Technically, this is our first Five Book Friday of Spring, beloved patrons, and I had a great post planned about the onset of longer days and brighter skies and warmer weather….but we had warmer weather in February, and now we are paying for it, because the weather gods are feckless, cruel beings. Nevertheless, here are a few myths, legends, and stories from around the world about the coming of spring to keep your hopes high:
- The Spring Beauty, A Chippewa Legend (click the title for the full story)
“I am Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring,” answered the youth. “I breathe, and flowers spring up in the meadows and woods….I shake my ringlets…and the warm showers of soft rain fall upon the Earth. The flowers lift their heads from the ground, and the grass grows thick and green. My voice recalls the birds, and they come flying joyfully from the South-land. The warmth of my breath unbinds the streams, and they sing the songs of Summer. Music fills the groves wherever I walk, and all Nature rejoices.”
- Persephone, of the Greek Pantheon
And oldie, but still a goodie: Demeter, Goddess of agriculture, had a daughter named Persephone. One day Persephone was snatched away by Hades, God of the Underworld, to live with him in down in the Underworld. Demeter, heard her cries but couldn’t find her daughter, so she left all the harvest alone and as a result, mass famine struck. One day while Apollo was making his rounds through the underworld as he does through the sky, he spotted Persephone down there and reported the finding to Zeus. Zeus then sent Hermes, the messenger god, to bring Persephone back. Unfortunately, Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds given to her by Hades in the land of the dead. This trickery bound her to return to the underworld for six months every year. When Persephone returns from the underworld each year, Demeter makes the earth bloom and grow beautifully which is the time of year we know as Spring and Summer. When Persephone returns to the underworld, Demeter stops and Fall & Winter arrive.
- Baldur, of the Norse pantheon
The god of light Baldur was the son of Odin and Frigga. He was so attractive and personable that he was beloved by everyone and was considered the most handsome of the gods. Naturally Loki, the premier trouble-maker in Norse mythology, resented Baldur, and, eventually killed him with mistletoe.Frigga was in such despair the world grew colder and plants shriveled up and died. Humanity prayed for deliverance from the oppressive cold and the lack of food, and finally Odin interceded. He learned that Hel, the goddess who ruled over the land of the dead, was not inclined to release Baldur unless everything living and unliving mourned for him. Though Frigga was not able to convince everything on earth to mourn for him, Baldour was allowed to return for a small amount of time every year (much like Persephone does in the Greek tale).
- The Legend of the Blue Corm Maiden, from the Hopi People (Click the title for the full tale)
Winter Katsina saw that he needed to make peace with Summer Katsina, not war. The two sat and talked. They agreed that Blue Corn Maiden would live among the People of the Pueblos and give them her blue corn for half of the year, in the time of Summer Katsina. The other half of the year, Blue Corn Maiden would live with Winter Katsina and the People would have no corn. Blue Corn Maiden went away with Summer Katsina, and he was kind to her. She became the sign of springtime, eagerly awaited by the People.
…Are you enjoying these stories? If so, why not come into the Library and check out a few more? Here is a sample of some of the sensational books that have clambered up onto our shelves this week:
Exit West: Mohsin Ameed’s work has already been celebrated around the world, but this book is being hailed as quite possibly his best work, providing a heart-rending look at the world in which we live, touched with the magic of love and the weirdness of fairy tale. In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair that grows and is eventually threatened when violence explodes around them. They begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. This is a book not only about our own political climate, but about the effects of violence on human life and relationships, and the vicious and vital promise of hope. Entertainment Weekly agrees, giving this book a glowing review which reads in part, “Nearly every page reflects the tangible impact of life during wartime—not just the blood and gunsmoke of daily bombardments, but the quieter collateral damage that seeps in. The true magic of [Exit West] is how it manages to render it all in a narrative so moving, audacious, and indelibly human.”
Lola: Melissa Scrivner Love’s debut crime thriller puts a phenomenal twist on the “girl” titles of recent years (this “girl” has a name! Yay!), with a story about a ruthlessly intelligent gang leader, and the city she both embodies, and calls home. The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia. but what no one has figured out is that the gang’s real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia’s girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man’s world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival. This is a story for anyone who enjoyed Breaking Bad, and Love is definitely an author on whom thriller fans should be keeping their eye. The New York Times agrees, calling this book, “Intense, gritty, and breathlessly paced…The titular Lola is The City of Angels made flesh, beauty and horror living side by side with no barriers between. …I fell hard for Lola in all her fierce and broken beauty, her reckless and necessary hardness, her bottomless capacity for loyalty. Don’t miss this ride.”
Delicious Geography: Travel and food. I fail to see how this book can check too many more of my boxes. This entertaining book takes us on a fascinating exploration of the world of food, as father and daughter duo, geographer Gary Fuller and chef Tracy Reddekopp, travel the globe in an exploration of how we are all linked by food. By studying the preparation of 35 different dishes, Fuller and Reddekopp show how sharing of foods and food traditions are prime examples of our global connection, not only in the present, but in the past as well. There are reasons that the same dishes, or types of dishes, appear in different geographic locales when they do, and becoming conscious of this, while become well-fed, is an excellent learning experience, as well as a delectable culinary adventure! Booklist had this to say: “From discussions on global impacts of specific ingredients, such as the introduction of the potato into Bolivia, to the social influences of ingredients like that of dairy, Fuller and Reddekopp put an interesting personal slant to each chapter. Recipes are bolstered with the history of the highlighted element of each featured recipe, along with…intimate stories to bolster the well-researched histories and tried recipes with a unique slant. . . . This is an enjoyable read that features a number of intriguing recipes that have been crafted for the home cook.”
The River of Kings: Taylor Brown is a master at the American journey story, having brought us a journey during Reconstruction in last year’s The Fallen Land, we now are treated to a river trek–and a historical journey–that is just as touching and engrossing. The Altamaha River, Georgia’s “Little Amazon,” has been named one of the 75 “Last Great Places in the World.” Crossed by roads only five times in its 137-mile length, the blackwater river is home to thousand-year-old virgin cypress, descendants of 18th-century Highland warriors, and a motley cast of rare and endangered species. The Altamaha has even been rumored to harbor its own river monster, as well as traces of the most ancient European fort in North America. Brothers Hunter and Lawton Loggins set off to kayak the river, bearing their father’s ashes toward the sea. Both young men were raised by an angry, enigmatic shrimper who loved the river, and whose death remains a mystery that his sons hope to resolve. As the brothers proceed downriver, their story is interwoven with that of Jacques Le Moyne, an artist who accompanied the 1564 expedition to found a French settlement at the river’s mouth, which began as a search for riches and ended in a bloody confrontation with Spanish conquistadors and native tribes. Publisher’s Weekly loved this trip, saying that Brown’s book “Captures the essence of an enchanting place with a story combining adventure, family drama, and local history.”
No One Cares About Crazy People: In this heartbreaking, well-researched, and determined book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Powers asks, How did we, as a society, get to this point in our treatment and thinking about mental illness. Powers traces the appalling narrative–from the sadistic abuse of “lunaticks” at Bedlam Asylum in London seven centuries ago to today’s scattershot treatments and policies. His odyssey of reportage began after not one but both of his beloved sons were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Braided into his vivid social history is the moving saga of Powers’s own family: his bright, buoyant sons, both of whom struggled mightily with schizophrenia, and the way their personal history fits into the scope of his wider history on mental illness. Kirkus Reviews gave this journey a starred review, saying, “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Powers presents two searing sagas: an indictment of mental health care in the United States and the story of his two schizophrenic sons…. This hybrid narrative, enhanced by the author’s considerable skills as a literary stylist, succeeds on every level.”
Until next week, beloved patrons, happy reading!