Tag Archives: books

Book Club Spotlight – Funny Boy

Cover for Funny boy by Shyam Selvadurai. A Young Sri Lankan Boy in a bridal veil looks pensively over a background of burning palm trees.

June 28th will be the 54th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Although we have come so far in equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to remember our history and those who came before us as we celebrate Pride Month. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai is a historical fiction novel taking place in Colombo, Sri Lanka when the Tamil diaspora was the target of racism and violence leading to the Black July pogroms and the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983 to 2009). Funny Boy is a work of courage in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ laws in Sri Lanka, that author Selvadurai faced before he emigrated to Canada to escape persecution. His novel portrays love and humanity in a time of violence, and was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Fiction and the Books in Canada First Novel Award.

In the politically strife 70s and 80s Sri Lanka, a young boy must come to himself in his queerness as political and ethnic tensions threaten him and his affluent Tamil family. Though he is not aware of it himself, Arjie’s supposed homosexuality labels him as “funny” when he shows his feminine side and dreams often about the romance of true love. When he meets soon-to-be bride Radha Aunty, Arjie’s perception of love shifts as she falls for a Sinhalese man and their relationship threatens the family. As he matures, Arjie also falls for a Sinhalese boy and has to look past the shame to find himself as the ambivalent world violently crashes around them.

“For how could loving Shehan be bad? Yet if my parents or anybody else discovered this love, I would be in terrible trouble”

Shyam Selvadurai

This coming-of-age novel reminds us that the personal is political, and even in these war-torn and horrifying situations, queer people and love still exist and persevere. Like recent spotlight, Pachinko, Funny Boy follows international history and how it affects everyday people. Book Groups can discuss and learn Sri Lankan history and the story of human perseverance in the face of deadly circumstances, as well as the many themes and critiques of racism, class, gender discrimination, patriarchal structures, and, of course, homophobia. Selvadurai has had a lasting impact as a post-colonial author, with not only Funny Boy having both radio drama and movie adaptations but also having a species of spider named after him by Sri Lankan researchers (Brignolia shyami) which he expressed gratitude for the recognition from his homeland and for his work for reconciliation.

For more information on the history of Sri Lanka, the Civil War, and Tamil persecution:

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

If you’re interested in requesting Funny Boy for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Selvadurai, Shyam. Funny Boy. McClelland and Stewart. 1994

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Book Club Spotlight – The Rim of the Prairie

Cover for The Rim of the Prairie. A photo of the Nebraska Prairie, with the large open sky taking up the majority of the cover.

Today, as we prepare for another Nebraska summer, we will be reading a classic of Nebraska literature, Rim of the Prairie by Bess Streeter Aldrich. Born in Iowa, Aldrich moved to Elmwood, Nebraska, with her husband and child in her late 20s.  Aldrich’s writing became a full-time job when her husband passed away in 1925, shortly after sending in the manuscript for what would become her first full-length novel, The Rim of the Prairie. Though not a native Nebraskan, Aldrich fully embraced the state as her own. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Nebraska and inducted posthumously into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1973. Her book A Lantern in Her Hand was the 2009 One Book One Nebraska.

Small and midwestern is Maple City when young banker Warner Field retreats to a lonely cabin on the Moore property for a vacation focused on his once great love for writing. While there, he happens upon artifacts of a young girl who once used the cabin. Small journal entries, a china doll, and an old photograph lead him to believe the owner of these items is long passed on. He finds fascination in her lush descriptions of the prairie all around him, her poetic styling and love for her surroundings touch him deeply. Through the journals, he learns of an mysterious tragedy, the girl’s entries abruptly stopping on her 18th birthday as she prepares to run away. Only a day before he departs from the cabin,  22-year-old Nancy Moore steps off the train and arrives home in Maple City for the first time in 4 years after her disappearance.

“There was something about the lunch that was gayer than usual. An atmosphere of fun pervaded it, a sense of exhilaration was upon every one. Nancy Moore seemed in some inexplicable way to be responsible for it. There was something infectious about her approval of life”

Bess Streeter Aldrich

This unassuming Nebraskan mystery romance contains a portrait of rural life during the turn of the century. Maple City and its inhabitants coexist in their own peculiar but charming and folksy ways with their own secrets kept close to their chests. In The Rim of the Prairie, Aldrich weaves her thoughts on life, her love for her husband, and the day-to-day foils and perseverance of prairie life. Appropriate for Book Groups of all ages, readers can enjoy the lush descriptions of the prairie in contrast with the bustling small town trying to stretch its wings into the modern day, and the mystery of the brown shawl. Encouraged to read by my mother, (Happy late Mother’s Day!) The Rim of the Prairie was one of the first books I read that took place in Nebraska. It gave me the words to shape my cultural identity and knowledge of our greater social landscape. As Aldrich said herself,  “I tried to do my bit in helping preserve a little of the spirit of these pioneers in fiction”.   

If you’re interested in requesting The Rim of the Prairie for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Aldrich, Bess Streeter. The Rim of the Prairie. University of Nebraska Press. 1966

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Friday Reads: Atlantis, by David Gibbins

I am a huge fan of adventure novels and movies, so over the years I have really enjoyed the various books of Clive Cussler, Steve Berry, Dan Brown, David Baldacci, and Lee Child. An action/adventure author that I hadn’t read, David Gibbins, popped up on my radar recently, so I decided to try his first novel in the Jack Howard series, Atlantis, and it did not disappoint! Atlantis was written in 2005, and there are now 11 books in the series , so I’m really looking forward to reading the next one!

Archaeologist Jack Howard is a brave but cautious man. When he embarked on a new search for buried treasure in the Mediterranean, he knew it was a long shot. When he uncovered a golden disc that spoke of a lost civilization more advanced than any in the ancient world, he started to get excited. But when Jack Howard and his intrepid crew finally got close to uncovering the secrets the sea had held for thousands of years, nothing could have prepared them for what they would find in the murky depths – not only a shocking truth about a lost world but an explosive secret that could have devastating consequences today. Jack is determined to stop the legacy of Atlantis from falling into the wrong hands, whatever the cost. But first he must do battle to prevent a global catastrophe! **Synopsis courtesy of Fantastic Fiction**

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Book Club Spotlight – Pachinko

Cover for Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A silhouette of a Korean women in a traditional Hanbok poses, facing down. In her skirt is the depiction of a woman, wearing a hankbok, with two young boys  looking out at a rocky coast line with a red sun in the background.

Pachinko by Asian-American Author Min Jin Lee is an epic historical novel that was a labor of love that spanned decades of work and research. Focusing on the imperial rule of Japan, Pachinko follows the diaspora of Koreans in Japan who faced racism and discrimination in both work and society. A National Book Award Finalist, the novel and Lee were awarded the Manhae Grand Prize for Literature, one of Korea’s highest honors in literature. The branching story of Pachinko revolves around the character of Sunja, who, as events transpire, is the perpetual foreigner in life. Not only is she literally a foreigner in Japan, but as a woman, impoverished widower, and carrying the shame of her firstborn’s father, she will always be on the outside of a society puppeteered by men above her station.  

On a small inlet outside Busan, Korea, Sunja is the young, mild-mannered, but steadfast daughter of a small lodging house owner. Living a fairly isolated life outside of the bustling town, Sunja encounters a much older man who gains her confidence and impregnates her. Believing he intends to marry her, Sunja is devastated to learn he is already married as her world crashes in on her. Before her due date, a sickly Protestant Minister offers to marry her out of the kindness of his heart to help support her and the soon-to-be-born child, Noa. Together the couple moved to Japan and had another son, Mozasu. As foreigners in Japan, the family experiences the daily hardship of poverty, World War II, and second-class citizenship as Koreans. Spanning 1910 to 1989, Pachinko follows the family as it grows and branches off in this sweeping epic of what it takes to love despite odds that will always be against them.  

“Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage”

– Min Jin Lee

Even though about 1 in every 7 Japanese adults play the game pachinko, the work is associated with ethnic Koreans. After the war’s devastation, Koreans in Japan had a hard time getting job opportunities, and the shady business welcomed them with open arms. And like many, Mozasu and Noa’s best option was through Pachinko, their lives, like the ball bearings on an uncontrollable path of fate. Lee’s Pachinko encourages and helps the reader discover a portion of history that adult Book Club groups can approach with an eye for themes of marginalization and forever ostracization as world events are woven around these minor players. Lee, who aimed to write “compelling stories of individuals who struggled to face historical catastrophes,” asks what choices are there when you are functionally powerless.

To see more of our Asian American  & Pacific Islander Voices book club titles for AAPI month, visit here 

If you’re interested in requesting Pachinko for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 6 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Lee, Min Jin. Pachinko. Grand Central Publishing. 2017.

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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for January and February, 2024.  Included are reports from the Nebraska Bureau of Sociological Research, the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, to name a few.

Items are available for immediate viewing and printing by clicking directly in the .pdf below. 

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse in 1972 as a service of the Nebraska Library Commission. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, and provide access to all public information published by Nebraska state agencies.  By law (State Statutes 51-411 to 51-413) all Nebraska state agencies are required to submit their published documents to the Clearinghouse.  For more information, visit the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse page, contact Mary Sauers, Government Information Services Librarian; or contact Bonnie Henzel, State Documents Staff Assistant.

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Book Club Spotlight- Dracula

Welcome to the 50th Book Club Spotlight! This project is a labor of love and curiosity, and I hope it has provided a solid resource for readers these past 2 years. 🙂 

cover for Dracula by Dram Stoker.

I know what you’re thinking- here at The Book Club Spotlight, we pride ourselves on always being on theme. So why, in spring, are we talking about Dracula? While spooky stories never go out of season, now is the best time to start your reading journey into the world of Dracula. Published in 1897 by Bram Stoker, the epistolary novel is composed of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings, and transcripts. According to these, the chronological period of Dracula takes place from the beginning of May until early November, meaning one can easily read along day by day and experience the story in real time! So, I invite you to “come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring”.

On the 3rd of May, Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from Exeter, is well on his way to visit a client in Transylvania. This will be the most important deal of his short career, and he is eagerly awaiting the meeting. Little does he know that his client has something more in mind than a simple real estate agreement. As time passes and Jonathan doesn’t return from his trip, his fiancée, the savvy Mina, notices her dear friend Lucy Westenra is beginning to act strange. She experiences bouts of sleepwalking and anemia while large bats stalk the premises. Enlisting the help of Lucy’s own fiancé Arthur Holmwood, psychiatrist for the insane Dr. Seward, Texan cowboy Quincy Morris, and renowned physician Abraham Van Helsing, Mina must go to the ends of the earth and humanity to save those she loves from the fabled Vampire Count Dracula. 

It is a delight reading the origin of such an iconic figure. As the story progresses, the characters learn in real time what we, as an audience already know. What a vampire is, how to ward them off, and of course, that the Count is one himself. Stoker’s Dracula is many things- For a modern audience, it’s an allegory for xenophobia and how fear and distrust can lead to ultimate ends. For Stoker’s generation, the foreigners were the enemy that we must distrust for our safety. But as we read it through a modern lens, we can discuss the difference in moralities, racism, ableism, sexism, and the blatant misunderstanding of blood transfusion. Book Groups, teenaged and up, can enjoy and experience this classic work of fiction.   

If you or your group are interested in reading Dracula in its “true order” of events, I recommend reading through Dracula Daily.  Having its first run in 2020, Dracula Daily emails each chapter of the novel as it happens in real-time. The project has been likened to an online book club, as every year, readers on social media join together to discuss the latest events in the novel, and the experience has improved my own reading and analysis skills. Dracula Daily has even published its own physical version of the novel, with the story in chronological order, including snippets, jokes, and even drawings from book club members as they read along with you. There is much to learn from Dracula each year as we sit down to hear from our good friend Jonathan Harker.   

If you’re interested in requesting Dracula for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 11 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Norton. 1987.

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Friday Reads: Will Trent Novels

I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for a good book series. I blame my favorite childhood series, because once I find a character I like I just want their story to continue. Lately I’ve been deep into mystery and detective novels, including Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series, Triptych, Fractured, Undone, and Broken. I’m currently on the fourth book in this twelve book series, and have enjoyed the world and characters that Karin Slaughter has created with character crossovers from her other book series including The Grant County Series.

Set mainly in Atlanta, Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series begins with Triptych, where you meet Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Special Agent Will Trent and a slew of other characters that will continue throughout the series. Including his hard as nails GBI boss, Amanda Wagner, various childhood acquaintances, and other law enforcement officers. Orphaned as an infant, Will Trent spent his entire childhood as a ward of the state, growing up in group homes and foster care. And for his entire adult life, Trent has been concealing that he is barely able literate. Due to his unconventional childhood, he’s been living with undiagnosed dyslexia, finding creative ways to work around this problem, and keep it a secret. In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, he’s an observant, thoughtful, and dedicated detective, solving crimes and seeing what others do not.

Now a series on the Hulu streaming service, Will Trent and his dog Betty are out there for everyone, even those non-readers, and it is a great TV show.

Slaughter, Karin. Triptych. Delacorte Press. 2006

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Book Club Spotlight- The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Cover of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. A silhouette of a man against a full bookshelf

Obviously this week, National Library Week, is the best week of the year! Celebrations include Right to Read Day, National Library Workers Day, National Library Outreach Day, and Take Action for Libraries Day. While we all know the importance of the library ecosystem, former San Francisco Library Laureate, Allison Hoover Bartlett, shares the story of what happens when greed and personal gain take over and infiltrate the book market. In her book, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, Bartlett follows the trail of notorious book thief John Charles Gilkey and peeks into the psyche of those who collect rare books, and what happens when that collecting becomes a compulsion.

Allison Bartlett entered into the world of book thieves by way of coincidence. A friend had come into possession of a stolen rare book after his brother’s passing, and Allison was drawn to its mysterious pages. As she felt this pull towards the illicit book, she began researching the history of book thievery, asking: “What makes someone cross the line from admirer to thief?”. It’s not long until two names come to her attention: Ken Sanders, a rare book dealer whose obsession with catching book thieves, leads Allison to the main focus of her story, John Charles Gilkey. For John, his (stolen) book collection is not about the contents of the books themselves, but merely the status it affords him. Growing up, he dreamed of being like the upper-crust gentlemen who honed grand libraries and garnered admiration. John takes to fraud and theft to achieve this dream, growing bolder and more self-assured as his collection grows. And his curation list? The Modern Library’s List of 100 Best Novels. Follow along with the strained and strange relationship between booksellers and the titular book thief. Where each believes the other is the true criminal. 

“It wasn’t merely a love of books that compelled him, but also what owning them would say about him. It’s a normal ambition—that our choice of music or cars or shoes reflects well on us—taken to the extreme.”

Allison Hoover Bartlett

Part True Crime, part history of book collecting and fervor, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is about trying to understand the psyche of these collectors and those who experience book-collecting mania, or Bibliomania. According to Bartlett, in rare book collections, the physical properties of the books, the memories associated with the title, or the historical importance of that edition are often more valuable than the actual contents within them. Book Club Groups will love the low-stakes True Crime aspect and exploring what in the mind can drive us to place such value on having personal library collections.  

As Bartlett finds herself more entrenched in the rare book collection space, she notes that it largely consists of rich white men. While their hobbies are viewed as intellectual, there has been a trend of treating young female celebrities and models who carry around the latest literary fiction novel (“Literary It Girls”) as lesser and shallow attempts at intellectualism. But what is their real difference? Rare book collecting and John Gilkey’s obsession with the status symbol he associated with the books he stole can bring to light a much-needed discussion about the value we place on our favorite pastime, classism and maybe even a hidden misogynistic agenda.

Further Resources:

If you’re interested in requesting The Man Who Loved Books Too Much for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 5 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Bartlett, Allison Hoover. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. Riverhead Books. 2009

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Friday Reads: Dark, Salt, Clear by Lamorna Ash

My favorite book discoveries are often found nestled amongst travel guides. While guidebooks often shrink small towns into succinct paragraphs, and weigh their significance based on subjective criteria suited for outsiders, I love a book that digs deeper into a place. Dark, Salt, Clear: The Life of a Fishing Town is one of these finds.

Lamorna Ash is a twenty-something Londoner, who ventures to the Cornish coastline to learn about fishing. Although she is an outsider, she has roots in Cornwall. Her mother was raised there and named her daughter for a Cornish village. Lamorna settles in Newlyn, a town centered on the fishing industry, steeped in tradition, but also rapidly changing. The locals quickly welcome her into their lives and workplaces, allowing her access to the various enterprises, including participating in the catch, processing fish, and observing the wholesale auction in an ever changing global market.

Dark, Salt, Clear is not just a story about fishing. It’s about the people, the place, and the complex beauty of it all. Ash peppers her story with poetry and prose from others who experienced the sea and its coastlines. The book’s title comes from the poem “At the Fishhouses” (1947) by Elizabeth Bishop:

“It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.”   

Ash is also adept at interweaving her own poetic observations about life and the natural world, and often reflects on the things she learns from the people she meets including captains, deckhands, birdwatchers, fishmongers, processors, barkeeps, and geologists. 

“A geologist’s task is to see beyond the ways in which time tries to smooth out difference, examining layers in order to isolate each sift to our world, to feel every fault line.  We discuss how hard this is to do this with people, to imagine our lives not as one continuous line, but comprised of hundreds of versions, stacked up behind us, and hundreds more ahead of us too, like those pairs of facing mirrors that make your reflection curl up infinitely on either side of you.”

The book not only explores what it means to work in the fishing industry, but also what it means to live in a place that is so connected to the sea. As a person who grew up in a small coastal town in the Pacific Northwest, I was intrigued to learn about another coastal town across the globe. Books, like travel, can broaden our horizons, but also connect us. People in Cornwall look for the illusive “Green Flash” just like the residents of my hometown. The fishing industry everywhere is effected by globalization and climate change. Small seaside towns struggle with similar issues like tensions between tourism and industry. Fishing families across the globe are impacted by metal health issues, tragedy, and grief.  

If you are curious about the natural world and the human experience in a small town across the Atlantic, check out Dark, Salt, Clear. While I picked up a physical copy of this book from my local library, you can also read it as an ebook through the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries.

Ash, Lamorna. Dark, Salt, Clear: the Life of a Fishing Town. Bloomsbury, 2020.

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Book Club Spotlight – The Daughter of Time

Cover for The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. On a stark red background a portrait of Richard III peaks out from a decorated frame with a mild and uncertain frame.

With the British Royal Family gossip mill recently abuzz, and as the sun sets on Women’s History Month, now is the perfect opportunity to visit Josephine Tey’s 1951 novel The Daughter of Time, and take a step back to the 15th century to investigate the murderous reputation of Richard III. Holding the top spot in the British Crime Writers’ Association’s list of Top 100 Crime Novels of All TimeThe Daughter of Time is quite the influential novel, leading in part to the discovery of Richard III’s burial site in 2012. Like Nebraska’s own Mignon G. Eberhart, Tey wrote during what is called the “Golden Age of Crime Fiction”, and her novels continue to surprise and delight readers.

Hospitalized from his latest case, Inspector Alan Grant is at a loss for entertainment. Having counted the ceiling tiles and studied the comings and goings of his nurses, he is growing restless. It’s not until a friend suggests he attempt to solve a cold case from his hospital bed does inspiration strike. Examining a portrait of the late King Richard III, Grant (a fan of physiognomy) doesn’t see the ruthless uncle who would kill his two young nephews. He sees a gentle man, lost to time. With the help of the young American Researcher, Grant races across histories written by second hands with ulterior motives. And as the pair work to challenge myths and legends to clear Richard’s name, they can’t help but wonder, what could be gained by besmirching an usurped King?

“The truth of anything at all doesn’t lie in someone’s account of it. It lies in all the small facts of the time. An advertisement in a paper, the sale of a house, the price of a ring.”

Josephine Tey

Chock full of wit and political intrigue, The Daughter of Time is a history lesson like no other. Our copies at the Commission include a 2013 introduction by the late author Robert Barnard whose overview of Josephine Tey (real name Elizabeth Mackintosh) includes her writing style, spot in history, and acknowledgments of prejudices characteristic of her time which are unfortunately present in the text. Book Club groups will enjoy exploring the very real mystery of Richard III and the unknown fate of the two Princes in the Tower against the safe and removed backdrop of Grant’s hospital bed. And the delightful repartee between characters cannot be understated, from puns to inquiring over the ownership of who gets to die in the Thames- Tey is truly a master of the genre.

If you’re interested in requesting The Daughter of Time for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 7 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Tey, Josephine. The Daughter of Time. Simon and Schuster. 1951

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#BookFaceFriday – “Reader’s Digest: Special Pets Issue”

This #Bookface is ready to sit and stay.

It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and it’s easy to forget you have access to magazines on Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! Take a look at “Reader’s Digest” just one of 3,596 English titles now available as an eBook from Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! Three years of issues are available of many titles, as well as some single titles (generally special edition issues of certain magazines or items like adult coloring books). Magazines do not count against a reader’s checkout limit of 6, and magazine issues may be checked out for 7, 14, or 21 days, depending on your library’s policy. Along with all the English-language titles, you have access to Spanish-language titles, and many other languages including French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Afrikaans, and Italian.

“In this era of information overload, Reader’s Digest offers something unique: the very best advice, information and inspiration from multiple sources, condensed into an easy-to-read digest. In each issue you’ll get trusted, time-saving insights about Health, Personal Finance, Work, Family, and National issues, PLUS exclusive book excerpts, news-making interviews, and humor.”

Reader’s Digest Blurb

Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. 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. 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!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available in our Book Club collection, permanent collection, and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads & #BookFaceFriday – “Fourteen Days: A Collaborative Novel” by The Authors Guild

We’ve reached the point in our “post-pandemic world” (or as close as we have come to being post-anything) where it seems every book set in the current time period mentions COVID-19. For example, my two most recent juvenile fiction reads were set in mid-2020, when masks were common and the death toll still sky high (“Wrecker” by Carl Hiaasen, and “Invisible Son” by Kim Johnson). “Fourteen Days” by The Authors Guild (edited by Margaret Atwood and Douglas Preston) takes place in New York City, in April 2020, just as it seems all hell has broken loose.

The new superintendent of the rundown Fernsby Arms apartment building finds herself responsible for maintaining a property with no way to procure supplies and no landlord to call for help; anyone with means has fled the city to hide from the novel coronavirus. With no cell reception in her basement apartment, she ventures onto the roof, where she encounters other residents looking for fresh air. A regular gathering of tenants begins, first to bang pots and pans at sundown to cheer the city’s essential workers, and then just for the socialization they are sorely lacking due to the lockdown. One by one, over the course of two weeks, the residents begin to share stories to entertain themselves. Virtually strangers before now, they find themselves bound together by both the current circumstances and by the (often tragic or bizarre) tales of how they came to reside in this dilapidated building.

I will admit that I was initially drawn to this book because they slapped Margaret Atwood’s name on the cover, but as you can see, she is only one of the well-known voices that contributed to this work. From the book description:

Includes writing from: Charlie Jane Anders, Margaret Atwood, Joseph Cassara, Jennine Capó Crucet, Angie Cruz, Pat Cummings, Sylvia Day, Emma Donoghue, Dave Eggers, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham, Maria Hinojosa, Mira Jacob, Erica Jong, CJ Lyons, Celeste Ng, Tommy Orange, Mary Pope Osborne, Douglas Preston, Alice Randall, Ishmael Reed, Roxana Robinson, Nelly Rosario, James Shapiro, Hampton Sides, R.L. Stine, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Monique Truong, Scott Turow, Luis Alberto Urrea, Rachel Vail, Weike Wang, Caroline Randall Williams, De’Shawn Charles Winslow, and Meg Wolitzer!”

The Authors Guild. (2024). Fourteen Days. Harper.

You can find “Fourteen Days: A Collaborative Novel” by The Authors Guild as both an eBook and Audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. 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. 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!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available in our Book Club collection, permanent collection, and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Book Club Spotlight – A Beautiful Poison

Cover for A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang. A triangular vile covered in yellow jewels against an art deco styled background

Happy Women’s History Month! This month we’ll be featuring incredible women authors, and today’s Book Club Spotlight is written by none other than the brilliant Lydia Kang, MD. Author of numerous Adult, Young Adult, Non-Fiction, and Star Wars novels, Kang, an internal medicine physician in Omaha, combines her passion for medicine and literature in her award-winning historical/medical mysteries. Her debut novel, A Beautiful Poison, takes place in New York City, where she studied medicine at Columbia University and the New York University School of Medicine. 

In the upper echelon of 1918 New York City, everyone has secrets. In a society stuck between the Gilded Age and the Jazz Age, Americans are gripped by war, and the looming influenza outbreak, while Allene is chasing after her past. A past where she, Jasper, and Birdie were together. And finally, when they are all together again, Florence Waxworth gets herself poisoned in the middle of Allene’s engagement party! As the murdered bodies continue to fall around them, their hot-headed group is the only one who can solve the mystery. Torn apart by their whims and desires, the trio must face the influenza, a killer, and each other to make it out alive. 

“It was a fresh new day, served with a glorious sunrise and of course Florence’s untimely death to solve.”

Lydia Kang

For mature teens or adult book club groups looking for fast-paced mysteries to keep you on your toes, and mixed with the incredible setting, A Beautiful Poison is a joy to experience and try to solve alongside the characters. As a former resident and student, Kang’s heart shows when describing New York City and specifically Bellevue Hospital, which features heavily in the novel and includes the real pioneers of forensic medicine as integral figures in solving the medical mystery. The characters of Allene, Jasper, and Birdie are complicated and compelling, as they try to mend a friendship and deep love that may be too far gone.

Related Readings:

Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum

If you’re interested in requesting A Beautiful Poison for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 3 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Kang, Lydia. A Beautiful Poison. Lake Union Publishing. 2017

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Book Club Spotlight – Hector’s Bliss

A unique aspect of our Book Club Collection here at the Commission is our focus on Nebraska authors, settings, and stories, housing the hidden gems of Nebraska literature and history! Today’s pick for the Book Club Spotlight, in particular, focuses on a relatively unknown part of Nebraska’s Black History. While we know the story of white pioneers and homesteaders, there was also the incredible journey of formerly enslaved people who became landowners, farmers, and a community in the Sandhills. Hector’s Bliss: Black Homesteaders at Goose Lake, Nebraska, by Dennis Vossberg, is a historical fiction novel based on the incredible history of Black Homesteaders, who, under false pretenses, persevered in the harsh farmland until drought and the Dust Bowl overcame the whole region.

In the late 1800s, at the height of legalized racial segregation, just south of O’Neil, Nebraska, there was the short-lived story of Bliss, and the Black community members who called it home. During the economic downturn caused by the end of the Civil War, the newly freed people were looking for a reliable place to land. As newly married Hector and Julia Dixon were floundering in a small mining town, land promoters arrived, falsely promising flourishing farmland and untapped coal veins awaited them in the far reaches of the Nebraska Sandhills. The Dixons and 13 other families unknowingly move to the desert-like plains to start anew. Besought by harsh conditions, poverty, and rural isolation, their community works hard to create a solid foundation for the future despite the conditions. As one of the more educated residents, Hector Dixon finds himself wearing many hats in Bliss, as a farmer, the integrated school’s teacher, the justice of the peace, and eventually a milk road delivery man, all to support his growing and tenacious family. Striving to find a balance between the life his children dream of and the one he has worked so hard to build.

He took a lingering gaze over the peaceful countryside, thinking of how transient were the human inhabitants of this land, and how triumphantly enduring was the land itself

Dennis Vossberg

Hector’s Bliss is a moving historical fiction crafted with love and respect for the subjects, and Book Club Groups will find value in learning about this little-known Nebraska history. They may even be encouraged to learn more. Covered in the Nebraska Public Media story, “Looking for Bliss,” the story of the Dixons and Bliss is virtually unknown. Hector’s Bliss brings to light Black history that has been erased from cultural memory, revealing a more full and beautiful world. We won’t really ever know how the Black Homesteaders were treated by their white compatriots as those details have been lost to time. So, while prejudice and racism are addressed, Vossberg chooses to focus the limited peril on the indomitable human spirit and the life these people worked to build after slavery. 

If you’re interested in requesting Hector’s Bliss for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 4 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Vossberg, Dennis. Hector’s Bliss. Morris Publishing. 2006

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Book Club Spotlight – When Stars are Scattered

Cover for When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Two young Somali boys walk together, shoeless, through a encampment. They are smiling hopefully up at the night sky.

Happy Black History Month from Book Club Spotlight! The theme for 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts,” which honors the incredible contributions of African Americans to culture, music, art, and literature. And what better combination of art and literature is there than graphic novels? So, to wrap up our mini-series, we will follow young Somali refugees displaced by civil war. Where the Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, is based on the childhood of Mohamed, who grew up in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. The list of honors for this book is massive, including being a National Book Award Finalist, the School Library Journal Best Book of 2020, and a 2021-22 Golden Sower Chapter Book Nominee.

Omar and his brother Hassan have been in the Dadaab refugee camp for seven years! Without their parents, the boys live on their own, watched over by an aging foster mother, Fatuma. Having the responsibility of caring for himself and his nonverbal brother, everyday Omar must clean the floorless tent they sleep on, hide any valuables from thieves, and wait. Wait for water, wait for food, wait for his mother to find them, wait for the war to end, and wait to leave the refugee camp. When Omar gets a chance to attend school, he is far behind other children his age, and soon, the pressure of school and chores begins to make him angry and resentful. As he grows and becomes continually frustrated with his situation, he sees how everyone else is stuck just like him—especially the girls, who, like Omar, are burdened with too many responsibilities. With encouragement from his friends and community, Omar grows more confident in his abilities and in Hassan and starts dreaming about a future outside the camp. And one day, Omar’s and Hassan’s names are called for an interview with the UN for a chance to finally leave Dadaab, an exciting and terrifying possibility. 

“It was nice talking like this. Pretending we were normal kids, with normal futures to look forward too”

– Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

Written for middle grades and up, all will be deeply moved by reading this graphic novel. With wars waging worldwide, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and powerless, and listening to stories of those going through these tough times matters. When Stars are Scattered is an excellent representation of the day-to-day life in refugee camps. Maybe your Book Club Group wants to learn more about what life is like for refugees, or your students have questions about what is happening to displaced children like them. Since moving to America, Mohamed has dedicated his life to serving his community back in Dadaab and improving the living conditions of refugees, especially young girls through his nonprofit foundation, Refugee Strong.

“Please take away from the reading of this book an understanding that you should never give up hope. In the camp, we were given courage by our faith to always be patient and to never lose hope. Things may seem impossible, but if you keep working hard and believe in yourself, you can overcome anything in your path. I hope my story will inspire you to always persevere.” 

Omar Mohamed

If you’re interested in requesting When Stars are Scattered for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

To see more of our Black Voices book club titles, visit here.

Jamieson, Victoria & Mohamed, Omar. When Stars are Scattered. Penguin Random House. 2020

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Book Club Spotlight – Survivors of the Holocaust

Cover for Survivors of the Holocaust

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, today’s Book Club Spotlight, Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children, is a graphic novel that commemorates the Jewish children who were displaced by World War Two. This book will be read in conjunction with next month’s spotlight, When Stars are Scattered, which follows two Somali brothers as they are growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp. While these children all survived, it’s important to remember those who are still being displaced or, worse, by war and apartheid. Survivors of the Holocaust is adapted from a six-part animated interview series, Children of the Holocaust, which won the VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award for Youth Honor. It was edited by Kath Shackleton and illustrated by Zane Whittingham. 

The graphic novel begins with a foreword by Lilian Black, who was the Chair of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. She introduces us to the six storytellers, Heinz, Trude, Ruth, Martin, Suzanne, and Arek, who were all children at the beginning of World War II and were impacted by the Holocaust and its systemic persecution of Jewish people. Split into individual sections, we begin by meeting each child shortly before war breaks out during Hitler’s rise to power. Some are forced to flee with their families, siblings, or all alone. Others are stuck in Germany and manage to survive their time in concentration camps. Their stories are told through evocative and mildly disturbing illustrations that work to bring the sense of terror that Hilter’s reign imposed on their young lives. Sections following the main stories include short paragraphs about each of the children as they grew up outside of the war, a timeline of events, a helpful glossary of terms, and further online resources.

“It is not easy for them to tell their stories. They agreed to because they want people to know what can happen when people are subjected to discrimination and persecution for being seen as “different”. Their dearest wish is that no one should suffer as they did and that people who never again stand by when injustice is taking place.”

Survivors of the holocaust – Foreword: Lilian Black

Appropriate for ages ten and above, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a solid reference point for young readers who are just learning about the Holocaust. As written by The Jewish Book Council: “These accounts rep­re­sent a good cross-sec­tion of expe­ri­ence, since plu­ral­i­ty of expe­ri­ence is vital in pre­sent­ing the Holo­caust to young read­ers. The illus­tra­tions make the iden­ti­ties of the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors clear and the maps used as back­grounds pro­vide geo­graph­ic ground­ing for bor­der cross­ings. Ren­der­ings of pho­tographs and pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments add anoth­er lay­er of under­stand­ing”. However, there are minor inconsistencies that often occur through retellings. From classrooms to adult reading groups, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a multifaceted approach to our continuing Holocaust education and commitment to victims of displacement.

As with many of our Book Club Kits, discussion questions and an Educator’s Guide are available to help teachers and Book Club Group leaders through discussion resources and additional information. 

Other Resources: 

If you’re interested in requesting Survivors of the Holocaust  for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Shackleton, Kath. Survivors of the Holocaust. Sourcebooks Explore. 2019.

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Friday Reads: The Indigo Girl

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd, is an exceptional example of historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. In this incredible story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice, an extraordinary sixteen-year-old girl in Colonial South Carolina defies all expectations to achieve her dream.

“The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.

Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return—against the laws of the day—she will teach the slaves to read.

So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

Based on historical documents, including Eliza’s letters, this is a historical fiction account of how a teenage girl produced indigo dye, which became one of the largest exports out of South Carolina, an export that laid the foundation for the incredible wealth of several Southern families who still live on today. Although largely overlooked by historians, the accomplishments of Eliza Lucas influenced the course of US history. When she passed away in 1793, President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.” [Audible]

This book is set between 1739 and 1744, and Natasha Boyd has done extensive research and masterful writing to form the story of a remarkable young woman whose actions were before her time. I listened to the Audible version, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, and highly recommend this story about a little known piece of American history: the story of The Indigo Girl.

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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for November and December, 2023.  Included are reports from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Nebraska Crime Commission, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and new books from the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

Most items, except the books from the University of Nebraska Press, are available for immediate viewing and printing by clicking on the highlighted link above, or directly in the .pdf below.  You can read synopses of the books received from the University of Nebraska Press in the Book Briefs blogposts.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse in 1972 as a service of the Nebraska Library Commission. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, and provide access to all public information published by Nebraska state agencies.  By law (State Statutes 51-411 to 51-413) all Nebraska state agencies are required to submit their published documents to the Clearinghouse.  For more information, visit the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse page, contact Mary Sauers, Government Information Services Librarian; or contact Bonnie Henzel, State Documents Staff Assistant.

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Book Briefs: New University of Nebraska Press Books at the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse

The Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse receives documents every month from all Nebraska state agencies, including the University of Nebraska Press (UNP).  Every two months we will be showcasing the UNP books that the Clearinghouse has received.

UNP books, as well as all Nebraska state documents, are available for checkout by libraries and librarians for their patrons.

Here are the UNP books the Clearinghouse received in November and December, 2023:

Great Plains Forts, by Jay H. Buckley and Jeffery D. Nokes; Series: Discover the Great Plains

Great Plains Forts introduces readers to the fortifications that have impacted the lives of Indigenous peoples, fur trappers and traders, travelers, and military personnel on the Great Plains and prairies from precontact times to the present. Using stories to introduce patterns in fortification construction and use, Jay H. Buckley and Jeffery D. Nokes explore the eras of fort-building on the Great Plains from Canada to Texas. Stories about fortifications and fortified cities built by Indigenous peoples reveal the lesser-known history of precontact violence on the plains.

Great Plains Forts includes stories of Spanish presidios and French and British outposts in their respective borderlands. Forts played a crucial role in the international fur trade and served as emporiums along the overland trails and along riverway corridors as Euro-Americans traveled into the American West. Soldiers and families resided in these military outposts, and this military presence in turn affected Indigenous Plains peoples. The appendix includes a reference guide organized by state and province, enabling readers to search easily for specific forts.

Making Space : Neighbors, Officials, and North African Migrants in the Suburbs of Paris and Lyon, by Melissa K. Byrnes; Series: France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization

Since the 2005 urban protests in France, public debate has often centered on questions of how the country has managed its relationship with its North African citizens and residents. In Making Space Melissa K. Byrnes considers how four French suburbs near Paris and Lyon reacted to rapidly growing populations of North Africans, especially Algerians before, during, and after the Algerian War. In particular, Byrnes investigates what motivated local actors such as municipal officials, regional authorities, employers, and others to become involved in debates over migrants’ rights and welfare, and the wide variety of strategies community leaders developed in response to the migrants’ presence. An examination of the ways local policies and attitudes formed and re-formed communities offers a deeper understanding of the decisions that led to the current tensions in French society and questions about France’s ability—and will—to fulfill the promise of liberty, equality, and fraternity for all of its citizens. Byrnes uses local experiences to contradict a version of French migration history that reads the urban unrest of recent years as preordained.

Modern Jewish Theology : the First One Hundred Years, 1835-1935, Edited by Samuel J. Kessler and George Y. Kohler; Series: JPS Anthologies of Jewish Thought

Modern Jewish Theology is the first comprehensive collection of Jewish theological ideas from the pathbreaking nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, featuring selections from more than thirty of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the era as well as explorations of Judaism’s identity, uniqueness, and relevance; the origin of ethical monotheism; and the possibility of Jewish existentialism. These works—most translated for the first time into English by top scholars in modern Jewish history and philosophy—reveal how modern Jewish theology developed in concert with broader trends in Jewish intellectual and social modernization, especially scholarship (Wissenschaft des Judentums), politics (liberalism and Zionism), and religious practice (movement Judaism and the struggles to transcend denominational boundaries).

This anthology thus opens to the English-language reader a true treasure house of source material from the formative years of modern Jewish thought, bringing together writings from the very first generations, who imagined biblical and rabbinic texts and modern scientific research would produce a synthetic view of God, Israel, and the world. A general introduction and chapter introductions guide students and nonspecialists through the key themes and transformations in modern Jewish theology, and extensive annotations immerse them in the latest scholarship.

Reading the Contemporary Author : Narrative, Authority, Fictionality, Edited by Alison Gibbons and Elizabeth King; Series: Frontiers of Narrative

Readers, literary critics, and theorists alike have long demonstrated an abiding fascination with the author, both as a real person—an artist and creator—and as a theoretical concept that shapes the way we read literary works. Whether anonymous, pseudonymous, or trending on social media, authors continue to be an object of critical and readerly interest. Yet theories surrounding authorship have yet to be satisfactorily updated to register the changes wrought on the literary sphere by the advent of the digital age, the recent turn to autofiction, and the current literary climate more generally. In Reading the Contemporary Author the contributors look back on the long history of theorizing the author and offer innovative new approaches for understanding this elusive figure.

Mapping the contours of the vast territory that is contemporary authorship, this collection investigates authorship in the context of narrative genres ranging from memoir and autobiographically informed texts to biofiction and novels featuring novelist narrators and characters. Bringing together the perspectives of leading scholars in narratology, cultural theory, literary criticism, stylistics, comparative literature, and autobiography studies, Reading the Contemporary Author demonstrates that a variety of interdisciplinary viewpoints and critical stances are necessary to capture the multifaceted nature of contemporary authorship.

To Educate American Indians : Selected Writings from the National Educational Association’s Department of Indian Education, 1900-1904, Edited by Larry C. Skogen; Series: Indigenous Education

To Educate American Indians presents the most complete versions of papers presented at the National Educational Association’s Department of Indian Education meetings during a time when the debate about how best to “civilize” Indigenous populations dominated discussions. During this time two philosophies drove the conversation. The first, an Enlightenment era–influenced universalism, held that through an educational alchemy American Indians would become productive, Christianized Americans, distinguishable from their white neighbors only by the color of their skin. Directly confronting the assimilationists’ universalism were the progressive educators who, strongly influenced by the era’s scientific racism, held the notion that American Indians could never become fully assimilated. Despite these differing views, a frightening ethnocentrism and an honor-bound dedication to “gifting” civilization to Native students dominated the writings of educators from the NEA’s Department of Indian Education.

For a decade educators gathered at annual meetings and presented papers on how best to educate Native students. Though the NEA Proceedings published these papers, strict guidelines often meant they were heavily edited before publication. In this volume Larry C. Skogen presents many of these unedited papers and gives them historical context for the years 1900 to 1904.

Wallace Stegner’s Unsettled Country : Ruin, Realism, and Possibility in the American West, Edited by Mark Fiege, Michael J. Lansing, and Leisl Carr Childers

Wallace Stegner is an iconic western writer. His works of fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Angle of Repose and Big Rock Candy Mountain, as well as his nonfiction books and essays introduced the beauty and character of the American West to thousands of readers. Wallace Stegner’s Unsettled Country assesses his life, work, and legacy in light of contemporary issues and crises. Along with Stegner’s achievements, the contributors show how his failures offer equally crucial ways to assess the past, present, and future of the region.

Drawing from history, literature, philosophy, law, geography, and park management, the contributors consider Stegner’s racial liberalism and regional vision, his gendered view of the world, his understandings of conservation and the environment, his personal experience of economic collapse and poverty, his yearning for community, and his abiding attachment to the West. Wallace Stegner’s Unsettled Country is an even-handed reclamation of Stegner’s enduring relevance to anyone concerned about the American West’s uncertain future.

**Pictures and Synopses courtesy of University of Nebraska Press.

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Book Club Spotlight – Transcendent Kingdom

cover for Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.  a Black woman faces away from the viewer, her hands and posture in a praying pose. the cover is cut in half slant-ways between black and a pale pink

Reading all the books I feature in the spotlight puts me in a perpetual time crunch of my own making. However, that was not a problem as I read today’s Book Club Spotlight in one day because it was so incredible. Transcendent Kingdom is Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel following the success of her debut, Homegoing. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Gyasi has won the PEN/Hemingway Award for a first book of fiction, the American Book Award for Homegoing, and she was featured not only on the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 list but also the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Born in Ghana and raised in Alabama, Gyasi proves in her novels that the immigrant story is not a monolith, and in Transcendent Kingdom, she tackles the great costs of depression and addiction.

Gifty, a neuroscience doctoral student, is studying the reward-seeking behavior in mice, especially as it relates to depression and addiction. Once the mice are hooked on Ensure, she looks for the lengths addicted mice will go to reach their reward and how to dissuade that neurological impulse. While she tries to keep it a secret from her peers, Gifty has a deep connection with addiction and depression. Her older brother, Nana, lost to opiate addiction. And her mother, torn apart by grief, is sleeping in her daughter’s bed. Gifty’s parents moved to the United States from Ghana when Nana was young, only for her father to leave them for the homeland when she was very young. Left to fend for themselves all alone, the family never quite recovered. And Gifty, fueled by ambition focused on nothing but proving herself over and over again. If she was the best, if she did the hardest thing, she’d have a place to rest. Reconciling with the past as a means to her future, Gifty spends her energy trying to understand the problem that tore her family apart while keeping what’s left of it together. 

I want everything and I want to want less.”

Yaa Gyasi

Focusing on Gifty’s relationship with her family as it transforms and her time in her “motherland” of Ghana, Transcendent Kingdom, is not plot-driven but purpose-driven. To know the story is to understand Gifty and all the little disjointed areas of her life that came together to make her whole. There is no magical solution to her problems, only a continued forward motion. An integral part of Transcendent Kingdom is the struggle between the spiritual and the scientific mind- knowing deep in ourselves that if we can figure out the mechanics of why something happens or why this person is who they are, we can fully understand them and be at peace. Recovering from her anxious evangelical upbringing, Gifty ran to science and only science. But as her questions get more complex and philosophical, she finds herself tentatively reaching out to something more. 

January is Mental Health Awareness Month: 

  • If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.
  • To learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, visit FindSupport.gov.
  • To locate treatment facilities or providers, visit FindTreatment.gov or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).

If you’re interested in requesting Transcendent Kingdom  for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 5 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Gyasi, Yaa. Transcendent Kingdom. Vintage Books. 2020.

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