Celebrating Black History Month with Books

Black History Month. African American History. Celebrated annual. In February in United States and Canada.

While I’m a strong believer in reading authors of multiple ethnic/religious/lifestyle backgrounds at any time, Black History Month is a great motivator to discover and read authors of African descent. Here are some recommendations from our Reference Librarians for great books

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  After witnessing her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter’s life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.  As Will, fifteen, sets out to avenge his brother Shawn’s fatal shooting, seven ghosts who knew Shawn board the elevator and reveal truths Will needs to know.

My Sister is a Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams. When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.  Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonial, and will live in comfort. Her sister will be imprisoned and sent to America where she will be sold into slavery. Their lives and the lives of their descendants create a snapshot of the complicated history of our nation.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compassion in American justice.

Also, be sure to check out the displays at Main and Fairmount that highlight romances with African American characters and authors.

 

And, don’t forget to sign up for the Black History Month Reading Challenge on Beanstack! Running February 1 through March 4, you’ll learn more about Black history, celebrate Black authors and illustrators, and explore events in your community honoring the Black experience. Log your reading and activities throughout the month to earn badges and chances for prizes. Download the Beanstack app for free from your app store.

Online Reading Challenge – February

Hello Challenge Readers! Welcome to our February challenge!

This month we’re going to take a few steps back in time and visit Ancient Greece. Our main title this month is: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, who has been exiled from his homeland of Phthia after an act of shocking violence to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus. Brought together by chance, Achilles and Patroclus forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath and become steadfast companions.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice. (from the publisher)

We will have a variety of books to choose from on display at each library location, or you can pick any other title. The books range from retellings of tales of Greek gods (I highly recommend Circe also by Madeline Miller), and novels of Ancient Greek history.

Online Reading Challenge – January Wrap Up

Welcome Challenge Readers!

How did your Challenge reading go this month? Were you able to transport yourself to Paris and immerse yourself in some of it’s history and atmosphere? There are certainly no shortage of books set in Paris! Let us know in the comments what you read.

Our main title this month was Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Moving between Paris of the 1790s and modern day, this book brings us a unique perspective of the horrors of the French Revolution, and brings greater understanding and compassion to our modern protagonist.

Andi and her family have suffered a traumatic event that has torn them apart. Her mother has withdrawn into obsessive painting and her father has left and started a new family. Andi, grieving and guilt-ridden is angry and acting out, her grades falling, with only her musical talent keeping her moving forward.

When her Father discovers that Andi is about to be expelled from school, he insists that she come with him on a business trip to Paris where she can do research on her thesis away from the distractions at home. Andi is furious, of course, but has no choice. In Paris their hosts gift Andi with a very old, beautiful guitar (Andi’s instrument of choice) While poking around in the guitar’s case she discovers a very old diary and the tiny portrait of a child.

In reading the diary, Andi is plunged into the world of the French Revolution, its horrors and cruelty and uncertainty. The diary writer, Alexandrine, is also an angry young woman, also grieving and fighting back the only way she can. Andi finds herself empathizing with her counterpart and becoming invested in her story.

Revolution plunges the reader into a huge range of experiences – the catacombs beneath the city, both as they are now with paths and in the past when the bodies were still new. We visit the lights and chaos of an illegal underground nightclub, the hushed reverence of a historical library, explore the intricacies of musical creativity and it’s continuing influence and a traditional bar with live music.

While I very much enjoyed the historical parts of this book, I had a little trouble with Andi and her teenage angst. The fact that she matures and grows into a responsible young adult, finding her own worth and talents greatly makes up for this. Paris is truly the star here though, especially the Paris of the Revolution.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

What if you could take a vacation to your past, without the filter of memory? What would you give to go back in time and relive your youth, in person, with the people who shared it? These are the questions Alice faces in This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub.

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But something is missing. Her father, the single parent who raised her, is ailing and out of reach. How did they get here so fast? Did she take too much for granted along the way?

When Alice wakes up the next morning somehow back in 1996, it isn’t her 16-year-old body that is the biggest shock, or the possibility of romance with her adolescent crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 49-year-old version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, is there anything that she should do differently this time around? What would she change, given the chance? (from the publisher)

I’ve always loved time-travel/live-your-life-differently/second-chance stories. It’s so intriguing – if impossible – to try a different choice and speculate if the outcome would have been better, or worse. Sadly, this title fell a little flat for me although the ending was satisfying. I found it difficult to connect with the main character, especially when she was in the past as a teenager. However, the writing is skillful and, as expected, returning to the past as an adult with greater understanding of the world, was endlessly intriguing.

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger in The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes… (from the publisher)

This fun romance is the second in Matthew’s series “Belles of London” (the first is The Siren of Sussex with more promised). A quick read with a charming, book-loving heroine!

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

Are you a Louise Penny fan? There are a lot of us, but in case you haven’t read any books by this amazing mystery writer, here is a push to get you started!  Set in Canada, her Three Pines mysteries are complex, intelligent and thoughtful with appealing characters (especially the main character Chief Inspector Gamache) and tense scenarios. You can start with any in the series, but the characters and relationships develop over the course of the novels. I would recommend starting with any in the series and then, when you realize you must read them all, start from the first one (Still Life)

The newest, A World of Curiosities is the 18th in the series and, like the previous ones, is highly recommended. From the publisher:

It’s spring and Three Pines is reemerging after the harsh winter. But not everything buried should come alive again. Not everything lying dormant should reemerge.

As the villagers prepare for a special celebration, Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir find themselves increasingly worried. A young man and woman have reappeared in the Sûreté du Québec investigators’ lives after many years. The two were young children when their troubled mother was murdered, leaving them damaged, shattered. Now they’ve arrived in the village of Three Pines.

Gamache and Beauvoir’s memories of that tragic case, the one that first brought them together, come rushing back. Did their mother’s murder hurt them beyond repair? Have those terrible wounds, buried for decades, festered and are now about to erupt?

As Chief Inspector Gamache works to uncover answers, his alarm grows when a letter written by a long dead stone mason is discovered. In it the man describes his terror when bricking up an attic room somewhere in the village. Every word of the 160-year-old letter is filled with dread. When the room is found, the villagers decide to open it up.

As the bricks are removed, Gamache, Beauvoir and the villagers discover a world of curiosities. But the head of homicide soon realizes there’s more in that room than meets the eye. There are puzzles within puzzles, and hidden messages warning of mayhem and revenge.

In unsealing that room, an old enemy is released into their world. Into their lives. And into the very heart of Armand Gamache’s home.

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and is observed on the third Monday of January each year. While it’s lovely to have an extra day off (if that applies to you), it’s also a reminder to stop and remember a great man and his many contributions to our society.

Are you interested in furthering his legacy and keeping it alive? here are some ideas to try today and throughout the year.

The day is frequently promoted as A Day of Service – reaching out to others in your community to help in some way, big or small. Teach for America has a great list of ideas that are easy to incorporate into your life any time, not just one day a year.

Another great way to celebrate is to read and promote Black authors. Often under-represented in traditional review journals, it is well worth your time to read these authors. The African American Literature Book Club is a great resource with author interviews, book lists and commentary all focused on books by and about people of African descent. They recently published a list of 170 New Books by Black Authors Coming Out Soon which lists books for both adults and children.

The staff at the Davenport Library has put together some LibGuides (a fancy name for subject guides) on African American Authors, African American Genealogy Resources and African American History in the Quad Cities to help keep you entertained and informed with our local resources.

 

 

 

Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall

From the  author of Boyfriend Material comes a sweet and scrumptious romantic comedy about facing your insecurities, finding love, and baking it off, no matter what people say in Alexis Hall’s Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble

Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. So when his roommate enters him in Bake Expectations, the nation’s favorite baking show, Paris is sure he’ll be the first one sent home.

But not only does he win week one’s challenge—he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan. Sure, he’s the competition, but he’s also cute and kind, with more confidence than Paris could ever hope to have. Still, neither his growing romance with Tariq nor his own impressive bakes can keep Paris’s fear of failure from spoiling his happiness. And when the show’s vicious fanbase confirms his worst anxieties, Paris’s confidence is torn apart quicker than tear-and-share bread.

But if Paris can find the strength to face his past, his future, and the chorus of hecklers that live in his brain, he’ll realize it’s the sweet things in life that he really deserves. (from the publisher)

If you like baking shows and watching people overcome their fears and find inner strength and value, this lovely, quick-read romance is perfect for you!

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Bird Gardner has only fading memories of his mother, who left him and his father three years earlier. They never speak of her or acknowledge that she was ever in their lives but instead do their best to go unnoticed in  Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.

Bird and his father, a former linguist who now shelves books in the Harvard University library, have been living under  oppressive laws that were written to create stability after America has gone through years of economic crisis and violence. Authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents – especially those of Asian origin – and libraries have been forced to remove books that seem unpatriotic. People are encouraged to spy on each other and the accused are often considered guilty until proven (if ever) innocent.

Bird’s mother, Margaret, is a Chinese American poet. One of her poems has been used by protest groups even though that was not the intention of the poem. Nevertheless, she is considered a dissident and her books are destroyed. Margaret flees to protect her son and husband, going underground and joining the groups who are fighting the oppressive laws.

One day Bird receives a mysterious note with nothing but the drawing of a cat. He goes in search of answers and slowly puts together the puzzle, finding many others along the way that are, each in their own way, fighting back. (I’m happy to say that librarians play a key role in this underground network!)

This is a beautiful, heartbreaking book that covers a range of emotions – anger and frustration but also kindness and love. The fight against hopelessness and impossible odds adds suspense yet there are glimmers of hope. Although it is sometimes hard to read – the story is a little to close to some of the issues we face today – I highly recommend it.

January Online Reading Challenge – Paris

Ernest Hemingway called Paris “a moveable feast”. Audrey Hepburn advised us that “Paris is always a good idea”. Humphrey Bogart promised us in Casablanca that “we’ll always have Paris”. Victor Hugo claimed that “Paris nourishes the soul”. Paris, it seems, has a hold on us, even if we’ve never been.

Paris is far from perfect, struggling with many common urban problems, but it seems to rise above with its beauty, sophistication and effortless elegance. Rich in history and long known as the center for art and fashion, what exactly is it about this city that makes so many love it?

Hello and welcome to the first month of the 2023 Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re traveling to Paris. Our main title is Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. This fascinating book combines the stories of a contemporary teenager and a young woman living during the French Revolution. From the publisher:

Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And her father has determined that accompanying him to Paris for winter break is the solution for everything.

 But Paris is a city of ghosts for Andi. And when she finds a centuries-old diary, the ghosts begin to walk off the page. Alexandrine, the owner of the journal, lived during the French Revolution. She’s angry too. It’s the same fire that consumes Andi, and Andi finds comfort in it—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs, words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes terrifyingly present.

Revolution artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart. 

You can find copies of this title plus many more set in Paris (and there are lots!) on displays at each of our locations.