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The 1968 Project aims to highlight some of the historic events of the year. From protests and famous battles to chart-topping popular hits and box office smashing film, 1968 was a huge historical year with reverberations that we still feel today. The 1968 Project looks to grab snippets of these events on a monthly basis and list them here with links for further exploration.
Canada begins to replace their currency containing silver, with nickel.
August 3rd Hang ’em High, starring Clint Eastwood is released in theaters.
A protest against the discrimination of Black citizens turned violent after police arrived to disperse the crowd in the neighborhood of Liberty City, outside of Miami. The protest was arranged to coincide with the Republican National Convention being held in Miami.
August 11th The Beatles release their own record label, Apple Records.
Big Brother and the Holding Company releases Cheap Thrills.
The 170 members of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee decide to invade Czechoslovakia.
Actress, Mia Farrow drove across the border from El Paso, Texas into Mexico in order to obtain a divorce from singer, Frank Sinatra. The pair had been married for roughly 8 months.
Saundra Williams of Pennsylvania, becomes the first Miss Black America. Miss Black America was created in protest to the Miss America Pageant as they saw a disproportionate amount of minorities in that pagent.
Physicist and science writer, George Gamow passed away at age 64.
The Prague Spring ends as 500,000 Soviet troops, 6,300 tanks, 550 combat aircraft and 250 transport planes cross the border into Czechoslovakia. This was the largest military exercise since the end of WWII.
Photo from “CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting”
Etta James releases her album, Tell Mama.
Nigeria launched its final assault against secessionist Biafra. Over the next several months, thousands of civilians were slaughtered as troops were instructed to “shoot anything that moves.”
August 25th Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to win the tennis US Singles Tournament.
The Beatles release Hey Jude, which becomes their highest selling single ever.
Picking the brains of our library staff is revelatory, inspiring, and fun, and it’s one of my favorite jobs. What are the hidden gems, the best of the best-sellers? Every month, staff members from all over PPL send me their thoughtful insights, reactions and raves on a diverse range of library materials. We share favorite quotations, delve into meaningful subjects, and get personal about how what we’re reading affects us. Why do we love these specific books, or films, or graphic novels? Why might you love them, too? For me the posts are usually both heartening and enlightening, and I hope the way we talk about books with our community– whether in a conversation at the library or in writing– shows our attention, creativity, and care.
Reading the blog is just one way to get an inside scoop and to find something new and unexpected. Each month we focus on different themes or genres, like social justice, mysteries, or nature and science. In August, we’ve tackled new fiction. We share our favorite newer titles, novels that are hot off the presses, and a few books to look forward to in the coming months. Follow the title links to request your copy from the library, or see what’s available as eBooks or eAudiobooks through the cloudLibrary. And thanks for reading!
-Elizabeth, Reader’s Advisory
Sarah S’s Picks
Always on the lookout for good book club selections, I have high hopes for America for Beginners. It’s the story of a wealthy Indian widow who flies from Kolkata to New York, then travels from New York to California in search of her missing – or, according to her late husband, dead – son, who had recently shared that he was gay. Her travel guide is a young man from Bangladesh and they are “chaperoned” on their cross-country trip by a struggling American actress. During their journey, this unlikely trio learns more about each other and forms bonds that transcend their different backgrounds. This debut novel by Leah Franqui, an award-winning playwright from Mumbai, promises “a tender, funny, wrenching, beautifully executed tale of three lost souls who traverse the chasms of cultural, generational, and geographical divides to forge some bonds strong and true enough to withstand life’s gut punches” (Library Journal). If your book club likes literary, feel-good stories with well-developed characters and a good dose of humor, you might want to check this one out, too!
Fresh off a re-read of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I really got excited when I heard about Vox, which will be published in August. This debut novel by Christina Dalcher is set in a dystopian U.S. that has been taken over by religious extremists who limit women to speaking only 100 words per day (enforced via electric shock bracelet). Eventually women are no longer allowed to have jobs or bank accounts, and girls are no longer taught to read or write. The protagonist is a neurological scientist who watches in horror as women’s voices are being completely taken away. What will she do to protect herself and her daughter? I look forward to finding out! Perhaps equally as intriguing as the book’s premise of speech and language as instruments of control is the fact that its author has a doctorate in theoretical linguistics.
Finally, Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner) has a new book coming out in September. Sea Prayer is a 48-page illustrated letter from a father to his son, reflecting on the dangerous life they’re leaving behind and the dangerous sea voyage they are about to face. Hosseini’s new work was inspired by the heartrending image of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy found drowned on Turkey’s shore in September 2015. This short, powerful book, written in response to the current refugee crisis, should not be overlooked.
“Have the people living here under untroubled circumstances and at so great a distance from the wars of others been afflicted with a poverty of experience, a sort of emotional anemia? Must living in peace – so fervently wished for throughout human history and yet enjoyed in only a few parts of the world – inevitably result in refusing to share it with those seeking refuge, defending it instead so aggressively that it almost looks like war?” –Jenny Erpenbeck
German author Jenny Erpenbeck’s recent gripping novel Go, Went, Gone (translated by Susan Bernofsky) tells the story of a recently retired Classics professor, Richard, and his relationship with a group of asylum seekers in Berlin. While reporting and academic accounts of the challenges and hardships experienced by refugees during their passages to Europe can be dry, primarily focused on numbers and logistics and not always exploring an individual’s life in depth over time (with Pietro Bartolo’s Tears of Salt and Patrick Kingsley’s The New Odyssey serving as exceptions), I appreciated German author Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel for its preoccupation with the emotions and relationships that develop between Richard and the people he comes to know more meaningfully. This extended narrative and the unique relationships it explores grant a rare perspective to the reader and is one of the greatest strengths of Go, Went, Gone.
Sheila Heti is an expert at dissolving the binary between what we might typically think of as fact and fiction and crafting something that masterfully inhabits both (or perhaps neither). As a reader who tends to prefer essays, memoirs, and other assorted nonfiction, Motherhoodis the kind of novel that most captivates me. In prose that is loosely formed around a narrative, Heti approaches the eponymous subject with fearless yet gentle interrogation: What motivates many of us to become mothers? How is the decision to (not) be a mother related to the experience of having a mother? Heti’s narrator explores her own feelings and question about motherhood in such a way that manages to challenge this sacred subject without forcing any particular agenda about whether (or how, or when, or for whom, or for what reasons) it is “right” or “good” to become a parent. I found this to be a brilliant, honest exploration of a topic whose staggering complexity is often taken for granted.
I’m very excited about Stephen King’s new book, The Outsider. Like the Mr. Mercedes series before it, this is the beginning of a new mystery series by my favorite author. Not only is this a killer mystery that will leave you guessing until the last moment, but it wouldn’t be a King novel without a supernatural element in it! Plus, he brings back one of my favorite of his characters of all of his novels: Holly Gibney, from the Mr. Mercedes series. She is a really well-drawn character, something King is so talented at. He really makes you feel for his characters, and even the most evil-seeming ones have a soft underbelly in some way. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it, and then when I was done, I kept thinking about the characters. Don’t miss it!
When I started All Systems Red, the first novella in Martha Wells’ TheMurderbot Diaries series, I had no clue how much I would be laughing along, or how relatable a security robot that hacked itself could be. Murderbot, as it calls itself, is a rogue security unit that mostly wants to be left alone to catch up on its hundreds of hours of TV serials, but it goes through the motions of protecting its assigned humans as they work on their study of a foreign planet. Then Murderbot starts to notice threats to the scientists, and as the workers at a neighboring camp go missing, its curiosity gets the best of it. Martha Wells will draw you right into this accessible and award-winning novella about an introverted AI system — and I’m looking forward to settling in with the second in the series, Artificial Condition, tonight! If you are interested in reading more Science Fiction this summer, you should give this series of engaging novellas a try.
What new fiction have I loved in 2018 and what am I looking forward to? First: can I just be thankful that there are still new books to read all the time? Thanks, writers. Keep it up.
If you love dipping into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mythology/Magical Realism melting pot: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse and Severance by Ling Ma both have glowing reviews and utterly different apocalyptic futures in store for you and both sound amazing. Go get ’em.
Moving (way) back in time…Circe from Madeline Miller was a great summer read; an incredible retelling of a powerful witchy woman who comes into her own: with herbal concoctions, magic, island life, learning from mistakes, and fighting the power(ful gods)…what’s not to love? I’m also excited about Wakétu Moore’s She Would Be King, which reimagines the founding of Liberia through brilliant, magically realistic characters with special powers. Meanwhile Emma Hooper’s forthcoming Our Homesick Songs tackles modern Newfoundland, the cod fishery, folklore, mermaids, music, and family.
Interested in plain old fantastic realistic fiction? If you haven’t snagged a copy yet, Tommy Orange’s novel There There is easily at the top of the year’s best literary fiction list and is one of my favorite reads of 2018; with a finely-drawn cast of characters who share their stories as they come together, each in their own way, for the first Big Oakland Powwow. And I’m looking forward to Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ Colombian-set Fruit of the Drunken Tree and Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young, a searing debut novel that explores power and corruption in modern-day India.
Eileen M’s Pick
When: July, 1964. Where: Belly-down on beach blankets after sand-studded peanut butter sandwiches and bottles of Orange Crush. Parental edict: No swimming for ONE HOUR after the last morsel has passed our tonsils. Our mission: Push the clock ahead, by whatever means necessary.
My mother sifts sand through her toes, reading in her low-slung beach chair as we, her three restless and cranky daughters, share the weight of supine impatience, hoping to whittle the wait down to 45, maybe 30 minutes. As it happens, she is even more intent on her noontime reading than usual, conveniently distracted from the slow sweep of the hour hand. Wily subterfuge proves unnecessary. She offers an absentminded nod of assent to our first plea for release. We are already shivering in the frigid New Hampshire surf when she realizes that we have won the daily battle for near constant immersion, defying the lurking threat of postprandial cramps that is always cited when we whine “but whyyyyy??”
For new-ish fiction this summer, my pick is 2017’s A Legacy of Spies by John le Carre which harkens back to his earlier novels: Mom’s spellbinding summer read The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963) and 1974’sTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Fifty-some years later,A Legacy of Spies gathers long ago loose ends into a political, ethical and moral knot of murky accountability in his trademark taut style. Thick with familiar characters, including George Smiley, and some new ones you’ll love to hate, it brings modern perspective and sensibilities to the deeply flawed double- and triple-dealing perpetrated by a compromised MI6 in the name of Cold War era Britain. Mr le Carre has never coddled a reader by over-explaining anything or sketching a scrutable character, so consider finding your way into the backstory with a satisfying (but not strictly necessary) first or second reading of the two earlier books before embarking on A Legacy of Spies.
Not generally a fan of spy novels, I make an exception for anything by John le Carre. I am partial to his early books with enigmatic Cold Warrior George Smiley, but anything from his rich backlist will hold you tight in its grip to the very last page. He always leaves me breathless and a little dismayed.
Dark? Oh, yes. Do follow my mother’s lead. Read him in the bright sun of a hot summer day. His Cold War intrigue will give you chills.
Jessica Love’s Julián is a Mermaid is lushly illustrated story of a young boy and his abuela riding home from the swimming pool. Julián sees some mermaids on the subway and knows, on the spot, that he is a mermaid, too. So many of the stories out now about boys dressing in non-gender-conforming ways feature conflict, bullying, and shame — this one stands out as a having only acceptance (and mild annoyance at some defaced greenery). My children love this story of affirmation and pride, and they especially love the parade at the end with a dizzying number of sea creatures proudly marching together, reminiscent of Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade. The story is especially sweet to read to my two-and-a-half-year-old son, who has recently discovered the joys of wearing dresses and some of the pushback from others that entails.
Teen Services Staff Picks: Fiction
Rarely does a book surprise me, and even more rarely does the surprise cause me to feel relief, joy, and sadness simultaneously. Far From the Tree by Robin Benway is my pick for June not only because it is an expertly woven tale of love and loss that will be sure to touch your heart, but also because it portrays ever expanding families that embrace and support their children without question.
Books that portray LGBTQ youth in the same light as their counterparts were like rainbow unicorns when I was growing up: fervently sought but never seen. Far From the Tree is a book that I would have coveted in my youth and that I will share with teens for years to come.
“Just when you think you’re having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.”
My choice is a little older title, from 2015, Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. It reads much like a fanfiction of the Harry Potter series, and is equally fun. This love/hate romantic LGBTQ++ novel takes us from castles and magic to vampires and the Insidious Humdrum, the threat to the entire magical world in Simon Snow and Tyrannus Basilton “Baz” Grimm-Pitch live and breathe.
You will not be able to put this book down, and if you do manage to, you will be compelled to think about it every waking moment until you come to the last wonderful pages.
The two most recent LGBTQ+ titles I’ve read and really enjoyed are People Like Us by Dana Mele and We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. People Like Us has everything I need in a book — boarding school, unreliable narrator, and tons of murder. It is not an issues book and was never classified as LGBTQ+; as my favorite YA blog stated in their review: “In People Like Us, Mele creates this magical world in which just about everyone is a little gay. This wasn’t a coming out story, or a story about teens who are bullied for being LGTBQ+, it was just a world in which bisexuality was totally normalized, and that was refreshing” (Forever Young Adult, April 2018).
“I could say the night felt magical, but that would be embellishment.
That would be romanticization.
What it actually felt like was life.” -Nina LaCour
We Are Okay is a slim, heartbreaking novel about a young California woman’s lonely first year in college in Upstate New York. While the present tense chapters move the narration forward, the past tense chapters tell a story in reverse, revealing the reasons behind Marin’s self-chosen isolation on the East Coast. Spare but loaded with beautiful human detail, I would recommend this book to anyone who is heading off the college for the first time, anyone who’s been there, and anyone dealing with the aftermath of either first love or profound loss. Yes, LaCour accomplishes that much in 234 pages.
Adult Services Staff Picks: Nonfiction, Film, and Fiction
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation is a new nonfiction title that chronicles the Up Stairs Lounge Fire in New Orleans in 1973 and its aftermath. This devastating fire snuffed out the lives of 32 souls, the largest mass murder of gays in the United States until the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016. Many of the victims were not even claimed by their families, and gay communities across the States, including Maine’s, raised funds for burial services.
Tinderbox is getting fantastic reviews and the author, Robert W. Fieseler, is one of the Auditorium Speakers at this year’s American Library Association Annual Conference. I cannot wait to get my hands on this important work of gay history.
For more nonfiction ideas from our adult collection, check out our library booklist LGBTQ+ Nonfiction.
Xavier Dolan’s third feature film, Laurence Anyways, focuses attentively on the relationship between two individuals, Fred and Laurence, as Laurence becomes open about her female gender identity and begins her transition. It’s an epic story that takes place over the course of a decade in 90’s Montreal. How Laurence’s transition is experienced and dealt with both individually and collectively with Fred, her girlfriend, provides the powerful, nuanced, and deeply-felt heart of this film. Dolan presents a view of the prejudices and injustices experienced by transgender people within a highly relatable story about the way challenges are handled and confronted between people in romantic relationships. Beyond the appeal of Fred and Laurence’s story, I would recommend this movie because of the setting. Montreal, especially in the summer, is a dream and I love the way the city is highlighted in many of Dolan’s longer takes.
Journalist and activist Darnell L. Moore shares his story in the new memoir No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America. As Moore observes in the introduction: “Black queer, transgender, and gender nonconforming people in America are bearers of narratives of struggle and triumph…our stories, like our lives, are complex, bountiful, profound, disappointing, hopeful, varied, and often disregarded. We have always been here…And we birth freedom, but many of us are still denied our rightful place in the master narratives of Black history and American life. Even in these progressive, Afro-futuristic-oriented times, our life stories and contributions are still refused. And that is why we must tell as many of our stories as we can. No Ashes in the Fire is mine.”
Body Music by Julie Maroh is a recent graphic novel in our adult collection that explores the stories of lows and highs of love and passion through different characters and their relationships. With vivid, moving illustrations.
One of many highlights of fantasy author JY Yang’s Tensorate series is the memorable new silkpunk world they’ve built for readers. In Ea, immense dragon-like naga are born in fields of low gravity, characters practice slackcraft (manipulation of a magical field called the Slack) and ride velociraptors, and as children and young adults they choose gender identities if, when, and as they wish. In Yang’s first two novellas we follow the hardships and adventures of twins, Akeha and Mokoyo, who are born to a ruthless leader. While The Black Tides of Heaven builds a world and gives us characters to root for, The Red Threads of Fortune shades in the dimensions of that world and its characters, showing us what deep changes might come out of loss. I’m looking forward to the next volume in their series, The Descent of Monsters, out in July 2018.
I picked up the novel This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel not because of its plot, because I didn’t bother to see what it was about. Nor did a friend suggest it. No, the author’s name wasn’t familiar either. Call me shallow; I picked it up because of the promotional quote on the cover: “It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think.” I do all three of those things all the time, I thought. This book is for me.
And in I fell.
The characters are appealing; I enjoyed time spent mired in their confusing lives. I loved their sprawling doubt and their heart-anchored goodness. The story is told in the exact opposite of a vacuum; it is told in the midst of myriad competing reactions, viewpoints and contexts. It is a story of many parts, just like life. By the last pages of Frankel’s surprising story of transgender child Poppy and her loud, loving family, every character is still transitioning in their own way, works in progress all.
In real life we can’t see from every direction, so maybe fiction is the best vehicle for whatever truth is out there, our best chance to understand and to be understood. Perhaps it is unfair to wonder, as I often do, if a novel—by definition fiction— has its facts straight. Does this story ring true? Can I trust how it makes me feel? Is it honest? Can it be counted on?
Laurie Frankel’s novel felt trustworthy even before I read the Author’s Note:
“It’s true that my child used to be a little boy and is now a little girl. But this isn’t her story; I can only tell my own story and those of the people I made up.”
Frankel closes her Note with two lines that speak achingly of how things are and how they could be: “I know this book will be controversial, but honestly? I keep forgetting why.”
As always, thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more reading (or watching or listening) ideas, contact our trusty library staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.