The newest Innovation in Libraries AF Chapter grantee is hosting a one-day conference focused on understanding how Austin’s librarian community is currently meeting the needs of the city’s underserved communities and how the greater library community can work together to stand up for social justice.
From Britney Spears’s manufactured sex appeal to Jim Morrison’s toxic masculinity, NPR music critic Powers (Piece by Piece; Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America) explores the intersection between America’s musical landscape and its overwrought cultural views of sex. She opens with a meditation on the interplay between body and sound crystallized in New Orleans’ Congo Square in the 19th century. Here, confluences of African and European musical styles blended to create the roots of jazz and what would become rock and roll. As a corollary, popular music became an amalgam of racial tension, sexual expression, and gender expectations that continue to reverberate into the new millennia. From Miley Cyrus’s twerking to Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Powers articulates how artists have manipulated or experimented with each of these threads to forge their own musical identity and sound. VERDICT With precision and wit, and across multiple musical genres, Powers contextualizes the complicated interplay of gender, sex, and race inherent in popular music within and against the backdrop of America’s puritanical founding.
Looking forward to my new role as Associate Editor of Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication.
Winner of the Nobel Prize in 2006 for his unflinching and exhaustive ruminations on Istanbul in such books as Snow and My Name Is Red, Pamuk’s tenth novel is once again set in his beloved Turkey. The story follows Chem, a boy who finds both an employer and a father figure in Master Mahmut, a local well digger. As they move across the countryside, excavating the hidden waterways underneath the Turkish landscape, they also trade stories and myths about civilization. Despite his age, Chem has a sexual awakening with the mysterious redhead of the title whose hair is cut short by an ethical choice that will haunt him into adulthood. After acquiring both wealth and a fascination with tales of patricide and filicide, Chem is drawn back to the land and wells of his youth. Reality and myth intertwine to create a twist that will send readers back to page one with hurried excitement. VERDICT As much a meditation on the inescapability of fate as a classic murder mystery, this novel will both appease fans of Pamuk’s bibliography and delight first-time readers.
The Library of America series features a black-and-white photo of the author against a black background underscored by a patriotic ribbon and is as iconic as apple pie. It’s fitting that the cover of an anthology capturing the groundbreaking and rebellious nature of rock and roll defies this convention. Inspired by Phillip Lopate’s introduction to American Movie Critics, Dettmar (English, Pomona Coll.; Gang of Four’s Entertainment!) and Lethem (A Gambler’s Anatomy; Chronic City) successfully canonize rock and pop writing as a distinctive branch of American letters. A survey more than a chronological history, this collection pulls from the multiplicity of genres embedded under the rock moniker: jazz, punk, rap, and even experimental music. As a corollary, the multitude of voices in this collection are varied and diverse—especially noteworthy in a genre historically dominated by white men. From Jessica Hopper’s deconstruction of gender politics in emo music to Kelefa Sanneh’s musings on the limitations of Jay-Z’s lyricism as poetic text, this compilation is a stark reminder that rock and pop music are often simultaneously a disdain for and reflection of the society, culture, and time period in which it is produced.
Thanks to the LANL Foundation for funding a collaborative team effort between MAKE Santa Fe and ¡Youthworks! to design and build a digital fabrication certificate. Participants are developing trade skills as they learn to use tools in wood shop, metal shop, laser cutting, and 3D printing. Read all about the program here.
The Saline District Library (MI) is compiling a collection of gadgets and equipment available for check out by patrons called the All Abilities Collection. The purpose of the collection is to allow parents/teachers/caregivers of special needs children and teens a chance to try out some of the many tools available for sensory integration and social skill development. Since children of all abilities respond differently to toys and equipment, it is often a challenge for parents of children with disabilities to know if any particular item is one that will work for their specific child. The lending nature of the collection will allow patrons to try these items out at home or school, allowing for a natural experience for the child and caregiver. It will also help the library serve their special needs community by showing that the library is inclusive and open to all. The special needs community is often underserved by or may feel excluded from traditional library programming. The library will be collaborating with local educators and an occupational therapist to select items that will offer a full spectrum of interests and needs, in addition to creating instructional guides that explain the operations of individual items as well as the therapeutic value they can offer.
Check out this project + other innovative library grants at the Innovation in Libraries Awesome Foundation Chapter.
The Southside Branch will celebrate its 10th Anniversary with a Plaza Fair on Saturday, May 20 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. This free event will feature over 25 booths from non-profit organizations serving the community. The day will be celebrated with activities for children, information from local agencies for adults, music and numerous special
In addition, the 2017 Summer Reading Program will kick off at this event. Children will be able to sign up for this program featuring the theme this year, “Build a Better World”. Sponsors of the Summer Reading Program include Dairy Queen, Genoveva Chavez Community Center, Friends of the Santa Fe Public Library, McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Santa Fe Century and Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
Plaza Fair Schedule
11:00 AM-noon: Mariachis Buenaventura (on the Library Plaza, in front of Library)
noon: Mayor Javier Gonzales, City Councilors welcome
12:30-4:00 PM: MakerSpace (in the Café)
12:30-1:30 PM: Wise Fool (on the Library Plaza)
1:00 PM: Face painter (in Café)
1:00 PM: Dahlia and Books and Babies and Spanish-Bi-Lingual (in the Children’s Room)
1:00-3:00 PM: Randi’s Reptiles (Community Room)
2:00-2:00 PM: Emi Arte Flamenco (on the Plaza, in front of the Library)
Very excited to join the PLG in their efforts + actions.
“Libraries are an important intersection of the individual, communities and knowledge. We see librarianship as a profession and practice that serves to enable the creation of and access to a multitude of forms of human expression, experience and aspiration. We also recognize that libraries are sites where structures of injustice, exploitation, control, and oppression are nourished, normalized and perpetuated. The Progressive Librarians Guild exists to expose and call out librarianship’s active and passive complicity and acceptance of those systems, to offer and practice alternatives to those systems, to empower the voices of those excluded from positions of power and/or the historical record and to develop a praxis that contributes to on-going pursuits of human rights and dignity.”
Authenticity, failure, art, and identity would be a succinct, thematic description of Lee’s oeuvre (e.g., The Collective). Of course, it wouldn’t summarize the depth of his work. Here, Lee introduces us to Yadin Park, a failed musician who refused to let a major record label erode the purity of his work and sense of self. Leading a meager existence with his girlfriend Jeanette Matsuda, a housekeeper at a local hotel, Yadin yearns to record one more album before resigning himself to laying carpet for a living in the quiet town of Rosarita Bay, CA. However, a chance encounter with Mallory Wicks, his former bandmate and lost love, reignites his creative passion and simultaneously damages his relationship with Jeanette. As this love triangle unfolds, each character faces his or her own struggle to lead a life of quiet frustration and unrealized dreams. VERDICT With wit and humor, Lee pens a touching meditation on the obstacles, hindrances, and snags one encounters in the pursuit of being an artist. Readers for whom Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia resonated will enjoy Lee’s rumination on creative success.
In an article for the New York Times, Van Reet, a veteran of the First Calvary Division in Baghdad and recipient of a James Michener Fellowship, criticized the publishing phenomenon of the “War on Terror Kill Memoir,” exemplified by American Sniper and No Easy Day. Rather than complicate the intricacies of death and combat, argues Van Reet, these books directly satisfy the American public’s morbid curiosity with body counts. Here, in his debut novel, Van Reet does something different, re-creating 2003 Baghdad and illuminating the confusion, patriotism, and regret experienced on both side of the battle lines. The triadic story unfolds around Cassandra, an American soldier captured by members of the Mujahideen Army; Abu Al-Hool, one of Cassandra’s captors; and Sleed, an American soldier searching for Cassandra. Focusing on the internal lives of each character, the author illuminates their individual quests for liberation—physically, spiritually, and ethically—amid the chaos of war. The narrative crescendos toward a bang-up ending involving all three protagonists, with the resolution a distressing commentary on what is gained and lost in the pursuit of victory. VERDICT Van Reet has penned an absorbing novel with an unflinching rumination on war’s ultimate sacrifice, reminiscent of Roy Scranton’s War Porn.
The opening vignette detailing Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s initial encounter with Charles Manson sets the tone for McKeen’s (journalism, Boston Univ.; Mile Marker Zero, Too Old To Die Young) latest foray into narrative nonfiction. With equal appreciation for the pop music emanating from Southern California’s musicians in the 1960s, McKeen also illuminates the lascivious, drug-addicted, and criminal activity undertaken by its makers. Though the central narrative is focused on the development of the Beach Boys and their enigmatic front man, Brian Wilson, McKeen relates their tragic success to seemingly unrelated artists of the same generation: Tina Turner and Joni Mitchell. In the tradition of music journalism, McKeen’s language oscillates between historian and superfan depending on the artist. His love for the Beach Boys, for example, is noticeable in prose and tone. VERDICT There is no shortage of literature dedicated to the music of this decade in American history. However, McKeen manages to hint at some larger forces, both dark and bright, that constellated this particular group of artists underneath the palm trees of La-La Land.
In his 2013 memoir, I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place, Norman reflected on his maturation through an ever-shifting array of residences, from Michigan to Canada. The one form of continuity in Norman’s life was the public library, providing the spark for his luminous literary career. His new novel pays homage to the endurance and intrigue of libraries, as it is set in and around the Halifax Free Library. After his mother, recently retired as head librarian, inexplicably defaces a photograph during an art auction, Jacob Rigolet is left with questions about her erratic behavior, the significance of the photograph, and the true identity of his own father. Literally born in the Halifax Free Library, Jacob begins to piece together his childhood memories among the stacks in an attempt to solve the puzzle. Along with his fiancée, Martha, the detective assigned to the case, he soon discovers that the answers to his questions are tied to a cold murder case back in 1945. VERDICT Norman punctuates literary noir’s “darkness within” with both poignancy and a penchant for humor. Librarians will appreciate the nod to library and information science.
Please to announce the winner of the Innovation in Libraries AF Chapter March grant: 100 Years…100 Selfies.
Not unlike her main character, Himes is both a physician and a writer. Her debut novel reflects these two worlds, underscoring the necessity of artistry and imagination within the clinical application of objective science. Set during the Soviet famine of 1933, the story unfolds around Mikhail Bulgakov, a playwright and eponymous protagonist of the novel. Although struggling professionally and creatively under the Soviet censors, Mikhail finds an inexplicable fan in Joseph Stalin. While currying favor with the Soviet political elite, he is also being shadowed by Ilya Ivanovich, an agent of the secret police, for his association with Margarita, the mistress of his recently imprisoned friend. As Ilya’s interrogations of Margarita slowly evolve into affection, both men find themselves fighting for love and freedom within an oppressive system of order and discipline. VERDICT Drawing inspiration from Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita, unpublished in his lifetime, Himes pens a whirlwind tale of romance and intrigue that approximates, if not exceeds, the talents of one of Russia’s most heralded authors.
With the release of his fifth story collection, Shepard (You Think That’s Bad; The Book of Aron) continues to weave interlacing narrative threads that imaginatively evoke time and place. Thematically, the ten stories in this collection illuminate both the comedy and the tragedy of humanity’s tethering to the vagaries of the universe. Whether it’s soldiers marooned on a radar station in the Atlantic Ocean or the racing mind of a parent moments before a tsunami destroys Crete in 365 CE, each of the tales in this collection re-creates the human circumstances around largely forgotten events. In the title story, the author beautifully narrates a tragic love story through a series of diary entries that presage the ungovernability of both the weather and the heart’s desires. Every page is a disturbing reminder that control is a mere illusion we employ to salve our consciences. VERDICT Shepard’s ability to rotate the masks of comedy and tragedy in a single story while poetically blending fact and fiction is on full display in this collection.
Honored to participate in “a postcard from the future: tools and services from a perfect DMP world“ workshop co-hosted by the California Digital Library and Digital Curation Centre at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
Critics were quick to describe Auster’s Invisible, a quaternary tale that told a contiguous narrative across a multitude of voices and authors, as a mere exercise in textual irony, lacking readability and substance. Here, the author has greater success as he returns to the four-part literary form with the coming-of-age story of Archibald Ferguson. Set in the 20th century, this novel chronicles Archibald’s maturation through four possible, yet divergent, life paths. Family fortunes, careers, and hometowns shift and change as Archibald’s life unfolds across each metaphorical fork in the road. However, one constant remains: his love for Amy Schneiderman. By interweaving each chapter into a single narrative and playing with metafiction, Auster winks at the multitude of universes contained within a single story and slyly presents the reader with essentially four drafts of a novel in progress. VERDICT Fusing the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics with the bildungsroman literary genre, Auster illuminates how the discrete moments in one’s life form the plot points of a sprawling narrative, rife with possibility.
I am honored to serve on the board of the Santa Fe Public Library with a dedicated and passionate group of community members. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”
Very honored to have designed this book cover for Nina Clements’ debut poetry collection from Finishing Line Press.
Very honored to join The iSchool Professional Mentor Program at my alma mater.
Both the Watts riots and the death of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival signified an end to a 1960s, California-style counterculture based on peace, love, and happiness. The succeeding decade would become synonymous with smog, congestion, and crime, until the resurgence of Los Angeles on a global stage at the 1984 Olympics. In this collection of essays, Kukoff (Children of the Canyon) reclaims the seemingly lost decade of L.A.’s history through the voices of those who labored in obscurity in its stretches of concrete and streetlights. From actor/producer Del Zamora’s piece detailing the importance of the Brown Berets and the Chicano movement to Doors drummer John Densmore reflecting on the importance of the band’s L.A. Woman billboard at the entrance to Laurel Canyon, this collection captures the diversity, creativity, and ever-present weirdness that continues to define La-La Land. VERDICT Below a hazy L.A. sunset, Kukoff peels back the Hollywood façade and shows a city thriving with creativity and revolutionary action under a Nixon presidency.
Beyond his music and movies, Elvis remains with us on postage stamps and coffee mugs. Here, Connolly (Stardust Memories: Talking About My Generation; John Lennon 1940–1980) explores how a young boy from Tupelo captured the hearts and eyes of the world yet ultimately died depressed and alone in a Memphis mansion. Unlike most Elvis biographies, Connolly’s focuses almost exclusively on the lucrative and tortured relationship between Elvis and “Colonel” Tom Parker. Though not exempting Elvis from responsibility, the author centralizes this relationship as the fulcrum upon which the performer miraculously rose and precipitously fell. VERDICT Though not as comprehensive as Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love, this biographical sketch is more intimate than most written about the King of Rock and Roll. This latest addition to the Elvis literature contextualizes its subject with more empathy than celebrity.
In his debut novel, Sojourn, Krivák introduced Jozef Vinich, a young soldier coming of age in the trenches of World War I. Here, the story begins in the early 1970s with Vinich’s death in the small Pennsylvania mountain town where he built both a career and family. His grandson, Bo, is left behind to care for his widowed mother and tend to his grandfather’s mill and property. Along with the land, Bo also inherits the generational feud between his family and the Youngers that ultimately led to the death of his father. It’s a dispute recently complicated by his brother, who is now missing in action in Vietnam, impregnating Ruth Younger, the daughter of his father’s killer. Though buckling under the weight of grief and family expectations, Bo ultimately finds reconciliation and closure through the darkest of family tragedies. VERDICT With studied language and a strong sense of place, Krivák elucidates how family structures and narratives fractured, maintained, and evolved between World War I and the Vietnam War.
Hemingway once said that all modern American literature owes a debt to the The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This latest from Coover (The Burnist Day of Wrath; Ghost Town), one of the most prolific remixers of America’s tall tales, fables, and myths, is both a tribute and a fitting postscript to Mark Twain’s canonical work. In the vernacular and dialect of Twain, the narrative reintroduces readers to Huck a few years into his adventuring in the Territories, boss of it all and searching for freedom beyond civilization. Tom has returned east to become a fancy lawyer, after a few years spent with Huck in the Pony Express. Alone on the plains, Huck alternates between friend and foe with cattle rustlers, prospectors, and the Lakota. Through all of these experiences, he begins to question his ethos of freedom over friendship. However, at his lowest point, Huck is reunited with Tom only to discover that sometimes not even friendship can mitigate the loneliness of the human condition. VERDICT With the humor and wit of Twain, Coover punctures the American myth of Manifest Destiny and the fantastical tales we create to avoid understanding and empathy.
In the 17th century, René Descartes contended that merely doubting one’s own existence simultaneously proved that one existed: Cogito, ergo sum. In his newest and most provocative work to date, McEwan (Atonement; Amsterdam) stretches the philosopher’s dictum to its limits with a novel narrated from inside the womb. Trudy is the surrogate of the unborn narrator, living in her estranged husband’s house while carrying on an affair with his brother, Claude. Endlessly rotating around, constantly awash in wine and food, and privy to the most hushed conversations between Trudy and Claude, the narrator learns of the star-crossed lovers’ plot to poison Trudy’s husband. Encased in amniotic fluid, the narrator is left to squirm in silence and await his arrival into the world, a world in which his mother murdered his father. This sensation of entrapment and helplessness mirrors Trudy’s conspiratorial relationship with Claude. As their plan quickly unravels, Trudy finds herself alone and ensnared in a web of lies. VERDICT McEwan joins Eric D. Goodman (Womb: A Novel in Utero) and Emma Donoghue (Room) in penning an expansive meditation on stability and identity from a confined perspective.
How does the mind grapple with transition, change, loneliness, and deterioration? Alameddine’s (An Unnecessary Woman; I, the Divine) body of work is an extended meditation on this central question. Though set in a psychiatric clinic waiting room, the novel delves into the structural and temporal landscape of Jacob’s mind. The Yemen-born protagonist scavenges through the disparate memories of his transient life, from Beirut to San Francisco. His life is a constant struggle for acceptance and stability from a distant mother, an absent father, and a string of emotionally unavailable partners. Grieving the recent death of his boyfriend, Jacob is adrift in a blur of sadness, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Accompanying him on this retrospection are Satan, Death, and various saints, all vying to control the narrative of Jacob’s past, present, and future. This colorful cast of characters simultaneously challenges and encourages his mutinous path toward a final solution. VERDICT With humor and wit, Alameddine reconfigures the self in exile and all its implications
The fragmented images of tortured prisoners from Abu Ghraib and the U.S. military’s tactic of “shock and awe” are what many remember from the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Scranton (Learning To Die in the Anthropocene; Fire and Forget) experienced these events firsthand during his 14-month deployment in Iraq with the U.S. Army. Here, in his debut novel, Scranton unflinchingly explores the political and moral stress of war inflicted on perpetrators, victims, and observers alike. Through the intertwining narratives of three characters—an American soldier serving in Baghdad, a math professor struggling to survive in occupied Iraq, and a vocal antiwar advocate at a barbecue in Utah—the author demonstrates how voyeurism functions as an anesthetic agent on both the spectator and the participant. Each character yearns to escape from and stop the brutality perceived in the world but finds the cyclical nature of violence inescapable. VERDICT Unlike most contemporary war literature, this work makes no attempt to excuse, venerate, or empathize with combat veterans. The result is an uncompromising look at the trauma of war that will leave readers shattered and disheartened, wondering whether the final gut punch illuminating the violence inherent in our culture was necessary or gratuitous.
Underscoring the importance of place in fiction, Eudora Welty once wrote, “One place understood helps us understand all places better.” For Morgan (All the Living), Kentucky is the place; she’s a longtime resident and an alumna of Berea College. Here, Henry Forge, the heir to a legacy estate in the state, dedicates both his fortune and life to the sport of kings. At Forge Run Farm, Henrietta, Henry’s daughter, tends to both her father’s aspirations for Hellsmouth, their award-winning filly thoroughbred, and her growing sexual predilections. However, when her attention turns toward Allmon, a black stable hand, Henrietta finds herself defying both her father’s racial prejudice and his dynastic aspirations. Though set in the 21st century, the narrative establishes each character’s backstory to reveal how the tendrils of the Bluegrass State’s racial history continue to color and coil around the present. Morgan also employs the pastoral vistas and calcium-rich bluegrass of Kentucky to tell a universal tale in a very specific setting. VERDICT A dense meditation on the ugliness that undergirds much of the sublime we as humans strive for and admire in life.
In this new work, DeLillo (Underworld; Point Omega) ruminates on a concept from his breakout 1985 novel, White Noise: “You have said goodbye to everyone but yourself. How does a person say goodbye to himself?” At the request of his father, Ross, Jeffrey Lockhart is flown to an obscure compound where his stepmother, Artis, Ross’s second wife, has chosen to die. Upon arrival, he learns that Artis will be cryogenically frozen, and that Ross intends to do the same. Wandering the caverns of the compound known as Convergence, replete with looping images on screens and monks shrouded in secrecy, Jeffrey stumbles upon the true ethos of the group. Faced with the prospect of losing both Artis and Ross to a theosophical cult, he struggles to argue against his father’s longing for immortality while justifying the importance of transience. VERDICT DeLillo’s rich language and rhythmic prose draw readers deep into a rumination on both the inescapability and alluring possibilities of the eternal return as the protagonists push against the physical and philosophical walls of Convergence.
Language is paramount in Cohen’s work. His last novel, Witz, was a linguistically dexterous work spanning more than 800 pages. Two-page sentences spiked with shards of scattered verses invited the reader into the deep psyche of his characters. Here, the author pens a syntactically enticing narrative of technology. The main character, Joshua Cohen, is an unsuccessful novelist who makes a living as a ghostwriter. He has written everything from PhD dissertations to conference presentations for academics. However, when he is contacted by the CEO of Tetration, one of the world’s most successful tech firms, to ghostwrite his memoir, Cohen’s life transforms from the mundane to the electrifying. What starts as just another freelance job ends in an investigation of the technologies that mediate our collective fears and desires. Delving deep into the semantic web of our networked lives, Cohen pushes the reader into the wasteland of our abbreviated vocabulary, one SQL (structured query language) at a time. VERDICT Much like Cohen’s previous work, this densely packed narrative will appeal to readers with an appreciation for experimental fiction and the ever-expanding limits of language.