For Black History Month Week 3, we are featuring graphic novels that explore the life of prominent black and/or African American figures.
Josephine Baker by Jose-Louis Bocquet
Sassy and exuberant, Josephine Baker , born Freda Josephine McDonald (1906–75), clowned her way through her St. Louis childhood to become one of the first black stars on the world stage. Infamous originally for her Folies Bergère cabaret act wearing only a skirt of (fake) bananas, her fresh and alluring charm infused her half-century of dancing and singing in her adopted country of France and many other places. Pablo Picasso, Charles de Gaulle, Martin Luther King (who introduced a speech by Baker at the 1963 March on Washington), Grace Kelly, and Fidel Castro all admired her. She entertained troops during World War II and spied for the Allies, adopted 12 children, and crusaded for civil rights. Bocquet (with Muller, Kiki de Montparnasse) does Baker’s complicated life justice in both appeal and detail. A lengthy chronology anchors key milestones and a massive biographical appendix provides background about important people in the entertainer’s life. Muller’s high-contrast, black-and-white inks finesse a mostly realistic whimsy and is especially good at rendering people recognizably in few lines. VERDICT Highly enjoyable, this is a wonderful work. For teens and up; some minor nudity.—MC –Martha Cornog (Reviewed 06/01/2017) (Library Journal, vol 142, issue 10, p84)
A canny Louisville, KY, police officer guided 12-year-old Cassius Clay toward boxing when the kid wanted to whup the thief who stole his bike. One of the greatest and most popular fighters in history, Ali (who changed his name upon converting to Islam) also fought against discrimination and the Vietnam War, becoming a symbol of black activism as well as success. This stellar account brings the details of Ali’s life, fights, and legacy into clear focus, complete with a diagram of his boxing technique. Photo-realistic art with tan/red emphasis; tweens and up. –Martha Cornog (Reviewed 01/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 1, p87)
The story of Frederick Douglass (d. 1895), from his birth into slavery to his celebration by dignitaries around the world, is brought to readers in this spectacular graphic novel from author Walker (Luke Cage; War for the Planet of the Apes) and illustrators Smyth and Marissa Louise. Brief chapter interludes titled “Lessons” provide context for Douglass’s experiences and reference specific writings, depicting a long and often times heartrending journey in a way that is respectful and realistic. Walker states in the introduction that he aimed to have Douglass “narrate” the book himself by using his subject’s published works to guide the narrative voice. A range of traditional multipaneled and fully illustrated pages rendered in vivid color reveal the depth and intricacies of each scene. A comprehensive bibliography and index assist in locating references to specific people or places discussed throughout. VERDICT This thoughtfully crafted portrait will delight and inform, regardless of readers’ prior knowledge of Douglass’s life and legacy. [See Prepub Alert, 7/16/18; Martha Cornog’s “Diverse Voices and Viewpoints: Must-Have Graphic Novels for Black History Month and Beyond,” ow.ly/RfLy30mE7Nt] –Tom Batten (Reviewed 12/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 20, p65)
Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge
Meet Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960): anthropologist who worked with Franz Boas, folklore collector with Alan Lomax, novelist (Their Eyes Were Watching God), essayist, playwright, eccentric intellectual, life of the party, and adventurous fashionista. With friends and enemies black and white, Hurston faced criminal charges, poverty, ill health, and fickle associates (e.g., poet Langston Hughes) who didn’t always stand up for her. Bagge (Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story) bends his manic, rubbery characters around Hurston’s chutzpah for a warts-and-roses portrait of this woman who stirred up controversy both within and outside of the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston insisted on reproducing black speech idiomatically as she heard it, and Bagge follows her lead. (FIRE!! was a 1926 magazine “devoted to younger Negro artists,” including Hurston.) Hurston shouldered her way up through multiple glass ceilings, and here Bagge captures her zest, humor, frustration, brain power, and accomplishments. VERDICT Current and future fans of Hurston plus anyone interested in American literary history will be entertained as well as enlightened. (See interview with Bagge on p. 69.)—MC –Martha Cornog (Reviewed 04/01/2017) (Library Journal, vol 142, issue 6, p66)
Keeping up with different trends for personal, academic, and professional development can be a daunting task. Here is a list of helpful resources to get you started.
An eLearning solution for students and professionals, LearningExpress Library provides interactive tutorials, practice tests, e-books, flashcards, and articles for academic skill-building, standardized test preparations, and career development.
Digital Maine Library, Maine’s online resource provided by the Maine State Library and Maine InfoNet, grants access to LearningExpress Library. You may learn more about this resource by going to our website (https://walkerlibrary.org) and clicking the DATABASES button.
An online learning tool that provides video tutorials for several library resources. Right now, video tutorials include signing up to Facebook, using Goodreads, accessing CloudLibrary, etc.. You may access Niche Academy through Digital Maine Library.
A program of the Goodwill Community Foundation and Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina, GCFglobal offers online tutorials ranging from Microsoft Office Suite to reading, math, and science-related subjects.
edX (also known as Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs)
Founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), edX is a non-profit platform for education and learning. edX serves as an aggregator for online courses offered by other universities. Most online courses, by themselves, are free; however, if you are thinking of enrolling in any of edX’s programs and degrees, such as MicroMasters or XSeries, there are fees attached.
Seventeen-year-old Morgan is struggling with depression, and her family just doesn’t understand. When she tells her doctor that it sucks being alive sometimes, he thinks it’s because she doesn’t have a boyfriend, and even though she’s in therapy following a failed suicide attempt, her mother thinks she just needs more Jesus. But when she meets David, he gets it. Within their new friend group, there is a traveling notebook where they record their thoughts, feelings, and affirmations for each other. In many ways, Parker’s debut models what introspective teens may go through when questioning the world around them. Through this story based loosely on her own life, she takes readers on a journey of self-exploration, full of all the universal teenage angst and drama that surround school, identity, sex, rejection, and friendship. This is all layered into Morgan’s coming-of-age realizations about her Blackness as she becomes interested in researching specific periods of her identity’s history, hoping to understand how it—and she—fits into present-day America. When, thanks to a terrible teacher, she makes a huge scene at school, her actions may seem familiar to readers. This fresh read provides a positive and inclusive take on mental health and wellness and offers readers some tools to survive on their own. — Jessica Anne Bratt (Reviewed 9/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 1, p105)
The only world Jam has ever known is that of Lucille, a town where the angels have ostensibly banished the monsters and dismantled the structures that allowed monsters and monstrous deeds to pervade. Lucille is a post-prison, post–school shooting, post–police brutality society. A society where someone like Jam, a selectively mute transgender teen, can live with complete acceptance, support, and love. Still, she can feel the hard truths of the world, can sense them in the air, hear them in words unsaid. When Jam steals into her mother Bitter’s painting studio and unleashes Pet , a winged, horned, eyeless creature and monster hunter, from one of the paintings and into their world, life as she’s known it begins to dissolve. Jam must confront the harsh realities of her world as she tentatively partners with Pet and ventures forward to avenge a wrong not yet discovered. This is a heart-stirring atmospheric page-turner, a terrific and terrible yet quiet adventure. Emezi spins a tale that defies categorization as strikingly as their characters, forcing readers to deeply rethink assumptions about identity, family structure, and justice. VERDICT A riveting and important read that couldn’t be more well timed to our society’s struggles with its own monsters.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ –Jill Heritage Maza (Reviewed 07/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 6, p49)
Eleven years ago, King Saran cemented his grip on the throne by banishing magic from Orïsha and slaughtering the realm’s maji—Zélie Adebola’s mother included. The maji’s descendants—dark-skinned, white-haired people called divîners—have lived under tyranny ever since, but now there is cause for hope. Thanks to information gleaned from Saran’s kindhearted daughter, Amari, 17-year-old Zélie has a chance to restore magic to Orïsha and activate a new generation of maji. First, though, Zélie, Amari, and Zélie’s brother Tzain must outrun the crown prince, Inan, who is determined to finish what his father started by eradicating magic for good. Book one in the Orïsha Legacy trilogy, Adeyemi’s devastating debut is a brutal, beautiful tale of revolution, faith, and star-crossed love. By making tangible the power that comes from embracing one’s heritage, Adeyemi conjures a story that resonates with magic both literal and figurative while condemning apathy in the face of injustice. Complex characters, colossal stakes, and a kaleidoscopic narrative captivate, and the book’s punishing pace catapults readers to a jaw-dropping conclusion that poses as many questions as it answers. Ages 14–up. Agent: Alexandra Machinist and Hillary Jacobson, ICM. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 01/01/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 01, p)
This is a refreshingly unapologetic celebration of young women’s voices in a format that encompasses poetry, blog posts, essays, and prose. Best friends Jasmine and Chelsea intend to start junior year at their progressive, social-justice-focused high school on a high note in their respective clubs: for Jasmine, the August Wilson Acting Ensemble and for Chelsea, the Peaceful Poets. When both are (ironically) met with resistance to new, more inclusive ideas, they decide to leave their clubs and form a new one focused on elevating women’s voices, especially those of activists and people of color. When their blog, Write Like a Girl, goes viral, the school’s administration attempts to shut them down. Watson and Hagan keep Jasmine and Chelsea’s voices distinct and allow them to resound with authenticity. Despite facing very real hardships like fat-shaming, sexism, and loss of a parent, Jasmine and Chelsea are steadfast in their convictions and relentlessly supportive of both each other and their own emotions. Readers won’t be able to help feeling empowered and uplifted by the end of the novel. — Caitlin Kling (Reviewed 4/19/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 16)
If you’re in a pinch and can’t go to the library to borrow a film or TV show, here is a list of streaming services where you can watch movies and/or TV shows for free without violating copyright.
All the streaming services listed below can be downloaded on compatible devices such as mobile, tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and smart TV. For more information, please click on the following icons that will direct you to their website.
A joint venture between Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and Sony Pictures, Crackle is a free-to-use video streaming service featuring full-length movies, TV shows, and other original programming.
Seventeen-year-old Norris Kaplan has just had his world turned upside-down. When his mother has to relocate to find work in her field, Norris finds his identity as a Black, French-Canadian hockey fan challenged by his new existence in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. While on the surface this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, there are many more layers to the story. Lots of different elements of identity are brought to bear in Norris’s narration: his Haitian/immigrant heritage, racial identity, and viewpoint on American high school stereotypes. The protagonist’s smart and funny demeanor will engage readers, even when he makes obviously bad decisions. Norris is particularly adept at letting his assumptions about his peers impact his ability to relate to them as individuals, either as friends or romantically. The authorial decision to have the “outsider” be the character influenced by stereotypes rather than the opposite makes for a very compelling reversal that ultimately works. The unresolved ending allows teens to revel in the messiness of high school social blunders and see the value in doing the hard work of making amends. VERDICT A witty debut with whip-smart dialogue that will find much love among fans of authors like John Green and Jason Reynolds.—Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR
Camille has just wrapped a successful summer with her theater troupe and is ready for a prestigious theater camp with her crush. Then one missed period becomes two, and Camille faces the truth: her first sexual encounter, a one-time thing, has led to pregnancy. Camille knows she can’t have a baby now, but she doesn’t want to involve her parents, and her best friend, Bea, can’t reconcile her religious views with Camille’s decision. Complicating the situation are Texas’ prohibitive abortion laws: it’s a year after Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster and Governor Rick Perry’s restrictive bill. Desperate, Camille turns to Annabelle, a girl she admires but hardly knows, who offers to drive her to Mexico for pills that will induce an abortion. At the last minute, despite her reservations, Bea decides to come as well. Waller (The Forbidden Orchid, 2016) hammers home the immense difficulties that girls in Camille’s situation face. The story occasionally has the unnerving feel of a dystopia, despite taking place in the recent past: Camille travels hundreds of miles, crosses into dangerous border towns, and faces the judgment of legal and medical professionals as well as people she knows. The narrative sometimes treads into the expository, but Camille’s story is absolutely essential, as is the underlying message that girls take care of each other when no one else will. — Maggie Reagan (Reviewed 4/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 15, p70)
All it takes is one prescription to kick-start a student athlete’s frightening descent into opioid addiction. After surgery following a car accident, Ohio softball phenom Mickey Catalan is prescribed OxyContin for pain. When she starts to run out of the Oxy she relies on to get through her physical therapy, she gets pills from a dealer, through whom she meets other young addicts. Mickey rationalizes what she’s doing and sees herself as a good girl who’s not like others who use drugs (like new friend Josie, who uses because she’s “bored”). Mickey loves how the pills make her feel, how they take her out of herself and relieve the pressures in her life. Soon she’s stealing, lying, and moving on to heroin. Her divorced parents, including her recovering addict stepmother, suspect something is going on, but Mickey is skilled at hiding her addiction. A trigger warning rightfully cautions graphic depictions of drug use. In brutally raw detail, readers see Mickey and friends snort powders, shoot up, and go through withdrawal. Intense pacing propels the gripping story toward the inevitable conclusion already revealed in the prologue. An author’s note and resources for addiction recovery are appended. This powerful, harrowing, and compassionate story humanizes addiction and will challenge readers to rethink what they may believe about addicts. VERDICT From the horrific first line to the hopeful yet devastating conclusion, McGinnis knocks it out of the park. A first purchase for all libraries serving teens.—Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN –Amanda MacGregor (Reviewed 03/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 2, p115)
When Reza, a closeted teen, moves from Toronto to New York City (“by way of Tehran”) in 1989, the city feels like the epicenter of the AIDS crisis. In a heart-wrenching and bittersweet unfolding of events, he gravitates toward Art, the only openly gay student at his school, and to Art’s best friend, Judy, who represents everything he feels that he should desire. Though Reza tries his hardest to keep his attractions secret, dating Judy despite his chemistry with Art, he finds that he can’t live a lie, whatever that might cost him. A first-person narrative moves among the three characters as they discover their inner truths at a time that sometimes feels apocalyptic for their community and loved ones. Under the nurturing guidance of Judy’s gay activist uncle, the characters subtly investigate different family dynamics. The intense and nuanced emotions evoked by the characters’ journeys help to give this powerful novel by Nazemian (The Authentics) a timeless relevance. Ages 13–up. Agent: Curtis Brown, Curtis Brown Ltd. (June) –Staff (Reviewed 04/22/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 16, p)
Berry (The Passion of Dolssa) brings to life wartime horrors and passions with commentary from Olympian gods in this love story filled with vivid historical detail. To show her husband, Hephaestus, the real meaning of love and its connection to war and art, Aphrodite (with the help of Apollo, Hades, and Ares) tells the emotion-packed WWI saga of two besotted couples drawn together by music and war : British pianist Hazel and soldier James; African-American jazz musician Aubrey and Colette, a Belgian war orphan with a remarkable singing voice. After James reports to duty, Hazel follows, taking a wartime volunteer position in France. There, she meets Colette, who is still reeling from her wartime losses, and introduces her to Aubrey, who quickly steals Colette’s heart. James and Aubrey witness horrors on and off the battlefield, and Hazel and Colette cling to each other during the best of times, such as when Hazel has the opportunity for a brief reunion with James, and the worst, as when Aubrey goes missing. Berry’s evocative novel starts slow but gains steam as the stories flesh out. Along the way, it suggests that while war and its devastation cycles through history, the forces of art and love remain steady, eternal, and life-sustaining. Ages 12–up. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 12/24/2018) (Publishers Weekly, vol 265, issue 52, p)
–Aspiring rapper Bri records “On the Come Up ” to protest the racial profiling and assault she endured at the hands of white security guards at her high school. The song goes viral, and Bri seizes the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her late father and lift her family out of poverty, but her loved ones worry, especially when some listeners paint her as an angry black girl inciting violence. Tension mounts as Bri’s mother loses her job, Bri’s relationship with her beloved aunt and musical mentor splinters, and a new manager dangles the prospect of fame and wealth—at a price. Set in the same neighborhood as Thomas’s electrifying The Hate U Give, this visceral novel makes cogent observations about the cycle of poverty and the inescapable effects of systemic racism. Though the book never sands over the rough realities of Garden Heights, such as gang warfare, it imbues its many characters with warmth and depth. While acknowledging that society is quick to slap labels onto black teens, the author allows her heroine to stumble and fall before finding her footing and her voice. VERDICT Thomas once again fearlessly speaks truth to power; a compelling coming-of-age story for all teens.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal –Mahnaz Dar (Reviewed 02/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 1, p77)
Integrating snippets of Tagalog and Bikol, author Ribay displays a deep friendship between two 17-year-old cousins: Jay, born in the Philippines but raised in the United States since infancy, and Jun, born and raised in a gated community in Manila. Jay, considered white in an all-white school, is starting to get acceptances (and rejections) from colleges and finds out while playing video games that Jun, with whom he corresponded for years via “actual letters—not email or texts or DMs,” is dead. His Filipino father doesn’t want to talk about it, but his North American mother reveals that Jun was using drugs. Jay blames his uncle, a police chief, for his murder after researching the dictatorship of Rodrigo Duterte (the book includes a handy author’s note and a list of articles and websites), who has sanctioned and perpetrated the killing of between 12,000 and 20,000 drug addicts by police and vigilantes since 2016. Jay, armed with his stack of letters, returns to Manila to search for the truth. Ribay weaves in Jun’s letters so readers witness Jun’s questions and his attempts to reconcile the inequity around him with his faith. Jay follows Jun’s footsteps into the slums of Manila, the small house of his activist aunts, and the Catholic parish of his uncle, a village priest, and learns painful truths about his family, his home country, and himself. VERDICT Part mystery, part elegy, part coming of age, this novel is a perfect convergence of authentic voice and an emphasis on inner dialogue around equity, purpose, and reclaiming one’s lost cultural identity.—Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City –Sara Lissa Paulson (Reviewed 06/01/2019) (School Library Journal, vol 65, issue 5, p84)
Carnegie Medal–nominee Emezi (Freshwater for adults) makes their young adult debut in this story of a transgender, selectively nonverbal girl named Jam, and the monster that finds its way into their universe. Jam’s hometown, Lucille, is portrayed as a utopia—a world that is post-bigotry and -violence, where “angels” named after those in religious texts have eradicated “monsters.” But after Jam accidently bleeds onto her artist mother’s painting, the image—a figure with ram’s horns, metallic feathers, and metal claws—pulls itself out of the canvas. Pet , as it tells Jam to call it, has come to her realm to hunt a human monster––one that threatens peace in the home of Jam’s best friend, Redemption. Together, Jam, Pet , and Redemption embark on a quest to discover the crime and vanquish the monster. Jam’s language is alternatingly voiced and signed, the latter conveyed in italic text, and Igbo phrases pepper the family’s loving interactions. Emezi’s direct but tacit story of injustice, unconditional acceptance, and the evil perpetuated by humankind forms a compelling, nuanced tale that fans of speculative horror will quickly devour. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jacqueline Ko, Wylie Agency. (Sept.) –Staff (Reviewed 06/17/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 24, p)
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
Trinidadian native Audre uses the labels placed upon her as a shield, fearing those around her will discover the real reason her mother sent her to live with her distant father in Minneapolis: she was caught wrapped in the arms of another girl. Struggling with her own questions surrounding her sexuality and depleting health, Mabel holds no faith that she’s going to have anything in common with Audre, the daughter of a family friend who’s just arrived from Trinidad and has a bit of a church-girl reputation. But they find themselves drawn to each other in inexorable ways. Told through unflinching prose and poetry laced with astrological themes, Petrus’ work breaks the mold of traditional writing and uses unconventional dialogue and voice to bring life to the story of two authentic, unapologetic Black girls as they face the hardest truths head on and discover everlasting love that reaches even the most distant corners of the cosmos. Through the intersplicing of poetry, Petrus provides compelling depth to both Audre and Mabel while conveying the powerful message that those we love on earth remain with us through a connection that can only be described as celestial. Striking an agile balance between humor and heartbreak, Petrus delivers an immersive queer romance set in in a world much like our own but touched with the slightest tint of magic realism. — Tiana Coven (Reviewed 8/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 22, p60)
In this stunning sophomore novel from National Book Award and Printz winner Acevedo (The Poet X), Afro–Puerto Rican and African-American Emoni Santiago, a high school senior, lives in Philadelphia with her two-year-old daughter, Emma—nicknamed Babygirl—and paternal grandmother, ’Buela. A talented cook, Emoni balances school, work at a local burger joint, and motherhood—including shared custody with her ex-boyfriend, Tyrone—with moments in the kitchen, where her “magical hands” create dishes that allow the eater to access deep, surprising memories. But she’s not sure what to do with her passion, or after high school, until enrolling in a culinary arts elective helps her to hone her innate cooking skills in the classroom and during a hard-won weeklong apprenticeship in Spain. As she gains practice at leadership and fund-raising, she also cautiously develops a budding relationship with new student Malachi, a boy who respects Emoni’s boundaries. Acevedo expertly develops Emoni’s close female relationships, which are often conveyed through the sharing of food and recipes, and which shape and buoy Emoni’s sense of her own direction and strength. With evocative, rhythmic prose and realistically rendered relationships and tensions, Acevedo’s unvarnished depiction of young adulthood is at once universal and intensely specific. Ages 13–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (May) –Staff (Reviewed 03/04/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 9, p)
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gives women the right to vote. Here’s a list of books you can borrow to explore the history of women’s suffrage. We also encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote.
Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse and Maine’s Fight for Women Suffrage by Anne B. Gass
Voting Down the Rose is a lively account of Maine native Florence Brooks Whitehouse’s efforts to win women voting rights in the decisive final years of the campaign, 1914-1920. Considered radical for picketing the White House, Florence helped win women suffrage against a backdrop of conservative views of women’s roles, political intrigues, WWI, and the 1918 influenza epidemic (Publisher).
The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss
Weiss (Fruits of Victory) chronicles the crucial and contentious struggle to make Tennessee the final state to ratify the 19th Amendment during the sweltering summer of 1920. She traces the history of the suffrage movement, and profiles the principle players. Social, political, regional, economic, and racial factors complicated the fight. Suffragists were disunited; Carrie Catt (protégé of Susan B. Anthony) created the National American Women Suffrage Association, which warred with Alice Paul and Sue White’s radical National Woman’s Party. Tennesseans and other Southerners used trickery to prevent the imposition of yet another national amendment to invite federal election oversight and threaten white supremacy. Corporate interests believed female voters would threaten their corrupt stronghold over state government. President Woodrow Wilson courted women’s votes to gain support for the League of Nations, and waffling presidential candidates used the suffrage issue to suit their advantage. VERDICT This well-researched and well-documented history reveals how prosuffragists sometimes compromised racial equality to win white women’s enfranchisement, and that, although the 19th Amendment was ratified, there exists to this day an ongoing battle to effect universal, unrestricted suffrage. Essential for all libraries and readers interested in this vital issue. [See “Editors’ Spring Picks,” p. 29.] –Margaret Kappanadze (Reviewed 02/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 2, p113)
New Yorker writer Lepore (David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of History , Harvard Univ.) presents an engaging, well-researched look at the unconventional family behind the character and stories of Wonder Woman . The author focuses on the character’s creator, William Moulton Marston, and his family: Elizabeth Holloway Marston, his wife and partial inspiration for the character; Olive Byrne, who lived with the couple in a polyamorous relationship; and Margaret Huntley, who also lived with the family on and off through the years. Also featured are the family’s four children: two with Holloway Marston and two with Byrne. Marston was a psychologist, one of the originators of the modern lie detector, and a fervent propagandist of female sexual power, if not necessarily female emancipation. Lepore handles her potentially thorny topic well and manages to avoid being salacious or gossipy. Readers looking for an exploration of Wonder Woman herself would do better to try Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound . Lepore uses the character more as a touchstone to guide her exploration of the Marston family. VERDICT Fans interested in the background of the character and readers who appreciate well-written popular history will enjoy this thought-provoking volume. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/14.]— Hanna Clutterbuck, Harvard Univ. Lib., Cambridge, MA –Hanna Clutterbuck (Reviewed September 15, 2014) (Library Journal, vol 139, issue 15, p96)
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
As Beyoncé sang, “Now put your hands up!” Today, only 20 percent of adults under the age of 29 are married, compared with nearly 60 percent in 1960, a dramatic shift in which unmarried women played a major role. In this compelling narrative, Traister (Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything) investigates how scores of single women have contributed to important social and political movements that have changed U.S. history—before and after Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. A thoughtful journalist, Traister explores the history of the “spinster” and explains how issues such as class, race, sexuality, and religion have impacted single women throughout time, and how they in return have influenced the workplace, personal space, and the concept of family. In addition to her painstaking research, Traister includes stories from the unattached ladies themselves in more than 100 interviews and draws on pop culture references such as Sex & the City and Bridesmaids. While the image of the free, independent woman is considered a modern sensation, Traister reveals that she has always fought for the right to own her self-identity as well as for the rights of others. VERDICT This fast-paced, fascinating book will draw in fans of feminism, social sciences, and U.S. history, similar to Gail Collins’s When Everything Changed. [See Prepub Alert, 9/28/15.] –Venessa Hughes (Reviewed 02/15/2016) (Library Journal, vol 141, issue 3, p121)
A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan
Hannigan presents an invigorating account of the life of Belva Lockwood, taking readers from her childhood in Niagara County, N.Y., to her career as one of the first women lawyers in the U.S. to her 1884 run for president (“Are women not worth the same as men? Belva spent her whole life asking that question.”). Working in her distinctively crackled folk style, Jay depicts powerful moments of resistance and courage from Lockwood’s life—whether storming into a classroom or protesting before the Supreme Court. Endnotes provide a timeline of Lockwood’s life and beyond, highlighting significant events in the ongoing fight for women’s rights and concluding with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. Ages 9–12. Author’s agent: Jennifer Mattson, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Lorraine Owen, the Organisation. (Jan.) –Staff (Reviewed 11/20/2017) (Publishers Weekly, vol 264, issue 47, p)
Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragist, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff
A car made up of bright primary colors—yellow hood, blue doors, and red luggage compartment—transports suffragists Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, a kitten, and readers across the United States all in the name of “Votes for Women!” Throughout, the pacing is excellent, and Rockliff begins the adventure with a litany of items found inside the petite yellow vehicle (“tools,/spare parts,/a teeny-tiny typewriter”) and introduces Richardson and Burke and emphasizes their determination to get the word out (“V. for W.!”). Readers will follow the two women (and their kitten) from New York City to Philadelphia, through a blizzard, a stop at an all-yellow luncheon, a stint in a circus parade, and more as they drive down South and along the U.S. and Mexican border all the way to California and back. Rockliff communicates the boundless energy of these two figures and adds touches of humor to lift the narrative; this small but significant historical moment is presented as accessible and fun without undermining the importance of Richardson, Burke, and the fight for women’s equality. Hooper shows the women working together (a concluding image of Richardson handing Burke a daffodil is wonderful), the curiosity and interest on the faces of passersby (mainly white folks), and the dress and style of the times. While this is an excellent introduction to the efforts of suffragists, when discussing this text and the Nineteenth Amendment, librarians may want to clarify that statements such as “At last, American women had won the right to vote” (mentioned in the back matter section titled “Winning the Vote”) did not always reflect the reality of African American women and other women of color, who often faced legal and illegal barriers to vote (especially in the South) until well into the 1960s. VERDICT Prepare for the arrival of the “little yellow car” into the hearts of readers; this charming and vibrant account of two lesser-known figures will bolster historical collections.—Della Farrell, School Library Journal –Della Farrell (Reviewed 07/01/2016) (School Library Journal, vol 62, issue 7, p95)
A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen by Kathryn Lasky
Kat Bowen records her days in Washington, DC, in a diary from her mother. A typical 13-year-old from a well-to-do family, she expresses her dreams and hopes as she recounts her thoughts on school, homework, relationships, parties, and her special bond with her cousin Alma. As the early days of 1917 pass, Kat becomes increasingly aware of the political issues that are prevalent, particularly the inevitable involvement of the U.S. in World War I and women’s suffrage. Her physician father is quietly supportive of his wife’s activism in the movement, while his brother-in-law, Alma’s father, demeans it and forbids the women in his family to participate in any way. Kat soon joins her mother sewing banners and bringing hot bricks for warmth on the picket line. Lasky entwines some of the real characters of the day with her fictional figures. She gives a good overview of the harsh treatment these women endured during their picketing and imprisonment and touches on divorce, the plight of African-American citizens in the South, and President Wilson’s disinterest in rights for women. Kat is well developed into a young woman whose exposure to the politics and consequences allow her to mature and decide what true liberty and justice for all really means. A historical note and reproductions of photos are appended.–Rita Soltan, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI –Rita Soltan (Reviewed August 1, 2002) (School Library Journal, vol 48, issue 8, p190)
The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle
This engaging title documents 50-year-old Swedish suffragette and novelist Fredrika Bremer’s three-month travels around Cuba in 1851. Based in the home of a wealthy sugar planter, Bremer journeys around the country with her host’s teenaged slave Cecilia, who longs for her mother and home in the Congo. Elena, the planter’s privileged 12-year-old daughter, begins to accompany them on their trips into the countryside. Both Elena and Cecilia are inspired by their guest’s independence, Elena to wonder if she can avoid eventual marriage and Cecilia to dream of freedom for her unborn child. Using elegant free verse and alternating among each character’s point of view, Engle offers powerful glimpses into Cuban life at that time. Along the way, she comments on slavery, the rights of women, and the stark contrast between Cuba’s rich and poor. The author takes some license with the real Bremer’s journey; Elena is fictional, which the author is careful to point out in her author’s note. She also includes a reference list for readers who want to learn more about Bremer. The easily digestible, poetic narrative makes this a perfect choice for reluctant readers, students of the women’s movement, those interested in Cuba, and teens with biography assignments.—Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD –Leah J. Sparks (Reviewed February 1, 2010) (School Library Journal, vol 56, issue 2, p129)
Countless writers have taken inspirations from characters in
Greek Mythology for their quintessential characterizations everyone could
easily recognize. Written in first-person narrative, Madeline Miller’s Circe
follows the life of its titular protagonist as she navigates the world around
In Homer’s The Odyssey, Circe plays a minor role as one
more obstacle that Odysseus needed to overcome. Miller, on the other hand, takes
Circe’s story and turns it into an epic tale that spans thousands of years
(gods are immortal, after all). Born as the daughter of Helios, the sun of God,
Circe does not exude the beauty of her naiad peers or other gods—she is a
lesser god among other lesser gods. According to her father, “Circe is dull as a
rock” . . . or so he thinks. Circe discovers where her true power lies. When she
uses it against one of her fellow nymphs, Circe is exiled to an isolated island
called Aiaia. In exile, Circe hones her craft and makes a name for herself.
It is a feat to write a novel that spans a thousand years while making the story organically flow, and Miller has done just that. Her narrative never loses its cadence and, as readers, we find ourselves completely taken by Circe. The way Circe’s character develops feels authentic, and, it is where the strength of this novel lies. Miller’s version of Circe is one of the most captivating and genuine fictional characters I’ve come across.
There is a beautiful fluidity in Miller’s writing style. The story transforms from the ethereal world of gods to something intimate that all of us could identify with. Even though Circe is a goddess, Miller’s portrayal of her is deeply human—with all the strength and flaws that comes with being one. In Circe, Miller explores relationships, love, and mortality with a certain dynamism and tenderness that strikes our very core. One of the most poignant moment in the book that stuck with me is when Circe confronts Trygon for his tail, which serves as a poison to gods, in order to protect her son, Telegonus, from Athena.
“I felt the currents move. The grains of sand whispered against each other. His wings were lifting. The darkness around us shimmered with clouds of his gilded blood. Beneath my feet were the bones of a thousand years. I thought: I cannot bear this world a moment longer.
Then, child, make another.”
Miller’s Circe makes us appreciate the ground beneath our feet—the world we live in—with all its beauty and atrocity. Miller casts a powerful spell on her readers, and it is one that lingers for a long time.
Novelist and physicist Lightman has traveled twice yearly since 2003 to Cambodia to work with his Harpswell Foundation which empowers women leaders in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. In his first novel in seven years, Lightman’s opening dedication directly spotlights Harpswell’s “strong and courageous young women,” some of whose stories have inspired his intimate examination of a Cambodian family’s post-Khmer Rouge lives, driven by survival, redeemed by resilience. Each of six chapters, named for each family member, is paired with a pivotal year. Mother Ryna in 2012 confronts her father’s murderer. In 2009, teenage, pregnant eldest daughter Nita plots to escape her much older husband. Marriage eludes only son Kamal in 2013. In 2008, middle daughter Thida is forced to become a debt equalizer. Father Pich, a young man in 1973, earns rejection from his parents. In 2015, youngest daughter Sreypov refuses a future constrained by the “three flames :” never air family problems, never forget parental sacrifices, always serve the husband. After four decades of submission, defiance just might break the family’s cycle of desperation and humiliation. — Terry Hong (Reviewed 9/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 1, p56)
He began life in 1850 as Patricio to his Greek mother, immigrating at two from the island of Lefcada to the Emerald Isle, his father’s birthplace, where he became Patrick. By 19, he landed in New York, made his way to Cincinnati, and married a formerly enslaved woman who called him Pat, although as a struggling journalist, he was known as Lafcadio. His restlessness pushed him to New Orleans, then Martinique in the West Indies, until he settled on his final island, Japan, where he became Koizumi Yakumo and lived with a samurai-descendant wife and, eventually, their four children. More than a century since his 1904 death, Lafcadio Hearn remains one of Japan’s preeminent literary expatriates. Truong, whose family’s violent 1975 displacement from Vietnam when she was six makes her intimately familiar with peripatetic longing, stupendously imagined the life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ Vietnamese Parisian cook in her award-winning debut, The Book of Salt (2003). She displays similar ingenuity in her extraordinary new book (an eight-year effort) presenting Lafcadio Hearn through the four most important women in his life: his willful Greek mother, his determined first wife, his protective last wife, and his tenacious first biographer, Elizabeth Bisland. By reclaiming these exemplary women’s voices, Truong enhances history with illuminating herstory too long overlooked. — Terry Hong (Reviewed 8/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 115, number 22, p25)
Vandermeer’s follow-up to Borne (2017) explores the multiple pasts and futures of the City and the sinister Company that twists and destroys countless living things. The fragmented narrative centers primarily on the dead astronauts at the crossroads from Borne, revealed to be three revolutionaries consisting of former Company workers/experiments Chen and Moss and the formerly lost-in-space Grayson. As these three lovers and companions come to the latest version of the City and the sinister Company, the established patterns of their war across realities begin to shift, with factors such as the demented and tortured Charlie X, a mysterious blue fox, a vast leviathan, and the dark bird known as “”the duck with a broken wing”” all come into play. The varied points of view and stylistic shifts of the narrative allow the reader to experience reality through the eyes of different characters, human and otherwise, and the struggle of different forms of life trying to survive unites the vignettes that form the bulk of the novel. Highly recommended for those interested in sf invested in ecological concerns and speculative fiction that plays with narrative form. New readers will want to read Borne before diving in to its multi-dimensional sequel. — Nell Keep (Reviewed 11/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 5, p31)
February is Black History Month. To celebrate, we are featuring books that are written by African American and black writers each week.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
As with his Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, James’s first foray into fantasy demonstrates epic sweep, an intensely layered structure, and raw if luscious language that pins readers to the page with enough concrete detail to discourage a breezy skim-through. Placed firmly in the genre by its dark magic, unstoppable twists and turns, dangerous kingly aspirations, and imperfect but essential fellow-creature bonding, the narrative is refreshingly distinctive in its grounding in African history and folklore. Its protagonist is the Tracker, a tough-talking loner whose sense of smell leads him to his quarry and here to a momentous task. The opening pages show the Tracker as a young man leaving home both to escape his family and confront his people’s enemies, as he refines his skills, discovers a shocking secret about his parentage, helps a group of children (e.g., Smoke Girl, Giraffe Boy) abandoned for their weirdness as cursed, and meets the sardonic, shapeshifting Leopard , with whom he forms a close but testy relationship. But the journey’s the thing, as the Tracker is later engaged by a slaver to find a kidnapped child, reputedly the son of a North Kingdom elder who riled the king and was slaughtered with his family. In his efforts, the Tracker grudgingly allows himself to be joined by the Leopard , the Moon Witch Sogolon, the perfidious Nyka, and others. As they move through the Darklands and subsequent fraught territories toward the Southern Kingdom, they encounter witches and demons, flesh-eating trolls, splendidly dressed mercenaries, vampires, necromancers, ancient griots, and a wise, magisterial buffalo. References to harsh pansexual encounters often shift events forward, and the entire story is framed as a tale told to an inquisitor, though we are a long way from understanding from whence he came—this is the first in the “Dark Star” trilogy. VERDICT As the Tracker realizes, “The only way forward is through,” and it’s the same for readers. Highly recommended for fantasy lovers who welcome a grand new challenge, as James launches an unglorified if gloriously delivered story that feels eminently real despite the hobgoblins, and for literary readers, eager to see the world—and James’s particular talents—in a new light. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/18; Editors’ Spring Picks, p. 22.] –Barbara Hoffert (Reviewed 02/01/2019) (Library Journal, vol 144, issue 2, p68)
Shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize, Anglo-Nigerian writer Evaristo’s (Mr. Loverman, 2014) courageous and intersectional novel explores Black British identity and unfolds in a single night, or over the course of 100 years, depending on how readers look at it. It opens with the story of Amma, a formerly fringe, lesbian playwright whose newest work, The Last Amazon of Dahomey, opens tonight at London’s National Theatre. Her daughter, Yazz, uber-confident thanks to Amma’s emotionally affirming parenting, goes next, followed by Dominique, Amma’s longtime friend and one-time partner in artistic consciousness- and hell-raising. Following chapters expand the novel’s web three characters at a time (a table of contents lists their names, but it’s exciting to be surprised by the revelation of who will take center stage) until there are 12: 11 women and 1 nonbinary person. Evaristo uses minimal punctuation and fluid paragraphs for a high-velocity style of exposition. And, oh, what is exposed. Hearing from mothers and their children, teachers and their students across generations, readers might expect that they’ll get to see just what these characters can’t know about one another, but they won’t imagine the dazzling specificities nor the unspooling dramas; they will be entertained, educated, and riveted. — Annie Bostrom (Reviewed 11/1/2019) (Booklist, vol 116, number 5, p17)
Nor Iftin’s experience was the “gory terrorism” of Mogadishu, Somalia, the setting of Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down. His pastoral parents retreated to the city when drought decimated their herds. A brief period of prosperity soon descended into warfare with Islamic terrorist activity infiltrating the city and affection for American ways endangering one’s life. Nicknamed “Abdi American ,” the author had a love of Western movies that was dangerous. He quickly parlayed that affinity into learning English fluently and met reporter Paul Salopek, who featured him in a 2009 Atlantic article. Opportunities for public radio reporting generated American connections that finally led him to resettle in Maine. While focusing on his life in Somalia, the horror and tribulations of his family become explicit. Sadly, the volume ends with President Trump’s stance on immigration, which prevents Nor Iftin from visiting his family in Somalia and them from joining him in America. VERDICT A harrowing success story of escaping terrorism, overcoming government bureaucracy, and experiencing pure luck, this insightful debut yields an inside look at a largely forgotten conflict that continues to rage. –Jessica Bushore (Reviewed 05/01/2018) (Library Journal, vol 143, issue 8, p72)
Serpell’s debut is a rich, complex saga of three intertwined families over the course of more than a century. The epic stretches out from a single violent encounter: in the early 20th century, a British colonialist adopts North-western Rhodesia (now Zambia) as his home, settling in the Old Drift , a settlement near Victoria Falls, where the colonist gets into a fateful skirmish with a local hotelier. After this, readers first meet Sibilla, the hotelier’s granddaughter, a woman born with hair covering her body, who runs away to Africa with a man who frequents the wealthy Italian estate at which her mother is a servant; then, in England, there’s Agnes, the colonialist’s granddaughter, a rich white girl and talented tennis player who goes blind and falls in love with a student who, unbeknownst to her, is black; and Matha, the servant’s granddaughter, a spirited prodigy who joins a local radical’s avant-garde activism. In part two, Agnes’s son, Lionel, has an affair with Matha’s daughter, which leads to a confrontation that also involves Naila, Sibilla’s granddaughter. Serpell expertly weaves in a preponderance of themes, issues, and history, including Zambia’s independence, the AIDS epidemic, white supremacy, patriarchy, familial legacy, and the infinite variations of lust and love. Recalling the work of Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez as a sometimes magical, sometimes horrifically real portrait of a place, Serpell’s novel goes into the future of the 2020s, when the various plot threads come together in a startling conclusion. Intricately imagined, brilliantly constructed, and staggering in its scope, this is an astonishing novel. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Mar.) –Staff (Reviewed 01/07/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 1, p)
Renowned historian David McCullough once addressed the graduating seniors of Wesleyan University and said, “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” If you’re looking for titles that explores the past to help understand the present, here is a list of recently published history books you can borrow now.
This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman
What it’s about: the complex 50-year alliance between the Wampanoag tribe and European colonizers that ended with King Philip’s War, a three-year conflict that almost completely annihilated the Wampanoag.
Why you might like it: Thisimpassioned narrative centers the Wampanoag people’s experiences, offering insights into why the alliance was brokered and how the tribe persisted in the face of devastation.
Don’t miss: profiles of Wampanoag activists, including Frank James (1923-2001), who established the National Day of Mourning in 1970.
The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era by Gareth Russell
What it is: an extensively researched, evocatively detailed account of the Titanic‘s fateful voyage as experienced by six first-class passengers.
Featuring: Lucy Leslie, Countess of Rothes, who rowed a lifeboat full of passengers to safety; Jewish American immigrant Ida Strauss, who chose to die with her husband rather than board a lifeboat without him.
Don’t miss: Author Gareth Russell’s debunking of many of the popular conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the ship’s sinking.
Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid
What it is: a heart-wrenching exposé on British Columbia’s Highway 16, known as the “Highway of Tears” because of the disappearances or murders of many Indigenous girls and women in the area.
Why it matters: Journalist Jessica McDiarmid’s “powerful must-read” (Booklist) illuminates how these unsolved and under-reported crimes are a microcosm of the systemic forces that continue to fail vulnerable Indigenous populations throughout Canada.
Broke: Hardship & Resilience in a City of Broken Promises by Jodie Adams Kirshner, foreword by Michael Eric Dyson
What it is: an eye-opening portrait of Detroit, Michigan following the city’s 2013 bankruptcy filing.
What’s inside: profiles of seven Detroit citizens trying to make a better life while facing poverty, urban blight, and government negligence.
Try this next: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (and Detroit native) Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy similarly surveys the lives of everyday citizens navigating the Motor City’s tumultuous changes.