Mercury Column

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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!

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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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Read MHK Young Adult Books by Female Authors

Read MHK Young Adult Books by Female Authors

by Alissa Rehmert, Library Assistant

A wise woman once sang, “Who run the world? Girls! Who run the world? Girls! Who run the world? Girls!” Beyoncé’s words ring truer and truer as time goes on. Since the time Beyoncé released “Run the World (Girls),” the percentage of female authors went from 46% to 50% in a span of just eight years (Zippia “Author Statistics and Facts in the U.S.”). The more that women share their stories with the world, whether fiction or non-fiction, the more society benefits. Now more than ever before, women authors have the opportunity to give new and fresh perspectives, while also highlighting uniquely feminine struggles and urging readers to make changes.

The representation of women authors is particularly important when it comes to young adult literature. Being a teenage girl can be difficult, but having access to the stories of women who have endured similar hardships may help guide young adults through their own struggles. When I was a teen, I, like many young women, found sanctuary in the written word. Women authors like Suzanne Collins, J.K Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer greatly influenced my teen, and even young adult, life. Since I graduated high school, several more women authors have pushed out thousands of novels with just as much power!

One such author is Mindy McGinnis, an award-winning novelist who writes dark, gritty YA fiction perfect for teens eager for introspection and deep contemplation. Her 2016 novel, “The Female of the Species”, is, simply put, the story of Alex, a teenage girl who must find a way to survive high school after mourning the untimely death of her older sister. Of course, that’s how the story seems on the surface, but, like most things in life, there is more to the story than the veneer. Throughout the story, McGinnis highlights the struggles that come from simply being an adolescent girl facing the challenges that come with the modern world. Whether it be cheating boyfriends, mean girls, drug and alcohol use, or striving for vengeance against the man who murdered your sister: McGinnis addresses it all.

Through Alex’s story, McGinnis invites her audience to consider the bigger societal expectations placed upon adolescents, particularly women, as they make the inevitable move from childhood to adulthood. What does it mean to be a woman? How does the human woman fit within the animal kingdom as a whole? How far might a woman go to protect those she loves? These are just a few of the topics McGinnis ponders through her novel. There are many graphic scenes depicted throughout this fast-paced novel, but McGinnis doesn’t exploit these violent situations for mere shock value, rather utilizing them in an effort to highlight societal issues that often mirror real-life stories. Alex is the type of woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for the people she loves, even if it might entail social alienation. I personally wish I would have read a book like this when I was younger and naiver to the dangers of the world around me!

McGinnis’ genius didn’t stop there, though! Just last year, she released a new YA novel titled “The Initial Insult,” which acts as a sort of homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story, “The Cask of Amontillado.” In it, Tress Montor loses her entire family under mysterious circumstances. Montor’s best friend, Felicity Turnado, holds the key to finding out where Montor’s family is, only she can’t remember anything from that night. This suspenseful mystery is sure to pull you in quickly and keep you guessing what might happen next. What’s even more exciting is that this novel has an upcoming sequel called “The Last Laugh” which releases this month, March 15, 2022.

Whether you kick back and listen to Beyoncé or crack open a new YA novel by an up-and-coming female author, make sure to find time this month to celebrate the hard-working, world-running women around you!

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Women Authors for Women’s History Month

Women Authors for Women’s History Month

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning and Information Services

Women have been sharing their stories for centuries. They have often been disrespected or pushed into the background, but from Sappho to Phyllis Wheatley, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Zora Neale Hurston, Sandra Cisneros, and Amy Tan, women have written down their perspectives of the world. Manhattan Public Library is celebrating women authors for Women’s History Month in March. The female authors of the past have paved the way for the current rich selection of fantastic books by women.

Sleeping Beauty is one of the more troubling of the classic fairy tales when viewed through the lens of modern values, but in “A Spindle Splintered,” author Alix E. Harrow manages to reform it into a story of women’s strength. Due to a rare illness, Zinnia Gray has known her entire life that it is unlikely she will reach the age of 22. Her illness drew her to the story of Sleeping Beauty from a young age, so her best friend Charm creates a themed party based on the tale for Zinnia’s 21st (and likely last) birthday, even set in a tower, with a spindle at the ready. But the magic of the party becomes all too real when Zinnia pricks her finger on the spindle, finds herself spinning through time and space, and encounters other “Sleeping Beauties” living their own stories. “A Spindle Splintered” is an engaging tale full of adventure, reflection, renewed hope, and strong women.

Some women’s stories have been written in thread. In the nonfiction narrative “All That She Carried,” author Tiya Miles shares the story of a sack that was found at a flea market. It was embroidered with the story of an enslaved mother named Rose, packing up this sack with a few necessities for her beloved daughter Ashley, who was soon to be sold to another household. In 1921, it was embroidered by Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth, “It held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her ‘It be filled with my Love always.’” Miles, a Harvard history professor, carefully weaves together the researched history of the item with the representational power that it carries. She tells how strongly the sack affects visitors in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where it now resides. People have been brought to tears by this evidence of the cruelty of American slavery that also clearly demonstrates a mother’s hope for her daughter. Although the book is full of researched details, Miles’ engaging writing style draws one in and brings life to two women who lived over a century ago. “All That She Carried,” like Ashley’s sack, tells a brutal story combined with hope for a better future.

Isabel Allende captured the attention of readers throughout the world in 1982 with her book of magical realism, “The House of the Spirits.” She has since published 26 books, a mix of fiction and nonfiction, making her one of the most read Spanish-language authors in the world. Her books cover many different subjects, but her stories often give us a view of the lives of women and how they affect and are affected by the world around them.  Her book “A Long Petal of the Sea” is about the Dalmaus, a Spanish family living in the midst of civil war. We follow Victor, an Army doctor, and Roser, his brother’s pregnant young widow as they flee over the mountainous French border and finally to Chile. They arrive to a country and a family that neither one of them wanted, but they are survivors and eventually find a new version of home. In “A Long Petal of the Sea,” Allende once again demonstrates her trademark ability to show the small moments of beauty that exist in even the most difficult of circumstances.

Manhattan Public Library’s celebration of female authors is part of our ReadMHK program. Go to www.mhklibrary.org to find lists of recommended books and our podcast, and join us for a book discussion focused on women authors on the evening of Thursday, March 17th.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Moving into Spring Cleaning

Moving into Spring Cleaning
By Stephanie Wallace

With New Year’s still fresh in my mind, the unseasonably warm weather these days, and the fact that I’ll be moving to a new place in May, I’ve been thinking a lot about resetting my current living situation.

If you’re like me, you’ve accumulated a lot of junk over the past two years. So many bright and shiny new things made their way into my apartment to make my space feel less like a sad box. But now it’s a cramped box, and I’m ready to see what Manhattan Public Library has to help me and everyone else who’s ready to get an early start on spring cleaning.

My first stop on my decluttering challenge was to pick back up my Marie Kondo books. The titles most people are familiar with, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” and “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” introduced the KonMari method to the world. I just needed a refresher, however, so I grabbed “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.” It is a graphic novel about Marie Kondo helping one woman clean up her tiny apartment. The story’s cute, it’s a quick read, and its advice is still just as helpful as her main titles.

Energized to accomplish more than simply paring down my belongings, next I went to “The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness” by Ali Wenzke. While I found this book is mostly targeted towards families moving from one house to another, it has a lot of great tips about how to find the right place and location for your needs. I found these tips helpful to consider for future planning, not to mention, the author has a reassuring sense of humor to keep the prospect of moving less daunting.

Since I still needed help now, I turned to “Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess” by Rachel Hoffman. This book is such a palate cleanser. I greatly appreciated Hoffman’s candid insight on the realities of cleaning and maintaining a place to live if you have a full-time job, unhelpful roommates, burnout, mental illness, a disability, or any number of reasons why traditional advice often fails to make a change. Throughout the book is honest encouragement without any sugar coating. The mini challenges in each chapter were quick and made an immediate difference in many areas of my apartment, and I’m definitely going to revisit it often.

When I need more detailed information about how to clean all the odds and ends in my apartment, “Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home: No-Nonsense Advice That Will Inspire You to Clean Like the Dickens” by Thelma Meyer comes in handy. It explains how to keep all parts of my home looking like new.

With better habits in place, I’ve been hunting for decorating inspiration by enjoying flipping through our magazines in the Reading Room and on Flipster, which is available through the library’s Online Resources page. It has newly-added titles such as “Old House Journal” and “Do It Yourself,” both perfect for my eclectic style. I also keep up to date on classics like “Real Simple” and “Better Homes & Gardens.” They have a plethora of helpful tips to make my space the best it can be.

Creativebug, another online resource, will help me a lot soon. Besides having dozens of fun crafting tutorials, it has a series dedicated to furniture restoration. My old chairs will match the rest of my furniture once more and save me the need to replace them entirely.

For the things I can’t simply repair, I check out Consumer Reports through the library’s website. It’s easy to search through the categories for tech and appliances to see which brand of air fryer will best fit my needs, for example. After all the cleaning and reorganizing I’ve done so far, it’s a small way to reward my efforts.

Though I still have a long way to go before I move into my new place, the resources I’ve found at the library have been incredibly helpful. With any luck, they will be just the thing to help you improve your home, too.

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