Blogs

Photo of The Nakeds by Lisa Glatt resting on a lawn chair with a summer cocktail

I hadn’t heard a thing about The Nakeds by Lisa Glatt when I saw it in the new fiction section of my library. The title made me smile and the collaged cover art drew me in closer.  Then a quick skim of the book jacket picked up the words: 1970s… Southern California… painfully honest...nudist camp, and I was sold.

But while 1970s California nudist camp was enough to pique my interest, this book is so much more. When the story opens, 6-year-old Hannah Teller’s parents are busy with the argument that will culminate in the end of their marriage. Hannah steps out of her home, determined to walk to school on her own and is struck by a hopelessly drunk teenage driver named Martin Kettle.  Sounds like a real downer right?

Bear with me. Yes, The Nakeds is a story of a broken girl, a broken marriage and a broken young addict but it’s funny- not quirky funny but unflinchingly honest and brave funny.  Plus it’s a story filled with so much human beauty and compassion that you want to hang around: Even as Hannah gets fitted for yet another cast by another doctor who probably can’t fix her. Even as Hannah’s dad goes ahead and becomes a Jew for Jesus, marrying the blonde Christian surfer girl he started an affair with back when Hannah’s mom was pregnant.  Even as (especially as) Hannah’s mom and her new stepdad expand their nudist camp weekends to include naked Fridays at home. And perhaps most difficult, as Martin Kettle stops and starts his life, paralyzed by denial and self loathing for what he did and failed to own up to.

So beat the crowds and spend a regret-free weekend with The Nakeds this summer. When you’re finished, check out this list for more intriguing new titles you may have missed.

I like things that defy pigeonholing. Sure, sometimes knowing what you're going to get is exactly what you need, but when you feel adventurous, have a look at these. 

Here book jacketHere, a graphic novel by Richard McGuire, is like no other I've encountered. From the book jacket: "Here is the story of a corner of a room and of the events that have occurred in that space over the course of hundreds of thousands of years." Each page is the same view of the same space, but the various tales that occurred there are woven in and out of each other via colorful windows. Several points in time may be shown on the same page, deftly comparing and contrasting each to each. (The little panels are dated with their year, thank goodness.) Touching, real, sad, joyous, mundane and fantastic are here combined as well as I've ever seen. (This would make an interesting flip-book! Time travel, bound.)

Reading this inspired me to share another favorite genre-buster from a few years ago, Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland. So what is it? 'An Alice in Sunderland book jacketentertainment.' It is a history, a biography, a speculative reconstruction, a philosophical musing about a place and its people (including Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell). We enter Sunderland's Empire Theatre to be a part of the audience on a tour through time. Talbot's creation contains photographs, computer renderings, 'found' images and certainly lots of line art. This was my favorite book/graphic novel of the year when I discovered it, and it occurs to me that it is time to have a look again. Gotta go... it's reading time.

On car trips, my husband and I used to pretend that there was a noise-proof window between the front seat and the back. One of us would hit an imaginary button on the dashboard, and-- in our minds-- the window would close, so we couldn’t hear our little darlings squabbling and shrieking in the back seat at all-- except that sadly, we could still hear them, due to the unfortunate imaginary nature of the window.

I wish that we’d discovered audiobooks for the car ages ago! A whole lot of library users have apparently wised up to their usefulness in the past few years;  I've been asked frequently lately for audiobook suggestions for family car trips. So I’ve made some lists of great audiobooks that can be enjoyed by listeners of various ages, one in CD format and one in downloadable. You might also consider consulting two excellent lists a  colleague of mine made: this list of classics on audio and this one for very young listeners.

It’s amazing how much kids will settle down when they’re involved in a story. I tried to find audiobooks that would be interesting and involving for the adults in the car, as well. So go ahead-- plan a summer getaway. Just don’t forget the audiobooks.

Or the barf bags. (But that’s another story.)

Have you ever wondered if the dead can talk to the living? Is there is a spirit world that we can communicate with, but can’t see?  

Portland author, Cat Winters wonders about it too. She is fascinated by the idea that the dead can come to the living to comfort or warn them. Both of her books take place at the turn-of-the-century and reflect the emotion of people reeling from the senseless slaughter and indiscriminate death caused by World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic. They were desperate for a word or a sign from dead or missing sons, husbands, fathers.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds, Mary Shelley Black is visited by a mysterious blackbird.  What does he want? Has her sweetheart been killed in the trenches? Set against the backdrop of seance and spirit photography, and illustrated with archival photographs of World War I, this gripping story takes you into the dark and dangerous world of spirit communication.

Cat Winter’s second book, The  Cure for Dreaming, tackles a different type of spirit -- the spirit of independent thinking. This type of spirit is alive in the main character, Olivia Mead.  It is the year 1900 in Portland, Oregon. When Olivia’s father realizes that she is growing into a strong-minded  young woman in favor of women’s suffrage, he decides to take extreme measures. He hires visiting hypnotist Henri Reverie  to make her think and act like a docile, obedient daughter. But Henri whispers a hidden command in her ear: ‘You will see people as they really are’. Now, what began as a known story veers off into the unknown. This book is filled with authentic local details and presents a fascinating look at the unquenchable spirit needed for to fight for change.

If you like historical mystery with a flash of courage to face the unknown, check out The Shadow of Blackbirds or The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters. Need some music to accompany your reading? The author has created playlists for her books on Spotify and Pinterest.

Machu Picchu is what dreams are made of, at least one of mine anyway. Long had I wanted to visit this magical place, immerse myself in the colorful textiles and culture. I went expecting much, and I returned not disappointed. The food, people, landscape, Incan ruins—all of it was incredible. 

Things I knew how to say in Spanish before I left:  *hiking haunya pichu*Hello my name is Heather. Where are the toilets? Thank you.
Things I learned in Spanish while there: Una mas pisco sour por favor.                                                                                                                     
Things I thought I knew but actually didn't: Paddington Bear is not an English Bear. He is from deepest darkest Peru.                                             

I can't explain this long held fascination I have with Peru anymore than I can my proclivity for Hercule Poirot, or travelling with a stuffed panda.    I just do.                                                                                              

If you are curious about Peru or Machu Picchu specifically, I've put together a little reading list that should transport you, without actually having to wait around in an airport for fourteen hours only to have your flight canceled and then be air sick. Ah, the joys of travel.

 

 

*By the way, that mountain in the background, that's Huayna Picchu. And that is me climbing it!*  
**Also the sneakers in photo of the weaver belong to mi hermano y hermana.**

Author Gene Luen Yang Last month I had the occasion to experience two extraordinary firsts: My first visit to San Francisco and my very first American Library Association conference. I could write a whole long-winded blog post about the explosion of amazingness that was San Francisco (I got to witness the first 3 hours of the SF Gay Pride Parade two days after the Supreme Court rule to legalize same-sex marriage) and another about everything that I experienced at the conference, but instead I will try to focus on what I love the most...books.

Let me back up and briefly explain my journey as a reader. At some point in high school I stopped reading. I lost interest in reading for pleasure and I found little joy in the books that most school districts insisted students should read, preferring instead to just read the CliffsNotes so that I knew enough to pass whatever test would be given. It wasn't until my 20s that I realized that the books that I had been reading, the stories that I had been told were important and worthy of reading were not books that involved anyone like me. There were no people of color and very few strong central female characters. With that in mind, it is understandable that I had lost interest in reading.

Back to June 2015, and here I was at the ALA conference attending workshops and author panels that were focused on discussing the very thing that had kept me from reading for so many years: the need for diverse representations in books. The first panel that I attended was hosted by representatives from the We Need Diverse Books campaign and focused on the need for diversity in graphic novels. This panel involved writers like Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes and Nimona), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), Jeremy Whitley (Princeless) and one of my favorite graphic novel creators, Gene Luen Yang (Boxers, Shadow Hero, American Born Chinese). I was in fan girl heaven!

Author Erika AlexanderAnother amazing panel that I attended was moderated by Marie Lu (author of the Legend series) and involved a group of authors including Renee Ahdieh (Wrath of Dawn), I.W. Gregorio (None of the Above), Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things), Stacey Lee (Under a Painted Sky), and Sabaa Tahir (Ember in the Ashes). This panel highlighted debut authors who not only represent diversity, but who are also invested in creating stories that represent a broad array of experiences.

So what did I learn from sitting in on these panels? Human beings need to experience stories that are representative of their own story. That's pretty obvious. But we also learn and grow from stories that are outside of our experience. What to read more? Check out the We Need Diverse Books Tumblr page and the lists of books below.

 

I've been a beneficiary of the great library we have here in Portland, Oregon, since 1987, when I first moved to town.  Since then, Multnomah County Library has inspired and educated me in all the directions my curiosity has chosen to take — from the American Civil War to jazz history to fly fishing to the 17th-century tulip craze in the Netherlands. It's always my first stop when something about life and/or the world we live in triggers the questions that only books can answer.

If I were stranded on a desert island, here are the books I'd want with me:

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was also one of my favorite books as a kid. Annotated, arcane lore from Victorian England mixed with the most compelling of characters.

Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People by Woody Guthrie, Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger. Songs from the Great Depression sung with courage, resilience and humor.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Again, one of my favorite books as a kid. The story and the characters populated my mind while I was growing up in a small town in California. I was, and still am, firmly convinced that orcs exist.

Swing To Bop by Ira Gitler. Great oral history of the seismic shift that occurred in jazz in the mid-1940s.

Mindfulness In Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana. Hard to choose my favorite book on spirituality, but this is such an easy, compassionate reminder of the larger picture. 

My favorite book as a kid was Go Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman. I loved the giant dog party on top of the tree at the end of the book!

My favorite thing about the library: It is the door to the true richness of life.

A few years ago I made a new friend named Melanie at work. I had no idea that we would connect on topics as varied as intersectional feminism and kitties. This past month, I talked to Melanie Fey and her best friend since middle school, Amber McCrary, about their Indigenous feminist zine. Together (and 1200 miles apart), they produced Empower Yoself Before You Wreck Yoself, which I interviewed them about.

​​Empower Yoself zine coverAZALEA: Hi Melanie and Amber! I've been a big fan of your zine ever since I saw the prototype a year ago. Why did you create Empower Yoself Before You Wreck Yoself?

MELANIE: Thanks for asking to interview us, Azalea! One day Amber texted me and said let’s make a zine. I said “Okay!” but on a deep-seated level, I think creating a zine like this was a long time in the making. We’ve always idolized anti-status quo female musicians such as Brody Dalle, Kathleen Hanna and Wendy O. Williams. But there’s an obvious lack of diversity in the counterculture scenes these women were affiliated with. So as Native women, we wanted to create a space for ourselves in these environments and continue on the legacy of disrupting the status quo on everything from music, politics, patriarchy, etc. Making these zines was really rather inevitable.

AMBER:  First of all, thank for you the kind words. As for how we created our first zine, I forgot that I randomly texted Melanie a couple of years ago and said we should make a zine. But yes, I think I said something like "Hey! Let's make a zine about Native girls telling their stories." And she said "Okay" or probably "Yes!"

AZALEA: Amber, I really liked your pieces, “Urban Indian Guilt” and “Indigenous Girl in a not so Indigenous World. Pt. 1,” which talk about the dual identity of being both “assimilated” and from the “rez.” For me, it seemed like you were touching on one kind of modern Native American experience. What does it mean to be (or what should people know about being) a contemporary Native American woman? (This is a broad question, apologies!)

AMBER: Thank you! It feels so long ago that I wrote and created those pieces. I can’t necessarily speak on behalf of all modern Native American women as we all have had different journeys.  But speaking from my journey/experiences, I have learned what it means to be a modern contemporary Native American women from the Native women in my life: my mother, grandmother (Grandma Cowboy) and mentors from various jobs. They all contain a quality that Navajos call "hózhó", which means living in a way that focuses on creating and maintaining balance, harmony, beauty and order. As for my mother and grandmother, I am thankful they have been part of every awkward phase of my life and never judged me (especially as a Native Girl growing up in a subculture world) which taught me a lot about self-expression and not to be scared of sharing how I really feel about something.

For me, being a modern contemporary Native American woman is similar to being the Native elder women I look up to, which is finding that balance, which seems universal despite the era. I try to find a balance between living in two worlds (Native and Non-Native, Navajo and mainstream America, past and present). Although I do enjoy things that modern women/people enjoy: I like dresses, French food, traveling, reading weird comic books by Daniel Clowes, laughing at Will Ferrell movies, watching boring artsy movies, learning about different cultures and listening to music from different countries. However, at the end of the day I always remember who I am, where I come from, the struggles my ancestors went through for me to be here and how I as a Native women fit into this world.

AZALEA: Melanie, once, when I talked to you in passing you said you tried to write about difficult concepts such as decolonization in an accessible way. Why is it important to write in easy to understand language?

MELANIE: This is a good question because it’s something I really struggle with every time I’m attempting to write a new piece! I believe it’s really important that our zines to be accessible to everyone from all educational levels and cultural backgrounds. We’re trying to open up discourse between Native women and the general population about serious issues in the Native community such as colonialism, boarding school trauma, substance abuse issues, Native American mascot issues, two-spirit gender identity, etc. Not everyone is going to want to read about this stuff if it sounds like it’s coming out of a college course textbook or if they have to look up every other word in the dictionary. In my opinion, that’s not entirely conducive to creating community. Decolonization (the undoing of colonialism) is already a mouth-full of a word, and I want it to sound more like I’m having an honest conversation than spewing off elitist jargon.

zine authors' photoFinally, I want to congratulate Melanie and Amber on their latest effort, The Nizhoni Beat: Native American Feminist Musings Vol. 1. This zine explores topics such as decolonization, LGBTQ issues, and more.

If you would like to meet Melanie and Amber, they'll be tabling at the Portland Zine Symposium on Saturday, July 18th, and Sunday, July 19th.  You can also check out Melanie’s work in Native American Writings.

We love zines at Multnomah County Library and that’s why we are so excited to be at the Portland Zine Symposium this weekend. It’s an annual zine extravaganza celebrating small press and DIY culture, featuring zinesters from around the US to share their work and their passion for their craft. And it’s free!

Did you know the library has over 1,300 zines that you can read and check out for free?! We highlighted some awesome titles  by zinesters that will be at the symposium, but we also have zines for kids, zines for teens and zines all about PDX. If zines are new to you we have a guide on getting started with zines. We also have resources for zinesters with places to get free artwork.

We hope to see you there. Come by our table and ask us about zines at the library. We will have a table featuring zines about Portland available to be checked out. Don’t have a library card? No problem. We can create one for you on the spot. We will also be giving away cool library prizes when you show your library or zine love.

Won’t be able to make it to the Symposium? You can ask us about zines any ol’ time! Just Ask a librarian! Want some help picking out the perfect zine for you? Get in touch with My Librarian Laural and she’ll get you set up!

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!

19th century marriage certificate

Can’t remember when your divorce was final? Need a copy of your birth certificate? Trying to remember when your parents got married? Looking for your grandmother’s death certificate? These are all examples of vital records: documents related to a person’s birth, marriage, divorce and death.  If you’re looking for any of these, the library is here to help!

There are a few things to keep in mind when searching for vital records at Multnomah County Library:

  • Public libraries don’t keep archives of public records. You can request copies of birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates from the Oregon Center for Health Statistics.
  • The library does have indexes you can use to verify vital records information in Oregon. However, these indexes don't cover all time periods -- and the most recent year is 2008.
  • The library has a wealth of genealogical resources including useful blogs on topics such as finding obituaries and researching house history.
  • Many historical vital records are available from the Oregon State Archives.
  • Library staff are always happy to assist you in your vital records search.  Please call us at 503.988.5123 or email a librarian anytime.

Getting copies of vital records

Most vital records in Oregon are available through the Oregon Center for Health Statistics. Because there are restrictions on who has access to these records, you will need to provide a significant amount of information about yourself and/or the subject of the vital record. Also keep in mind that the Center for Health Statistics charges fees for vital records. The more research they have to do, the higher the fees.

In order to ensure you receive the correct record, expedite your order, and potentially save yourself some money, you can consult the Oregon Vital Records Indexes available at the library. These indexes provide the name(s) of the individual(s), the county in which the event occurred, the date, and the record number. You can use these indexes yourself at the Central Library or contact the library and have a staff person search for you. Should you need vital records for states other than Oregon, check the Centers for Disease Control's list Where to Write for Vital Records for every U.S. state and territory.

Birth records

The state of Oregon began recording births in 1903 but there is no statewide index to birth records. If you need your own or an immediate family member’s birth certificate contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics.

For genealogists, birth certificates more than 100 years old can be accessed by anyone.  If you need local birth records, you can use the Ledger Index to City of Portland Births which is focused on the years 1881-1917 within the city of Portland. Keep in mind, however, that the city was much smaller then than it is now.

Marriage records

If you need to verify marriage information, Multnomah County Library has the Oregon Marriage Index (1906-1924, 1946-2008). This index is organized by the name of either the groom or bride and is also available through Ancestry Library Edition (accessible only in the library).  To get a copy of your own or an immediate family member’s marriage certificate, contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics.

For genealogists, anyone can request a marriage certificate more than 50 years old. In Oregon, counties issue marriage licenses, so to find records that are not included in the Oregon Marriage Index you can check the Oregon Historical County Records Guide.

Divorce records

If you need to verify divorce information, Multnomah County Library has the Oregon Divorce Index (1946-2008). Online, Ancestry Library Edition (accessible only in the library) also has Oregon Divorce Records, 1961-1985. If you need a copy of your own or an immediate family member’s divorce certificate, contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics. If you need the full court record and divorce decree, you will need to contact the issuing court, usually the county circuit court. To help, Multnomah County Archives & Records Management has prepared a handy guide to obtaining divorce records and decrees.

For genealogists, anyone can request a divorce certificate more than 50 years old. If you’re looking for the court records, some counties have all of their circuit court records but others turned over their older documents to the Oregon State Archives.

Death recordsGraveyard in Gjemnes, Norway

If you need to verify death information, Multnomah County Library has the Oregon Death Index (1903-2008). This index is also available through Ancestry Library Edition (accessible only in the library). If you need a copy of an immediate family member’s death certificate, contact the Oregon Center for Health Statistics.

For genealogists, anyone can request a death certificate more than 50 years old. You can also search for local deaths before 1903 using the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths (1881-1917).

If you still have questions about vital records or other genealogical research questions call or email a librarian to get personalized help. If you’d rather have face-to-face assistance, ask the librarian on duty the next time you visit the library. We're always happy to help!

 

 

Summer Exploding Sun Image

Multnomah County Library offers a wide array of music via streaming services and old-fashioned CDs that can be checked out.  MCL's My Librarians focus a lot of our energy and effort creating reading lists and recommending titles and read-alikes - but since I often write posts on popular music genres and artists, I thought I'd toss out a solicitation to those of you potentially interested in a customized music playlist.  Below you'll find a playlist I created for myself with a loose summer heat feel to it (even if the content of some of the songs has nothing to do with summer, they sound like summer).

I'm attaching the songs as stand-alone videos but you can also check out the playlist as a continuous loop here or, if you're a Spotify user - here.  And if you feel like rolling the dice and requesting a customized playlist, get in touch with me and let me know what kind of music/artists turn you on.

 

Summer 2015: Temperature's Rising

1) Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Jim On The Move:



2) Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Beyond Belief:


3) The Grateful Dead - Franklin's Tower:


4) Lee "Scratch" Perry - City Too Hot:


5) The Style Council - Long Hot Summer:


6) Gregory Isaacs - My Number One:


7) OutKast - Hey Ya!:


8) Pere Ubu - Heaven:


9) Tinashe - 2 On (ft. Schoolboy Q):


10) Fleetwood Mac - Over and Over:


11) Marianne Faithfull - Broken English:


12) Kid Creole & The Coconuts - Endicott:


13) Azealia Banks - 212 (ft. Lazy Jay):


14) War - Me And Baby Brother:


15) Dennis Brown - Money In My Pocket:


16) Warren Zevon - Desperados Under The Eaves (Early):


17) Scritti Politti - The Boom Boom Bap:


18) XTC - Summer's Cauldron/Grass:
 

19) John Cale - You Know More Than I Know:

 

The Elephant House, EdinburghThis summer, I got to see the birthplace of Harry Potter!  I’d been in Edinburgh before but had managed to miss the café in which J.K. Rowling first began writing about Harry, Ron and Hermione.  I also had a pint in Inspector Rebus’s pub, The Oxford Bar, and revisited the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.  Visiting literary sites and libraries is something I try to do on every trip, and I had a bookish bonanza this year in Scotland.  In past years, I’ve wandered the Portobello Road antiques market in London where Paddington Bear’s friend, Mr. Gruber, has his shop, have made a pilgrimage to James Herriot’s veterinary clinic in Thirsk, England, and ridden the rails in Yorkshire close to Thomas the Tank Engine’s home.

When I was a child, we did a lot of traveling around the Pacific Northwest as well as Pennsylvania and KentuckyThe Oxford Bar, Edinburgh where my family’s relatives lived.  All of those trips were fun, but I can only imagine how excited I would have been had I gotten to commune with Peter Rabbit in England’s Lake District or been lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler takes place.  If you or your children have a hankering to visit places you’ve come to love in favorite books, there are several guides to help you get there.

Storybook TStorybook Travels book jacketravels covers thirty literary landmarks around the world.  The guide gives you information about the books covered, suggested itineraries, and addresses, phone numbers  and websites of the places to visit.  Portland gets a mention for Beverly Cleary's books!

Once Upon a Time in Great Britain covers literary sites in England, Scotland and Wales and also notes sites where you can see original artwork and manuscripts.

I don’t know where I’ll travel next, but I’m sure it will include places important in my reading life.

From Summer Reading Assistant to Film Star

by Donna ChildsVolunteer Ryder Dopp

Summer Reading Leader, Teen Council member, Branch Assistant, Storytime Assistant, TechnoHost and video star, Ryder Dopp does it all. He is at the Holgate Library at least 2-3 hours a week, more when the Teen Council meets and even more when Summer Reading begins.

Ryder, who would otherwise be moving from middle to high school this fall, is homeschooled, which gives him freedom to learn in different ways. For example, he and his family lived in a 40-foot school bus for several years, traveling to Mexico and parts of the US. More recently, they have taken some 2-month long “big trips,” to Nicaragua, where they helped build a house, and to Thailand.

Here in Portland, Ryder’s responsibilities at Holgate give him opportunities to interact with other young people and to serve his community. As a Summer Reading Leader, Ryder’s tasks include supervising Summer Reading volunteers, entering data on readers, making sure prizes are available, and finding substitutes for Summer Reading volunteers.

As a Teen Council member, he meets twice monthly with other teens and library staff to discuss youth and library issues, undertakes projects (such as making ugly dolls or 1000 paper cranes), plans activities and creates games for kids.

His Storytime Assistant role, like Summer Reading, involves data entry (sign-ups, keeping track of attendees) and helping with details like name tags, for example. As a Branch Assistant, he pulls holds, reads shelves, and, sometimes acts as a TechnoHost, helping with computers, printers, and iPads.  


A Few Facts About Ryder

 
Home library: Holgate Library
 
Currently reading: Hunger (in the Gone series)
 
Favorite book from childhood: Falcon Quinn
 
A book that made you laugh or cry: Time Riders
 
Favorite section of the library: Young Adult books
 
E-reader or paper? Paper
 
Favorite place to read: My bed
 

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

I'm a sucker for stories that feature librarians. When I was a little kid, I turned my bookshelves into a library and made my sister and my stuffed animals check out books.The Book of Speculation bookjacket

Right now, I'm in the middle of Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation. The narrator, Simon Watson, is a librarian living alone in his deteriorating family house on a cliff on the Long Island Sound. One day, a mysterious book is delivered to his doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller. The ancient tome is a log written by the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700’s. Oddly enough, Simon’s grandmother’s name is written in it but more disturbingly, Simon learns that the women in his family tend to drown young on the same date in July. As he has a younger sister who might be in danger of succumbing to the same drowning fate, Simon needs to use his librarianly research skills to figure out what the story is before that July date rolls around again.

The narrative switches between the present and the past. In the present, Simon deals with the messiness and drama of his life and works towards solving the mysteries of his family's past. In the past, the mysterious book reveals its secrets.

Oh, and there are circus mermaids too.

Getting ready for college is a state of mind

 

Florida State 1904Every year, hundreds of high school juniors and seniors in the Portland area are faced with the decision of whether to go to college, which colleges to apply to, what to study, how to get accepted, and how to pay for it. The library can help! 

If you’re wondering if you’re ready or not, ask the advice of a trusted high school counselor, teacher, or librarian. They can help you find resources to decide whether you have learned to set clear, achievable goals, can manage your time well, and have the skills you’ll need for college-level courses.

Compare your options

College Blue BookThe library has several different resources to help you evaluate your options. One of the best available is the six-volume College Blue Book. You can look at it online or come in to Central Library to browse.

The first volume has the most narrative information about different options. Find the number of students and faculty, entrance requirements, costs per year, and lots more. You could use this volume, for example, to compare the campus at George Fox University to Lewis & Clark College.  

Looking for which degrees are offered by college and subject? Volume 3 is where you can find, for example, that Portland State University and University of Oregon both offer degrees in architecture. Volume 5 has an up-to-date list of scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans. And if you're interested in distance learning programs, look at Volume 6. Almost every course, certificate, and degree program that you can take on campus is also available in a distance learning format.

Deciding what to study

Occupational Outlook HandbookDuring high school, students typically begin forming some idea of what they want to study or do for work. The Occupational Outlook Handbook can help with up-to-date vocational guidance, employment forecasting, and information about different occupations. You can also use their electronic resources online for career information about hundreds of occupations.

For each job, the book discusses work tasks, job outlook for the next few years, training and education needed, pay, work environment, similar occupations, and additional information sources.

The library also has the Oregon Career Information System (CIS) database which provides information about occupations in Oregon that relate to your interests, aptitudes, and abilities. After you create a portfolio, you can use CIS to take college admissions practice tests, upload your career search, and build a résumé. Deciding whether to return to school? CIS has career assessment tools to help you out.

Considering whether to use a college consultant

College consultants can help you develop strategies about planning for college. Look for someone who is knowledgeable about a wide range of colleges and their admissions processes. They can help identify your strengths and weaknesses, and help find schools that are a good fit. They can also advise on what you need to do to prepare for applying to college, such as choosing college prep classes, participating in school activities, and volunteering in the community.

There are many college consultants in the Portland area. The following sites have tools for finding phone numbers and addresses of local consultants.

Independent Educational Consultants Association

Higher Education Consultants Association
 

Book cover for All Ages by Mark Sten.1977 was the year when punk rock took hold in cities across the U.S. and the world, weird bands popping up all over like flowers in a barren wasteland of boring. Many of these early punk scenes have been documented in books, and now we have a book for Portland: All Ages, The History of Portland Punk, 1977-1981 by Mark Sten.

Sten was active in many punk organizations from this period, and he played in a lot of the bands. He also kept stuff: in his book there are lists of every punk or new wave (whatever you want to call it) show that happened in the city, and flyers and photos from a lot of them. The overall effect is a feeling like you’re really there, at every show and meeting, as seen through Sten’s eyes and experienced through his brain. This is both awesome and a little ... maybe not the view that you might have from inside your own head.

But at least it’s honest! A lot of the books about punk rock scenes take the form of oral histories, with the story being told through quotes by the fans and the rockers who were there - this format sounds objective, except for the fact that the editor of the book has carefully chosen and arranged the quotes to tell the story that they want to tell. Sten’s book holds no such pretensions towards impartiality.

Photo of Ross with mohawk, from 1996.It can be interesting to read a few of these scene histories, to see what’s different and what’s the same. For example, take We Got the Neutron Bomb by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, a history of the Los Angeles scene. Whereas that city was full of celebrities and managers and professional schmoozers in the late 1970s (I’m sure it’s really different now...), Portland bands had no choice but to collectivize and create their own venues and opportunities. And in terms of the books themselves, Neutron Bomb is downright spartan and spotty in its coverage when compared to the comprehensive All Ages.

I love reading about punk rock scenes. There’s hope and excitement in the uninhibited creation of something new. There’s the spirit of rebellion, the drugs, the sex, the drama, and the part at the end where some people rocket to stardom and legend (or at least continue to tour in their 60’s) and others die or fade away. And, of course, there’s also the music, which was powerful, raw, intense, and changed our lives. And our hair.

(Thanks to Janice Morlan for her exceptional editorial assistance on this post.)

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!

Book Jacket: The City of Palaces by Michael NavaA handsome doctor, tortured by his dark past, returns home from exile in Europe to perform house calls for bored, rich housewives.

Robbed of her beauty by smallpox, a spinster countess in a crumbling palace, swallows her own pain by devoting her life to God and caring for the downtrodden in the city’s worst neighborhoods.

An upper class gentleman, shunned from the city as a “sodomite” returns as an openly gay revolutionary who refuses to apologize for his politics nor for whom he loves.

It’s the end of the 19th century and the setting is Mexico City under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. The Eurocentric old guard are losing their hold on the city, but who or what will replace it remains uncertain.

The book is The City of Palaces by Michael Nava; A finalist for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards. As a devout chilangophile, I’ll read anything set in Mexico City, but this particular book took my breath away. The surprising cast of characters sucked me in right from the start and Nava's talent for storytelling carried me straight to the heart of a country on the brink of revolution.

If you need a page-turner to read this Summer with amazing characters that breathe life into history, check out The City of Palaces

Japan's World Heritage Sites book jacketFrom Miyazaki to manga, ramen to robot restaurants…Japan is a varied country indeed. I just returned from a trip there, and my head is still spinning with visions of cherry blossoms, moss-covered gardens, golden temples, doll-like lolita fashions, a mountain full of fox spirits, Tokyo's neon cacophony… the list goes on.  And then there are the things I wish I could have experienced: misty cryptomeria forests, hot springs, cat islands, rabbit islands, fox villages… hmm, I think I may be going back!Bye Bye Kitty book jacket

So how best to prepare for such a trip? Check out loads of stuff from the library, that’s how, and not just travel guides - why not immerse yourself in everything from classics to cult films? As the date of our departure drew closer, my traveling companion (who’d been there before) and I did just that. I read The Kangaroo Notebook by Kobo Abe, about a man who discovers radish sprouts growing from his legs, and my friend said with a straight face, “You might see that in Japan.” On the plane we saw Parasyte, a manga-based movie about an alien who takes up residence in a student's hand, and he said "You've got to watch out for those in Japan." Of course he was joking, and I saw neither of these (if only!).

As for things you might actually see in Japan, Bye Bye Kitty!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art introduced me to the windswept grotesques of photographer Miwa Yanagi, the detailed microcosms of illustrator Manabu Ikeda, and sculptor Motohiko Odani's macabre Noh masks. And there is nothing more magnificent than Japan's World Heritage Sites, a lavish book full of large-scale photos of temples, gardens, castles, and more that I pored over for hours. And of course there's more... just see this list.

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