My high school librarian always told me that past history has to be witnessed by those who didn’t live it in order to live on in our memories and to prevent it from happening again. I have taken that to heart in the years since by reading and watching nonfiction about events that happened before I was born.
My latest nonfiction read was Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf. This is a graphic nonfiction account of the Kent State shootings that happened on May 4, 1970. On that date, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Ohio. Four students were killed and nine were wounded in a deadly fusillade of 67 bullets.
This story is told from the perspective of the four students who were killed, as well as other students on campus and the writer himself. Ten days prior to the shooting, 10-year-old Derf Backderf was riding in the car with his mother when he saw the same National Guardsman patrolling his nearby hometown, having been brought in by the governor to hopefully squash a trucker strike. Backderf spent years doing interviews and conducting research into the lives of the people affected by the Kent State shootings. What he has created brought me to tears. Reading about their lives before the shooting, how the area was affected afterwards, and the coverup that occured had my emotions running ragged. I found this story to be troubling and concerning, and also incredibly relevant to today as dissent and protesting happens across the world.
Georgia has always assumed she’d find love. No, she hasn’t ever dated anyone, or kissed anyone, or had a crush on anyone, but that’s normal, right? It’ll happen eventually… right? It isn’t until she graduates from school and is about to go to university that she realizes how different she is from everyone else. Feeling panicked, behind, and alone, she decides to reinvent herself and become the kind of girl who’s a social butterfly, that falls in love and enjoys kissing. She enlists her roommate Rooney and her friends Jason and Pip in her quest, but it never starts to feel easier, to feel right. It’ll take time, soul-searching, and the help of Sunil, president of the Pride Society, to figure out what she wants and where she belongs.
Loveless by Alice Oseman is a great book for a lot of reasons, including its representation of people who have always been treated like they’re broken: introverts, asexuals, and aromantic people. Georgia is flawed and real as she struggles and angsts her way into self-acceptance and self-love, leaving some chaos and hurt in her wake. Oseman doesn’t shy away from showing Georgia’s culpability for that hurt, or the complicated process of making amends, not to mention the natural grieving process that comes with being different. In this and many ways (though I can’t vouch for the depiction of British university life) it’s a refreshingly realistic book. Despite the title, love is the thread that runs through the book – through Georgia’s friendships, Rooney’s relationship to Shakespeare, Pip’s cultural heritage, and Sunil’s feelings for the Pride Society.
For a fresh and educational coming-of-age with strong friendships, diverse characters, realistic portrayals of asexuality and aromanticism, and quick, addictive chapters, this is the best book you’ll read this year.
This title is also available on Overdrive.
As someone who grew up in libraries and now works in one, I am always interested when a new book about libraries is published. Eva Jurczyk’s debut novel was my latest read about libraries and the people who work there! While it wasn’t what I expected, I enjoyed the story that Jurczyk weaved about the integration of old and new and how that impacts the library world.
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk is an interesting look into academia and the librarians that work behind the scenes to support that world. Univeristy libraries are vastly different than public libraries. The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections as presented in this novel is more similar to our Richardson Sloane Special Collections Center at the Main Library, but deep down, university libraries are simply libraries and the librarians that work there feel the same about books as librarians everywhere else.
In The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Jurczyk discusses the mystery of closed stacks, ancient books, and the institutional knowledge that staff hold, as well as the secrets held by books and staff alike. Liesl Weiss has worked at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections for years since its inception. Now Liesl is on the brink of retirement. She is actually on sabbatical working on writing a book(about books of course) when she receives devastating news: the director of the library has suffered a stroke and Liesl has been called back to run the library until he recovers. Liesl has been comfortable working behind the scenes managing details, but now working as the director, Liesl discovers that she can no longer stay in the background.
As she begins her new job, Liesl makes a shocking discovery: the library’s most prized and most recently purchased manuscript is missing. Liesl wants to alert the police and sound the alarm, but when she voices her wishes to the administration and other library staff, she is repeatedly told that reporting to the police is not an option. She needs to keep quiet in order to keep the donors happy. This decision requires Liesl to do some maneuvering to keep up appearances that everything is fine. That façade comes crashing down when a librarian goes missing as well.
Liesl must investigate both disappearances and what she discovers proves to her that someone in her department is responsible for the theft. She digs into her colleagues’ pasts to find out who could have done so. She eventually reaches out to the police and together they work to find answers. Liesl finds out truths about the people she works with that shakes her belief in the library, but that proves to her that changes must be put into place to preserve the library’s past, present, and future.
This book is also available in the following format:
On Wednesday, October 14th, Virtual Book Club will be meeting to discuss Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas. This book club meets virtually every week to discuss a new book. Information about how to join is listed at the end of this blog.
Curious what Catherine House is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.
Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years–summers included–completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.
This book is also available in the following formats:
Virtual Book Club
Wed, Oct 14, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
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