Tag Archives: book club spotlight

Book Club Spotlight – Sula

Cover of Sula by Toni Morrison: A well-dressed Black woman poses with the brim of her hat covering half of her face. She is looking off to the right with a flock of birds flying behind her in silhouette.

I believe that Toni Morrison is best read in the heat of the summer. I find her work sits with me best during extreme weather or extreme times. Her prose and unashamed depictions of Black lives always get to me, and her rhythm never falters. So when HBO announced they’re making a limited series adaptation of Morrison’s 1973 work, Sula, I figured it was a perfect time to add it to the Spotlight!

When reading Sula, we first learn about two towns on a hill—The Bottom on top and the white town below. We meet the people who came together to make the Bottom a community and have held it together since. Once the story has settled into the established Bottom, actions and judgments have taken place, and people’s livelihoods have come and gone; only then do we meet the titular Sula and her best friend/mirror Nel. Both girls are from families with deep ties in the Bottom, and are set up on entirely different tracks they have no choice but to follow. As we watch Sula and Nel grow older and split as they mature, Sula’s perception in and of the town changes. While Nel is the upstanding young wife and mother, Sula is the seductress, the rebel, and the reason for the town to unite against a common enemy. And for what end?

She had no center, no speck around which to grow.”

Toni Morrison

I adore Sula as a Book Club read; it’s hard to understate the importance of the novel as a tool of Black Feminist literary criticism and work. Described on Oprah.com as “a lyrical blend of myth and magic, as real as a history lesson, and as enchanting as a fable,” the empty spaces of the novel are where it really shines. Because of these knowledge gaps, you, the reader, are integral to the meaning-making process of Sula. In a book club, one member might read it through a cultural lens, another for the feminist or psychological themes, yet another can find interest in simply the history of the period.

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here. (Items must be requested by a librarian)

To see more of our Black Voices collection, visit the link here.

Toni Morrison. Sula. Knopf. 1973.

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Book Club Spotlight – El Deafo

Cover of El Deafo by Cece Bell. 
A bunny girl with a red cape flies through the ear with a large hearing aid strapped to her chest. The wires spell out "El Deafo".

This month is the 32nd year since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making July Disability Pride Month! Featured in the 2022 Disability Readathon– is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s El Deafo by Cece Bell! A graphic novel, recommended for grades 3-7, is an “only slightly fictionalized, honest!” account of what it was like growing up deaf.

In El Deafo, we meet 4-year-old bunny Cece, who loves her polka-dotted swimsuit, singing, and being “a regular kid.” But when a case of meningitis takes her hearing, she has to navigate her new silent world and the awkwardness of growing up! With her bulky hearing aid and cords, Cece can’t help but feel embarrassed by her deafness. She’s bullied, ignored by teachers, and has to deal with people who mean well but treat her differently, all because she can’t hear. As she gets older, she realizes that her deafness isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s a part of who she is! Plus- her hearing aid actually gives her superpowers! All she needs is a couple of good friends, and to show her classmates that her disability doesn’t mean she can’t be a hero too!

“And being different? That turned out to be the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers.”

Cece Bell

El Deafo has something for every reader. Using resources like the Teaching Guide, groups can cover questions from language arts to science and social studies! If your readers are interested in watching these characters come to life, El Deafo was made into a three-part mini-series on Apple TV+. In addition, you can find excellent topics for discussion in the Author’s Note, where Bell discusses the diversity of the deaf community and how each person approaches their disability differently. Some people might disagree with her approach to deafness and that’s ok! We’re all different, “most of the time we are lost, drifting along on our own planets. But we are together in the same universe, at least”.

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form HERE. (Items must be requested by a librarian)

Cece Bell. El Deafo. Amulet Books. 2014.

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Book Club Spotlight – Firekeeper’s Daughter

Cover of Firekeeper's Daughter. In Woodland School of Anishinaabe art style: An image of a butterfly born from flames. The Wings are two identical women's faces, one with tanner skin than the other.

Today, we will be spotlighting a popular title that you might not know we have! Called an “Indigenous Nancy Drew” by the author, Firekeeper’s Daughter is not only a New York Times best-seller, but a TIME Magazine Best of Book of All Time Selection. Author Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, spent ten years researching for the novel, wanting to perfectly capture her tribe and the intricacies of tribal vs. federal laws.

In The Firekeeper’s Daughter, 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine is the product of a scandal between a white woman and an Ojibwe man. Even though her mother’s family is well-respected, and her father’s side are revered Firekeepers, Daunis is an outsider. She is not welcome in her predominantly white town or at the reservation, where tribal leaders deny her parentage and membership. But when murders and overdoses related to drug trafficking slowly spread around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Daunis is witness to it all. Now she must team up with the new (and mysterious) star hockey player to use her knowledge of science, Ojibwe medicine, and these tight-knit communities to uncover long-held secrets. 

“People say to think seven generations ahead when making big decisions, because our future ancestors—those yet to arrive, who will one day become the Elders—live with the choices we make today.”

Angeline Boulley

If you’re an adult book group, don’t let the “YA” label scare you away. Firekeeper’s Daughter is a wonderfully rich story for anyone interested in YA and above. If your group loves stories of small communities haunted by their past, such as Beartown by Fredrik Backman, this is the title for you. However, be forewarned because many heavy topics, seen and unseen, such as sexual assault, suicide, murder, and illicit drug use, are present in this novel. Be prepared to have conversations on these sensitive topics. 

Higher Ground, the Obama’s production company, has also purchased the rights to adapt Firekeeper’s Daughter into a Netflix limited series, so keep your eyes peeled! 

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form HERE. (Items must be requested by a librarian)

To see more of our books from Native Voices, visit the link HERE.

Angeline Boulley. Firekeeper’s Daughter. Henry, Holt and Co. 2021

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Book Club Spotlight – H is for Hawk

Amazon.com: H Is for Hawk eBook : Macdonald, Helen: Kindle Store

For this week’s spotlight of our book club titles- we continue exploring identity through H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Even though this is first and foremost a naturalist’s memoir about grief, it is also a story about finding your true self. Which makes it an excellent pick for Pride Month! And since the book’s publishing, Macdonald has come out as nonbinary, and uses she/they pronouns.

In H is for Hawk, we follow Macdonald’s grief as they try to come to terms with their father’s sudden death, by training a Goshawk named Mabel. Throughout the memoir, Macdonald grapples with grief, identity, and why she feels so drawn to the tragic tale of author T.H. White and his Goshawk. Being a gay man in the early 1900s, White, much like Macdonald, is going through a period of strife and reclusion. And in his search of connection he also turns to the wild Goshawk, while failing miserably at training it. Unlike White, Macdonald has a different experience altogether, finding herself connecting with their hawk in a whole new way. Macdonald and Mable started playing together, using crumpled-up paper to play fetch or peeking at each other between paper tubes. This bird, only known for its ferocity and blood lust, was a living being just like them! Through this connection of the past, nature, and humankind, Macdonald tells a riving and beautiful story about grief and identity. 

“It took me a long time to realise how many of our classic books on animals were by gay writers who wrote of their relationships with animals in lieu of human loves of which they could not speak.”

Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk is perfect for an adult book club that has great discussions revolving around grief, the self, and the natural world. Macdonald writes, “I’d thought that to heal my great hurt, I should flee to the wild”; no matter who you are, or your identity, we have all searched for something that has made us whole and a place to belong.

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here.

To see more of our LGBT+ & Queer book club titles, visit the link here.

Macdonald, Helen. H is for Hawk. Grove Press. 2014

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Book Club Spotlight – How to Be an Antiracist

Cover of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Welcome to the first Book Club Spotlight of June! With Juneteenth this month, I thought we’d start by highlighting How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Dr. Kendi is a historian, and the founding director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. Having spent 45 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List, and named one of Time’s “must-read” books, How to Be an Antiracist now has two companion books: Antiracist Baby, and Be Antiracist.

Using a memoir approach, How to Be an Antiracist follows Dr. Kendi through his formative years, experiencing racism as a Black man and acting upon it himself. The narrative works as a starting point for those new to the antiracist ideology by examining ethics, intersectionality, and the history of racism/race from a first-person perspective. How to Be an Antiracist encourages its readers not just to be opposed to racism but to see how it affects every aspect of our lives and to challenge it.

“What a powerful construction race is—powerful enough to consume us. And it comes for us early.”

Ibram X. Kendi

Being only the second year that Juneteenth has been recognized as a federal holiday, discussions of race might be on your book club members’ minds. I’d recommend this for adult book groups who don’t know where to start in their discussion of race or just want to learn more about the racial system in America. Dr. Kendi leads the reader through difficult terrain in a manner accessible to the layman and ripe for discussion. His guided journal, Be Antiracist, can also help facilitate discussion amongst your members with questions such as: “Who or what scares you the most when you think about race?” and “What constitutes an American to you?”

If you’re interested in reserving this title for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here.

To see more of our Black Voices collection, visit the link here.

Kendi, Ibram X. How to Be an Antiracist. New York, NY: One World, 2019.

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Book Club Spotlight – The Ghost Bride

For our last spotlight of Asian American & Pacific Islander month, I thought I’d bring a brand new addition to our Book Club Collection; The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Choo is a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent currently living in California, and her most recent novel, The Night Tiger, is a NYT bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick.

The Ghost Bride takes place in 1890s Malaya (now Malaysia), where people of all backgrounds intermingled under British rule. The Chinese population work to hold onto their ancient traditions, especially those involving death. According to these traditions, unpleased spirits, or those who had no death rites performed, linger in our world and can cause trouble for the living. When their son dies, the wealthy and powerful Lim family look to Lin Lan to placate his soul by asking her to be Lim Tian’s bride in a rare ghost marriage. Unfortunately for Li Lan, ghosts are real, and she must travel through the Chinese afterlife to rid herself of her specter and this marriage. 

“It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts”

Yangsze Choo

Perfect for a YA or an adult book club, the Ghost Bride is a coming-of-age novel that melds a murder mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, and a bit of supernatural romance. Throughout the story, readers learn about ancient Chinese traditions, how influences of the West changed their society, and the never ending bureaucracy of the afterlife. With the aid of the Notes section, readers can learn even more about the history of ghost marriages, Chinese notions of the afterlife, and other historical notes of life in Chinese in Southeast Asia. It was also recently adapted into a Malaysian-language Netflix series which looks incredible, and I will absolutely have to binge the it this weekend.

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here.

To see more of our Asian American/ Pacific Islander Book Club Kits, visit the link here.

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Book Club Spotlight – The Henna Artist

In order to kick off Asian American & Pacific Islander month, I thought I’d spotlight The Henna Artist, written by Indian immigrant Alka Joshi. This story enraptured me completely, which is in no small part thanks to the incredible audiobook narrator, Sneha Mathan. 

The Henna Artist, set in 1950’s Jaipur, India, is a story of run-away Lakshmi who fled her abusive marriage and is now a henna artist to the upper class. While she paints the ladies’ hands, she provides herbal remedies to both the men and women she services. Suddenly finding herself in charge of a 13-year-old sister she never knew she had, the life she worked so hard for comes to a crashing halt. Lakshmi’s story is fiction, but her perseverance, love for her family, and her culture’s art and medicine are far from the realm of fantasy. Here, Joshi presents a reimagining of what her mother’s life could have been if she had been given the opportunity to shape her own destiny. 


“She was brought up to obey her parents and her husband, not to defy, question or contradict. She told me Pitaji’s books had filled my head with too many silly ideas. They had given me the useless notion that I could make my own decisions.”

Alka Joshi

No stranger to book clubs, this title was featured in Reese Witherspoon’s book club at its debut in 2020. Always an evergreen topic, body autonomy is at the heart of this novel, as well as a diverse and colorful portrait of Indian culture. This book is perfect for adults, and vivacious young adults who are ready to face these conversations head-on and talk about their own experiences and viewpoints. 

If you’re worried about your knowledge of India going into this book, do not fret! Our copies at the commission all include a list of characters, a glossary of terms, information about the Caste System in India, the history of and recipe for Henna, and some food recipes! Or all of that information is available here.

If you’re interested in reading this book for your own book club, you can find the Book Club Kit Request Form here.

Joshi, Alka. The Henna Artist. Mira. 2020

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Book Club Spotlight – Bronx Masquerade

A cover photo for the book Bronx Masquerade.  It features a Black teen against a brick wall, looking up into the light.

What sold me on Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes was a Goodreads review that said “I hated it, but my students loved it!”. And that’s how you know you have a good book on your hands.    

Bronx Masquerade is a fictional pseudo-narrative that hosts a collection of poems and slam poetry by Black and Hispanic high schoolers. Each poem and accompanying chapter gives the reader a short peak into the student’s lives. It’s a great way for your readers to explore other perspectives, and delve into how you never really know what’s going on beneath the surface of your classmates. Some poems are cheesy, and maybe even cringe worthy (especially facing its 20th anniversary), but that makes the story more realistic. Not every 16 year old is going to be the next Ocean Vuong or Rupi Kaur and that’s ok! Maybe there are some aspiring poets in your class that can take that to heart.   


“You have to take people one at a time, check out what’s in their head and heart before you judge.”


This title can be used in the classroom as a great introduction into contemporary poetry, especially slam poetry. It is recommended for grades 7-12 and has a slew of awards including the 2003 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Further information about the title, including a Teaching Guide can be found on the author’s website.        

If you’re interested in requesting this book for your book club/classroom, use the Book Club Kit Request Form listed here

Grimes, Nikki. Bronx Masquerade. Speak. 2002.

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