Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Told through flashbacks to various family members throughout the years, Gabriela Garcia has written a novel of fierce familial pride in her debut work, Of Women and Salt. Five generations of women are linked through blood and the love of story as they each navigate life.

1866, Cuba: Maria is the only woman employed at a local cigar factory. Each day, a man comes in and reads to them from various books. The current book he reads is by Victor Hugo. Dangerous political times rock her life. As Maria realizes that she won’t be able to escape her current life without getting married and starting a family, war descends on them all.

1959, Cuba: Dolores is often stuck at home feeding and caring for her daughter while her husband disappears for long stretches of time. Her husband is a supporter of Fidel Castro and frequently heads to the mountains in order to answer Castro’s call to arms. Dependent on what little money her husband brings home and with his income drying up with him gone, Dolores knows that in order to survive she will do whatever it takes. What she decides to do may end up destroying her daughter Carmen’s life as well as her own, but she is hopeful that in the long run, they will be able to survive.

2016, Miami: Carmen is struggling. Her feelings of displacement have never completely evaporated. When her daughter Jeanette tells Carmen that she will be traveling to Cuba to visit her grandmother Dolores, Carmen is shocked and confused. Why would Jeanette want to travel? What will Dolores tell her? Carmen and her mother Dolores have a very complicated relationship that she has had to wrestle with for years. Meanwhile, Carmen and Jeanette also have a rocky relationship, something that Carmen has been working through while trying to keep her wayward daughter from going too far off-track. All Jeanette wants is to understand her family’s histories. The best way to do so she believes is to travel to Cuba and visit with her grandma. The secrets in her grandma’s house hold the power to give her answers while also destroying the fragility of the past.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed Masood

I am consistently working on broadening my reading. As an avid book reader, I have an ever-growing list of titles outside my norm that I have dedicated 2021 to tackle. My latest read by Syed M. Masood captivated my interest, traveled the world, and spanned decades. Masood grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and currently lives in Sacramento, California. He is a world traveler and his life experiences are reflected in his book, The Bad Muslim Discount

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood follows two families across decades. From Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s all the way to San Francisco in 2016, this novel highlights the lives of two Muslim families and their journey to the United States.

1995: Anvar Faris is growing up in Karachi, Pakistan. As the youngest son, Anvar is constantly measured against his older brother. As a result, Anvar is rebellious, restless, and constantly being scolded by his mother for his words. Closest to his grandmother, Anvar spends time with her learning how to play chess and trying to beat her. At this same time, fundamentalists in the government increasingly become louder and more forceful. Religious zealots knock on doors and the streets are more dangerous. With Islam on the rise more and more, Anvar’s family is getting worried. His father decides to move the family to California to start over. Not everyone in the family is happy with the move, but it happens nonetheless. Anvar may not have fit in 100% in Karachi, but he soon finds out that he doesn’t fit in in California. So begins Anvar’s journey to carve out a place for himself where he can be happy.

While Anvar is struggling to find himself, Safwa has problems of her own. Thousands of miles away in Baghdad, Safwa is also struggling. Her family has been rocked by tragedy. Her grief-stricken father wants Safwa to follow his conservative values, something of which she is not a fan. With nothing left to hold them at home, the two begin a dangerous trip to America that could not be more different than Anvar’s.

While Anvar and Safwa’s paths to America differ, at the core they do share similarities. Once both have made it to California, their lives begin to bring them closer together. The closer their worlds become, the more their fates and the fates of those around them intertwine. The decisions both Anvar and Safwa make set off a series of events that will destroy their community and alter their lives forever.

Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza

Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher have co-written a young adult novel called Sanctuary . This book takes place in a near future where a family struggles to find help and hope under a xenophobic government.

In 2032, all citizens living in America are chipped. The government is able to track your every movement with mandatory checkpoints everywhere from grocery stores to buses to schools. The chips control your life. If you’re an undocumented immigrant, life is a daily struggle. Sure, counterfeit chips exist, but there is always a risk that they will malfunction giving away your location and bringing Deportation Forces running to rip you away from your family.

Sixteen-year old Vali and her family have managed to create a happy life together until the day it all explodes around them. Her mother’s chip has started malfunctioning and they know it’s only a matter of time before the Deportation Forces take her away. With increasing raids, they are forced to flee.

On the run across the county, Vali, her younger brother, and her mother are desperate to make it to her tía Luna’s in California. California has made itself a sanctuary state, much to the anger of the current administration who is in the process of walling off that state from the rest of the country. When their mother is detained, Vali and Ernie are left on their own to travel across the entire United States on the hope that someone will be waiting on the other end to save them. With Deportation Forces closing in around them again, Vali will do anything to make sure they find their mom and make it to sanctuary.

Book Club @ Night – ‘A Woman is No Man’ on March 17

Want to join a book club? Try Book Club @ Night. On Wednesday, March 17th, Book Club @ Night will be reading A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum. Books are available at our Eastern Avenue location for patrons to borrow for this book club. Registration is not required. This program is meeting virtually using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what A Woman is No Man is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

Three generations of Palestinian-American women in contemporary Brooklyn are torn by individual desire, educational ambitions, a devastating tragedy, and the strict mores of traditional Arab culture.

Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children–four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.

Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family–knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past, and her own future.

Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman Is No Man is a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘A Woman is No Man’ by Etaf Rum
Wed, Mar 17, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/473317357

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3412

Access Code: 473-317-357

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/473317357

Book Club @ Night – ‘Miracle Creek’ on January 20th

New year means new book clubs! Book Club @ Night is back and we’re reading adult fiction! On the Third Wednesday of the month through May 2021, we will be meeting at 6:30pm to discuss adult fiction. On Wednesday, January 20th, Book Club @ Night is reading Miracle Creek by Angie Kim.

Books are available at our Eastern Avenue curbside location for patrons to borrow for this book club. Registration is not required. This program is meeting virtually using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what Miracle Creek is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘Miracle Creek’ by Angie Kim
Wed, Jan 20, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/699077461

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (669) 224-3412

Access Code: 699-077-461

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/699077461

Jenna Bush Hager November Pick – White Ivy

Jenna Bush Hager has selected White Ivy  by Susie Yang for her November #ReadwithJenna book club pick.

Curious what White Ivy is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

From prizewinning and first generation Chinese American author Susie Yang comes a delicious debut novel about a young immigrant woman’s obsession with her privileged male classmate – and the lengths she’ll go to win his love.

Want to make sure that Jenna’s picks are automatically put on hold for you? Be sure to join our Best Sellers Club.

Book Club @ Night – ‘American Street’ on October 14th

It’s time for a new book club! On the second Wednesday of the month through December 2020, Book Club @ Night is meeting at 6:30pm to talk about young adult books!

On Wednesday, October 14th, Book Club @ Night will be discussing American Street  by Ibi Zoboi. Information about how to join is below.

Using GoTo Meeting, patrons will be able to meet to talk about a new book with one of our librarians. Book club books available at the Eastern Avenue Library.

Curious what American Street is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie — a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

This book is also available in the following format:

The November meeting will not take place on November 11 as the library is closed on that day in observance of Veterans Day. The November program will meet instead on November 18.

Book Club @ Night
Wed, Oct 14, 2020 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/664704165

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 664-704-165

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/664704165

Virtual Book Club – American Dirt

Practice social distancing and join us on Wednesday May 13th to discuss American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. Virtual Book Club meets every Wednesday at 2pm to discuss a different book every week. For information about how to join in the virtual book club, directions are further down below.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was chosen as an Oprah book club book. Curious what the book is about? Check out the below description from the publisher:

“También de este lado hay sueños. Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy-two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia-trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to? American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed when they finish reading it. A page-turner filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page, it is a literary achievement.”

Virtual Book Club
Wed, May 13, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Click the link below or copy/paste to join our book club. Join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone. You will need the access code listed below to join.

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/905164389
Access Code: 905-164-389

You can also dial in using your phone.

United States: +1 (872) 240-3311
– One-touch: tel:+18722403311,,905164389#

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/905164389

Want to check out the book from the library? We have this book available in the following formats. Reminder that the library is currently closed, so the OverDrive options are your only ways to get this book at the moment.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Pregnancy is a taboo subject alongside conception in today’s society. Even though this is something that people go through on a daily basis, anything surrounding pregnancy is seen as something to be kept hidden and not talked about. Joanne Ramos takes this topic and expands upon it in her debut novel.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos feeds upon the desire of wealthy women to have a baby, but still be able to keep their figure, work full time, and not have to rely on a partner to have a baby. Mae Yu, an ambitious businesswoman looking to find her way in the business world, proposes a new plan to give these women what they want: Golden Oaks. Golden Oaks is a luxury retreat nestled, and somewhat hidden away, in New York’s Hudson Valley. This retreat caters to basically every woman’s pregnancy need: massages, personal trainers, meals catered to their exact nutritional needs, and a community of pregnant women going through the exact same process that they are. Sounds perfect, right? There has to be a hidden secretive side at Golden Oaks and sure enough it starts to surface.

The women at Golden Oaks aren’t just regular surrogates: they are ‘Hosts’ at ‘The Farm’ as they call themselves and Golden Oaks. These hosts are promised a very large, lucrative payday when they deliver their children for the clients. The downside: they are trapped at Golden Oaks for the full nine months, they cannot leave the grounds, their movements are monitored 24/7, and they are completely cut off from their former lives. Sure, they have access to computers and video chats with their families and friends, but those calls are monitored and visitors are not allowed. Despite all these restrictions, and partly because they are not disclosed up front when hosts are brought to Golden Oaks, some residents choose to dedicate their lives to the Farm and carry multiple babies for the same women.

Struggling to provide for her daughter, Jane is having trouble holding down a job. When she hears of Golden Oaks through another family member, Jane soon finds herself signing up to carry someone else’s baby, despite the fact that she has a very young daughter at home. Jane, a young immigrant from the Philippines just trying to find a better life, commits to being a ‘Host’ at Golden Oaks and finds her new life to be structured in a way that makes her uncomfortable. As she begins to doubt her choices and wants to go back to her former life, Jane realizes that she must reconnect with her family on the outside. Facing the possibility that she could lose the fee she was promised with the safe and healthy delivery of the child she is carrying, Jane is forced to go to the extremes to get what she wants.

This novel forces readers to question what we consider to be motherhood and all the messy moral, monetary, and reproductive questions that circle the ability to get pregnant. The topic of what women are willing to do to become mothers and how far businesses are willing to go in order to help them happily fulfill their futures is a major component of this book. Give this book a read (or listen) and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star continues my journey back into young adult fiction. I used to exclusively read only young adult fiction, but about five years ago, I decided that I needed to read outside my comfort area (and to read books with people my own age in them). Starting to read in a new area can be daunting, so I recommend looking at award-winning book lists and even articles with lists of books on different subjects. That is how I stumbled upon The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

Nicola Yoon had already been on my radar because of her book, Everything, Everything, but I had never actually read it. When I found an article that was talking up The Sun is Also a Star, I decided to give it a go and try to see what everyone was getting so excited about. (I was also slightly obsessed with making things using yarn when I saw this book cover, so I figured I needed to read it!)

The Sun is Also a Star takes place all in one day. Natasha is a girl who loves everything that is based in facts. She adores science and has a list of facts for almost any situation. She lives with her parents and her younger brother in a one bedroom apartment. Natasha’s life had been going along perfectly until one day when her father makes a mistake and ruins everything for the whole family. Her life could implode around her. Daniel is a boy who never messes up and is therefore seen as the good son at home and the good student at school. After his older brother messes up in college, the pressure on Daniel to be perfect becomes even higher.

When the two meet, Daniel finds himself questioning what his parents have always told him and just how he lives his life. He is a poet and a dreamer, but must live up to his parents’ high expectations. Daniel must find a way to be around Natasha more than he probably should. Natasha is more hesitant than Daniel and finds his exuberance about their “relationship” daunting and more than a little off-putting. Daniel feels that there is something magical and extraordinary between them, if only he could get Natasha to feel the same way. Daniel reaches out into the universe to try to convince Natasha that their futures can change, but he has trouble believing he can change himself.

This book, while taking place in one day, shines through a series of flashbacks into each character’s life. Minor characters that Natasha and Daniel come in contact with have their own sections within the book as well. The tiny snapshots into daily life show the effect a short interaction with a complete stranger can have on both your life and the other person’s. The ending left me wondering what had really happened between the two. Long after I finished reading this book, I found myself thinking a lot about fate, how even the smallest and inconsequential of our actions can greatly impact our lives and the lives of others, and how our attitudes and thoughts can influence our futures as well. The Sun is Also a Star had more of an impact on me than I thought it would. I’m glad I decided to pick it up and give it a try.