Mercury Column

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

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.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

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.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

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.”

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

“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.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

ReadMHK Native Authors 

ReadMHK Native Authors

by Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services supervisor

ReadMHK is Manhattan Public Library’s community-wide reading program. November’s theme, books by Native authors, was inspired by American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. What began in the early 1900s as an attempt to get a day of recognition, became a week-long celebration in the mid-1980s, and was expanded to the entire month of November in the 1990s. This is a month to broaden your perspective, celebrate the culture, and acknowledge the contributions of Indigenous and Native peoples. One of the best ways to do this is through reading poetry written by Native authors, and we’ve got plenty to choose from at the library.

One of my more rebellious youthful acts was starting sentences with “and” when I was writing. And I got the courage to do that after reading poetry and learning that writing didn’t need to follow standard conventions. Capital letters could be ignored, sentences could be broken up across multiple lines, and you could use math and patterns to create stories. Poetry allows for the freedom to express yourself as you are without trying to fit into a restrictive box. This makes for a unique and compelling format for Native authors to tell stories about their people, history, and culture.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a fairly simple view of what poetry is, but thankfully, poets have never come to me for advice on how to write or structure their work, so you’ll find a wide variety of poetry, both in content and structure, to suit your tastes. In “New Poets of Native Nations” edited by Heid E. Erdrich, a Turtle Mountain Ojibwe author, you’ll find the selected works of twenty-one poets who were first published within the last twenty years. One of my favorite poems is by Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier, not only because it breaks the fourth wall in an interesting way, but also because I learned about a historical event I was unfamiliar with. In “38,” Long Soldier tells the true story of the Dakota 38, which references the mass-hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men following the Dakota War of 1862 in Minnesota. The war lasted 37 days and was in response to the treatment of the Dakota people in the region, land restrictions, and fear of starvation going into winter.

The Dakota War of 1862 occurred at the same time as the Civil War, an event that tends to pull focus in the study of American history during that period, but it’s imperative that we learn about all aspects of our history during that time, not only the fight to end slavery, but also the continued mistreatment of Indigenous people throughout the country. Long Soldier’s poem about this event is tragic, but one that’s important to read.

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through” is an anthology of Native nations poetry edited by Joy Harjo of the Muscogee Nation, who is the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States. This book features the poetry of more than 160 poets from almost 100 Indigenous nations. Rex Lee Jim of the Diné (Navajo) tribe has a poem called “Saad” featured in this anthology written entirely in Diné Bizaad, the Navajo language, and then translated into the English poem “Voice.” Even though Jim does his own English translations, he has said it makes him uncomfortable because he knows that what he has written can’t really be explained in English. It is dependent on the sounds that are part of the Navajo language, and those do not translate.

Jim is also a proponent of more work being written in Navajo so the language won’t be lost. And he encourages readers to find someone fluent in Navajo to help them with words they don’t know, rather than relying on the English translation. This will not only help them learn, it’s also a way of making connections and building a community, which is one of our goals for ReadMHK.

Along with informal book discussions at the library on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM, we are also producing the ReadMHK Podcast. Each month we get to know our guest, talk about books related to our theme, and offer reading suggestions. Our guest for November is Dr. Debra Bolton, who directs Intercultural Learning and Development and is faculty in geography at Kansas State University. It’s a great episode, and you can find it on the library’s website or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

What is Bluegrass Music

What is Bluegrass Music

by Bryan McBride, Adult Services Librarian

Defining a musical style can be difficult, no matter the type, and bluegrass is no different. What is bluegrass music? How did it get its name? Who started it and when? Are bluegrass songs always in the key of G? Unlike most musical genres, it does have a definitive beginning date and a singular creator. July of 1938, Bill Monroe broke with his older brother Charlie, left the Monroe Brothers group, assembled a group of musicians of his own choosing and called them the Kentucky Blue Grass Boys.

There are three questions answered right there. “Bill Monroe: the Life and Music of the Blue Grass Man” by Tom Ewing is exhaustive in its biography of Monroe, who is known as the Father of Bluegrass. The unanswered question remains: Are most bluegrass songs in the key of G? If anyone alive would know, it’s Ewing, who was a long-time guitarist in Monroe’s group. The key of G became a staple for a couple of reasons. For one, it was a good singing key for Monroe, who along with being the namesake of the genre, gave name to his singing style: the “high, lonesome sound,” named for his high tenor singing above a lower-pitched singer. For another, the most common way to play a banjo is to tune it so when the strings are strummed in an “open” position, it plays a G chord. Banjo and fiddle were the essential instruments in the music of Bill’s youth, and his mandolin didn’t fit very well in the traditions that existed before his talent and vision sparked a new kind of music. He was hard-headed, and determined to chase his vision.

Not only does Ewing’s book cover the life of Bill Monroe, it includes the history of those who played in the Blue Grass Boys, as well as other musical influences going on during the run of the Blue Grass Boys. History is one of the things I love about bluegrass. Maybe it was Monroe’s singing background and love of God from attending church, or living with his uncle from age ten following the death of his parents. One of Monroe’s best-known songs is “Uncle Pen,” a song about Bill’s uncle who was known for his fiddling at barn dances. If you wanted to host a square dance you needed two things: a caller and a fiddler, and Uncle Pen was the man you called on to do the fiddling. Bill grew into Uncle Pen’s sideman for these dances. Region was an important part of a musician’s character as well. Monroe included Kentucky in the name of his group so people would know where his group was from without asking. It is a bit foreign in this day of occupational mobility and the breakdown of family, but in the rural areas of the mid-to-late 1900s, roots were important and it shows in the music.

One of the fascinating aspects of bluegrass is its genealogy, and Ewing covers that in depth. He includes countless, noteworthy musicians who either started their careers with Monroe, or joined up with him mid-career as Monroe became a regular performer at the Grand Old Opry. These include Ralph and Carter Stanley, Del McCoury, Stringbean, Earl Scruggs, and Lester Flatt. Stringbean was Bill’s first banjo picker, and Monroe claims he hired Stringbean for what his entertaining, comedic skills brought to the group. Earl Scruggs played banjo sometime after Stringbean left the group. Scruggs became legendary himself for a whole new way to play the banjo. The “Scruggs Style” uses finger picks to pick the strings rather than the old-time clawhammer style of playing the banjo with mostly downward strokes. Monroe’s lightning-fast playing, Scruggs’ style, and the high, lonesome singing created an energy level in string band music that had never been seen before.

Bill Monroe was the father of bluegrass and his legacy holds an amazing place in history. Ewing writes that in Monroe’s span of more than fifty years of Blue Grass Boys, 149 musicians had played in his band. Ewing’s book shows us a history of people, a history of place, a history of music.  A musical heritage that lives today in young string-band musicians, around campfires at music festivals worldwide. Monroe’s musical influence cannot be overstated and his impact is well-documented in “Bill Monroe: the Life and Music of the Blue Grass Man” by Tom Ewing.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Keep Calm and Read Jane

Keep Calm and Read Jane

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning and Information Services

Several years back (beginning with the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice era), I was obsessed with all things Jane Austen. I read all the books, all the biographies and spinoffs, and watched all the movies. I think I burnt myself out a bit. When I picked up “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner, I was a bit tentative. It only took a couple of chapters, though, before I was completely sucked in. This delightful novel reminds me of the joy I felt when I read the commentaries or discussed the books with a true Austen scholar, as well as the gift that Austen has for helping us to sort out a confusing and overwhelming world.

The Jane Austen Society” takes place in Chawton Village, England, where Jane Austen spent the last few years of her life and wrote most of her novels. The novel begins towards the end of World War II, and the village is reeling from the losses of both world wars. A recent war widow, a farmer who lost two brothers in WWI, a widower doctor, and a young precocious housemaid discover a shared love for Austen’s novels and band together in an attempt to preserve the few remnants of the author’s presence in their little community. They persuade Fanny Knight, a distant relative of Austen’s, to join them, along with a Hollywood star and an expert in estate sales from Sotheby’s auction house. All of them have been touched by Austen’s stories of resilience and hope, and they want to create a place where others can come to honor the gifts she gave to the world.

It is difficult at times to keep in mind that this book is fiction. None of the characters actually existed, and the timing isn’t completely accurate for the development of the society and the establishment of the museum that exists today. However, Jenner has captured the devastation of a society recovering from war and the ambivalent relationship that the British people had with Jane Austen’s legacy.

Although the book isn’t quite historically accurate, it’s interesting that Jenner put the development of the society at the end of World War II. (The society was actually established in 1940.) This connects to the fact that Jane Austen’s writings have long been considered a balm for trauma. Author Claire Harman shares in her book “Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World” that Austen’s novels were recommended as therapeutic material to be read to World War I shell-shocked soldiers. Rudyard Kipling wrote “There’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight spot.” Some see escapism as her primary appeal, and there truly is something very calming about the setting and the guaranteed happy ending, but the romance in Jane’s books has an underlying difficulty that we sometimes forget. There were not many options for women who did not marry. The Bennet girls would have lost their home and income if their father had died. The Dashwood girls actually lost their home and support when their father died, and were fortunate to receive assistance from a relative they barely knew. Fanny Price relied on the kindness of her wealthy aunt and uncle. Anne Elliot is subject to the whims of her family, shipped here and there to help wherever needed, with no power or resources to run her own life. Austen’s books have an underlying theme of the precariousness of life, giving her characters a chance to learn more about themselves and to demonstrate resilience in the face of difficulty.

The Jane Austen Society” appeals on many levels: as a story of hope rising out of despair, an escape to a charming village in a different time, and the chance to vicariously join a group of Janeites.  Manhattan Public Library has the book in print, on CD, and digitally as an audiobook or ebook. Since this novel will also likely inspire you to reread your Austen favorites, they are also available in several formats. I know that I can’t wait to go back to reread them and see what new treasures I find that went unnoticed before.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Thrills and Chills

Thrills and Chills

by Rachel Cunningham, Circulation Supervisor

As the sidewalk’s decorations change from discarded fireworks wrappings and grass clippings to yellowed leaves and cracked walnut husks, I begin to reflect on the year behind me. Yes, there are still about 100 days left in 2021 – some hope for our “to read” list – but we can also begin to evaluate what we’ve accomplished so far.

In 2021, I wanted to intentionally spend time reading about characters with a story that was different from mine. Writer Angeline Boulley is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and published her first book, “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” in early 2021. The debut is a Young Adult thriller, focusing on the Ojibwe community. Deferring her acceptance to the University of Michigan, Daunis Fontaine stays in her hometown to support her mother after her uncle’s fatal meth overdose and her grandmother’s stroke. Daunis believes that bad things always come in three, which comes to fruition when her best friend, Lily, is murdered by her meth-addicted ex-boyfriend. Desperate to find justice for Lily, Daunis begrudgingly aids undercover FBI agents in their investigation into the drug operations on the reservation. However, things begin to spiral out of control as she finds connections too close to home. Through Daunis, Boulley educates readers about the traditions and beliefs of the Ojibwe people. Although this novel focuses too heavily on Daunis’s romantic relationship and reads as a debut novel, I would still recommend it to readers interested in learning about the Ojibwe community, the under investigated crimes against indigenous people, and the contemporary politics within tribes.

Along with many others, I enjoyed Courtney Summers’s award-winning thriller “Sadie” and looked forward to her 2021 novel “The Project.” Using alternating narratives, readers follow the stories of two sisters after the accident that killed their parents. While Lo is struggling to survive her injuries, her sister, Bea, desperately pleads for Lo’s life in the hospital’s chapel. In this vulnerable moment, 19-year-old Bea meets Lev Warren, the leader of The Unity Project. After a “healing” from Lev, Lo’s health miraculously improves. Bea immediately joins Lev and The Project, leaving Lo behind. Six years later, Lo is now nineteen, with a large disfiguring scar. Despite her efforts, Lo has been unable to reach her sister at The Project. However, after witnessing a member from The Project commit suicide at a train station, Lo decides to investigate the group and find her sister. The deeper Lo digs into The Project, the less certain she becomes about everything she thought she knew. Although listed as a thriller about cults, “The Project” is a study in family bonds, grief, and loneliness. Lo’s unrelenting search for her sister drives her to make precarious decisions, but after all, “Having a sister is a promise no one but the two of you can make – and no one but the two of you can break.”

Also new in 2021 is Laura McHugh’s “What’s Done in Darkness.” McHugh has returned to the Ozarks, a familiar setting for those who read her award-winning novel “The Weight of Blood.” Sarabeth is 14 years old when her parents relocate their family to an isolated farm, joining a fundamentalist sect, Holy Rock Church. Despite her parents’ efforts, Sarabeth doesn’t accept their plain way of life and refuses to comply with her parents’ plan to arrange a marriage by her eighteenth birthday. But before an engagement can be made, Sarabeth is abducted from their family’s roadside farm stand, only to be abandoned along the highway a week later. With no distinguishable memories, local law enforcement refuses to investigate Sarabeth’s case. Rejected by her family, an advocacy group assists Sarabeth’s transformation into Sarah – a girl with her GED, a house, and a job at an animal shelter near St. Louis, MO. Sarah is beginning to piece a new life together when she receives a plea from Nick Farrow at the Missouri Highway Patrol, desperate for insight on cases that bear similarities to hers. Warily, Sarah agrees and returns to her family farm for her 16-year-old sister’s wedding. Reconnecting to her past, Sarah begins to uncover unsettling details as she races to solve the missing girls’ disappearance before it’s too late. With her rich descriptions of setting paired with well-paced tension, McHugh leaves readers with a story they’re unable to put down.

All novels feature female protagonists attempting to solve mysteries that haunt them, with a strong emphasis on familial relationships. Don’t worry, there’s still time to add these to your 2021 “to read” list!

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Celebrate Hispanic and Latinx Authors in October with ReadMHK at MPL!

Celebrate Hispanic and Latinx Authors in October with ReadMHK at MPL!

By Jan Johnson, Programming and Outreach Librarian

ReadMHK is a new community-wide nine-month long reading program at Manhattan Public Library. With ReadMHK we wanted to bring the two things together that we love: reading and our community. When we read biographies, memoirs, and novels rather than history books, we can learn about other people and cultures which can lead to empathy and understanding. It’s easier to share empathy with others when you have read a story that opens up their humanity and soul, finding ways to relate to experiences in your own life. To immerse oneself in a book that opens a window into a world you aren’t familiar can leave you engaged, empathetic and educated.

The Soul of a Woman” by Isabel Allende, the accomplished writer from Chile, is a beautiful memoir that takes you on a journey of her loves, passions, aging and what led to her being a fierce supporter of social justice for women around the globe.  As a young girl watching her mother struggle with few choices, her strength and independence was instilled early on. Growing up in the 60’s, her fight for feminism grew as she fought to be taken seriously in a male dominated culture. This book reads like an intimate conversation with the author about her struggles, passions, and honest reflection of her life.

What would Frida do? A guide to living boldly” by Arianna Davis is a simple biography of the enigmatic artist Frida Kahlo’s life. The author weaves stories of Frida and how she overcame the many obstacles in her life with life lessons for us all to learn and grow. Frida’s brave spirit shines brightly throughout this book as we learn how the creative artist overcame heartbreak and physical limitations, to become an icon in the feminist movement as a woman who did not hide in her husband’s shadows, but became her own champion in the face of adversity.

If you’re looking for a thrilling, fantastical, mystery, horror read for the fall, look no further than “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This ticks all the boxes: historical, fantasy, horror, and gothic, with strong women of color as the protagonists, and with race, colonialism, and eugenics thrown in the well-crafted mix. Noemí Taboada is a young socialite in 1950’s Mexico. Restless and not eager to enter into marriage, she is sent by her father on an errand to find her missing cousin. Her travels take an unexpected, sometimes grisly (There is some gore), smartly crafted adventure.

Sabrina and Corina” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a magnetic collection of stories that beautifully celebrates her character’s Latina indigenous heritage. Living in Denver, Colorado these women navigate the land and lives with caution, grace, and quiet force. This is a moving narrative of ceaseless feminine power and an exploration of the experiences of abandonment, heritage, and an eternal sense of home, that we all share.

The co-founder of the Women’s March, Paola Mendoza makes her YA debut with “Sanctuary.” The year is 2032, in a near future America where undocumented 16-year-old Vali from Columbia and her brother avoid deportation in a world where everyone is chipped. Something goes wrong with her mother’s counterfeit chip and brings the Deportation Forces down on their town. Her mother is detained and she and her brother must make their escape to the sanctuary state of California.  Heartbreaking and beautifully written, this YA novel is one not to miss.

The First Rule of Punk” by Celia Pérez is a fantastic middle grade debut.  Malú, María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, (but don’t call her Maria Luisa please) is 12 years old and moving from Gainsville to Chicago with her mother. She is not excited about leaving her father and his record store behind. Malú loves music! She love punk rock music! She is equally less excited about living in Chicago and starting 7th grade at a new school. Malú struggles with being the perfect Mexican-American daughter to her mother while keeping her punk rock-loving roots alive. She doesn’t think she’ll ever fit in until she meets some misfits like herself, and they start their own punk rock band, even though not everyone is happy about that.

Please join us on October 19th at 7pm as Elsa Valarezo de Ireton, ESL Instructor at MATC, discusses some of her favorite Hispanic and Latinx authors and share some of your favorites as well. Register online at and to learn more about ReadMHK.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Give Genre Blending a Go

Give Genre Blending a Go

By Julie Mills, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

Do you ever get stuck in a genre? I do. It seems all I want to read is magical realism. But if I had stuck to only reading that one genre, I would have never tried what has now become my all-time favorite book series, the All Souls series by Deborah Harkness! I was so surprised to see that science fiction/fantasy genre sticker on the spine of “A Discovery of Witches”, but I am glad I did.  It opened my eyes to what my Reader’s Advisory professor taught so well, that we need to read other genres not only to better help our patrons, but also for ourselves. Even after reading about witches, vampires, and daemons who do magic and time travel, I still would not classify this as science fiction.

A popular series that you might not realize is a blend of several different genres is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Set in Scotland, the author combines elements like romance and historical fiction with science fantasy. Following Claire Randall from 1945 to the eighteenth century allows for a lot of history to be woven in, and still gives fans of romance plenty to enjoy. A series such as this one will bring reader’s over from other genres which greatly enhances the field of literature. If you like the Outlander series but have already read them, you might enjoy “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. This time it is the husband who does the time traveling, and readers will be transported back and forth to other decades while Henry and Claire fight to hold onto their relationship as this happens. Many, including the author herself, have found it difficult put this book into one specific genre.  And much like my surprise at the label on “A Discovery of Witches”, Niffenegger states that she was hesitant to call it science fiction. It seems that if the author prefers to keep the labels at bay, then we should learn to choose our next read with the same open mind.

And even if those styles aren’t your favorites, there is a another, newer trend in genre blending that combines true crime with memoirs. Think about books like Michelle McNamara’s “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” where the aspect of the author’s real-life experience joined to the story adds a deeper dimension to what could be a lesser, sensational read that exploits the crime. “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” follows the case of the Golden State Killer that the author researched relentlessly right up to her untimely death. The details of the authors obsessive experiences are as interesting, if not more so, than the actual subject.

These examples have barely scratched the surface of what you may discover if you are willing to look outside the normal lines of your ideal story line. Another book that comes to mind is “Double Wide” by Leo Banks.  Technically classified as a western, I would have never picked this up had it not been for an assignment, and I would have missed out on a book I thoroughly enjoyed.  Ok so it also is in the mystery/crime/noir genres that I love, but I would have never touched a book with a western genre sticker on it before now. The main protagonist is washed-up baseball player Whip Stark who is thrown into solving a murder. Helping him is his band of misfits that live with him in the mobile home park he created in the Arizona desert.

These examples have barely scratched the surface of what you may discover if you are willing to look outside the normal lines of your ideal story line. Mixing it up with genre blends could be what the future of literature looks like.  A changing landscape that does not keep everything neat and tidy will help literature grow and also feed readers with big appetites for a steady supply of great reads.

Let us help you get unstuck from reading your same old genre with some recommendations in person at the Reference desk or by requesting an online personalized reading list from our website. You may be surprised at what new genres you like.

Email us at or call 785-776-4741 ext. 300 for other recommendations!


Library Update

For details about current library services click the "Coronavirus [COVID-19] Information page" button for more information.

Coronavirus [COVID-19] Information page