April 2021 marks the 25th annual celebration of National Poetry Month and 51 years of recognizing Earth Day. What better way to honor these two significant milestones than look at how nature has inspired poetry then and now.
An incredible inspiration, nature allowed The Romantics to reflect on the environment’s impact in our daily lives, physically and emotionally…while modern-day ecopoetry focuses more on nature, it’s non-human inhabitants, and examines humans’ impact on the environment.
When I think of nature, my mind immediately goes to my favorite poet John Keats. Whether you’re reading To Autumn, Ode to a Nightingale, or Sonnet VII [O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell], Keats has a way of transporting you into the dreamiest and earthy settings.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
To Autumn by John Keats via poetryfoundation.org/poems/44484/to-autumn
And while I’m in my happy place reading poetry from The Romantics, I also love diving into modern-day poetry coming from ecopoets!
So, what is ecopoetry exactly?
…an ecopoem needs to be environmental and it needs to be environmentalist. By environmental, I mean first that an ecopoem needs to be about the nonhuman natural world — wholly or partly, in some way or other, but really and not just figuratively. In other words, an ecopoem is a kind of nature poem. But an ecopoem needs more than the vocabulary of nature.
Why Ecopoetry? There’s no Planet B. by John Shoptaw via poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/70299/why-ecopoetry
Whether you’re a fan of Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley, or Blake or you prefer modern day ecopoetry, there is something for every reader at BPL.
Two literary legends, Larry McMurtry and Beverly Cleary, died last Thursday, March 25. Both were prolific and influential, and driven to write books that better reflected their lives than the stories they grew up reading.
Cleary wrote many books about kids and their adventures, but is most famous for her books about Ramona Quimby and her family. She wrote books that realistically portrayed middle class kids, rather than the books she’d grown up with, which tended to be about rich, British children. “I wanted to read funny stories about the sort of children I knew, and I decided that someday when I grew up I would write them.” (New York Times, 3/26/21). Cleary’s books about the Quimbys and other characters from Klickitat Street are available on Libby and Hoopla, including some Spanish translations.
McMurtry was known for writing “anti-westerns;” his stories were more realistic and based on his experience growing up in Texas, rather than romanticizing the American West. He described himself as “a critic of the myth of the cowboy.” While he may be best known for Lonesome Dove, his Pulitzer Prize winning book and popular mini-series, he wrote more than 30 novels, and many memoirs, essays, nonfiction books, and screenplays. He won an Academy Award for his screenplay ofBrokeback Mountain (based on a Annie Proulx short story), and several of his books became movies, including Horseman, Pass By (Hud), The Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment.
If you’re curious about McMurtry, we’re lucky that his prolific catalog is available through BPL not only in print, but on Libby and Hoopla. In fact, Lonesome Dove: The Complete Miniseries, is available on demand through Hoopla. Be sure to check out these titles, available in either print or digital format:
With origins in socialist and communist political movements in the 20th century and second wave feminism in the 1960s, the United Nations recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1977. According to the UN, “it is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.” March is also recognized as Women’s History Month in the United States.
The world has been ravaged by the pandemic since the last International Women’s Day and in the United States, communities which were already underserved have been especially hard-hit by rates of serious illness, death, and economic hardship. Likewise, there have been shocking, but perhaps not surprising, reports of the myriad ways in which the economic collapse brought on by the pandemic has singularly and negatively impacted women. The Brookings Institution released this report which helps summarize the complex range issues now facing working women, stating bluntly, “COVID-19 is hard on women because the U.S. economy is hard on women, and this virus excels at taking existing tensions and ratcheting them up.” A lack of access to childcare, traditional gender roles inside and outside the home, the fact that women are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs, and a lack of support and critical infrastructure for families and working women are all contributing factors making the impact of COVID-19 especially hard on women.
The dramatic impacts of the pandemic on women in particular highlight how much there is still to address in the United States–and globally–if we hope to achieve gender equity. International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate and reflect on the achievements and struggles of women past and present, and take action for the future.
Here are 6 of my suggestions of books written by women, about women. Enjoy!
Required Reading: Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall | print / digital
From as far back as the movement for women’s suffrage in the United States, mainstream feminism has been plagued by either outright racism and/or the idea that feminism is, can, and should be, a color-blind philosophy. Feminism is bound up with all the other -isms: classism, racism, capitalism, tribalism. They’re inseparable, so talking about them at all can be complicated and overwhelming. Mikki Kendall, however, gets to the point with critical clarity in Hood Feminism stating, “true feminist solidarity across racial lines means being willing to protect each other, speaking up when the missing women are not from your community, and calling out ways that predatory violence can span multiple communities.”
For the History Buff: A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell | print / digital
Viriginia Hall’s story is exceptional in the specifics: she was an intelligent, savvy, single young American woman traveling the world and working for a living in the 1920s and 30s, and eventually became the first British spy in Vichy France, establishing its most essential network of informants, which was critical in winning the Allies the war. Her story, however, is all too familiar in the broad strokes for women in a male-dominated profession. Time and time again, Virginia was underestimated, undervalued, and underappreciated for her hard work, dedication, and skill. Nevertheless, through sheer determination and willpower, Virginia pursued the life she wanted for herself with astonishing results.
A Memoir: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado | print / digital
According to the publisher’s website, In the Dream House, “is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.” Author Carmen Maria Machado explores her experience of a traumatic relationship with a charming but volatile woman using second-person narrative and painful honesty. NPR’s Gabino Iglesias says in their review, “this book is a scream that ensures visibility, a chronicle of truth that weights more than a thousand theories and all the efforts to erase the reality of abuse in lesbian couples.” This revolutionary memoir is not to be missed.
Essays that Hit Different: Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino | print / digital
The essays from this collection that I think about the most are called, “Always Be Optimizing” and “The Cult of the Difficult Woman.” Jia Tolentino’s adroit, sharp, and witty essays are a critical commentary on our culture made to feel deeply personal. She structures the book around nine different themes, including: being a person on the Internet, deified productivity, pop Feminism, and so forth. Not every essay is entirely relatable for every reader, but if you are an internet-using human, prepare to feel very seen.
The Multigenerational Family Saga:The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz | print / digital
This debut novel from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Connie Schultz is centered around a small blue collar town in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. To anyone who’s lived in Ohio, Schultz’s novel will immediately feel familiar. The story follows four generations of women in the Anyplace, Ohio town against the backdrop of World Wars and the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s, with attention paid to the setting to make it feel uniquely Ohio. All of the characters in Erietown must face dreams deferred, make hard choices, sacrifice for others, and find identity and meaning in their relationships to each other. Readers of historical fiction and those who like generational family stories will enjoy The Daughters of Erietown.
For Fun:My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite | print / digital
Fast paced and darkly comic, Oyinkan Braithwaite tells a story about sisterhood and the struggle – and power – of being a woman through the lens of an embittered Nigerian woman who realizes her beloved and beautiful sister is a serial killer. My Sister turns the classic competitive sister trope on its head. Sure, one sister is always cleaning up the other sister’s messes, but in this case, the messes are murdered boyfriends. The plot intensifies when the murderous sister sets her sights on someone a little too close for comfort. Oyinkan’s style will make your heart pound with equal parts dread and delight.
And be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming BPL Podcast episode, Investing in Women w/ CEO Kelley Griesmer coming out March 12 at 12AM! To honor Women’s History Month, in this episode, Leann sits down with Kelley Griesmer, CEO of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, to talk about the wealth gap, the importance of investing financially in women, and the new Enduring Progress Initiative focused on breaking down barriers to racial and gender equity.
A handful of books published in the past few years illustrate the emergence of a modern anti-monopoly intellectual movement. (‘Monopoly’ referring to the consolidation of market power into one or a small handful of firms/corporations.) Among others, they include: Goliath by Matt Stoller, Break ‘Em Up by Zephyr Teachout, The Curse of Bigness by Tim Wu, and Monopolized by David Dayen (this last book being the subject of this particular review, below).
According to these researchers, experts and journalists, the rapid rise of monopolies drives inequality, causes and intensifies social injustices, and exacerbates the economic and political marginalization among already vulnerable groups. To explore the magnitude of this issue, Bexley Public Library is partnering with Morgan Harper and Pat Garofalo of the American Economic Liberties Project to host a virtual event Corporate Consolidation & Democracy. Harper and Garofalo will provide an overview of the impacts of corporate consolidation, the effects this accrual of power has on individuals, communities and democracy as a whole, as well as offer policy changes at the local, state and federal levels that would address this issue. The Zoom event will take place on March 10, 2021 at 7pm.
(In addition to working at the AELP, Pat Garofalo is the author of a topically related book, The Billionaire Boondoggle, which is also available through the consortium; check it out!)
In Monopolized, journalist and executive editor at The American ProspectDavid Dayen shows readers just how far consolidation and monopolization reach into our economy. While many readers are probably familiar with the idea of monopolization in the area of ‘Big Tech’ (Google, Amazon, Facebook), and as important as these companies are to this larger trend, Dayen shows us that this issue extends far beyond just tech companies. Dayen exposes readers to the monopolization in the airline industry, agriculture, media, the pharmaceutical and banking industries, just to name a few. And I really do mean a few. By the end of the book, readers will likely come away wondering whether there are any industries left that haven’t been consolidated to a troubling degree.
The book is thorough in demonstrating how monopolization has crept into almost every nook and cranny of our economy, though at no point does reading become tedious. Indeed, while it examines such a serious and immense issue, the book is incredibly engaging. Dayen expertly weaves technical and policy analysis with personal stories of ordinary people and their experiences navigating monopolized industries. (I’m sure each of us has a horror story to tell when it comes to flying; mine involves racing to an ever-changing boarding gate across concourses in Atlanta’s International Airport, only to have my flight not take off at all, keeping me in the city for another evening.) Between each of the longer chapters, Dayen also includes short vignettes, relating his own experiences that range from the infuriating to the absurd. My personal favorite is his story of staying in a hotel that was housed in the very same building as a second hotel, separated only by a sign and a tiled floor. (Both hotels were owned by the same parent company.)
Though the ideas and concepts introduced are complex, the book is very accessible. It’s also wildly witty and entertaining; I found myself laughing out loud several times in my own reading. Probably no book I’ve read in the recent past has done more to so thoroughly change the orientation of my political thinking, and if I had to choose just one book to recommend, it would likely be this one. And now looking at the bags that my Kroger curbside-pickups come packaged in (listing other grocery stores that the Kroger Company owns: Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, QFC, Pick ‘n Save, Metro Market, etc.), I can’t help but recall the blurb written by Zephyr Teachout. After reading Dayen’s book, she predicts, “you will see [monopolies] everywhere”.
Check out these titles, available with your BPL card, to learn more on this topic!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Dr. Huston’s passion is rooted in providing education and opening doors so that children and their families can achieve their maximum potential and feel like they have agency in their lives. He believes that improving children’s mental health is important to set them up for success as adolescents and adults. Focusing on good mental health practices during childhood can create healthy habits throughout the life span. You can learn more about this Zoom event here.
Whether you’re looking for books to read to your children about their emotions and mental health or are wanting to get more in tune with your own, now is a better time than ever and BPL has plenty titles to choose from!
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss | print / digital
I don’t know about everyone else, but I always watch the sameChristmas movies every year; Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Krampus (we all have our favorites!). But this year, with so much time spent at home, I’m finding new holiday favorites to throw into my yearly rotation. Even better, the following titles are available on Hoopla so you don’t even have to leave your couch to find some Christmas cheer!
Research for this article contributed by Scott King-Owen, Ph.D, Teacher, Bexley City Schools.
One month before the First World War ended a second wave of the deadly Spanish Influenza pandemic, initially spread in military encampments by troop movement, found its way into the civilian population of central Ohio. Like Covid-19, a century later, the absence of medicine for treatment or a vaccine for prevention necessitated avoiding crowds, through isolation or quarantine, to control spread of the respiratory virus.
By order of state health officials on October 11, 1918, all schools, colleges, churches, theatres, and places of public gathering in towns with populations of 3,000 or more were closed. Despite Bexley, only a decade old, having a population less than half of that requiring action, local officials followed suit with its more populous neighbor, Columbus.
Christ Lutheran Church suspended services for three weeks until the state allowed local officials to determine when to lift restrictions. Gathering for worship again required adequate ventilation, avoiding overcrowding, and those sick or with ill family members to stay home.
Drug stores including Stuckey Drug Store at the northeast corner of East Main Street and South Drexel Avenue, later renamed Wentz Drug Store, were permitted to remain open after 8:30 P. M. as long as they only sold drugs. All other retail businesses and restaurants were ordered to close early.
Closed just over a month, schools were permitted to open in mid November. However as cases increased and more students were absent most closed again by early December. The Bexley School Board elected to keep students out of the classroom until the new year.
At Capital University, young men uniformed and following military discipline had been housed at Loy Gymnasium, converted into barracks for the newly formed Student Army Training Corps. When the deadly influenza spread among their ranks the Bexley chapter of the local Red Cross stepped in to furnish and supply a hospital room on campus staffed by two trained nurses.
For one Bexley family the impact of the pandemic was particularly devastating, as Anna Schneider and her five children were all admitted to St. Anthony’s hospital ill with influenza. Only her husband Peter was spared and within one week the couple lost two daughters, Margaret, age 4, and Anna, 15 months old. Their deaths occurred in mid March of 1919 as the third and final wave of the pandemic dissipated.
From government orders, closures of schools, business, and churches and the need to avoid public gatherings and crowds the pandemic of 1918 was experienced in ways similar to that in 2020. Masks, the most effective way of preventing the spread of Spanish Influenza and Covid-19, came to symbolize both pandemics and just as gauze for face coverings was hard to find in 1918, personal protective equipment is in short supply today.
To learn more about the 1918 Spanish Influenza and today’s Covid-19 pandemic explore these titles recommended by Local History Librarian David Distelhorst:
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry | print / digital
America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 by Alfred W. Crosby | print
Pale Rider: the Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney | print / digital
COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One by Debora Mackenzie | print
How We Live Now: Scenes From the Pandemic by Bill Hayes | print
This November marks the 30th anniversary of Native American Heritage Month, as declared by President George H. W. Bush in 1990.
The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.