You wouldn’t really know it by looking out the window, but it is indeed Autumn, beloved patrons (give it a day or so, and you’ll remember). And, like the leaves that cascade down around us, we have a big pile of programs, classes, and events going on in and around the Library this month, and into November.
As ever, we do our very best to meet the needs and preferences of our community, but if there is a program you would like to see offered, a class you would like to take, or a skill you would like to learn, please let us know! We are, as ever and always, here for you.
And so, with that said, let’s check out some of the super offerings on our calendars, as well as some important dates to add to your datebook.
Monday, October 29: 7:00 – 8:00pm: Baseball as American Culture
Join us for a fascinating history of America’s game with UMass Lowell professor Frank Morris. Learn how baseball galvanized a divided nation in the 19th century and developed into ‘America’s Pastime” as an allegory to our cultural identity in the decades to come. Includes a history of the Boston Red Sox and a look at how the game both reinforced and challenged cultural themes over time. This program is generously sponsored by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Library.
At the Creativity Lab:
Tuesday, November 13, 6:30 – 8:30pm: Make a Laser Cut Stamp
Learn to use the Creativity Lab’s laser cutter to make a customized stamp that you can use for any craft project. Materials will be provided. For ages 18+ only.
At the South Branch:
Wednesday, November 7, 1:30 – 3:00pm: Make Your Own Appliqué
Learn the art of appliqué hand-stitching just in time for the holiday season! Appliqué is a form of ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern. In this 2-week workshop, participants will be stitching a maple leaf in honor the New England’s most beautiful season! In the first week, participants will learn the basic techniques of appliqué and begin stitching the design. In the second week, participants can finish their design and are encouraged to ask any questions they may have. All materials will be provided.
At the West Branch:
Wednesday, November 14, 1:00 – 2:00pm: Heritage Films presents Norman Rockwell, Illustrator
Come join us for a 40 minute film presentation by local historian and film maker Dan Tremblay of Heritage Films! This particular film will focus on Norman Rockwell.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict…Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.
The physician Denis Mukwege has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese.
Nadia Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is firmly embedded in the criteria spelled out in Alfred Nobel’s will. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for the victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.
You can read more about both of these remarkable human beings on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s website. There is little we can add here, except for our thanks to Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad for all they have done, all they will continue to do, and for the inspiration they provide to others.
Waiting for Eden: Elliot Ackerman is a veteran himself, and his experiences add real depth and emotion to his novel, a National Book Award Finalist, about a veteran coping with the overwhelming challenge of returning home. Eden Malcom lies in a bed, unable to move or to speak, imprisoned in his own mind, covered in burns and existing on life support. His wife Mary spends every day on the sofa in his hospital room. He has never even met their young daughter. And he will never again see the friend and fellow soldier who didn’t make it back home–and who narrates the novel while awaiting his journey to whatever afterlife awaits. But on Christmas, the one day Mary is not at his bedside, Eden’s re-ordered consciousness comes flickering alive. As he begins to find a way to communicate, some troubling truths about his marriage–and about his life before he went to war–come to the surface. Is Eden the same man he once was? Who is there to tell him who he truly is? This is a profound and moving novel that centers on a small-scale story, while making big, important claims about the world around the characters–and around the readers, as well. As the Washington Post wrote in their review, this is: “A classic triangle story of love and friendship, a ghost story, a captivity narrative, and a study of human endurance . . . all of it easily read in one sitting . . . Ackerman’s novel quietly suggests that America itself is a ghost story, and we are all in the act of waiting for Eden.”
The Shakespeare Requirement:If anyone else out there thought that Julie Schumacher’s first novel, Dear Committee Members, was one of the most darkly funny, cathartic novels in recent memory, then get ready for another novel about the ins, outs, ups, and downs of reality in academia, told with Schumacker’s unflinching eye for quirky detail. Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. His ex-wife is sleeping with the dean who must approve whatever modest initiatives he undertakes. The fearsome department secretary Fran clearly runs the show (when not taking in rescue parrots and dogs) and holds plenty of secrets she’s not sharing. The lavishly funded Econ Department keeps siphoning off English’s meager resources and has taken aim at its remaining office space. And Fitger’s attempt to get an antediluvian Shakespeare scholar to retire backfires spectacularly when the press concludes that the Bard is being kicked to the curricular curb. Schumacher writes acidic satire, with zero tolerance for hypocrisy, and an absolutely delightful sense of humor that has to be read to be believed. Kirkus Reviews gave this sensational book a starred review, noting, “”Schumacher abandons the epistolary style of her previous novel for a straight narrative but retains all of its acid satire in a sequel that is far more substantive and just as funny… A witty but kindhearted academic satire that oscillates between genuine compassion and scathing mockery with admirable dexterity.”
Kill the Queen: The first novel in Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards epic fantasy series is a sure-fire treat for Game of Thrones fans looking for a new series to savor. In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten. But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre. Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move. But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen. Booklist hailed the arrival of this series’ opener, noting “Estep starts an exciting new fantasy series full of magic, fierce women, and revenge.”
Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future:Mary Robinson was the first female president of the Republic of Ireland, and is now the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, and as such, this slim work is powerful indeed. Since 2003, Robinson has been traveling the world to raise awareness of, and investigate the realities of climate change. Mary Robinson’s mission would lead her all over the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and to a heartening revelation: that an irrepressible driving force in the battle for climate justice could be found at the grassroots level, mainly among women, many of them mothers and grandmothers like herself. From Sharon Hanshaw, the Mississippi matriarch whose campaign began in her East Biloxi hair salon and culminated in her speaking at the United Nations, to Constance Okollet, a small farmer who transformed the fortunes of her ailing community in rural Uganda, Robinson met with ordinary people whose resilience and ingenuity had already unlocked extraordinary change. Library Journal gave this remarkable book a starred review, explaining that “Robinson puts a human face on this politically charged issue, adding to the climate change conversation. Highly recommended.”
The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds and Riches of Latin America During World War II:Mary Jo McConahay fills an important gap in our understanding of the Second World War with this view of Latin America, and how all the combatant nations of the world attempted to gain influence and power in the area. The fight was often dirty: residents were captured to exchange for U.S. prisoners of war and rival spy networks shadowed each other across the continent. Though the Allies triumphed, at the war’s inception it looked like the Axis would win. A flow of raw materials in the Southern Hemisphere, at a high cost in lives, was key to ensuring Allied victory, as were military bases supporting the North African campaign, the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, and fending off attacks on the Panama Canal. Allies secured loyalty through espionage and diplomacy―including help from Hollywood and Mickey Mouse―while Jews and innocents among ethnic groups ―Japanese, Germans―paid an unconscionable price. Mexican pilots flew in the Philippines and twenty-five thousand Brazilians breached the Gothic Line in Italy. This is an eye-opening account that is a must-read for history buffs, espionage aficionados, and thriller fans alike! Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, as well, praising the fact that “McConahay gives an account thick with detail and unexpected twists regarding America’s efforts to control the resources of Latin America. Fast-paced and informative, this is essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand World War II and some of the forces that led to it.”
While the start of Autumn may mean back to school it also means new book releases! Here are some of our favorites from the Teen Room! Enjoy!
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
A Pride & Prejudice retelling set in modern day Brooklyn! The tale follows Zuri Benitez and her four wild sisters through the struggle of teenage crushes, understanding family pride, and finding her place in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Bushwick. While staying true to the original’s themes and tone this story holds its own with a well written plot and colorful characters that are easy to relate to!
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
This is Hank Green’s debut novel which we couldn’t be more excited for! April-May becomes an overnight internet sensation after her and her friend Andy take a video of the “Carls”, robots that resemble a samurai Transformer, and ends up being swept up in a whirlwind of international fame, never-ending questions, and her own emotions. The story is quirky, well-written, and focuses on the unification of humanity.
The Lady’s Guide to Piracy and Petticoats by Mackenzie Lee
The second installment in the Montague Siblings Series picks up a year after the adventure from Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, starring our favorite moody sister Felicity! Felicity wants nothing but to be a doctor, but when the subject of her gender is brought into question she embarks on a journey through the German countryside to find Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician, to take her on as a research assistant. Lee has outdone herself again with Lady’s Guide by continuing to use her voice to tackle subjects like misogyny, intersectional privilege, and racism while keeping the tone exciting and relatable. Another five star story from Mackenzie Lee!
People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins
One tense week brings all six people into close contact in a town wrought with political and personal tensions. This story revolves around the theme of gun violence which has been a point of concern in the last year. While this novel is not one of her usual free-verse style stories People Kill People still contains elements of her signature style. Though slower than her normal narratives this novel is masterfully written with a powerful message that reflects issues in our everyday life.
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
From the best selling author of Dear, Martin comes a new story of self exploration, reuniting with old friends, making new friends, and self-discovery. Stone’s new novel revolves around three teens, each dealing with hardships that only the others can help figure out. The story deals with sexuality, friendship, and inward reflection making it an important novel for any high school aged teen. This book will break your heart but then carefully and lovingly put it back together again.
Happy Reading! Let us know which ones you’ll be checking out next!
The time has come again, beloved patrons, for All Hallows Read, a monthly indulgence in all things spectacularly spooky, deliciously dark, and gloriously ghoulish!
All Hallows Read was started by the Great and Good Neil Gaiman in 2010 with this blog post, which called for a new Halloween tradition, and stated, in part:
I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.
I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands — new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en. Make their flesh creep…
Now we at the Free For All never do things by half, and so waiting until the week of Halloween really doesn’t give us enough time to highlight all the creepy tales that live here in the Library. So instead, we are taking the whole month to showcase some scary (and scary-ish, and maybe not-so-scary) books. We hope this will help you to find a new beloved book among them, or perhaps revisit an old favorite from days gone by. Check out our display at the Main Library, and revel in some of the ghoulish suggestions below. And feel free to check out the Twitter handle: #AllHallowsRead to see what scary reads people around the world are enjoying, too!
We’ll be updating the blog throughout the month with some scintillating and shiver-inducing reads to help you celebrate All Hallows Read, so stay turned!
We are here to provide resources to those who need them. Here is the contact information for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization based on the first six digits of your phone number. Cell phone callers have the option to enter the ZIP code of their current location to more accurately locate the nearest sexual assault service provider.
And now, on to the books:
Time’s Converts: Deborah Harkness, author of the beloved All Souls Trilogy brings another time-hopping paranormal love story that is sure to delight her legions of fans. On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood. Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor–the young employee at Sotheby’s with whom Marcus has fallen in love–is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both–forever. A historian herself, Harkness imbues her books with a memorable view of the past and its intersections with the present in a way that Booklist hailed in its review, saying “Effortlessly sweeping across time and continents . . . Harkness replaces the captivating Matthew and Diana dynamic with a passionate new love story.”
CoDex 1962: Icelandic author and Oscar-nominated songwriter Sjón has earned a global reputation for his utterly unique stories, and now his most famous trilogy of books (outside the English-speaking world) is available in an English translation. Josef Löwe, the narrator of this tale, was born at precisely the same moment as Sjón himself. Josef’s story, however, stretches back decades in the form of Leo Löwe―a Jewish fugitive during World War II who has an affair with a maid in a German inn; together, they form a baby from a piece of clay. In the second story, Löwe arrives in Iceland with the clay-baby inside a hatbox, only to be embroiled in a murder mystery―but by the end of the volume, his clay son has come to life. And in the final volume, set in present-day Reykjavík, Josef’s story becomes science fiction as he crosses paths with the outlandish CEO of a biotech company (based closely on reality) who brings the story of genetics and genesis full circle. This is a story that is part folklore, part traditional epic, part sci-fi, part mystery, and all together a unique story that Sjón’s fans and new comers alike will savor. Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, noting “In this beguiling, surpassingly eccentric triptych, Icelandic novelist Sjón takes on, in turn, romance (classic, not Gothic), mystery, and science fiction to examine how people parse themselves into little camps and try to make their way through this harsh world . . . Sjón’s work is unlike anything else in contemporary fiction. Strange―but stunning.”
Your Duck is My Duck: Deborah Eisenberg is a gifted short-story writer, and that talent shines through in this new collection. In Eisenberg’s world(s), the forces of money, sex, and power cannot be escaped, and the force of history, whether confronted or denied, cannot be evaded. These forces wind through a varied and engrossing set of tales: a tormented woman whose face determines her destiny; a group of film actors shocked to read a book about their past; a privileged young man who unexpectedly falls into a love affair with a human rights worker caught up in an all-consuming quest that he doesn’t understand. The result is a collection that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it …”superlative and entertaining…Eisenberg is funny, grim, biting, and wise, but always with a light touch and always in the service of worlds that extend far beyond the page. A virtuoso at rendering the flickering gestures by which people simultaneously hide and reveal themselves, Eisenberg is an undisputed master of the short story.”
We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time: Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world. Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business. Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, this book movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. This book earned another starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who cheered “…The author’s passion to help people is palpable . . . His actions should be the basis for future work by FEMA and other humanitarian agencies . . . A passionate and courageous story that should be required reading for anyone involved in disaster response.”
One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy: In this timely and insightful work, Carol Anderson considers the ramifications and results of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder, also known as the Shelby Ruling, eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, allowing districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice. Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures, as well as the efforts of grassroots organizations and individuals to ensure the basic rights of democratic citizenship. Anderson’s book was named a Pick of the Month by Library Journal, who wrote in their review, “In White Rage, a New York Times best seller that won the National Book Critics Circle Award,Emory professor Anderson chronicled efforts since 1865 to block the advancement of African Americans. Here she concentrates on efforts to curtail the African American vote since the 2013 Shelby ruling gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Anderson considers both consequences–e.g., photo ID requirements, poll closures–and means of redress.”
Writing to your favorite authors is a great idea, no matter the time of year or the occasion. Authors, like all of us, like to hear that their work has had a positive impact on the world and on readers, specifically. This can be especially difficult if an author’s book has been challenged or banned. Such a process inherently changes the nature of the author’s relationship with readers (sometimes for the better, but not always), and with the general public, as well. So this week, the American Library Association has set out to provide support for the authors of banned books, and connect them with readers who have loved and who have needed their words.
Dear Banned Author is a letter-writing campaign hosted by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. During Banned Books Week (September 23-29), readers are encouraged to write to their favorite banned or challenged authors, sharing what their stories meant to them. The goal of the campaign is to not only raise awareness of books that are threatened with censorship and support authors, but also encourage thoughtful discussions about the power of words and how essential it is to have access to a variety of viewpoints in libraries. Authors also have shared fan letters as support when there’s a public challenge to their books.
Here’s a note from the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom to you, our fearless readers, about the Dear Banned Author campaign:
Your words have the power to sway decisions, to defend access to books, to stop censorship. Your words can combat the silencing of stories. Thank you for reading banned books and defending the freedom to read. This page has printable postcards and tips on how to write a letter. What book has impacted your life? Choose an author from the Banned & Challenged Author Addresses & Twitter Handles list and start writing! The list also includes links to authors’ Twitter handles, if you also want to share your story online. Please feel free to use the hashtag #DearBannedAuthor, so we can share these stories widely.
Keep writing, rebel readers,
So, this Banned Book Week, why not take a moment and share some good wishes with your favorite author of a banned book? The Dear Banned Author webpage includes lots of tools to help you out, including printable postcards, a list of banned and challenged authors (and their Twitter handles), letter writing tips, and more.
You can also share you letters on social media using the hashtag #DearBannedAuthor and #BannedBooksWeek.
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was first published in France in 1955, and has remained arguably among the most controversial books of (at least) the late 20th century. It has been banned in France and Britain, and repeatedly challenged in the US.
On the surface, the novel is a confession by Humbert Humbert, a man imprisoned for murder–the confession, however, is not for the murder, but rather in regards to his love for, seduction of, and involvement with, an under-age female named Dolores Haze (nicknamed ‘Lolita’). It is the confession of a rapist, of a child molester, and it is so well-written and beautiful that it challenges almost all traditional notions of right and wrong. It is also the story of the child who is the victim of this crime, and what happens to her as a result of Humbert’s crimes, which is an aspect of this book that goes understudied. Granted, it’s a pretty subtle aspect of the book that Nabokov himself discussed rarely–but it’s a critically important aspect that he did recognize. You can see that in this letter, which we quote in part below, as well as in the text itself, especially in the final scene between Dolores and Humbert, which Nabokov urges us all to read.
Nabokov’s 1956 letter is to his friend and fellow scholar Morris Bishop, and notes the growing furor over Lolita. It also makes note of Nabokov’s view of the books difficult subject matter. As he notes, the novel is about exploitation and manipulation, about power and corruption and pain. Although it features descriptions of sexual acts (without actually referring to ‘sex’, or the use of any language that might in any way be construed as lewd), it is not a ‘racy’ book. It is a tragedy, in the most profound sense of the word.
The whole letter is taken from the wonderful people over at Letters of Note, and you can read it here. Just to note, Nabokov taught literature in a number of universities in the United States, including Smith College, Mount Holyoke, and Cornell. His Lectures on Literature and Lectures on Russian Literature are absolutely fascinating, and give a beautiful glimpse into the way his mind worked, and what kind of a reader (and writer) he was.
I have just learned that Gallimard wants to publish LOLITA. This will give her a respectable address. The book is having some success in London and Paris. Please, cher ami, do read it to the end!
Frankly, I am not much concerned with the “irate Paterfamilias”. That stuffy philistine would be just as upset if he learned that at Cornell I analyse “ULYSSES” before a class of 250 students of both sexes. I know that LOLITA is my best book so far. I calmly lean on my conviction that it is a serious work of art, and that no court could prove it to be “lewd and libertine”. All categories grade, of course, into one another: a comedy of manners written by a fine poet may have its “lewd” side; but “LOLITA” is a tragedy. “Pornography” is not an image plucked out of context; pornography is an attitude and an intention. The tragic and the obscene exclude each other.
Here’s yet another reason why we support Banned Books Week, and the reading of books that challenge us all. Lolita is a remarkable, a difficult, and a deeply affecting work of fiction, with themes that resonate today–perhaps even more so than when it was first published. It deserves to be read and discusses, hated and loved, and, most of all, available to any and all who want to read it. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why we do what we do.
Happy Banned Books Week, beloved patrons!
"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass