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Staff Reads July 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Dana

Louise

  • Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie Lavoie: This book is a fun and light read, perfect for those of us who are having a hard time concentrating.  I picture Diane Keaton in the main role; the housewife whose husband has left her for a younger woman.  The novel takes place in Quebec  and our main character is anything but boring.
  • Cut Me Loose by Leah Vincent: This memoir is very moving and, I must warn you, there are some upsetting scenes.  Leah can not bear the shackles of being a traditional ultra Orthodox female who is not allowed to go to college and who is expected to serve her husband and produce children as her primary role.  The lack of support that she gets from her family when she is unable to live such a circumscribed life causes Leah alot of pain.  This book documents her struggle to find an identity that is comfortable and that makes sense for her.  Recommended for fans of Unorthodox:  The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman.
  • Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst: This eccentric story tells about Jeanne Darst’s life growing up with an alcoholic mother and a self absorbed writer father who can not always attend to his family’s needs.  Jeanne herself becomes an artist and an alcoholic who has to come to terms with her family, her own alcoholism, and her identity.  I loved this book and I felt for the family and for Jeanne on her journey to selfhood.  Recommended for fans of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Donna Tartt is such an amazing writer that I simply don’t have the words. This novel is a Pulitzer Prize winner.  The goldfinch refers to a painting by Carel Fabritius that currently hangs in the Hague.  The goldfinch has a chain attached to its foot which is an apt metaphor for some of the chains that the main character, Theo has to bear in his difficult life.  Theo has and loses a wonderful, art loving mother.  His father is less loving; an alcoholic actor who deserts the family.  We meet all sorts of interesting and flawed characters and see Theo’s destiny so closely entwined with the painting.  I don’t want to spoil the plot and tell you what happens with the painting.
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft: This Newbery Award winning graphic novel is an easy and edifying read.  The main character, Jordan, is a young man who is transferring to an upscale, mostly white school.  He is the new kid and he has to come to terms with a whole different universe.  He has a lovely family, two parents who want the best for him, but who don’t always see things the way he does.  Jordan wants to go to art school, but his mother wants him to go the prestigious school.  He has to take public transportation to get there and he has to find his place as the new kid in the new school and as a kid who has left his neighborhood school behind.  Heartwarming and witty, this is recommended to anyone who ever wondered how to fit in.  Illustrations are all done by the author and the illustrations that are supposedly Jordan’s own originals are delightful.
  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez: This novel is so compulsively readable that I finished it practically before I started.  Our main character, Antonia, has lost her husband Sam, and is still dealing with her grief.  In the meantime, her three sisters are having their own issues as one of the sisters, Izzy, seems to have gone off the deep end.  Antonia lives in Vermont and has some serious worries about some illegal workers and their struggles.  The relationships of the sisters feel so universal to me as they quibble and argue and love each other as best as they can.  The sisters’ family came from the Dominican Republic, and yet, they are firmly ensconced in the United States unlike the migrant workers in Antonia’s neighborhood.  Antonia has a strong literary bent as she is a writer and a former teacher and her literary references throughout the novel are delightful to read.  Two of her sisters are therapists and so, have a more ‘therapy’ oriented view which one who studies great literature might question.  What would a therapist say about Hamlet or King Lear or Desdemona in the current era?  Antonia ponders these sorts of questions and more in this heartwarming book that deals with the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of family life.

Marie

Debora

  • Just Mercy the film: Based on the book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. This is an origin story that’s hard to watch and incredibly important to see. It’s a dramatization of the founding of the Equal Justice Initiative by attorney Bryan Stevenson. If you’re not familiar with their work, take a look at their website: https://eji.org/ In the film, Stevenson is a newly minted, Harvard-trained Black lawyer who moves to Montgomery, Alabama with funding to provide free legal services to those who have been wrongfully convicted or sentenced, including men on death row. The main story is about Johnny D McMillian, a Black man who was illegally convicted of killing a white woman and placed on death row. The entire case against him rested on the convoluted and implausible testimony of a white felon who said he saw McMillian standing over the victim. Attorney Stevenson eventually uncovers the truth, which is that the white felon was temporarily placed on death row in the cell next to the kill room as a way of pressuring him to pin the crime on a man he’d never seen, for a murder he knew nothing about. Stevenson doggedly pursues justice, eventually winning freedom for McMillian. The film doesn’t shy away from the stark realities of death row: the preparation of an inmate for the electric chair, the way cells are organized so that inmates can’t see each other while talking, the random and inhumane exertion of power imposed by the guards. The film’s message is clear: we live in a racist society, built on a racist legacy. EJI’s fight is against a well-oiled system of oppression. This film will haunt you and make you see what he – and we – are up against.

Ashley

  • Once You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka: The 4th book featuring PI Roxan Weary. I really liked this one! Although i had a suspicion of the guilty person as soon as we were introduced to them, the entire story kept me guessing.
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager: Another twisty mystery/thriller/horror novel from this author. Maggie Holt returns to a home her family fled when she was a child because it was haunted. Her father even wrote a best selling book about the experience, and her life has never been the same because of that book. She doesn’t remember her time in the house as a kid, and doesn’t think a word of the book is true, but after her father dies, she goes back to find out if it’s really haunted.
  • The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman: You can tell that Naomi who is a mentee of Margaret Atwood is very influenced by the author. This book read very similarly to Atwood. Sometimes it was interesting, sometimes it was a little too heavy handed.
  • The Last One by Alexandra Oliva: An interesting book to pick up during a pandemic. Our main character (i’m not sure we ever learn her real name) enters a reality competition out in the wilderness, somewhat like survivor, but less intense. What she doesn’t realize is that while she is alone in the wilderness, a pandemic is wiping out the world’s population. Even when she stumbles upon recently abandoned towns, she assumes it is just part of the game. I definitely wanted to find out how it ended!
  • The Half of It on Netflix: This is an adorable movie about a young gay woman, centering on her relationship with her father and a straight boy at her high shcool who she happens to share a crush with. It’s gentle, and sweet, and all about friendship.
  • The Bold Type Season 4B
  • Love, Victor on Hulu: A spin off of Love, Simon, originally planned for Disney+ but moved to Hulu. I have to say, i don’t like Victor very much. Just because you are confused about your sexuality/coming out does not give you a free pass to be a jerk to the people who are kind to you. If i’m to continue watching, i want a kid who is less of a jerk.

Casey

Greg

  • Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany: A strange yet very hopeful look at language, about how it can divide us, and how it can be a bridge of empathy between us. I’ll have to reread it again.
  • Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff: Set in 1950s America, this story revolves around a black family fighting against everyday racism and supernatural horrors, all during the Jim Crow era. Terrifying and surprisingly heartfelt, I highly recommend it.
  • Devolution by Max Brooks: A bunch of rich tech-savvy hipsters set up a suburban neighborhood in the American Northwest wilderness. When a natural disaster separates them from the rest of the world, they discover Bigfoot is real, there is more than one of them, and they are not friendly. A fascinating, well researched drama about what is admittedly a very ridiculous topic.

Lisa

Liz

Aaron

Janet Z.

Laura

  • Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof by Alisa Solomon: Gives a lot of context to the classic show as well as the Sholem Aleichem stories.
  • Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore: Great riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  First book by Moore I’ve read since Lamb, which I loved.
  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga: Beautiful, thoughtful, and descriptive.
  • Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: Great follow up to The Underground Railroad.  Elwood’s story after heading to a reformatory is one that sadly still rings true today.
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo: Heart wrenching and descriptive tale told in two verse about two sisters, one living in New York and the other living in the Dominican Republic, who only learn of each other’s identity after a tragedy.
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: A fantasy novel that is incredibly grounded allowing the reader to think about who is considered a monster.  Though the tone is different, this could serve as a readalike to Sweep by Jonathan Auxier, which is another look at monsters in literature.  I love the fact that Jam, the main character, happens to be a transgender female but it’s just a part of and not her entire identity.  It also contains my new favorite line in a book, “‘If you really want to know,’ one of the teachers added, taking pity on Jam’s frustrated curiosity, ‘there’s always the library.'”
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy: Riveting, descriptive look at the Turner family, living in Detroit from the 1940’s to 2008 with a dash of magic realism thrown in.
  • The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Féret-Fleury: A quiet novel about a woman, Juliette, who loves watching people read on the Metro in Paris and finds herself in a position to match the perfect books with the perfect people.
  • Lovebirds (movie): I loved the chemistry between Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani as a couple caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • The Great Mouse Detective (movie): I think I was just a shade too old when this was released and just caught this for the first time.  I think it would have scared the daylights out of me as a kid!
  • The Babysitters Club (Netflix): I had loved these books when I was in middle school but acknowledge they’ve since become dated.  The new show is perfect, updating the stories and main characters for 2020 (even the part about Claudia having her own phone line).  I love all of the changes, and daresay that I enjoy this more than the original books.  (I’m trying to ignore the fact that the parents are my age)

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