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Booklists Recommendations

Celebrating Toni Morrison

by Adult Services Manager Whitney

February 18 is Toni Morrison Day, a statewide holiday in Ohio due to legislation passed late last year. It also would have been her 90th birthday.

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford, Morrison grew up in Lorain, and later set two of her earliest books, The Bluest Eye and Sula, in Ohio. Morrison was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Beloved.

She also worked as an editor: she was the first black woman senior editor in the fiction department at Random House, and helped lift up black writers like Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, and Wole Soyinka.

There are many ways to celebrate Toni Morrison Day! Read or listen to her novels, watch a documentary about her life, and read other authors she promoted, admired, or inspired. Check out her books, as well as these titles, available with your Bexley Public Library card:

  • Toni Morrison, The Pieces I Am | DVD / digital
  • The Toni Morrison Book Club by Juda Bennett | print / audio ebook
  • Who’s Got Game? by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison | print / digital
  • The Source of Self-Regard: selected essays, speeches, and meditations by Toni Morrison | print / digital
  • Well Read Black Girl by Glory Edim | print / digital
  • Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays, and Conversations by Toni Cade Bambara | digital
  • Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis | print / digital
  • The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 | print / digital
  • Africa39 by Wole Soyinka | print / digital

Categories
Booklists Recommendations

A Romance for Every Reader

by Adult Services Librarian Leann

Romance books are hitting the mainstream like never before. Have you ever heard of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton book series? No more do we shame people for reading delightful little paperbacks with scantily clad pirates or kilt-wearing-Scottsmen! (Or rather, we shouldn’t.) “Romance” is for everyone. Don’t believe me? Ask bestselling, blockbusting series like The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, or Outlander. Try to name a popular TV show, movie, or book that doesn’t include some sort of romance intrigue or love triangle. Even highfalutin literature is mostly about love or love lost or unrequited love. Let’s face it people, Where the Crawdads Sing is a romance novel and that’s okay.

In literature there is a bias against Romance. There is a pervasive belief among readers that a novel, where the driving plot device is a romantic relationship, cannot be considered Literature and is therefore unworthy of their time or critique. Readers often call books with romantic elements their “guilty pleasure.” I’m here to assure you, however, that it’s actually extremely fine to really like romance books. Liking romantic stories and reading romance novels actually does not correlate with intelligence levels among readers. Nor does it discount a book from being well written, plotted, and researched.

Likewise, while there are loads of paperbacks with heaving bosoms queens or 12-pack-ab cowboys taking up a lot of space in the romance zeitgeist, not every romance novel is based on Twilight fanfiction. Romance as a genre is just as varied as any other and we’re here to celebrate it!

Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the warm sultry waters of romance fiction or you’ve been camped out on the banks of Lake Romance for years, here are some of my top romance novel recommendations:

Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
For readers who are romance-curious and looking for political escapism.

Request Title | print / digital

If I were choosing a best-in-show for romance, this would be it. This book is all the gay romance you’ve ever wanted wrapped up in a compelling, lovely, spicy package. The set up is a classic rom-com scenario: extremely handsome and quintessentially charming First Son of the United States is in a public feud with the devastatingly gorgeous and properly polite Prince of England. A phony friendship-for-publicity’s-sake ensues and leads to, well, you guessed it, romance.

Red, White, and Royal Blue is for readers who love a bit of drama and lots (and lots) of kissing but also want the story to be well plotted, the characters to be developed, and the writing captivating. Quality does not have to suffer just because a story might be a little outlandish or, in the case of Royal Blue, a fantasy paradise of inclusivity. 

Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft
For readers of historical fiction, star-crossed lovers, and people who like to cry during movies

Request Title | print / digital

Jenny Ashcroft creates gauzy worlds based on real historical times and places. Meet Me In Bombay is the second-latest in her oeuvre of heart wrenching historical love stories where the characters’ interior lives are disrupted by the devastating consequences of circumstances beyond their control. In Meet Me in Bombay, on the eve of 1914 in British occupied India, a young couple falls in love. He’s a soldier and as war unfolds across Europe, he’s shipped off to fight. The woman’s wealthy family encourages our young heroine to move on and forget her soldier. Will the lovers be able to reconnect? When the soldier is injured in battle and loses his memory, that question becomes even more complicated and the answer even more harrowing.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole 
For readers of thrillers and those who enjoy when the main characters fall in love during their adventure. 

Request Title | print / digital

We know that gentrification is scary, but is it also…sexy? True, this book is actually a thriller, but Alyssa Cole was previously best known for her work as an author of paperback romances! In When No One Is Watching a Brooklyn neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and Sydney, who was born and raised there, finds the prospect disorienting and almost frightening. When Theo, a handsome stranger she’s not even a little bit interested in, butts his way into her research for a historical walking tour, Sydney realizes that not everything is as it seems in the old neighborhood.

When No One Is Watching has all the elements of a modern psychological thriller paired with adroit social commentary and, you guessed it, plenty of steamy romance. This book is in the same tradition as Get Out, in the vehicle of Rear Window, with a classic odd-couple romantic intrigue. 

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
For seasoned romance readers and new-to-the-genre readers who want something that’s light but still grounded in reality.

Request Title | print / digital

Can romantic comedies centering a straight relationship feature strong, capable, career-driven women who have a realistic and supportive network of friends and families? Can they have a main character who views romance, not with either cynical skepticism or dogged devotion, but as an enhancement to life? Can romantic comedies be light-hearted and heart-warming but also offer nuanced representation of multiracial relationships and modern love? Let me introduce you to author Jasmine Guillory. You might know her for her 2018 work, The Wedding Date and she’s been churning out lovely, readable, steamy, upbeat romantic comedies ever since.

Party of Two features an independent young black woman who moves to LA to start her own law firm. She meets a cutie at a bar and, oops, it turns out he’s a well-known senator. Party of Two follows the lovebirds as their initially secret romance hits the front pages and their bond is tested by intense media scrutiny, and the pressures of celebrity and politics.

The Awakening: The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book 1 by Nora Roberts
For readers who want a bit of fantasy with their romance or a bit of romance with their fantasy.

Request Title | print / digital

Nora. Roberts. Does. Dragons. Now. Yes, that Nora Roberts! You can’t do a romance list and not include Nora Roberts and lucky for us in the same way that steamy romance is becoming less declassé for the masses, so too has fantasy risen from the murky depths of nerdom to claim its rightful place at the front of the Popular Media race. It doesn’t really even matter what the story is about exactly, because as previously stated: Nora Roberts + dragons.

Here’s what you need to know: The Awakening involves two worlds—one with magic and one in Philadelphia, there is a young woman in her twenties who discovers some real wild secrets about herself and her family. Then, we go to Ireland, a place we all know is lousy with magic portals and fairies, etc. Oh, and she’s been dreaming about a silver-haired elusive man who she’s never met who calls her by a different name and tells her to “come home.” That sounds like an excellent set-up for a steamy paranormal romance to me!

Categories
Booklists

Multiracial Family Reading List

by Adult Services Librarian Sue Shipe-Giles

Raising my two multiracial children for the past twenty-plus years has proved challenging. During this time, we have each encountered a variety of discrimination and misunderstandings. I have been ostracized by other school moms and even harassed by an employer once they met my husband. My son was bullied starting in preschool, while my daughter has had to “prove” on many occasions to classmates, and once even to a teacher, that her dad is really her father.

During these extremely difficult times, I wanted to shed more light on the unique experiences and difficulties multiracial children and their parents encounter. I hope the following books will provide much needed insight and understanding on this topic. All of these titles are available to request through BPL’s catalog.

Categories
Staff Book Reviews

Boom Town by Sam Anderson

A book review from BPL team member, Jeff.

It feels necessary to start this review with a disclaimer: I have never been to Oklahoma City (OKC), nor do I have any family roots or any ties whatsoever to Oklahoma. I first heard about Boom Town from an interview with the author, Sam Anderson, on Zach Lowe’s basketball podcast, The Lowe Post. (Another disclaimer: you don’t need to be a basketball fan to enjoy this book).

The “boom” in Boom Town takes on a number of roles throughout this book: in one instance, literal sonic booms as a result from supersonic flight. In one of the book’s most entertaining chapters, Anderson describes Operation Bongo. In the 1960s, the U.S. government wanted to test supersonic flights, or more specifically, the effects of repeated sonic booms and the disruptions they cause to human lives. Oklahoma City, with its need for commerce and desire for relevance, happily agreed to become the site for these tests and Operation Bongo was born. The results are equal parts amusing and awful.

The main significance of “boom” in Boom Town, however, is that of boom and bust. It’s the idea of balancing meticulous planning and the love of the process with chasing something glamorous and immediate. This narrative thread ties the book together and is the lens that just about every aspect of OKC history is viewed through. From the chaotic “Land Run” that birthed the city and the tornadoes that threaten to upend its very existence, to Sam Presti, the scrupulous, bespectacled General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who has carefully constructed one of the best franchises in basketball and given the city a much needed source of civic pride.

Oklahoma City is not without its share of tragedies, both self-inflicted and otherwise. It is unfortunately unsurprising to learn of the city’s history of displacing both the Native and Black populations. However, as Anderson points out, OKC tends to cultivate particularly tenacious citizens such as Clara Luper, a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement whose nonviolent sit-in protests led to the desegregation of many OKC establishments. And sadly, the people of Oklahoma City were subjected to the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in U.S. history during the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building.

And yet, the city mourned and rebuilt. Throughout its 100+ year history, Oklahoma City has struggled with its sometimes misguided, perpetually optimistic dream of becoming a first-rate American city. Today, it finally resembles the bustling metropolis so many of its residents fantasized about.

As an outsider to the city, Sam Anderson treats the history of Oklahoma City with curiosity, and depending on the situation, skepticism or reverence. In Boom Town, Anderson has crafted a thoroughly engaging, wide-ranging history of a city that truly encapsulates the breadth of the American experience.

Recommended for fans of U.S. history, basketball, and easily readable non-fiction in general.

Categories
Staff Book Reviews

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

A book review by BPL team member, Christian.

While going through some literary articles recently, I stumbled upon one by The Japan Times that discusses the idea of the new Japanese literary golden age. This article debates the merits of whether Japan is experiencing a new literary golden age and how Anglo-saxon translations funnel that to a Western audience. While the outcome of a contemporary literary Golden Age for Japan is left open-ended, it is certain that the voices of women authorship has significantly grown. However, an aspect of it, as mentioned previously, is determined by translation. For instance, one of the books shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, was initially published in Japan in 1994. A lot of writers that are defining the contemporary Japanese literary landscape have yet to make their impact in the Western world, but with the recent translations of authors such as Hiromi Kawakami, Hiroko Oyamada, Yukiko Motoya, and many more, that is slowly changing.

While virtually unknown to a Western audience, Sayaka Murata has become a well-respected author in her home country, winning multiple literary prizes, including most recently becoming a recipient of the Akutagawa Prize in 2016, as well as selling 600,000 copies for Convenience Store Woman alone. Serving as her first English-translated novel, Convenience Store Woman tells the story of a 36-year old convenience store worker, Keiko Furukura. Having spent 18 years working in a convenience store with no ambitions of pursuing another career or finding any romantic partners, Keiko is viewed as an outsider among her circle of friends, family, and coworkers.

Keiko is an enigmatic person, almost alien-like, as she displays a mimicry of others around her (speaking, dressing, and acting based off her coworkers), living outside the boundaries of social norms, but pretending to others as if she isn’t. In actuality, her view of the world treats the convenience store as the epicenter–all her thoughts, energy, and dreams gravitating to her workplace. She expresses ecstasy from the moment she greets customers in the morning, exclaiming, “I love this moment. It feels like ‘morning’ itself is being loaded into me. The tinkle of the door chime as a customer comes in sounds like church bells to my ears. When I open the door, the brightly lit box awaits me–a dependable, normal world that keeps turning. I have faith in the world inside the light-filled box.” The way she describes and articulates herself comes off as an extraterrestrial expressing thought and desire–something Keiko is almost aware of when she thinks about how she feels in the world outside the convenience store: “The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of.” Keiko’s alienation showcases the inconveniences of social expectations and constructs. Keiko’s only desires are to stick to the routine of the convenience store, as she’s already familiar with it–questioning why anyone thinks it’s strange why she doesn’t move on from that job. Even when she goes through a fraudulent relationship with an ex-coworker, which results in herself being recognized as a normal member of her social circles, she ends up coming to terms with that fact that her place in this world is to serve in a convenience store.The novel is a beautiful exploration of defying normality.

Similar Reads:The Memory Police by Yoko OgawaEvil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura
Me by Tomoyuki Hoshino