Tag Archives: Holidays

Five Book Friday!

As many fans of the film franchise Star Wars will know, today is a linguistically significant day–so don’t be surprised if someone comes up to you with the greeting “May the Fourth be with you!”

According to CNN:

As legend has it, and according to the origin story recognized by Lucasfilm, the phrase was first used on May 4, 1979, the day Margaret Thatcher took office as UK Prime Minister. The Conservative Party reportedly placed an ad in the London Evening News that read, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”

Via TVNZ

With social media, the line has grown in popularity and prevalence, so for those fans out there, May The Fourth Be With You.

There are plenty of other fun days to observe in May, too!  Check out a few of the more quirky and entertaining national days to celebrate soon:

May 5: Free Comic Book Day! For more information, check out the Free Comic Book Day website, and follow the #FreeComicBookDay!

May 6: National Lemonade Day: Started in 2007, this is a day aimed at teaching young people how to start, own and operate their very own business via a lemonade stand.  For more information, check out lemonadeday.org!

May 12: National Miniature Golf Day: Tee up, and learn more about other devotees of everyone’s real favorite sport via #NationalMiniGolfDay.

May 21: National American Red Cross Founder’s Day: Marking the the anniversary of the American Red Cross, which was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton.

May 25: National Tap Dance Day: Honoring the birthday of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, this is a perfect day to get your dancing shoes polished and ready to go!

And, as we all know, there is no day that is not perfect for finding a new book to savor!  Here are just a few of the stellar titles that have paraded onto our shelves this past week:

America is Not the Heart: Elaine Castillo’s debut, a multi-generational epic, has been featured and praised in magazine and on websites across the country, and hailed not only for its insight and honest, but for its humor, as well.  When Hero De Vera arrives in America–haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents–she has already well experienced at rebuilding her life from scratch.  Now, she is starting anew once again, living in her uncle’s home in the Bay Area.  Her uncle’s younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter–the first American-born daughter in the family–can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands.  The tale that is revealed is a sprawling and soulful one about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history.  Kirkus Reviews gave Castillo’s work a starred review, and offered a beautiful analysis of her book, saying in part: “Castillo is a vivid writer, and she has a real voice: vernacular and fluid, with a take-no-prisoners edge. At the same time, she complicates her narrative by breaking out of it in a variety of places—both by deftly incorporating languages such as Tagalog and Ilocano and through the use of flashback or backstory . . . Beautifully written, emotionally complex, and deeply moving, Castillo’s novel reminds us both that stories may be all we have to save us and also that this may never be enough.”

Losing the Nobel PrizeWhat would it have been like to be an eyewitness to the Big Bang? In 2014, astronomers wielding BICEP2, the most powerful cosmology telescope ever made, revealed that they’d glimpsed the spark that ignited the Big Bang. Millions around the world tuned in to the announcement broadcast live from Harvard University, immediately igniting rumors of an imminent Nobel Prize. But had these cosmologists truly read the cosmic prologue or, swept up in Nobel dreams, had they been deceived by a galactic mirage?  In this fascinating book, Brian Keating, inventor of the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) launches readers on a thrill ride through the high-stakes, ruthless world of modern science, discussing the development of mind-boggling technology and the hope for bigger, better, and more awe-inspiring discoveries.  He also argues that the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress, may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration and bold innovation, and offers clear-sighting ideas for how to fix this process, as well.  Science and technology writers have penned splendid reviews of Keating’s book, praising his prose as well as his acumen.  Among them was ScienceNews, who noted how the book “dissects the error-prone humanity of science, but cuts the ugly details with beauty… Charming and clever, Losing the Nobel Prize bounces between clear explanations of nitty-gritty science, accounts of personal relationships and historical lessons.”

First Person: Man-Booker-Prize winning author Richard Flanagan is known for bending the rules of reality in his fiction, and this book, about a ghost writer and a conman is a stunning example of that talent.  Kif Kehlmann, a young, penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghost writing his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he’ll be paid $10,000. But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him–his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: Who is Siegfried Heidl–and who is Kif Kehlmann?  As time runs out, as Kehlmann’s world feels it is hurtling toward a catharsis, one question looms above all others: What is the truth?  Twisted, unsettling, and delightfully creative, Flanagan’s newest release received as starred review from Booklist,who called it “An acerbic exploration of how the contemporary world came to be defined by lies, deceit, and obfuscation . . . Full of hilarious asides, this sonorous, blackly comic novel offers searing insight into our times.”

Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution: Here in Massachusetts, we often learn about the Industrial Revolution in terms of mills, looms, and Lowell.   Priya Satia’s thoroughly researched and rich history offers a different take on this seminal moment in human history by arguing that  war and Britain’s prosperous gun trade was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the state’s imperial expansion.  She opens with the story of a scandal: Samuel Galton of Birmingham, one of Britain’s most prominent gunmakers, has been condemned by his fellow Quakers, who argue that his profession violates the society’s pacifist principles. In his fervent self-defense, Galton argues that the state’s heavy reliance on industry for all of its war needs means that every member of the British industrial economy is implicated in Britain’s near-constant state of war.   From there, Satia considers the role and effect of firearms in the construction of western hegemony, challenging not only out thinking about the past, but its effect on our present and future, as well.  Booklist praised this work for (among other things) its “Tremendous scholarship. . . . Satia’s detailed and fresh look at the Industrial Revolution has appeal and relevance grounded in and reaching beyond history and social science to illuminate the complexity of present-day gun-control debates.”

The Great Stain: Witnessing American SlaveryNoel Rae’s work looks at slavery from the angle of contemporary, first-hand accounts of the practice, and its effects on enslaved people and those who enslaved them, creating a book that is difficult at times to read, but vitally necessary precisely because of the intimacy.  From the travel journals of sixteenth-century Spanish settlers who offered religious instruction and “protection” in exchange for farm labor, to the diaries of poetess Phillis Wheatley; from Frederick Law Olmsted’s book about traveling through the “cotton states,” to the accounts by enslaved peoples themselves, including Solomon Northrup and Mary Reynolds, this is a book that is eye-opening in its scope and research, and painfully prevalent even today.  David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, provided a blurb for this book, noting that “In the historical discussion, we often talk about the institution of slavery. We examine the debate over the legal question concerning slavery and its expansion in the United States, its role in the origin and conduct of the Civil War, but works such as The Great Stain bring us back to the human level, allowing us to hear what the institution meant for an individual.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Welcoming the Spring

“Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad – when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel…It took all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught, all my courage, not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright.”

(Bram Stoker, Dracula’s Guest)

It’s an auspicious time, beloved patrons, especially for those who delight in dark stories, things that go bump (or worse) in the night, and those who believe in the power of the unseen.  Let’s take a look at some of the feasts and holidays being celebrated over the course of this week, and some of the reading you can do to learn more!

Walpurgisnacht

Image result for walpurgaOn the night before the first of May, people in European countries including the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, and Estonia observe Walpurgisnacht, which is the eve before the Feast of Saint Walpurga (pictured at left), an 8th century British abbess who traveled to what is now Germany as a missionary.  Walgpurga was renowned for her medical abilities, and her abbey in Germany was considered “a center of culture” where people came to learn as well as to seek aid and spiritual guidance.  Following her death in 777, and subsequent  canonization, people prayed to Saint Walpurga to repel the effects of witchcraft on their bodies and their possessions.  On May 1, 870, her relics were relocated to Eichstätt, a town in the Bavarian area of Germany, and local stories note that miraculous cures were reported as her remains traveled along the route.  Over time, the evening before Walpurga’s feast day on May 1 was seen as the night when all the evil in the world had free reign–a time that ended with Walpurga’s Day.

That is why, when Jonathan Harker travels through Hungary to Romania in the opening chapters of Dracula, he sees bonfires burning, and is told to fear the things he may encounter in the darkness during his journey.  For more information on Dracula, and Bram Stoker’s study of the paranormal, the occult, and the superstitions that made up his classic novel–and plenty of other fascinating historical facts, too, check out Jim Steinmeyer’s Who Was Dracula?:  Bram Stoker’s Trail of Blood.

Beltane
Image result for BELTANE
Via North Edinburgh News, Credit: Jon Kendrew

In Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, the feast of Beltane (traditionally observed on or around May 1) marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth.  Bonfires were lit to protect both the cattle and people from predators–both the animal and the supernatural kind.  Traditionally, all household fires would be extinguished, before being re-lit with sparks and flames from a Beltane fire, so that the house would also be protected, as well. There were also any number of rituals performed to keep the the aos sí, or the fairy folk, happy; from leaving out bowls of milk for them to sip on, to offering sacrifices and presents at fairy forts (areas that were believed to be inhabited by the aos sí, identified by natural oddities like a circle of rocks, trees, or a hill).

Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary, a Free-For-All favorite, is a sensational historical account of the superstitions and folklore of nineteenth century Ireland.  It also tales the story of Bridget Cleary, the last women to be burned to death on the supposition that she was possessed by fairies.  The case is a fascinating one, that highlights the shifting ways of life in Ireland that was unsettling the population and individual families, as well.  For those looking for fiction, Hannah Kent’s The Good People offers a similar insightful look into the power of superstition and stories on Irish women.  This novel is based on a true account of the death of a child in Ireland in the 1820’s–again, fairy possession was believed to be the cause of the child’s affliction.  Kent’s story is an unsettling, troublingly honest look at life in a rural community, the pain of loss, and the damage of distrust that blends real historical detail with modern day empathy to make for an unforgettable story.

May Day
Image result for may day maypole
Via The Independent UK

In much of the northern hemisphere, May 1 is known as May Day, a traditional spring holiday when winter is officially banished and the promise of a long growing season is welcomed.  Originally a pagan holiday to celebrate the change of seasons, May Day became a secular celebration that was observed by dancing around a May pole.  Nevertheless, plenty of rituals still exist around this day that harken back to the superstitions and supernatural powers of old.  May Day was associated with fears of butter stealing. Cows were safe-guarded by attaching flowers around their heads;  sometimes red ribbons or bits of rowan were tied to their tails. This was believed to offer them protection from the malign glance of those with the evil eye. The churn was especially vulnerable at this time so often similar items or iron objects were placed underneath it.  Similarly, crowns of flowers were woven for children to keep them safe, and flowers were laid on doorsteps to keep the evil eye from falling on one’s house.

The Arrival of Missives

A wonderful book that captures the promise and mystery of May Day is Aliya Whiteley’sThe Arrival of Missives (available through the Boston Public Library). In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.  As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley encounters Mr. Tiller, a scarred war veteran, whose arrival in her life will change her world as profoundly as spring changes the world around her.  This dreamy, surprising little story is a perfect read for a lazy spring afternoon.

 

So, happy spring, dear readers, no matter how you chose to celebrate it!

International Women’s Day!

Today we revisit a post from last year that look at the history of International Women’s Day!

New York, 1908

Some sources cite the first ‘Women’s Day’ as taking place in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York in support of shorter hours, better pay and voting rights, but one year later, in 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared a National Women’s Day on Sunday, February 28–the day was specifically chosen to allow even working women to participate (and let’s just remember here that a Socialist party is not a Communist party, and the goals of one are by no means the goals of the other).  And one year after that, and the second International Conference of Working Women. which was held in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin of Germany suggested an International Women’s Day. The day, as she proposed, would be recognized in every country, to advocate for issues critical to all women.   The next International Women’s Day, in 1911, was recognized by nine countries.

In 1913, the Russian Socialist Party moved the celebration to March 8, the day on which it is still observed today.  During the First World War, women’s work in international pacifist organizations used this day to promote work across borders and above international hostilities to make life better for human people everywhere. Though they didn’t bring the war to an end (though not through lack of trying), in 1917, women in Russian went on strike with a message of “peace and bread”–and four days later, the Tzar abdicated, signaling an end to Russia’s involvement in the First World War.

Bread and Peace Strike, Petrograd, 1917

Though the UN officially recognized IWD in 1975, it hasn’t been a big thing for quite some time…..until, in 2011, President Barack Obama declared March ‘Women’s History Month’, and the nine countries around the world that first celebrated IWD developed national programs to promote education and opportunities for young women.  This year, IWD will be celebrated in the following countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

So what can you do to celebrate?  If you want to go big, pledge to support the equality of human life worldwide by sponsoring universal education and access to fundamental resources.  And then do something about it.  Teach a kid to read.  Donate to a local charity.  Tell a young person in your life, regardless of gender, that their contribution to the world is important.  Listen more.
And then, come into the Library and check out some books that have been selected from around the world for this year’s International Women’s Day!

From London’s Evening Standard:

The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret Atwood:
Set in the near future, Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel follows the story of Offred, a young handmaid to a powerful commander, who is a lynchpin in a totalitarian Christian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. What unfolds is a story of female subjugation at the hands of a male dictatorship, and the desperate hope of a young woman who clings to the memories of her former life and identity. As unpleasant as it is brilliant, this cruel and bone-chilling story will stay with your for the rest of your life – not just because it’s terrifying, but because it’s terrifyingly possible. 

From Australia’s Reading Australia:

Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville:
Lilian Singer was born in 1901, a time when the education of women was considered unnecessary, even dangerous. Intelligent, resilient, and with a burning desire for independence, Lilian rejects the life deemed “acceptable” by society. Instead, she becomes an eccentric – energetic, happy and true to herself. This story is all the more captivating for being inspired by the real-life Bea Miles, a familiar figure to Sydney-dwellers, who lived on the streets and recited Shakespeare in exchange for money.

From TheCultureTrip:

A Woman in the Crossfire : Diaries of the Syrian Revolution by Samar Yazbek
Samar Yazbek’s writing takes many different forms: novels, short stories, cultural criticism and scripts fill her résumé, and she has even been responsible for editing a feminist e-zine, entitled Women of Syria. What unites all of her writing is a deep-seated political and social awareness and engagement with contemporary issues, which she weaves throughout her work. Her most recent work A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (2012) is a brutal account of her involvement in the protests against the Assad regime, before her eventual escape and exile to Paris. The book was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize, awarded yearly to an international writer who has been persecuted for their work.

In a survey by The Guardian on their readers’ favorite books by women:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Americanah has moved me like no other in recent memory…It’s an honest book about race, identity and the constant longing and nostalgia one feels for this metaphorical place called home…Reading this has made me realise that some of the most powerful narratives in contemporary fiction have been written by young, highly educated female African writers, who are tired of the old clichés frequently bandied around about Africa. Ngozi Adichie is a new, powerful and incredibly talented voice; her novel Americanah is the expression of a different African tale, of a continent and its people that have many more magnetic stories to tell, as well as critiques to raise about the so-called enlightened West.”

From the Center for Southeast Asia Studies:

Soul survivors : stories of women and children in Cambodia by Carol Wagner
Soul Survivors gives voice to women and children in Cambodia who survived the genocide (1975 – 1979), when nearly two million people died from execution, starvation, or disease. Through their detailed personal stories, fourteen people reveal the brutality of Pol Pot’s regime, how they managed to survive, and what it took to rebuild their lives afterward. This new edition is updated and contains recent historical events and an epilog telling what happened to the survivors since the first edition was published in 2002. It also includes information about the two charitable humanitarian organizations (friendshipwithcambodia.org and artinabox.org) the author and photographer were inspired to create to help the poor in Cambodia.

From SugarStreetReview:

Women of Algiers in Their Apartment by Assia Djebar
The elder stateswoman of Francophone literature, Djebar is one of the most distinguished writers in the Arab world, although she herself comes from the Algeria’s significant Berber minority.   Djebar, whose real name is Fatima-Zohra Imalayène, has written about the role and repression of women in Algeria in many of her novels and says “Like so many other Algerian women authors, I write with a sense of urgency against misogyny and regression.” …A number of her novels have also been translated into English from the French, and all are more than deserving of your time. We particularly recommend Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, if you can rustle up a copy from somewhere.

From Msafropolitan:

Part of My Soul Went With Him by Winnie Mandela:
For insight into the life of one of the most revolutionary, African female figures of our times, this semi-autobiographical book is a must read. Winnie has achieved more for Africans, female and male; and for women, of all ethnicities, than others could dream of. Her life is one full of sacrifices, personal and political, and yet one gets the sense that if she were to choose, she would do it all over again. Through the collection of conversations, letters, supplementary speeches and anecdotes, it becomes clear exactly how much in debt we are to her.

In solidarity, readers.  Happy International Women’s Day!

Five Book Friday!

Well, Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, dear readers, but for those of you still in a mood to celebrate, fear not!  February still offers plenty of other days to celebrate.  Check out some of these terrific options:

February 17: National Random Acts of Kindness 

February 21: National Sticky Bun Day

February 23: National Toast Day (the food, not the action, so bust out those toasters!)

February 26: National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

February 28: National Chocolate Souffle Day

Best of all, there is never not a good day to celebrate Libraries, so come on it, and check out some of the new titles that have wiggled onto our shelves this week!

How to Stop TimeA you a reader who loved the idea of Fitzgerald’s tale “The Secret Life of Benjamin Button,” but wished it had a less gut-wrenching ending?  Then Matt Haig’s newest tale is for you! Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life. So Tom moves back his to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: Never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present. This is a moving, heart-warming romp love story across the ages that has had critics and reviewers raving.  The reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly noted “I am in concert with Haig’s fans as I read the book, turning pages for the story but also stopping to underline passages. I want to remember the lines. I want to read out loud to someone. Nothing like a love that lasts 400 years.”

Feel Free: Zadie Smith has become a treasured voice in fiction, and her gift for storytelling and insight into human nature makes this collection of essays a joy for her fans, and a delightful introduction to new readers.  Arranged into five sections–In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free–this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network–and Facebook itself–really about? Why do we love libraries? (YAY LIBRARY LOVE!!) What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, “Joy,” and, “Find Your Beach,” this stellar collection offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life.  Kirkus gave the book a starred review, observing “If only all such thoughts were so cogent and unfailingly humane. The author is honest, often impassioned, always sober…Smith’s observations are timeless.”

GnomonNick Harkaway is an author who revels in the potential of genre fiction, and always ends up making those genres uniquely his own.  On the surface, this book is a dystopian thriller, but beneath the label, this book is a wonderfully though-provoking commentary on our own time and consciousness, as well.  In the world of the story, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens’ thoughts and memories–all in the name of providing the safest society in history.  When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn’t make mistakes, but something isn’t right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter’s death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn’t Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter’s psyche.  Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding.  The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.  This is a complex book that will hold appeal to tech fans as well as philosophers.  The British Newspaper The Spectator reveled in its eccentric genius, saying, “This huge sci-fi detective novel of ideas is so eccentric, so audaciously plotted and so completely labyrinthine and bizarre that I had to put it aside more than once to emit Keanu-like ‘Whoahs’ of appreciation. . . It is huge fun. And it will melt your brain. . . Whoah, indeed. I wanted to give it a round of applause.”

A Dangerous Crossing: Fans of Ausma Zehanat Khan, whose investigative duo, Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak first appeared in the wrenching mystery The Unquiet Dead, will be thrilled to hear they are reappearing in this story that blends Khan’s careful plotting and character insight into another very human and immediate tragedy.  Esa’s childhood friend, Nathan Clare, calls him in distress: his sister, Audrey, has vanished from a Greek island where the siblings run an NGO. Audrey had been working to fast-track refugees to Canada, but now, she is implicated in the double-murder of a French Interpol agent and a young man who had fled the devastation in Syria.  Esa and Rachel arrive in Greece to a shocking scene, witnessing for themselves the massive fallout of the Syrian war in the wretched refugee camps. Tracing Audrey’s last movements, they meet some of the volunteers and refugees―one of whom, Ali, is involved in a search of his own, for a girl whose disappearance may be connected to their investigation.  Working against time, with Interpol at their heels, Esa and Rachel follow a trail that takes them from the beaches of Greece, to the Turkish–Syrian border, and across Europe, reaching even the corridors of power in the Netherlands. Had Audrey been on the edge of a dangerous discovery, hidden at the heart of this darkest of crises―one which ultimately put a target on her own back?  Khan is a writing who knows very well of what she speaks.  As Library Journal pointed out in their review, “Khan’s doctorate and research in international human relations law give credence to her portrayal of a timely situation . . . This is a series well worth investigating.”

A Wedding at Two Love Lane: Fans of Kieran Kramer’s historical romances will find that her delightful writing style and super character development translate beautifully into the contemporary, in this tale of matchmaking and unexpected passion.  Greer Jones has made a real name for herself at the elegant matchmaking agency Two Love Lane. For a lot of reasons―including a past engagement she broke off―practical tech expert Greer is more interested in the business of love than the experience of it, but she can’t help but covet a gorgeous wedding gown that’s the prize in an upcoming cocktail-party contest. In a moment of brazen inspiration, Greer asks a handsome Brit she’s only just met to accompany her to the party. He agrees―and Greer believes her date is a starving artist. Little does she know the truth. . .Ford Smith, as he calls himself, is actually Stanford Elliott Wentworth Smythe, the Eighth Baron of Wickshire. Fresh off a breakup with a money-grubbing siren who deceived him all the way to the altar, Ford has no desire to fall in love―especially with Greer who, like the desired wedding gown, is beautiful but only skin-deep. But soon Ford realizes that there’s more to Greer than meets the eye. Her professionalism is matched only by her passion for life and love. . .and, best of all, she has no idea that he’s to the manor born. Could it be that true love is priceless after all?  Booklist loved this tale, noting that it is  “Brimming with sassy southern charm and an abundance of deliciously dry wit, this debut entry in Kramer’s Two Love Lane series is festive treat.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Re-Reading Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an American federal holiday that is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around Dr. King’s birthday (which was January 15).  For those of you who enjoyed a day off in honor of this inspiring and intrepid American hero, we sincerely hoped you enjoyed the day.

But what–or, rather, whom–precisely, are we celebrating when we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day?  Yes, Dr. King was an American Baptist minister and one of the most visible spokespersons of the American Civil Rights Movement.  He is revered widely for his devotion to the practice of nonviolence and civil disobedience (refusing to recognize unjust laws, such as those preventing Black people from using public facilities and spaces that white people used).  Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we hear recordings of his “I Have A Dream Speech,” delivered at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, on August 28, 1963.  If you didn’t hear it, then here is a video below:

 

But it’s neither right nor fair to pretend that this speech, that this March, as fundamentally important as it was, is the only reason to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   He was an anti-war activist, a religious leader, an advocate of education reform,  and a vocal advocate for the poor and in favor of class overhaul.  So we wanted to take a moment to provide you with some Library materials that can help you get to know more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the movement he led, his comrades in that movement, and his legacy in American, and, indeed, world history.


In addition, we also highly recommend checking out these online syllabi compiled by the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement: http://www.blacklivesmattersyllabus.com

And this super-comprehensive syllabus, which includes videos, texts, and programs as well as texts, assembled by writer and public educator Candice Benbow: http://www.candicebenbow.com/lemonadesyllabus/

And don’t forget to check out these texts, as well!

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.: After King’s assassination in 1968, King scholar Clayborne Carson pulled together the civil rights leader’s many writings and speeches and organized them into an autobiographical form. It’s an unusual genesis for an autobiography, but one that pays thoughtful homage to the giant of American rhetoric.  These collected documents pay homage to all sides of King’s life, his religious philosophy, his harsh criticisms of American culture as well as his devotion to improving it in non-violent ways.  Anyone looking to understand the true, deep wisdom, anger, determination, and devotion of Dr. King should put this book at the top of their ‘To-Read’ List.

My Life, My Love, My Legacy: Without the work of Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., we would not have a Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  In addition to preserving and defending her husband’s legacy, Coretta Scott King was also a fierce, determined activist in her own right, taking on the male hegemony of the Civil Rights Movement and championing civil rights causes including gay rights and AIDS awareness. She has also served as a UN ambassador and played a key role in Nelson Mandela’s election.  This book, told by Coretta Scott King to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, is the story of her early life, of her relationship with Martin Luther King Jr., and of her growth into a brave leader remained devoted to forgiving, nonviolent, and hope, even in the face of terrorism and violent hatred every single day of her life.  Honestly, if you read one book about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s legacy, make it this one.

Dear Martin: Nic Stone’s stunning novel not only offers a powerful portrayal of race relations in the United States today, but also questions the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, and Dr. King’s nonviolent theories.  Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.  Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.  But when Justyce and his friend find themselves the victims of violent, brutal cruelty, it is up to him to find his way out alone.  The power of Stone’s work isn’t just in dealing with racism in a way that is both insightful and empathetic, but also in recognizing the way that racism as an institution affects People of Color and their relationships.  This isn’t an easy read by any stretch, but it’s a vital and a gripping one.

Jane Crow : the life of Pauli MurrayAt the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, alongside such leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, lawyer and activist Pauli Murray stood as an outspoken woman who protested discrimination on the basis of race and sex.  In 1963, she publicly condemned the sexism of the Civil Rights Movement, in her speech “The Negro Woman and the Quest for Equality”.  In 1964, just months after Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” she delivered a speech of her own in Washington, D.C., titled “Jim Crow and Jane Crow.”  In this speech, Murray emphasized that women’s rights needed to be part of the Civil Rights Movement.  Moreover, that women had been a part of the Civil Rights Movement from the very beginning, and deserved not only recognition, but a voice, and equality within the movement and the country.   In addition to helping found NOW (National Organization for Women), Murray was also a lawyer, a professor at Brandeis University, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest, making her among the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church.  This wonderful biography by Rosalind Rosenberg offers a poignant portrait of a figure who played pivotal roles in both the modern civil rights and women’s movements that shows the remarkable courage,  intellectual, and personal strength that all its leaders shared.

March: Book One, Two, and Three: Before he entered the United States Congress, Senator John Lewis was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, suffering police violence and the rage of many in his native Alabama who opposed the movement.  Lewis knew Martin Luther King Jr., and worked with him on actions as diverse as  nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins to the 1963 March on Washington.  These graphic novels are Lewis’ autobiography, from growing up on a share-cropping farm in Alabama to taking his seat in the US Senate, intended not only to share the story of the Civil Rights Movement with younger readers, but also to help them learn the practices and philosophy of non-violent protest so that they could become the leaders for the next generation.  These books are stunningly illustrated and enormously powerful, and have plenty to teach readers of any age group.

 

Please come into the Library to learn more about Dr. King, and all those people involved in the Civil Rights Movement and its ongoing legacy.

Blessing for the Longest Night by Jan Richardson

Blessing for the Longest Night

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy August to you, beloved patrons!

We may be, meteorologically speaking, in the doldrums, but for those of us who enjoy celebrating all that there is to be celebrated, August is far from a dull month.  Here are just a few of the holidays that you can savor this month:

August 8: National Sneak Some Zucchini On To Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

This is not a joke.  It’s in the Farmer’s Almanac, so clearly, it must be true.  August is high season for zucchini, and some people are lucky to have an over-abundance of the lovely green squashes, which can grow really quite mammoth if not picked, and really don’t store very well.  As a result, Pennsylvanian radio host Tom Roy designated August 8 as a day to off-load some of your zucchini by until the dead of night and quietly creeping up to your neighbors’ front doors, leaving plenty of zucchini for them to enjoy.

August 9: National Book Lover’s Day

This is not a drill.  It’s a whole day to celebrate you–and me–and all of us who measure our lives in pages and chapters.  So get out there and celebrate bibliophiles!  Or, better yet, come into the Library and visit with some treasured volumes!

August 24: National Waffle Day

The first U.S. patent for a waffle iron was issued in the U.S. on August 24, 1869 to Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York.  The first recipe for waffles (or, at least, a food recognizable as waffles) was written in the 14th century, so indulge in some history as well as some brunch today, and don’t skimp on the maple syrup!

August 30: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

Sponsored by the National Confectioner’s Association of America, this day is reserved for the blazing glory and the smoky deliciousness that is the toasted marshmallow.  Mind you, it’s not National Smores Day….that’s August 10th.  This day is for the marshmallows alone.

And every day in August is a good day for books!  So let’s take a look at some of the new titles that have paraded onto our shelves this week for your reading pleasure!

The Unwomanly Face of War: Nobel-Prize Winner Svetlana Alexievich’s stellar 1988 book is finally available in translation, and has lost nothing of its power or insight over the years.  Alexievich traveled thousands of miles and visited more than a hundred towns to record the oral histories of women who fought, worked, and served in the Second World War. nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their efforts and sacrifices were forgotten.  In this collection, this symphony of voices reveals a different aspect of the war—the everyday details of life in combat left out of the official histories, and the remarkable, every day women who made history.  This is an incredibly important work, and a huge book for anyone interested in military history, women’s history, human interest stories, and storytelling in general.  The Guardian summed it all up beautifully, calling this book “A monument to courage . . . It would be hard to find a book that feels more important or original. . . . Alexievich’s account of the second world war as seen through the eyes of hundreds of women is an extraordinary thing. . . . Her achievement is as breathtaking as the experiences of these women are awe-inspiring.”

Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe: Another fascinating tale of women in the Second World War, this one from Inara Verzemnieks, whose grandmother Livija and her grandmother’s sister, Ausma, were separated when they fled their family farm. They would not see each other again for more than 50 years. Raised by her grandparents in Washington State, Inara grew up among expatriates, scattering smuggled Latvian sand over the coffins of the dead and singing folk songs about a land she had never visited.  When Inara discovered the scarf Livija wore when she left home, this tangible remnant of the past points the way back to the remote village where her family broke apart.  This book is the interwoven story of Grandmother Livija’s life as a refugee, Ausma’s harrowing exile in Siberia under Stalin, and Inara’s quest for her family’s story, all coming together to form a beautiful, haunting tale of resilience, love, and profound loss, not only of one family, but of a nation and a generation.  Booklist called this work “Spellbinding and poetic, this is a moving tribute to the enduring promise of home.”

A Dark So Deadly: Beloved thriller-writer Stuart MacBride is back with a fascinating, fast-paced standalone story of an erstwhile group known as the Misfit Mob. It’s where the Scotland police dump the officers it can’t get rid of, but wants to: the outcasts, the troublemakers, the compromised. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy turns up at the Oldcastle tip, it’s his job to find out which museum it’s been stolen from.  But when Callum uncovers links between his ancient corpse and three missing young men, life starts to get a lot more interesting. The “real police” already have more cases than they can cope with, so, against everyone’s better judgement, the Misfit Mob are just going to have to manage this one on their own.  No one expects them to succeed, but right now they’re the only thing standing between the killer’s victims and a slow, lingering death. The question is, can they prove everyone wrong before he strikes again? Clever, funny, and full of sensational atmosphere, this is an ideal way for new readers to discover MacBride’s talent.  Library Journal agrees, praising this novel’s  “Wickedly twisty plotting and dazzling displays of black humour”.

The Half-Drowned King: It isn’t often that we get a fiction debut about mythical Vikings, but here one is, and we couldn’t be more excited!  Ragnvald Eysteinsson grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Meanwhile, Svanhild is desperate to escape the arranged marriage her stepfather organized–but when freedom comes at the hands of her brother’s hatred rival, will she have the courage to take it?  A fascinating adventure with lots of rich characters and deep questions, this is a book for all the adventurers out there seeking new literary lands to explore.  Kirkus Reviews loved this one too, saying in their review “While Hartsuyker’s prose is straightforward, the plot is as deliciously complex as Game of Thrones. And, in an era so dominated by the tales of men, it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show. Hold on to your helms and grab your shields—Hartsuyker is just getting started.”

The Seventh Function of Language: If you, like me, like your literature quirky and insolent, then look no further than Laurent Binet’s newest release.  This book has elements of a Dan Brown caper, but with the French intelligentsia as its cast of characters.  We begin in Paris, 1980, when the literary critic Roland Barthes dies―struck by a laundry van―after lunch with the presidential candidate François Mitterand. The world of letters mourns a tragic accident. But what if it wasn’t an accident at all? What if Barthes was . . . murdered?  Jacques Bayard is the hapless detective sent to investigate the case, who finds himself in search of a lost manuscript by the linguist Roman Jakobson on the mysterious “seventh function of language.”  Filled with secret societies, French philosophy, mayhem, and a love of language, Binet’s story is a bizarre and wonderful adventure that earned as starred and a boxed review from Publisher’s Weekly (no mean feat, that), who called this tale “[A] loving inquiry into 20th-century intellectual history that seamlessly folds historical moments . . . into a brilliant illustration of the possibilities left to the modern novel.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!