to leave London and move to Hampstead, where he helped his his brother nurse their other brother, Tom, who was dying of tuberculosis.  It is thought that Keats may have contracted the condition around this time, most likely from his brother.  His mother had also died of tuberculosis, which was known as the “family illness.”

It was during this time that Keats met Fanny Brawne, who is believed to have been one of the most profound loves of his life.  He and Brawne lived on the same property, and Keats wrote to her constantly.  His health, however, was failing, and Keats was convinced by his friends to travel to Italy in 1820 the hope of saving his life.  The trip was a disaster, however, marked by sudden storms at sea, a quarantine on board after a cholera scare, and resulted in Keats not arrived on land until November 1820, after the warm weather had already passed.  He remained in Rome where his friends (who were physicians themselves) tended to him–however, the treatments of the day (which included starvation and bleeding) may very well have hastened Keats’ death, which occurred on February 23, 1821.  His last request was for his grave to bear no name or date, only the words, “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water.”  His friends obliged.

John William Waterhouse – La belle dame sans merci, 1893

Romantic poets aimed to identify and heighten extreme emotion through an emphasis on natural imagery, and Keats’ work is full of references to the scenery, animals, and beauty around him.   This poem, about a fairy who condemns a knight to an unpleasant fate after she seduces him with her eyes and singing, is full of imagery and emotion, and is perhaps among one of Keats’ most well-known works.  It has inspired a number of paintings and songs over the years, once of which you can see above this paragraph.  So, without further ago, we invite you to savor:

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

By John Keats
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
       Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
       So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
       And the harvest’s done.
I see a lily on thy brow,
       With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
       Fast withereth too.
I met a lady in the meads,
       Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
       And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head,
       And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
       And made sweet moan
I set her on my pacing steed,
       And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
       A faery’s song.
She found me roots of relish sweet,
       And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
       ‘I love thee true’.
She took me to her Elfin grot,
       And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
       With kisses four.
And there she lullèd me asleep,
       And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
       On the cold hill side.
I saw pale kings and princes too,
       Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
       Thee hath in thrall!’
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
       With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
       On the cold hill’s side.
And this is why I sojourn here,
       Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.
La Belle Dame sans Merci by Henry Meynell Rheam, 1901

Five Book Friday!

Before we get to the books, beloved patrons, we wanted to let you know about a very special event taking place at our West Branch next week.

As some of you may know, the West Branch Children’s Librarian of Dale Sampson will be retiring on April 4.  Miss Dale has been a true treasure for the library for twenty-nine years, and while we will miss her enormously, we are also so happy to see her begin a new chapter in her adventures!  To that end, the West Branch will be hosting an Open House on Tuesday, April 2, from 3:00pm – 6:00pm to give all of Miss Dale’s patrons a chance to wish her well and thank her for all she has done for the Library, for Peabody, and for all the readers whose lives she has touched.  Please help us send her off in style with well wishes, some refreshments and lots of good cheer!

And now, on to the books!

Oksana, Behave!A delightful coming-of-age novel, an immigrant story, and a moving historical narrative all rolled into one, Maria Kuznetsova’s fiction debut is a vibrant treat on every level.  When Oksana’s family begins their new American life in Florida after emigrating from Ukraine, her physicist father delivers pizza at night to make ends meet, her depressed mother sits home all day worrying, and her flamboyant grandmother relishes the attention she gets when she walks Oksana to school, not realizing that the street they’re walking down is known as Prostitute Street. Oksana just wants to have friends and lead a normal life—and though she constantly tries to do the right thing, she keeps getting herself in trouble.  As she grows up, she continues to misbehave, from somewhat accidentally maiming the school bus bully, to stealing the much-coveted (and expensive-to-replace) key to New York City’s Gramercy Park, to falling in love with a married man. As her grandmother moves back to Ukraine, her father gets a job at Goldman Sachs, and her mother knits endless scarves, Oksana longs for a Russia that looms large in her imagination but is a country she never really knew. When she visits her grandmother in Yalta and learns about Baba’s wartime past and her lost loves, Oksana begins to see just how much alike they are, and comes to a new understanding of how to embrace life and love without causing harm to the people dearest to her. But will Oksana ever quite learn to behave?  Critics and readers have been lining up to praise this comic saga, with Publisher’s Weekly cheering, “Kuznetsova’s standout debut offers a fresh and funny look into the life of a bold young immigrant woman. . . . This accomplished and frank work is a new take on an immigrant girl’s complicated coming-of-age.”

A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland: For black American women, the experience of being bound has taken many forms: from the bondage of slavery to the Reconstruction-era criminalization of women; from the brutal constraints of Jim Crow to our own era’s prison industrial complex, where between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by 700% (according to The Sentencing Project). For those women who lived and died resisting the dehumanization of confinement–physical, social, intellectual–the threat of being bound was real, constant, and lethal. Yet Black women freedom fighters have braved violence, scorn, despair, and isolation in order to lodge their protests throughout the course of American history, and in this stirring and enlightening work, DaMaris Hill honors their experiences with harrowing yet hopeful poetic responses to her heroes, from Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Grace Jones, to Eartha Kitt, and others.  This is a work that celebrate the modern-day inheritors of their load and light, binding history, author, and reader in an essential legacy of struggle. Booklist gave this powerful collection a starred review, and named it one of their Top Ten Diverse Nonfiction Titles, noting how “In this distinctive inquiry in verse, Hill reflects on black women who resisted violent racism and misogyny, ranging from the notable and notorious to the lesser-known yet no less heroic.” 

GingerbreadHow many fairy tales and children’s books can you remember that feature gingerbread?  More than one, I’m willing to bet.  Inspired by this oddly ubiquitous food, Helen Oyeyemi has crafted an enchanting tale of family legacies and recipes.  Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. The world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread, however, is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend Gretel Kercheval —a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.  Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Oyeyemi is a marvelous storyteller, and her books always dance on the line between reality and fantasy in a marvelously unique manner.  The New York Times Review of Books agrees, calling this novel “Exhilarating. . .Gingerbread is jarring, funny, surprising, unsettling, disorienting and rewarding. . .This is a wildly imagined, head-spinning, deeply intelligent novel that requires some effort and attention from its reader. And that is just one of its many pleasures.”

Make Me A City: Another unique blend of history and fiction, Jonathan Carr’s novel brings us to the city of Chicago in the 19th century, and shows how the greatest of moments can come from the smallest of events.  The tale begins with a game of chess—and on the outcome of that game hinges the destiny of a great city. From appalling injustice springs forth the story of Chicago, and the men and women whose resilience, avarice, and altruism combine to generate a moment of unprecedented civic energy. A variety of irresistible voices deliver the many strands of this novel: those of Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable, the long-unheralded founder of Chicago; John Stephen Wright, bombastic speculator and booster; and Antje Hunter, the first woman to report for the Chicago Tribune. The stories of loggers, miners, engineers, and educators teem around them and each claim the narrative in turns, sharing their grief as well as their delight. As the characters, and their ancestors, meet and part, as their possessions pass from hand to hand, the reader realizes that Jonathan Carr commands a grand picture, one that encompasses the heartaches of everyday lives as well as the overarching ideals of what a city and a society can and should be.  With it’s multi-layered narratives and rich characters, this is another debut novel that is earning praise.  Kirkus Reviews delighted in the ways that “The rise of Chicago in the 19th century provides the frame for a trove of colorful stories and characters in this entertaining debut novel.”

The Woman in the Dark: It’s so refreshing to have a woman in the title of a thriller (instead of another Girl).  In any event, Vanessa Savage’s heady psychological thriller brings all the delightful darkness of the gothic tradition into the present day.  Sarah and Patrick are happy. But after her mother’s death, Sarah spirals into depression and overdoses on sleeping pills. While Sarah claims it was an accident, her teenage children aren’t so sure. Patrick decides they all need a fresh start and he knows just the place, since the idyllic family home where he was raised has recently come up for sale. There’s only one catch: for the past fifteen years, it has become infamous as the “Murder House”, standing empty after a family was stabbed to death within its walls. Patrick believes they can bring the house back to its former glory, so Sarah, uprooted from everything she knows, pours her energy into painting, gardening, and giving the rotting old structure the warmth of home. But with locals hinting that the house is haunted, the news that the murderer has been paroled, strange writing on the walls, and creepy “gifts” arriving on the doorstep at odd hours, Sarah can’t shake the feeling that something just isn’t right. Not with the house, not with the town, or even with her own, loving husband — whose stories about his perfect childhood suddenly aren’t adding up. Can Sarah uncover the secrets of the Murder House before another family is destroyed?   Find out in this twisty treat that Good Housekeeping called “‘Claustrophobic and compelling.”

Until next week, Beloved Patrons–happy reading!

Resolve to Read: A novel by a trans or non-binary author

As we did last year, the Free For All is Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2019, and tackling the 2019 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  We haven’t been terribly good about posting our selected titles thus far this year, we know….however, the nice thing about New Year’s Resolutions like this is that there is always room and time to begin, and begin again, and start anew.  So in the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2019 Read Harder Challenge
Category: A novel by a trans or non-binary author

Everyone is made up of stories, dear readers.  We all have experiences that shape us, relationships that mold us, and revelations that change our perspectives in wonderful and unique ways.  But it’s critically important to remember that the stories that make us look very different.  They are seldom traditional narratives, and are seldom neat, organized, or rational.  It’s critically important for us, as readers and as people, to recognize how many different kinds of stories, narrators, and protagonists are really out in our world.  And that is why reading books by authors whose lives are not like our own is so necessary to our development.  They offered critical insight into the way the world works, the different struggles and triumphs that it holds, and how we as individuals, can assist each other to make the best world possible.  Today, we celebrate the stories that trans and non-binary authors have to share with us, and offer a selection of just a few of the titles you can try here.

For those looking to learn more about this category, according to the  website of the Trans Student Educational Resources, the word “Trans” is an encompassing term of many gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.  The word “Non-Binary” (or “Nonbinary”) is an umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man.  It is used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Sometimes (and increasingly), nonbinary can be used to describe the aesthetic/presentation/expression of a cisgender or transgender person. To learn more, please feel free to visit the Trans Student Educational Resources webpage!

And now, on to the books!

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee:  A high-energy mashup of fantasy and hard science-fiction, and social/political thriller tropes, the beginning of Lee’s Machineries of Empire series features Captain Kel Cheris, who has suffered disgrace as a result of her unconventional tactics.  In order to save her position and reputation (not to mention the survival of all those under her command and protection), Captain Cheris decides to ally the undead tactician Shuos Jedao.  But the alliance carries its own risk: Shuos Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.  How far can Cheris trust Shuos Jedao before becoming his next victim?  This series opener won rave reviews from reviewers and readers, including the New York Times, who called it “A tight-woven…breathtakingly original space opera.”

The Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan: Part mystery, part character-narrative, this novel falls into the “crimes of the past coming back to haunt the future” stories that have been proving incredibly popular recently.  On a warm August night in 1980, six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. But it’s not long before they realize they are locked in—and not alone. When the friends get lost and separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy, and the unexpected, far-reaching consequences reverberate through the survivors’ lives. As they go their separate ways, trying to move on, it becomes clear that their dark night in the prison has changed them all. Decades later, new evidence is found, and the dogged detective investigating the cold case charges one of them—celebrity chef Jon Casey— with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith Carrigan can testify to his innocence.  But Judith is hiding secrets of her own, and saving Casey will most likely mean destroying the live that she has worked so hard to build.  While the mystery aspect of this story isn’t as strong as some others, the powerfully-drawn characters and impressive insight that Boylan provides here earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it “a Shirley Jackson–like haunting, a secret-laden murder tale featuring an ensemble cast, and an eye-opening glimpse of the complex choices transgender people face.”

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead: This novel tells the story of a Native American/Indigenous character who defines their gender as Two-Spirit, in the tradition of their people.  Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living.  But when Jonny must return to the reservation in order to attend his step-father’s funeral, he finds himself trying to cope with the hardships of his present day life and left-behind past together, assembling the pieces of his identity to form a coherent whole.  This is a novel that offers a fascinating and sympathetic perspective of one individual’s unique journey, but also provides a glimpse into the various lifestyles Jonny inhabits, making it a radical and critically important book.  Booklist hailed Whitehead as ” A radically original new voice” in their praise for this novel.

Nevada by Imogen Binnie: Darkly comic and heartfelt, this novel tells the story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she’d carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a physical, mental, and emotional journey that will change her thinking, her feelings about life and the world around her, and, ultimately, Maria herself.  Though bleak, and with a surprisingly tough ending, this book, which Imogen Binnie described as “a story about trans women that was intended for an audience of trans women,” has inspired other trans authors to begin writing in their own voice, which is the best kind of reaction to a book we can imagine.

And just to remind you, for those of you interested in talking more about these books, our good friends over at the Beverly Library have an LGBTQ Book Group that is held on the 3rd Monday of the month from 7-8:30 PM.  Take a look at their reading lists, and think about signing up!

Looking Ahead To April

Somehow, beloved patrons, March swept by in a blast of wind and a few drifting snow storms, and suddenly, we find ourselves preparing, in a handful of days, for April.   We’ve organized a pretty intriguing calendar of events, classes, and programs for you at our branches, and in the various departments of our Main Library–please, consider this your formal invitation to register for any and all of them that interest you!

Image result for april
Via Dribble

In addition, please let us know what classes, events, or performances you would like to see at the Library in the coming months.  We strive everyday to provide for the needs of our community, and we can best do that with your input and advice.

So, without further ado, let’s look at all the neat things going on in the Libraries in April!


At the Main Library:

Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 – 8:00pm: Guided Meditation

So often in our hurried lives we become ungrounded, unfocused and scattered. Please come for an evening of relaxation as Reiki Master Teacher Valerie York leads us in a guided meditation to ground and call back our energy. Space for this class is limited, so be sure to sign up online, or call the Main Library to reserve your spot.


In the Teen Room:

Tuesday, April 2, 6:30 – 8:30pm: Truth or Fail Trivia Night

Created by author and YouTube personality Hank Green, Truth or Fail Trivia is the perfect game for trivia aficionados to come compete for prizes and brainy glory!


In the Creativity Lab:

Monday, April 8, 6:30 – 8:30pm: Make A Laser-Cut Dog Tag

The Creativity Lab’s laser cutter uses a powerful laser to cut through materials like wood, acrylic, and linoleum. In this class, you will learn how to use our laser cutter by making a custom wooden dog tag, luggage tag, or keychain. Materials will be provided.  This class is limited to patrons aged 18 and over.  Please register in advance.


At the West Branch:

Wednesday, April 24, 1:00 – 2:00pm: Heritage Films presents “The Colonials and British at Lexington and Concord”

Come join us for a 40 minute film presentation by local historian and filmmaker Dan Tremblay of Heritage Films! This particular film will focus on the history of the The Colonials and British at Lexington and Concord.


 

The Wellcome Book Prize Short List!

As in past years, beloved patrons, we are celebrating awards that bring us diverse reading materials, authors, and funds that celebrate the written word.  Today, we are delighted to bring you the shortlist for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, which was announced this morning in London.

The Wellcome Institute was originally funded by Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (pictured at right), a fascinating entrepreneur, born in Wisconsin in 1853, whose first business was peddling invisible ink (it was lemon juice).  He later went into pharmaceuticals, where he revolutionized medicine by developing medicine in tablet form, though he called them ‘Tabloids’.  Upon his death, Wellcome vested the entire share capital of his company in individual trustees, who were charged with spending the income to further human and animal health, and even left specifics in his will as to the building in which the collections were to be housed.  Today, the Wellcome Trust, which funds all this gloriousness, is now one of the world’s largest private biomedical charities.

Yay for Science! (From the Wellcome Collection)

I cannot recommend exploring the Wellcome Collection online to you enough.  Because of their dedication to education and engagement, a surprisingly vast amount of their exhibits have online components, and a good deal of their archives and library are digitized, making it possible to access their treasure trove of educational riches from the comfort of your living room (or local Library!).  Their exhibits range from the emotional and contemporary, such as videos and talks on military medicine, to the sublimely bizarre, like this gallery on curatives and quack medicine.  Throughout their work is a very firm dedication not only to education, but to sparking a love of learning in their visitors, and that work pays huge dividends.

And, as part of their outreach efforts, and in the hope of encouraging more quality and creative writing in the sciences, the Wellcome Trust also funds one of the largest book prizes around, providing 30,000 GBP (right now, about $37,500) to it chosen author.  As described on the Wellcome Book Prize site, all the books that are nominated have “a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness.”  While this dedication to science is wonderful, the Wellcome Prize also recognizes art, standing by its core principles by recognizing that such books “can cover many genres of writing – including crime, romance, popular science, sci-fi and history.”  Thus, their list includes both non-fiction and fiction, in order to celebrate those works that “add new meaning to what it means to be human.”

Image result for wellcome book prize
The Wellcome Book Award, via FMcM

The winner of the Wellcome Book Prize will be announced at an evening ceremony on Wednesday 1 May at the Wellcome Collection headquarters in London, and it will be our pleasure to bring you the headlines as soon as they are printed!  Until then, let’s take a look at the Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist Honorees:

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: Our narrator should be happy, shouldn’t she? It’s the year 2000, and she lives in a city full of potential, wealth, and glamor.  She’s young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. So what could be so terribly wrong?  Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers.

Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas McBee: In this groundbreaking new book, the author, a trans man, trains to fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden while struggling to untangle the vexed relationship between masculinity and violence. Through his experience boxing—learning to get hit, and to hit back; wrestling with the camaraderie of the gym; confronting the betrayals and strength of his own body—McBee examines the weight of male violence, the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes, and the limitations of conventional masculinity. A wide-ranging exploration of gender in society, and its effects on the smallest details of our lives, McBee’s tale is ultimately a story of hope, tracing a new way forward, a new kind of masculinity, inside the ring and outside of it.

Murmur by Will Eaves: Please note, this title will be released April 9, 2019. In this intense, hallucinatory story, Will Eaves, a celebrated poet,  brings us into the brilliant mind of Alec Pryor, a character inspired by Alan Turing. Turing, father of artificial intelligence and pioneer of radical new techniques to break the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War II, was later persecuted by the British state for “gross indecency with another male” and forced to undergo chemical castration.  This novel unfolds in the weeks leading up to Turning/Pryor’s suicide, and offers a glimpse into not only the life of one remarkable human being, but into the very nature of consciousness, as well as an unflinching look at the systems of prejudice and privilege that seek to limit human expression in all its forms.

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar: For centuries, the human heart seemed beyond our understanding: an inscrutable shuddering mass that was somehow the driver of emotion and the seat of the soul. But as cardiologist and author Sandeep Jauhar shows,  it was only recently that we demolished age-old taboos and devised the transformative procedures that have changed the way we live. Deftly alternating between key historical episodes and his own work, Jauhar tells the colorful and little-known story of the doctors who risked their careers and the patients who risked their lives to know and heal our most vital organ. He introduces us to Daniel Hale Williams, the African American doctor who performed the world’s first open heart surgery in Gilded Age Chicago. We meet C. Walton Lillehei, who connected a patient’s circulatory system to a healthy donor’s, paving the way for the heart-lung machine. And we encounter Wilson Greatbatch, who saved millions by inventing the pacemaker―by accident. Jauhar deftly braids these tales of discovery, hubris, and sorrow with moving accounts of his family’s history of heart ailments and the patients he’s treated over many years. He also confronts the limits of medical technology, arguing that future progress will depend more on how we choose to live than on the devices we invent.

The Trauma Cleaner : One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein: Homicides and suicides, fires and floods, hoarders and addicts. When properties are damaged or neglected, it falls to Sandra Pankhurst, founder of Specialized Trauma Cleaning (STC) Services Pty. Ltd. to sift through the ashes or sweep up the mess of a person’s life or death. Her clients include law enforcement, real estate agents, executors of deceased estates, and charitable organizations representing victimized, mentally ill, elderly, and physically disabled people. In houses and buildings that have fallen into disrepair, Sandra airs out residents’ smells, throws out their weird porn, their photos, their letters, the last traces of their DNA entombed in soaps and toothbrushes.  The remnants and mementoes of these people’s lives resonate with Sandra. Before she began professionally cleaning up their traumas, she experienced her own. First, as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home. Then as a husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, and trophy wife. In each role she played, all Sandra wanted to do was belong. Sarah Krasnostein brings Sandra’s life of light in all its complexity, and, in so doing, forces us to reckon with the experiences that set us apart, and those we all share in common.

Mind on Fire: A Memoir of Madness and Recovery by Arnold Thomas Fanning: Please note, this title will be released on October 1, 2019. Arnold Thomas Fanning had his first experience of depression during adolescence, following the death of his mother. Some 10 years later, an up-and-coming playwright, he was overcome by mania and delusions. Thus began a terrible period in which he was often suicidal, increasingly disconnected from family and friends, sometimes in trouble with the law, and homeless in London. Drawing on his own memories, the recollections of people who knew him when he was at his worst, and medical and police records, he has produced a beautifully written, devastatingly intense account of madness—and recovery, to the point where he has not had any serious illness for over a decade and has become an acclaimed playwright. Fanning conveys the consciousness of a person living with mania, psychosis and severe depression with a startling precision and intimacy, providing insight that has the potential to change our thinking about these conditions, both medically and socially.