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“Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo: A Review

“Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo: A Review

by Savannah Winkler, Library Assistant

Cover of "Last Night At The Telegraph Club" by Melinda Lo. Glowing yellow words against a painting of the chinatown district of San Francisco At NightIn the opening pages of “Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” 17-year-old Lily Hu’s life is suddenly changed by a newspaper advertisement. The year is 1954, and Lily lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown with her family. The ad promotes a male impersonator named Tommy Andrews and her performances at the local Telegraph Club. Lily quickly hides the ad, and it becomes her secret, but it isn’t her only one. On trips to the pharmacy, she flips through pages of pulp romance novels, particularly one about two women. As she begins to understand her sexuality, Lily becomes even more determined to hide her growing feelings—that is, until fellow classmate Kath Miller discovers her secret. But instead of the shame and humiliation she was anticipating, Lily realizes Kath may share her feelings.

As their friendship grows, Kath and Lily sneak out and visit the Telegraph Club. They meet women who openly flirt with one another and share kisses in the club’s shadows. They watch Tommy Andrews’s electrifying performance, and Lily is captivated by her. But Tommy isn’t the only person Lily crushes on. Lily’s feelings for Kath grow into love, but outside forces continue to complicate their relationship. McCarthyism and the fear of communism threatens the livelihoods of Chinese-Americans. When her father’s citizenship papers are taken by the FBI, Lily realizes her actions affect not just her, but her entire family. She faces an impossible choice: her family or being true to herself.

Malinda Lo’s book has become one of my favorite historical fiction novels. I will never get to truly experience 1950s San Francisco, but while reading this book, I felt like I stood under the glow of the neon signs and smelled the smoke inside the club. This book provides the opportunity to learn more about LGBTQ+ history, including lesbian clubs and male impersonators (better known today as drag kings). A timeline of real historical events that coincide with the book’s happenings is included throughout the chapters. The amount of historical detail brings the book alive.

I enjoyed the historical setting, but the characters are truly what make the story. The romance between Lily and Kath is tender and honest. Readers easily root for them, and I found myself unable to stop reading because I needed to know if their relationship survived. I often hesitated while turning the pages and became increasingly nervous about the fallout if their relationship was discovered. “Telegraph Club” is a realistic novel, and it does not gloss over the discrimination that gay and lesbian couples faced in the 1950s. Despite this, Lo’s story remains unwaveringly hopeful.

This past March, Lo gave a talk to K-State affiliates and community members over Zoom. During her presentation, she explained her motivation behind writing this story. She wanted to bring people—specifically gay Chinese-Americans—out from the shadows and into the spotlight. These Americans were forced to live in secrecy for so long, and their stories were at risk of being lost forever. Authors like Malinda Lo have thankfully assured that will not happen. Without question, “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” succeeds at giving a voice to those who were once voiceless.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club” is a great read for those who enjoy young adult literature, historical fiction, or romance. The novel has been widely recognized, winning the Stonewall Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Youth Literature, and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Lo has authored numerous other YA books, including the thriller “A Line in the Dark” and the fantasy “Ash.”

June is Pride Month, and the library will have numerous displays highlighting LGTBQ+ voices. If you can’t stop by in person or are looking for more recommendations, check out the booklists featured on our catalog page.

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Older Americans Month

Older Americans Month

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning and Information Services

May is Older Americans Month! As the Administration for Community Living states “Older adults play vital, positive roles in our communities – as family members, friends, mentors, volunteers, civic leaders, members of the workforce, and more. Just as every person is unique, so too is how they age and how they choose to do it – and there is no “right” way.” We have some reading suggestions to help celebrate this important part of our community.

You might remember the author Mary Pipher from her 1994 New York Times Best Seller on adolescent girls entitled “Reviving Ophelia.” In “Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age,” she explores the lives of women in their 60s and beyond, discussing the challenges and joys of being a woman in this age group. She covers the changes in roles, relationships, physical well-being, and mental well-being that many face, and shares her expertise on how to best navigate all of them. Reading this book is like having coffee with a friend who also happens to be an expert on human development. The tone is relaxed, full of anecdotes and personal stories, but her knowledge in the field shines through. Snippets from several interviews are included to add breadth to her perspective. “Women Rowing North” is an enjoyable, empowering, and informative book.

Practicing neurosurgeon, member of the National Academy of Medicine, and chief medical correspondent for CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores brain health in his book “Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age.” According to Dr. Gupta, dementia is not an inevitable condition of aging. He shares what can be done to prevent dementia and concrete advice for moving forward if it has already been diagnosed. The book includes a twelve-week program of nutrition, exercise, and other activities to set readers on the right track. His advice isn’t particularly new, but his optimism and ability to write about the topic in an engaging style make “Keep Sharp” a valuable contribution to the subject.

We have two brand new titles that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. “The Inside Story: The Surprising Pleasures of Living in an Aging Body” by psychologist Susan Sands discusses how common cultural beliefs can give us negative perceptions of our bodies that aren’t necessarily accurate, and shares advice for developing positive relationships with our bodies. In “From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life,” behavioral social scientist and Harvard Professor Arthur C. Brooks helps those who identify strongly with their working lives navigate the challenges of aging.

The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman is the first in a series that takes place in Coopers Chase, a retirement village in Kent. The club started when former member Penny shared unsolved murder cases from her previous position as a police inspector. A group starts gathering in the jigsaw room to investigate and hopefully solve each case. When a Coopers Chase employee is murdered, they team up with an underappreciated police officer to solve the case. Osman’s novel is a humorous and intricately plotted mystery that is an absolute delight to read, while he also shows us a glimpse of the complex lives of the characters. While the world has discounted them, they are noticing the things that others don’t, building fast friendships, and navigating the complications of their lives. This is a fun read that also gives insight into the later years in life.

All of the included books are available in print, and some are available digitally as ebooks or audiobooks. For these titles and more, visit our website at www.mhklibrary.org, or come see us at 629 Poyntz Ave.

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Oceans of Possibilities at the Library

Oceans of Possibilities at the Library

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

Summer Reading 2022 Oceans of Possibilities June 1 - July 31School is out, and it is a time of freedom for many kids. With some of the pressure lifted, everyone can breathe easily and enjoy some sunshine. Summer is also the perfect time for exploration and discovery through books. The library’s summer reading program will begin June 1st, with early registration opening Monday. Our reading challenge is all about having fun and enjoying books.

This year’s theme is Oceans of Possibilities, so look for some cool, blue decorations in the library and a special sea creature waiting for your books to be returned at the new returns machine inside. School kids might tell you about a shark that visited their school, promoting prizes (including two free books) that can be earned by tracking their reading time. Everyone, even adults, are invited to sign up.

If you want to find some ocean-themed books to go along with summer reading, here are a few great new choices.

Marine Biologists on a Dive” by Sue Fliess is the first in a new series, Kid Scientist. The picture book format makes this an easy way to introduce young kids to science field careers. In this story, Maggie and her team are studying whales. They scuba dive in with a pod of humpback whales, and each young scientist is exploring a different aspect of whale life. Maggie is recording the whale songs, and later listens to them in the lab to see if her hypothesis about whale communication patterns holds true. Illustrations by Mia Powell are more on the cartoony side, giving a simple visual aid that’s perfect for young listeners.

Can a story about the life of krill be delightful? I wouldn’t have thought so, but “Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill” by Matt Lilley surprised me. Krill actually have a very complicated life cycle just getting to be full grown, but their daily tasks are very simple. Once they have grown their mouths, it’s just eat, swim, and grow. They continually molt out of their shells, even as adults, and can live 10 years…that is, if they are not eaten by everything around them, including blue whales.

If you have never delved into the life of anglerfish, Elaine Alexander’s “Anglerfish: The Seadevil of the Deep” will introduce you to life in the midnight zone of the ocean. With eye-catching illustrations by Fiona Fogg, the anglerfish life cycle comes to life, from its beginnings as a vulnerable egg on the water surface, to an impressive fish, up to 3 feet long, with a dangling bioluminescent “fishing pole” fin and a stomach that can handle prey twice its size. Satiate your sea lover’s curiosity about strange and fascinating animals with this title.

Storytimes begin on June 7 for six weeks of fun stories, songs, action rhymes, puppets and dancing, with 8 different options throughout the week for various ages. Working families can join us on Saturdays at 10:00 or 11:00, June 11 – July 16. More information is on the library events webpage. These titles are a few samples of what storytellers will be reading.

Not Quite Narwhal” by Jessie Sima will be a big crowd-pleaser with a unique sea critter named Kelp who doesn’t fit in with his fellow narwhals. Will he come to realize who he really is when he meets a “land narwhal”? No need to worry, everyone ends up under the rainbow together.

Equally fun is Joyce Wan’s “A Whale in my Swimming Pool.” With cute illustrations influenced by Japanese pop culture, kids will laugh as a little boy tries to figure out how to get an enormous whale out of his pool.

For a calming effect, try “Oceans of Love” by Janet Lawler. This sweet, rhyming book centers on comforting language about mama sea animals taking care of their young. Holly Clifton-Brown’s mixed media art is full of color and light, creating playful scenes of undersea life.

For more summer reading book lists, join the summer reading challenge and check out our book lists for all age ranges. To sign up, visit the library’s webpage, www.MHKlibrary.org/SR, or come into the library.

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Find Your Next Woodworking Project at the Library

Find Your Next Woodworking Project at the Library

by Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

I recently had to build a new mailbox post after finding the old one lying in the yard. Was it just old and rotten, or was it related to the car antenna found near the fallen timber? We may never know, but I do know that it gave me the opportunity to pull out my power tools and build a needlessly-complicated but nice-looking post out of fresh lumber. Last year, my creative pursuits were almost exclusively digital, so it’s a refreshing change of pace to build something that exists in the real world.

There is a feeling of accomplishment associated with mowing a yard or baking, but then a week passes and you’re back behind the lawn mower, or a few days go by and you’re wondering where all the cookies went. I like when that feeling isn’t as fleeting, and there’s something to be said for made objects that can last generations. An example of this is the small wooden rocking chair currently sitting in my living room. My grandpa made it for me when I was a child, and now my son will be able to enjoy it for years to come, even more so when we don’t have to prop him up with pillows and stuffed animals.

The great thing about woodworking is that it covers such a broad range of activities, from carving small objects to making furniture, or even building a house. I am fairly confident we can rule out the house for a second project, but that still leaves a lot of options.

In “Build Stuff with Wood,” author Asa Christiana is a proponent of making simple projects with power tools and materials found at your local home center. The learning curve for this is much smaller than hand tools and rough-cut lumber. This increases your chances of success, which in turn will encourage you to continue with the hobby, and maybe one day get to the point where you’re milling your own lumber and using hand chisels like a pro. I’ve added the outdoor bench from this book to my Maybe Someday I’ll Make This list.

Once you knock a few projects out and are realizing it would be much easier to work on future projects if you had a dedicated space, you should checkout “Wood Magazine: How to Build a Great Home Workshop.” This book covers everything you need to know, whether you’re working out of your basement, your garage, or even a dedicated shop. I particularly enjoy the deep dive into dust collection and lighting, possibly two of the least glamorous aspects of woodworking, but arguably the most important. We also have “Workshop Dust Control,” if you really want to keep your workshop as clean and safe as possible.

A central feature of almost any workspace is a workbench, and I did not realize how specialized they could be until I read “The Workbench Book” by Scott Landis. He starts with the evolution of the workbench and then covers various specialized workbenches that have been developed for tasks like boatbuilding, carving, and lutherie. I already knew I wanted a workbench, but now I really want one, so I also checked out “How to Make Workbenches & Shop Storage Solutions.” This book features aspirational workbenches, as well as more realistic carts and tables, and includes detailed instructions, full pictures, and even cut diagrams for the projects.

One final aspect of woodworking that I really enjoy is the level of creativity and freedom to completely customize the project you want to make to suit your needs. For example, in “The Handbuilt Home” by Ana White, there are plans for a recycling console that would be great for my kitchen. But my kitchen is also small and lacks counter space, so I can combine that project with the folding work table project from “How to Make Workbenches & Shop Storage Solutions” and add casters and a back that folds out into a table that can be used for food prep. It looks great in my head.

When I get a wild hare and fall down the rabbit hole of a new hobby, I tend to start by window shopping all the possibilities on the internet. More often than not, this sates my interest and I move onto something else. But every now and then my interest survives the warren that is the internet, and I find myself at the library, trying to check out more books than I can carry. It’s a fun challenge.

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YA Books by AAPI Authors

YA Books by AAPI Authors

by Jennifer Jordan, Adult Services Librarian

This month’s ReadMHK challenge is to read a book by an AAPI author. As a Filipino-American, I was most excited for this month, both to read books and to celebrate my heritage during national Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Finding books with characters to identify with has been a difficult journey growing up. As I’ve gotten older and more BIPOC authors are being published every day, I find more characters that represent me and other Filipinos.

In “They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, he tells the story of his and his family’s time in U.S. run internment camps. He shows us the discrimination they and many other Japanese-Americans faced as they were deemed “enemies” by presidential proclamation on February 19, 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which stripped rights and freedoms of anyone who is of Japanese descent. Takei depicts the realities and choices every Japanese-American had to make from filling out questionnaires to giving up their citizenships. Takei guides readers through his life before, during and after his and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans’ imprisonment in this emotional graphic novel-memoir.

Internment” by Samira Ahmed is a near future dystopian novel where the US starts imposing similar restrictions Japanese-Americans faced in the 1940s to Muslim-Americans. The novel follows Layla, a 17-year-old who had a normal life until the government started putting more restrictions on her and anyone else who answered yes to being Muslim on the US Census. As more anti-Muslim restrictions were put in place, the government forced her and many other Muslim-Americans into Camp Mobius. She and others organized peaceful protests to show the guards and US government that they won’t be silenced.

If you are a girl born in Huaxia, your destiny is not your own. In “Iron Widow” by Xiran Jay Zhao, 18-year-old Zetian’s family offers her up to become a concubine-pilot, which would earn them money but will almost certainly kill her in the process. To everyone’s surprise, she exacts revenge on the pilot who killed her sister, earning her the title of Iron Widow. In this patriarchal society, women give their lives to support the stronger male pilots of the Chrysalises, giant transforming robots, to keep them all safe from the Humduns, mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall intent on breaking through. Her power grows, and she is paired with the strongest (and most feared) male pilot Li Shimin. Zetian, Shimin and Yizhi fall in love and form a bond so strong that they can change the system and fight for equality, so girls are no longer sacrificed.

The Astonishing Color of After” by Emily X.R. Pan is a first-person novel published in 2018. When Leigh Chen Saunders loses her mother with severe depression to suicide, she receives a gift. The gift was sent from the home of her maternal grandparents Leigh has never met in Taiwan. The strange thing about the gift, containing her mother’s favorite jade necklace and letters written in Chinese, is that it arrived with no postmark. Was Leigh sure that she saw a bright red bird fly down and deliver the package? Leigh and her father travel to Taiwan to meet her grandparents and hopefully learn more about her mother and all the places she loved as a girl. Only Leigh knows that the red bird that she still catches glimpses of, is really her mother.

Even though this is the last month for our ReadMHK program, coming soon is our Summer Reading Program with this year’s theme being Oceans of Possibilities. There will be challenges and prizes for kids, teens and adults this summer. Summer Reading sign-up will start on May 23rd.

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LGBTQIA+ reads for teens.

LGBTQIA+ reads for teens

by Jan Johnson, Teen Librarian

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” This is a famous quote by Rudine Bishop Simms that she wrote back in 1990 when she noted the need for more diverse books in children’s literature.

When we step into the world of a good book, not only do we get to immerse our self in the story, but we get to step into the shoes of the characters as they journey through their adventure. We learn empathy for their plight, and we can share in their triumphs. When the only books we are exposed to tell stories where no one looks, acts, or feels like you do, that can feel pretty lonely.

For teens, this is especially important. When we’re learning who we are and what we want to do with the rest of our lives, it’s indispensable to have stories that relate to your experiences. Reading is a safe space to find characters who you can relate to, find answers to questions about your identity, and reading also gives us space to make you think. There may be questions you have that you’re not ready to talk about, or experiences that you think are yours and yours alone. You can read a story about a life path that you might not have thought possible. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about a similar experience. Just reading about someone who identifies like you do can be reassuring and empowering.

We have a wonderfully diverse young adult collection that is full of characters and stories for every reader. The following is but a small selection of the titles we have that focus on LGBTQIA+ characters. Whether you want to glimpse through the window of someone from the queer community to gain more understanding and empathy, or if you are looking for characters and stories that mirror your own identity, check out these titles and so much more in our young adult collection.

In “The Girl from the Sea” by Molly Knox Ostertag, fifteen-year-old Morgan has a secret: she can’t wait to escape the perfect little island where she lives. She’s desperate to finish high school and escape her sad divorced mom, her volatile little brother, and worst of all, her great group of friends…who don’t understand Morgan at all. Because really, Morgan’s biggest secret is that she has a lot of secrets, including the one about wanting to kiss another girl.

In Jake Maia Arlow’s unabashedly queer middle grade debut, “Almost Flying,” a week-long amusement park road trip becomes a true roller coaster of emotion when Dalia realizes she has more-than-friend feelings for her Raia, the new girl on the swim team.

In “All That’s Left in the World” by Erik J. Brown, a deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world’s population, including everyone that Andrew and Jamie have ever loved. The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they’ll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that’s left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.

Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender is a revelatory novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

In Keito Gaku’s “Boys Run the Riot” manga series, a transgender teen named Ryo finds an escape from the expectations and anxieties of his daily life in the world of street fashion.

Our collection of nonfiction books is also extensive with titles like: “The New Queer Conscience” by Adam Eli; “Out! How to Be Your Authentic Self” by Miles McKenna; “Gender Explorers” by Juno Roche; and “The Pride Guide” by Jo Langford.

Manhattan Public Library is affirming and welcoming to all members of our community. If you would like more “windows and mirrors” titles, check www.mhklibrary.org.

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The Microhistory

The Microhistory

By Benjamin Carter, Library Assistant

Of all the forms that nonfiction books take, the microhistory is my favorite. A microhistory is a history of a small thing – an event, a social phenomenon, a food, or an object – that connects to a larger worldview. The microhistory is a great way to learn more about the world through the narrow lens of a subject one is interested in.

I was introduced to microhistories by the assigned reading for a world history class, in which we read “Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World,” by Mark Kurlansky. In “Cod,” Kurlansky delves into the social history of fishing for, and eating, cod. I became enraptured by Kurlansky’s writing and the way he wasw able to craft a world history lesson out of fish. From the Basque people of Spain, to English fish and chips, to New World fisheries in Massachusetts, Kurlansky weaves a narrative of the importance of the titular fish to the peoples of the Atlantic region. He includes the impacts overfishing of cod has had on those cultures and even several different recipes to prepare cod. Other microhistories by Mark Kurlansky available at the library include “Paper: Paging Through History” and, previously mentioned in this column, “Salt: A World History.

The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird” by Joshua Hammer is the true crime version of a microhistory. Hammer tells the tale of an international bird-egg smuggler and the detective of the Wildlife Crime Unit tasked with catching the criminal. To give background on the crimes and the world of rare-bird smuggling, Hammer digs into the history of falcon racing in Dubai, the antiquarian hobby of egg collecting, and of course the biology of the birds themselves. This book is great for true crime fans, bird-of-prey admirers, and anyone interested in an adventure that spans the globe.

Most of us don’t truly appreciate our clothing outside of its style and its comfort. Kassia St. Clair aims to change this in her book “The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History.” In thirteen segments, St. Clair maps the human history of fabric from the first clothing made by humans in the Paleolithic Period all the way to the fabric used in astronaut suits. Because fabrics are produced by people, St. Clair illustrates how our desire to produce textiles has influenced our culture. Fabric production has had an important role in nautical navigation, influenced international trade relations, and helped bring about the Industrial Revolution and the transatlantic slave trade. It is fascinating how much more thought I have put into the fabrics that surround me after reading this book.

Mary Roach is one of the most well-known names in the microhistory genre. She has written books on ghosts, sex, the GI tract, soldiers and the book I read, “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.” The question Roach attempts to answer is: what happens to our bodies after we pass on? Just the physical parts, mind you – she leaves the spiritual side to others more qualified. In this sometimes hilarious and absurd book, Roach covers the history of bodysnatching for medical colleges, cadaver testing, head transplants, and more. Roach discusses the generosity of those who donated their bodies to science and the ethics and uses of the tests performed. If you’ve escaped a car crash without injury, you have a cadaver to thank for testing the limits of the human body. She finishes the book by including an answer to what she will do with her body when she no longer needs it. “Stiff” will prompt you to consider the same question while fascinating you and – at times – making you nauseous. For more of Roach’s humorous and offbeat takes, check out “Spook,” “Bonk,” “Gulp,” “Grunt,” or her newest adult novel, “Fuzz.

My favorite thing about microhistories is how versatile they are. In addition to the microhistories in this article, there are histories on books, oil, rain, bananas, forks, pigments, ghosts, mushrooms, epidemics, and poisons – just to name a few. If you want to learn more about the things we interact with every day, stop by the library and ask a librarian about a topic you are interested in.

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Fabulous Fantasy

Fabulous Fantasy

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Services Manager

Fantasy books have always felt like home to me. From the first time I read Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” as a kid, the genre welcomed, comforted, and astonished me. How can authors, mere mortals like myself, imagine such rich magical worlds? Decades later, I’m still finding new fantasy titles that delight and inspire me.

TJ Klune’s “The House in the Cerulean Sea” may hold the title of the most charming book I have ever read. In it, a dilapidated case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, Linus, is sent on assignment to a little orphanage to check on the welfare of several magical children. There, Linus steadily falls in love with the children and their caretaker, Arthur, until he realizes he’s found where he belongs. It should be known that one of these children is the Antichrist (called Lucy), but Lucy is more a strong-willed child with demonic powers than a literal, straight-from-the-Bible Antichrist.

Klune’s recommendation led me to Ryka Aoki’s “Light from Uncommon Stars,” which rides the line between contemporary fantasy and science fiction. Aoki focuses on a trio of women: Katrina, a transgender runaway violin virtuoso; Shizuka, who makes Faustian bargains with violin students to save her own soul from damnation; and Lan, a refugee spaceship captain whose family is building a stargate at a local donut shop. Aoki seamlessly weaves together these seemingly-disparate storylines, building a narrative about knowing, loving, and being true to yourself. This book was a transcendental delight.

N.E. Davenport’s “The Blood Trials” also blends fantasy and science fiction, this time adding blood magic to a science fiction setting. Ikenna’s just learned her grandfather, a military leader and hero, was murdered by the Praetorian Guard, the most elite of soldiers; to find those responsible, she must join the Praetorian Guard herself. Applicants must participate in a bloodbath of trials, and Ikenna will need to keep her magic a secret while she fights to survive. Ikenna’s a rough-and-tumble protagonist, and Davenport’s action-packed debut is a bloody good time.

I just started reading “A Marvellous Light” by Freya Marske, but I’m already enjoying its blending of magic and Edwardian England. Robin Blyth expects his new job as Assistant in the Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints to be boring and pointless, only to learn that it actually liaises with a secret magic society. Working with his magician counterpart, Edwin Courcey, the pair investigate the disappearance of Robin’s predecessor and uncover a secret plot, all while fighting their growing mutual attraction. This book contains an abundance of verbal sparring (a must in any good British historical novel) with a unique, well-developed magical system.

The instant I saw Kuri Huang’s cover art for Sue Lynn Tan’s “Daughter of the Moon Goddess,” I knew I’d love the book. Tan’s debut draws inspiration from the Chinese legend of Chang’e, who stole the Celestial Emperor’s elixir of immortality and became the moon goddess. This work focuses on Chang’e’s daughter, Xingyin, who flees the moon to seek a way to free her mother. Tan treads familiar ground (for example, Xingyin must disguise her identity and becomes close with the emperor’s son), but her detailed prose shines, bringing Xingyin’s mythical world to life.

Arthurian legend has always held a special place in my heart, so of course I’m eagerly anticipating “Spear,” Nicola Griffith’s spin on the legend of Percival and the Holy Grail. Peretur was raised in secret by her mother, but she yearns to join the court of Arturus, so she disguises herself as a young man. Soon her untamed magic makes her unwelcome, so she joins her lover Nimüe on her Grail quest. I love retellings and reimaginings of Arthurian legend, and I’m eager to immerse myself in Griffith’s version of this classic narrative.

Holly Black’s a fixture in the children’s and young adult fantasy scene, and this May sees the release of her first adult title, “Book of Night.” Charlie Hall spent years working as a thief for magicians, but now she’s on the straight and narrow, avoiding her old life at all costs—until her old life comes knocking, and Charlie ends up on one last heist. “Gloamists,” the magicians of Charlie’s world, manipulate their own and others’ shadows, which sounds both fascinating and spooky. May can’t come soon enough, since I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

Whichever genre you prefer, the library has plenty of books to meet your reading needs. Stop by and see what magic awaits!

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Read MHK Young Adult Poetry Books

Read MHK Young Adult Poetry Books

by Alex Urbanek, Collection Services Librarian

This month’s ReadMHK prompt is poetry, which is a challenge for me, as I am not someone who seeks out poetry regularly. It’s not that I dislike poetry, I just tend to read other things. With my To-Be-Read list constantly growing and forever changing, poetry consistently finds itself further from the top. While I was figuring out what poetry books I might enjoy for this month’s challenge, I learned that Young Adult poetry has a much greater appeal to me than some of the more “classic” poetry I read in high school. Many of the authors and editors who create these books are looking to talk about current serious subjects, and by turning them into smaller lyrical stories instead of novels, they have an immense amount of impact while still holding interest and not being too overwhelming.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright” by Jason Reynolds, with illustrations from Jason Griffin, released in early 2022 to rave reviews. While at first look this book seems very large, only about ten sentences of text flow throughout. Griffin’s illustrations fill the pages with dynamic mixed-media artwork, which lend more power to the words. Each page looks upon a notebook, filled with different media and moods, the words cut from their printed surface and taped on. Our narrator is a young Black man at home at the beginning of the pandemic. He talks about how each person in his family is dealing with the different stresses. His mother watches the news nonstop as his sister prepares to march in the BLM protests. His younger brother uses his video games as an escape, and his father is alone in the back room with a cough that just won’t stop. The feeling of constant stress and questions is one I am definitely able to relate to after the last few years. This is the first poetry book I have read that combined art and words so completely, and it results in a very strong and beautiful message.

In “You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves,” editor Diana Whitney has compiled poems from a wide variety of authors. The poems are organized into different groups of “emotional experience,” such as “Seeking,” “Rage,” “Longing,” and “Belonging.” In the introduction, Whitney states, “I wanted to collect the voices I wish I’d heard when I was a teen.” The end result is a book filled with gorgeous imagery and poems written by strong, hopeful, sometimes angry people, offered up to those who need to feel that someone else understands. While the book is labeled as poetry for girls, anyone who is struggling with strong emotions will be able to relate to the work.

An award-winning novel-in-verse that came out last year is Eric Gansworth’s “Apple: Skin to the Core.” Gansworth is a tribally-enrolled Onondaga writer who was raised in the Tuscarora Nation, and here he details his life from childhood up until adulthood, exploring themes of intersectionality, racism, and vanishing culture, alongside personal paintings and family photographs. He pushes mixed media even further by including references to several Beatles albums and Apple records. In an interview with the Young Adult Library Services Association, Gansworth explains that he wrote this for himself at a younger age: “I wanted someone to affirm that the worries that kept me up at nights were real, and to offer some home for a metamorphosis that suited the young person I wanted to become.”

Another anthology of poems is “Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience.” This collection is the work of 64 different poets, each of whom has either been an immigrant or refugee, or is a first-generation American. These poems give you a small peek into the immigrant and refugee experience. Some poems detail the fear of moving to a new country as a child, leaving behind family and the entire world they knew. Others cover losing the culture of their parents in the quest to fit in with peers or watching their parents deal with daily racism. Being able to read about this subject matter from such a wide amount of viewpoints is a major highlight of this title.

The library has these, and so many more wonderful poetry books ready for you to check out! If you’re looking for a recommendation, reach out to our staff at the Reference Desk or sign up for a personalized reading list. Happy National Poetry Month!

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

ReadMHK AAPI Reads for May

ReadMHK AAPI Reads for May

by Amber Hoskins, Adult Services Librarian

As we move into May, we begin the month reserved for celebrating the cultural heritage of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). AAPI authors not only give us entertaining reads, they provide new perspectives for some and a mirror for others. There are too many authors to mention in just one article, so I will do my best to cover as many as possible.

One of my favorite genres to read is horror/thriller, so I will start with an author I recently discovered. I enjoy reading all types of thrillers whether it be apocalyptic, creature-feature or paranormal. Alma Katsu brings her own version of horror by writing about historical events, with a few of her own twists and turns woven throughout. The first book I read by Katsu was “The Hunger,” which follows the ill-fated saga of the Donner Party. This story is fast-paced, and I found it hard to put down. If you are a fan of Titanic history and enjoy thrillers, you can check out her book called “The Deep.” This story revolves around two survivors from the shipwreck and intermingles a level of paranormal suspense that will keep you turning pages.

April (National Poetry Month) is ending but that is no reason to stop indulging. There are plenty of fantastic AAPI authors to keep us in the mood for poems. Franny Choi’s poetry has been featured in the New York Times as well as on PBS News Hour, among others. In her book “Soft Science”, Choi delves into verse that shares her insights on womanhood, along with being queer and Asian American.

Ocean Vuong is another author/poet to consider. His collection of poetry in “Time Is a Mother” is a moving compilation of his thoughts and experiences upon dealing with the death of his mother. He also wrote the novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” This beautifully-written work is based on Vuong’s life experience as a Vietnamese immigrant and focuses on the subjects of war and loss.

If you are into upbeat mysteries, you will probably enjoy author Mia Manansala. She offers a new take on recipe mysteries with her “Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery” series. Main character Lila, and her family own and operate the kitchen while crime-solving on the side. This cozy collection is funny and offers up something new to the recipe mystery genres with Filipino dishes inspiring the titles. The first book in this collection is “Arsenic and Adobo,” and it was recently followed up with “Homicide and Halo-Halo.”

For those who enjoy book-to-film, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee has recently made the jump. This book is a New York Times bestseller and follows a Korean family through four generations of hopes and ambitions. It has recently been made into a television series with rave reviews. Celeste Ng is another author to be on the look out for. Her book “Little Fires Everywhere” has already been made into a series on Hulu. This story involves the adoption of a Chinese-American baby and the division it causes between neighbors, all while exploring the mystery of one woman’s long-held secrets at catastrophic costs.

If you are more interested in the non-fiction route, try “Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner. Zauner shares the story of her young life growing up Korean-American and spending time at her grandmother’s home in Seoul. Described by the publisher as an, “exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance,” this biography gives an unflinching narrative of Zauner’s strength and spirit, along with a keen insight into her Korean culture.

To learn more about the history of AAPI individuals, “Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now” is a good start. Written by Jeff Yang, who started one of the first Asian American national magazines, this entertaining work archives the history of AAPIs in pop culture. From the 1980s to now, Yang touches on cultural appropriation in film and its damaging effects. He then shares his knowledge on cinema that features Asian actors, such as Pat Morita, Margaret Cho, and Ben Kingsley. This book also has an interactive element, with a QR code that links to a music playlist involving AAPI musicians.

As mentioned above, it is simply not possible to list all of the wonderful authors of the AAPI community in one article. If you would like to learn more about AAPI culture and history, check out asianpacificheritage.gov. This is a resourceful website that includes information and events, as well as exhibits and collections.

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