Mercury Column

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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!

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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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National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning and Information Services

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” Rita Dove aptly described her art as she accepted the position of our nation’s Poet Laureate in 1993. As I read poetry collections, I find it striking how many forms of literature are represented in each book. In just a few pages, one skips through history, memoir, and romance. This makes poetry an effective way to explore the world through other perspectives. Poetry also has the unique ability to capture the ordinary and celebrate it.

In “How to Hang the Moon,” Huascar Medina, the Kansas Poet Laureate, writes about love, family, and, of course, Kansas. His poems take us from the fields of rural Kansas in “Per Aspera Ad Astra” to the streets of Kansas City in “Surrogate City,” exploring what it means to be a Kansan, even when one isn’t born here. Medina’s true gift, though, is his ability to capture the small moments in life with poems of streetlights, jazz, cicadas, and cats. His occasional incorporation of Spanish only adds to the exquisite rhythm of his writing.

Rita Dove is one of the most well-known American poets of our time, and her reputation is well-deserved. Throughout her 2021 book “Playlist for the Apocalypse”, we get an insider’s view into the perspective of a Black woman on many aspects of history and current events, such as the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which killed four young Black girls. She also draws from her time living in Venice, Italy to create a series of poems about the origins of the word “ghetto” with the Jews that were relocated in 1516 in Venice. Another series explores illness and pain, somehow managing to find grace in the midst of both. Dove is a creative writing professor at the University of Virginia, and her expertise shines through in her ability to switch between formats to find the best fit for each subject.

Our current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, visited K-State in the fall of 2020. Since she lives in nearby Tulsa, she regularly makes appearances in Kansas. As a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, she interprets the Trail of Tears in her 2019 collection “An American Sunrise.” Harjo’s book is a brilliant mixture of historical detail and the lingering effect of history on the lives of the descendants.

Another Poet Laureate (2004-2006) that hails from close to home is Ted Kooser, from Garland, Nebraska. Kooser’s trademark is his ability to capture the smallest moments, like an estate sale or coming across a frog on his porch, and find the beauty and human condition that lives within them. His folksy style and rural topics will be very familiar to Kansans, but he has a gift for noticing details that others pass by.

If you’ve wandered away from poetry and are interested in but tentative about returning to the genre, it might help to return to what you may have experienced in your high school English classes. The poetry of Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and William Wordsworth are still alive and well (and available at your public library). We even have a series called “Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets” with collections from some recognizable poets and selections on love and other popular poetry topics. If you prefer to listen, we have poetry available in both audio CD and digitally, with my favorite being “Voices of Poetry” on Hoopla, featuring poets such as Tolkein, cummings, and Hughes reading their own works.

April is National Poetry Month, and we are celebrating at Manhattan Public Library with our ReadMHK program. Join us by attending our book discussion on April 14th, listening to our ReadMHK podcast, or finding a new poet in our book lists, all available at www.mhklibrary.org.

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History Through the Graphic Novel’s Lens

History Through the Graphic Novel’s Lens

by Rachel Cunningham, Circulation Supervisor

After several years of working at Manhattan Public Library, I have come to terms with the dilemma of too many books and not enough time. Recommendations come from patrons, co-workers, and publications, snowballing into an avalanche of unobtainable “to read” lists. However, in January of this year, I decided to work towards two neglected genres – history/memoirs and graphic novels.

To begin, I checked out the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel, “Maus.” I had no idea that a few days later the McMinn County Schools in Tennessee would vote to remove the graphic novel from its eighth-grade curriculum. This decision sparked immediate controversy, shooting the book to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list. Readers were eager to find a copy of the contested book, and I had the library’s coveted copy in my possession. Within days, I devoured the two volumes where the artist, Art Spiegelman, interviews his father about his experience during World War II, surviving Auschwitz and Dachau with Art’s mother. Spiegelman also depicts the strained relationship between himself and his father, as well as his own struggles with the publicity and success of the first volume: “My Father Bleeds History”. The series provides an intimate view into a life ravaged by war and otherness.

I had gained so much insight through “Maus,” that I decided to continue to explore graphic novel memoirs that spoke to historical events. I came across the series “March” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. The novel opens with a scene from the 1965 march on Edmund Pettus Bridge. The novel then jumps to Lewis in his office in Washington D.C., preparing for the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. Before departing, a mother stops by his office with her boys, and they ask about Lewis’s history. Beginning in Pike County, Alabama, Lewis details his rural upbringing in the segregated South. Spending his free time proselytizing to chickens, Lewis knew he was different from his brothers and sisters. After a summer trip to New York with his uncle, Lewis realizes that life can be different than what he’s learned to accept. As a young adult, Lewis joins Fellowship of Reconciliation (F.O.R.), which focuses on social change through non-violence and passive resistance. Lewis and others took part in the sit-ins at Woolworth lunch counter, where only whites were served. Although the group was arrested for disturbing the peace, the downtown stores served black customers for the first time on May 10, 1960. “March” provides an honest rendering of the difficulty of passive resistance paired with the victories that followed.

Another ugly period of American history is delicately discussed in “They Called Us Enemy.” My American History class quickly glossed over the reality of “internment” camps during World War II. Hoping to gain a better understanding through his experience, I began reading George Takei’s graphic novel memoir. Written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Soctt with art by Harmony Becker, “They Called Us Enemy” begins with the removal of Takei’s family from their home under Executive Order 9066. The novel pairs the disturbing reality the adults faced with the enchantment and imagination of Takei and his younger siblings. “Memory is a wiley keeper of the past…usually dependable, but at times, deceptive. Childhood memories are especially slippery. Sweet and so full of joy, they can often be a misrendering of the truth…I know that I will always be haunted by the larger, vaguely remembered reality of circumstances surrounding my childhood.” Takei details the life of his family and their determination to acclimate to their new existence in Arkansas at Camp Rohwer. Sometimes heartbreaking, other times whimsical, the novel details life inside the camp, their relocation to radicalized Camp Tule Lake in California, and life after the camp’s closure. Takei ends the graphic novel by pointing out the ongoing issues with immigration in America, closing with a quote from former President Barack Obama, “Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.”

Interested in getting started? There are many other graphic novels within the library’s collection to explore historical events like “Kent State” by Derf Backderf and “The Great American Dust Bowl” and “Drowned City” by Don Brown. You can check out other graphic novels on Hoopla Digital with your library card, too!

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

New Children’s Books in Bloom

New Children’s Books in Bloom

by Laura Ransom, Children’s Program Coordinator

I am looking forward to seeing spring flowers pop up around our city. Some beautiful, new children’s books at the library have inspired me to keep on waiting for spring to bloom.

Have You Ever Seen a Flower?” by Shawn Harris was chosen as a 2022 Caldecott Honor Book. This distinguished award honors some of the best illustrated picture books from the previous year. Harris asks the reader if they have seen a flower, but also if they have ever been a flower. The girl in the story grows along with the flowers around her, and the book offers a unique way to think about our relationship to the natural world. I am also drawn to the bright orange and pink hues Harris features in his illustrations.

No Bunnies Here!” by Tammi Sauer is a hilarious story set in Bunnyville, the Land of a Thousand Bunnies. One day a very big wolf comes to town, and a fearful bunny quickly tries to convince him to leave. All of the bunnies somehow transform into unicorns, comfy pillows, lamps, and puppies. The wolf finally gets a chance to explain why he’s searching for bunnies, and it turns out he is in desperate need of a friend! This funny twist makes the story even more fun to read together.

Kids can learn facts about flowers, seeds, and animals in “Outside, You Notice” by Erin Alladin. This picture book shows kids and families walking near a stream in a forest, picking strawberries from their own backyard garden, and discovering colorful produce at the farmer’s market. Facts about nature are included on each page. I learned that broccoli is actually a flower!

If you like the nonfiction series “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…”, you will probably enjoy “How Would You Survive as a Bee?” by David Stewart. Other books in the series feature polar bears, lions, and killer whales. The text challenges the reader to imagine their life as a bee, buzzing from flower to flower, living in a colony, and watching out for predators along the way. Real-life photographs of beekeepers and a “bee quiz” about the book’s content are fun features near the end of the book.

Small but Mighty: Why Earth’s Tiny Creatures Matter” by Kendra Brown highlights small animals that make a big difference in the environment. Leafcutter ants are titled “Fungus Farmers” because they use leaves to make fungus gardens in tropical rain forests. Termites are “Nature’s Engineers” that build giant mounds filled with soil-enriching nutrients. The mounds can reach a height of 17 feet. Brown also talks about cookie cutter sharks, millipedes, krill, and more tiny creatures.

My favorite new picture book is “She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey” by Andrea D’Aquino. Florence explored the outdoor world with her family throughout her childhood in the 1860s. She loved listening to bird songs and learning each of their names. While she was in college, a fashion trend swept through the United States and Europe: wearing hats decorated with exotic bird feathers. This was so disturbing to Florence that she and her classmates decided to do something about it. They encouraged people to boycott bird-decorated hats and fought for the preservation of birds in the wild. Florence went on to become the first woman fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1929 and author ten books. I appreciate her pioneering spirit in a field that wasn’t very welcoming to women. Florence’s concern for the life of birds is very inspiring because I enjoy bird-watching as well!

For more great children’s book recommendations, stop by the library, give us a call at 785-776-4741 ext. 400, or email kidstaff@mhklibrary.org.

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