ICYMI: 2021 Honorees from ALA’s Rainbow Round Table

Every year, the American Library Association (ALA)’s Rainbow Round Table (RRT) releases booklists which honor quality publishing on LGBTQ topics. The Rainbow Book List collects titles for children and teens, and the Over the Rainbow Book Lists (Fiction and Poetry, Nonfiction) collect titles for ages 18+. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the three lists, released earlier this year.

Rainbow Book Listsee the full list here

The Every Body Book by Rachel E. Simon and Noah Grigni (juvenile non-fiction): an inclusive guide to bodies, gender, relationships, puberty, families, and more.

Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit by Lilliam Riviera (juvenile fiction): in the 1960s, a hotel detective in training investigates a missing swim cap during the filming of a movie at the hotel, with the help of many entertaining characters including her parents, a Hollywood megastar, the hotel’s official detective, and Goldie’s crush Diane.

Troublemaker for Justice by Jacqueline Houtman, Michael G. Long, and Walter Naegle (middle grade non-fiction): details the life of Bayard Rustin, a lesser-known figure in the civil rights movement whose work was repressed because of his sexual orientation.

Ana on the Edge by A.J. Sass (middle grade fiction): a young figure skater sorts through gender identity while preparing for a big competition.

Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens edited by Leigh Finke (YA non-fiction): a compassionate and informative guide to living an authentic and fulfilling LGBTQ life in Christian community.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett (YA fiction): when her family plunges into sleeping sickness unexpectedly, Ekata finds herself thrust into the role of duke, marrying her brother’s warrior bride and struggling to wield her family’s magic and power.

Over the Rainbow Book List, Top 10 – see the full fiction and poetry list here and the non-fiction list here

Here For It: Or, How To Save Your Soul In America by R. Eric Thomas: a collection of biographical essays on being an outsider in many arenas of life.

Homie: Poems by Danez Smith: highlights the struggles of modern queer life and the ways they’re counterbalanced by the saving grace of friendship.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor: an emotional novel about an African-American gay man coming to terms with his identity in the context of his university community.

Homesick: Stories by Nino Cipri: a collection of stories highlighting the longing for home, representing a broad spectrum of characters and situations.

A History of my Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt: a memoir of coming-of-age in a First Nation community exploring memory, gender, shame, and more.

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels: the story of a man coming back to his hometown to live out the final days of his battle with AIDS.

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir by Jenn Shapland: a chronicle of the author’s journey into the life and living spaces of noted author Carson McCullers.

What’s Your Pronoun: Beyond He and She by Dennis Baron: a historical look at the evolution and usage of gender neutral personal pronouns, with recommendations for best and most sensible usage today.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth: a story of queer women, historical and modern, and the eerie goings-on that threaten them all at an all-girls’ school.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen: a comprehensive look at the diverse world of asexual individuals and experiences, with insight into the ways asexuality can and should reform societal values around sex and relationships.

Checkmate: Queen’s Gambit Readalikes

Did you catch chess fever when The Queen’s Gambit came out on Netflix? If you did, you’re not alone! If not, it’s never too late to start! Here’s a few ways you can discover more of the amazing world of chess through books.

First up, read The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis to see where it all began. In this page-to-screen story, an orphaned girl finds skill and passion when she learns how to play chess. She enters tournaments and becomes a rising star in the game… but is the pressure too much?

Next, check out a few real-life versions of the story with All The Wrong Moves by Sasha Chapin and The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers. Sasha Chapin’s memoir takes you behind the scenes of ultra-competitive chess matches all around the world, by turns highlighting his humiliating defeats and celebrating a beautiful game. In another famous page-to-screen story, The Queen of Katwe tells the story of a young girl from Uganda who, through the support of her community, becomes determined to follow her skill and become an international chess champion.

Then, try How To Become A Candidate Master by Alex Dunne to build your own skills. Based on real games, this book will help amateur chess players gradually build their skills through a series of matches, with the goal of eventually achieving master status. If you’re not yet looking to become a master, you could read How To Beat Your Kids At Chess, a guide specifically for adult beginners, or try a Great Course on How To Play Chess, good for players of all levels.

Finally, get philosophical with The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson. In this case, a real-life grandmaster demonstrates how the complexities and strategies of the game also contain lessons for living life, including about sustaining focus, making hard decisions, overcoming failure, and much more. Using chess, Rowson shows how to gain a new perspective and appreciate the meaning and beauty in life.

Whatever kind of chess fan you may be, rest assured there’s a book out there for you!

Relish by Lucy Knisley

Guest post by Teague

My daughter loves to read graphic novels and I am always on the hunt for new authors.  After stumbling across the amazingly hilarious Harry Potter book recap comics by Lucy Knisley, I knew I had found another gem.  While Knisley’s Harry Potter comics might be enjoyed by all ages, her books are geared toward adults.  I just finished reading Relish: My Life In the Kitchen, Knisley’s autobiographical account of her life as the daughter of a chef and gourmand.  Knisley entertains and educates as she tells tales of a life surrounded by food.  In between chapters, Knisley shares some of her favorite recipes or offers practical information about understanding certain cuisine.  My favorite is a Cheese Cheat Sheet.  As someone who adores cheese, but can only place it into two distinct categories (delicious and not delicious), this section was quite informative.

Many have a hard time seeing graphic novels as “real” literature or may feel that this genre isn’t for them.  I think that anyone who loves stories and loves to read will find a graphic novel to suit their interests.  The images in a graphic novel serve to reinforce the story, not replace it, and many of the stories told by these authors are simply magnificent.

If you are looking for other graphic novels to try, I suggest Maus by Art Spiegelman or the March books by John Lewis.  These are both very different from Relish and are examples of how unique each graphic novel is.  If you are interested in juvenile graphic novels for your child (or yourself!) to enjoy, I highly recommend Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Cece Bell’s El Deafo, and anything by Raina Telegemeir-particularly Smile, Sisters, and her graphic take on an old favorite of mine, The Baby-sitters Club.  There are so many different types of graphic novels available that it was difficult to choose only a handful to mention.  I encourage you to read several different graphic novels to determine what you like.  Happy exploring!

Nevertheless: A Memoir by Alec Baldwin

I was operating under the Southpark-inspired misconception that the worst thing about being a Baldwin is….NOTHING! Quite the contrary. The story arc of Alec’s father is an arduous downhill path. Roughly the first half of the book is a serious downer, touching on all the travails of the working class poor. Marry this with the accompanying drug problems of Alec’s burgeoning fame, and wash it down with a healthy dose of painful romances.

Of interest is the inner machinations of his rise from Knots Landing to 30 Rock, with a sidetrip down a little film called The Hunt for the Red October.

No, Alec does not gloss over his sensational answering machine message. Yes, he does wrap up this work with a somewhat inspiring testimonial of what constitutes an empowered citizenry.

Of course, Alec reads the audiobook himself with his signature snarling whisper. Not surprisingly, Alec has an expansive vocabulary and repertoire of impressions of his fellow actors. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Books About Bands

Everyone has a story to tell. I enjoy reading biographies in general, but I find the life stories of musicians especially captivating. The wild and crazy lifestyles of some musicians (especially rock n’ rollers) can make very interesting stories. You’ve probably heard the expression about truth sometimes being stranger than fiction. Nowhere can this idiom be more true than between the pages of a book about a musician.

Reading autobiographies (books written by the subject) and biographies (books about people written by someone else) can be illuminating. I encourage you to read both kinds and see if you have a preference. You might even take a walk on the wild side and read about musicians whose genre of music you don’t typically enjoy. Who knows? It might motivate you to expand your repertoire and start listening to a new genre of music once in a while. I find that the better I understand the motivations and perspectives of the people behind the music, the more I tend to enjoy the music.

One such autobiography I especially enjoyed is Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis. You may not have known that this lead singer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers started his career as an actor before he was a musician. He landed his first major role in the 1978 film F.I.S.T. as Sylvester Stallone’s son. He went on to enjoy roles ranging from television (ABC Afterschool Specials, The Simpsons) to movies (Jokes My Folks Never Told Me, Point Break, The Chase). He has also been a writer and producer. His literary and musical influences include Charles Bukowski, Neil Young, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Prince.

Kiedis grew up in Grand Rapids, MI where he lived with his mother, stepfather and two stepsisters. He spent two weeks every summer visiting his father in Hollywood. At twelve years old he moved in with his father and began a struggle with addiction to drugs. While attending Fairfax High School in L.A. he met Michael Peter Balzary (better known today under the stage name Flea). Despite a rocky start these two became close friends who enjoyed making mischief at every opportunity, including jumping off rooftops. Once, Kiedis attempted jumping into a pool from five stories up. He missed. Fortunately, he lived to tell his story. Read more about it in Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis.

“What doesn’t kill you only makes your book longer.”  -Anthony Kiedis

Here are some more books about musicians that you can check out through the Davenport Public Library.

u2Girl in a band    hunger makes me a modern girl    stevie nicksM trainelvis costello

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux

last trainA decade ago, Paul Theroux’s best-selling Dark Star Safari chronicled his epic overland voyage from Cairo to Cape Town, providing an insider’s look at modern Africa. Now, with The Last Train to Zona Verde, he returns to discover how Africa and he have changed in the ensuing years. On this trip, Theroux is journeying through West Africa for the first time. From Cape Town, South Africa, to Namibia to Botswana, he covers nearly 2,500 miles before he is forced to give up what is to be his final foreign trip, a decision he chronicles in a delightfully curmudgeonly and unsparing chapter titled “What Am I Doing Here.”

Vivid, witty, and beautifully evocative, The Last Train to Zona Verde is a fitting final African adventure from the writer whose gimlet eye and effortless prose have brought the world to generations of readers. (description from publisher)

Bliss to You by Trixie Koontz, Dog

This book is written by a dog.  Granted, a very special dog —  a golden retriever named Trixie.  And even though Trixie passed away in 2007, she is still, remarkably, writing books.  Of course, it probably helps that she was owned by bestselling author Dean Koontz, who may still have a little something to do with her success.   In fact, Koontz states that the Trixie  page on his website is one of the most visited features.

Trixie has inspired several books, including A Big Little Life, in which Koontz wrote about his relationship with his beloved pet.  But she’s also inspired some new children’s books, such as I Trixie, Who Is Dog , the rights to which have recently been purchased in order to create a new family comedy show.  But her speciality is definitely books such as Life is Good or Bliss to You, which are written in dog-speak, as is if Trixie is narrating the story.  Though for the most part, this is utterly charming, I’ll warn any ex-English teachers out there (myself included) that dogs apparently do not always use correct syntax.  Still, the book is warm, funny, inspirational and short –you can easily find bliss in one short sitting — making it an ideal gift for dog-lovers come Christmas time.

One other reason to support these books:  since Trixie originally served as a Canine Companions for Independence (before she went to live with Dean and Gerda) all royalties are donated to this organization.

I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee

Every night before bed, I try to catch the newest episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  So I was surprised and excited when I saw that one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents, Samantha Bee, had just come out with a book of humorous essays about her life.   In her new book I Know I Am, But What Are You?, Bee covers everything from her upbringing by her Wiccan mother to teaching her friends about the birds and the bees using her Barbie dolls to trying to come up with the perfect gift for her husband and failing miserably.  I was reading this book on a road trip to Chicago and found myself laughing out loud and sharing  passages with my sister and husband, who couldn’t help but laugh out loud themselves, particularly at the passage where she described her son wanting to put the family cat in his mouth in order “to be kept safe forever in a protective human boy suit.”

Though she stays out of the realm of political humor that she is famous for on The Daily Show, Bee has no problem finding hilarious situations in her own life to write about.  One of my favorites is her story of how she met her husband, fellow Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones:  they were both in a traveling stage production of the childrens cartoon Sailor Moon, complete with anime-style outfits and a lot of very displeased children in the audience.  You don’t have to be a fan of The Daily Show to enjoy this book; you just have to be looking for a good laugh.

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

Falling in love in Paris – what could be better than that? How about falling in love in Paris with recipes! Elizabeth Bard lets us tag along in Lunch in Paris as she meets and falls in love with Gwendal, maintains a long-distance relationship (with frequent visits to France), and then at first reluctantly, then whole heartedly, becomes an ex-pat living in Paris.

As a student in London working on her PhD, Elizabeth is able to make frequent weekend trips to Paris to visit friends. Her travels quickly center around food – the sidewalk cafes, the shop with the best croissants, the tiny restaurants known only to the locals. When she begins dating Gwendal, she begins to view meals and eating like the French do – even the simplest meal should be created with care and attention, eaten slowly and enjoyed. She learns to shop like a Parisian, buying just enough food for each meal, going to the fishmonger, the butcher, the farmer’s market for fresh ingredients. Along the way she finds a doorway into the French culture and thought, while gaining new insights into her American heritage.

Bard writes with confidence and wit, unafraid to expose her American learning curve. She is enthusiastic about trying any dish, and an adventurer in the kitchen. Each chapter is wrapped around a meal (or the memory of a meal) that fits the current stage of her life and finishes with recipes for the food she’s written about. While the recipes are mostly French, she has rewritten them for Americans, with ingredients that are easy to find in the US. This a delightful, mouth-watering memoir will satisfy the cook, the foodie and the traveler in all of us.

Barbara Robinette Moss (1954-2009)

changemeintoA colleague shared with me that one of her favorite authors, Barbara Robinette Moss, had died recently (Oct. 9, 2009).  Considering that Moss had lived in Iowa (Des Moines and Iowa City) for a good portion of her life, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of her passing.  Moss was both an artist and an author.

Her memoir, Change me Into Zeus’s Daughter, is one of our Book-Club-in-a-Box selections.  It’s compelling reading.  The opening scene has her mother preparing a meal of seeds they had intended to plant — seeds saturated in pesticide.  The family is starving and there is nothing else to eat.  Her father is an alcoholic, often out of work and often abusive.  Barbara is particularly unfortunate in that malnutrition has caused the bones in her face to elongate, giving her a “twisted, mummy face.”   Her wish to change her appearance — which she eventually is able to do —  is the basis for the book’s title.

Though at times it’s difficult to witness the hardship the family endures, this is truly an uplifting book. In her follow-up memoir, Fierce, Moss covers later episodes in her life, including finally leaving Alabama and her abusive second husband for art school at age 27, with her 8 year old son in tow.  To know that she overcomes her harsh beginnings and becomes a productive and successful adult is amazing.   It’s unfortunate that we cannot look forward to more work from this creative talent.