20 Essential Seattle Books, Part 2 – Diversity

Here at the library, we’re often asked by both locals and newcomers, “What books are must reads for Seattleites?” While we’re not much for ‘must’ or ‘should,’ we thought we’d list twenty titles that capture essential aspects of the history and culture of this place. Not a definitive list: a jumping off place. Our first post looked at Seattle’s history, and in today’s post we revisit that history through the lens of diversity.

no-no-boyThere are many excellent books about the Internment of Japanese Americans during the second World War, but one of the earliest – and one that holds special significance for Seattleites – is John Okada’s 1957 novel No-No Boy. After two years in an internment camp and two years in federal prison for declining military service and a loyalty oath, Ichiro Yamada returns home to Seattle to find himself alienated on all sides. For another view of experiences of Seattle’s Japanese Americans before and during the War, check out Monica Sone’s 1953 memoir Nisei Daughter.

seattle-black-whiteThere are also a plethora of excellent books and resources on Black History in Seattle, including foundational works by Quintard Taylor and Esther Hall Mumford. With contributions by four activists in Seattle’s 1960’s campaigns against discrimination, Seattle in Black and White describes the work of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) striving though boycotts, demonstrations and campaigns to end racial segregation in employment, housing and education. To get a sense of just how far we haven’t come since then, check out Doug Merlino’s haunting The Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and Whitewhich traces the starkly divergent fates of Seattle’s cross-city junior high basketball all-stars of 1986.

indian-killerAlways captivating author Sherman Alexie pulls no punches with his gritty 1996 novel Indian Killer. Race war simmers as a serial killer stalks the streets of Seattle, scalping white victims. Is the killer the increasingly disturbed  John Smith, raised by white parents, divorced from his tribal roots, ‘an Indian without a country’? This dark, socially-informed thriller explores native identity in provocative, gripping fashion.

gay-seattleGary Atkins’s well-researched, detailed Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging provides a groundbreaking history of gay and lesbian social, cultural and political life in our city. Larger changes across the country are reflected through myriad local accounts covering a century of struggle, progress, and community building. As with other books on this list, it makes essential reading for understanding who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Of course we’ve only scratched the surface here. What are some of your favorite books that are expressive of our city’s diversity?

                                                – Posted by David W.

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Where I’m Bound: African Americans and Migration in Art and Life

Click here to view Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series in the SPL catalogIt began with a poem! Reading the Langston Hughes poem One-Way Ticket inspired Jacob Lawrence to make a sketch of a train station waiting room filled with travelers, travelers like the ones seeking The Warmth of Other Suns. As a boy who became an artist, he knew about traveling. Lawrence moved from city to city and house to house until his mother, finally, found a place in Harlem for them to call home.

I was part of the migration,“ he says “as was my family… I was only
about 10, 11, or 12. I didn’t realize that we were even a part of that….I didn’t
realize what was happening until the middle of the 1930s, and that’s
when the Migration series began to take form in my mind.”

In 1941, at the age of 23, Lawrence began painting works in a series that would become known as The Migration Series. Bookended by World War I and World War II, the work portrays an exodus, at once sweeping and, yet, singular in its focus. Long before his wet brush met a dry canvas, Lawrence had steeped himself in the works of writers and intellectuals focused on the Black migration and the role of the artist in art and culture. Where did he do so? At the library! The New York Public Library’s Division of Negro History, Literature and Prints, now known as The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, was instrumental in the artist’s development and formation of the work.

Translated into image and text was the journey of people who comprised the largest movement of people of African descent since the era of the transatlantic slave trade. A flood of humanity came, By River, By Rail bringing with it the seeds of new ways of thinking, living and behaving as well as songs, stories, music, dance and art.

A visual document whose narrative moves the viewer from south to north, The Migration Series is a visual chronicle of a major, unprecedented, historic event.

Discover the history behind the images in Lawrence’s masterwork. Find an American story writ upon a dusty road with titles like: Daily Life during African American Migrations; Fly Away: The Great African American Cultural MigrationsIn Motion: The African American Migration Experience; and The Promised Land: The Migration and How It Changed AmericaThese works, and more, can be found on the resource list Where I’m Bound: African Americans and Migration in Art and LifeThey will ground you in this historic experience so that you fully appreciate the depth and breadth of Lawrence’s work. Then, make your way to The Seattle Art Museum and see Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. The exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the painter’s birth and features all 60 panels of the series that will be on exhibit from January 21 to April 23, 2017.

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2017 Books You’ll Want to Put on Hold Now

The Seattle Public Library offers a huge selection of materials to the public, and we are constantly adding new titles. How can you stay on top of what’s new at the Library? Shelf Talk is a good place to find recommendations, but there’s a very easy way to see what the Library is getting. When visiting the Library’s catalog search page, click on the “Explore” tab to find “New Titles.” Once there, you can either see what we’ve just gotten in or what we’ve put on order in books, movies and music. Here are a few titles that are sure to be big in the early part of 2017. Get yourselves on the hold list early!

Continue reading

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There is a certain satisfaction in reading deeply on one topic, which is why I love microhistories. For our purposes, microhistories are nonfiction books which view history and its larger themes through the examination of a singular object, event or idea. Here are a few recent titles to get you started – see a list of 25 such titles in our Library catalog.

pit-bullPit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey
Dickey set out to understand why pit bulls are so maligned in our culture, and seven years later ended up with a book that covers both the science and the emotion behind the perception of pit bulls. Along the way she covers everything from the creation of the breed and genetics, to how dog bites are recorded, breed panics, and the 24-hour news cycle. Continue reading

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The World Ends Today at 12:05

We’ve had hundreds of murders, scores of heists and scams, repeated instances of paranormal activity, and even a bit of cannibalism. Yet is rare that we’ll destroy an entire planet. But during Thrilling Tales: A Storytime for Grown Ups starting at noon today, we just might manage it. In world-end-cropH.G. Wells’ 1897 story The Star, a mysterious mass from outer space crashes into the planet Neptune, gradually unleashing a chain reaction that at first dazzles, and then terrifies a waiting world. Will all mankind perish in a cataclysmic fireball? You’ll have to stop by the Central library today at noon to find out!

Now in its twelfth year, Thrilling Tales typically happens two Mondays a month at the Central Library. Continue reading

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Born in January

January marks the start of a new year for most of us, but for these famous people it also marked the beginning of an eventful and impactful life! Click on any name below to discover a list of nonfiction books that explore the lives and works of some of the world’s more influential January babies. Continue reading

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Begin Bold, End Inspired: Ideas and Inspiration for the Artistically Inclined

Break open this beginning like the seed that it is! A New Year’s cold, hard exterior is full of all the necessary nutrients to carry you through to a nourishing end. Why not begin by cracking open a book, eyeing a DVD, lending your ear to a CD or eBook, anything to propel you towards that daunting dream. We all need a push sometimes, a firm hand at our back, a pull through that impossible door or one pushing us firmly down into the seat of our fear. Continue reading

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