Five Book Friday!

The Library is closed today, beloved patrons, thanks to the Nor’easter yesterday…pardon, the ‘Bomb Cyclone’ that left two-foot drifts outside my house, and caused plenty of other headaches and heartaches around the state.  We sincerely hope you are all safe, warm, and enjoying a little pillow-fort book time.  We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to the Library tomorrow!  And if you’re eager for some new reading material, check out this selection of new books that braved the elements to settle onto our shelves this week:


J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2018Yeah, yeah, we know.  It’s no fun, and it’s super stressful.  But if you’re looking to do your own taxes this year, we’re here to help.  Check out the rest of our useful information on Tax Season help, too…tax forms should be here shortly, and our West Branch is accepting calls for people looking for help filling out their taxes.  Give them a call as soon as possible to secure a spot on the schedule: (978) 535-3354.

Green: A NovelSam Graham-Felsen is a former Obama campaign staffer, but his career as a novelist seems to be off to a terrific start.  His debut coming-of-age novel opens in Boston, in 1992.  David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School. Everybody clowns him, girls ignore him, and his hippie parents won’t even buy him a pair of Nikes, let alone transfer him to a private school. Unless he tests into the city’s best public high school—which, if practice tests are any indication, isn’t likely—he’ll be friendless for the foreseeable future.  Nobody’s more surprised than Dave when Marlon Wellings sticks up for him in the school cafeteria. Mar’s a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave’s own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave’s assumptions about black culture: He’s nerdy and neurotic, a Celtics obsessive whose favorite player is the gawky, white Larry Bird. Before long, Mar’s coming over to Dave’s house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar’s. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he’s been given—and that Mar has not.  Charming, fun, startlingly insightful and unflinchingly honest, this is a book that is as heart-warming as it is eye-opening, and was an Editor’s Pick by Library Journal, who raved that it “poignantly captures the tumultuous feelings of adolescence against the historical backdrop of a racially segregated city and country.” 

The Annotated African American Folklore: In this stunning book, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar have assembled a groundbreaking collection of folktales, myths, and legends that reveals and revitalizes the vibrant details of African American culture.  Arguing for the value of these deceptively simple stories as part of a sophisticated, complex, and heterogeneous cultural heritage, Gates and Tatar show how these remarkable stories deserve a place alongside the classic works of African American literature, and American literature more broadly.  Beginning with the figure of Anansi, the African trickster, master of improvisation―a spider who plots and weaves in scandalous ways―The Annotated African American Folktales then goes on to draw Caribbean and Creole tales into the orbit of the folkloric canon. It retrieves stories not seen since the Harlem Renaissance and brings back archival tales of “Negro folklore” that Booker T. Washington proclaimed had emanated from a “grapevine” that existed even before the American Revolution, stories brought over by slaves who had survived the Middle Passage.   This work is being hailed as the comprehensive and ambitious collection of African American folktales ever published in American literary history, and is a fascinating read for folklore, culture, and history fans alike.  Library Journal also wrote a terrific review for this book, noting that “Survival, both physical and spiritual, is the reality that underpins these stories, as is resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity. This valuable and much-needed anthology is highly recommended for readers interested in folklore and African American history.”

Mean:  Myriam Gurba is a queer spoken-word performer, visual artist, and writer from Santa Maria, California, and is also building an impressive career as a writer, artist (her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach), and as an eighth-grade social studies teacher.  This new release combines true crime, memoir, and ghost story, to create a wholly original, thought-provoking, and starltingly comedic story of Gurba’s coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Gurba takes on sexual violence, small towns, and race, turning what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.  This is by no means an easy read, but it’s a necessary one.  The New York Times agrees, saying “Mean calls for a fat, fluorescent trigger warning start to finish — and I say this admiringly. Gurba likes the feel of radioactive substances on her bare hands.”

The Wine Lover’s Daughter: Anyone who has settled in with a nice glass of red (or white) during this tough stretch of winter will appreciate Anne Fadiman’s memoir of growing up with one of the beverage’s most devoted aficionados.   An appreciation of wine–along with a plummy upper-crust accent, expensive suits, and an encyclopedic knowledge of Western literature–was an essential element of Clifton Fadiman’s escape from lower-middle-class Brooklyn to swanky Manhattan. But wine was not just a class-vaulting accessory; it was an object of ardent desire–from the glass of cheap Graves he drank in Paris in 1927 through the Château Lafite-Rothschild 1904 he drank to celebrate his eightieth birthday, when he and the bottle were exactly the same age, to the wines that sustained him in his last years, when he was blind but still buoyed, as always, by hedonism.  Wine is the spine of this touching memoir; the life and character of Fadiman’s father, along with her relationship with him and her own less ardent relationship with wine, are the flesh.  Ultimately this is a book about love, and the journeys on which it can take us that earned a starred review from Booklist, who said in its review, “In this crisp, scintillating, amusing, and affecting memoir, Anne incisively and lovingly portrays her brilliant and vital father and brings into fresh focus the dynamic world of twentieth-century books and America’s discovery of wine.”

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