Staff Book Picks: June 2021

"All the better to read you with... It's a prick of blood, the bite of an apple, the evil eye, a wedding ring or a pair of red shoes. Curses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can happen to anyone, not just those of us with unpopular stepparents... Here you'll find unique twists on curses, from fairy tale classics to brand-new hexes of the modern world -- expect new monsters and mythologies as well as twists on well-loved fables. Stories to shock and stories of warning, stories of monsters and stories of magic." -- Provided by publisher.

Barker, Meg-John, 1974- author.

"An essential comic-book journey from the creators of Queer: A Graphic History that will change the way you think about gender. Is masculinity 'toxic?' Why are public toilets such a political issue? How has feminism changed the available gender roles - and for whom? Why might we all benefit from challenging binary thinking about sex/gender? In this unique illustrated guide, Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele travel through our shifting understandings of gender across time and space - from ideas about masculinity and femininity, to non-binary and trans genders, to intersecting experiences of gender, race, sexuality, class, disability, and more. Tackling current debates and tensions, which can divide communities and even cost lives, Barker and Scheele look to the past and the future to explore how we might all approach gender in more caring and celebratory ways." Back cover.

Barker, Meg John, 1974- author.

"Activist-academic Meg John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. A kaleidoscope of characters from the diverse worlds of pop-culture, film, activism and academia guide us on a journey through the ideas, people and events that have shaped ‘queer theory’. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’, such as Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum between heterosexuality and homosexuality, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behavior as a performance, the play Wicked, which reinterprets characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media,"--Amazon.com.

Berfield, Susan, author.

"It seemed like no force in the world could slow J.P. Morgan's drive to power. In the summer of 1901, the financier was assembling his next mega-deal: Northern Securities, an enterprise that would affirm his dominance in America's most important industry-the railroads. Then, a bullet from an anarchist's gun put an end to the business-friendly presidency of William McKinley. A new chief executive bounded into office: Theodore Roosevelt. He was convinced that as big business got bigger, the government had to check the influence of the wealthiest or the country would inch ever closer to collapse. By March 1902, battle lines were drawn: the government sued Northern Securities for antitrust violations. But as the case ramped up, the coal miners' union went on strike and the anthracite pits that fueled Morgan's trains and heated the homes of Roosevelt's citizens went silent. With millions of dollars on the line, winter bearing down, and revolution in the air, it was a crisis that neither man alone could solve. Richly detailed and propulsively told, The Hour of Fate is the gripping story of a banker and a president thrown together in the crucible of national emergency even as they fought in court. The outcome of the strike and the case would change the course of our history. Today, as the country again asks whether saving democracy means taming capital, the lessons of Roosevelt and Morgan's time are more urgent than ever."-- Book jacket.

Brooks, Max.

In 1919, the 369th Infantry Regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government. The Harlem Hellfighters, as the Germans called them, fought courageously on, and off, the battlefield to make Europe, and America, safe for democracy.

Chiang, Ted, author.
Cooper, Brittney C., 1980- author.

"So what if it's true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us [in this memoir] that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting"--Dust jacket flap.

Duckworth, Tammy, 1968- author.
Everett, Percival, author.

"Zach Wells, a laconic geologist-slash-paleobiologist, has the trappings of a comfortable life, yet is not contented. He's expert in the geological history of a cave in the Grand Canyon, but less so where his wife and daughter are concerned. And when his daughter develops unusual vision problems and has a seizure, the world of this family of three crumbles. Powerless in the face of his daughter's slow deterioration, Wells finds a note asking for help tucked into a jacket he's ordered online, and sets off on a quixotic rescue mission."--Provided by publisher.

Garrett, Kellye, 1978- author.

"Dayna Anderson doesn't set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money--she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it--until someone tries to kill her"--Amazon.com.

Gené, Gemma, author, illustrator.
Goo, Maurene, author.

Told from two viewpoints, teens Lucky, a very famous K-pop star, and Jack, a part-time paparazzo who is trying to find himself, fall for each other against the odds through the course of one stolen day.

Isay, David, author.

A collection of StoryCorps interviews that demonstrates "how work can be about much more than just making a living, that chasing dreams and finding inspiration in unexpected places can transform a vocation into a calling. [The participants'] shared sense of passion, honor, and commitment brings deeper meaning and satisfaction to every aspect of their lives"--Dust jacket flap.

Jerkins, Morgan, author.

"Laila desperately wants to become a mother, but each of her previous pregnancies has ended in heartbreak. This time has to be different, so she turns to the Melancons, an old and powerful Harlem family known for their caul, a precious layer of skin that is the secret source of their healing power. When a deal for Laila to acquire a piece of caul falls through, she is heartbroken, but when the child is stillborn, she is overcome with grief and rage. What she doesn't know is that a baby will soon be delivered in her family--by her niece, Amara, an ambitious college student--and delivered to the Melancons to raise as one of their own. Hallow is special: she's born with a caul, and their matriarch, Maman, predicts the girl will restore the family's prosperity. Growing up, Hallow feels that something in her life is not right. Did Josephine, the woman she calls mother, really bring her into the world? Why does her cousin Helena get to go to school and roam the streets of New York freely while she's confined to the family's decrepit brownstone? As the Melancons' thirst to maintain their status grows, Amara, now a successful lawyer running for district attorney, looks for a way to avenge her longstanding grudge against the family. When mother and daughter cross paths, Hallow will be forced to decide where she truly belongs."-- Publisher's description.

Jones, Stephen Graham, 1972- author.

"Peter Straub's Ghost Story meets Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies in this American Indian horror story of revenge on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Four American Indian men from the Blackfeet Nation, who were childhood friends, find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives, against an entity that wants to exact revenge upon them for what they did during an elk hunt ten years earlier by killing them, their families, and friends"-- Provided by publisher.

Kassabova, Kapka, author.

"In this extraordinary work of narrative reportage, Kapka Kassabova returns to Bulgaria, from where she emigrated as a girl twenty-five years previously, to explore the border it shares with Turkey and Greece. When she was a child, the border zone was rumored to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall, and it swarmed with soldiers and spies. On holidays in the "Red Riviera" on the Black Sea, she remembers playing on the beach only miles from a bristling electrified fence whose barbs pointed inward toward the enemy: the citizens of the totalitarian regime. Kassabova discovers a place that has been shaped by successive forces of history: the Soviet and Ottoman empires, and, older still, myth and legend. Her exquisite portraits of fire walkers, smugglers, treasure hunters, botanists, and border guards populate the book. There are also the ragged men and women who have walked across Turkey from Syria and Iraq. But there seem to be nonhuman forces at work here too: This densely forested landscape is rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs, and the tug of the ancient world, of circular time and animism, is never far off."--Amazon.com.

McFarlane, Mhairi, author.

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling--not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex's pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility. Jamie Carter doesn't believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It's the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment--and jealousy--of their friends and colleagues. But there's a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend...

McLean, Polly E. Bugros (Polly Elise Bugros), author.

"The University of Colorado erroneously recognized Dr. Ruth Cave Flowers as its first Black graduate. In 1918--six years before Flowers's graduation--Lucile Berkeley Buchanan Jones received her bachelor's degree. McLean introduces this woman who lived through an extraordinary time and rectifies the omission from institutional history"--Provided by publisher.

Menon, Sandhya, author.

When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud by targeting Jaya Rao's little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she will be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and she knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. His Lordship Grey Emerson is doomed once he turns eighteen-- thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch. When Jaya Rao bursts into his life, he can't shake the feeling that she is hiding something. As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it is possible to write your own happy ending. -- adapted from jacket

Miller, Tessa, 1988- author.

"A ... candid account of a young journalist's awakening to a life of chronic illness, weaving together her personal story with reporting to shed light on how Americans live with long-term diagnoses today"-- Provided by publisher.

Mirza, Fatima Farheen, 1991- author.

"The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity and belonging A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia's, wedding - a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son's estrangement - the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from. In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family's past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent's faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals. A deeply affecting and resonant story, A Place for Us is truly a book for our times: a moving portrait of what it means to be an American family today, a novel of love, identity and belonging that eloquently examines what it means to be both American and Muslim -- and announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent. "-- Provided by publisher.

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia, author.

"The Mayan God of Death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore"-- Provided by publisher.

Oshinsky, David M., 1944- author.

A history of the iconic public hospital on New York City's East Side describes the changes in American medicine from 1730 to modern times as it traces the building's origins as an almshouse and pesthouse to its current status as a revered place of first-class care.

Park, Ishle Yi, author.

"Hannah, a Korean American girl from Queens, New York, and Angel, a Puerto Rican boy from Brooklyn, fall in love in the spring of 1993. Hannah, who comes from a strict Korean home, meets Angel, a free and beautiful boy, at a quinceañera: Beyond flushed, sweating bodies pushed, pushing like cattle below black & buzzing speakers, under a torn pink streamer loose as a tendril of hair--lush-- his eyes. Darkluminous. Warm. A blush floods her. Hannah sucks in her breath, but can't pull back. Music fades. A hush he's a young buck in the underbrush, still in a disco ball dance of shadow & light Their forbidden love instantly and wildly blooms along the Jackie Robinson Expressway. Told in seasons as opposed to Acts, this re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet holds all of the tension and cadence of blank verse while adding dynamic and expressive language, creating new kinds of engrossing and magnetic forms. The hip-hop sonnets and poems are dynamic, arresting, observant, and magical, conveying the intimacies and sacrifices of love and addiction and the devastating realities of struggle and loss. Committed to cultural details and the vernacular of Queens and Brooklyn, this is a hip-hop love story, not of the Capulets and the Montagues, but two New York City kids trying to survive and grow within their families and communities, driven by an all-consuming love"-- Provided by publisher.

Perry, Imani, 1972- author.

"Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Imani Perry issues an unflinching challenge to society to see Black children as deserving of humanity. She admits fear and frustration for her African American sons in a society that is increasingly racist and at times seems irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love--finding beauty and possibility in life--and she exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find steady footing and inspiration in Black tradition. Perry draws upon the ideas of figures such as James Baldwin, W. E. B. DuBois, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Ida B. Wells. She shares vulnerabilities and insight from her own life and from encounters in places as varied as the West Side of Chicago; Birmingham, Alabama; and New England prep schools. Breathe offers a broader meditation on race, gender, and the meaning of a life well lived and is also an unforgettable lesson in Black resistance and resilience"-- Provided by publisher.

Peterson, Zoey Leigh, author.

"In this moving and enormously entertaining debut novel, longtime romantic partners Kathryn and Chris experiment with an open relationship and reconsider everything they thought they knew about love. After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris have the sort of relationship most would envy. They speak in the shorthand they have invented, complete one another's sentences, and help each other through every daily and existential dilemma. When Chris tells Kathryn about his feelings for Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the Laundromat, Kathryn encourages her boyfriend to pursue this other woman--certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather a little side dalliance. As Kathryn and Chris stumble into polyamory, Next Year, For Sure tracks the tumultuous, revelatory, and often very funny year that follows. When Chris's romance with Emily grows beyond what anyone anticipated, both Chris and Kathryn are invited into Emily's communal home, where Kathryn will discover new romantic possibilities of her own. In the confusions, passions, and upheavals of their new lives, both Kathryn and Chris will be forced to reconsider their past and what they thought they knew about love. Offering a luminous portrait of a relationship from two perspectives, Zoey L. Paterson has written an empathic, beautiful, and tremendously honest novel about a great love pushed to the edge. Deeply poignant and hugely entertaining, Next Year, For Sure shows us what lies at the mysterious heart of relationships, and what true openness and transformation require" --Publisher description.

Pinckney, Darryl, 1953- author.
Powers, Richard, 1957- author.

A novel of activism and natural-world power presents interlocking fables about nine remarkable strangers who are summoned in different ways by trees for an ultimate, brutal stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest.

Rai, Alisha, author.

"Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages--until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast. There's just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is. The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that's a new one. As much as he'd like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can't get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her..."-- Publisher's description.

Roanhorse, Rebecca, author.

"The the first book in [this trilogy is] inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic. In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world. Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man's mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain"--Provided by publisher.

Sanchez, Sonia, 1934- author.

"A representative collection of the life work of the much-honored poet and a founder of the Black Arts movement, spanning four decades of her literary career"-- Provided by publisher.

Scott, Rion Amilcar, author.

"Deftly spinning genres of his feverish literary invention, Rion Amilcar Scott creates his very own Yoknapatawpha County with fictional Cross River, Maryland. Established by the leaders of America's only successful slave revolt, the town still evokes the fierce rhythms of its founding. Among its residents are David Sherman, a struggling musician who just happens to be God's last son; Tyrone, a ruthless PhD candidate, whose dissertation about a childhood game ignites mayhem in the neighboring, once-segregated town of Port Yooga; and Jim, an all-too-obedient robot who serves his Master. Culminating with an explosive novella, these haunting stories of the denizens of Cross River serve to explore larger themes of religion, violence, and love--all told with sly humor and a dash of magical realism."-- Provided by publisher.

Sentilles, Sarah, author.

"May you always feel at home. After their decision not to have a biological child, Sarah Sentilles and her husband, Eric, decided to adopt via the foster care system. Knowing that the goal is reunification with the birth family, Sarah opens their home to a flurry of social workers who question, evaluate, and ultimately prepare them to welcome a child into their family--even if it most likely means giving them up. After years of starts and stops, a phone call finally comes: a three-day old baby girl, in immediate need of a foster family. Sarah and Eric bring this newborn stranger home. "You were never ours," Sarah writes, "yet we belong to each other." A fierce story about love and belonging, Stranger Care shares Sarah's discovery of what it means to take care of the Other--in this case, not just a vulnerable infant, but the birth mother who loves her too. With her trademark "fearless, stirring, rhythmic" (Nick Flynn) prose, the acclaimed author of Draw Your Weapons brings her creative energies to an intimate story, with universal concerns: What does it mean to mother? How can we care for and protect each other? How do we ensure a better future for life on this planet? And if we're all related--tree, bird, star, person--how might we better live?"-- Provided by publisher.

Somerville, Robert J., author.

"When Robert Somerville moved to Hertfordshire from Devon, he discovered an unexpected landscape rich with wildlife, particularly elm trees. Nestled within London's commuter belt, this wooded wilderness inspired Somerville, a lifelong woodworker, to revive the ancient tradition of hand-raising barns using locally sourced elm timber for material and the local community as labour. The story of the elm tree in the landscape is central to Barn Club. Its natural history and its historic importance in England, continental Europe and North America make for a fascinating story told by the author, a long-time admirer of this diverse and remarkable forest denizen. The decline of the elm, which began more than a century ago, was due to an imported fungal disease, and nearly spelled its doom. Yet the tree has survived, often unnoticed, throughout the English countryside and even within some cities. Barn Club is about craft, landscape and community. It follows the building of Carley Barn, a traditional Hertfordshire elm barn, made by hand with the help of volunteers over the course of one year. The last time barns were made in this way was 150 years ago, so the experience provides unique insights into aspects of craft construction that have faded from modern life. What happens when we imbue our structures with the local landscape? When we leave behind the vibrations, whines and whirrs of power tools in exchange for the delicate dexterity of the hands and eyes? When every mark in the wood tells the story of a joint effort? Barn Club calls on us to discover our landscapes more intimately and explore the joys of making beautiful things by hand, together"-- Provided by publisher.

Sow, Aminatou, author.

"Two of the nation's leading feminists and hosts of the hit podcast "Call Your Girlfriend" make the bold and compelling argument that a close friendship is the most influential and important relationship a human life can contain-helping you improve as a person and in your relationships with others"-- Provided by publisher.

Trethewey, Natasha D., 1966- author.

"A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy."--Dust jacket.

Watts, Stephanie Powell, author.

"JJ Ferguson has returned home to Pinewood, North Carolina, to build his dream house and to pursue his high school sweetheart, Ava. But as he reenters his former world, where factories are in decline and the legacy of Jim Crow is still felt, he's startled to find that the people he once knew and loved have changed just as much as he has. Ava is now married and desperate for a baby, though she can't seem to carry one to term. Her husband, Henry, has grown distant, frustrated by the demise of the furniture industry, which has outsourced to China and stripped the area of jobs. Ava's mother, Sylvia, caters to and meddles with the lives of those around her, trying to fill the void left by her absent son. And Don, Sylvia's unworthy but charming husband, just won't stop hanging around. JJ's return--and his plans to build a huge mansion overlooking Pinewood and woo Ava--not only unsettles their family, but stirs up the entire town." --Publisher description.

Zaske, Sara, author.

"When Sara Zaske moved from Oregon to Berlin with her husband and toddler, she knew the transition would be challenging, especially when she became pregnant with her second child. She was surprised to discover that German parents give their children a great deal of freedom―much more than Americans. In Berlin, kids walk to school by themselves, ride the subway alone, cut food with sharp knives, and even play with fire. German parents did not share her fears, and their children were thriving. Was she doing the opposite of what she intended, which was toraise capable children? Why was parenting culture so different in the States? Through her own family’s often funny experiences as well as interviews with other parents, teachers, and experts, Zaske shares the many unexpected parenting lessons she learned from living in Germany. Achtung Baby reveals that today's Germans know something that American parents don't (or have perhaps forgotten) about raising kids with “selbstandigkeit” (self-reliance), and provides practical examples American parents can use to give their own children the freedom they need to grow into responsible, independent adults"--Jacket.

Zevin, Gabrielle.

The irascible A.J. Fikry, owner of Island Books, the only bookstore on Alice Island, has already lost his wife. Now, a rare book, has been stolen from right under his nose in the most embarrassing of circumstances. The store itself, it seems, will be next to go. One night upon closing, he discovers a toddler in his children's section with a note from her mother pinned to her Elmo doll: "I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her." A search for Maya's mother, A.J.'s rare book, and good childcare advice ensues, but it doesn't take long for the locals to notice the transformation of both bookstore and owner, something of particular interest to the lovely yet eccentric Knightley Press sales rep, Amelia Loman, who makes the arduous journey to Alice Island thrice each year to pitch her books to the cranky owner.