Friday, August 31, 2018

What My Book Club's Been Loving

Several years ago, my sister-in-law proposed starting a family book club. I posted about it way back in 2015 when we first started and we've been going strong, meeting nearly every month since then. Our book club has grown beyond strictly "family", but I consider them all part of my family, so we've kept the name.

We typically meet once a month and rotate who is hosting. Our meetings are typically on a weeknight evening and the host provides dinner and wine. Two of our ladies have young kids and they are always welcomed with joy - although we DO talk about books at book club, it's also a great time for us to get together and check in and snuggle babies and tickle toddlers.

As we've continued to meet, I think we've found out what types of books different book club members enjoy and what we all tend to gravitate towards. Our favorite books are stories of women and we often have conversations about feminism and female life. Some members prefer lighter books, some prefer heavier books, and I think we end up with a pretty good mix. Here are some of the books that have provoked the best discussions.


Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Random House, 2018). This was our most recent read and we found it absolutely riveting. It's the true story of a young Idaho woman raised by off-the-grid end-of-days preppers with no schooling (not even homeschooling, really). Westover eventually realized that the only ticket out of her abusive family life was to go to college, so she taught herself to take the ACT, got into BYU and eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge. Our book club was amazed by her story and we talked for a long time about the difficulties she faced, the hardship of having no power as a woman in her family's culture, how schools might or might not "brainwash" students, what it would be like to life without modern medicine or hospitals, and more. 


Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin's Press, 2013). This was my first Diane Chamberlain, but it won't be my last. This is a historical fiction story based on real events. In the 1960s poor women were sometimes sterilized, sometimes without their consent, if they had real or perceived disabilities. Ostensibly for their own good, but also to keep the state's welfare bills down. This story follows a newbie social worker and a poor pregnant teen as they deal with the ramifications of this program. This one was a particularly good match for our book club because among us we have a social worker, a lawyer, a doctor, and two pharmacists. We all had lots of opinions to share about this little bit of American history. 


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin, 2017). This story, set in the planned community of Shaker Heights, OH, explores the concept of belonging (and not belonging) in many different ways. A custody battle over a Chinese-American infant threatens to split the town apart and we had a deep conversation about culture and nurturing children. Further reading for book clubs who discussed this book is the upcoming memoir All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, adopted by a white couple in infancy, she decides to search for her Korean-American birth parents when she gets pregnant with her first child. 


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Viking, 2017). Eleanor is, of course, NOT completely fine, but her truth is slowly revealed to the reader as we navigate her quest to meet and marry the man with whom she's fallen in love-at-first-sight. We talked a lot about the different characters in this book and how they related to Eleanor, as well as the reveals throughout the book and how they made us feel. This is a must for lovers of character-driven stories. 


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine, 2016). When African-American labor and delivery nurse Ruth Jefferson is requested to be reassigned by the white supremacist parents currently giving birth, things get complicated when the baby goes into distress and Ruth is the only one in the room. The baby dies and Ruth is accused of murder, starting a court case that will change her life and the lives of many others. This was a book that encouraged some deep discussion about race and privilege in our multigenerational, varying degrees of wokeness book club. 

What books have started the best discussions in your book clubs or among your friends or family?


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Diversify Your Booktalks - YOUR SUGGESTIONS!

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting a breakout session at the Indiana Library Federation's Youth Services Conference. This conference (formerly called CYPD) is one of my favorite learning experiences for youth librarians - it's completely youth-centered, they always have amazing authors, and they have great sessions with practical ideas for programs and services. It was my pleasure to join them briefly to talk about diverse books!

Of course, in a 50-minute session that included info on resources for seeking out diverse titles to add to your booktalking and reader's advisory rosters, I could only include so many books. So I asked attendees to chime in and suggest their own favorites. And I now present our compiled list!

Here's the handout from the session, complete with everyone's additions. Y'all doubled the books I had on my list and added some really awesome titles that I'm so glad you shared! This is a GREAT list to work from if you want to read more diverse books.

And for everyone playing along at home, feel free to leave your suggestions for great diverse books you love to include in your booktalks, reader's advisory, and displays. Comments are open below!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Sun Does Shine

So, a few years ago I read Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson's book about his work with the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice serving the poor and wrongly condemned. One client that he writes a lot about in that book is Anthony Ray Hinton, a man condemned to Alabama's Death Row for a crime he didn't commit. In 2015, after living on Death Row for 30 years, the charges against Hinton were dropped and he went free. The Sun Does Shine is his story in his own words.

You don't need me to tell you about this book - it's Oprah's latest Book Club pick and hopefully it's everywhere you look. What you might need me to tell you is that it is a compelling, readable story that's definitely worth picking up. This is one of those books that should be required reading for all Americans.

Hinton's the first one to tell you that he's not been perfect his whole life. He went behind the back of his girlfriend, dating her sister on the side, he even stole a car and served time for it (after he brought the car back and confessed). But when Hinton was accused of robbery and murder even though he had a solid alibi, he was astonished to be convicted and sentenced to death.

Hinton's book really puts the reader in his place as he writes about life on Death Row. He writes about trying to comfort his fellow inmates when they were upset, even though he couldn't physically go to them. He writes about the book club he started so that Death Row inmates might have something to occupy their minds besides their own impending deaths. He writes about banging on the bars of his cell whenever an inmate was taken to the electric chair (and later lethal injection) so that inmate would know he was not alone.

It's riveting, terrifying stuff and this book made me cry and it made me shake with anger. It is well worth the read for anyone, but especially anyone who read Bryan Stevenson's book will not want to miss this book.

Readalikes:

For more about the Equal Justice Initiative and Bryan Stevenson's work with Hinton and other inmates, don't miss Just Mercy (2014, Spiegel & Grau). It's written with less immediacy than Hinton's memoir, but it's a fascinating look at the failures of our justice system.

Readers also may be interested in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (2010, The New Press).

For another devastating true story of an innocent person convicted of a crime, pick up A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong (2018, Crown). This nonfiction book tells the story of a young woman who was raped and reported it but the police did not believe her story and accused her of false reporting. In fact, she had been raped and the rapist went on to attack more women.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Day in the Life

What does a Collection Development Librarian do all day long? Read on to find out. Click on the Day in the Life tag to find more (most recently for my collection development position, but older ones are from my Youth Services days).

8:00am - Arrive at work and start checking in books for Our New Branch! We're opening our first branch in a couple of weeks and it was time to get the books we'd ordered up there.

8:30am - While our processor keeps working on checking in new books, I decide I should process the weekly magazines that have arrived so I can go ahead and get those out to patrons who might be waiting for them. To do this, I barcode them, input the new issues into the system, mark our spreadsheet with the issues that have arrived, and put a "current issue" sticker on them so patrons know they don't check out yet. Newest issues of magazines can be read in the library, but only later issues can check out.

9:00am - I help a staff member collect the book drop (we always have two people get it together for safety reasons). When we come back in, a patron's waiting to use the meeting room, so I head down there and unlock it for her. Even though I'm in a behind the scenes position now, we all pitch in to help patrons whenever needed.

9:15am - Back in the office, I resume checking in the new books for the branch. Because it's a floating collection, the books are cataloged and processed just like the books for our central location, but they'll circulate as part of the branch collection for as long as the branch wants them. Patrons at either location can place holds for materials at either collection.

9:50am - I start setting up a placement experiment on Collection HQ for the titles that have been mentioned on our staff blog. Each month I set up this program to track the circulation of those specific titles so I can gather data on how our blog might be affecting circulation.

10:25am - Our Marketing Coordinator stops by for a chat about the blog - we talk about new users recently added and troubleshoot why the RSS feed is not working after changing the blog's URL.

11:00am - Time to head to the branch to deliver the new books! My staff in Collection Development come along since they have not yet seen the new location. They head back after about an hour, but I stay to try to get the books in some kind of order. When our new Branch Manager takes over, she may rearrange or relocate them, but I at least want her to be able to make sense of what we have. We have a VERY small physical collection since it's a tiny space. We're concentrating on digital access and our Makerspace up there.

1:15pm - Back at the central library, I now head home for lunch.

2:15pm - I'm back from lunch and I work on an Overdrive order of ebooks and e-audiobooks. I try to place an Overdrive order every week, even if it's a small one. Having new stuff added regularly encourages patrons to log in regularly and see what's new. I've found that it's really working to increase our circulation of our ebooks.

3:00pm - I finish up the Collection HQ placement experiment.

3:30pm - I need to investigate changing the email we use as contact for our Gale Courses and as I'm looking into this I fall into a little rabbit hole of marketing materials for our databases. I start brainstorming some ideas about how to increase their usage and make some notes about ways to market them.

4:00pm - Our new Branch Manager stops by and I show her the photos I took of the books at the branch and explain how I arranged them and basically how the collection works and what we think the procedure will be for moving materials around and handling holds both at the branch and the central library. Since this is our first branch, this is all new to us!

4:45pm - We wrap up our conversation and I have just enough time to check Library's Journal's Book Pulse and add some books to my weekly carts. I try to place orders once a week, but I work on the carts a little bit each day.

5:10pm - Got that under control, time to head home!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Path to the Stars

I was never a Girl Scout, but reading Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo has made me want to be one. This memoir written by the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA is an engrossing book for those who like to learn about life in a previous decade. This book comes out September 4, so put it on your purchase list now - you will want this for your library!

Sylvia grew up poor in a small town in New Mexico. Her world was small - she mostly interacted with her family and a close circle of friends in their close-knit neighborhood. When her family bought a house in a more affluent - and white - part of town, Sylvia found herself on her own, not knowing how to bridge the gap between her experiences and the experiences of the white kids at her school. Her teachers assumed she was behind in school because of the lower income school district she had transferred from and put her in remedial classes.

All this changed when Sylvia was invited to a Brownies meeting with a classmate after school one day. There, Sylvia began to learn skills that she wouldn't have otherwise had access to. Her parents were not planners, they were not savers. In Girl Scouts, Sylvia learned how to plan for events and be prepared. She learned how to budget by selling cookies to fund the events her troop wanted to do. Eventually Sylvia's mother and younger sister got involved, as well. Her mother gained skills in money management by volunteering to help with the cookie sales. Sylvia's involvement with the Girl Scouts not only enriched her life by teaching her new skills, but it enriched the life of her entire family.

Sylvia Acevedo speaks so well and so passionately about the skills she learned in Girl Scouts and how they helped her gain confidence and build a future for herself that I found myself wishing I could go back in time and join myself. I kept flagging page after page where she writes about the various ways that the Girl Scouts helped her develop as a person.

This is an inspiring book about one girl building a future for herself and not giving up on her dreams, even though she was repeatedly told that girls couldn't fix cars/be scientists/etc. Repeatedly, Sylvia was shown ways that men and boys had more value than women. Her brother was given a library card without even asking for one, but when Sylvia asked for one, she was told she had to save up $5 to cover the late fees in case she wasn't responsible with her books. Through the Girl Scouts, Sylvia began to learn about her own value and that she could develop the skills to have any future she wanted for herself.

Of course you'll want to hand this memoir to passionate Girl Scouts, former Girl Scouts, and troop leaders. Also give it to kids who enjoy reading about others' real experiences or are curious about what childhood was like in the 1960s.

Readalikes:

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tonya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009) is another gripping story about women who are told they can't, but they go on trying anyway. Readers who are interested in more books about women in the sciences despite odds being stacked against them may enjoy this one.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Little, Brown, 2014) is another memoir of a girl facing odds stacked against her and coming out in support of the education of women. Readers interested in personal stories about women standing up for their rights to have an education and careers may enjoy this one.

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Lowe by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion Books, 2012) is a great choice for readers who are Girl Scouts or who are interested in the history of the Girl Scouts.

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret (Albert Whitman, 1996) is another great memoir to suggest to kids who are curious about what life was like for children growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.

Book info: 

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo. Grades 5+ Clarion Books, September 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

What I'm Reading

I'm in one of those periods where there are SO MANY BOOKS I want to read RIGHT NOW that I keep starting new books, even though I'm already in the middle of a bunch of great ones. I spent yesterday cleaning things out and putting together this brand new reading nook since I finally found a chair that I liked:


So of course all I want to do is sit in this sunny spot and read away! Here are the books I've got going right now: 


All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung (Catapult, October 2018). This one's eligible for the next LibraryReads selections, nominations due by August 20. It's a memoir about cross-cultural adoption. Korean-American Chung was adopted by a white couple in 1981 and spent her life navigating the world not knowing anything about her birth family. Celeste Ng called this one a book that everyone should read and I can see why. When my book club read Ng's Little Fires Everywhere we had a heavy debate about the adoption portrayed in the book and this memoir would be a great choice for book clubs who had similar debates! The e-galley is available on Edelweiss, so go get it today!


The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim (Houghton Mifflin, November 2018). This is another one that I'm seeking out for potential LibraryReads nomination. It's historical fiction set in the 1950s about two Korean sisters, one who is living in America with their parents and one who was left behind in Korea with other relatives. There have been so many great books about Korea lately and I'm so into it. I've only just started this one, but it seems right up my alley. 


Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Pocket Books, 1985). This one is for Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge, which calls for a western this year. I was glad to see this category on the challenge because I've never really read any traditional westerns and we have some library patrons that are die-hard fans so I've been meaning to pick some up. 



Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins, narrated by Kim Staunton (HarperAudio, 2016). This is another one for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: a romance novel by or about a person of color. I've actually already read one that would count in this category, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was time to try Beverly Jenkins. This one is historical (might also count as a western!) and I'm enjoying it on audio so far. 


Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (Feiwel & Friends, 2018). #Ownvoices YA horror set in space with a Latina protagonist. Yes, please. From the publisher summary: "In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you'll hear."


Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, October 2018). I was hoping beyond hope that I'd get approved for an e-galley of this title because I keep hearing such great things about it. Contemporary YA about a Muscogee (Creek) teen dealing with relationships and figuring out life. I've only just started it but I already love it. 

Whew! I have a lot of reading to do! What are YOU reading??

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Darius the Great is Not Okay

You guys, I can't get Darius out of my head.

Darius is a teen who's half Persian and half white and he feels like that doesn't actually add up to a whole.

Darius loves tea and Star Trek and Tolkien. He feels like he's never good enough and that his dad is always disappointed in him. He's never had a true friend... until he meets Sohrab. Sohrab cares about him and makes his feel valued and seen and connected to... but the problem is that Sohrab lives in Iran and Darius is just visiting with his family.

There are so many things I loved about this book.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran is a realistic story of a teen living with mental illness. Darius and his dad both have diagnosed depression and take medication. When Darius visits Iran, a country where mental illness has a seemingly impossible-to-overcome stigma, he's forced to confront his brain chemistry in a different way.

Darius's thought patterns are so realistic for someone with depression and anxiety. Throughout the book I wanted to pick him up and give him a hug or sometimes shake him. But his thoughts are his reality. The reader may realize that Darius's dad cares for him, but to Darius the reality that he's experiencing is that he's worthless and no one cares. That he doesn't have a place. This is exacerbated by his feeling like an outsider in many different ways - in America he's different because he's Persian, in Iran he's not Persian enough.

This is a story about a boy having feelings who feels like he's not allowed to have feelings. I think this is probably something that is pretty prevalent no matter where you're growing up, and it's great to read about a protagonist who not only has feelings but remains true to himself by expressing those feelings. Darius feels like he's an outsider no one will love because he can't help that he is the way he is. He doesn't realize that people might look up to him for staying true to himself even when it makes him an outsider.

Throughout the book there's this chorus of "That's normal. Right?" usually said about stuff that is not really okay with Darius. And the journey in this book is Darius beginning to realize and accept that sometimes he's not okay. And that it's okay not to be okay.

I loved experiencing and learning about details of Iranian life through Darius's story, too. Because Darius is visiting Iran for the first time, he's learning a lot too, so his sharing of details and explanations feels very organic. And I personally loved the Star Trek jokes throughout the book - not every reader will get those and that's okay, but it added something extra for those who are familiar with The Next Generation.

I'd hand this to fans of John Green looking for more thoughtful teen protagonists. It's out August 28, so pre-order now!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran. Grades 7 and up. Dial, August 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.