Credits

Welcoming Week 2021

Selected Book List

Against The Loveless World:  A Novel by Susan Abulhawa:   2020 Palestine Book Awards Winner 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize Finalist

Susan Abulhawa tells the story of Nahr, a Palestinian young woman who grows up in Kuwait, is forced to leave for political reasons, and endures many trials in her quest for a good life.  The difficult geopolitical situation of the Palestinian is beautifully told in this compelling novel.  

Americanah by Chimanandah Ngozie Adichie:  The story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who are each other’s childhood sweethearts in Nigeria, and their lives after leaving for America and London respectively.  This book explores questions of authenticity, love, race and identity.  This is a coming of Age Novel by an Orange Prize Winning author.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez: The first adult novel in almost fifteen years by the internationally bestselling author of “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents”.  This novel explores issues of sisterhood, aging, immigrant identity and mental illness.  

Create Dangerously:  The Immigrant Artist At Work by Edwidge Danticat: Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat’s belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy.

The Kitchen Without Borders:  Recipes And Stories From Refugee And Immigrant Chefs by Eat Offbeat Chefs: Eat Offbeat is a catering company in New York founded by a brother and sister who came to New York from the Middle East.  The company is staffed by immigrants and refugees who came to this country to have a good life.  This book is filled with stories and recipes from the chefs who come from different countries around the world.   

In The Country We Love:  My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero: The star of Orange Is The New Black has written a beautiful story of the life of her immigrant family in America.

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi: An Afghan American woman returns home to Kabul, the place where her family was slaughtered, to come to terms with her past.  

At The End Of The Century:  The Stories Of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala by Ruth Prawer: JhabvalaNew York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice   

Man Booker Prize winning author Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, writes beautifully about English and Indian culture, immigration, life, the blending of cultures. Each short story is self contained like a novel.

The Stationery Shop by Marian Kamali:   Political upheaval in Tehran separates a couple who were planning to marry.  Sixty years later, Roya, who has started a new life for herself in California, will meet Bahman, and hopefully find some answers to what happened on that fateful day.

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya LalliRaina: Anand’s grandmother wants to play matchmaker but Raina is not liking this one bit.  Can she stop this parade of awful blind dates without hurting her grandmother’s feelings?

The Beekeeper Of Aleppo by Christy Leftero: Winner of The Aspen Worlds Literary Prize. 

A beekeeper and his wife are forced to leave their peaceful life in Aleppo in wartime.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli: Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence.  Longlisted for the Booker Prize.

A troubled family on a cross country journey from New York to Arizona; Apacheria, which the Apaches once called home.  They come across migrant children coming from Mexico.  This book contains a melding of inner and outer landscapes.

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood: Anwar Faris is fifteen years old in Pakistan in 1995.  Due to the rise of Fundamentalism, his parents decide to move to California.  Anwa will later meet Safwa, who is leaving war torn Baghdad.  The novel focuses on the tension between being devout and not, coming to America, and the relationship between Anwa and Safwa.

Behold The Dreamers:  A Novel by Imbolo Mbue: This is a novel about a young Cameroonian couple making a life in New York just as the Great Recession hits.

This Land Is Our Land:  An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketo Mehta: Mehta explains to us why the west is not being destroyed by immigrants but by the fear of immigrants.  He explains why immigrants are on the move these days; civil strife and climate change are the main reasons.

The Ungrateful Refugee:  What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri: A book that mixes the author’s experience leaving Iran with her family and eventually coming to America with that of other immigrants to the United States.  

A Woman Is No Man:  A Novel by Etaf Rum:  This novel takes us through three generations of Palestinian women; two born in Palestine, one born in the United States.  The author explores the changing values of the generations, and the hopes and dreams of the strong women portrayed in this novel.

The Cooking Gene:  A Journey Through African American Cooking In The Old South  byMichael Twitty: This book is written by a culinary historian who discusses genealogy, slavery , recipes, the meaning of food and so much more.  The melding of race, culture, tradition, and DNA are all part of this journey through the old south of today and yesterday.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for fiction. This book is a letter from a son to his mother who can not read.  The book explores the history of a family rooted in Vietnam and the journey to America.  Questions of identity, history and immigration are explored in this award winning book.

A Door In The Earth by Amy Waldman: This novel explores complicated truths within the United States’ war in Afghanistan.

Migrants by Issa Watanabe: This beautifully illustrated wordless book is good for all ages. The migrants within its pages are represented by animals who must cross the sea. All who read this book will feel for the plight of the migrants as they make their way to safety.

The Dispossessed:  A Story Of Asylum And The U.S. Border And Beyond by John Washington: One man’s saga of seeking asylum, his separation from his daughter.  This book explores the whys of migration and the fact that this is really a stateless world as we are all suffering from the effects of climate change and global injustice.

Crying In H Mart:  A Memoir by Michelle Zauner: Please have a handkerchief ready in case you laugh so much that you cry or cry so much that you laugh when you read this memoir.  A beautiful story of the daughter of a Korean immigrant and an American, her struggle to find an identity, the importance of her mother and of food in her life.  The Korean recipes will make you hungry so be sure to have some snacks on hand.  Recommended for anyone who has ever had a mother and a father and anyone who feels that food is an important part of our life.

Staff Reads August/September 2021

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Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Debora:

  • Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho: I’m on a bit of a mission to educate myself about systemic racism and my own white privilege. Acho’s book is super readable and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to begin their own journey of confronting racism. He writes with clarity and compassion. Some examples of his points that really jumped out at me: we’re living in an America that necessitated the Black Lives Matter movement; racism is a pandemic; conversations are an important part of the cure; getting uncomfortable is the point; white privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, but rather your skin color hasn’t contributed to the difficulties in your life. Acho also has a website Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man with short videos where he has conversations about racism with a variety of people, which I also recommend.
  • How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: Kendi takes on the system we live in with this book and invites each of us to do our part to tear it down. I really liked the way he weaves his personal history into the narrative and emphasizes that it isn’t enough to be not racist, but rather we all have to be actively anti-racist. More than once, my mind was blown by his analysis. For example, he explains that racism isn’t the result of ignorance or hate, but rather self-interest. Racist policies are put in place by white policymakers and then racism is used to justify those policies. Essentially, racism is a problem of power. It’s the kind of turning on its head concept that was so engaging throughout the book. That said, it’s not an easy to read book. It took time, concentration, and commitment to power through – and he also speaks to that when he says that being an anti-racist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: This novel was a wonderful example of how a skilled author transports readers through worldbuilding. Gilbert creates the character of Vivian, now 95 years old, as she tells her story of living in the 1940s New York City theater world with her Aunt Peg. Vivian’s voice is smart and often funny and completely unapologetic as she recounts her sexual adventures, late nights with her new showgirl friend, and the life-changing mistake that flattens her and sends her home to upstate New York. It did run long – almost 500 pages – but was worth it.
  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys: Wow. This was a truly amazing historic fiction read. Set in 1957 Madrid, during the dictatorship of General Franco, the main character is 18 year old Texan Daniel Matheson, who is visitng with his oil tycoon parents, just as Spain has reopened to American tourists. Daniel’s love – and skill – is photography and he learns quickly that he needs to be very careful about what he takes pictures of because the dreaded Guardia Civil soldiers are always watching. Daniel meets and falls in love with hotel employee Ana, who lives with her siblings in a one room shack on the outskirts of the city. The novel is interspersed with oral history reports and media excerpts documenting the horrors of living under Franco’s authoritarian rule. It’s a gripping story.

Kim

Deb

  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, narrated by the author: This memoir is very reminiscent of Educated and Hillbilly Elegy. This tells the story of a family with an alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother, their children and their life on the move. The resilience of kids growing up in some seriously unstable conditions and circumstances is quite astounding.
  • Fly Away by Kristin Hannah: This is #2 in the Firefly Lane series. It’s the continuing story that picks up immediately after the ending of the first one. It leans toward chick-lit. It was fine. The first in the series was better, but it was enjoyable enough. If you like historical fiction, Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale or The Great Alone are fantastic!
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, narrated by Dion Graham: This is the prequel to teen fiction The Hate U Give, and describes the backstory before the characters in THUG are born. It follows Maverick Carter, a 17 year old guy flirting with gang life and responsibility.
  • Sea Wife by Amity Gaige, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Will Damron: This was a decent novel of a couple and their 2 kids who scrap land life in Connecticut for a year on a sailboat in the Caribbean. While less ominous, it does unfold mysteriously in a Gone Girl kinda way with dual narrators telling the story, each from their own perspective. It was a good story and it wraps up and then the actual ending is so random. It would have been cleaner if it ended 20 minutes sooner, in my opinion.
  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon, narrated by Elena Garnu: This is a novel of teen fiction that tells the story of a High-school aged Latina named Liliana who participates in the METCO program between Boston and “Westburg”. She tells of her trials and tribulations at a new school where she is a minority and talks about her parents’ struggles with immigration. Liliana is a likable and empathetic character and she gives great perspective throughout the story. Quite enjoyable.

Ashley

  • We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin: I love a gothic, atmospheric mystery, and I could not put this one down. I was completely surprised by the twist in the middle, even though I felt like I shouldn’t have been, and stayed up late reading to the end.
  • More Than Fluff by Valentine Madeline: This is the cutest little picture book about a duckling who is so fluffy everyone wants to hug, squeeze and pet it. We learn about consent in an adorable fashion.
  • Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly Whittemore: Another gothic mystery, told in the present as well as flashbacks to our protagonist’s time with a cult in rural Maine as a child. She did something bad all those years ago, and it has come back to haunt her. What did she do? And why does someone care so much now?
  • What’s Done in Darkness by Laura McHugh: A young girl is kidnapped from her fundamentalist religious cult, and when she is let go, no one believes her. Now as an adult, other girls are missing, and an investigator asks for her help. THis was an excellent mystery with great characters.
  • The 2000s Made Me Gay: Essays on Pop Culture by Grace Perry: Unfortunately, I’m just enough older than the author that even though we’re both “Millenials” I was in college by the time she was in high school, so we don’t really have the same pop culture touchstones. Most of the shows she watched and referenced as being formative in her experiences growing up and coming out were popular with young teens when I was already an “adult’. I was looking forward to reading and reminiscing about pop culture from my youth, but I found myself not caring or engaging when most of the essays focused around shows I didn’t watch like Gossip Girl and The OC.
  • Unpregnant on HBO Max: I watched this on a flight from Seattle, and besides the fact the teenagers were played by actors in their mid twenties…. It was surprisingly good. It was cute with fun and quirky supporting characters and you could tell it was written by women.

Louise

  • The Very Best of the Best: 35 years Of The Year’s Best Science Fiction Edited by Gardner Dozois: Gardner Dozois won the Hugo Award for best professional editor fifteen times in seventeen years. This book really does contain the best of the best. Every story is a work of art and, although I have not quite finished the full collection, I have not encountered one story that I did not like, that I chose to skip over. This is a great book to read if you want some really beautifully executed short stories that will each leave you satisfied and glad that you had Gardner Dozois as your editor.
  • Blindsight by Peter Watts: This is a really rollicking ride with a very interesting space crew. There is a vampire in charge, a woman who has four distinct persons sharing her body, and a narrator whose brain has been altered so that he has some rather superhuman mental prowess but has lost some of his humanness as a result. Don’t get me started on the aliens. Yikes. I really enjoyed this novel and plan to read more by Peter Watts. I do not plan on going to outer space with a vampire at the helm, however.
  • Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge: This is such a beautiful novel. If you are looking for lyrical, well researched, historical fiction with a strong female main character, look no further. Kaitlyn Greenidge based Libertie and her mother on Susan Smith Mckinney Steward, the first black female doctor in New York State whose daughter married the son of an Episcopal bishop from Haiti. Libertie’s hometown is based on the real nineteenth century community of Weeksville, a town of free blacks in Brooklyn.
  • Migrants by Issa Watanabe: This is a wordless picture book that tells the story of migrants. They are portrayed as animals and the illustrations are gorgeous. This book is classified as a children’s book, but I think anybody will be the richer for experiencing its pages. The animals are sympathetic characters and they are risking their lives crossing the ocean just as migrants do every day. I think that this book is beautiful and healing and I recommend this to anybody who wants to be wowed by the power of illustration to tell a story.
  • Rx: A Graphic Memoir by Rachel Lindsay: This autobiographical memoir tells of Rachel Lindsay’s conundrum when she gets a corporate job to help pay her health insurance so that she can pay for her prescriptions. Rachel is diagnosed as bipolar and finds herself assigned to the Pristiq pharmaceutical account. This is a medication that she herself has taken. She feels very uncomfortable in this position. In her heart of hearts, she wants to be an illustrator. The discomfort builds and Rachel struggles to come to terms with her truth in this graphic novel. This is a quick read and a good one.
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: I came late to this classic graphic novel about Marjane’s life growing up in Iran. I can not say enough good things about this book. This is a novel of a lovely family and the difficulties that they face under the repressive regime in Iran. Marjane literally paints the picture for us and I basically could not put this book down. Wonderful drawings, compelling story and a lovable main character make for a fabulous read.
  • A Lot Like Christmas: An Expanded, Updated Edition of Connie Willis’ Miracle And Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis: Anybody tired of all of the news lately? Need an escape? Some humor? Some magic? A few hilarious aliens? This is the book for you. I am not a huge fan of Christmas stories per se but this book is so much fun! Connie Willis is a science fiction writer but she is more like the science fiction of I Dream of Jeannie (remember that show?) because her stories are light, funny, and often, very romantic. This is like a bunch of little romcoms with a light sci-fi twist. Sheer delight!
  • Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Even the title of this memoir is beautiful. Michelle Zauner, lead singer of the band Japanese Breakfast, is an amazing writer. The book celebrates her mother, her Korean heritage, and the love that can sustain us in life. You will get hungry because Michelle describes food in great vivid detail and she also tells us about grief. Please note that this book does deal with illness and death and if this is not something that you want to read about, please see my Connie Willis recommendation above.

Laura

  • Beth and Amy by Virginia Kantra: I liked this modern retelling of Little Women about the two March sisters who, in my opinion, are given short shrift in terms of character development in the original novel. This was a pleasant surprise after I had mixed feelings about the first book, Meg and Jo.
  • Happy Endings by Thien Kim-Lam: This inclusive second chance romance is very sex positive and a lot of fun.
  • Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original edited by Sara Franklin: I became aware of Edna Lewis after reading Michael Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene and I’m embarrassed that it took me that long. Lewis was born in Freetown, Virginia, which was founded by Black families freed from slavery and was instrumental in awareness of soul food as well as the food to table movement. This collection of essays really highlights a woman who should be as well known as Julia Child.
  • Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Beautiful and detailed memoir of Michelle and her complicated relationship with her mother, who is dying of cancer. This started out as a piece for The New Yorker which will give you an idea of the book as a whole.
  • Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn: I finally finished the novels about the core family.
    • On the Way to the Wedding: The second youngest sibling, Gregory, finally gets his moment to shine as he romances Lucy. I was pleased that Katherine from my favorite book in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me played a large role in this one. (And will be in the upcoming season of the show.) The second epilogue was a tad dark compared to the other epilogues, though it does have a happy ending.
    • The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After: This is mainly just a collection of the second epilogues that appear in later editions of the books so I was already familiar with most of them. However, it was great to finally hear/read the second epilogues of To Sir Phillip with Love and When He Was Wicked. Francesca, the heroine, of the latter, barely gets any time in the other novels so it was nice to have her front and center once again. Matriarch Violet Bridgerton also gets her own story in this collection.
  • Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley Ford: Compelling, sad, and hopeful, this memoir by a noted magazine is a quick but tough read. At the start of the book, Ford learns that her father who has been incarcerated most of her life, is getting released which serves a starting point for remembering her childhood and her relationships, most notably with her mother. I definitely recommend Ford’s interview on NPR for more context.
  • Black Widow: I mainly enjoyed this movie which gives a bit more backstory to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff and am excited about the future of Florence Pugh’s Yelena. I just can’t help wishing that it came up before Avengers: Endgame
  • The Love Boat: This actually isn’t the first time that I’ve mentioned this show in this column, but I am binge watching it for the first time in 6-7 years. Believe me when I say that a lot of this hasn’t aged well though I was surprised that there were some (and I do mean some) story lines that were progressive for its time. The news being what it’s been, The Love Boat has been comfort food for my brain and I actually like the relationships between the core characters (at least in the first seven seasons.) Also this interview with the original cast on Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s Stars in the House, streamed only three months before Gavin Macleod passed away, is probably one of the sweetest reunion interviews I’ve ever seen. (And being the retro TV fan that I am, I watch a lot of those types of reunions.)

Welcoming Week at Waltham Public Library

Lee abajo en español

Waltham Public Library joins libraries across Massachusetts in celebrating Welcoming Week, part of nonprofit Welcoming America‘s nationwide call to “bring together neighbors of all backgrounds to build strong connections and affirm the importance of welcoming and inclusive places in achieving collective prosperity.” The annual celebration takes place this year from Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 19.

Welcoming Week aligns with Waltham Public Library’s mission to “provide[s] the city’s multi-ethnic, economically diverse population with popular informational, recreational and educational library resources, and services” and to “make those resources accessible to all with friendliness and efficiency.”

In recognition of Welcoming Week, we will:

  • offer an outdoor program “Haitian Folk Dance for Everyone with Jean Appollon” on Wednesday, September 15 at 5:30PM
  • share a Welcoming Week booklist on our blog 
  • feature a display of titles that joyfully reflect our multicultural, multilingual Waltham community
  • provide citizenship and Know Your Rights materials in our Literacy Classroom
  • highlight our world languages collection and Library ELL programs
  • let patrons know about Library staff who speak or are learning languages other than English

Additionally, our Children’s Department will:

  • feature books of welcome and inclusion in our Picture Book section
  • promote our world languages collection, Launchpads, and Wonderbooks in other languages on social media
  • share Welcoming Week content on Instagram including a welcome song in multiple languages, “The More We Get Together” in Sign Language, and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Arabic and English
  • feature Welcoming Week themes in our virtual programs (PJ Storytime, Mother Goose on the Loose, and Baby Storytime)
  • offer a Welcoming Week challenge for Lego Club on September 15

Beyond programming, we rededicate ourselves this week to the ongoing responsibility of listening and learning from our whole community. American poet Langston Hughes once wrote about the power of readers and dreamers who help “make our world anew.” Whether you are new to the Library, or revisiting us with new perspective in this extraordinary time, Waltham Public Library invites you to share our work to make this a welcoming, safe, and vital space for everyone. Like Hughes, we “reach out our dreams to you.”

~Aaron Devine, Literacy Coordinator


La Semana de Bienvenida en la biblioteca pública de Waltham

La Biblioteca Pública de Waltham se une a las bibliotecas de Massachusetts para celebrar la Semana de Bienvenida, parte del llamado nacional de Welcoming America para <<reunir a vecinos de todos los orígenes para construir conexiones sólidas y afirmar la importancia de lugares acogedores e inclusivos para lograr la prosperidad colectiva>>. La celebración anual se lleva a cabo este año desde el viernes 10 de septiembre hasta el domingo 19 de septiembre.

La Semana de Bienvenida se alinea con la misión de la Biblioteca Pública de Waltham de <<proporcionar a la población multiétnica y económicamente diversa de la ciudad recursos y servicios bibliotecarios informativos, recreativos y educativos populares>> y <<hacer que esos recursos sean accesibles para todos con amabilidad y eficiencia.>>

En reconocimiento a la Semana de Bienvenida, planeamos:

  • ofrecer un programa al aire libre <<Danza folclórica haitiana para todos con Jean Appollon>> el miércoles 15 de septiembre a las 5:30 p.m.
  • compartir una lista de libros de la Semana de Bienvenida en nuestro blog
  • presentar una exhibición de títulos que reflejan alegremente Waltham multicultural y multilingüe
  • proporcionar materiales sobre ciudadanía y conocer sus derechos en nuestro Literacy Classroom
  • destacar nuestra colección de idiomas del mundo y los programas ELL de la biblioteca
  • informar a los usuarios sobre el personal de la biblioteca que habla o está aprendiendo otros idiomas además del inglés

Además, nuestro Departamento de Niños va a:

  • Presentar libros de bienvenida e inclusión en nuestra sección de Libros de imágenes.
  • Promocionar nuestra colección de idiomas del mundo, Launchpads y Wonderbooks en otros idiomas en las redes sociales.
  • compartir el contenido de la Semana de Bienvenida en Instagram, incluida una canción de bienvenida en varios idiomas, “Cuanto más nos juntamos” en lenguaje de señas y “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” en árabe e inglés.
  • incluir temas de la Semana de Bienvenida en nuestros programas virtuales (PJ Storytime, Mother Goose on the Loose y Baby Storytime)
  • ofrecer un desafío de la Semana de Bienvenida para Lego Club el 15 de septiembre

Más allá de la programación, esta semana nos dedicamos nuevamente a la responsabilidad continua de escuchar y aprender de toda nuestra comunidad. El poeta estadounidense Langston Hughes escribió una vez sobre el poder de los lectores y soñadores que ayudan a <<hacer nuestro mundo de nuevo>>. Ya sea que sea nuevo en la biblioteca o que vuelva a visitarnos con una nueva perspectiva en este momento extraordinario, la biblioteca pública de Waltham lo invita a compartir nuestro trabajo para hacer de este un espacio acogedor, seguro y vital para todos. Al igual que Hughes, <<les extendemos nuestros sueños>>.

~ Aaron Devine, Literacy Coordinator

Staff Reads July 2021

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Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Laura

  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: I really enjoyed this follow up to Henry’s Beach Read. The characters in Henry’s books always seem like real people and it was fun to vicariously travel with the two main characters.
  • Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball by Luke Epplin: A simple summary of this book would just say it’s about the year 1948 and the last time Cleveland won the World Series. But, it’s so much more, including the story of Larry Doby, the first Black player to play in the American Leagues, who made his debut with Cleveland fewer than three months after Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. I highly recommend this interview with the author, conducted by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
  • Harriet the Spy, The Long Secretand Sport by Louise Fitzhugh: I re-read this series after reading the fascinating biography of Louise Fitzhugh. It was interesting using Fitzhugh’s life as a context for these books. Harriet the Spy held up really well, and so did The Long Secret (mainly). Sport didn’t really work for me. There was a potential for a great book in there, but it was no Harriet!
  • The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall: When I was in my mid-late 20s and noticed my closet filling up with bridesmaid dresses, I joked about starting a professional bridesmaid business. I even made gag business cards for a fake business, “Always a Bridesmaid” that I handed out at weddings. (The tag line: “Got no friends? Hate your siblings? Next time hire the attendants!”) A friend of mine remembered those days and sent me this book as a gift in which the main character does just that. The book is fun, if a little light, and I appreciate that the main relationship between is the friendship that blossoms between the main character and one of her “clients” and the romance with a minor character is secondary.
  • Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez: Compelling book that tells stories about two men in England a few decades apart: Norman, who emigrates from Jamaica, hoping to find a better life and Jesse, who has recently left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and coming to terms as an ex-Witness who is gay.
  • Color Me In by Natasha Diaz: I loved this coming of age story about Nevaeh Levitz, who has a white Jewish father and a Black mother who doesn’t feel as if she quite belongs in either world, especially after her parents separate. The supporting characters are also supporting in the literal sense as Nevaeh deals with her new reality.
  •  Loki: The characters and acting on this show are fun and intriguing but, so far, this hasn’t hooked me in quite the same way that Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did.
  • Kim’s ConvenienceI love this sitcom about a family owning a convenience store in Toronto. I was very disappointed to discover that it’s been canceled.

Deb

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell: I really enjoyed this evolution of a young woman who grows up in a swamp and learns so much from the nature all around her.  This is tied in alongside the death of a prominent community member. It feels like part memoir and part murder mystery all rolled in to one novel.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: This is my 2nd 5-star (Goodreads) review of 2021. This is the latest book by Andy Weir, author of The Martian, which was also made into a movie by the same title starring Matt Damon. (As movies made from books go, I think The Martian was really well done! A movie version of Project Hail Mary is also already in the works.) Project Hail Mary slowly unfolds to reveal a scientist on a desperate space mission to save the Earth. This has a LOT of similarities to The Martian in terms of the space setting, the constant crisis mode and problem-solving for the scientist and definitely the humor. I laughed out loud quite regularly at the trials and tribulations as well as some of the perspectives offered. There’s also an interesting linguistic study going on when the scientist finds himself needing to communicate with an unexpected cohort. As I did with The Martian, I found myself suggesting this title to anyone who appreciates space or science or technology & humor. I could not wait to pick it back up and find out what would happen next!
  • The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel, audiobook narrated by Madeleine Maby: Inspired by a true story, I enjoyed this historical fiction that tells the story of a French Jewish woman forced to flee Paris in the early days of WWII and how she finds herself a resistance forger and the resulting journey she takes all because of a book.
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: After really enjoying The Nightingale and The Great Alone, this was the next Kristin Hannah book I picked up. I liked it. I would call it chick-lit; Some of my friends called it depressing. There are sad parts but I wouldn’t characterize it as depressing. It’s a story of two friends and all that happens to them together over the course of 30 years of school and boyfriends and careers, etc… I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s not amazing, but it’s good enough that I’m reading the next book in the series: Fly Away.
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: I have a different opinion of this book than almost everyone I know: Eh. It was ok. Almost everything about this book seemed to be shallow in a Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none sorta way. So many topics to cover: race/colorism, domestic violence, LGTBQ… it was all glossed over and one-note. I never really felt invested in what’s going to happen next. I always find myself annoyed with stories based on lies & secrets – just come clean! – but I guess if everyone was honest, there’d be no drama, so no book.
  • The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne: A biology professor gets himself stuck in the middle of a murder mystery… or did he? It’s a decent and creepy story that mystery fans with a nature or science interest will enjoy.
  • Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin, audiobook narrated by a whole cast of characters: This debut novel strikes me as a take on the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway from her vacation in Aruba. The multiple narrators were interesting, but for the most part didn’t actually add anything to the story. I usually really like multi-narrators, but this just didn’t serve much of a purpose. The story is mostly told from the perspective of the murder victim’s younger sister. The scenery was cool. The ending is so-so. Overall, it was just fine, nothing great.

Debora

  • The Rose Code by Kate Quinn: I couldn’t put this book down. Literally. I brought it with me to appointments, read in between work and chores, and stayed up late to finish it. True to my WWII obsession, this was set in England at the super secret Bletchley Park, where a beehive of brains worked to crack the German military codes. The story follows three women – Osla, Mab, and Beth – and toggles between 1940 and 1947. And for fans of all things royal, the future Prince Philip makes the scene. Highly recommend.
  • Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True: We hosted author Sylvia True on Wednesday, July 14 at 7PM on YouTube: Where Madness Lies, so I wanted to read her book. Although it’s a novel, the author uses her own family’s experience to tell a compelling story. Set in two timelines, the story focuses on two family members who are experiencing mental illness; Rigmor in 1934 Germany and her great niece, Sabine, in 1984 Belmont, MA. The Nazi party has come into power as Rigmor, a Jew, seeks treatment for her symptoms in a high-end psychiatric clinic. The treatments are purported to be effective and humane, yet the novel uncovers a dark Nazi eugenics scheme. In 1984, Sabine checks herself into McLean for treatment of severe depression, only to learn that she will be separated from her infant during her stay. The link between both women is Rigmor’s sister, Inga, who is Sabine’s grandmother. Although I found the dialogue sometimes unrealistic and stilted, the story was compelling and thought provoking.
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner: This debut novel has received a lot of buzz and for good reason – it’s fantastic. Another two-timeline book (clearly, they are a thing), the author successfully creates two worlds, that of late 1700s London and present day London. The story follows three women – Caroline, Nella, and Eliza. Caroline is a former history major who never followed her dream to pursue an advanced degree in Cambridge, England, but instead married her college sweetheart and settled for a different path. She travels to London in the wake of discovering her husband’s infidelity. Nella is a 1790s apothecary who dispenses poisons to women who want to kill a man who has wronged them; she meets 12 year old Eliza when Eliza is sent by her mistress to retrieve the poison needed to kill her master. The plot is riveting and has elements of tension in both timelines. Highly readable and engrossing.

Ashley

  • Being a Ballerina: The Power and Perfection of a Dancing Life by Gavin Larsen: This is a short, easy read, and I finished it in one day. If you’re looking for backstage drama, i’d choose Dancing on My Grave by Gelsey Kirkland. However, if you curious about what it’s like to be a dancer minus the drug fueled drama, i’d pick up this achingly beautiful read.
  • Turning Pointe: How a Generation of Dancers is Saving Ballet From Itself by Chloe Angyal: I feel like the author bit off a bigger piece than she was able to write about. While some aspects were thoroughly researched, some important topics were only glanced at. The author did a comprehensive job of explaining how the way men are treated in the ballet world has led to such rampant misogyny. (there aren’t a lot of them, so they’re treated very special from a young age). The author also spent a little time exploring what ballet is like for non white people, but didn’t go too far into that. However where the author failed, was addressing gender identity and sexuaity in ballet. Ballet is very heteronormative. Every story ballet is about a heterosexual relationship, every ballet features male/female partnering. Female dancers are afraid to come out as queer/bi/or lesbian, becuase they have no role models to follow and are afraid it will impact their careers and casting in ballets.We are finally starting to see ballet represent more than just straight people, and American Ballet Theater and Queer Women Dancers are at the forefront of this movement. Recently ABT has premiered three works featuring smae sex couples. This is a big deal, and hopefully just the beginning. I was disappointed that this was not mentioned in this book.
  • Long Lost by Jaqueline West: This was a sweet middle grade read about a girl who is forced to move to a small town in Massachusetts, where she discovers a book in her public library that seems to be telling a story that happened right in her new town. Is it real? What really happened?
  • Madam by Phoebe Wynne: While a pretty slow read, it was super atmospheric.
  • Home Before Dark season two on Apple TV: I feel like i’ve been waiting forever for season 2, and I’m so excited it’s back! A young girl reporter, solving mysteries on an island in Washington state.

Louise

  • Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergei Dyachenko: This science fiction novel is in the Ukranian genre known as fantasia.  Fantasia encompasses science fiction, fantasy, horror and folkloric traditions.  There is a school of magic but no, this is nothing like Harry Potter, nor is it quite like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.  However, fans of both of these titles may enjoy this.  Also, I daresay, Donna Tartt readers may enjoy this as well.
    There is magic in this book but it is rather dark and extremely mysterious.  Our main character, Sasha Samokhina,  gets drawn into going to a school called The Institute of Special Technologies.  She has literally no choice here.  To turn this down means that harm will come to her family.  (A little bit of Sopranos here, except with dark magic and a lot of intellectual concepts).  Setting plays a role in this novel in a most intriguing way as well.
    At the start of the novel, Sasha is very excited to be going to the seashore in Crimea with her mother.  They stay in a hotel and have to share their lodgings with another couple.  They have a kitchen and a bath.  They can do their own cooking.  Every day, they go down to the seashore.  Sasha sometimes walks to the market to get some groceries for dinner.  Then she notices a man in dark glasses following her.  She is immediately alarmed.  Her mother does not seem to see any danger here.
    It turns out that this stranger is Farit Kozhenikov and he wants Sasha to get up at 4AM and go swimming in the nude from the shore to the buoy in the sea.  If she does not do this, something awful might happen, he tells her.  Sasha unhappily complies.  When she comes out of the water, she vomits up gold coins.  (Here are some of the folklore components).  When she oversleeps one day, there are consequences, but Farit tells her that they are not as bad as they will be if this happens again.
    This book had me magnetically drawn from start to finish.  Things get ‘curiouser and curiouser’ in this novel and I hope that you love it as much as I did.
  • The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson :This is a very interesting novel about a young man who takes a test to see if he can fit into one of The Affinities.  Meier Klein is the creator of the affinities.  There are twenty two and they are all named after letters of the Phoenician alphabet.  One goes through psychosocial testing, brain mapping, blood testing, and genetic testing.  However, some people will not fit into any affinities.  Down the road, this will be a problem as those left out feel, well, left out.
    Our main character, Adam Fisk, successfully places in the Tau.  He loves his new affinity family who help him with everything; companionship, housing, career, sense of family.  He is very content.  Until he isn’t.  This is a great look at a utopian scheme that goes awry, the hunger for belonging, modern loneliness, and the search for meaning.
  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai: This beautifully written novel has great, well developed characters, beautiful writing and a very moving and timeless story.  Makai is focusing on the Aids crisis in the eighties in Chicago and also switches to the year 2015 to show how some of the survivors of this incredibly painful and tragic time are coping.  Set in Chicago and in France, this is a book to read if you love beautiful, award worthy, compelling and sophisticated fiction.
  • Philip K Dick A Comics Biography by Mauro Marchesi(illustrator) and Laurent Queyessi: This is an easy read and a fascinating introduction to the life of Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (The film  Blade Runner was based on this novel), the short story Minority Report (The film Minority Report was based on this short story), and numerous other works.  Philip K. Dick was a preemie who had a twin sister who died at birth.  This was not an auspicious beginning.  His parents got divorced and he was raised by his mother who did not seem like a very sympathetic character in this graphic novel.
    Philip had five different marriages, a drug problem, some paranoia, and an incredible gift for writing.  He graduated from the same high school as fellow writer Ursula Leguin and they were friends.  Unfortunately, Philip would take methamphetamines to help himself produce more work.  I suppose he succeeded there as he was very prolific.  I don’t think that this helped his mental health or his relationships, unfortunately.  There were times when he felt he was leading parallel lives in different universes.  He questioned the nature of reality.  Who is to say what is real and what is not after all?

    I picked up this book after reading Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? which is dystopian, irreverent, and rather hilarious and brilliant all at the same time.  This is a great introduction to a brilliant but troubled author.  The illustrations work well and I think that the team who put this graphic novel together did a great job.

Staff Reads May 2021

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Dana

  • In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn: This book grabbed me early on and didn’t let go until it was over. The teenage narrator, Finn, is killed in a car crash almost right off the bat. She spends the rest of the book as an omnipresent but helpless observer as she follows her friends and family in the aftermath of the crash. Finn’s unique vantage point allows us to learn the depth of the other characters, even as her own character continues to develop in the afterlife.
  • Covid Chronicles: A Comics Anthology by Kendra Boileau: For many (myself included, I realized), it’s probably too early to be reflecting on life during Covid – you know, since it’s still going on – but this comics collection gives a fascinating look at how people’s lives changed, and how their varied experiences are expressed through their art.
  • We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry: This was my book club’s pick for May. I liked that it is set locally (Danvers), that the main characters are a pretty diverse group, and that the story combines a high school field hockey team with the mischievous allure of witchcraft, but overall I didn’t love it. I feel like it had potential that it didn’t quite reach.
  • Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson: Lawson’s latest essay-collection-memoir focuses on her journey with depression and anxiety. Some essays were serious, like the one about her battles with her health insurance company that made me feel ragey, and others were so funny that my stomach hurt from laughing. I love Lawson’s sense of humor and writing style.
  • Kim’s Convenience (Netflix): My husband and I just started watching this series and we’re hooked. It’s hard to find a funny, entertaining show where the characters are actually likeable – especially one that has half-hour episodes – and this one goes above and beyond.
  • The Sunlandic Twins Of Montreal: I was feeling nostalgic for the weird music of my college days – enter Of Montreal. I was excited to see that Hoopla has most, if not all, of their discography!

Debora

  • The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women by Scott W. Stern: I started this because we’re hosting the author on June 2 (“Promiscuous” Women); I kept reading it because the topic is frankly mind-boggling. For decades, thousands of women in America were routinely rounded up and detained for months, because they had or were suspected of having an STI. Men? Not so much. Stern tells the story of one woman, Nina McCall, as well as lays out the untold history of the program known as – wait for it – the American Plan. I kid you not. The roots of controlling women’s behaviour run deep in this country and learning about the American Plan sheds new light on government overreach.
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: This is a story about the greatest maritime disaster in history. No, not the Titanic or the Lusitania, but the Wilhelm Gustloff. Set at the end of WWII, four intertwined characters tell their own stories as they escape German-occupied land in advance of the Russians. Over 9,000 people, including many children, died when the ship they escaped on was torpedoed by a Russian submarine. The writing is exquisite to read, with minor characters like the endearing shoe poet and darkly humorous Sorry Eva helping to fill out the story. Oh, and there’s a satisfying love story to boot. Highly recommend.
  • The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah: This historic fic tells the story of Elsa, a farmer’s wife devastated by the double whammy of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that has deadened the land. In order to save her young son, Elsa chooses to set out for California and enters a different kind of hell. The remarkable thing about this novel is that it captures the despair of the times. The agonizing part of this novel is that it captures the despair of the times. I loved Hannah’s exquisite writing, but ultimately found the plot too damn depressing.

Liz

  • The Last Days by Adam Nevill: When documentary filmmaker Kyle Freeman is paid an exorbitant sum to make a last minute documentary about 1970s cult known as “The Temple of the Last Days” he thinks his money problems are over. As he and his film partner, Dan, start interviewing survivors of the cult’s infamously cruel and violent leader, Sister Katharine, strange and terrifying occurrences begin piling up. This is a truly scary read that anyone who is a fan of true crime, cults or the supernatural will enjoy.

Laura

  • Malice by Heather Walter: This is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” with a little bit of “Cinderella” and others thrown in, for good measure. Alyce, the Dark Grace or Briar who can only perform curses, unlike her fellow “Graces” falls in love with Princess Aurora and the feeling is mutual. This descriptive novel is refreshing and original, despite the fact it was based on some well known fairy tales. The world building is especially impressive. The only issue is that the book ends rather abruptly with an obvious set up for a sequel. At the risk of giving away spoilers, I will add that if you were one of those people who were caught off guard by the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, this may not be the book for you.
  • Ichiro by Ryan Inzana: I really enjoyed this genre bending graphic novel which is a mix of fantasy, family fiction, coming of age story, history, and Shinto mythology. As with any good graphic novel, the illustrations enhance the story.
  • Chlorine Sky by Mahogony L. Browne: Coming of age novel, told in verse, about the complexities of high school friendship, set against a descriptive California backdrop. I recommend for those who like novels in verse, such as A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and novels by Elizabeth Acevedo.
  • Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri: This latest book by Jhumpa Lahiri, first written in Italian and then translated into English by the author, is a cross between a short story collection and a novel. The vignettes from a nameless narrator’s life range from melancholy to hopeful and are beautifully written.
  • The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann: Everyone who has Waltham connections should read this teen novel taking place at what was later to be called the Fernald School. London, Alice, Maxine, and Rose are living at what was then called “The Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded”. As if the name itself isn’t horrific, the conditions and how the girls are treated is heartbreaking and upsetting. I drive by the Fernald property and I’m grateful to have books like this to give me a sense of the history. For more information about the Fernald School, contact the Massachusetts State Archives or check out The State Boys Rebellion by Michael D’Antonio.
  • Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen (audiobook read by Quyen Ngo): In 1978, Huong moves to New Orleans, LA from Vietnam with her sons, Binh (later “Ben”) and Tuan. She continues to write letters to her husband with no response as the years pass and readers are given glimpses into the lives of the three family members. This book is a thoughtful and moving family story. There is also a bit of foreshadowing concerning recent New Orleans history.
  • Why We Cook by Lindsay Gardner: Part cookbook, part essay collection, part vignettes, women from all walks of life who are part of all aspects of the food industry contribute to this collection about food, cooking, and advocacy. I’ve added so many travel destinations, cookbooks, and food blogs to my list as a result of this book!
  • Dial “A” for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto (audiobook read by Risa Mei): This dark comedy about a blind date gone wrong and a very meddling (but loving) Chinese/Indonesian-American family had me in stitches. You really need to suspend disbelief to get through this one, so this may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it. Get it on audio if you can.
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney Plus: What is happening to me? Am I actually starting to enjoy the prequel era of Star Wars? This is the second cartoon from that era I really liked. This animated sequel, of sorts, to the Clone Wars cartoon is an interesting look at the early days of the Galactic Empire, told through the eyes of Clone Force 99, aka “The Bad Batch”. Most of the Bad Batch members were resistant to the infamous Order 66 (ordered execution of The Jedi) and they are on the run as they navigate life post-Clone Wars. Remember the premise of The A-Team? Well, take that and add to the galaxy far far away and you should get a good idea of this show. I really liked what this animated universe has done not only with this era but with its continued characterization and questioned ethics of the clones.

Luke

Kelly

Kim

  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: It’s an incredible book, and therapeutic for those who ruminate on the different lives you could have lived.
  • Trauma is Really Strange by Steve Haines: I “enjoyed” this quick little read about trauma and PTSD (a difficult topic). It’s a good primer for anyone who knows someone with PTSD, and a small hug to those who feel alone in coping after a trauma.
  • Mare of Easttown (HBO): A gritty and good drama/crime show. I enjoy most of the characters- they’re well shaped as full people with good traits and flaws. The story is engaging with some red herrings, but doesn’t go too far with anything that isn’t going to lead somewhere. As a note: I really would not recommend watching this if you recently lost someone to suicide as it is a strong theme in this show and there is a particularly graphic depiction of finding the suicide victim in a middle episode.
  • Shrill season 3 (Hulu): I loved the last season of the show. It’s so good, but it was so sad to say goodbye to these characters.
  • The Woman in the Window (Netflix): I mostly enjoyed this film. I didn’t see the killer coming, and I felt a lot of tension overall. Amy Adams is always great, especially when she’s an unreliable narrator as seen in this film. It felt somewhat campy at times, and perhaps over-acted by a few smaller characters here and there…but it also really harkened back to the style of Hitchcock in Vertigo or North by Northwest…though there are obvious comparisons to be made to Rear Window.

Louise

  • Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings: This graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred is true to the original. The illustrations are beautifully done and one can understand why it won the Will Eisner Award in 2018 for best adaptation from another medium. This book is a must read if you want to see the literal kinship that exists between white slaveholders and the slaves whom they mistreated and abused for so many years. Both versions of this story are worthwhile and invaluable reading.
  • Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler: This is the second volume after Parable of the Sower and it does not disappoint. Octavia Butler’s prescience and keen powers of observation are on display in this novel. Her imagination and world building are superb.
  • For Better and For Worse: Selected Shorts: A Celebration Of The Short Story: This fabulous audiobook is a collection of short stories that have the common thread of marriage. The stories are read by actors and are all compelling and beautifully written. This is a sheer delight. Sherman Alexie and other fabulous authors are featured. I highly recommend this if you enjoy well written fiction about couples. This collection is read in front of a live audience and was presented on National Public Radio.
  • Sister Outsider: Essays And Speeches by Audre Lorde: I have been curious about Audre Lorde’s work for a long time and this is an excellent introduction to her writing. She was a Black lesbian feminist poet who was clearly ahead of her time.
  • The Seep by Chana Porter: This is such a delightful piece of fiction! You will learn about the seep, a gift? From aliens who are helping people to be more peaceful and interdependent. The question is, are they paying too high a price? Nobody seems to be reading anymore and there is no room for the existential angst that has been a part of the human condition for so long. Read this book and see what you think.
  • Vessel by Lisa A Nichols: This is a very entertaining novel about a space journey that goes to a hitherto unvisited planet. Only one astronaut comes out of the trip alive. Everyone thought that the mission failed but the astronaut makes contact with NASA and gets home. The only problem is that she can not remember what happened. Read this book and find out everything. Great if you like some romance in your science fiction and strong women characters.
  • Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler: More amazing, powerful short stories by one of the masters of the science fiction genre.
  • The Lights Go Out In Lychford by Paul Cornell: This book is delightful. We have good guys, bad guys, witches, magic and romance. The novel is well constructed and the characters are lovable. A fast and fun read that is part of a series. The magic is fun and feels believable in the context of the novel. Think of Agatha Raisin if she had magical powers and you will have some sense of this book; small town, vicar, quirky characters.
  • Unwelcome Bodies by Jennifer Pelland: Do you like Roald Dahl? The Twilight Zone? Jennifer Pelland is a master of the macabre and my only complaint is that I want to read more of her novels but I don’t see any in our catalog. This book is dark, weirdly funny at times, and reveals an author who has an amazing imagination.
  • Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: This is a classic work of science fiction and I have been in love since the first sentence. This is set in a world where earth is kind of on its last legs. Many people have moved to other planets. And there are androids and electric sheep. It is funny, creative and keeps you reading from start to finish.
  • Plague Of Doves by Louise Erdrich: I have been intending to read Louise Erdrich for a long time and am so glad that I read this book. This novel was actually a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Louise Erdrich writes beautifully about the Ojibwe of North Dakota, a terrible incident from the past that haunts all of the narrators of this novel. She brilliantly shows the interconnections of the characters and, like in Butler’s novel, Kindred, the many threads good and bad that connect the Native Americans to all of the characters in this novel. There is humor, strong character development and poetic, gorgeous writing.

Janet

  • 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism by Chavisa Woods: Chavisa Woods’s book is made up of 100 short, personal stories of sexism, harassment, discrimination, and assault. It is a devastating read, mainly because I either know people who have experienced similar indignities or have experienced some of them myself. Painful but necessary reading for all.
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson: This work of historical fiction is based on the real, blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the Depression-era fleet of librarians who brought books to remote locations by horse- and mule-back. While the book was definitely well-researched and full of interesting bits of history, I found the trajectory to be fairly predictable.
  • The Moth Presents: All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown edited by Catherine Burns: I have listened to and loved the Moth Radio Hour programs for years but had never “read” the stories before. I downloaded the collection onto my phone and really enjoyed reading these inspirational stories during my spare time. A nice alternative to scrolling through social media feeds!
  • Waging Change: This documentary exposes the many challenges faced by restaurant workers, not the least of which that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is only $2.13. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant? Ordered take-out? Gotten a haircut? Had a salon manicure? If so, then you’ve probably patronized a business that employs tipped workers and this documentary is for you.
  • Floodlines (Podcast): I could not stop listening to this podcast about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and finished all 4.5 hours of it in two days. Incredible journalism, especially the interviews with Michael “Heckuva Job Brownie” Brown.

Staff Reads April 2021

 

 

 

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Laura

  • Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant: An aspiring romance writer, Tessa, suffers from writer’s block when she enrolls in a writing program at a specialty high school. Her best friend convinces her to live out a real life romantic comedy in order to get her inspiration back. This character driven teen novel turns romance tropes on its head and is a great love letter to the genre while also being critical. I really enjoyed this.
  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer DeLeon: This locally set novel is about Liliana who lives in Boston, but must attend high school in the fictional suburb of Westburg as part of the METCO program. This book tackles a lot of issues, including suddenly being one of the few people of color in school, undocummented immigration, realizing your parents don’t know everything, and general coming of age. Liliana is a great character and seems like a real teenager (something not always pulled off by adult writers of teen fiction). If you have a chance, please check out Jennifer DeLeon’s conversation with the WPL Real Talk Teen Leaders on our Youtube Channel!
  • Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy by Leslie Brody: Interesting biography of the author of Harriet the Spy. I loved Harriet the Spy (and had a very brief stint of carrying a notebook around recess in fourth grade) but never thought much about the woman behind Harriet. This brings a lot more context to that book and the others set in the same universe. 
  • There Once Was a Show from Nantucket: A Complete Guide to the TV Sitcom Wings by Bob LesczakWings is a better show than Cheers (set in the same universe). Yeah, I’m from Boston and yeah, I just said that something is better than Cheers. I dare you to watch this scene and not laugh. I had a lot of fun revisiting the show with this oversized book.
  • Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn: Continuing my journey with the original eight books:
    • When He Was Wicked: This was a re-read for me but I really appreciated it this time around. It focuses on Bridgerton sibling, Francesca, who was all but forgotten in the show (thus far) and barely registers in previous novels. She’s a great character. This is also the steamiest book of the series.
    • It’s In His KissHyacinth, the youngest sibling stars in the second to last novel, who strikes up a friendship and later romance with Gareth St. Clair when she translates the diary of his deceased Italian grandmother. Lady Danbury, who is Gareth’s other grandmother, has a large role in this and she’s always fun. I will warn you that, because of the title, “The Shoop Shoop Song” was in my head on a loop. Luckily, I’m a fan but it did get to be a bit much. 
  • The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz: If you put Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event, Peyton Place, and Winesburg, Ohio in a blender and throw in a dash of Olive Kitteridge, you’ll get The Daughters of Erietown. 
  • The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty: Twitty is a food historian who runs the food blog, Afroculininaria that talks about the history of African-American food including some of its roots in slavery. As he became more interested in what we think of as traditional Southern food, Twitty started what he called the “Southern Discomfort Tour” which included, among other things, preparing food in the authentic way that an enslaved person would have prepared it as part of plantation tours. He also embarks on genealogical research, including doing a DNA analysis on Ancestry and 23 and me. The research is often difficult as a lot of resources are very Western European Centric, really exposing issues with genealogy, in general. Twitty, who is Jewish, discusses his journey with Judaism as well, including comparing the history of the importance of food to either culture as well as how he’s been perceived by some of his students (and families) in the Hebrew and Religious school classes he’s taught at various synagogues. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the food they’re eating, a deeper look into Slavery and Racism in the United States, as well as the importance of identity. Michael W. Twitty is also a good social media follow. You can follow him @koshersoul
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: I really enjoyed this Marvel show! It does right by its two main characters, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, who were not as well developed in the films. It does have its bumps (the handling of Sharon Carter) but they’re minor. I look forward to seeing more of this story, hopefully on the big screen.
  • SuperstoreI adored this show which, sadly, came to an end last month. A comedic (and sometimes heartbreaking) look at life in retail. I recommend checking this out, if you haven’t done so, yet.
  • All AmericanI’ve been watching the show since it debuted about Spencer James, who lives in South Crenshaw (Los Angeles) and chooses to play football at a high school in Beverly Hills, under the direction of a South Crenshaw graduate, and old friend of his parents. This was a great character study of a teenager caught between two worlds and the surrounding cast does a great job as well. I’m still enjoying it but it seems to have delved into being more of a soap opera than it was, originally. (So many love triangles!) I do have to accept the fact, however, that I’m probably slightly older than the target audience, however! 
  • Say I DoDo you know what I dislike more than plain reality shows? Reality shows about weddings. Please keep them away from me! And yet, I can’t help but adore this very sweet show about couples planning their weddings with the help of professional experts, Jeremiah Brent, Thai Nguyen, and Gabriele Bertaccini. The couples all seem to have very healthy and loving relationships and the hosts are there to help with the wedding but not try to fix their lives. As these types of shows go, this one is pretty refreshing. 

Debora

  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue: Loved this novel about three women in Ireland, set during the 1918 pandemic. Like the author’s book, Room, the story takes place mostly in one room of a hospital – the tiny flu ward for maternity patients. Nurse Julia works hard to make her patients comfortable in an era when there was little to offer but hot lemonade. Dr. Kathleen Lynn is the covering physician whose back story both intrigues and shocks Julia and volunteer Bridie Sweeney opens Julia’s eyes to the dark underbelly of institutionalized care for children. While limited to the regimented hospital ward, Julia’s eyes and heart are opened in multiple ways that show readers the resilience of women living in very dark times. 
  • The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland: This was a fascinating read. The author uses the story of one so-called DNA seeker to shine a light on the exploding consumer DNA industry. Companies like Ancestry and 23andMe encourage individuals to share their spit to discover their ancestry and, in the case of 23andMe, their genetic disease markers. Copeland follows the winding story of Alice Collins, a proud Irish American, who ultimately learns that her heritage is anything but Irish. Watch our April program, DNA Secrets, with this author on our Youtube Channel!
  • The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline: I simply could not put this book down. Baker Kline tells the story of two women sentenced to transport to Australia for their crimes and one real life Aboriginal girl. Evangeline is a governess, impregnated by her employer’s son who is convicted of stealing a ring that he gave her; Hazel, also sentenced for theft, meets Evangeline on the ship to Australia; and Mathinna is an Aboriginal girl taken in – and later discarded – by the Governor of Van Dieman’s Land (present day Tasmania). Through their stories we learn the horrific history of both the women sent to the Australian penal colony and the Aboriginal people exiled from their own land. Beautifully written. 

Liz

  • The Lost Village by Camilla Sten: This horror novel about a documentary crew that sets out to unravel the mystery of an abandoned Swedish village is an absolute page turner. Great for fans of Limetown, Silent Hill or urban exploration.
  • Walking the Cape and Islands by David Weintraub: This book of 72 different walks/hikes of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is great for folks who want to get out and explore the beauty of the Cape beyond its beaches. With hikes for beginners all the way to experts, this book is full of absolute gems. My personal recommendation is the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp trail in Wellfleet and the Beech Forest trail in Provincetown.
     

Lisa

  • I have recently been reading the entire Bridgerton collection, including the prequel series. I have really enjoyed them and can’t wait to see the television show. I have had multiple laugh out loud moments reading these books. The series features strong relationships between family members, romance and appealing supporting characters.
     

Dana

  • Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline: I was eagerly awaiting this book, the sequel to Ready Player One. Almost immediately after starting though, I was disappointed. Maybe the first book was too tough an act to follow, maybe there was too much pressure for the sequel, but it felt forced to me. I felt like I was getting constantly hit over the head with name drops and throwbacks to the 1980s, like Cline was trying to see how much nostalgia he could cram into one story just for the sake of it. However, I stuck with it and by the end I was quite enjoying it, so I’m not really sure how to put into words how I feel about this book. Confused and lukewarm, I suppose?
  • This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey: This is a YA thriller that came out last summer, and it totally hooked me. Jess Flynn is a pretty typical teenager in the 90s… but then weird things start happening. Half of her hometown suddenly gets struck down by the flu, she starts hearing strange faraway chanting, her pet dog suddenly looks just a bit different, and a mysterious device with an Apple logo falls out of her friend’s backpack. Both family and friends are quick to dismiss her concerns. Is she losing her mind, or is she being gaslit as something bigger is going on? I thought the plot was a little predictable, and bits of it felt like the Divergent series, but it was still an incredibly entertaining read and I really liked it. 
  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins: I’d heard good things about this modern take on Jane Eyre, and I wasn’t disappointed. Jane works as a dog walker in a posh neighborhood. A chance encounter with Eddie, a handsome neighborhood widower, leads to a whirlwind romance, but both Jane and Eddie have secrets that threaten to ruin everything. Admitting that I am a bad former English major, I have never read Jane Eyre, so I can’t attest to how the plots line up. I did see some shades of Rebecca, and I was pulled in and hooked by the mysteries and twists, so at least it’s safe to say I enjoyed it!
  • Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristen Kobes DuMez: As a former evangelical who is white, I’ve been especially fascinated by this book. I’m only about halfway done so I can’t give a full review, but learning about the history of the evangelical movement has been eye-opening, to say the least. Du Mez is a history professor at a Christian university, and the book is incredibly well researched, if a little dry at times. I’m definitely interested to see what awaits in the second half of the book.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+): I’m not a Bucky fan, but have been enjoying this series so far. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan play off each other so well, and honestly, I admit that the new Captain America, John Walker, is annoying me into becoming a Bucky stan. It’s a confusing feeling.

Ashley

  • Alison Roman’s Home Movies on YouTube: It’s like the anti cooking show. Sometimes she can’t find ingredients, or forgets things, just like all of us at home in our kitchens, rather than a polished over produced cooking show. Did I mention she’s really really funny? I could do without the anchovies though.
  • The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor: A vicar and her daughter move to a remote country village in England, that just happens to be full of secrets. It was an excellent mystery that kept me guessing and engage until the end. 
  • One Last Stop by Casey Mcquiston: I guess straight up romances aren’t really my thing? I also found it a little too cutesy, but I think it would make an adorable movie. 
  • The Oregon Trail on Apple Arcade: I’ve been waiting FOREVER for a good Oregon Trail game for IOS. Not only is the artwork gorgeous, but they specifically worked with Native Americans to make a more diverse, truthful experience. Now if only my settlers would stop walking so close to the wagon and getting run over. 
  • Top Chef Season 18: This show is so addictive.

Casey

Deb

  • Every Waking Hour by Joanna Schaffhausen: This is the fourth in the Ellery Hathaway series that begins with Vanishing Season. I liked this mystery book written by a Waltham native about kidnapping.  I read this in time for the author to present virtually for the library on March 17th.  See our YouTube Channel to watch now!  After some bumps in her career, Ellery has a new police partner/mentor/babysitter and I like her. There are several cases intertwined in this story and more loose ends are tied up than you bargained for!
  • Grandma Raised the Roof by Ethel Walbridge McCully: I like to travel in the Caribbean and read about places I’ve been. This book was published in 1954 and is the author’s memoir of being on her way to the British Virgin Islands when she decided, sort of on a whim, to jump off the boat she was on and build a house on the US Virgin Island of St. John instead. She’s a shrewd and spry grandmother whose family was back in New York, but had some learning to do about island ways. Trials and tribulations ensue.
  • Black Coral by Andrew Mayne: This is Underwater Investigation Unit book #2 which begins with The Girl Beneath the Sea. The characters are likable. The SCUBA diving is a fun focus. The ending seemed a little rushed, but I’ll read the next one due out next March.
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and narrated by Bahni Turpin: Fascinating and devastating pre-Civil War historical fiction about Cora, an enslaved woman who breaks away from the cotton plantation in Georgia where she was born. She encounters many different friends and foes along the way. I found it heartbreaking, inspiring and thought-provoking.
  • Mozart and the Whale; An Asperger’s Love Story by Jerry and Mary Newport: This is an intriguing memoir of two people living with autism who experience a lot of trauma growing up, meet, fall in love, have things go sideways, end up on TV and grow a lot along the way.  It is a fascinating perspective into the minds of people wired very differently from me and how they cope with the world around them.
  • Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk: It took me FOREVER to finish this book. I felt compelled because it’s on every “Caribbean must-read” list. Usually I am content to bail on a book if it’s not working for me.  There are way more books in the world than I will ever have time to read so I don’t waste my time on things that aren’t floating my boat. But I persevered in this case. And now it’s time to move on. The scenery was evocative of places I’ve visited and enjoyed. The trials and tribulations of island life logistics regarding shipping, construction and cisterns are real and often a comedy or errors. The misogyny, homophobia and portrayal of West Indian people were very 1965. It was 400 pages of so-so with all the drama happening in the last 20 pages.  There are many other books of island life, comedy and culture that I would suggest before this one.
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia and narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson: This title is aimed at middle-school-aged teens. I picked this up on the advice of the Teens at Real Talk Presents: Jennifer de Leon.  It’s the story of three young sisters, the oldest of whom is 11, who live with their dad and grandmother in Brooklyn. The girls fly out to Oakland, California to meet their mom in the summer of 1968, during the early days of the Black Panther Party. I love the adventure and development of these girls! I was thoroughly annoyed with the mom, which means the author did a good job of making me invested in the story. I am angry that the racial issues of 1968 still exist today. 

Janet

  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris: I needed a laugh-out-loud read and David Sedaris, as always, delivered.
  • Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Kanopy and DVD): I have read all seven of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies and still learned so much from this documentary. I especially enjoyed seeing footage from her career as a dancer, actress, and singer, her poetry reading at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and her appearance on Sesame Street!  
  • Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders (audiobook on Overdrive): I could not stop listening to the first half of the book and really appreciated that it was narrated by the gravelly-voiced author. While it touches upon Sanders’s early life and career, the book is largely devoted to the sometimes wonky, but surprisingly gripping, details of his campaign to win the 2016 Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States. I was less enamored with the second half of the book, which, for some reason, was narrated by Mark Rufffalo. He’s a great actor, but no Bernie Sanders! 

Aaron

Louise

  • Crosstalk by Connie Willis: This book is such a delight!  Brittey works at Commspan, a telecommunications company. She has snagged Commspan’s most eligible bachelor, Trent, and they have gone to eat at Iridium which is the place for a romantic dinner and a proposal.  And, she is scheduled to get an EED. An EED is a “minor” operation done on the brain in which couples who are truly connected get even more emotionally connected and all of the it people are having it done.
    C.B., the nerd of the office, begs Britty not to do this.  He tells her that something could go horribly wrong.  Brittey shrugs this off.  I will not tell you anymore because I don’t want to provide any spoilers but this book takes you on a hilarious roller coaster that is filled with romance, missed connections, a very over involved family and gossipy office, a smart niece, a beautiful scene in a library (hurrah!) and more.
    This is a rom com of a book that will leave you blissfully entertained. Read this book!
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler: Dana and her husband Kevin are celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday when she literally disappears and meets Rufus for the first time.  Rufus is Dana’s ancestor and she is apparently being called to save his life so that she can be born.  He is the white son of a plantation owner.  As we know, plantation owners often used their slaves as sex partners whether they consented or not and Rufus will not be an exception to the rule. Dana, who is a contemporary black woman writer,  is called back in time more than once. At one point, her white husband, Kevin, also goes to the plantation with her.  Dana essentially works as a slave during a lot of her time travels and Kevin ends up working to free slaves during a time when they get separated from each other.  Both Dana and her husband are changed forever after the time travel finally stops.  This is an amazing book with very good world building and character development.  Like all of the Octavia Butler novels that I have read to date, it will leave you breathless and asking questions about the human condition and the history of racism in our country.  Further, Octavia Butler presents strong female characters who are admirable and who question traditional societal roles.
  • Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler: This is the trilogy by Octavia Butler that begins with Dawn which I discussed in the last staff reads.  This is a brilliant trilogy that will leave you breathless.  Worldbuilding is so powerful.  I was transported to another place and time. 
    This series will leave you questioning so many things about the history of oppression and the destructive tendencies of the human race.  At the same time, like many great novels, it will leave you with hope and all the richer for having read this. 
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: I listened to this amazing novel as an audiobook and I have to give a shoutout to the narration of Lynne Thigpen.  The United States has become very dystopian with division and looting, climate change and classism.  Once again we have a strong female character who fights her way towards a better future.  You will be intrigued and engrossed and you will route for the “good guys” in their quest for a better life.  A must read.
  • Bridge 108 by Anne Charnock: This is a novel of a dystopian version of Europe in the not so far future where climate change and classism have wreaked havoc.  Our main character, Caleb, is only twelve years old when he gets separated from his mother and has to make his way in a very difficult world. Beautiful worldbuilding, great character development, a compelling story and a strong main character to root for combine to make this a worthwhile read. I really liked this novel by Anne Charnock.
  • Changing Planes by Ursula K. Leguin: This book is hilarious and light although it has some great lessons in the way of fables.  The premise of this book is that some people in airports with their stale air and lines, their mediocre food and uncomfortable chairs, discover that they can literally change planes.  The tales in this novel are of the different ‘planes’ where different beings and histories reside.  Fans of Greek myths, the Canterbury Tales, Gulliver’s Travels and the original Leonard Nemoy William Shatner Star Trek will love this entertaining collection of stories.  
    Shucks.  When I go to airports, I usually just sit in the uncomfortable seats and eat the mediocre food.  I have yet to change planes!

Seana

  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle: I loved this book! My daughter and I read it at the same time and would call each other to talk about it. I highly recommend reading it at the same time as a friend or for a book group, as there is so much you want to talk about.
  • A  Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: I always picked this book up and put it back down. I was afraid it was going to be too sad, but instead it was warm, endearing, and hopeful. I listened to it, so I found out Ove is surprisingly pronounced “Oohvah”
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J Finn: This book is a dark, twisting psychological thriller. I couldn’t put it down. I am looking forward to watching the movie.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama: I listened to this book and I am so glad I did. Michelle Obama is the narrator and I felt like I was hanging out with her every day on my way to and from work!
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed: Middle Grade Graphic Novel for everyone
    I don’t typically read graphic novels except to be able to recommend them to middle schoolers. However, this book is incredible. It is based on the real life experiences of Omar and his brother Hassan as they grow up orphans in a refugee camp. It is an incredibly touching account of how these two boys navigate the day-today life in a refugee camp, and make their own family unit while they wait for an opportunity for a brighter future. This book is not just for middle schoolers. Readers of all ages will be moved and inspired by Omar and Hassan and their journey. 

National Poetry Month!

The following are original poems that were submitted to the Waltham Public Library for National Poetry Month! They are all very beautiful and we hope that you will enjoy them.

The Place of Unknowing

How do you stay balanced in that place
between knowing and unknowing?
How do you find peace
when uncertainty surrounds you at every turn?
Every Bible character that I look at goes on this journey.
It’s not for the faint of heart,
but as I see it, it’s the only journey there is.
There is really only One Journey,
and that is our journey back home to the light;
to Eternal Love.
All else are pit stops;
road markers along the way.
Some are filled with joy
and others filled with sadness.
This is the human experience of duality
that so many try to escape from.
The pain of unknowing and uncertainty
can be too great to bear.

In the dark times in my own life,
as I look back,
I can see this question continually popping up:
What is emerging?
What is emerging in me?
Something old is passing away,
and in its place something new is seeking to be born.
While I am in the midst of it,
I can’t name it.
But that newness tastes like:
Deeper Peace,
Unshakable Joy,
Unconditional Love.

Most people see God as an external being
who Judges, rewards, and punishes.
But what if the divine is Peace itself,
beyond our intellectual understanding;
What if the Holy is Bliss,
in the form of complete joy?
What if the Sacred
is the Love we feel within and without,
because love is simply all there is?

On my best days, when I’m awake,
I can see the forest through the trees.
Other days, I feel lost,
searching, groping for guidance.
On those days, I look to the spiritual giants-
to the saints, the mystics, and seers of all religious traditions
who have reminded me of one thing-
don’t look only to the things that can be seen.

If my peace is dependent on externals,
then I will never be peaceful.
If my joy is possible only under special circumstances,
then it will remain elusive.
Instead, they remind me,
look to what cannot be seen-
to what is invisible yet eternal;
To what you can feel
but not touch.
This is what is most real.
This is what that question of emergence points to.
What is falling away,
and what is being born?
And so every day, my prayer is,
Lord, take all of me;
Take my memory,
my understanding,
my entire will.
They are yours.
My family, my community,
they are yours.
Nothing will stay the same because life is transient;
all things are impermanent.
In this ever-shifting world,
let us always have on the forefront of our minds
what does not change:
Love, peace, joy-
these are all simply words that point to Infinity,
which is the surest foundation we can build for our life,
our family, our communities, our world.

by Matthew Carriker
This original poem is by Matthew Carriker, Protestant Chaplain at Brandeis University

Life
Sometimes the heart is full
Other moments the heart is full of 
    wholes
Changes are delayed and time stands 
still
The pendulum will move
When the will of the mind begins to
bend

Given the darkness of the full moon
And the darkness of the moonlit sky
Brace for the chains to break
The storm will blow away
The sun will shine again

Life is waiting for the new moment to begin

Sheryl Jean Arico
copyright 2008 Sheryl Jean Arico

Kentuckiana Postcards
 KENTUCKIANA POSTCARDS by Jennifer Rose
to Josh Bloom
1
Hello from Nowhere in Particular,
and yet another town I fell in love with.
It's the usual: the Washeteria, Hubcaps Galore,
Little Chef Diner, not to mention Faith
Liquors. I'm so predictable. All the downtown
buildings need to do is raise their painted eyebrows
slightly or flash old-fashioned neon and I'm gone
(like making wedding plans on the first date). I browse
or next year's calendar ("they're in!") though it's July
and get my shoe size checked ("it changes year to year").
I must find out if they serve Jell-O
here (or it could never work). The theater
is closed, of course, though you can buy appliances
and furniture ("tent sale today!") and the jeweler's
still open. (But where can I get the fiancée
to buy them for?) Am I a fool or
what, to think love and towns like this should last
forever? One more walk by the river
and I know I must go, like the ghosts unkissed
in the balcony while the screen below flickers with lovers.
 
 2
Yup, another place whose curlicues and neon
and blank marquee seduced me. (If I paid dues
at every Odd Fellows' I've photographed. . .)
But I worried that the waitress hated Jews
it took so long to get my order
(and she had tattoos) till I saw she was just
nervous. (Turns out she's very new here.)
One by one, the other diners confessed
to me how far away they've been from Indiana-
Boston, Seattle, thirteen years in New York-
in an ironic contest one trucker supplied
mileage for. Then each explained why he'd come back,
as if I'd somehow disapprove of that.
I, in turn, pretended I was from somewhere,
though after twenty years I still get called a "breezer."
I couldn't say, "I want to be a regular
in every town like this-each street seems so
evocative of all the lives I could have led-"
like the one where I run the public library,
the one in which my mother hadn't died,
and one in the last century, when I was
(can you imagine it?) the haberdasher's bride.
The life where I have children, the one
in which I'll never go abroad, and read
the Bible daily. The life where I work
at Little Chef and serve my other self the tea
(the four-refill limit would not apply to me),
the one in which instead of go, I'd stay.
 Jennifer Rose

from Hometown for an Hour, Ohio University Press (2006)Here are poems recommended by Waltham Public Library Staff and community members.  

 
 This poem is written by my father in his native language bengali. This is a translation by my friend, Kakoli Ray:
  
 Tomar shonge Dekha Hole (If I met you)
 By Sunil Gangopadhyay, translated by Kakoli Ray:
  
 If I met you.
 If I met you, I would have asked
 You have no love for humanity, yet why do you love the nation?
 What can the nation give you?
 Or, is the nation something God-like for you?
 If I met you, I would have asked
 If you were to martyr yourself what will it leave the nation?
 Is the nation the land of your birth, or the barbed boundary of the nation-state?
 Those that you hauled off the bus and murdered
 Should one suppose they have no nation?
 If I met you, I would have asked
 How did you infer that I am your enemy?
 And without even responding to my questions will you
 just point the gun at me?
 Such are the loveless who proclaim patriotism!
  
  Submitted by Shouvik Gangopadhyay
   
The following are poems by well known authors that were submitted by Waltham Public Library Staff and community members.

Undersong by Audre Lord

The Soul Of Rumi: A New Collection Of Ecstatic Poems

The Sonnets And Narrative Poems by William Shakespeare

Jimmy’s Blues And Other Poems by James Baldwin

Separation by W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color. 

W. S. Merwin, “Separation” from The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by W. S. Merwin. Reprinted with the permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.Source: The Second Four Books of Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1993) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/28891/separation-56d21285b2140

Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon

On The Way Out, Turn Off The Light: Poems by Marge Piercy

Poems April 2004

The well or the cup

by Kay Ryan

How can
you tell
at the start
what you
can give away
and what
you must hold
to your heart.
What is
the well


and what is
a cup. Some
people get
drunk up.

The New Criterion

Vol. 39, No. 8 / April 2021

Antonio Machado

“A Meditation”

Already the moon rises
over orange groves.
Venus shines in the sky
like a little glass bird.

Amber and beryl light
behind distant mountains
and over the oceans
a purple porcelain sky.

Night in the garden,
water in its fixtures—
the scent of jasmine,
nightingale of perfumes.

How it seems as if
the war were asleep
while Valencia’s flowers
drink the Guadalaviar.

Valencia of thin towers
and sweet nights. Valencia,
I will be with you even
when I cannot see you,
the fields grown in sand,
the seas receding to violet.

The Complete Collected Poems Of Maya Angelou

Staff Reads March 2021

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Deb

  • All The Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen: This is the third in the Ellery Hathaway series by this local Waltham author with whom I went to school.  It’s so very cool to know a successful author of books I like to read! I did not correctly guess the killer, so that was a nice surprise for me. My second guess wasn’t correct, either, but another character shared my incorrect guess, so at least I’m in good company. If you’re looking to start at the beginning, the first in the series is Vanishing Season and the second is No Mercy. (Watch the Joanna Schaffhausen WPL program, “Famous Kidnappings & How They Were Solved“. Join us live on March 17 at 7:00 pm or watch it after the event on Youtube!)
  • Artemis by Andy Weir: This is a book by the author of The Martian that I really, really enjoyed as an audiobook a few years back… I couldn’t wait to get back in the car to find out what happened next! I listened to this one on audio as well and it’s narrated by Rosario Dawson. I really enjoyed this one, too. Artemis is a city on the moon. There’s a lot of science to these fiction titles, plus some scheming and a cool setting with many logistical problems to keep things interesting!
  • Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand: This is a bit on the chick-lit end of a spectrum for me but I started this series because it takes place on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John where I’ve traveled often. This is the third of a trilogy that starts with Winter in Paradise and continues with What Happens in Paradise. It’s the story of a woman whose husband dies around St. John. She travels to the island in order to find out about the circumstances of his death.
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: This is my first 5-star book of 2021. I added it to my To-Read list based on a Good Reads list and moved it to the top of my list on my colleague Dana’s recommendation, since she is yet to steer me wrong! (See last month’s Staff Reads for Dana’s review.) I listened to this one as an audiobook and enjoyed the narration. This novel is mental health meets magical realism meets quantum physics meets fabulous storytelling!

Debora

  • Medicus by Ruth Downie: A hugely satisfying historic fiction set in the ancient Roman empire. The best part about the novel? Its voice. Roman army medic Ruso is serving in the distant outpost of Deva, Brittania (modern day Chester, England). Trouble seems to follow him everywhere and he ultimately saves an enslaved woman, discovers and solves two murders, and finds love in the process. He’s a wry, very likeable character and the story is fun. One thing I found astonishing was how advanced Roman medicine was circa 100 AD – they were doing cataract surgery!
  • Eli’s Promise by Ronald Balson: This WWII novel spans three time periods: 1939 Poland, 1946 Germany, and 1965 Chicago. In 1939, Eli Rosen lives with his wife and young son in Poland when the Nazis invade. The Nazi noose tightens daily as Eli tries to protect his family and construction business. Maximilian Poleski is an immoral extortionist who promises to help Eli’s family – and profit nicely for himself. In 1946, we see Eli and his son in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the war. Eli learns there is a Max selling illegal visas to America and he’s sure it’s the same man, Poleski. He works hard to bring Max down. In 1965, Eli is living in America and working for the government. We meet several new characters and watch in horror when two of them are murdered. Eli is still a man on a mission to seek justice for a man who betrayed his family and country – Max.
  • The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White: I don’t know how three authors managed to create a novel together, but they did and it’s a great read. There are two story lines: one in 2013 featuring author Sarah Blake who is determined to find out what role her great-grandfather may have had with the sinking of the Lusitania and one in 1915 on the Lusitania with a cast of characters who we follow for the seven days before the ship is torpedoed by a German U-boat. Southern belle Caroline Hochstetter is unhappy in her marriage with husband Gilbert; Caroline’s longtime friend Robert Langford is in love with Caroline; and thief Tessa Fairweather is determined to accomplish one last crime and then retire. The characters’ lives become intertwined and the story is fast paced up to the very end. The 2013 storyline also has a satisfying love drama.

Dana

Casey

Janet

  • Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial by Jessica Ingram: A photo album-style book featuring images that look, at first glance, quite ordinary: a vacant lot, a dirt road, a run-down building. Often lacking memorials or plaques, these were the sites of murders and other racially motivated crimes that were pivotal events in the civil rights era of the 1950s, 60s, Ingram’s supporting research is both thorough and heartbreaking.
  • The World is Round by Gertrude Stein and illustrated by Clement Hurd: I loved this children’s book, although Stein’s stream-of-consciousness writing style isn’t for everyone. Clement “Goodnight Moon” Hurd’s illustrations are lovely and the vivid pink pages with light blue text are unexpectedly soothing.
  • Newton and Curie: The Science Squirrels written and illustrated by Daniel Kirk: I can’t believe a book like this was written in 2020. Brother squirrel Newton wonders aloud about various scientific phenomena while sister Curie would rather play. She begrudgingly helps him conduct various science experiments, occasionally exclaiming “And It’s Fun!” This book plays into gender stereotypes around girls and science. Two paws down!
  • “Throughline” Podcast: “How Octavia Butler’s Sci-Fi Dystopia Became A Constant In A Man’s Evolution” (Feb 18 2021): I’m not a big sci fi reader but now want to read all of Ms. Butler’s books. This podcast made for an hour very well spent.

Ashley

  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo: This was a sweet coming of age story about a gay, Chinese-American teenage girl growing up and figuring out who she is in San Fransico in the 50s.
  • A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong: The 6th installment in her Rockton series, this one felt like a lot of filler. Some things were answered, and loose ends tied up, but all in all, not the best read in the series.
  • Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine: The final book In her Stillwater Lake series, this one did not live up to the greatness of its predecessors. It also seemed to have a lot of filler and dialogue about things that happened in previous books, which didn’t move the plot along very quickly.
  • Ginny & Georgia on Netflix: Promos tried to say this was the new Gilmore Girls, but I don’t understand the comparison. A single mom who had a kid as a teen does not Gilmore Girls make. The highlight of this show for me was the appearance of two actors who were on Degrassi as kids, especially Sarah Waisglass. She’s been playing a 15 year old since 2013, but this is her best performance yet.
  • Night Stalker on Netflix: I enjoy a good true crime documentary, and this one was incredibly well done. What I feel really made it, was the compelling narrative told by the officers who had worked the case. I found their narrative absolutely riveting. THis wasn’t just a story about a man and the horrible things he did, but the story of these officers’ lives, and the entire community that was impacted.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 (Season 5): This show has gone completely off the rails by season 5, but it’s fun to see the characters wearing styles and outfits I wore as a preteen in the mid nineties!

Molly

Aaron

  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J Ryan Stradal (read by Judith Ivey): A heartfelt and humorous novel with memorable characters. You don’t have to like beer or be from Minnesota to enjoy this read… but it helps. Judith Ivey hits the right notes in the audiobook version (available on overdrive) with her voices, accents.
  • The Yellow Book by Sam Cha: A challenging, thought-provoking, and moving debut collection from an exceptional poet who writes against genre in these pages that read more like prose, elaborating instead a new kind of space and language to hear and better understand the impact of white supremacy (and ignorance) directed at people from Asian countries, particularly those living in the U.S.
  • Side Pony (music album) by Lake Street Dive: A band that has grown together and grown on me through the years. With a new album out this year, I went back to revisit (and bob along to) Side Pony.

Kelly

  • Hello, Habits by Fumio Sasaki which is a great book about both the art and science behind how habits work, how you can fine tune your better habits, and how to stop bad habits. I really enjoyed it.
  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle was one of the best things I’ve read in a while. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but it’s charming and very thought provoking. I stayed up too late one night and finished it in one setting. This would be a great book group choice for discussion.

Louise

  • Group by Christie Tate: I adore this memoir by Christie Tate. We get to know about her and her insecurities; her loneliness, her food issues, her fear of revealing too much of herself. Then we get to meet all of the members of Christie’s delightful and unconventional therapy group. Christie was raised in a family that relied on appearances. Her family was and is loving, but did not have a lot of vocabulary for feelings and what goes on beyond the surface. Christie comes to terms with her inner self in this book and we root for her as she becomes a more integrated person who has much healthier relationships. I recommend this to anyone who likes to read about people’s inner struggles, growth and recovery. 
  • Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshigazu Kawaguchi: This gem of a book can be found on Hoopla. The action all takes place in a small, hole in the wall coffee shop in the outskirts of Tokyo. Rumor has it that there is an option to travel back in time from this location. One curious reporter tried to get a first hand report on the matter but could not find anyone who had actually made the time travel journey. However, dear reader, you will get to meet four amazing women who take this journey. They learn about some of the time travelling rules of the coffee shop. One of them is that you can only meet with someone who has been inside of the cafe. Another is that the time traveler takes a cup of coffee with them. They must drink the coffee before it gets cold if they want to come out in one piece. They can not stay longer than the time it takes for the coffee to get cold. No matter what happens they can not change the presence. This is a lovely book about the words in our hearts that we sometimes wish we could have said in the past or, that we would like to say to the future when we are no longer here. Beautiful.
  • White Ivy by Susie Yang: Read this book if you enjoy stories about second generation immigrants and the misunderstandings that can happen between parents and children. However, do not read this book if you want a conventional, well behaved main character. Ivy is neither conventional nor well behaved. This book actually reminds me a bit of the Theodore Dreiser classic An American Tragedy. So many of us fall prey to the belief that money, wealth, prestige are the key to happiness. Ivy is no exception to this. Unfortunately, her dogged pursuit of these ‘important’ acquisitions, do not necessarily lead to total contentment for Ivy. The character of Ivy is complicated and rich and this book is addictive and rich and great for book clubs as it can lead to really interesting and fruitful conversation. I loved it and highly recommend it. It goes a bit dark so keep that in mind when deciding.
  • The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish: This book is a hoot! I recommend the audiobook because Haddish herself is the reader and she does a great job with the narration. Haddish had a very difficult childhood but she refuses to feel sorry for herself. Instead she really makes humor and energy work for her. Personally, I loved this book and really admire Ms. Haddish. Such spunk and joie de vivre! I really enjoyed this and found it to be a fast read. Fun!
    Note: there is violence, graphic language, some slightly cringeworthy description of someone with a disability in this book.
  • New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, well. My colleagues can tell you that science fiction is not my main reading interest. However. This is a fabulous book. Kim Stanley Robinson describes for us New York City and its possible iteration in the year 2140. Due to global warming, the city is more like Venice with people getting around in boats for the most part. Central Park is still there and people take walks. We meet a group of people who all live in the same building and they are all extremely interesting and colorful. At first, I felt upset because of the climate change issue. I switched to Red White And Royal Blue (see below) because it is an entertaining romance that my esteemed colleague Liz recommended. Then I came back to Mr. Robinson. I felt more acclimated when I came back to the book. In my case, I listened to the audiobook which is really good with multiple narrators. There is a great deal of human spirit and humor in this book. The characters are trying to make things better; to save the planet, to keep the wealthy from having everything at the expense of everybody else. I was really left with a lot of hope and admired the author for taking on this tough subject.
  • Red White And Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: This is a great pandemic read! Imagine if the President of the United States was a Black woman, she had biracial children, and one of them develops a crush on a member of the royal family….this book is like having scones and tea and then relaxing on a lounge chair by the pool. Sheer fun! Funny, too.
  • All Adults Here by Emma Straub: This is a story of three generations of a family in small town New York, their ups and downs, their struggles. It is rather sweet. Quiet and sweet. Good pandemic reading because people are working hard to communicate and love each other despite their flaws. A nice read.
  • Night Of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel: This classic has been reissued and it is a quick and interesting read. I really enjoyed this novel. Note: there are no cell phones, people are drinking and smoking like they did in Mad Men which is kind of entertaining at least to me. Times have really changed in these ways! The book was written in 1965 and, in my opinion, it really holds up.
  • Dawn by Octavia E. Butler: Oh. My. Goodness. I am reading another science fiction novel. Perhaps this is habit forming! I watched an interview with Octavia Butler and decided I had to give her a try. This book is sooooo good. Part of a trilogy which means, uh oh, I may have to read the whole thing. Not to worry. It is an easy and quick read. Our main character Lilith, has been ‘asleep’ for a long time. When the novel opens, she is having an awakening. She has apparently had several of these. Here’s the thing. Um well, earth was kind of destroyed by some crazy people and Lilith is meeting extraterrestrials who have been putting her to sleep and awakening her. They are soooo interesting…and she is such a strong character. I am totally engrossed in this book!

Laura

  • You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar: Amber Ruffin, host of The Amber Ruffin Show and writer/performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers joins forces with her sister, Lacey, to recount the real life racist experiences that Lacey has endured while working, shopping, seeking medical care. In other words, just living her life. This book is a must addition to anti-racist work and booklists.
  • The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison: This collection of essays and speeches by the late great Toni Morrison span over four decades but are timeless. The essays about racial justice and respect (or lack thereof) for writers and those in the arts could easily have been written three months ago and not 20+ years ago). Morrison’s writing is lyrical and thoughtful.
  • More Bridgerton novels by Julia Quinn: Prior to the show, I had only read three in the eight book series, so I’ve been catching up on those that I missed as well as re-visiting others:
    • The Viscount Who Loved Me: This was a re-read (or listen, in this case). This is still my favorite of the series and I’m excited that the second season of the show is going to cover this novel.
    • An Offer from a GentlemanA different take on the Cinderella story and (an attempt to) look at class structure in Regency England. 
    • Romancing Mister BridgertonThis is my favorite of the novels that were new (to me). Penelope is a great character in the novels. 
    • To Sir Phillip with LoveNot sure how I feel about this one. I think part of the issue is that I really liked Eloise on the show as well as another show character whose name I won’t spoil (who only exists in the book series as someone who died before the book takes place). I don’t love the fates of either character as presented here. I would probably feel better about this novel if I hadn’t watched the show.
  • Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, read by Carrington MacDuffie: Novel which imagines a scenario in which Hillary Rodham (Clinton) breaks up with Bill Clinton and how it changes both of their lives. I’m almost finished with this and undecided how I feel about it. Good pick for those who like alternate histories but I have a lot of thoughts about the narrative and direction that I’m trying to piece together. I preferred Sittenfeld’s previous First Lady novel, American Wife
  • Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge, and Jay San: I loved this graphic novel so much! Hazel and Mari fall in love in the 1960s as teenagers but family and societal pressures force them to end their relationship. They rediscover each other many years later and find themselves with a second chance. This is a beautiful depiction of a loving, healthy, and passionate relationship. There is always more room for LGBTQIA+ romances as well as romances focusing on people of color. However, I also just really appreciate the fact that the couple at the central part of the story are women who are senior citizens. So few romances focus on anyone over a certain age and how refreshing to see a romance book cover with characters with gray hair! 
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas: Prequel to The Hate U Give about Starr’s father, Maverick. Beautiful story about the struggles that Maverick has to face, including having enough money to support his infant son, Seven, struggling with the murder of his beloved cousin, Dre, and pressure to keep his emotions intact. It’s not necessary to read The Hate U Give in order to enjoy this novel, but I definitely recommend it, anyway! It’s also interesting to see how the adults we met in the previous book became who they are.

Tax Filing Season 2021/ Temporada de declaración de impuestos 2021

 

 

Federal and Massachusetts Forms 1040 and 1

 

It’s that time of year again! Please use our online resource guide to help you through tax season.

¡Es esa época del año otra vez! Utilice nuestra guía de recursos en línea para ayudarlo durante la temporada de impuestos.

**The IRS has extended the tax filing deadline to May 17, 2021. El IRS ha extendido la fecha límite para la presentación de impuestos hasta el 17 de mayo de 2021**

Obtaining Tax Forms/Cómo obtener formularios de impuestos

  • The Waltham Public Library has a limited supply of IRS Form 1040/1040 SR and instruction booklets as well as MA Form 1 Booklets. To pick one up, please come to the library holds pickup area in our lobby by our ground floor/parking lot entrance to the building. Please wear a mask and observe the limit of three people/families inside at one time. Due to limited quanities, we can only offer one form and instruction booklet per patron. If you need additional forms aside from the Form 1040/1040 SR and Massachusetts Form 1, please see below.
  • La Biblioteca Pública de Waltham tiene un suministro limitado del formulario 1040/1040 SR del IRS y folletos de instrucciones, así como folletos del formulario MA 1. Para recoger uno, acérquese al área de recogida de la biblioteca en nuestro vestíbulo junto a la entrada de la planta baja / estacionamiento del edificio. Use una máscara y observe el límite de tres personas / familias adentro al mismo tiempo. Debido a las  cantidades limitadas, solo podemos ofrecer un formulario y un folleto de instrucciones por usuario. Si necesita formularios adicionales además del Formulario 1040/1040 SR y el Formulario 1 de Massachusetts, consulte a continuación.
  • Obtain Federal forms from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website/Formularios federales del sitio web del Servicio de Impuestos Internos (IRS)
  • Obtain Massachusetts forms from the Department of Revenue (DOR) website/Formularios de Massachusetts del sitio web del Departamento de Ingresos (DOR)
  • Tax Forms for Other States
  • Contact the IRS by phone to request federal forms: 781-835-4350 or 617-316-2850
  • Note: According to a March notice from the IRS, there was “an error found on the IRA Deduction Worksheet—Schedule 1, Line 19 in the 2020 Instructions for Forms 1040 and 1040-SR: Line 3 of the worksheet should read “Enter the amount from Form 1040 or 1040-SR, line 9.”/Según un aviso de marzo del IRS, se encontró “un error en la Hoja de trabajo de deducción de IRA — Anexo 1, Línea 19 en las Instrucciones de 2020 para los Formularios 1040 y 1040-SR: La línea 3 de la hoja de trabajo debe leer” Ingrese la cantidad de Formulario 1040 o 1040-SR, línea 9.”
  • Contact the DOR by phone to request state forms: 617-887-6367 or 800-392-6089
  • To print out forms at the library:
    • Using your own device: Find the form you need online and follow the directions for wireless printing at the library. 
    • Con tu propio dispositivo: Busque el formulario que necesita en línea y siga las instrucciones para la impresión inalámbrica en la biblioteca. (Elija español para la traducción de la página)
    • Staff Help: Contact wlmill@minlib.net or call 781-314-3425 Monday through Friday, 8:30 – 4:30. Please include your name, contact information, federal or state, and the form number. (Forms only and instructions 10 pages or fewer) Please allow 1-2 business days for staff to print your form and contact you. Please Note: Library staff members are not authorized by revenue agencies to give tax advice or determine the correct form to match specific needs.
    • Ayuda de un miembro del personal de la biblioteca: Póngase en contacto con wlmill@minlib.net o llame al 781-314-3425 de lunes a viernes, de 8:30 a 4:30. Incluya su nombre, información de contacto, federal o estatal, y el número de formulario. (Solo formularios e instrucciones de 10 páginas o menos) Por favor, espere entre 1 y 2 días hábiles para que el personal imprima su formulario y se comunique con usted. Tenga en cuenta: las agencias de ingresos no autorizan a los miembros del personal de la biblioteca a brindar asesoramiento fiscal ni a determinar el formulario correcto para satisfacer sus necesidades específicas.

Where and How to File Tax Returns/Dónde y cómo presentar declaraciones de impuestos

Local Offices for Tax Agencies

Free Tax Help/Ayuda tributaria gratuita

Volunteer in Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

  • According to the IRS: “The VITA program has operated for over 50 years, offering free tax help to: People who generally make $57,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.”
  • Según el IRS: “El programa de VITA ha operado por más de 50 años, ofreciendo ayuda tributaria gratuita a las personas que necesiten asistencia con la preparación de sus propias declaraciones de impuestos y que sean: Personas que generalmente tienen $57,000 o menos en ingresos, personas que tienen incapacidades, y personas que tienen dominio limitado del inglés.
    • VITA Locations/Ubicaciones
      • Bentley University (Online/En línea)
        781-891-2000
        Appointment Only/Sólo cita
        English/Español
        Online tax preparation will be held online Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. from Thursday February 16 to Sunday April 11, 2021.
        La preparación de los impuestos tendrá lugar por internet los domingos, de doce a cuatro de la tarde, y los jueves de seis y media a ocho y media de la noche, del jueves, 16 de febrero a domingo 11 de abril de 2021.  
      • ABCD Allston/Brighton NOC (Online/En línea)
        617-903-3640
        Appointment Only/Sólo cita
        English/Español/русский
      • Just-A-Start Corporation
        617-918-7504
        Appointment Only 
        “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will assist most participants virtually and complete your tax returns online. We use a secure file sharing system and a secure video chat service to keep you and your personal information safe. For participants who need extra assistance due to technology needs or a complex tax situation, we plan to offer limited in-person service by appointment only. However, in-person appointments will be available only when COVID numbers are low enough to be safe for our staff, volunteers, and participants.”
        English/Limited Spanish Un poco de español
      • Other Locations Within 10 miles/Ubicaciones de VITA dentro de las 10 millas 
    • AARP Tax Program 
      • According to the AARP: “AARP Foundation Tax-Aide provides tax assistance free of charge, with a special focus on taxpayers who are over the age of 50 or have low-to-moderate income.”
      • AARP Tax Aide Locations
        • Waltham Council on Aging/Senior Center By Phone Only
          781-314-3499
          From Waltham Council on Aging February 2021 Newsletter: “This year taxes will be done remotely on the phone. You will drop off your paperwork and
          return for a signature once completed. The tax
          season starts late this year so there will be less
          appointments. Also this year AARP will not do
          returns that include rental properties, itemized
          deductions, or business expenses. Call 781-
          314-3499 to get on the list. You will receive a
          call back with an appointment.”
          English

COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment 2021 /COVID-19 Pagos de impacto económico 2021

Other Resources/Otros recursos

Staff Reads February 2021

 

 

 

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Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Lisa

  • I am listening to Michelle Obama’s Becoming while walking…a great way to start off the new year.
  • I recently read One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London. It explored body image as a plus size blogger became the star of a Bachelor style reality tv show. It was a fun and thought provoking book.

Liz

Ewan

  • In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: This is the most innovative book I have ever read. Machado revolutionizes the memoir in this account of her relationship with an abusive woman. A vital addition to queer bookshelves everywhere with a heartwarming plot-twist—although I am not sure it can still be called plot since it happened in real life.
  • The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa: Ogawa’s dream-like science fiction takes you to a nightmarish island where entire objects—flowers, gems, instruments—disappear from everyone’s memory. The special few who are able to remember are hunted down and swept away by the ominous memory police. This novel is full of surprising and breathtaking images, beautifully translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder.
  • The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter: This work of nonfiction follows the idea of a white race from its invention and through its many iterations and definitions. Painter covers everything from the creepy guy who brought the word “Caucasian” into general use to the titans of American intellect who shaped whiteness into what worked best for their politics and their wallets. A deeply researched illumination.

Debora

  • Sister of Mine by Sabra Waldfogel: Big wow. This had me from the start and I read it in 3 days. It tells an unusual story about a Jewish cotton farmer in 1800s Georgia and the relationship of one of the enslaved women, Rebecca, to both her mistress and her master. The writing is simple, yet elegant, and the story compelling at every page. It starts during the Civil War, then goes to an earlier time to tell the backstory. Weeks later, and I’m still thinking about these characters.
  • The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain: This was a quick read, perfect for downtime during staycation. The story takes place after the suicide of midwife Noelle, who died with a pile of secrets not even her best friends, Tara and Emerson, knew. The plot’s twists and turns keep you going – and guessing – but I confess that I knew the final plot turn before it was revealed at the end. A fun, light read.
  • A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner: The author sets up an interesting parallel between the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire and 9/11. The main plot of the story is in 1911 and involves nurse Clara Wood, who works on Ellis Island, in its hospital. She’s escaped Manhattan, following the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and is still traumatized by having seen her friend jump from the building to his death. When she cares for a recently arrived immigrant who has Scarlet Fever, she feels an affinity towards the man and gains more understanding about her own experience. The 2011 plotline revolves around a woman, Taryn, who saw the Twin Towers fall and narrowly escaped injury. What ties them together is a scarf printed with marigolds. I really enjoyed both stories, but felt the scarf connection was a bit contrived. Still, a fun read

Dana

  • This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Xia Fukuda: This book was very good, albeit a bit depressing. It follows Alex Maki, a Japanese-American teenager living on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. He’s a bit of a loner, and his only real friend is his penpal of many years, Charlie, a Jewish teenage girl living in Paris. The book follows the turmoil that takes over their lives, as first Alex and then Charlie are targeted and forced from their homes simply because of who they are. The reader follows Alex during his time in an internment camp, and then as a soldier fighting in Europe near the end of the war. I finished it a while ago, but I’m still thinking about it.
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: Matt Haig does not disappoint! I was only about 10 or 20 pages into this, his latest novel, when I realized I loved it. Clearly I’m not the only one, since The Midnight Library was voted Best Fiction in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2020. The story follows a woman who has decided to end her life, but then finds herself in a library full of books that tell of the infinite paths her life could have taken, based on every choice she ever made. Like many of Haig’s other books, The Midnight Library has elements of sci-fi and fantasy with a dollop of philosophy, and I loved the premise of an endless library that contains all the different stories one’s life could possibly tell.
  • What It’s Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing – What Birds Are Doing, and Why by David Allen Sibley: I’ve always been interested in birds, and have been encouraging a similar interest in my preschooler, who loves to refill our bird feeders and watch the ensuing frenzy. This book is beautifully illustrated and full of fascinating details… I might have to add it to my wishlist so we can have a copy at home for reference!
  • Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill: I had placed a hold on this ebook and then promptly forgot about it, so it was a pleasant and hilarious surprise when it became available. Oneill acts as a tour guide for the reader, who has ostensibly gone back to Victorian times after admiring the clothes and perceived way of life shown in period dramas. The author doesn’t hold back in her narrative reality slap, explaining just how miserable life could be for women of all classes during this time. It was a truly eye-opening read, and the humor with which Oneill writes had me giggling so much that I almost worried my husband suspected me of hysteria.  
  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland: I wanted to read outside of my usual comfort zone, so I picked this alternative history/sci-fi/horror novel about the aftermath of the Civil War, which was cut short by the dead coming back to life and wreaking havoc on the country. In this version of history, slavery has ended but a law called the Native and Negro Reeducation Act forces all Black and Indigenous youth to be trained in combat so that they can work to protect their white bosses. It took me quite a while to get into the story, but about halfway through I was hooked and didn’t want to put it down. Now I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel to come in on hold!
  • Ungovernable: The Victorian Parent’s Guide to Raising Flawless Children by Therese Oneill: After reading Oneill’s Unmentionable (see above), I was excited to see that she had written another guide to Victorian life. Ungovernable covers all angles of child-rearing, and had me laughing just as hard as Oneill’s other book. Both books make me so glad I didn’t live in the nineteenth century… I don’t think I would have been cut out for it!
  • The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed: This YA novel takes place in Los Angeles in 1992, beginning just before four LAPD officers were acquitted for the beating of Rodney King. The story follows Ashley, a high school senior who is one of only a few Black students at school, the only Black girl in her circle of friends, and part of the only Black family in her wealthy, mostly white neighborhood. When the verdict in the King trial leads to an uprising in the city, Ashley has to reckon with who she is, how she identifies, and who “us” and “them” are, all while dealing with typical high school drama. I haven’t finished this book yet, but I’m really enjoying it. Being in elementary school in Massachusetts in 1992, I heard nothing about these events in LA, so I feel like I’m filling in a gap in my understanding of this country’s history. This is the author’s first novel, and I hope she writes more!
  • The Ripper (Netflix): This is a 4-part documentary about the “Yorkshire Ripper,” who killed 13 women and attacked 9 more during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I had heard of the Ripper but didn’t know much about what happened, so this documentary was very enlightening (and pretty gruesome, as one might imagine). I’m also a sucker for Yorkshire accents, so that was a bonus!
  • Song Exploder (Netflix): This is another documentary series, with each episode taking a deep-dive into one song as the artist picks it apart and explains how it was written. I watched the episodes on The Killers’ “When You Were Young,” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” Both were fascinating, and made me like those songs even more. Song Exploder started as a podcast that is up to nearly 200 episodes, dealing with all different genres of music. I foresee myself learning about many more songs in the near future!
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: I feel very late to the party with this one, but I finally got around to watching the last Star Wars movie. I watched it a few weeks ago now, and I still don’t know how I feel about it! The movie dragged for the first 2/3 or so, and I was so bored, but then the end was exciting. Definitely not my favorite, but I suppose it wasn’t terrible.

Ashley

  • Orville Peck’s albums Pony and Show Pony available through Hoopla and Freegal: This is slow, sad, outlaw country with post punk influences, and I can’t stop listening to it. 
  • The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous: Part gothic domestic thriller, part locked room mystery, this might appeal to fans of both. 
  • Devolution by Max Brooks: Read from the safety of an urban environment, this is a mostly well done thriller I couldn’t put down. I wouldn’t recommend reading it in a cabin in the woods, especially if you have an overactive imagination like me. 
  • Bridgerton on Netflix: Not really my thing. The costumes were horrendous (the Queen would not be wearing a style that was popular when she was an infant), and you would think that if we are in an “alternate universe” of 1813 where society is color blind, and people wear crazy un 1800s clothes, that gay people would get to have screen time too. But nope. Also the Duke of Hastings is a jerk, because principals.

Deb

Covid had me reading less in 2020 thanks to shorter commutes and I didn’t make my Goodreads goal.  This year I’m working hard to redeem myself! Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2021:

  • The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne: I like to snorkel and I like mysteries/police procedurals with continuing characters.  This was a nice blend for me! This is the 1st in the Underwater Investigation Unit series and I’ll definitely read # 2: Black Coral.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This story was on a few suggested reading lists, was made for Hulu and I had friends who liked it so I thought I’d give it a try.  It takes place in a midwestern “planned community”. That premise struck me as a bit Stepford at first. It also starts with the ending and then you spend the rest of the book figuring out how you’ll get there. It was good, not amazing, but decent.  Several types of motherhood are on display as well as several types of angst.
  • My favorite so far this year is The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. It’s about the Spanish Flu of 1918 and takes place in a maternity ward in Ireland. This book was researched for the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Flu and was due to be published in 2021 but when covid hit, printing was fast-tracked to take advantage of the timeliness of the topic in relation to our new pandemic. I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed the narration.  A colleague of mine, Dana, made the connection for me that Emma Donoghue has made a name for herself writing books that all take place in essentially one room and this fits that theme. (See also Room and The Wonder, which I’ve also read. These are each a bit on the darker/creepier side compared to Pull of the Stars.)
  • For that year-in-review feel, here are my 2 favorite books of 2020. One was reviewed already, but it seemed worth bringing back since it was a 5-star book!
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: Some books can provide “windows” to view another’s reality; books that reflect a reader’s own life are considered “mirrors”. For me, this book was both: a mirror because it was about Librarians, but a window because the characters worked in Depression-era Kentucky & delivered books on horseback! I listened on audio and it was so good that I was really anxious to get back in the car & hear what would happen next and had to sit in my driveway to finish it because I knew I was only a few minutes from the end!
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: Beautiful descriptions of scenery, deep characters, difficult life circumstances… just a well-rounded story in an unforgiving place.

Janet

  • Nothing Changes: Art for Hank’s Sake (Amazon): Artist Hank Virgona lives to make art. Traveling six days a week from Queens to his studio in Manhattan’s Union Square, his commute sometimes takes up to two hours in each direction due to serious health and mobility challenges. Even so, Hank wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a real treat to hear Hank discuss his work and his views on life. We should all be at least a little like Hank. 
  • Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words (DVD): I only knew Zappa for the songs “Dancin’ Fool” and “Valley Girl.” It was a real revelation to learn more about his world view. With that said, this is definitely not family entertainment. 
  • I Don’t Like Snakes written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Luciano Lozano: This picture book made me like snakes!
  • Lambslide written by Ann Patchett, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser:  A little girl who lives on a farm announces she is running for class president. Her mother says, “you’ll win by a landslide!” The lambs on the farm hear the word “lambslide” instead of “landslide” and the fun begins. An adorable book with great lessons about persistence and cooperation.
  • King, Martin Luther (1957, April 12). “Justice Without Violence” [Speech audio recording]. Brandeis Now. 

Louise

  • Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld: I love everything that I have read by Curtis Sittenfeld to date and Sisterland is no exception.  Kate and Violet are identical twins who also have a certain psychic ability that is both a blessing and a curse.  Violet predicts that a devastating earthquake will be hitting the St. Louis area and everything goes from there.  This is a great read with well developed characters. 
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen: Note:  This is not a happy story.  If your pandemic requires upbeat novels, please do not read further.  If you are still with me, this is a beautiful novel about a devoted mother and a tragedy; and how one lives a life after something awful has happened.
  • The Orchard by David Hopen: Ooh, I love this book.  I recommend this for any and all Donna Tartt fans and for fans of the mystical with a strong serving of dark.  Ari Eden was raised in a religious family in Brooklyn.  However, when his father loses his job, the family moves to a wealthy neighborhood in Florida.  Ari befriends a group of suburban Orthodox peers who are much more ‘worldly’ and not as observant as he was raised to be.  Adventures, love interests, and trouble ensues.  A beautifully written first novel from a literary talent.  
  • Still Me by Jojo Moyes: This novel will appeal to fans of light, fluffy, happy ending titles.  Although this is not my favorite Moyes novel, it is still a pleasant read about the wealthy and their help, with a romantic interest and a cute dog thrown in for fun.
  • Leave the World Behind by Ruman Alaam: Do you like dystopian novels?  Look no further.  This is a Great Read by a fabulous author!  Amanda and Clay take their two teenage children to a rental home in Eastern Long Island, expecting a nice, relaxing vacation.  Except that is not what happens.  This book is sooooo amazing.  Finalist for a national book award.  Read it!
  • Beach Read by Emily Henry: A nice, light, intelligent romance.  Perfect pandemic reading!  Entertaining!
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren : Hilarious romance that is light and very funny!  Give it a go if you need a laugh!
  • The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai: This is not a light read but it is a fantastic book that will give you a very different perspective on the Vietnam War.  We meet three generations of a family who has been through so much and still manage to keep hope and connection alive.  A beautiful book that will enrich you.   Warning:  War and violence
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie:  I love this book that explores an arranged marriage in Ghana and a young woman who comes into her own during a time of changing values and mores.  This book is delicious and satisfying and feminists will cheer.
  • Under The Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee:  This is a book that deals with the American South during the Depression and during the time of slavery.  This is definitely a novel whose comforting formula helps to take the sting out of some of the material so, while it is edifying, it is not nearly as heavy as this sort of book can be.
  • Apeirogon by Colum McCann: This is a very beautifully written novel that is based on a true story of a Palestinian and an Israeli who befriend each other due to their personal tragedies.  The writing is beautiful and borders on the poetic.  Colum McCann narrated the audiobook and he is a wonderful narrator and author.  Warning:  Violence
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Delicious!  Movie Stars!  Marriages!  Philandering!  Money!  Pretty dresses!  Yum!
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Oh, how I love this book.  I was actually upset when it ended.  Beautiful, romantic teen novel that adults will enjoy.  Beautiful character development.
  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: The perfect book for our times.  I am listening to the author’s narration and I am totally hooked.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell:  Gosh, I love Rainbow Rowell.  This book may be for teens, but I am a fan as well.  Lovely teen romance.  Mwah.
  • Madame:  Entertaining, silly, funny and stars Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel.
  • Guys and Dolls: Oh, it was so much fun to visit this musical starring Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and a very sexy Marlon Brando!  Academy Award Nominee.  Funny and fun!
  • Doc Martin:  Perfect Pandemic watching.  Light, funny, quirky, eccentric, beautiful scenery. 
  • Dharma Lounge Volume 1 by Viro:  Freegal is fun and this particular recording is relaxing and yet upbeat

Aaron

  • English for Spanish Speakers On the Go (audiolibro de Mango Languages en el Overdrive/Libby): Programa para aprender inglés. Útil para los que prefieren escuchar y repetir en voz alta en vez de leer una pantalla. Para principiantes y algunos aprendices de nivel intermedios (avanza para llegar a los capítulos más aptos para usted).
  • Pablo Neruda Lee Su Poesía (audiolibro en el Hoopla): Escucha el mismísimo Neruda en su propia voz leer algunos de sus poemas más conocidos como Alturas de Macchu Picchu y Oda a Los Calcetines.
  • Ted Lasso (TV series on Apple TV): Funny, uplifting, great cast. The owner of an English Premier League Football club hires a Division II American College Football coach (played by Jason Sudeikis) to tank her squad and enrage her cheating ex-husband. You don’t need to like sports to enjoy this show, and the less you know about English football, the more you have in common with Coach Lasso.
  • Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki: Few books have so swiftly impacted my day-to-day existence than this guide by Glowacki. Recommended reading for parents who don’t think they’re ready to train yet (spoiler alert: your toddler likely is).
  • Ten Little Eggs: A Celebration of Family illustrations by Jess Mikhail: Surprisingly sweet and fun to read aloud with our 2 year old. 

Laura

  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow: This book is amazing with a mysterious, creepy, surreal yet realistic tone. The world building is fantastic here and I had no trouble buying the fantastical elements. This is a real a world in which sirens, gargoyles, and other magical creatures exist alongside the horrors of the real world such as racial injustice, victim blaming, and violence against women.
  • I Really Want the Cake by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti: Adorable rhyming picture book that, well, really made me want cake.
  • P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy: Written in epistolary (letters) fashion, Evie writes to her sister, Cilla, after Cilla’s parents force her to live with a great-aunt when she becomes pregnant. Evie writes about troubles with her parents, as well as a burgeoning attraction to her new friend, June but Cilla never writes back. This book is very lyrically written and is very sad.
  • Dear Girls by Ali Wong: Hilarious, thoughtful (and sometimes a little raunchy which didn’t bother this reader but may make some blush), this is an open letter written by comedian, actor, and writer to her daughters to read when they’re older. Definitely recommend listening to the audio version which includes a loving tribute and afterward written by Wong’s husband. 
  • The Bromance Bookclub by Lyssa Kay Adams, read by Andrew Eiden and Maxwell Caulfield: This romance novel about a baseball player trying to fix his struggling marriage didn’t work for me, but there were some enjoyable elements. I appreciated the side characters starting a romance book club to try and be better partners and Maxwell Caulfield narrating a fake regency romance was pretty funny. 
  • Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers: Thoughtful book about Grace, who woke up in Vegas to discover that she married a woman she met the night before. That sentence really doesn’t do this character driven story justice at all nor the complex person Grace is as well as Grace’s friends and family who make up the supporting characters. 
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: Just gorgeous! Thanks to Dana (once again), I discovered this book and author. While the reader knows what will most likely happen at the end of the novel, it doesn’t matter. The writing and journey are what’s important. 
  • The Duke and I by Julia Quinn: This is the first book in the Bridgerton series. While I had read others in the series, I had missed this one and wanted to check it out as the show was premiering. It was not my favorite of the book series and contained one scene in particular that was extremely problematic and featured questionable consent. (It’s definitely written in a way that we’re not supposed to think of it as assault, which makes it even worse.)
  • Watched some holiday movies back in December:
    • A Christmas Setup: Fran Drescher as a librarian playing a bit of a matchmaker for her son and the guy he had a crush on in high school. Loved the plot and the main couple and I can’t lie. I love The Nanny as a librarian.
    • Love, Lights, Hanukkah: A woman who was adopted at birth by her recently deceased mother, discovers that her birth mother was Jewish and becomes close to her new found family. The tone was typical of a made for TV romance but I really appreciated the concept of family. The main character navigates her new found relationship with her birth mother and biological siblings while still acknowledging the love for and traditions of her adoptive mother. 
    • Jingle Jangle: Netflix movie featuring Forrest Whitaker as a wronged magical toymaker who has become bitter over the years, only to be encouraged by his genius granddaughter. Very sweet movie.
  • Bridgerton: I mainly enjoyed the Shondaland adaptation of Julia Quinn’s romance novels. I know nothing about fashion history so I thought the outfits were fun and the acting is great. I also really adored Queen Charlotte as a character (who does not feature in any of the books that I read in the series). However, I definitely acknowledge the problematic elements of this show. I think it’s great that the show is much more representative than the books but I agree with my colleague and others that it doesn’t go far enough. There is also the scene I referenced from The Duke and that is basically sexual assault. While it’s written in a way that’s less problematic than in the novel, it’s still troubling and I question why it was left in at all. If you watch the show, I definitely recommend the following two videos on Youtube that critique the show: “Why Bridgerton is Problematic” and “Race-Baiting, Queer-Baiting, Colorism, Featurism, and Performative Diversity” 
  • WandavisionI have no idea what’s going on in this show and I’ve seen most (all?) of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is not a criticism at all, believe me! Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are great and the show veers from funny to mysterious to downright creepy.
  • Wonder Woman 1984: The less said about this movie, the better and I’ll leave it at that.

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