Friday, September 2, 2011

If you like The Help...

Often times when a film adaptation of a book is released, the popularity of that title increases at the library, and Kathryn Stockett's The Help is no exception. The book currently has a waiting list of more than 70 people. If you're on that waiting list and are looking for something similar in the meantime, here are five titles you might enjoy as well:

Stand the Storm
by Breena Clarke

Sewing Annie Coats and her son Gabriel have managed to buy their freedom and operate a tailor’s shop and laundry, but they still struggle with their former owner. As they prepare for the imminent war, they assist escaped slaves seeking freedom.

Someone Knows My Name
by Lawrence Hill

Abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata dreams of returning to her home. Sold and torn away from her husband, she winds up in Manhattan and helps pen the Book of Negros, a list of blacks rewarded for service to the king with a safe passage to Nova Scotia.

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd

Fourteen-year-old Lily is on the run with motherly servant Rosaleen, fleeing both Lily's abusive father and the police who beat Rosaleen for defending her new right to vote. The two take refuge with three middle-aged black sisters who produce the well liked Black Madonna Honey and help Lily come to terms with her past.

Cane River
by Lalita Tademy

A family saga following four generations of strong-willed women born into slavery near the Cane River in Louisiana. Slaves on a Creole plantation, Elizabeth and her daughter, Suzette win freedom after the Civil War, but their own children still struggle to gain financial independence and security.

The King of Colored Town
by Darryl Wimberley

Cilla Handsom and Joe Billy King must endure the backlash of the integration of their segregated school with an all-white one run by an all-white board. Cilla falls for Joe Billy, who helps her with her gift with music, but Joe Billy sacrifices himself to protect her during an assault by the Klan.

Click here
for more information on Kathryn Stockett's The Help.

William - Reference

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Song Dedication: I Found a Reason

When we meet Miles, the main character of Looking for Alaska, he is hanging out with his parents and two acquaintance friends at his going away party. His parents are embarrassed by this lame turnout, but Miles expected it... Instead of sticking it out at his current high school, Miles decides he will do what many of his literary heroes have done before him: go in search of the “Great Perhaps” (from the last words of Fran├žois Rabelais, "I go to seek a Great Perhaps."). He decides to enroll in Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama for his sophomore year of high school, and in doing so opens himself up to a world of new experiences.

So, to Miles I dedicate “I Found a Reason” by The Velvet Underground for two reasons. Reason #1: The lyrics “If you don't like things you leave/ For some place you never gone before”. Miles was eking out an unsatisfying existence at his school and instead of accepting this as his fate, he went some place he’d never been before. And Reason #2: The character Alaska became the essence of life and mystery to him… she became his “Great Perhaps” and one of his main reasons for living (“Honey, I found a reason to keep living/ And you know the reason, dear it's you”). Miles, wherever you are, I hope you like The Velvet Underground.

Miles is obsessed with last words (as is the author, John Green). To find some choice words, check out Famous Last Words: Fond Farewells, Deathbed Diatribes, and Exclamations upon Expiration compiled by Ray Robinson

Jennifer C. - Children's

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Working out Working Out

It takes a certain amount of confidence to exercise in front of other people – or even outside, for that matter, if there is the chance that a passing driver might catch a glimpse of you huffing and puffing along.  It’s as if there is a fitness minimum that an exerciser needs to attain before their efforts stop being an unsightly embarrassment.  I remember my first foray into structured exercise was a couple of years ago when I signed up for a Parks and Rec class called “Body Blast.” I was skeptical about having my body blasted, but a friend wanted company, so I agreed to give it a whirl – and I’ll tell you, I hated every humiliating minute of it.  It felt like the instructor spent the whole session making an example out of my poor form as I feebly attempted coordinated limb movements (this may not be true, but it is how it felt).  Later in the class, the instructor paired me with an experienced student to do some resistance training with a giant rubber band.  The idea was to use the strength of your partner to create tension in the band, which I sorta understood – but I didn’t expect the person to pull quite so hard – long story short, the only blasting to occur that morning was the propulsion of the band snapping into my partner’s face.   I never went back.

So for those fitness neophytes that feel ready to take a first wobbly, Bambi-like step toward a healthier tomorrow, I have the greatest sympathy and a couple of suggestions:  The first is to do your jogging after dark when no one can see you (warning: this is incredibly dangerous).   The other is to come to the library and borrow some fitness DVDs.   The DVDs are a great option because you can sweat and contort in the privacy of your own climate controlled environs, plus you get the added strength-building benefits found in moving your coffee table back and forth.  And while I’m handing out suggestions, I have two things to keep in mind about the fitness DVDs:

1) It is important to pick a DVD that has someone famous on the cover, preferably a fitness celebrity.  The others have a much lower production value and the workout actually feels like it was fished out of a bargain bin. 

2)  Don’t forget to carefully read the DVD case to find out what equipment the workout will require.  While some require no equipment, others expect you to have handy all manner of home gym accoutrements.  You wouldn’t want to be caught off guard when your fitness celebrity magically manifests a crucial device and you are left scrambling to improvise a dumbbell with a can of chunky beef stew or a stair-step with a cardboard box full of old phone books.

Other than that, just have fun with it – it’s almost like watching T.V.

Ransom - Reference

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Somewhat Draining Read

Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures 
by Bill Schutt
I now have way more disgusting anecdotes to share with the world about vampire bats, leeches, bedbugs, and anything else that could suck your blood. Consider: a battalion in Napoleon's army washed their faces in a river, inadvertently getting leech eggs lodged in their noses and throats, and ended up dying a gruesome and painful death when the lil baby leeches came alive inside of them! So, I appreciate this aspect of Dark Banquet.

I got a little bored, though, when Schutt went off on long tangents about the cellular makeup of our blood and all the little vampire enzymes blah blah blah. I admire Schutt for trying to mix popular and academic genres, but for me it seemed a little confused ~ was I his real audience, or was a first year Bat Biologist supposed to be his audience? I would have preferred more narrative, or perhaps even more jazzed-up explanations of what is going on biologically when a bed bug feasts on your blood (a la one of my all-time-fav NPR shows, Radio Lab).

He's a great writer, though, and I enjoyed the chance to ponder things like evolutionary advantages and the like that I don't necessarily get to think about every day. And I will cherish all the gross anecdotes forEVER.

Rachel - Programs