Black History Month

October is Black History Month so Sapphia, an assistant community librarian based in the north of the city has compiled this list of titles that she recommends.

Sapphia HenriettaThe immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In 1951 America an African-American woman goes to hospital and finds out she has cancer. This non fiction title looks at how colour and class affected hospital care In 1950’s America but also how ethics were dramatically different for all of us.
Using a sample taken from Henrietta Lacks without her permission on a hospital visit, the first first immortalised cell line was made. The cells known as ‘He-La’ have been mass produced and helped create vaccines for Polio, research Cancer, AIDS and the effects of radiation and much more. He-La cells have been reproduced to the weight of over 20 tonnes and has over 11,000 patents. Yet still her family were only informed of the importance of Henrietta’s cells in the 1970’s after the original He-La cells were contaminated and scientists tried to get samples from family members to investigate their genetics further.
By both informing you of who Henrietta was, and looking at the struggle and fight of Henrietta’s family to seek truth, ethical fairness, and recognition this is an incredible story, that should never be allowed to happen again. It’s hard to believe in this day and age, it could of happened in the first place.

Sapphia HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

Skeeter is the daughter of a white family who own a cotton farm in 1960’s America. After graduating from university, intent on becoming a writer against the ambitions of her mother she embarks on her first piece of writing. Constantine, Skeeter’s maid who cared for her as a child and brought her up has left the family home, quitting and going back to family in Jackson. This seems completely out of character for Constantine and Skeeter is determined to find out the truth. Talking to ‘help’ from other families Skeeter learns that she has truly lived another life compared to the often faceless men and woman that are employed as ‘help’ for the white families she represents. Skeeter will find out what happened to Constantine but she will also create a written account of the stories of the ‘help’ from her small town near Jackson. The stories will show them as individuals, with personality, loving and kind but also highlighting some of the deplorable conditions they faced everyday. This happened. This story may be fictional but is based on a history that was quite recent and the way that black people were treated as ‘help’, as a subordinate human is hard to conceive. But in some places, for some cultures it still happens. We need to learn from our history so that our future shows that we have changed.

Sapphia Hidden FiguresHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley

During World War 2, the civil rights movement and mass labour shortages, Hidden figures looks at the true story of four African American women whose great intellect got them jobs working as ‘human computers’ for NASA. They defied segregation, forged alliances and overcame the prejudice that was common place for that time, for being black, and for being women. Their guts and determination is exemplary and these women need to be acknowledged and revered for their amazing accomplishments. Without these women the first American astronaut wouldn’t have made it to space, taking on each and every hurdle, changing their lives but also changing their countries future.
The film version of this book has been used to educate young, impoverished black women in America to show them that they can aspire and that they can reach the stars. I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I hoped. It wasn’t the story. It was the way it was written. I’m just happy that these amazing black women have had their stories publicly acknowledged and inspired millions more.

Sapphia Born a CrimeBorn a Crime : Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

I don’t think I can even describe how much I loved this book. I loved Trevor Noah before but now I am in awe. His biography tells you his childhood stories, starting with his first; that he was born a crime. Born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father in apartheid South Africa, Trevor was hidden indoors and always an outsider no matter what community he was in. Whether in poverty or becoming a business man in the ‘hood’. He is a mischievous yet endearing boy mentored by a determined, unconventional and loving mother who you can feel with every story Trevor’s love and admiration for. The memories are beautiful and vast, wether humorous or heartbreaking and seen through the eyes of a child living in a dangerous time, armed only with the aspirations his mother ingrained in him and hope.

Sapphia MockingbirdTo kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Written through the eyes of a child, To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in 1930’s Alabama. Scout and Jem’s father Atticus has been given the hardest case of his life, to defend a black man accused of raping a white girl. For a town steeped in prejudice, ignorance and violence the irrationality of Maycomb’s adult population leave Tom Robinson’s life in the balance. This is a heart rendering story, I almost cried on a bus. It’s sometimes hard to read with language that was the norm at the time, with the treatment of black people as second class citizens and getting lost into a story that you think couldn’t be real but most certainly was rife at the time. Atticus tries his hardest to get Tom Robinson justice and acquitted of the crime he clearly hasn’t committed, however the verdict is predictable and unfortunate. As a teen Jem is ashamed and betrayed by the adults around him for their lack of rationality and goodness. ‘Baby steps’ as Atticus says, is just not good enough, where is there humanity? I don’t want to tell you too much of the story in case I ruin it for anyone but I will say that it’s heartwarming to be captivated into a book because you see life from the perspective of an innocent. Reading this story as an adult you feel ashamed for being an adult and for the stereotyping that you do in your everyday actions, and although not to the extremes of the 1930’s we are all a little guilty if it. Even simply judging a book for its cover. But it’s lovely to reflect and force yourself to challenge these prejudices and to take every day as it comes.

Sapphia PoemsThe complete Collected Poems by Maya Angelou

Simply put Maya Angelou rocks. She is full of a wisdom that enlightens the soul. She was a civil rights activist and personally selected by Dr. Martin Luther King jr to be a co-ordinator for the Southern Christian Leader Conference. Just read her poetry. Think about what’s she’s saying to you. She knows what she’s talking about. Simply beautiful.

Other titles to consider:-

The Secret Life of bees by Sue Monk
Scottsboro by Ellen Fieldman
George the Poet (collection)
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Their eyes were watching god by Zora Neale Hurston
Kindred by Octavia Butler

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Librarian’s Choice – Books and Places

This blog is from Joanne, an Assistant Communities Librarian based in the South of the city.

I look forward to my holiday reading every year and I can remember places I have been by the books I read there. Here is a selection of my most memorable books and places and then a look at the books I have put aside for my holiday this year.

Jo Me before youMe Before You by Jojo Moyes

Outside a caravan in France I sobbed uncontrollably at the end of this book. This is a powerful love story which tackles the issues of disability head on. There is a film out this summer, but once I have read a book I rarely feel I want to see it on the screen. But if it is anything like the book it will be compelling.

Jo And the mountains echoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

By the side of Windermere Lake, I followed the twists and turns of a novel that begins in an Afganistan Village and deals with family seperation and the bonds which unite families. I had been a massive fan of this authors previous books. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and I wasn’t disappointed with this book or the wonderful lake views, even if it was pouring with rain.

Jo We need to talk about kevinWe need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I don’t think I would ever have picked this book up, but my daughter was starting A level English in the September and it was on her reading list. She was determined to go off and enjoy the sights and sounds of  Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. I was quite happy to stay on the sun bed and tackle her Reading List. This is a powerful book and you can see why it was on the AS reading list. It has many layers.  The tale of Kevin who is a teenager killer is told through the eyes of his mother. It forces you to think about your parenting and how much you can decide the destiny of your children. I certainly didn’t have much control over my daughter’s nocturnal life style on that holiday. However, it turned out to be a book we both loved and still discuss.

This year I am staying close to home for holidays, but have already planned some reading. It’s a mix this year. Having worked in the Public Library for 6 months I have loved having such a wide selection at my finger tips.

Jo go set a watchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

One of my favourite books of all time is To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and I still haven’t read the much talked about Go set a Watchman.The reviews are mixed but it will be interesting to revisit the characters of Atticus and Scout  and see how the father/daughter relationship developed. One of my favourite quotes of all times comes from To Kill a Mocking Bird;

“ You never really understand a person until you climb into their shoes and walk around in them”. How true……

jo after youAfter You by Jojo Moyes

Having so enjoyed Me before you, I am going to give this a go. I must remember to pack the tissues.

jo collected poems larkinCollected Poems by Philip Larkin

And finally, after being inspired at a recent poetry workshop run by a colleague, I need to revisit some poetry. I always loved Philip Larkin, so I am going to give him another go. Happy holidays and Happy reading………..

Young Adult books as film are big box office

MatchedThe Twilight and Harry Potter movie franchises may be finished but Young Adult fiction is still big news at the box office. With cinematic sequels due for Divergent and The Maze Runner and the final outing for the phenomenally successful Hunger Games sequence still to come it seems that dystopian fiction in particular is box office gold. But dystopias are not the only Young Adult novels getting the Hollywood treatment so if bleak futures aren’t your thing maybe you will find something else more appealing amongst this selection of some of the best Young Adult tomes currently in production:

Fallen by Lauren Kate. Forbidden love pulses at the heart of this dark paranormal romance. When Luce meets Daniel she has an intense feeling that they have met before, but how is that possible when she knows for a fact that they haven’t?

FallenMatched by Allie Condie. Cassie lives in a society where every life choice is made for her including who her life partner will be but when she falls in love with someone who isn’t her match Cassie decides it’s time to make some choices of her own. This is the first book in an exciting dystopian trilogy.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Two young magicians’ fates intertwine when they are used as pawns in the power games of their older masters and The Night Circus becomes the stage for a fantastical tale of magic, love and rivalry.Wither

Paper Towns by John Green. An unusual coming of age tale from the author of the hugely popular The Fault in Our Stars. When the girl Quinten love’s mysteriously disappears he embarks on an epic and life changing road trip across America to find her.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Photography and text are used to startling effect to tell the story of sixteen year old Jacob. Sent to a remote Welsh island following a family tragedy he discovers the remains of an orphanage and within its Thirteen reasons whycrumbling walls some very unusual photographs which may hold clues to the fate of the strange children who used to live there.

Wither (The Chemical Garden Book One) by Lauren DeStefano. Rhina lives in a world where due to faulty genetic engineering women die at the age of 20 and men at 25. With only four years left to live Rhina is kidnapped and sold into a polygamous marriage with a rich young man. In order to escape and reunite with her twin brother she must first learn who she can trust amongst the other wives and servants of her new household come prison but the clock is ticking.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Thirteen names on a list, thirteen cassette tapes and thirteen reasons why teenager Hanna Baker took her own life. Compelling, tragic and utterly believable.

Mortdecai – have you read the books yet?

Don't point that thing at meAnyone been to see Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow in the film ‘Mortdecai’?

You might be interested in reading the novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli on which the film is based and which have been reissued by Penguin (The Mortdecai Trilogy and The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery).

Sometimes compared to P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels for their humour but altogether darker (Mortdecai has a thuggish sidekick called Jock and Mortdecai himself is more cunning than Bertie Wooster), the author’s wife also said Bonfiglioli owed a debt to Kipling.

Mortdecai says of himself: “I am in the prime of life, if that tells you anything, of barely average height, of sadly over-average weight and am possessed of the intriguing remains of rather flashy good looks … I like art and money and dirty jokes and drink. I am very successful. I discovered at my goodish second-rate public school that almost anyone can win a fight if he is prepared to put his thumb into the other fellow’s eye.”

We’ve got one title in stock and we’re ordering  more.

Don’t point that thing at me by Kyril Bonfiglioli –Portly art dealer and seasoned epicurean Charlie Mortdecai comes into possession of a stolen Goya, the disappearance of which is causing a diplomatic ruction between Spain and its allies. Not that that matters to Charlie … until compromising pictures of some British diplomats also come into his possession and start to muddy the waters.

Inherent Vice

Inherent vice Inherent vice (borrow it from us) is the first novel by Thomas Pynchon to be made into a film and it is released in the UK on 30th January.

Synopsis: It’s a while since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Doc soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions …

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, ‘ a pothead private eye’ with ex-girlfriend Shasta played by Katherine Waterston. Land developer boyfriend Mickey Wolfmann is played by Eric Roberts. With Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, and Joanna Newsom assisting.

 

Books you might like if you’ve seen ‘The Theory of Everything’

Travelling to infinity: my life with StephenMy brief historyIf you have seen the film ‘The Theory of Everything’ you might be aware that it was based on Jane Hawking’s book  ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen’ which we have in stock if you’d like to read it. It describes their marriage, life together and subsequent divorce.

There’s also a new biography called Stephen Hawking by Sonia Newland and Hawking’s own autobiography My Brief History which was published in 2013. It takes the reader from his post-war childhood in London through his undergraduate years at Oxford. He says he was smart but (according to him) undistinguished. A great lover of jokes and bets, he made an art of doing as little work as possible.

A brief history of time: from the big bang to black holesAll that changed, however, when Hawking received a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, at the age of 21, and began his transformation into the (still fun-loving) explorer and explainer of the universe that we know today. Written with wit, humility, and warmth, ‘My Brief History’ gives us a candid examination of a life well-lived, including insight into his marriages and family life as well as a portrait of his intellectual evolution

 

We also have copies of The Brief History of Time or grab 3-minute Stephen Hawking: digesting his life, theories and influence in 3-minute morsels by Paul Parsons

Eddie Redmayne just won a Golden Globe award for his amazing portrayal of Stephen Hawking in the film.

 

 

Go Wild in the library or the cinema

Wild: a journey from lost to foundYou can go and see the film ‘Wild’ from next Friday 16th January – it’s adapted from the author’s story by Nick Hornby. If you want to read the book, we have six copies and it’s by Cheryl Strayed.

Wild: a journey from lost to found

At 26, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk 1,100 miles of the west coast of America – from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, and into Washington State – and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise – a promise of piecing together a life that lay in ruins at her feet