And a very happy 19th Amendment Day! On this date in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted, making it illegal to deny any citizen the right to vote on the basis of sex. Though it was the culmination of the first wave of feminism in the United States, it was by no means the end of the fight for voting rights–for example, the 19th Amendment did not extend to the US territory of Puerto Rico, and women who could read and write were only allowed to vote in 1929 (the franchise would be extended to all women in Puerto Rico in 1935). The 19th Amendment also only applied to the Federal government, and many states and citizens took it upon themselves to prevent many from casting their votes.
Nevertheless, the adoption of the 19th Amendment remains a watershed moment in American history, and the culmination of a grass-roots movement that brought women across the country–indeed, across the world–together to fight for their rights as citizen.
You can learn much more about this history here at the Library. Or, you could come check out some of these titles that have sprung up onto our shelves this week, and are eager to share this (potentially dreary) weekend with you!
The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature: Willa Cather wrote that the world “broke in two” in 1922 “or thereabouts”–and, speaking in literary terms, she was rather spot-on. That year, James Joyce published Ulysses, a book that was already having profound effects on the way people thought of the novel. T.S. Eliot also published The Waste Land, a poem that deals intimately with brokenness. These works, and the others discussed in Bill Goldstein’s new work, would give structure and definition to the emerging modernist movement. Though it had begun in the years before the First World War, and developed in the trenches and hospitals by those seeking for a way to describe the indescribable, as Goldstein shows, modernism got its definition and its shape in 1922, thanks to the works, the personal experiences, and the hardships of Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, and D. H. Lawrence, all over the span of one seminal year. But while this book is certainly about literature, it’s also about the lives of these remarkable writers. As NPR explains, “In letting these four writers speak in their own words―their own witty, gossipy, often waspish words―Goldstein…sacrifices historical sweep and gravitas for something much more grounded and intimate. In his hands, these literary lions prove surprisingly―and bracingly―catty.”
The Amber Shadows: Lucy Ribchester’s second book is an historic, psychological thriller that has critics and readers alike raving. We open in 1942 at Bletchley Park, where Honey Deschamps sits at her type-x machine, tediously transcribing decrypted signals from the German Army, doing her part to assist the British war effort. Leningrad is under siege, and some of the world’s most important art work, from paintings to the fabled Amber Room, is in threat of being destroyed. As reports begin filtering into Bletchley Park about the stolen loot, Honey receives a mysterious package, hand-delivered from a man that she has never seen before who claims that he works at the Park as well. The package is postmarked from Russia, and inside is a small piece of amber. It is just the first of several such packages, and when she examines them together she realizes that someone, relying on her abilities to unravel codes, is trying to tell her something. Is Honey being tested? Is someone at Bletchley Park trying to use her? Or has she unwittingly become a part of something much, much bigger? Ribchester is a marvel at weaving a suspenseful plot that keeps both the characters and readers on the most perilous of edges, and for all that her book is a send-up of the wartime spy novel, it’s also a beautiful addition to the genre, and earned a ‘Pick of the Month’ rating from Library Journal, calling it “a fascinating historical mystery that explores issues of secrecy, trust, and families but never impedes the element of almost Hitchcockian suspense. A sure-bet for fans of the PBS series The Bletchley Circle, Susan Elia MacNeal’s “Maggie Hope” series, and Rhys Bowen’s In Farleigh Field.”
When the English Fall: Yes, this book is about life after a solar storm initiates the collapse of modern civilization, but the apocalyptic novel has been getting more and more elevated and thought-provoking recently, and this book is far less a science fiction work than it is a study of humanity itself. When the solar storm began, the Amish community in which Jacob lives was able to endure unaffected. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) in the cities become increasingly desperate, they begin to invade nearby farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the gentle communities. This book is Jacob’s diary, written as he tries to protect his family from the encroaching, and increasingly violent, strangers, as he wrestles with how to remain peaceful in a world that has grown so alien, and what survival in such times really means. Critics have been lining up to praise this work, and it’s already been celebrated as one of the best books of 2017, with Kirkus giving it a starred review and praising it as “A standout among post-apocalyptic novels, as simply and perfectly crafted as an Amish quilt or table. Lyrical and weirdly believable.”
North Haven: Sarah Moriarty’s debut novel is set both close to home (on an island off the coast of Maine), but also deals with emotions, loyalties, and heartache that we all know well–what makes this book remarkable, however, is how she spins her tale. It’s the Fourth of July, and it’s the Willoughbys’ first summer without their parents, in their crumbling house. When a substantial offer is made on the estate, the two brothers and two sisters are forced to confront issues they had hoped to keep hidden, the secrets that lay scattered throughout their childhood, and the legacy of the parents they only now realize they may never have known at all. Rich with scenic and personal details, this is a book that will envelope you from the first scene, and linger in your mind even after you’ve left. Library Journal loved this book, saying in its review, “A gifted author of singular talent, Moriarty has captured the unbearable rifts of a family under emotional stress. A magnificent debut.”
Goodbye, Vitamin: Another debut dealing with grief, yet Rachel Khong’s work is unique, utterly original–and surprisingly funny despite (and perhaps because of) it’s heavy subject matter. Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief. Told through Ruth’s diary entries, this book is both an oddball comedy and a poignant picture of families at their best and worst, that has earned rave reviews in publications across the board, from The Wall Street Journal to Entertainment Weekly. BuzzFeed was also among its biggest fans, calling it “one of those rare books that is both devastating and light-hearted, heartfelt and joyful, making it a perfect and unique summer read. Don’t miss it.”
As always, beloved patrons, Happy Reading!