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Category Archives: Books & Reading
Row, row, row, your #BookFace!
Go jump in a lake with this week’s #BookFaceFriday, “Canoeing the Great Plains: A Missouri River Summer” by Patrick Dobson (Bison Books, 2015). It’s available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. We also have the “Diverse Reads for Kids & Teens” collection of 56 titles available through August 31st!
If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!
“Part travelogue, part social commentary, Dobson narrates a gritty and multidimensional tale, even as his descriptions of the landscape and the river are as warm as the summer sun. It was a journey I didn’t want to end.”—Sandra Moran, anthropologist and award-winning author of Letters Never Sent and Nudge
Piper (7th grade) considers herself a “blender,” one who would rather blend in with the crowd than stand out. When her father is hired as the music teacher at the exclusive Chumley Prep, she is thrust into a new school where, it seems, everyone excels. The quintessential mean girl is there, Ainsley, and she is almost nonstop mean. Still, Piper finds some good friends and things are looking up.
Then a new competition is announced: The Excelsior Prize, and everyone is determined to win it, though no one is quite sure what accomplishments it celebrates. Piper manages to continue being herself, helping others and working hard in her classes. She also would like to win the new prize, and the Science Fair seems to be the first step. Piper is feeling good about her entry, and then she is blindsided by Ainsley, who uses a technicality to exclude Piper from the Science Fair, taking first place for herself, hoping it will help ensure that she, Ainsley, wins the new Excelsior Prize.
This is a positive book about being true to yourself and caring about others. It is for upper elementary and early middle school readers.
Grabenstein, J.J. and Chris. Shine! Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019.
ARE YOU A COWARDtagline from the cover
OR ARE YOU A LIBRARIAN?
When it seems like absolutely everything is going awry, cracking open a work of dystopic fiction doesn’t sound like the wisest idea, but Gailey’s novella Upright Women Wanted is a timely message of hope, community, and resistance – and of Librarianship.
Yes, this book is about Librarians. Gunslinging, horseback-riding, revolutionary queer librarians. Upright Women Wanted is something of a Western, set in the near-future, and is pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted from a story.
When Esther flees from home after her (secret) girlfriend Beatriz’s execution at the hands of her father, she stows herself into the back of a Librarian wagon, determined to become a morally upright woman (as all Librarians, who are tasked in this dystopic, what Publisher’s Weekly called “neo-western,” America to distribute Approved Materials, are supposed to be).
What Esther is soon to discover is that nothing she was told about the world, about Librarians – and about herself – is true. As she makes her way across the Southwest in the company of the Librarians, she’s forced to reckon with the State of things (pun intended), and with who she is and who she can be and love.
I love a Western, and I love a diverse Western, especially, and most of all I love a diverse, science-fiction Western. Throw a band of roving librarians into the mix and I’m sold. One of the events in history that I am most fascinated by is the WPA Pack Horse Library Project, ever since I stumbled across That Book Woman by Heather Henson. The Pack Horse Library Project is such a unique time period, and it captures the imagination and inspiration. Librarians are connected to our communities in a unique way, and the way we strive to maintain those connections – and advocate for those communities – is just as important as the distribution of materials. I couldn’t find any evidence to confirm that Gailey was inspired by this era, but it’s clear that love and a similar spirit went into the novella, regardless.
Upright Women Wanted is a fast-paced, quick-read of a book, with plenty of well-written action and characters. While my main complaint was that I wanted it to be longer, to have its world and all its circumstances and people fully fleshed out, it truly holds its own for a 170-odd page novella. I would definitely pick up a full novel of this story, or I hope that Gailey at least decides to pen a longer follow-up.
Gailey, Sarah. Upright Women Wanted. Tom Doherty Associates, 2020.
Henson, Heather. That Book Woman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008.
Envelop, please! This year’s prom queen is… #BookFaceFriday!
Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to boogie with YA rom-com “You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson (Scholastic Inc., 2020). It’s available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook and Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. We also have the “Diverse Reads for Kids & Teens” collection of 56 titles available through August 31st!
If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!
Johnson puts a fresh spin on this novel with an unlikely romance, heartwarming friendships, and the tension of being Black, poor, and queer in a small town. A feel-good title for sure. — Booklist
Carolyn G. Hart’s Death on Demand is the first in a series of cozy mysteries located in Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, an island. Annie Laurance moved to Broward Rock to spend the summer with her uncle, he dies in a boat accident, and so she inherits his bookstore, remodels it, and names it Death on Demand. The story begins with a list of items, and an incident and death in a veterinary clinic. Then, with hints already placed, we meet Annie, in her bookstore, putting off a phone call. Instead of making the call, she receives a call from Max Darling, the young man she was attracted to in New York City. She left no forwarding information; he’s had to find her through a series of calls and detective work. In addition, because he tracked her to South Carolina, he’s also driven down from New York, to visit, and find out what took her from her career in the city. And away from him.
I had missed Ms. Hart’s writing as much as these two characters. Annie is a straight shooting girl from Texas with a strong work ethic, and Max “delighted in ambiguities, disdained certainties, and loved above anything to puncture pretensions.”* But he makes her smile and her heart lifts when she finds out he’s in South Carolina. And the tiny island has several mystery writers of some note living there full time, as well as a small town community. What could go wrong? Well, at the usual meeting of the writers, her landlord, a true crime writer, has told her that he’s going to share information in his next book—about his fellow mystery writers’ dirty laundry. And the writers are as varied as possible, thriller, cozy, police procedural, children’s and true crime. At the party, the lights go out, the usual kerfuffle of bumped tables, people shouting, and offering directions. When Annie gets the lights on, her landlord is found on the floor with a dart in his throat, and dead. When the sheriff arrives, he blames Annie, for both the death of her landlord, but also her Uncle, with whom she had a close relationship. It all spurs her to clear her name.
I will admit the series begins in 1987, so sometimes one has to recall the state of technology, not just phones, but computers. So much needs to be seen in the correct timeline. The island also relies on a ferry that crosses to and from the mainland at set times. Although there are private boats, and a marina, the story reads like a closed system. Also, the two main characters, (and the author), throw in references to mystery writers and their books, from the golden age of mystery to the present. Which, if you don’t know them, will have you writing lists of titles of books. And did I mention Ms. Hart’s writing? This is just the book to read, or reread, during stressful times.
Death on Demand, by Carolyn G. Hart, 1987.
*quoted from Death on Demand, Chapter 3, page 7, in omnibus, Death on Demand/Design for Murder, Bantam Book, printed in 2008.
It’s been quite a year with #BookFace!
Our 2020 challenge, #BookFace style! We decided to jump on the meme bandwagon and share some classic NLC #BookFace photos. Because no matter what’s happening out in the world, we’ve still got your back. Check out a few of our great services like:
- Book Club Kits
- Library Science Collections
- Interlibrary Loan
- Talking Book & Braille Service
- Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!
- University of Nebraska Press & State Documents Collection
And these are just the services we promote with #BookFaceFriday. Visit the Nebraska Library Commission main page to explore everything we offer!
This past year has slapped us all in the face. Now more than ever, it is apparent that the world has problems. But we can’t stop there. The world has solutions too.
Today I am reviewing Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner. It’s a love story centered around extreme poverty in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa.
Honestly, I read it to get out of my head and see the world from other perspectives. Part of me cringed at the title, expecting to find another sob story, simply trying to make me feel guilty for existing in comparative luxury. But it wasn’t like that. The story was frank and unapologetic.
This is the story of Jessica Posner, a student at Wesleyan University who went on a study abroad trip to Africa. It was here that she insisted upon staying with Kennedy in Kibera. The description of Kibera was too real. I could see and smell the stinking scent of poverty, accented by the behavioral and economic forces perpetuating the cycle.
I felt a pang in my heart as Jessica witnessed new traumas. But she also brought new hope. Kennedy had been doing the long, slow work of economic development in Kibera. He brought people together over things as simple as soccer, then escalated to women’s rights. It was hope that drew Jessica to Kennedy, and visa versa.
Much of this story is about the school for girls that the two built together. It is about Kennedy finding a path towards education, and attempting to bring prosperity back to Kibera. This book shows that the road to change and forward momentum is slow. Achingly slow. But the work is worth doing.
I did get out of my head while reading this book. I held paper differently, and appreciated my ability to read. I thought about Kennedy learning to read from scraps of newspaper in the garbage. There was no other alternative there.
I shopped for groceries differently and considered food waste. Before, I rarely thought about the supply chain and how goods arrived at my doorstep. Many of them in under two days. This book made me reconsider my life and how I live it.
But a large part of that was because of the events of this year. Covid, climate change, black lives matter, massive unemployment, and a bit of gender equality for good measure. Problems are mounting.
If Jessica and Kennedy can build a school and change the lives of girls who were dealt an unfair hand in life, what am I doing? All I know is that it could be more. Read this book and try new things. Find words and stories that keep you going.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela.
Odede, Kennedy and Jessica Posner. Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum. HarperCollins, 2015.
I’ve got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight. As school gets ready to start, it’s the perfect time to talk to your kids about bullying; get a head start with “Posted” by John David Anderson (Walden Pond Press, 2017). It’s available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. We also have the “Diverse Reads for Kids & Teens” collection of 56 titles available through August 31st!
If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!
“Anderson captures the tumultuous joys and pains of middle school with honesty, creating characters with whom readers will find common ground and insight. Words have lingering and persistent power, Anderson makes clear, but so does standing up for others and making one’s voice heard.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In this difficult year, librarians learned about using technology to do a wide variety of tasks. One example is using Reader Zone to keep track of Summer Reading Goals instead of collecting that information on paper reading logs. Some found it difficult to manage. Others liked the way it was set up. Some patrons struggled to record their minutes and others loved using the app. Just like any other bit of new technology, Reader Zone takes some time to master.
Reader Zone has given us the chance to collect some pretty amazing statistics. As of the end of July, Nebraska readers have read 244,781 pages; plus 11,206 chapters; plus 19,085 books; plus 1,553,361 minutes!! Readers have also completed more than 2,500 literary activities. Reader Zone allows each library to designate what type of goal their patrons should work towards (i.e. pages, chapters, books, or minutes read). So, it is not just about the minutes…there is a LOT of reading going on!
Now we have another great opportunity and all you need to do is advertise it. The Nebraska Library Commission, the Nebraska Regional Library Systems, and Reader Zone are joining forces to offer the Nebraska 1K Reading Challenge for all ages.
Every Nebraskan that reads 1,000 minutes in August and records it in Reader Zone will receive an exclusive vinyl sticker and be entered into a drawing for a new waterproof, 32 GB Kindle Paperwhite. Two Kindles will be given away to Challenge Winners and their libraries will also receive a matching Kindle.
Click on this link, print the poster of your choice, and put it up in your library. It features the five-digit code (NEB1K) that will get your patrons started on the challenge. The first time a person logs in to Reader Zone with this code, he or she will be asked for an address. That is so we can mail the sticker to everyone that completes the challenge and the Kindles to the drawing winners. We will be able to sort the data and provide each library with the number of their patrons that participate (and win!).
Please help promote this terrific program to keep Nebraskans of all ages reading through the month of August!
The Wikipedia entry for Barbara Delinsky states that “she is an American writer of romance novels, including 19 New York Times bestsellers.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Delinsky) While every point of this is true it misses the vast number of her books that I would say fall under “stories of intrigue”, though not mysteries, as within the first chapter or two you are told what has happened and at times even by whom. What Delinsky does masterfully is get into why the event happened and why the people involved act the way they do, spinning a wonderful web of intrigue throughout.
“Before and Again” follows the story of Maggie Reid as she makes a new life for herself in a small town Vermont after her daughter dies. Almost immediately you find out that a 15 year old boy has been picked up by the FBI for hacking. That someone had been hacking grades at the high school had been no secret in the town but everyone is sent reeling when he’s also charged with hacking into some very prominent twitter accounts. Maggie considers the boy’s mother a good friend so she can’t help but get involved but that means dealing with her own past and helping a lot of others deal with theirs as well.
Barbara Delinsky’s books are like curling up with a cup of tea in an oversized comfy chair, even if you happen to be reading on the bus or over your lunch hour in the break room, so easy to get into with beautiful imagery that’s not hard to conjure. While “Before and Again” is probably one of my least favorite of Delinsky’s books that I’ve read sometimes, especially in times like these, it’s more about how the reading experience makes us feel rather than what we’re actually reading.
Life’s a balancing act just like this week’s #BookFace. Check out “The Bookshop at Water’s End: A Novel” by Patti Callahan Henry (Penguin Publishing Group, 2017) it’s available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time due to the pandemic or Black Lives Matter.
“The Bookshop at Water’s End carries us along the graceful curves and outwardly serene story line of two childhood friends returning to their summer riverside home. But like the river she writes about, Patti’s plot roils with strong undercurrents of murky secrets, tragedy and the pulsing tides of self-discovery. No one writes about the power of family and friends like Patti Callahan Henry. The Bookshop at Water’s End is a must-read for your summer!”—Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author of Beach House for Rent
Friday Reads: Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In, by Phuc Tran
I love memoirs. Not only do they offer readers insight into what it’s like to live lives different from their own, they also remind us of how much we humans have in common. That’s definitely the case with Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In, by Vietnamese American teacher, writer, and tattoo artist Phuc Tran.
In 1975, when Tran was one, his family fled the fall of Saigon and wound up resettled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In Sigh Gone, Tran describes what it was like growing up as a member of “the token refugee family” (2) in town. As one can imagine, it included schoolyard taunts and name-calling, and, when out in public with his family, the discomfort of always sticking out.
Tran also describes the resentment he felt toward his parents over what he saw, at the time, as their cultural and English language failings: “I needed to trust in my dad’s ability to navigate the world at large, and I was already doubting him. . . . Five-year-olds were supposed to believe what their parents said. Maybe some kids’ parents still had the golden nimbus of infallibility, but not my parents and not for me” (16).
Going forward, Tran chronicles his relentless efforts to assimilate. By high school, his two-pronged strategy included pursuit of academic excellence and successful integration into the punk/skater subculture. Of the later, he writes, “[b]eing a freak because of my weird clothes and hair was a respite. These were things that I had chosen . . . Fighting rednecks because you were a punk was far better than fighting because you were Asian, and fighting with allies was far better than fighting alone” (6).
So why did this book resonate with me? For one, Tran’s depiction of high school, with its cliques and angst—a “cultural cul-de-sac built with the craftsman blueprint of John Hughes, the Frank Lloyd Wright of teen malaise” (2)—is viscerally familiar. His description of his job as a library page also warmed my librarian’s heart, as did his discovery and adoption of Clifton Fadiman’s The Lifetime Reading Plan, which he stumbled on while prepping for the library’s used book sale.
Though the Plan, was “unapologetically American, classist, and white” (4), Tran could not have cared less at the time; it served as a catalyst for his burgeoning love of literature–which the English major in me appreciated. He also viewed the Plan as his entrée to the world of big ideas that can connect people across time, geography, and culture—which is what Tran, himself, has accomplished with this memoir. Sigh, Gone concludes right after Tran graduates from high school, just as he’s poised to head off to Bard College, which had described itself to him in its admissions literature as “A Place to Think” (267). So fitting!
Game, Set, BookFace!
All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Leo Tolstoy said it best, dysfunctional families make for the best reads. Set your book club up for some great discussion with “Crooked Little Heart: A Novel” (Pantheon Books, 1997) by Anne Lamott. This national bestseller is a part of our book club kit collection and available for your next read!
“Lamott is at the top of her form in this complex coming-of-age novel in which tennis becomes the metaphor for life’s toughest lessons.”—Sue Grafton
Book Club Kits Rules for Use
- These kits can be checked out by the librarians of Nebraska libraries and media centers.
- Circulation times are flexible and will be based upon availability. There is no standard check-out time for book club kits.
- Please search the collection to select items you wish to borrow and use the REQUEST THIS KIT icon to borrow items.
- Contact the Information Desk at the Library Commission if you have any questions: by phone: 800/307-2665, or by email: Information Services Team
Get out your sunscreen, put an umbrella in your drink, and make a splash with the perfect beach read! “Big Summer: A Novel” by Jennifer Weiner (Atria Books, 2020) is available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook and Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time due to the pandemic or Black Lives Matter.
“Big fun, and then some. It’s empowering and surprising—a reminder to put down the phone and enjoy each moment for what it is.” —The Washington Post
What would you do if your town library closed for renovations, and the nearest library is an hour’s drive away? Read The Lending Library, by Aliza Fogelson to find out what one women did in just such a situation…
When the Chatsworth library closes indefinitely, Dodie Fairisle loses her sanctuary. How is a small-town art teacher supposed to cope without the never-ending life advice and enjoyment that books give her? Well, when she’s as resourceful and generous as Dodie, she turns her sunroom into her very own little lending library.
At first just a hobby, this lit lovers’ haven opens up her world in incredible ways. She knows books are powerful, and soon enough they help her forge friendships between her zany neighbors—and attract an exciting new romance.
But when the chance to adopt an orphaned child brings Dodie’s secret dream of motherhood within reach, everything else suddenly seems less important. Finding herself at a crossroads, Dodie must figure out what it means to live a full, happy life. If only there were a book that could tell her what to do…
I read The Lending Library, by Aliza Fogelson, in the Kindle format, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a lovely debut novel that teaches us how important libraries are to individuals, families, friends, and communities. Definitely an excellent read!
During my recent morning walks, I’ve been trying out more audiobooks instead of the usual podcasts. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor was one that appeared on my recommended list (which then reminded me that I also have the hardback copy sitting on my to-read shelf for a while, oops) and is narrated by Yetide Badaki. I haven’t quite finished it yet, but it’s definitely hard to put down. The world-building and magic, rooted in mythology, is fantastic.
Twelve-year old Sunny feels like she just doesn’t belong anywhere, living between two worlds. She was born in New York City, but moved to Aba, Nigeria with her parents and brothers when she was nine. All Sunny wants to do is to go to school, play soccer (where she would excel on the field if given the chance), and laugh with friends. However, she’s constantly bullied by her classmates, her brothers, and even her father. The boys at school won’t let her play soccer with them. Even if they would, her albinism causes her skin to be far too sensitive to be out in the sun, as well as more bullying. But Sunny never backs down, she’s a strong and intelligent character.
One night, during a blackout, she sees a nightmarish vision in candlelight. Shortly after, she meets Orlu and Chichi, and her odd life starts to make a little more sense. She has strong magical abilities which she begins to study as a new member of the ancient Leopard People society. The wonderful magical world opens up to Sunny, as she learns to turn her weaknesses into her greatest strengths while keeping it all secret from the rest of her family. She and her new friends quickly learn how dangerous this world and their training can be as they’re set to stop a dangerous killer before Sunny’s vision can come true.
Okorafor, Nnedi. Akata Witch. Penguin Group, 2011.
Are you there Margaret? It’s me, #BookFace!
It’s a coming of age cult classic for this week’s #BookFaceFriday. The 1970’s young adult novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume (Random House Children’s Books, 2012) is available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time due to the pandemic or Black Lives Matter.
“Generations of teenage girls have grown up reading the tales of teenage angst told by beloved author Judy Blume.” —Mashable
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2020
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Central Plains Library System
Summer reading programs are helping students become better readers
Hastings, Nebraska – Since mid-May, more than 100 Nebraska libraries have been carrying out Summer Reading Programs that have allowed patrons of all ages to log their reading progress.
As of July 7th, Readers have logged:
1,086,227 minutes read
10,457 books completed
110,272 pages read
1,928 literacy activities completed
The Nebraska Library Commission and the Nebraska Regional Library Systems have worked to engage more than 100 libraries in summer reading programs through an innovative reading app called Reader Zone. These programs consist of participants of all ages with the majority being kindergarten through 6th grade.
COVID-19 has greatly impacted libraries in every corner of the state. Libraries that typically carry out in-person events for summer reading have turned to virtual programs that allow them to remain engaged with their communities.
“We are excited to reach one million minutes and we thank all our hard-working librarians and our wonderful patrons for their dedication to literacy and reading,” said Denise Harders, Director of the Central Plains Library System. “But we’re not stopping at one million! I invite all Nebraskans to continue reading through July and join our August Reading Challenge.”
The August Reading Challenge will run from Aug. 1st– Aug. 31st. The challenge will be to read 1,000 minutes within the month. Anyone is invited to participate in these programs through your local library.
“Seeing Nebraska readers reach 1 million minutes demonstrates that there are many dedicated public librarians and engaged families throughout the state. We are extremely proud of Nebraska and I am certain that they will double or triple their reading numbers before the end of the summer. Students will return to school in the fall with their hard-earned reading skills sharpened and ready to learn,” Jake Ball, creator of Reader Zone.
Reader Zone is web-based reading program and app that helps organizations of all kind to build and deploy meaningful reading programs. Reader Zone offers a mobile app that makes participation in reading programs simple and rewarding for readers of all ages.
Nebraska’s Regional Library Systems are four non-profit corporations governed by boards representative of libraries and citizens in the region. Systems provide access to improved library services by facilitating cooperation among all types of libraries and media centers within the counties included in each System area.
As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, bringing together people and information. The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission website, http://nlc.nebraska.gov/publications/newsreleases.
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The Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse receives documents every month from all Nebraska state agencies, including the University of Nebraska Press (UNP). Each month we will be showcasing the UNP books that the Clearinghouse receives. UNP books, as well as all Nebraska state documents, are available for checkout by libraries and librarians, for their patrons, in Nebraska.
Here are the UNP books the Clearinghouse received in May and June 2020:
Arkography : A Grand Tour Through the Taken-for-Granted Gunnar Olsson (Series: Cultural Geographies + Rewriting the Earth)
In this fascinating text Gunnar Olsson tells the story of an arkographer, who with Pallas Athene’s blessings, travels down the Red River Valley, navigates the Kantian Island of Truth, and takes a house-tour through the Crystal Palace, the latter edifice an imagination grown out of Gunnael Jensson’s sculpture Mappa Mundi Universalis. This travel story carries the arkographer from the oldest creation epics extant to the power struggles of today—nothing less than a codification of the taken-for-granted, a mapping of the no-man’s-land between the five senses of the body and the sixth sense of culture. By constantly asking how we are made so obedient and predictable, the explorer searches for the present-day counterparts to the biblical ark, the chest that held the commandments and the rules of behavior that came with them—hence the term “arkography,” a word hinting at an as-yet-unrecognized discipline.
In Arkography Olsson strips bare the governing techniques of self-declared authorities, including those of the God of the Old Testament and countless dictators, the latter supported by a horde of lackeys often disguised as elected representatives and governmental functionaries. From beginning to end, Arkography is an illustration of how every creation epic is a variation on the theme of chaos turning into cosmic order. A palimpsest of layered meanings, a play of things and relations, identity and difference. One and many, you and me.
Blood in the Borderlands : Conflict, Kinship, and the Bent Family, 1821-1920 David C. Beyreis
The Bents might be the most famous family in the history of the American West. From the 1820s to 1920 they participated in many of the major events that shaped the Rocky Mountains and Southern Plains. They trapped beaver, navigated the Santa Fe Trail, intermarried with powerful Indian tribes, governed territories, became Indian agents, fought against the U.S. government, acquired land grants, and created historical narratives.
The Bent family’s financial and political success through the mid-nineteenth century derived from the marriages of Bent men to women of influential borderland families—New Mexican and Southern Cheyenne. When mineral discoveries, the Civil War, and railroad construction led to territorial expansions that threatened to overwhelm the West’s oldest inhabitants and their relatives, the Bents took up education, diplomacy, violence, entrepreneurialism, and the writing of history to maintain their status and influence.
In Blood in the Borderlands David C. Beyreis provides an in-depth portrait of how the Bent family creatively adapted in the face of difficult circumstances. He incorporates new material about the women in the family and the “forgotten” Bents and shows how indigenous power shaped the family’s business and political strategies as the family adjusted to American expansion and settler colonist ideologies. The Bent family history is a remarkable story of intercultural cooperation, horrific violence, and pragmatic adaptability in the face of expanding American power.
Geographies of Urban Female Labor and Nationhood in Spanish Culture, 1880-1975 Mar Soria (Series: New Hispanisms)
Mar Soria presents an innovative cultural analysis of female workers in Spanish literature and films. Drawing from nation-building theories, the work of feminist geographers, and ideas about the construction of the marginal subject in society, Soria examines how working women were perceived as Other in Spain from 1880 to 1975.
By studying the representation of these marginalized individuals in a diverse array of cultural artifacts, Soria contends that urban women workers symbolized the desires and anxieties of a nation caught between traditional values and rapidly shifting socioeconomic forces. Specifically, the representation of urban female work became a mode of reinforcing and contesting dominant discourses of gender, class, space, and nationhood in critical moments after 1880, when social and economic upheavals resulted in fears of impending national instability. Through these cultural artifacts Spaniards wrestled with the unresolved contradictions in the gender and class ideologies used to construct and maintain the national imaginary.
Whether for reasons of inattention or disregard of issues surrounding class dynamics, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spanish literary and cultural critics have assumed that working women played only a minimal role in the development of Spain as a modern nation. As a result, relatively few critics have investigated cultural narratives of female labor during this period. Soria demonstrates that without considering the role working women played in the construction and modernization of Spain, our understanding of Spanish culture and life at that time remains incomplete.
Matters of Justice : Pueblos, the Judiciary, and Agrarian Reform in Revolutionary Mexico Helga Baltenmann (Series: The Mexican Experience)
After the fall of the Porfirio Díaz regime, pueblo representatives sent hundreds of petitions to Pres. Francisco I. Madero, demanding that the executive branch of government assume the judiciary’s control over their unresolved lawsuits against landowners, local bosses, and other villages. The Madero administration tried to use existing laws to settle land conflicts but always stopped short of invading judicial authority.
In contrast, the two main agrarian reform programs undertaken in revolutionary Mexico—those implemented by Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza—subordinated the judiciary to the executive branch and thereby reshaped the postrevolutionary state with the support of villagers, who actively sided with one branch of government over another.
In Matters of Justice Helga Baitenmann offers the first detailed account of the Zapatista and Carrancista agrarian reform programs as they were implemented in practice at the local level and then reconfigured in response to unanticipated inter- and intravillage conflicts. Ultimately, the Zapatista land reform, which sought to redistribute land throughout the country, remained an unfulfilled utopia. In contrast, Carrancista laws, intended to resolve quickly an urgent problem in a time of war, had lasting effects on the legal rights of millions of land beneficiaries and accidentally became the pillar of a program that redistributed about half the national territory.
Out of the Crazywoods Cheryl Savageau (Series: American Indian Lives)
Out of the Crazywoods is the riveting and insightful story of Abenaki poet Cheryl Savageau’s late-life diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Without sensationalizing, she takes the reader inside the experience of a rapid-cycling variant of the disorder, providing a lens through which to understand it and a road map for navigating the illness. The structure of her story—impressionistic, fragmented—is an embodiment of the bipolar experience and a way of perceiving the world.
Out of the Crazywoods takes the reader into the euphoria of mania as well as its ugly, agitated rage and into “the lying down of desire” that is depression. Savageau articulates the joy of being consort to a god and the terror of being chased by witchcraft, the sound of voices that are always chattering in your head, the smell of wet ashes that invades your home, the perception that people are moving in slow motion and death lurks at every turnpike, and the feeling of being loved by the universe and despised by everyone you’ve ever known.
Central to the journey out of the Crazywoods is the sensitive child who becomes a poet and writer who finds clarity in her art and a reason to heal in her grandchildren. Her journey reveals the stigma and the social, personal, and economic consequences of the illness but reminds us that the disease is not the person. Grounded in Abenaki culture, Savageau questions cultural definitions of madness and charts a path to recovery through a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and ceremony.
Predictable Pleasures : Food and the Pursuit of Balance In Rural Yucatan Lauren A Wynne (Series: At Table)
The pursuit of balance pervades everyday life in rural Yucatán, Mexico, from the delicate negotiations between a farmer and the neighbor who wants to buy his beans to the careful addition of sour orange juice to a rich plate of eggs fried in lard. Based on intensive fieldwork in one indigenous Yucatecan community, Predictable Pleasures explores the desire for balance in this region and the many ways it manifests in human interactions with food. As shifting social conditions, especially a decline in agriculture and a deepening reliance on regional tourism, transform the manners in which people work and eat, residents of this community grapple with new ways of surviving and finding pleasure.
Lauren A. Wynne examines the convergence of food and balance through deep analysis of what locals describe as acts of care. Drawing together rich ethnographic data on how people produce, exchange, consume, and talk about food, this book posits food as an accessible, pleasurable, and deeply important means by which people in rural Yucatán make clear what matters to them, finding balance in a world that seems increasingly imbalanced.
Unlike many studies of globalization that point to the dissolution of local social bonds and practices, Predictable Pleasures presents an array of enduring values and practices, tracing their longevity to the material constraints of life in rural Yucatán, the deep historical and cosmological significance of food in this region, and the stubborn nature of bodily habits and tastes.
The Storied Landscape of Iroquoia : History, Conquest, and Memory in the Native Northeast Chad L. Anderson (Series: Borderlands and Transcultural Studies)
The Storied Landscape of Iroquoia explores the creation, destruction, appropriation, and enduring legacy of one of early America’s most important places: the homelands of the Haudenosaunees (also known as the Iroquois Six Nations). Throughout the late seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries of European colonization the Haudenosaunees remained the dominant power in their homelands and one of the most important diplomatic players in the struggle for the continent following European settlement of North America by the Dutch, British, French, Spanish, and Russians. Chad L. Anderson offers a significant contribution to understanding colonialism, intercultural conflict, and intercultural interpretations of the Iroquoian landscape during this time in central and western New York.
Although American public memory often recalls a nation founded along a frontier wilderness, these lands had long been inhabited in Native American villages, where history had been written on the land through place-names, monuments, and long-remembered settlements. Drawing on a wide range of material spanning more than a century, Anderson uncovers the real stories of the people—Native American and Euro-American—and the places at the center of the contested reinvention of a Native American homeland. These stories about Iroquoia were key to both Euro-American and Haudenosaunee understandings of their peoples’ pasts and futures.
For more information about The Storied Landscape of Iroquoia, visit storiedlandscape.com.
Women and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia Edited and with an introduction by Michelle Armstrong-Partida, Alexandra Guerson, and Dana Wessell Lightfoot ; Series: Women and Gender in the Early Modern World
Women and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia draws on recent research to underscore the various ways Iberian women influenced and contributed to their communities, engaging with a broader academic discussion of women’s agency and cultural impact in the Iberian Peninsula. By focusing on women from across the socioeconomic and religious spectrum—elite, bourgeois, and peasant Christian women, Jewish, Muslim, converso, and Morisco women, and married, widowed, and single women—this volume highlights the diversity of women’s experiences, examining women’s social, economic, political, and religious ties to their families and communities in both urban and rural environments.
Comprised of twelve essays from both established and new scholars, Women and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia showcases groundbreaking work on premodern women, revealing the complex intersections between gender and community while highlighting not only relationships of support and inclusion but also the tensions that worked to marginalize and exclude women.
**All synopses courtesy of University of Nebraska Press (https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/)
Hello, Library People. I can pretend I’m writing this Friday Reads for the whole world, but I know my likely audience, and I’m writing it for library people. So, hi there, library people!
Today I walked into my public library for the first time in months, and I went to the shelf to look for a book (that I looked up in the online catalog before I went into the building), and the book was where it was supposed to be, and I got to check it out and take it home, and I am excited to read it. I appreciated every step of this process so much. I know and love people who work in libraries, and I care about their safety—and I even care about the safety of library people I don’t know (or love?)—so I understand why I wasn’t able to go into my public library’s physical space like this last month, or the month before that. I will understand if circumstances require that it happens again, that I can’t soup-to-nuts my whole borrow for myself. I just want to emphasize that I appreciate being able to go into my local public library, and I won’t take it for granted.
Now, that book I’m excited to read (or, at this point, to keep reading). I was looking online to see what Octavia E. Butler works were available to check out at my local branch, and I saw they had this book that I was surprised I didn’t already know about: a graphic novel adaptation of Butler’s novel, Kindred.
Speculative fiction gets a bad rap for being escapist, which is a hard argument to fight because it presupposes there’s something wrong with escapism in entertainment. And graphic novels get a bad rap for being comic books, which again is a hard argument to fight because it presupposes there’s something wrong with comic books. For this reader, though, I saw the recipe for a great read.
If you want a story that lets you leave your world completely, yet teaches you more about the world you eventually have to go back to, then Octavia E. Butler is a writer for you. Butler writes literary speculative fiction, or speculative literary fiction, whichever word arrangement makes you more comfortable. Library people, since I’m writing this for you, I will tell you why you’ll like Kindred in particular. As a library person, you have strong views about genealogy. Whether you love or hate genealogical research, that familiarity facilitates an instant interest in this plot: A young Black author in the living in 1970s California meets her White slaveholder progenitor—and her safety and her very existence depends on his survival in the antebellum South.
Kindred is available as a novel, and an audiobook, and a graphic novel. (A movie is in post-production, but theatrical releases are all messed up right now, so no telling when that’s coming out, but it stars Janelle Monae, so you’ll be hearing good things about it.)
Duffy, Damian, John Jennings, Nnedi Okorafor, and Octavia E. Butler. Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. , 2018. Print.