Want to read more African American historical fiction?

image-of-nancy-rawles-my-jimOnce you read Nancy Rawles’ My Jim, a compelling slave story about Sadie (the wife of Huck Finn’s friend Jim), who chose to remain a slave and stay with her family on the plantation, you will likely want to read other stories like it: narratives that sweep you back in time and make you think. Most slave narratives, unlike My Jim, are the stories of men and women who strove to escape. Some African American historical fiction reveals slavery’s cruelty and harsh conditions, but very few novels feature strong, admirable slaves who chose to stay together rather than attempt personal escape.

Another painfully lyrical family story is J. California Cooper’s The Wake of the Wind, in which a homestead settled by freed slaves provides the backdrop for the story of another strong family determined to survive. Mor and Lifee struggle through the Reconstruction period — the obstacles of racial hatred and their resulting poverty— and leave strong, capable children who value their freedom and strive for justice, to keep the family together. Continue reading “Want to read more African American historical fiction?”

Banned Book of the Month: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Consistently among the most challenged books in schools and libraries, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has courted controversy since its original publication back in 1885, though not always for the same reason. It was first removed from the collection of the Concord Free Library in Massachusetts over its “rough, course and inelegant expressions.”

cover-of-the-annotated-huckleberry-finnI suppose it is a sign of progress that one of those expressions, once deemed merely impolite and “trashy,” is now universally regarded as the deeply hurtful hate speech it is. Yet the ongoing controversy occasioned by the book’s frequent use of racial epithets, as well as characterizations which seem to both lampoon and to embody stereotypes, shows that the racial  issues raised and addressed by Huck Finn are far from academic. Author Toni Morrison captures the crux of the problem when she praises the book’s “…ability to transform its contradictions into fruitful complexities and to seem to be deliberately co-operating in the controversy it has excited. The brilliance of Huckleberry Finn is that it is the argument it raises.”

It should be acknowledged that most of the clashes over Continue reading “Banned Book of the Month: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

Staff Favorites: Three mysteries for spring

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann
“Act naturally,” bleated the sheep attempting to evade notice. Standing around munching grass seems to be the most natural thing for sheep to do, but solving a murder mystery? When this Irish flock’s favored shepherd shows up dead in a field, our intrepid sheep detectives, most notably the clever Miss Maple, go about trying to find the murderer (while fitting in some quality grazing). If you ever find yourself anthropomorphizing your pets or other domestic animals, you will enjoy imagining the antics Continue reading “Staff Favorites: Three mysteries for spring”

The Tudors

I have become obsessed with the Tudors. It all started when I checked out image-from-showtimes-the-tudorsthe DVD set of the first season of the Showtime series The Tudors, which stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VIII, from the Central Library right before the big snowstorm this past December. My husband and I spent several evenings in front of a blazing fire devouring every episode on the four discs in the set. Soon after finishing season one, we visited a nearby Silver Platters and were happy to discover that the second season would be released on DVD in early January. Needless to say, we bought it the first weekend after its release, and within a week or so we had devoured all of season two as well.

While I have read that The Tudors contains certain historical inaccuracies, I have to give it credit for sparking my interest in that particular period of English history. Although I had learned about Henry VIII in history classes, I’d never found him particularly interesting. However, seeing his character and those of his court brought to life by such skilled actors and in such rich detail suddenly made me want to learn more about him, his court and family, and his legacy.

As I anxiously await the premiere of the third season of The Tudors, I am exploring the wealth of resources available at the library to feed my new interest. A general keyword search of the library catalog for the term “Henry VIII” yields well over 200 results! Here are some notable ones:

Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen by Joanna Denny
An attempt to redeem Anne Boleyn from her historical reputation, written by the author of a fictional trilogy on the Tudors.

The Other Boleyn Girl
Originally a novel by Philippa Gregory, this fictional account of Henry VIII’s relationship with the Boleyn sisters, Mary and Anne, is available in two different film adaptations: one originally broadcast by the BBC in 2003, and one starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Eric Bana.

image-of-the-young-henry-8The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson
An excellent introduction to the history of British monarchy, with paintings from the National Portrait Gallery of Great Britain.

The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant by Robert Hutchinson
A detailed and readable account of the reign of Henry VIII.

El Lector

Our library serves people speaking many languages. Here is one of them.

image-of-el-lector-by-schlink1En El Lector de Bernhard Schlink; Michael es un adolescente enfermo de hepatitis, un día al volver a casa se siente mal y una señora lo ayuda. Siguiendo los consejos de su madre va a buscarla y agradecerle lo que hizo por él. Pero ¿qué creen? Esto fue más que un agradecimiento, ¡él se convierte en su amante! En sus citas clandestinas él empieza a leerle libros. En estos momentos yo me  preguntaba ¿por qué? A ella le encantaba por supuesto hasta que un día ya no la vio más. Se  había marchado del lugar donde vivía sin ninguna explicación. Con el correr de los años, la vuelve a ver pero en el banquillo  de los acusados. Ella es condenada a cadena perpetua, Michael empieza a mandarle grabaciones de libros. Lo hizo por muchos años hasta el día en que iba salir de la cárcel. Ella fue indultada después de pasar 18 años en la cárcel. Pero nunca salió. ¿Qué creen que pasó? Esta historia me gustó mucho, y está escrita en un lenguaje bastante sencillo. Aún no he visto la película pero debe ser muy buena por que la actriz principal se llevó el Oscar. Entonces, queridos amigos a leer, encontrarán algunas sorpresas.

           ~ Marcela C-V

Many readers (and moviegoers) may be familiar with Bernhard Schlink’s book Der Vorleser in its English language translation, The Reader.