The Librarian Is In: September 2018
This month, the Birnbaum Library directs us to where we should be headed on the bookshelf.
Brought to us by the Mortola and Birnbaum libraries, The Librarian Is In seeks to answer the age-old question: what should I read next? This month, we have a number of recommendations from the Birnbaum Library staff.
There There—Tommy Orange
Recommended by: Gina Levitan, Instructional Services Librarian
In There There, author Tommy Orange weaves together the lives and stories of Native Americans living in the Oakland area and what follows is an exploration of urban Native American life as described by a large cast of characters. The characters in this book delve deep into questions of identity, community, authenticity, gentrification, violence, addiction, family, and more. This is Tommy Orange’s first novel, and it is excellent.
For more on Tommy Orange, listen to his appearance on The New Yorker Radio Hour.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet—Becky Chambers
Recommended by: Jennifer Rosenstein, Assistant University Librarian for Graduate Services
When you hear the words “space opera” you don’t usually add the adjectives fun, lighthearted, loving, and optimistic. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a delightful sci-fi take on the idea of chosen family versus biological family. Rosemary Harper is fleeing a difficult past and hiding from her family in the far reaches of the universe, when she finds her way onto the slightly derelict ship Wayfarer. The Wayfarer’s crew is a wildly diverse bunch of different species who somehow all manage to come together with love and respect. They come to accept Rosemary as one of their own on an extremely dangerous mission tunneling wormholes through space to create a path to the titular planet. The overall vibe of the book and the idea of a motley crew coming together on the fringes of respectability is highly reminiscent of the beloved short-lived TV show Firefly. This book has solid world-building, memorable characters, enough action to keep things interesting, and an enormous heart.
My Favorite Thing is Monsters—Emil Ferris
Recommended by: Brendan Plann-Curley, Reference Librarian
What first attracted me to this long-form comic was the story behind the story of an artist’s struggle to realize her work. I knew I had to read it once I saw the drawings, wonderfully detailed and done using tools familiar to any classroom doodler: Bic pens and lined paper! While the artwork is exemplary, the story—set in 1960s Chicago and narrated by precocious 10-year-old Karen Reyes—is equally compelling: at once history and whodunit, family story and fantasy. I highly recommend this debut and look forward to more from Emil Ferris.
Recommended by: Ellen Sowchek, University Archivist
Iran’s importance as a major player on the global stage has made it the focus of much media attention, but how much do we really know about the country, its history, and the lives of individual Iranians, those who choose to stay in Iran and those who leave? Disoriental is a wonderful first novel by Iranian-French writer Négar Djavadi, a modern-day Scheherazade who masterfully spins her own One Thousand and One Nights as she recounts the story of Kimiâ Sadr and her family, émigrés who fled their ancestral home in Persia/Iran and settled in France when Kimiâ was 12. Now an adult, she is a modern woman in every sense, yet, as she traces her family’s journey from the days of its 19th century patriarch Montazemolmolk and his many amazing wives, sons, daughters, and granddaughters, we see that history and tradition are never very far removed from her everyday life. Kimiâ, herself, is the first-person narrator and, structurally, the book constantly shifts from present to past and back again. Through her experience, we come to understand what it means to be an Iranian, but also what it means to be part of a diaspora, an immigrant who must adapt to a new country, a new culture, and a new language. Her tales are entertaining, both timely and timeless in scope. I first read this book in the original French. An English-language version was released by Europe Editions in an excellent translation by Tina Kover in April 2018.
Recommended by: Eloise Flood, Head of Access Services
Patricia Lockwood’s dazzling memoir begins when, as a married adult, she and her husband return to live with her parents during trying financial circumstances. Lockwood’s father is a right-wing, gun-fondling, volcanic eruption of a human being who always strips to his underwear the moment he walks into his house. He’s also—despite being married and a father of five—a Catholic priest.
The memoir ranges between the present and Lockwood’s childhood and adolescence. The present brings such memorable scenes as Lockwood and her husband getting royally plastered with a student seminarian who lives in the rectory. The past gives us gems like the Halloween party where her father dresses as “pro-life Dracula” and the family hunting trip where her father salivates over the idea of “getting my mouth on that Bambi meat.” Almost as an aside, we learn along the way that Lockwood attempted suicide as a teenager, and that she was raped a few years after that. The offhand nature of these revelations is one of the few missteps in this otherwise masterful piece of writing.
A published poet, Lockwood’s prose is full of arresting images. And if her family conversations bear even the slightest resemblance to what is on the pages of this book, an evening with the Lockwood family would be both extraordinarily entertaining and somewhat terrifying.
Do you have a book you would like the Pace Library to buy? Please send your book recommendations to Brendan Plann-Curley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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