In college, I wrote a thesis paper about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, and their quest for women’s suffrage. This is still a topic I am interested in, specifically how authors choose to portray these women in their retellings. My latest find is Good Girls Don’t Make History created by Elizabeth Kiehner and Keith Olwell, written by Elizabeth Kiehner and Kara Coyle, and illustrated/designed by Micaela Dawn and Mary Sanche. This is a graphic novel that covers the history of women’s suffrage from 1840 to the present day. The authors move beyond the well-known female legends and highlight those that may not be widely known.
This graphic nonfiction is told through flashbacks. Each different section starts with a present-day interaction between a few women and then flashes back to a point in history that applies to that modern situation. To begin, modern young women are preparing to vote with a few frustrated at having to wait in line. It flashes back to the start of what it took for women to get the vote. This book goes beyond the normal and focuses on what it took not just for white women to get the vote, but also what Black and indigenous women went through. As the writers note at the beginning of this book, the history of women’s suffrage has been distilled down to a short paragraph in some text books. It’s glossed over, a historical footnote, when in reality, this history is not that far in the past. The fight for the Equal Rights Amendment is discussed with Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA in 2020. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about women’s suffrage. This history is full of protests, marches, multiple imprisonments, deaths, and a long fight for equity and equality spanning generations. This book can serve as an easy jumping off point to more research or even more important conversations. History is told from a woman’s point of view here, a necessary journey through time.
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New month means new highlighted authors from Simply Held. June’s authors are James McBride for fiction and Helen Hoang for romance.
Our June fiction author is James McBride. In addition to being an award-winning author, McBride is also a musician and screenwriter. His memoir, The Color of Water, was published in 1996, translated into 16 languages, and sold more than 2.5 million copies. It also spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list. The Color of Water is about the author’s upbringing in a family of African-American children born to a white, Jewish mother. McBride has had numerous novels turn into films and television series. He has written for many publications such as The Boston Globe, People Magazine, The Washington Post, Essence, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and National Geographic among others.
As a musician and composer, he has toured as a saxophonist and written songs for many others. He has received awards for his musical talents and been featured on national radio and television across the world. When he does public readings, he is usually accompanied by a band.
McBride studied composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and then received his master’s degree at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in 2015. Amongst his many awards are several honorary doctorates. McBride writes literary fiction.
Curious what this book is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.
From James McBride, author of the bestselling Oprah’s Book Club pick Deacon King Kong and the National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird, a novel about small-town secrets and the people who keep them
In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.
As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.
Bringing his masterly storytelling skills and his deep faith in humanity to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride has written a novel as compassionate as Deacon King Kong and as inventive as The Good Lord Bird.
Our June romance author is Helen Hoang. Hoang is a graduate of Cornell University who left the snow for Southern California. She currently lived in San Diego with her husband, two kids, pet fish, and Belgian Malinois. Hoang read her first romance novel in eighth grade and ever since has been addicted to romance.
In 2016, when she was writing her first book, Hoang was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, specifically what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. She is known for her Kiss Quotient series: The Kiss Quotient(2018), The Bride Test (2019), and The Heart Principle (2021). Hoang writes romance.
Hoang’s newest book is The Heart Principle, book 3 in the Kiss Quotient series. This book was published in August 2021.
Curious what this book is about? Below is a description provided by the publisher.
A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this new New York Times bestselling romance by Helen Hoang.
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
This month the Online Reading Challenge travels to Australia, the smallest continent, yet one of the largest countries on Earth! Australia has jungle-coated islands, outback plains, vast wilderness frontiers, the world’s oldest living ecosystems, remote islands, and high peaks. Our Main title for June is The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. We are in Australia for this book, though Janus Rock is a fictional island(fun fact: there is a Janus Island located near Antarctica). Here’s a quick summary of The Light Between Oceans from the publisher.
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
This title is also available in large print, as a CD audiobook, a Libby eBook, and single book club books. You can also watch the movie version, which was released in 2016 starring Michael Fassbender as Tom and Alicia Vikander as Isabel.
As always, check each of our locations for displays with lots more titles to choose from!
How did your reading go this month? Did you read something set in Ireland that you enjoyed? Share in the comments!
I read our main title: Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman. This is the story of three generations of the Gogarty family in Dublin, Ireland. The Gogarty family are all rambunctious people in their own way – full of spunk and the desire to get their own way. All the main characters have issues, but this book is rife with added humor that make the story endearing. They are all ‘good eggs’ looking for second chances.
Kevin Gogarty is frustrated. His eighty-three-year-old mother, Millie, has been caught shoplifting yet again. AGAIN! At a loss of what to do, Kevin hires a caretaker to come into his mother’s house to help take care of her. After all, his wife isn’t home to help. Kevin is currently unemployed, stuck at home managing their full house while his wife travels around the world to exotic locations for work. He’s not bitter at all.
Millie is livid. She’s just fine, thank you very much. Her nosy son’s plan means that she will have to miss her planned vacation with Jolly Jessica to the States. This new caretaker is destined to be a pain in her side, no matter what they all say. She doesn’t need any help.
Kevin’s daughter Aideen is annoyed. Her parents think she’s sullen and misbehaved, but if they had to deal with her spoiled rotten twin sister, they would act the same way! After one of her outbursts, her parents decide they have had enough and send her to a new boarding school during the school week. She can’t believe she’s been banished. Her troubles escalate even more at the school when Aideen befriends the campus rebel.
Millie’s new home aide, Sylvia, walks right into the Gogarty family mess with a smile on her face. Sylvia is upbeat and nothing seems to phase her. Kevin has high hopes that Sylvia will be able to alleviate the stress his mother causes him on a daily basis. Little do they all know that the addition of Sylvia will tip the family towards their greatest disaster yet.
I enjoyed this book more than I thought that I would. I found myself laughing out loud at some points, as I could definitely picture the hijinks in my head. I was drawn to certain characters and found myself instantly invested in what was going to happen next in each of their lives. All in all, a hilarious romp of a debut novel. I can’t wait to see what Rebecca Hardiman writes next.
Documenting family history is incredibly important. If you don’t, your family’s history will disappear and you may never discover what happened or what led you to where you are in life. Emei Burell examines her mother’s past in We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories, a graphic history of life during China’s Cultural Revolution and the impact it had on lives after it ended.
At the beginning of this graphic biography, Burrell notes that this is the story of her mother’s experience and is her mother’s story – her story doesn’t speak for everyone. She was an adolescent at the time, just 14-years old, about to graduate from 7th grade when her life suddenly and drastically changed. First her school was shut down with the teachers forced to stay in the school and not allowed to return home. She and her fellow students still had to come to school, but there was no actual learning taking place. Flash forward to 1968 when Mao ZeDong launched the Down to the Countryside Movement. That meant that all educated youth were forced to go to the countryside to be reeducated by the poorest lower and middle peasants so they could learn what China really is. They didn’t have a choice not to go, but she avoided leaving until 1969 when she ended up in Yunnan and was stuck there for ten years until the end of the Cultural Revolution. Her mother was officially a rusticated youth in Yunnan.
Throughout this book, Burell pairs her drawings with her mother’s words and photographs from that time. Those photographs add a connection to the story that readers may not have otherwise had with the drawings alone. Her mother’s stories depict how she ended up as one of the few truck-driving women during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Her life growing up in mid-1960s Communist China was rough, yet she managed to survive and thrive while living in a time of massive political upheaval. Determined to get her fair share, she wasn’t afraid to fight for what she wanted. She found ways to work the system, get an education, and eventually leave China like she always planned.
I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic biography. The Cultural Revolution in China was not something I had much knowledge of before I started reading this, but this book has pushed me down a rabbit hole to learn more about this time period and the millions of lives that were lost.
One of my favorite aspects of my job is purchasing books for the 200s section of our nonfiction collection–Religion. The number of memoirs and essay collections about people’s religious experiences are vast, passionate, and endlessly fascinating.
I recently purchased Daniella Mestyanek Young’s memoir Uncultured. Young’s story details her childhood in the religious cult, The Children of God, also known as The Family, and the extreme lengths the community goes to to mold their followers into fervent, unquestioning believers.
The memoir is anything but light as Young describes the seemingly endless physical and sexual abuse that the leaders of The Family claimed was “godly discipline and love.” The child abuse that is described in Young’s story is abundant, making the book difficult to read at times, but also quite straightforward. Young conveys the details of her traumatic upbringing in a very to-the-point manner, only veiling the most gruesome details for her own privacy.
When Young turned fifteen, she escaped The Children of God. She moved to Texas to live with a half-sister (of which she has many, due to the sharing of women amongst male cult members), enrolled in high school (her first time in “Systemite” school), finished college, and eventually joins the military and works her way up to a role as an intelligence officer.
At the end of her time enlisted, Young reckons with her life and choices in a way that she hasn’t been able to before. She originally joined the military to find another community to belong to and a group with a shared goal to work towards. Without realizing it, she essentially joined another cult-like group. Just as in The Children of God, the group mentality and abuse of women were integral to the functionality of the system.
Uncultured is clear-cut and determined: Young responsibly takes her readers through the painful but necessary revelations of a global group that has claimed a faith that allows women and children to only exist in service of perverse men. Eye-opening is just one word to describe this exposé on religious cults and the human destruction they ensue.
Lately I have been wanting to read a book of fairy tales, but not the sanitized versions or the Brothers Grimm ones. Walking the stacks at work, I found a sassy alternative, Cinderella & the Glass Ceiling : and other feminist fairy tales : a parody by Laura Lane and Ellen Haun, illustrated by Nicole Miles. While I found the fairy tales in this book to be humorous, these are ones you will probably want to read yourself before reading to your children (just a word of caution). The language is quite frank, but the authors definitely get their point across with each tale they rewrite.
In this book, readers will find feminist retellings of the Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Mulan, Peter Pan, Beauty & the Beast, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, and Goldilocks. These are definitely not the sanitized nice version of the fairy tales. There are plenty of parodies, puns, and jokes throughout this book, though definitely irreverent ones. This book is also beautifully illustrated by Nicole Miles. Their illustrations add an extra pop to the stories that I enjoyed. The stories are sarcastic and humorous, plus relevant to today. The authors have taken the societal standards present in each story, ramped them up to an extreme, which in turn led to each story being hilarious and full of empowerment. It left me rethinking the sanitized versions of fairy tales I read when I was younger and how those specific ones relate stories of womanhood and relationships. This was a sneaky read that left me thinking about the issues presented for way longer than it took me to read the actual book.
Trauma dominates Elizabeth A. Trembley’s graphic memoir, Look Again. She talks about the impact trauma has on your experiences, to the effect that what you swear is the truth may not be what actually happened.
While walking her dogs in the woods years ago, Elizabeth found a dead body. That traumatic, grief-stricken moment of utter confusion overwhelmed her so much that what she looked back at that time all she remembered was shattered images flashing through her mind. In an effort to process, Elizabeth relays, in this graphic memoir, six variations of that same event. Each variation changed when seen through different lenses at different points in her life. She acknowledges that her route to track down the truth was convoluted, much like what other trauma survivors experience in their lives.
This graphic memoir was very well written, smart, enlightening, while also managing to be funny and relatable. Readers are able to walk with Elizabeth through her life as she works through what happened that morning in the woods. How Elizabeth chooses to deal with her trauma is clearly reflected in her words and drawings. Readers see when she is finally able to examine why she behaved the way she did – in a sense, readers grow along with her as the story evolves.
This book shook me, as it had me thinking about events in my past and how my memories may be skewed. Her research into trauma was enlightening. Seeing how she was able to find some answers in her research, as well as how learning more opened up her mind, really impacted and made me want to do more research of my own. At the end of her book, the author has a list of selected resources that helped her learn about her experiences (I’ve already snagged a few to read myself!).
As a lover of cozy mysteries, true crime, and Lifetime original movies, I like to think that I pay attention to my surroundings (my family may disagree…). Whenever I’m reading or watching something where someone is trying to solve a murder (or a new person comes to a mysterious town), I frequently find myself mumbling, ‘Don’t do that! That’s not going to end well…’ Imagine my curiousity when I found Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village written by Maureen Johnson and illustrated by Jay Cooper. This is a guidebook full of dark and sarcastic humor all about how to avoid a gruesome death in innocent-looking bucolic English villages, or ‘English Murder Villages’ as the book calls them.
First off, let’s talk about the illustrations. They are absolute perfection, an Edward Gorey-esque set of drawings with only red pops of color to draw your eye to elements of death and murder. Without these illustrations, the book wouldn’t be complete. The illustrations and text perfectly compliment each other.
This book is written from the perspective of an author who wants to warn people of the dangers of visiting English Murder Villages. She wants you to not stray from the big towns as venturing off the beaten path will lead to your inevitable and premature death. As a way to help you survive, she has compiled lists of people and locations to be careful of in the village and the manor. There’s really no safe space, but forewarned is forearmed. This book is full of nods to classic British crime tropes, which I adored. If you have seen/read any Miss Marple, Murder She Wrote, Agatha Christie, or watched/read any cozy mysteries, you may enjoy this death-laden trip through the English countryside (and may pick up some handy tricks to stay alive along the way)!
Do you want to learn more about women’s rights, but aren’t sure where to start? I recommend Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: a Graphic History of Women’s Fight for their Rights by Mikki Kendall. This graphic history is gorgeously drawn and covers a wide range of topics, years, and issues. I would treat this book as a primer on women’s rights as readers are introduced briefly to hundreds of different women, but since short descriptions are given of each, you’ll undoubtedly want to learn more! I took notes the whole time I was reading of women I wanted to look up. Definite recommendation from me!
As the title states, this graphic history talks about amazons, abolitionists, and activists and their fight for rights. It’s told from the viewpoint of an AI robot teaching a history class in the future. They grow frustrated with the lack of knowledge and transport the class through time all over Earth to learn about the numerous women and their struggle for basic rights. Traveling from antiquity through to the modern era, readers will learn about different key figures and events such as fighting for the right to vote, work, own property, exercise your own bodily autonomy, getting an education, and so much more. What I enjoyed is that the women covered range all races, jobs, and era: the history of amazons, freedom fighters, queens, warrior women, spies, all the way to supreme court justices and activists fighting today. Readers will learn about the many movements that women have fought in, how they overlapped, yet sometimes stayed separate. Kendall covers suffrage, abolition, civil rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQ liberation, labor, and many other movements. I enjoyed the snippets provided about each woman, movement, and fight. It’s a fascinating look at the past, present, and future of the fight for various different women’s rights.
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