The library is open again (with limited services, as you can see here); some people are comfortable coming in, while others still want to limit their time in public places. So I’ve put together a little list of some popular new books that are available either in print or as eBooks through Hoopla.
The advantage of Hoopla, of course, is that there’s no waitlist even on popular new titles like these (as long as you haven’t hit your borrowing limit for the month); on the other hand, some people think the feel of a physical book in your hand is worth waiting for.
Descriptions below are taken from either Hoopla or our catalog.
My social life has taken a pretty sharp decline since I’ve gone into quarantine. Being home more has given me a bit of a push to reevaluate my reading pile. I’ve sifted through the books that have piled up around my home to find some that I thought others might be interested in as well.
Carl Zimmer was one of the authors that I read for a few classes at university. He’s a writer that can take relatively dry science topics, like evolution, and make them engaging for every degree of reader. Near the end of my undergraduate education, I found an interest in virus-host coevolution and tried to find books on viruses. I stupidly didn’t take a microbiology class due to initially thinking microbes were boring. I need to note that this particular book has been in my pile for a few years, but it has taken on new relevance.
Sick of spaceships? Toured pseudo-medieval Europe too often? Try these 6 science fiction & fantasy stories from black authors. You’ll find yourself anywhere from a magical version of modern Nigeria to a post-apocalyptic Brazil. With expansive worlds and fresh perspectives, these books can freshen up any sci-fi or fantasy reader’s bookshelf.
If N.K. Jemisin’s deluge of accolades and unprecedented three consecutive Hugos aren’t enough to persuade you to pick up The Fifth Season, perhaps a violent world of regular nigh-apocalyptic cataclysms and a earth-shattering mage on a far-ranging quest of vengeance to save her kidnapped daughter will entice you.
Juneteenth, commemorated on June 19th, is the annual celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people. Established in Texas in 1865, Juneteenth celebrations often take the shape of backyard cookouts and community-wide activities. This year’s celebration, against the backdrop of massive world-wide demonstrations protesting disproportionate police brutality against black people, seems especially important to commemorate.
Since social distancing is still best practice this summer, that rules out fun cookouts with lots of communal food. So, in lieu of that, I decided to commemorate Juneteenth by educating myself about the history of racism in the United States, and by celebrating Black Excellence.
Smithsonian Magazine published an excellent article entitled 158 Resources to Understand Racism in America, available free online. The resources are linked throughout the article and provide deep contextualization on how slavery and subsequent systemic inequality are still impacting black people today. This will be an invaluable touchstone for anyone who wants to do the work of calling out their racist friends and relatives while working towards dismantling white supremacy.
Learn More About Juneteenth
I’m white, and I will admit I only learned about Juneteenth a few years ago. Thank goodness for the internet, which fills in gaps I didn’t know I had, without relying on the intellectual labor of oppressed populations. TheJuneteenth National Registry is a great place to start learning about the history of the holiday.
There are tons of fabulous resources online that list ways to celebrate Black Excellence, such as THIS LIST I found on the Texas Tech University webpage. Also, launching on June 19th is the Juneteenth Book Festival which “seeks to use this day of jubilation to boost and celebrate Black American stories and the people behind them”. Subscribe to the YouTube channel to watch at your convenience.
Speaking more locally, Mead has access to myriad resources both online and off to help celebrate and elevate Black Excellence. Kanopy offered a list of Black Lives Matter videos that I wrote about in my last blog post. In addition to that, Kanopy has assembled a list of films highlighting pioneering black filmmakers. This list includes Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, which is regarded as the daddy of blaxploitation films. It’s worth a watch as a cultural time capsule as well as a fascinating example of independent film making. If camp and violence are not your style, and you haven’t already seen it, please take advantage of Kanopy’s inclusion of Moonlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017. This is easily one of the most beautiful and moving films I have ever seen in my life and I can’t say enough about it.
Not in the mood to watch a movie? Hop on to Overdrive, click “Subjects” and select “African American Fiction”. This will lead to a list that can be narrowed down by genre. I love mysteries so I added Walter Mosley’s Trouble is What I Do to my list of holds. Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins series, which starts withDevil in a Blue Dress, but the newer Leonid McGill series is fantastic, too. You’ll love these books if you enjoy hard-boiled detective fiction. No matter which is your preferred genre, the list of African-American-penned literature on Overdrive is worth exploring.
Do you still own a CD player? Mead has a huge selection of music on CD for home use. Pick up Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning albumDAMN and see what all the fuss is about. Fear of a Black Planetby Public Enemy came out 30 years ago but remains as vital and relevant as ever. If you’re not familiar with this devastating and, frankly, polarizing album, there is no time like the present to take a listen. More recently, Run the Jewels is the direct descendant of Public Enemy’s socially conscious and politically charged catalog. I loveRun the Jewels 2, and 3, but honestly there isn’t a dud in their repertoire. If swear words offend you, oops oh well. Hip hop music is arguably one of the most authentic expressions of the black experience and deserves respect and understanding as an art form. Did I mention Kendrick Lamar won a freakin’ PULITZER PRIZE???
Want to go to church without leaving the house? Get a copy of Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace IMMEDIATELY. It was filmed over two days at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in January 1972, but was only released on DVD for the first time last year. Aretha is backed by Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir to devastating effect. If you can watch the title track and not tear up a little bit I assert you are an inhuman robot not in possession of a soul.
Obviously, I am not an authority on the above art forms and only really scratched the barest surface. My appreciation for authors, musicians, and film makers of color only grows because I intentionally seek out diverse media-makers. Black Excellence is not hard to find once one starts looking for it, and I can only hope my post encourages fearless exploration outside white comfort zones.
I would love to hear from you. Which books, music, and movies by black makers are you excited about? Do you need help using Overdrive, Kanopy, or any other Mead virtual resource? Drop us a line: email@example.com. I’m wishing everyone a happy Juneteenth and a fruitful journey toward anti-racist allyship and true racial equity.
School is out and summer vacation is upon us! This is a great time for kids to read for pleasure and also to keep up with the reading skills they worked hard to develop during the school year. If you have a new reader transitioning into reading chapter books, I have some early chapter book series suggestions for you. Early chapter books are written for readers that are still building up their reading stamina, and include stories with illustrations and short chapters. Click on the links below if you are interested in reading more about the individual books in these series and would like to reserve a copy from our catalog.
This series is written like a diary with chapters for each daily entry. The short text and colorful illustrations will appeal to beginning readers. A young owl named Eva records her daily experiences in her diary. Readers will enjoy following Eva’s life as she learns valuable lessons in these easy-to-ready books with high-interest stories.
The Bad Guys want to do good things in this funny series that flips the script on these normally bad characters. With short text and fun illustrations, even reluctant readers will enjoy the hilarious situations these bad guys get into as they set out on their missions to be heroes.
Ask most people and they will tell you they are not racist. Perhaps you’ve seen this Angela Davis quote floating around social media lately: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” But what do we mean when we say “anti-racist”? Anti-racism is acknowledging the oppression of people of color while engaging in the active fight against that oppression. We’ve all watched anti-racist action over the past week take the shape of world-wide protests against the continued disproportionate abuse of black bodies by American law enforcement officials. It’s harrowing, inspiring, confusing, emotional, and polarizing. The protests are already proving invaluable to drive change for equality among lawmakers.
So, maybe you’re not ready to join in a public protest. Maybe you have questions about what it means to be an anti-racist ally in the fight against oppression. The good news is, educating yourself is an important facet of anti-racism. If you’re not ready to dive into the work of Ibram X. Kendi, or Robin DiAngelo, fear not. Once again, my favorite video-streaming service, Kanopy, is here with the goods. A curated collection of movies and series related to Black Lives Matter is linked on the Kanopy home page. It’s a fabulous list, but it’s also overwhelming. Below, I listed four films and series that will help you start or continue your journey towards anti-racist allyship.
I am Not Your Negro (2017; Directed by Raoul Peck)
James Baldwin died in 1987, but his words still ring true 30 years later. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this Oscar-nominated documentary examines Baldwin’s last and unfinished book project by connecting the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the present-day Black Lives Matter movement. James Baldwin is one of the finest minds of the 20th century and watching him speak is hypnotic. Baldwin is a really important and moving author, so getting your hands on his work is beyond worthwhile. Take a look at his work available through Monarch HERE. Reading The Fire Next Time and Go Tell It On the Mountain were pivotal moments in my own anti-racist journey when I was going through college. Don’t have internet access? Get a copy of I am Not Your Negro on DVD HERE.
America After Ferguson (2014; directed by Max Schindler and featuring Gwen Ifill)
I love Gwen Ifill. She is one of the smartest people working in news broadcasting today, so I was pleased to see America After Ferguson, which she hosts and moderates, available on Kanopy. This is a great starting point for people who are curious about Black Lives Matter but don’t know where to begin gathering information.
This film centers around the life and work of retired law enforcement official William “Dub” Lawrence, the founder of modern SWAT teams. His son would eventually be shot to death by a SWAT team 30 years after their inception. Lawrence’s subsequent investigation into the incident and others like it leads him to believe the death of his son, and so many other SWAT victims, were preventable. Watch this if you want to learn more about the alarming militarization of American police and why it has created a deadly disconnect between law enforcement and our citizenry.
Copwatch: An Organization Dedicated to Filming the Police (2017; directed by Camilla Hall)
Who polices the police? This documentary examines the reactionary formation of WeCopWatch, which sprang-to hot on the heels of the unjust deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown. Director Camilla Hall describes her film as “a plea for humanity. A plea to look out for each other; to look out for your neighbor. To not walk by when something terrible is happening to somebody else and taking that active decision to look out for one another.” Watch this to get a deeper sense of the sorrow and anger people feel on a national level while trying to hold law enforcement officers accountable.
Honestly, these picks will probably make you uncomfortable. They will probably bum you out. Racism and inequality SHOULD make you feel uncomfortable. Learning anti-racism is an ongoing, fraught process. You’ll make mistakes and sometimes feel like garbage and that is okay. I would love to hear which Kanopy-curated BLM material you have been watching, whether you have found it enlightening, and why or why not. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, we are always here to help you find the high-quality literature, articles, and other media you will require on your anti-racist journey.
The weather is finally starting to warm up. That means soon that we’ll be able to start growing gardens! I haven’t ever planted a proper vegetable garden before, so I found some books that sounded helpful. I’ve included the book’s description under each title.
“There is nothing more regionally specific than vegetable gardening—what to plant, when to plant it, and when to harvest are decisions based on climate, weather, and first frost. The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest, by regional expert Michael VanderBrug, focuses on the unique eccentricities of the Midwest gardening calendar. The month-by-month format makes it perfect for beginners and accessible to everyone—gardeners can start gardening the month they pick it up. Perfect for home gardeners in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.”
Known for expressing her wit and social commentary through her characters, Jane Austen is a staple of classrooms and beloved by many. But for readers new to Austen, the language can feel challenging and lots of sneaky jokes get lost along the way. (Consider: a character preaching about the importance of frugality while renting the carriage equivalent of an Audi.) Modern retellings can reframe those jokes in a way that doesn’t require extensive knowledge of 1800s British customs, or offer a fresh take for those who know Austen’s works well. For longtime Austen fans and newcomers alike, here are 6 adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels.
The Austen Project: Emma by Alexander McCall Smith & Eligble by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Austen Project brings Jane Austen into the present day. Eligible imagines Elizabeth as a writer for a magazine and Jane as a yoga instructor in New York. After their father has a health scare, the daughters return to their childhood city of Cincinnati to find the home in disrepair and a mother determined to marry off Jane before her 40th birthday.
In Emma, the titular character returns home from university to start her career in interior design. While she plans to get her business off the ground, she uses her free time to offer guidance to those she deems less wise in the ways of the world than she is – and she includes nearly everyone in Highbury in that tally.
Most years, we’d be approaching E3 season. That may be canceled, but there are a few games that I’m looking forward to that have already been announced. I’m sure as announcements trickle in that there will be more games that I’ll look forward to, but we’ll start with these.
As much as I love a good story, I’m a sucker for an open-world RPG. This one has piqued my interest because it’s not the usual shooter or fantasy RPG. It’s tough to say from the gameplay they’ve shown how much variety there will be for what you can do. So far, it’s eating things and swimming through beautiful aquatic scenery. I suspect that’s why the game is cheaper than most games upon release, but I still want to try it.