Month: November 2021

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Read Something New & Shiny

Read Something New & Shiny

By Julie Mills, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

I don’t know about you, but for me there is nothing like opening up a brand-new book for the first time.  Not just a new book to me, but one that has barely been read before and has that hot of the presses shiny cover and the new book smell. I still prefer print books for this very reason; the tactile experience is part of what keeps me reading paper books. Join me and crack open a new and shiny book published in 2021 and read along with us for the ReadMHK December topic. ReadMHK is a community-wide reading program aimed at building connections through reading and sharing experiences with each other.

First off here are a couple of new books that I have been looking forward to reading. Out in October 2021, “The Book of Magic” is the newest and final book in the Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman. If you read the book or watched the movie “Practical Magic” you will be excited to know that the author has also written a couple of prequels. “Magic Lessons” is the story of the Owens’ ancestor Maria.  Set in the 1600s, it gives fans the way back story of how Maria survived the Witch Hunts and went on to become the matriarch of the family. Next, we have “The Rules of Magic” which fills in the story of Aunts Franny and Jet, and introduces us to their brother Vincent. If, like me, you have been waiting for the fourth book in this series, it is here! “The Book of Magic” focuses on Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia while also finishing the stories of Sally and Gillian from the very popular “Practical Magic”.

In keeping with the theme of sisters and magic we have “The Missing Sister” published in June 2021. This is the seventh and penultimate book in The Seven Sisters series written by Lucinda Riley. In this story, the author takes us across the globe while the six sisters use magic to locate their long lost seventh sibling. The series will conclude with an eighth and final book, “Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt”, coming out in 2023 that will feature the story of the sister’s father.

Black Water Sister” by Zen Cho is a brand-new book published in May 2021. The title may use the word sister; however, the story focuses more on the supernatural with a spirit named Black Water Sister. The author takes us to Malaysia to follow Jessamyn as she hears the ghostly voice of her dead grandmother who used to be a spirit medium. Gods, idols, and family treachery will keep you on the edge of your seat until you read the last line of this book.  Bravely, after all she has been through, Jess can finally come out to her traditional parents.  The author leaves us there but knowing that all will be well.

Gold Diggers: A Novel” is the debut novel by author Sanjena Sathian. It is another new book and has a gorgeous cover if you judge a book by its cover! It came out in April 2021, and tells the coming of age story of Neil and Anita. Both of whom are first generation Americans growing up in an Atlanta suburb with a large Indian family. The second half of the book takes place ten years down the road and we see Neil embrace his heritage. Studying history, he learns we must all embrace where we came from and that all of our stories matter.  If not, those in positions of power may erase who we really are.

Stop by Manhattan Public Library’s new book display, grab something that catches your eye and join us for next month’s ReadMHK book discussion night Tuesday, December 21st, at 7pm. If you need some more suggestions, head over to the Reference desk on the second floor where we have book lists available to help you find your fresh new read.

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Indigenous Cooking and New Traditions

Indigenous Cooking and New Traditions

Jennifer Jordan, Children’s Librarian

Cover image of "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen". Grey background with a circle in the middle, split evenly into four photos of berries, herbs, and chopped fruit. With Thanksgiving coming up and the pandemic still affecting our family gatherings, I’ve started thinking about my plans. My partner and I decided that we’ll have a small dinner for us and our toddler and maybe video chat our families throughout the day. I don’t want to do the “traditional” Thanksgiving like I had growing up and I do not want to teach my child the schoolhouse story of the first Thanksgiving.  I want him to celebrate Indigenous culture and learn the long history of what the United States, along with other countries, have done to Indigenous populations. The first step I want to take as a family is to learn and celebrate Indigenous food.

As I was searching recipes and ideas of what to make for two adults and a small child, I came across the idea of making all Indigenous food to help learn about their culture. In my search through the Manhattan Public Library’s catalog for the perfect cookbook, I found “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota). This book is full of amazing recipes from Omníča Aǧúyapi Saksáka (Crispy Bean Cakes) to Pté Wasná (Bison Wasna).

The first recipe that caught my eye will be the main dish for my family, Ȟaŋte úŋ Pté Lolóbyapi (Cedar-Braised Bison). I love slow cooking and having all the flavors mix and soak into meat to create a tender and savory meal. Sherman has a simple recipe that merges sweet, nut and herbal flavors. As a side to pair with the slow cooked bison, I will make his Wagmíza Aǧúyabskuyela (Crispy Corn Cakes). It’s a simple, four ingredient recipe using cornmeal, salt, water and oil. Serving tender bison over a dense and crispy corn patty will create an amazing bite filled with tons of flavor and textures. As the second side, I will make Čhaŋnákpa na Bló Skúya na Omníča Waháŋpi (Hearty Mushroom, Sweet Potato and Bean Soup). This warming soup will also pair with the corn cakes and add a lightness when eating the savory bison. The last dish I will be making is Ptaŋyétu Wóksapi Aǧúyabskuyela (Autumn Harvest Cookies) and Psíŋ Čhaȟsníyaŋ (Wild Rice Sorbet). The cookies are a mix of acorn flour and cornmeal for the base and allows for any optional mix-ins like dried cranberries, wild rice or walnuts. The sorbet is a creamy and nutty frozen dish that will serve well with the warm cookies. These desserts will be a sweet but not too sweet way to finish our meal.

Along with the recipes, Sherman wrote about his journey as a chef and the importance of food to Indigenous people. One of the main values Sherman gave us in his writings is respecting the food and ingredients. He says, “nothing was ever wasted; every bit was put to use.” This is something that lines up with my values of keeping food waste down and nature being sacred. This value is what I want to start with and expand when teaching my child about Indigenous culture. One day we may forage for the food around us and start cooking what we grow and find but today we can learn together and teach each other. Sherman’s cookbook and writings are eye opening to how Indigenous people cook and create food. Food is how I connect with my partner, my child, my mother and Filipino culture. Sherman says, “food weaves people together, connects families through generations, is a life force of identity and social structure.”

The Manhattan Public Library has an amazing ReadMHK podcast to go along with the reading program. This month they talked with Dr. Debra Bolton, the Director of Intercultural Learning and Academic Success at Kansas State University, about Native American and Indigenous authors. You can signup for monthly ReadMHK challenges on the library’s website or by stopping in.

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The Collective: One of the Year’s Best Thrillers

The Collective: One of the Year’s Best Thrillers By Alison Gaylin

Reviewed by Marcia Allen, Collection Services Librarian, Manhattan Public Library

Camille Gardener lost control of her life five years ago.  Heartbroken over the death of her 15-year-old daughter who attended a fraternity party, drank too much, was raped, and wound up freezing to death beyond the fraternity lawn, Camille has just made a terrible decision.  Mixing medications with alcohol, she feels it is a reasonable decision for her to attend the alleged rapist’s award ceremony for exemplary service.  Of course, this goes badly.  She loudly accuses him of murder, and Camille is quickly arrested for the disruption.  She is allowed a phone call that she places to her dear friend Luke, and she is released the next day.

The connection between Camille and Luke is a sad one.  When it became clear that Camille’s daughter would not survive her ordeal, Camille and her then-husband Matt decided to donate their daughter’s organs.  Luke is the recipient of the young victim’s heart.

A business card handed to Camille at the ceremony features one word on it: Niobe.  Camille researches the name and learns that Niobe was a figure of Greek mythology, a mother of twelve whose children were murdered when her bragging about them enraged the other Greek deities.  A follow-up email informs Camille of a group of mothers whose children’s murderers have not been punished.  Feeling that this might be a helpful support group, Camille reaches out to other grieving mothers via the dark web and learns that they are all involved in the business of untraceable justice, successfully torturing and murdering unpunished offenders.  Thus, begins a thriller that is unlike any other in recent publishing.  Following in the steps of our damaged protagonist, we are drawn into her involvement in this group and cringe when she performs tasks that become increasingly more daring and more productive.

What gives this book its special appeal?  It’s really a combination of several factors, all working together to create a believable and horrific tale of grief and its aftermath.  Camille, for example, is a character for whom we feel great empathy.  The man responsible for her daughter’s death was vindicated, and Camille was treated as a pariah for being so outraged and outspoken.  Though it has been five years since her daughter died, Camille has made no progress toward any sense of peace or acceptance, nor has she found any kind of helpful therapy.  Her role as grieving mother is a clear reminder to any parent of the awful pain inflicted when a child dies.

Another compelling aspect of the book is the depth to which Camille allows herself to be sucked into the actions of the Niobe group.  She finds herself doing things that she would never have considered had she not lost her daughter.  Her initial horror at what she has done quickly becomes an acceptance that she justifies because of her loss.  She does not seem to realize that once she is involved, there is no turning back.

The intricate plot is equally captivating.  Camille quickly learns that this group has been in operation for a few years, so its steps to retribution are convoluted and planned slowly over time to evade discovery.  We learn of Camille’s realizations just as she does, and there is something to be admired in the planning.

All in all, this is one heck of a story that begs to be read by those who enjoy thrillers.  You will find that “The Collective” does not disappoint.   Like me, you will probably rush to see what else author Gaylin has written, and you will not be surprised to learn that she earned an Edgar Award for one of her other thrillers, “If I Die Tonight.”

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“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger:  A Review

“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger:  A Review

by Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian

November is Native American Heritage Month, a month dedicated to the history and current culture of the Indigenous peoples of this country. A great way to learn more about Indigenous cultures is to read books by and about Indigenous peoples. If you are participating in the Manhattan Public Library’s ReadMHK reading program, you can read a book by a Native American author and log it for this month’s theme of “Native Authors.” Looking for a young adult option to fulfill the prompt? I encourage you to check out “Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger, who is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache tribe of Texas.

I picked up “Elatsoe” solely because of the book’s cover, which was illustrated by Rovina Cai. It depicts a girl in a hooded jacket surrounded by running white dogs in a painted style. Once I found out the book was about a teenage girl with a pet ghost dog who goes on a journey to investigate the mysterious death of her cousin – I was all in.

The book follows a seventeen-year-old girl named Elatsoe, or Ellie, who is Native American and grounded firmly in her Lipan Apache tradition and culture. Ellie lives in an altered version of modern-day America. There are the usual things like high school, best friends, and over-protective parents; however, there is also magic and monsters that are shaped by the legends of its peoples – Indigenous and otherwise. For instance, Ellie has the gift of “ghost-calling,” allowing her to raise the ghosts of dead animals, thanks to a skill passed through generations of her family. In the book, Elatsoe’s namesake, Six-Great-Grandmother, is legendary for her ghost-calling gift. Woven into the main plot are tales of Six-Great summoning and training the ghosts of ancient animals to serve as guardians for her people.

The inciting incident of the story is when Ellie is informed that her beloved cousin Trevor has died in a mysterious accident, leaving behind his wife and infant son. When Trevor visits her in a dream and tells Ellie he’s been murdered, she knows she needs to figure out what happened so his spirit and family can be at peace. With the help of her family, best friend Jay, and ghost dog Kirby, Ellie uncovers secrets surrounding Trevor’s death. She and Jay are led to the small, mysterious town of Willowbee, Texas, where the population is overwhelmingly white, lawns are surprisingly lush in the scorching Texas sun, and inhabitants experience a lack of injury and illness.

With expert storytelling and worldbuilding, Little Badger blends modern-day America with Lipan Apache lore that plants the reader solidly in the world. The story confronts the grief of losing a family member and the human desire for truth and vengeance. Even as an avid fan of crime shows and novels, I was genuinely surprised by the sinister motives unearthed, and the twists and turns Little Badger takes the reader through.

If you read young adult novels, you know that even YA fantasy books tend to have romance at their centers. It was refreshing to see that Ellie and Jay’s friendship remains a platonic boy/girl relationship. It is even explained in the book that Ellie is asexual, which is an identity not often represented. That doesn’t mean the book lacked any love, though. Ellie’s strong connection with her family members, and deep trust of her best friend are palpable throughout the book.

I highly recommend “Elatsoe” to anyone who enjoys legends, mystery, fantasy, and reading about close familial relationships. If you need more convincing, “Elatsoe” was named on TIME’s list of 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time. Be on the lookout for Darcy Little Badger’s next book coming out this month called “A Snake Falls to Earth,” which weaves together the lives of Nina and Oli in another tale of family, monsters, and magic rooted in Lipan Apache legend.


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