Tag Archives: GLBTQ

Stacking ‘Em Up: Our Favorite Reads From 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a library blog in possession of a good staff must be in want of a best books post. Library workers are frequently their own best customers, passing titles back and forth with reckless abandon, buttonholing colleagues in stairwells to insist they check out the book that kept us up late swooning (or shivering). Nothing brings us more joy, however, than turning those efforts outward and sharing our favorites with you.

The Eleventh Stack team consumed a mountain of reading this year (probably taller than Richard, and he’s pretty tall). Here are some of the ones we enjoyed most.

Maria:

turncoatThe Turncoat by Donna Thorland

Though labeled historical fiction, this book has a passionate and sizzling romance at its heart, so I would call it historical romance as well. The first book in the Renegades of the Revolution series, I loved this dangerous romance set amid the intrigues of Revolutionary War Philadelphia. Quaker country-girl-turned-rebel-spy Kate Grey falls for British officer Peter Tremayne despite their opposing allegiances. I especially enjoyed its life meets fiction aspect as George Washington, John Andre, General Howe, and Peggy Shippen all make appearances here. I look forward to reading more in the series from this debut author. Thorland, who is also a filmmaker, made a fascinating book trailer; I think it would make a great movie.

detroit

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

My poor hometown. Native metro-Detroiter and award-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff writes a raw and thoroughly readable portrait of the Motor City’s state of emergency, from its abandoned neighborhoods, horrible city services, double-digit unemployment rates, and rampant crime to the die-hard residents who refuse to give up. A moving and frightening account of the decline of a great American city.

Melissa F.

I spent most of 2013 hanging out with some questionable, unreliable, but incredibly memorable characters from the Gilded Age.  You don’t get much more eyebrow-raising than Odalie from The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell’s debut that has been described as “part Hitchcock, part Patricia Highsmith, and part Gatsby.” It’s a phenomenal, can’t-put-down read that I’ve been recommending all year long.  Also of note is The Virgin Cure , Ami McKay’s historical fiction story of a twelve year old orphan in 1870s New York that is based on the true story of one of her relatives.  

The OrchardistAnd then there was benevolent Talmadge from The Orchardist. I adored Amanda Coplin’s luminous debut novel with its grand, overlapping themes of morality and religion, of being one with the earth and the eternal struggle of good versus evil. It’s been compared to The Grapes of Wrath (this one is way better). Like Steinbeck, Amanda Coplin joins the list of authors who have given us a true American classic.

(Other highly recommended books in case the Gilded Age isn’t your thing: Tenth of December and In Persuasion Nation, both by George Saunders; Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan; Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, The Bird Saviors, by William J. Cobb, When It Happens to You, by Molly Ringwald (yes, THAT Molly Ringwald!), Still Life with Oysters and Lemon and Dog Years by Mark Doty (listen to the audio version); Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon, and Songdogs, by Colum McCann.)

What can I say? In the words of Sinatra, it was a very good year.

JessBurial Rites, Hannah Kent

If you’ve had good experiences with Alice Hoffman and Geraldine Brooks (Kent even gives a shout out to Brooks as a mentor in her acknowledgements), then this is for you.

In rural Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir has been tried and accused of murder – and now must await execution in her home district. No prison means she’s forced upon a family who obviously wants nothing to do with her. Over the next months, Agnes is put to work on the farm. She slowly begins to open up about her messy past to a young priest, chosen for a long ago kindness, and to the wife of the household, who begins to see a Agnes as woman who has been worn down by a harsh life. Based on true story of one of the last two executions in Iceland, Kent deftly blends some amazing research with strong prose to weave a story about woman who was truly a victim of her circumstances.

Suzy- Traveling Sprinkler, Nicholson Baker. Suzy really enjoyed this book a lot, but is not here to tell us about it because she is off riding her bike someplace not currently buried under several feet of snow. We are extremely jealous of very happy for Suzy, and hope she comes home soon to tell us more about the book.

Leigh Anne

Much to my surprise, the two books I’ve enjoyed most this year were both set during World War II. I’ve never been much of a war buff, but that’s a testament to how the power of good fiction can make you more interested in history. In this case, the novels were Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity.

Life After Life –the tale of an Englishwoman who keeps reincarnating as herself and trying to kill lifeafterlifeHitler–has cropped up on a number of best/notable lists this year, including the New York Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and I’ve already reviewed it earlier this year, so let me just say this: what an ending. When I read the last few sentences, and the light bulb over my head finally went on, I was amazed at how cleverly Atkinson had made her point: no matter how hard we strive as individuals, we can never act out of context. We always need other people to help us achieve our objectives, even if we are strong and clever.

verityCode Name Verity takes us behind enemy lines as Verity the spy and Maddie the pilot tell their stories in alternating sections. The crux of this novel–which I also reviewed earlier this year–is truth: who’s telling it, who’s hiding it, and how flexible it can be depending on how high the stakes are. For Maddie and Verity, the stakes are very high, indeed, and I loved that the book, while intended for a teen audience, didn’t shy away from the horrors of war…or deliver a tidy happy ending. If you want a great portrait of what it must have been like to be a teenager during WWII, pick up this novel….but be prepared to have All Of The Feelings. If you adore Wein as much as I do after you’re done, you’ll want to move on to her 2013 release, Rose Under Fire, in which pilot Rose Justice is captured and sent to the concentration camp Ravensbruck.

It was really hard to pick my favorites from what turned out to be an amazing run of excellent reading this year. Some other books I devoured include Letters From Skye (historical romance), Longbourn (historical fiction), and The Son (epic southwestern family saga). And now I must stop, before I blog your ear off…

bookcover Joelle 

I do love fantasy books! My favorites for this year were The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Both of these books have already achieved positive critical acclaim, but I will add mine:

The Golem is created by a mysterious and mischievous Rabbi as a bride for a young man who is set to travel to New York from Poland. The Jinni had been trapped for centuries in a lamp which also made its way to New York City. They both try to fit in to society with their separate supernatural talents, but recognize each other as different right away. It is interesting to see these magical beings from two different cultures coming together. The author creates characters with unusual and distinctive personalities.

ocean Neil Gaiman is the master of creating fantasy worlds that do not follow any specific cultural tradition, yet are somehow universal. A man journeys back to his old home town, and is drawn to a place only half remembered. The reader is transported to the mind of a seven year old, a time in a person’s life when one is very vulnerable, and when one can accept magic as a matter of fact.
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http://vufindplus2.einetwork.net/bookcover.php?id=.b29858586&isn=9780820329673&size=large&upc=&oclc=551718356&category=&format=

Holly
Nestled behind the International Poetry Room on CLP-Main’s second floor, you’ll find one of my favorite places in the Library.  The Oversize Book Room is home to volume upon volume of giant, gorgeous books. These are books that are graphic-heavy, photo-heavy, and often really heavy in weight, and therefore they do not fit on our regular book shelves/make great impromptu weapons.  Fashion, art, landscape photography, crafts and home repair are some of the subjects that you can find here.   One day while helping a patron find another book in this section, I stumbled upon the splendid  Jack London, Photographer. This is my favorite book of 2013 because it exemplifies what I love most about the Library and the serendipity that lives here.  I had no idea that Jack London was a photographer, and a talented one at that!  This gem contains somewhat disparate, at least in terms of location, photo collections.  They are a fascinating  look at early 20th century history through the eyes of a classic author.  Chapters have titles like ” The People of the Abyss,”  which is a stark look at impoverished Londoners in 1902. Battlefields are a subject as well, such as  those of  the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and the Mexican Revolution of 1914.  I loved this book because it was a rejuvenating break from my usual reading of text-heavy new fiction and new nonfiction.

Don

For me this was an unusual year, and my reading reflected all the strangeness. I found myself reading old (Kim by Rudyard Kipling), new (A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki), rereads (The Final Solution by Michael Chabon and The Fall by Albert Camus), pastiche (The Mandela of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu), Buddhist fiction (Buddha Da by Anne Donovan), science fiction (Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian MacDonald), and the truly, wonderfully bizarre (Duplex by Kathryn Davis).

Part of the unusual nature of all this is the fact that, thematically, there is a great deal these books have in common. There are all kinds of connections between them, come to think of it. And really, there is not a book listed above that you can go wrong with, but, since we are picking favorites, here we go…

My favorite book of the year turns out to be a tie between the first two listed: A Tale for the Time Being, and that hoary old chestnut, Kim. Both of these books surprised, in different ways. I was frankly stunned by how good Kim (and Rudyard Kipling) is. I’d always thought of Kipling as just another dead old white guy, with a penchant for British colonialism and simplistic stories, who might easily be ignored for, oh, 50-plus years or so. And was, by me.

It really is delightful to wake up every day and realize how very, very wrong you can be.

timebeing

Ozeki’s book is difficult to describe, so I’ll let the author speak for herself (from her website):

A Tale for the Time Being is a powerful story about the ways in which reading and writing connect two people who will never meet. Spanning the planet from Tokyo’s Electric Town to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and connected by the great Pacific gyres, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a diary, washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

Kim is part quest–for self and for meaning–, part old-fashioned adventure via the time-honored motif of the journey, and, consistently, a fine, penetrating story on what it means to be human.

Yes indeed, how very good it is to wake up each and every day.

Melissa M.

5In5Of course my favorite book this year was a cookbook, specifically Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. I’ve watched this man on television so many times now that as I was reading the recipes I could hear them, inside my head, being read to me in his voice. Now, Michael does cheat the five ingredients rule a little because he uses items from his pantry that are not part of that total number. The first section of the book, after the introduction, is a list of what items should be in your pantry at all times. These include things like extra virgin olive oil, a variety of vinegars, pasta, canned beans, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and other spices. You probably already have most of those in your kitchen cupboards, so no worries there. The recipes are not complicated; most have only 3-4 steps. This is food you could cook on a weeknight and would want to eat. Plus, who wouldn’t love a cookbook with a chapter called “On a Stick”? Foods on a stick rule!

There you have it! Your turn. What were your favorite reads of 2013, whether new finds or old favorites?

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We’re Here. We’re Queer. Get Used to it!

pride week_facebookJune is LGBTQ Pride Month and June 9-16 is Pride Week at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Here at the library we pride ourselves on providing access to information and entertainment for everyone. While all of our locations have materials for those wanting to read about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues, two of our library locations, the Main Library in Oakland and the Allegheny location on the North Side, have separate GLBT genre collections. These collections contain both fiction and nonfiction books and cover all areas of LGBTQ interest. There are mysteries, historical fiction, love stories, family dramas, and erotica. Nonfiction topics include travel, wedding planning, religion, medical, history (or herstory) and biographies.
GayPrideMonth
For LGBTQ Pride month, I created a display for the First Floor, New & Featured. I presented a selection of biographies, memoirs, and tell-alls. Here are some selections from that display…

A Year Straight: Confessions of a Boy-Crazy, Lesbian Beauty Queen by Elena Azzoni

Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam

Coal to Diamonds by Beth Ditto

Family Outing: What Happened When I Found Out My Mother Was Gay by Troy Johnson

Finding the Real Me: True Tales of Sex and Gender Diversity – Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox, editors

The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar

Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders by Keith Stern

Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies by Mikey Walsh

Welcome to My World by Johnny Weir

And my absolute favorite title on this display…
Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever by Joel Derfner

Happy LGBTQ Pride Week and Month!
-Melissa M.

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It Gets Better

Today is National Coming Out Day.  In honor of that fact, I want to dedicate this post to Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, and the countless other young people who have taken their own lives, because they saw no other escape from a lifetime of discrimination, harassment, and even violence.

Of course, the victims of bullying aren’t exclusively people who are not heterosexual, who are questioning their sexuality, or who are perceived as gay.  Sladjana Vidovic was apparently bullied because she was foreign.  Phoebe Prince “was reportedly harassed by older girls who resented her dating an older football player.” Because someone circulated embarrassing photos of Hope Witsell, she was even taunted after her death.

If you or anyone you know are facing a similar situation, this post is also dedicated to you.  Please know that you’re not alone, and there are people that very much want to help you get through it.

Below are just a few of the resources available to you, at the library and beyond.  The discussion also continues over at CLPTeensburgh, where Joseph Wilk has written an amazing post that captures this issue far better than I can.  And as always, readers are invited to contribute their suggestions and experiences in the comments.

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Websites / Helplines

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
1-800-273-TALK  (1-800-273-8255)

“Are you feeling desperate, alone or hopeless? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you.”

Allegheny County’s re:solve crisis network
http://www.upmc.com/services/resolvecrisisnetwork/
1-888-7-YOU-CAN (1-888-796-8226)

“A crisis can be anything from feeling lonely and needing to talk – to feeling overwhelmed with life. Our lives are full of stressors both large and small, but no matter the complexity, it helps to talk with someone.”

The Trevor Project
 http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
1-866-488-7386

“The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.”

The It Gets Better Project
 http://www.itgetsbetterproject.com/

“ItGetsBetterProject.com is a place where young people who are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans can see with their own eyes how love and happiness can be a reality in their future.”

The Make It Better Project

“You have the power to change your school, community, and to influence school policies for the whole country right NOW!”

The Human Rights Campaign
www.hrc.org

“The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.”

PFLAG (Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians & Gays)
www.pflag.org

This organization offers local support groups, as well as working to create change at the national level.

Southern Poverty Law Center
http://www.splcenter.org/

“The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.”

Fiction

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Nonfiction

When Life Stinks: How To Deal With Your Bad Moods, Blues, and Depression by Michel Piquemal

What You Must Think of Me: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager’s Experience With Social Anxiety Disorder by Emily Ford

What To Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed: A Practical, Compassionate, and Helpful Guide by Mitch and Susan Golant

Healing Anger by the Dalai Lama

Please Stop Laughing at Us: One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying (Featuring solutions for parents, teachers, students, and adult survivors) by Jodee Blanco

The Bully, The Bullied, and The Bystander: From Preschool to High School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence by Barbara Coloroso

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel.

Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating And Confronting Homophobia, edited by Frances Rooney

Everyday Activism: A Handbook for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual People and Their Allies (edited by Michael R. Stevenson & Jeanine C. Cogan)

-Denise

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Reading Is So Gay @ CLP!

Finalists for the 22nd annual Lambda Literary Awards are poised to be announced soon, which got me thinking about all the LGBTQ fiction available from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, a literary history spanning from Radclyffe Hall’s formative novel The Well of Loneliness to Alicia E. Goranson’s spirited genderqueer romp Supervillainz.

Our LGBTQ literature may be out of the closet, but that doesn’t mean it’s flying off the shelf. If your reading interests are off the path of the straight and narrow, here’s how you can get your hands on some fun, fancy, and altogether fabulous LGBTQ fiction:

The New & Featured GLBT Collection

Our Main Library boasts an outstanding collection of some of the best and brightest of LGBTQ publishing in the last few years, located on the First Floor. Every year, we reintegrate books older than a few years back into the general fiction, so if you’re browsing the stacks and see a little tan & white sticker–that’s your cue that the book was once featured in our New & Featured GLBT Collection.

Booklists on Carnegielibrary.org

Every so often, we piece together a few books from our GLBT Collection featuring different themes or just the books we’ve read and loved. You can see them all here and, while you’re at it, browse the rest of the outstanding lists that CLP librarians have put together for you.

Search the Catalog

Subject headings aren’t just for research, they work for fiction, too–especially when it comes to LGBTQ content. Our catalogers mark down the different sexualities and gender identities represented within each item’s record, allowing you to find books even when it’s not obvious. Try clicking a few of the links below:

No system for cataloging human sexuality and gender is ever going to be perfect (I mean, we’ve all read Michel Foucault and Kate Bornstein, right?), but hopefully through our New & Featured GLBT Collection, booklists, and behind the scenes work in the catalog, you’ll be here, queer, and reading in no time!

-Joseph

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Non-fiction fix: Loads of lovely love

Today is my parents’ 38th wedding anniversary – how cool is that?  Staying with the same person for more than three decades is no mean feat, especially since the complexities of loving and being loved are among the thorniest mysteries of being alive.

Whether you’re happily married, single and satisfied, desperately seeking somebody, or all up in your companion animals, the library’s got loads of lovely love for you. Here’s sample of the helpful advice, warm fuzzies and snarky laughter waiting for you in our collection:

A Practical Handbook for the Boyfriend, Felicity Huffman and Patricia Wolff. With their tongues wedged so firmly in their cheeks they look like squirrels hoarding nuts for winter, Huffman and Wolff offer suggestions for men who want to be good boyfriends. It’s a bit like training for The A Team, apparently. Who knew? If their advice works out for you, you can move on to The Mr. and Mrs. Happy Handbook and Why Did I Marry You Anyway?.

Career Renegade, Jonathan Fields. Life is short, and you spend most of it at work. Shouldn’t you be doing something you love? See also Living Your Heart’s Desire and A Life at Work for some thoughts about crafting a career with soul and spirit.

One Big Happy Family, Rebecca Walker. It’s a complicated world, and there are as many ways to relate to a person as there are individuals to love. Walker’s collection showcases the triumphs and challenges of non-traditional family structures by giving a voice to the people who embody them.  See also Opening Up, Together Forever and Best Date Ever.

The Powerful Bond Between People and Pets, P. Elizabeth Anderson. Ever wonder why people lavish so much money and time on critters that can’t talk back (in human language)? Anderson, a clinical psychologist, examines the compelling pull of a fuzzy face on the human heart, and shows how that bond plays out in various social contexts.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery, Jack Canfield. You may be down, but you don’t have to be out. This particular serving of Canfield’s signature soup is designed to give you the gumption to heal up, then get up and get back in the game. Those who prefer a more tough-love approach to healing might enjoy the “cover your bases” approach of The Sweet Potato Queens’ Wedding Planner and Divorce Guide.  Before you know it, you’ll be ready to take another shot at marriage (or, possibly, not).

With all due respect to my mom and dad, the thought of spending more than thirty years with the same person kind of gives me the wiggins. I’m open to the possibility that I could change my mind, especially for the right person. But for now, life seems pretty good.  I’ve got two adorable cats, one interesting gentleman caller (who, incidentally, doesn’t need the Huffman book), and a career I adore.  On top of that, the career part involves working in a 114-year-old building packed to the brim with fabulous co-workers (plus more books and materials than they’ll let me check out at any one time), and helping all of you find interesting and educational books to read.  Who could ask for anything more?

Your turn, constant reader:  who, or what, do you love?

–Leigh Anne

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