Blogs: Adults

Photograph of a young boy arranging fabric in preparation to sew.I love making anything with my hands. So when my six-year-old son asks, “Can we make me an Ant-Man costume?”, my answer is always going to be an enthusiastic, “Yeah we can!”

There was a time when I would take control of these projects.  I’d Google images of Ant-Man, obsess about the right fabric and approach, until I found myself sitting at the sewing machine alone, while my son had long since moved on to his Legos.

Now I understand that my job is to dump a bag of fabric out on the table and as my son says, “Just stop freaking out so much about it.”  Sure, I help with the sewing machine.  He drives the pedal and I keep my fingers out of the way and try not to sweat the fact that the bobbin tension is completely out of whack.  

Our new laissez-faire family craft time doesn’t mean I’ve stopped seeking out fresh ideas and inspiration for projects.  Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids offers a bonanza of ideas for kids and parents.  I just make sure to check my inner Martha when it’s time to get gluing.

Side by Side by Tsia Carson is a great resource for matching projects that parents and kids can do separately but together.  One particularly endearing kid-project involves embroidering a leaf.  This is a woman who knows about managing expectations!

And when I just want to be inspired, blogger and illustrator Merrilee Liddiard’s Playful is so Anthropologie-beautiful I could weep.  But then I’ll get over it, enjoy watching my son dart about in what only started out as an Ant-Man costume, and “just stop freaking out so much about it.”

Our guest blogger is Memo. Memo works at the Central Library. Besides reading history and literature about Latinos, workers, and immigrants, he enjoys re-reading the great literary works of nineteenth and twentieth-century realist writers.

y no se lo tragó la tierra book jacketWhat makes a literary work an American classic? Clearly, there is no one answer to this question. It is a matter of opinion. It is no wonder book publishers have debated this issue in the past, and that they will continue to discuss it in the future. The question, also, hangs over my head every time I read Tomás Rivera’s …y no se lo tragó la tierra: Is this fictional tale of Mexican American migrant farm working families an American classic? After all, this novella is an iconic piece of literary art in Chicano/a literature, and is a must read in Chicano/a literature courses in U.S. colleges. It was also the first recipient of the Premio Quinto Sol award.

Is it an American classic? Yes! It is. In spite of being written in Spanish,* …y no se lo tragó la tierra is a story of perseverance in the American tradition of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Like their fictional counterparts in The Jungle and The Grapes of Wrath, the characters in …y no se lo tragó la tierra have dreams and grit. The Mexican American migrant families’ determination to make their dreams real no matter the odds given - it is the 1950s and people of color are segregated in the workplace and society—is what makes their tale of perseverance an American classic.

The story takes place in two locations: a small town in rural South Texas, where the migrant families live on a permanent basis and the Midwest, where they toil in the fields of commercial growers. The hardships they confront in their annual migrations to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other Midwestern states in search of seasonal farm labor say more about their determination to better their lives than about the work itself. That is not to say that the seasonal farm work they do doesn’t influence their willingness to live their American dreams. On the contrary, the very work itself, with its low wages, no rights, no dignity, and no hope, drive migrant families to continue struggling for a better life.

Like two other American classics of the twentieth century, Native Son and Invisible Man, …y no se lo tragó la tierra illuminates an experience once ignored by mainstream Americans. It sheds light on a harsh reality that can no longer be overlooked.

*The library's copy is bilingual.

Azalea with Biba book

Before Topshop and Alexa Chung, there was Biba, an affordable women’s clothing brand that transformed girls into Hollywood starlets. The Biba Years by Barbara Hulanicki covers the career of British visionary, Barabara Hulanicki, and the rise and fall of an iconic brand.

Reading parts of The Biba Years is like hearing your much older friend recount the party of a lifetime. There are so many great details: the anachronistic design influences, celebrity gossip (the terrible thing she says about Audrey Hepburn!), and examples of Hulanicki’s unstoppable creativity. My favorite parts involved reading about the shops and how visits could best be described as revelatory or a “non-stop Fellini film.”

Want to pine after Twiggy-approved clothes? Waiting for the final season of Mad Men? Wish you could hang out with Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and their ladies? Get your paws on this book!

I don't often read young adult novels; too many of the teen characters leave me feeling like I wasn't like them even when I was fifteen, and I just can't identify.  I do have two series to recommend that work well even for a more jaded adult reader of science fiction and fantasy such as myself.

Cinder book jacketFirst is Cinder by Melissa Meyer.  This Cinderella retelling is set in a far distant, post-World War IV world, and our heroine is a clever young mechanic who has a cyborg arm and foot. This marks her as semi-human and of the very lowest social standing.  Her doting adoptive father is gone, leaving her owned by her sadistically cruel stepmother.  One of her step sisters is somewhat kind to her, but is little more than a child herself and can't help her.  There's a handsome prince, a dreadful, contagious and incurable disease sweeping the earth and an ~evil~ queen from Luna. While some elements of the story will seem old hat to the more cynical, I thought it had enough charm and verve to carry off a story we've all heard before and make it fresh again.  I like the series so well I've already got a hold on Winter (book #5 in the Lunar Chronicles) even though I'll be using up one of my holds for nine months just to read Thief's Covenant book jacketit as soon as I can.

Ari Marmell has written several adult fantasy novels, none of them particularly well known or best sellers.  I did like Hot Lead, Cold Iron and The Conqueror's Shadow. He also just published the final novel in a young adult series that begins with Thief's Covenant about a girl named Widdershins.  In this world, gods have powers based on the number of worshippers they have. Olgun's congregation is slaughtered except for one young girl hidden in the shadows. She flees to the streets and takes the name Widdershins.  Olgun can't perform miracles for his last worshipper, but he can push the edges a bit.  He can make a flintlock misfire.  He can make her run faster, jump higher, and walk quieter than an ordinary human and with his help, Widdershins survives as a thief. While Olgun's help make her mildly superpowered, she still feels real and, like any teen, she has moments of foolishness and moments of maturity.  If you like fantasy and wouldn't mind a younger protagonist, this series has been a very enjoyable light read. I'm sorry to be done with it and I'll give the next book by this author a chance because of it.

I love a good romance and I recently discovered a fun romance series written for adult learners. It led me to explore the world of books for adults learning to read.

Are you looking for books for teens or adults who need simpler texts? If you search the catalog using the phrase “readers for new literates,you’ll get a long list of books at different reading levels.  If you’re looking for levels, choose a title. For instance, when I clicked on the title Water for Life, I looked for “Series that include this title” and then I could link to all the books in the Penguin active reading series or just the Penguin active reading level 2.

You can find  versions of English and American classics or modern fiction. You can find biographies, true crime, and a book written in both Somali and EnglishWe have horror stories as well as romance. 

Back to that romance series. All of the books in the series feature photographs which add a lot of meaning to the stories about long time love and new love. My personal favorite is The Big Goof:  Jan loves Bill. Will Bill love Jan? It makes me laugh every time I read it. Everyone I’ve shared it with has noticed different things in the photos which deepened the story. 

If you’d like a customized list of books, you can ask us at My LibrarianWe’re happy to help you find good reading. Here’s a list I made that features books and poetry for a romance fan. Let’s champion reading together! Thanks.


 


 

The book Women in Clothes compiles 639 surveys of women. It’s a lofty goal that is wonderfully executed. 639 women weigh in on such topics as style or taste; when they feel most attractive, money, mothers, and many more topics. Interspersed are photos of collections of clothing, blotters, rings, socks, shoes, gum packages and 6 women wearing each other’s outfits-but wait there’s more!

I felt enlightened by the essay about when to wear a veil in Egypt. I felt bothered by how much one woman spent on clothes one month: 1858.07 dollars. Mostly, I was impressed by this interesting and wonderful book that has many details, opinions, and insight.  If you would like to get to know women or you are aching to hear more women’s voices: this is the book for you.

Zot book jacketI first discovered Scott McCloud via a friend's copy of his comic Zot!. McCloud is both writer and artist, and his style was simple yet full of detail. Zot! was a story of clashing alternate dimensions... the modern 80's of our world, and a sparkling, optimistic retro 'future' of 1965! Zot himself (Zachary Paleozogt) was a sixteen-year old hero (with rocket boots and ray gun) reminiscent of Flash Gordon. Enter Jenny Weaver, sensitive teen, and the reader's point of view character through the series. I loved the goofy stories that were unobtrusively filled with serious issues. The library has a Zot! collection available here.Understanding Comics book jacket

Some years later, I discovered that McCloud had been doing some deep thinking about what made comics work. What differentiates sequential art from a book, from a painting, from a movie? His thoughts appeared in Understanding Comics. As someone with a lifelong interest in comics, I avidly pored over this. Here we go backstage with a master who is able to explain... Why that angle? Why that viewpoint? Why this choice, not that?The Sculptor book jacket

I wondered idly what his work would be like after having written what amounted to (very cool) textbooks on the subject. Now I know. McCloud has just released The Sculptor. A young, struggling New York artist makes a deal with Death, offering up his life for 200 days of what amounts to an artistic 'superpower'. And then he falls in love. Now, with something to live for, he faces imminent mortality and the rollercoaster ride of new love. Combining tender and funny, fierce and serene, everyday with surreal, this is truly the work of a master of the graphic novel... and of storytelling.

Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver book jacketBridges are one of the bonuses of living in Portland. Did you know there are 22 bridges over the Columbia and Willamette rivers in the Portland and Vancouver area? I love all of the different styles and types of bridges we have. Getting out of my car and seeing them from the river bank or a boat on the river adds to my enjoyment of them. The more I learn about our bridges the more interesting they become. It is easy to learn more about our bridges with Sharon Wood Wortman's great new book, Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland & Vancouver.

What makes this book special is that it is written for kids. It has lots of art and graphics as well as facts, bridge poems and interviews with bridge designers and workers. It includes the new Tilikum Crossing and Selwood bridges. Adults needn’t worry about this being a kids' book, there is plenty of information about the bridges. You also will learn about bridge building and design. There are even plans to build model bridges out of popsicle sticks that you can load test.

Sharon Wood Wortman also wrote The Portland Bridge Book. The first and second editions are illustrated with neat line drawings and the third edition, which came out in 2006, has photographs of the bridges. These books are also worth looking at, but they’re not as much fun as Big & Awesome Bridges. You can find out more about Portland’s bridges online at  Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver and at PDX Bridge Festival.

I recently got a Fitbit, a wonderful little device that tracks how much you walk, and I’ve become a little bit obsessed with seeing how many steps I can walk every single day. I’m not quite as obsessed as David Sedaris is about walking (or maybe it’s because I don’t have nine hours every day to devote to walking the way Sedaris says he does). I know that I’m somewhere on the obsessive-compulsive scale but I really do try not to let my slight ocd tendencies affect those around me (though my husband, when he’s washing the dishes as I’m hovering about in the kitchen cleaning up after him, might disagree with that last statement).

The Man Who Couldn't Stop bookjacketDavid Adam does suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. For the past 20 years, he has had an irrational fear of contracting AIDS, and in an effort to understand this, he has written The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought. It’s my favorite kind of memoir - personal, poignant, heartbreaking stories of the author mixed with everything I’ve ever wanted to know about a bigger subject. This is an immensely down-to-earth, accessible book about a difficult subject. I came away with an understanding of the definition of OCD, the possible causes, the treatment of OCD and a huge amount of empathy for all those that lean towards obsessive- compulsive disorder.


 

RisePlanetofApesDVDImage
The original 1968 Planet of the Apes attempted (somewhat clunkily in retrospect) to speak to the politics of its time - particularly the ongoing civil rights struggles in the US.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes - not so much remake as re-imagined prequel - more cannily embodies and plays out a more viscerally destructive politics:  the refusal of cooperation - and even love - in a world structurally predicated on species difference and exploitation.  Ape leader Caesar's incremental "NOs" finalize in a rejection of the possibility of love between masters (humans) and captors (apes) but this series of refusals also begins to construct a revolutionary solidarity among the apes.  

Director Rupert Wyatt does a nice job of projecting the film's human personalities as monochromatic 'types' (including James Franco's protagonist - perhaps the most sympathetic of the humans, but also perhaps the most capable of betrayal), while drawing out layers of personality, depth and passion in the apes (who - apart from Caesar - hardly speak).  The film's final battle along the Golden Gate Bridge is cinematically stunning but also politically inspired as a representation of strategic resistance.  Rise's release coincided with the summer 2011 UK riots and Occupy's global eruption was just around the corner.  Rise is certainly special in that it reflected and challenged its historical moment - but it is Caesar's equation of "home" with permanent revolution that underscores the truly radical power of the film.





 

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