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When I read Caitlin Moran's 2011 collection of laugh out loud-funny feminist essays, How to be a Woman, I found it  wildly inspiring and entertaining. If I was the Queen of the World, all women in their 20s would be required to read this book, which deals with subjects like the Brazilian wax, body image, abortion, porn and princesses with such wit and verve that I alternated between laughing hard and fist-pumping. I should warn you that she's a bit of an opinionated potty-mouth-- but I'm okay with that.

Her new book, How to Build a Girl, is clearly a pretty autobiographical novel about Joanna, a teenager growing up on a council estate (think "projects") in a small nowhere-town in England in the early 1990s. Her father is an unemployed alcoholic, her mother is clinically depressed, and Joanna spends a lot of time providing childcare for her younger siblings and worrying about money. Afraid her family will lose their government benefits, she decides to save the  family, get herself out of the trap her mother is stuck in, and invent herself anew-- by becoming a music journalist. She starts sending articles to music magazines, and then, miraculously, gets herself a job. And a lot of eyeliner. And a top hat. 

As the title suggests, this book is really about being young, deciding who you're going to be and making it happen. We all have to do it, but Joanna is brave and starts young, and she does it dramatically, making bigger mistakes. Towards the end, she is feeling her way towards considering her own needs and desires, as well as learning to be kind to other people. But in much of this book, she reminded me of one of the bad characters in a Jane Austen novel, if Jane Austen wrote graphic sex scenes and had an indie rock sensibility. If you like coming-of-age stories and books that make you laugh in an unseemly way when you read them in public, you should give How to Build a Girl a try.

 

Chocolate bookjacketMy Mexican pride elevates each time I hear the word “chocolate”, knowing that the word comes from the Aztec “Xocoatl”. The great recognition of this peculiar Man holding cacao fruit -  National Antropology and History Museum of Mexicobean and is unprecendented; it is one of the most relevant contributions from the Mesoamerican civilizations to the world. The Olmecs, a social group established along the Gulf of Mexico, were the first to taste the flavors of this special fruit in the form of a drink where the cacao (cocoa) was ground, fermented and mixed with herbs. In those days cacao was used as currency in trading among Mayans, Aztecs and other social groups in Mexico and Central America.

The cacao was a symbol of great abundance and was used to pay taxes, to honor gods and goddesses in religous rituals, and as an offering during the funerals of the elite. The Xocoatl drink was reserved exclusively for privileged social groups and soldiers, who used it during times of war.

Columbus tasted the drink in 1502 on the island of Guanaja in Honduras, on one of his last voyages to the New World. He brought it back to the King and Queen of Spain, who didn’t see the value of the product. It wasn't until 1519 when Hernan Cortes “the conquistador” was invited to drink it by Moctezuma, the Aztec Emperor and then revealed the culture of the cacao for the first time in the Old Continent.

After its introduction to Europe this great product inspired the imagination of artisans, and cooks all over the world who have transformed it into delightful treats.

When you eat a piece of chocolate don’t forget the history and culture behind that delicious taste.

 

November 11 is Veterans' Day. President Woodrow Wilson first declared the date Armistice Day in commemoration of the end of The First World War, occurring at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. 100 years this past July, WWI began. It lasted four awful years and changed how we think about war. Historians still debate the exact causes of the conflict but they agree that the level of carnage and horror was to that point, and maybe since, unmatched.

At the outset, the war was a patriotic rallying point on all sides, for all levels of society. Poets were not immune to the zeal of fighting for king and country, but they also reacted to the hideousness of trench and gas warfare. Here are two poems. The first was written by the English poet Rupert Brooke in 1914:

 

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

By the end of the war Brooke’s poem was criticized as an example of a mindless patriotism that contributed to the zeal for war.  In high contrast the following poem was written by another English poet, Wilfred Owen, in 1917:

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The Latin of the last line translates to “it is sweet and right to die for your country”.


In the United Kingdom November 11th is called Remembrance Day.  A hundred years on, the importance of remembering the horror of that violence is something no one should find controversial.
 

 

WPC 56BBC shows set in different eras can be so spot-on. They've produced some brilliant series that completely capture the milieu of a particular time period and do it whilst telling a really interesting story. I enjoy watching Downton Abbey for the beautiful frocks but the story of how the world of the upper class was changing after the turn of the century is the more important tale to observe. And yes, I love the fashions of the 40s and 50s so I’ll watch a lot of shows just for the look of those times, but give me a series that explores the changing roles of women and men, and I’ll binge-watch the entire thing in a couple of days.

WPC 56 is one of those shows. It’s set in the 1950s, in the West Midlands police force. Gina Dawson is the first female police officer to serve in her home town police station. At her first meeting with the chief inspector, he sternly says to her, “Never forget that your sole responsibility is to support the men so that they can get on with the job of real policing.” Unbelievable. But then again, so believable. In just a few episodes, we see how such tough issues as rape, mental illness, and race relations played out in a small town in 1950s England. Even though I wish I had a few of their party dresses, I’m glad I’m living in 2014. 

Here's a list of some of my other favorite British series that bring to life other times and places. 

 

Susan Seubert Photography, Inc.Thomas Lauderdale was raised on a plant nursery in rural Indiana. He moved to Portland in 1982 and founded the "little orchestra" Pink Martini in 1994. He has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras and ensembles, including the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Youth Philharmonic, and Oregon Ballet Theatre. Active in Oregon politics since he was a student at U.S. Grant High School (where he was student body president), Thomas served under Portland Mayor Bud Clark and Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt. A connoisseur of Pacific Northwest literature, he has hosted readings by Tom Spanbauer and poets Michael and Matthew Dickman. He maintains an active interest in local history and politics. Here are some of his favorite reads:

Portland: A Historical Sketch and Guide by Terence O’Donnell and Thomas Vaughan

There have been a lot of books written about Oregon and Portland, but I think the best book about Portland was written in 1976 by Terence O’Donnell and Thomas Vaughan, who led the Oregon Historical Society and just died recently. This is a beautiful book. I think that every person who moves to Portland should read this book. This is the book to read. The book is entirely readable, it explains a lot about the mindset and what’s inside the head of the people who came to Portland.

The Story of Opal by Opal Whiteley

This is an incredible story of a woman who grew up in Cottage Grove, Oregon. She was clearly a genius and was very much involved in nature, and kind of had a crazy life. I think that there was renewed interest, because at the Multnomah County Library, an author by the name of Benjamin Hoff, who wrote The Tao of Pooh, found The Story of Opal on the shelves of the library and the whole thing was republished. It’s basically the diary of a very advanced girl – I guess she was seven when she wrote it. It was declared a hoax at a certain point in the 1920s. It became a bestseller and then was declared a hoax. But it’s just incredible. She’s the original flower child of Oregon. She had this whole imaginary world. And even if she was in her teens when she wrote it, it’s still remarkable. The whole thing is just amazing. She has this whole secret world of flowers and animals and creatures, and all in Cottage Grove, Oregon, in 1920.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

She is such a fantastic writer, and I was her assistant for about a year when I was in high school. She had a column in the Willamette Week called “The Slice,” in which people would write questions and she would answer them.

The Portland Red Guide: Sites and Stories of Our Radical Past by Michael Munk

I love this book! It has maps! It has pictures! It talks about how crazy and wonderful the history of Portland is. Whether it’s Emma Goldman, the pioneering feminist and anarchist, giving a lecture on lesbianism in 1915 at the Portland auditorium, two blocks away from my house, and getting arrested and hauled off to jail, to Woodie Guthrie living on SE 92nd in the summer of 1941 and writing all the songs for the Bonneville Power Administration, to the internment of Japanese-Americans during the war. It also talks about writers like John Reed, the Oregonian journalist who is buried in Red Square.

I Loved You More by Tom Spanbauer

I find myself underlining passages and coming back to them again and again. It just resonates. It’s so unbelievably honest and forthright.

Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be by Myrlie Evers-Williams

This is a great, great, great book…I heard her speak at the art museum for Dan Wieden’s organization Caldera and Dan Wieden revealed that she had studied to be a classical pianist with dreams to play at Carnegie Hall.  We got her to make her Carnegie Hall debut, and we filmed it!

A Shout in the Street: An Excursion into the Modern City by Peter Jukes

A Shout in the Street is kind of like those Nietzsche aphorisms. It’s a collection of quotations and moments – film stills, photographs, excerpts from essays – and it’s about four different cities. The cities are London, Paris, Leningrad, and New York City. And they’re so beautiful. Small little quotations about each of these cities at different times. (Note: this work is out of print, but is available through the library by interlibrary loan to Multnomah County residents.)

My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.

photo credits: Autumn De Wilde and Susan Seubert Photography, Inc.

 

Sunsetchoice

noun \ˈchȯis\

the act of choosing : the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities

the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities : the opportunity or power to make a decision

a range of things that can be chosen

 

Choice. We cherish our freedom to make choices, and Oregonians facing end-of-life decisions for themselves or family members have an unprecedented range of options from which to choose. Sometimes the path forward is obvious, but many times it is not. Fortunately, none of us facing such decisions need feel alone. We have a wealth of information and resources available to help.

How do we even express our choices, though, if we haven’t yet talked with our friends and families? TEDMED speaker Michael Hebb notes that, “How we want to die represents the most important and costly conversation Americans aren’t having.” Hoping, he says, “to spark the gentlest revolution imaginable,” Hebb founded Let's have dinner and talk about death, a web-based initiative designed to give us the tools to have these difficult and potentially transformative conversations.

The National Institutes of Health offers an online “End of Life” module aimed at helping people understand the many practical and emotional aspects of preparing for death. The module provides visitors with information about the most common issues faced by the dying and their caregivers.

Seriously ill or frail Oregonians may opt to talk with their healthcare providers about Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment--commonly known as POLSTs. POLSTs help individuals exercise more control over the type of end-of-life care they receive; they are medical orders that emergency personnel will follow to ensure that the desired level of care is provided.

Hospice care is often chosen when curative treatment is no longer effective or no longer wanted, and when life expectancy is measured in months or weeks. Hospice is a philosophy of compassionate and comprehensive care for dying persons and their families that addresses the medical, psychosocial, spiritual and practical needs of the individual, and the related needs of the family and loved ones, throughout the periods of illness and bereavement. The Oregon Hospice Association provides information on resources for families and patients.

In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Since then, more than 500 Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands. In How to Die in Oregon, available at Multnomah County Library as a program, DVD, and streaming video, Filmmaker Peter Richardson enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether--and when--to end their lives by lethal overdose. The film examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue. More information on the Death with Dignity Act is available from the Oregon Public Health Division and from Compassion & Choices.

Finally, caregivers face special challenges as a loved one faces death. Support and resources are available through the Family Caregiver Alliance and this booklist

Contributed by Jenny W. 

Although I hope never to experience war first-hand, I find exploring the topic through books and other media endlessly fascinating. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One. Since there are many fine resources that explore the conflict on a large scale, I thought I would feature a couple of recent releases that provide more intimate looks at this world-changing event.

The burning of the world BookBéla Zombory-Moldován was a young Hungarian artist when the war broke out in 1914. The Burning of the World, recently published for the first time, recounts his experiences as a soldier on the eastern front and his observation of the drastic changes the war brought upon the world. A short read, this reminiscence is a Behind the lines jacketfirst-hand account of a little-known front in the conflict and brings to life the horrors of war on a very personal level.

In Behind the Lines, soprano Anna Prohaska and pianist Eric Schneider explore the repertoire of the soldiers’ song. Although the focus is on the First World War, the songs range in time from the Renaissance to the 20th century, sung in English, German, French and Russian. Included is a German folk song; lyrical songs by Beethoven and Schubert; the four songs by Hanns Eisler offer some challenging listening; and Charles Ives’ setting of "In Flanders Fields." A carefully conceived and thought-provoking collection.

So many disasters to choose from! Earthquakes! Ice storms! Ebola! Zombies!

I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time preparing for the mundane events I know for certain will happen. Like school lunch. I know exactly when it happens and I know what I need for it, and yet somehow a kid gets sent to school with peanut butter and marmalade on a stale tortilla and a rapidly browning banana. If I can't even get it together for lunch, how do I begin to approach the subject of disaster preparedness?
 
Prepper's Pocket Guide book jacketOh, I think about it plenty. But I'm curiously inert when it comes to the actual "doing something about it" part. Many of the books I've seen threaten to turn me into a version of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream. I want to be reasonably prepared without being told I must build a bunker and buy a year's supply of freeze-dried food. The Prepper's Pocket Guide : 101 easy things you can do to ready your home for a disaster by Bernie Carr is an easy way to wade into a kiddie pool of preparedness waters without jumping off the high dive and into the deep end.
 
But what about that biggest disaster of all? The one we all think about even if we don't want to think about it? That inevitable thing that will happen to each of us no matter how much seismic retrofitting we do or how many flashlight batteries we hoard? The event that mostly no one wants to talk about in American society (with the exception of my children right before bedtime.) The Big D. 
 
Death is a difficult topic under the best of circumstances. Glimpsing Heaven: The stories and science of life after death by Judy Bachrach is one of the most Glimpsing Heaven book jacketinteresting and hopeful books I have read this year. As someone terrified of death, the author began her long journey to the book as a hospice volunteer in order to overcome her own paralyzing fear of death's unknowns. She discovered that, thanks to modern medicine, CPR and technology, more people than ever before are returning from up to an hour of clinical death to report on what lies beyond. 
 
Those reports are generally life-changing for the "death travelers", as she terms them, and completely fascinating for the rest of us. The experiences and scientific investigations detailed in the book are the tip of an enormous submerged iceberg. Published by National Geographic, these may be some of the most unique travel experiences in print. Death is an uncharted distant planet we have successfully landed on and awaits the courage and funding for more exploration. What we really want to know: Is death the end? 
 
After reading this book even the most skeptical person might answer: Probably not.

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

tiki popCome with me, if you will, to a tropical paradise. The darkness has returned to Portland, and with it, my desire to read about all things palm tree. Imagine my delight when I came across this new edition to the collection of Multnomah County Library. Published in connection with an exhibition at the prestigious Musee du quai Branly in Paris, Tiki Pop , by Sven Kirsten, is a massive coffee-table exploration of the Tiki phenomenon.  

Tiki culture at its height was a manifestation of exotic visions of island culture inspired by the tales of American soldiers stationed in the South Pacific during World War II: trees loaded with exotic fruits, sleepy lagoons, white-sand beaches, and gorgeous people dancing in grass skirts. Americans made Tiki their own, often ignoring authenticity, and created a mid-century cultural movement that was then forgotten until the recent Tiki resurgence.  Tiki Pop explores the history of Tiki, from James Cook's first explorations of the Pacific Islands in the 18th century, all the way through Hollywood's embracing and manipulating of the Tiki culture through its jungle films. But the real highlights of Tiki Pop are the hundreds upon hundreds of glorious, colorful images. Kirsten has assembled what I think might be the penultimate photographic memory of a time in our culture that was unique in so many ways. What a pleasurable journey!

So, if the rainy skies are getting you down, mix yourself a zombie, a mai-tai, or a hurricane, settle in, and be transported to a different (and warmer) time and place. Cheers! cocktails

 

 

It’s that time of year when I start thinking about what I could make as holiday gifts. Do you make gifts? Host a cookie exchange?

I have been part of a craft group for more than a decade. We get together about once a month to eat, work on projects and discuss the world. They have inspired me over the years to make liqueurs, cookies, jewelry, cards and photo books. I've created a list of terrific books for any of these endeavors. Hope you like it and are inspired to create.

My reading lately has taken a nose-dive because I have found nothing that holds my attention quite like my new pup. That's right, I am proud new mama to Inspector Meriwether Lewis.

Much like having a baby, a new puppy brings lots of unsolicited advice. And because I want to do what works for Meri and me, I end up ignoring the bulk of it. I do find books to be quite useful though, and take great comfort in the many puppy manuals available. Ian Dunbar is one of those soothing voices that remind me "Oh yes, I can do this! Training should be easy and fun and even children can do it!" An oversimplification perhaps, but it buoys my self-confidence no end. And then when it all goes pear-shaped (which is British for horribly wrong) as it does, a solid and reassuring tome like Housetraining for Dummies renews my hope for living with rugs on the floor again someday. This is my personal list.

Signing the Equal Suffrage Amendment in 1912Each election, Oregon’s “initiative” system of government produces a number of hot-button issues requiring the decision of our ever-patient voters. (My theory about vote-by-mail is that we didn’t want to spend all the time required to vote on our myriad measures hunched over our ballots in those rickety cardboard “booths” when we could do it in the comfort of our own homes.) Others have addressed driving "cards" for undocumented residents, labeling of genetically modified foods, legalization of marijuana.  I want to talk about a less glamorous amendment to the Oregon Constitution proposed under Ballot Measure 89:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.

Most of the muted discussion on this issue has been about whether or not it is necessary.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU) says not. “[T]he Oregon Constitution already has the strongest possible protection against sex discrimination and the Oregon Supreme Court has enforced that protection.”  The ACLU identifies Article 1, section 20 as this protection: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

Supporters of the measure caution that Supreme Courts can change; best to be on the safe side. They also point to the symbolic value of those words in the state’s Constitution, and express the hope that this vote will somehow compel our federal legislators to vote to begin the process to amend the U.S. Constitution. (According to equalrightsamendment.org, such bills have been introduced to every Congress since 1982 [when the ERA failed to meet its deadline for ratification by 2/3 of the states].)

Vote however you please this year, but for goodness sake, vote!  And take a look at these books and websites about the fight for equal rights for women in the past 100 years.

Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters

by Mallory Ortberg

Humorous imagined texts from your favorite literary characters such as Scarlett O'Hara, Lord Byron and Emily Dickinson. Sure to amuse bibliophiles.

The First Lady of Radio: Eleanor Roosevelt's Historic Broadcasts

by Stephen Drury Smith

The author presents transcripts of Roosevelt's most historic and influential broadcasts heard by millions of Americans during the Depression and World War II.

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute

by Zac Bissonnette

The story of one of the biggest consumer crazes in history including stories about the fanatical collectors and the great wealth it generated for the inventor.

The Paris Winter

by Imogen Robertson

Set in 1909, a young art student becomes involved in deception, violence and murder. A deliciously chilling historical thriller.

The Rose City Rollers league is made up of over 400 smart, tough, accomplished women who skate fast, hit hard, and defy stereotypes about female athletes ...And they read. Check out a list of favorites from Axles of Annihilation, one of the Rose City Rollers’ two All-Stars teams. Want more reading recommendations? Try My Librarian and get a personalized list made just for you.

Avalanche #K2 started playing roller derby in 2010 as a way to make friends here in Portland. When she’s not skating she runs an art gallery and retail store called Land on Mississippi Avenue. She and her 9 year old son love to read!

The Mental Athlete by Kay Porter

Roller derby takes a lot of mental and physical strength. This book has given me a lot of great tips on how to deal with the tough situations. It’s a great guide not just for sports but also for life. We all have different challenges to face and it’s nice to have different ways to combat them head on.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, followed by Inkspell and Inkdeath

A wonderful series of books about books! It’s about a father/book binder named Mortimer. When he reads books aloud, the characters come out of the book and into the real world, but with each character that emerges a new one must return to the book. One night when his daughter Maggie was very young, he accidentally reads his wife into a book called Inkheart. The trilogy follows him and his daughter as they go on a series of adventures trying to find Maggie's mother. One of my favorite parts about this series is that each chapter starts with a quote from a different book, so once I finished the series I had an incredible new list of books to read.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne is a smart, adventurous, young, orphaned redhead. As a young freckle faced redhead growing up in the country, I always felt that Anne and I were meant to be bosom buddies.


Yoga Nabi Sari #808 is a real life Librarian!  She started roller derby around the same time she started graduate school, and grad school was easier.  Nabi graduated with a Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University in August 2012.  During her two years in grad school she worked at the OHSU West Campus Science and Engineering Library and did volunteer work and research for Multnomah County Library.  Nabi currently works as a librarian for a local commercial real estate company.

When Nabi is not skating she enjoys…oh never mind, right now she is skating all the time. When the season is done she will hopefully read more books, see live theater, and do more hot yoga.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson rolling out in March, 2015.

Victoria Jamieson aka Winnie the Pow is a fellow skater with Rose City Rollers.  I am lucky enough to be her derby wife and she gave me an advanced copy of her graphic novel.  This beautifully illustrated book captures the heart of this sport.  You don’t have to be involved in roller derby to fall in love with this story!

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

Mind Gym: An Athletes Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack

I went on a sports psychology kick this season and read both of these multiple times, and they really helped with my mental game.

Ripley #426 spends her days in two extreme realms, playing roller derby with the Rose City Rollers, and in stark contrast, working professionally as a Child and Family Therapist at a non-profit. Ripley moved from Colorado two years ago to work in the mental health field in Portland and skate with one of the most competitive leagues in the world. She has little time for other activities, although she does enjoy reading, cooking, and international travel, when she can squeeze it in.

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

A novel of two Afghanistan women in the same family but generations apart, who share similar hardship and struggles in a culture where females have little freedom.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The true story of a World War Two pilot who survives a crash at sea, only to face continued abuse as a prisoner of war.  

The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 

A book about two Jewish boys who grow up in completely different households. The father of each boy recognizes what his son will need to succeed in life, but it comes at cost to the father-son relationship.

Shaolin Spocker #1701 works as a graphic and web designer, professional photographer, and Benevolent Overlord of her own branding design studio, Upswept Creative. When Spocker started roller derby, she still had a day job, and spent a lot of time playing with swords - she practiced the martial art of Wushu for 7 years before her growing fascination with derby took over.

When Spocker isn't skating, you'll often find her indulging in sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming, geeking out about lighting design, baking some serious-business desserts, obsessing over font libraries and color theory, or maybe even singing karaoke.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I first read this in middle school, and it's always been an important book for me: as a half-Chinese girl growing up in the United States, a lot of the experiences in the book felt familiar, and helped me understand more about the Chinese side of my background.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The entire 5-book “trilogy” was a lot of fun, but the first book always stands out in my mind. It’s an entertaining and funny flip on the science fiction genre, and a must-read for any sci-fi geek.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A lot of people know about the HBO show, but the books came first, and they’re worth the read. It’s not a series for the faint of heart, and you should be careful what characters you get attached to - no one is safe! :-) - but it’s a complex and riveting story that’s really grand in scope.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

I like a lot of Murakami’s work, and this was the first book of his that I found. It’s a story that’s split between two worlds--with odd-numbered chapters about one, and even-numbered chapters about the other! One world that feels a bit cyberpunk-y, and the other more mysterious and otherworldly.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

This book creates an interesting world, where Thai culture and society is at the center, natural food is scarce, and calories are more valuable and coveted than anything else. The story follows multiple characters’ perspectives, and it was fun to watch the story emerge from their individual threads.

My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.

photo credits: Mercy Shammah - Your Sunday Best Photography www.yoursundaybestphotography.com

Meanwhile in San Francisco book jacketMy favorite city is San Francisco. When I was slogging through high school in the Midwest, I dreamed about moving out to California and going to college there. It took me a few years after high school, but eventually I made it out there and stayed for the next twelve years. Now I try to visit the Bay Area once in awhile. It’s changed a lot since I lived there but the main things that I loved about San Francisco are still there. Golden Gate Park, huge and green, with pockets of bison and windmills all leading to the cold, cold ocean. The neighborhoods, each with its own character and atmosphere. I was there just a few weeks ago and found a bevy of hippies still hanging out in the Haight.

My new favorite book about San Francisco is Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in Its Own Words. The author and illustrator, Wendy MacNaughton, has captured the people and places of Meanwhile in San Francisco illustrationSF perfectly. She visited different neighborhoods and drew the people and the scenes. And she had lots of conversations at each location. MacNaughton then gathered the twenty to thirty stories she had heard and combined them into one story for each picture. It’s both deceptively simple and deeply profound. The section on the main branch of the SF Public Library is perfect; on one page she has a list of all of the people that entered the library between 12:45 and 12:50: number 9 of 59 is “old man bent over, beard nearly touching the ground.”

Meanwhile in San Francisco captures both the characters of the city and the city as a character. Sheer loveliness.

She has a really great website too. Check it out here.

 

 

Station 11 book jacketA lot of people will hear the word ‘post-apocalypse’ about Station Eleven and will decide then and there not to read it. That’s a shame because this isn’t your usual vision of the collapse of civilization - there are no zombies hunting prey, no organized savage games to survive. There is savagery for sure, but most of it takes place off screen and the characters mourn the ways in which violence has touched them - they retain their humanity.

The story slips back and forth from a past that is familiar to us all - cell phones, red-eye flights, suburban lives, and tabloids - to a fateful night when an actor performing in the role of King Lear collapses on stage, his death a harbinger of a devastating and virulent flu that will rewrite the story of human-kind. Then we jump to a future in which a small company of actors and musicians makes its way from one sparse outpost of humanity to another, because, after all, what else is there? Each member of ‘the symphony’ has scars; some cherish memories of life before, and to others this ragged and primitive world is all they have ever known. As the story unfolds, the past and present weave together.

Yes, it’s a book about apocalypse and devastation, but in a quieter vein. More accurately it's about loss and memory and how each little piece of the world we carry with us changes our story. And it's well worth reading.

 

darger bookUntil his death on April 13, 1973 not many folks knew Henry Darger. However, while cleaning his small, cluttered apartment, what Darger’s landlord’s found forever changed that. In the process of clearing out decades of presumed clutter, “30,000 manuscript pages, and over three hundred canvases depicting a rich, shocking fantasy world - many featuring hermaphroditic children being eviscerated, crucified, and strangled” were discovered.

Intrigued? I was. After attending an fascinating exhibit of Darger’s work at the American Folk Art Museum I was drawn into his outsider art and wanted to know more about the man behind the vast and bizarre body of work.  Unfortunately, aside from speculation based on the imagery there was little to know. Luckily Jim Elledge stepped in. After ten years of research, he produced “Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy” a scholarly, yet readable history of Henry Darger that not only illuminates the man, but also his societal backdrop to better understand him.

Check it out!  

Tennessee Couple Finds a Home at the Title Wave Volunteers Don & Lynn Lampard

by Donna Childs

Writing these profiles has introduced me to many interesting, accomplished, and downright nice people; Lynn and Don Lampard are no exception. A husband and wife team of Materials Processors at Title Wave Used Bookstore, Don and Lynn moved to Portland from Knoxville, Tennessee, and started volunteering soon after. They came here to be closer to two grown daughters, one of whom had volunteered at the Title Wave many years ago.  

Processing materials in the back room at the Title Wave, Lynn and Don get to see and sort through the thousands of books, CD’s, DVD’s, and audiobooks sent from the 19 Multnomah County libraries.  In order to resist the temptation to buy them all, Don makes lists of interesting books he comes across and then orders them from his neighborhood library. Although Lynn and Don do the same job, because they already spend most of their time together, they volunteer on different days so that they can meet more people and have diverse experiences to share.  

Don chose to volunteer at the Title Wave after retiring from a career as a computer analyst and programmer, and before that a professor of English. He thought it would be “a good way to do something constructive for the community.”  It is that, but now he enjoys it so much that he volunteers as much for himself as for the library.  After working for many years as an academic librarian in the Midwest (Indiana U, Purdue, U of Wisconsin), Lynn naturally gravitated to a volunteer job where she would be surrounded by books, and she still sees that as one of the best parts of a great job.  

In addition to their work at the Title Wave, the Lampards’ other favorite volunteer commitment is babysitting for their grandchildren, three and nine, every Wednesday and whenever else they are needed. They have created a fun, interesting, and useful life in their adopted city.

A Few Facts About Don and Lynn

Home library: Albina and Hollywood libraries

Currently reading: I just finished The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette and next up is Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. (Don) Dog of the South by Charles Portis (Lynn)
 
Most influential book: Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (Don); Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse (Lynn)

Favorite book from childhood: Probably the Hardy Boys series (Don); any science fiction (Lynn)

A book that made you laugh or cry: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole made us laugh (Don and Lynn); the last of the Wallander mysteries by Henning Mankell, in which the protagonist has terminal dementia made me cry. (Don)

Favorite section of the library: I can’t choose. (Don) new books (Lynn)
 
E-reader or paper book? paper (Don and Lynn)
 
Favorite guilty reading pleasure: I read quite a few mysteries, especially Poirot stories by Agatha Christie lately. (Don) Scandinavian mysteries (Lynn)
 
Favorite place to read: at home, in bed (Don and Lynn)

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Book jacket: Mannequin Girl by Ellen LitmanIf you’re a female who grew up in this country during the 1980s, odds are good that you lived in fear of scoliosis checks. The impact a back brace could have on a teenager’s social life was made very clear to me by Judy Blume in her book Deenie.  

But what if, instead of growing up in New Jersey under the watchful eye of a controlling mother, Deenie had been born in Soviet Russia to inattentive bohemian parents?

What if Deenie’s spine curvature got her sent to a school-sanitorium where life’s disappointments brought out a bit of an impulsive mean streak?

That alternate universe Deenie might look something like Kat Knopman, the sympathetic but prickly protagonist of Mannequin Girl by Ellen Litman.

Part of what I love about reading 80s coming of age stories, is recognizing my own experience in the lives of characters in fiction.  The other part is reflecting on how much of these experiences of a common era are colored by things like geography, race, politics and maybe just simple circumstance.

Were you an 80s child, or just interested in coming of age stories set in not so far removed historical times? Check out my list for more tubular tales from different points of view.

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