Meet Everyone Brave is Forgiven and Little Bee Author Chris Cleave This Friday

everyonebraveChris Cleave, whose Little Bee and Incendiary have become favorites of many library customers (and a whole bunch of library staff) will be stopping by the Main Library’s Lecture Hall for a talk and signing at 7 pm on Friday, May 13.

When we first began talking with our wonderful partners at Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures over a year ago to see how we could build on our successful collaborative efforts to bring children’s and teen authors and local authors to the library, we saw an opportunity to get bring in top authors who are touring in support of a new book.

And boy, were we right about that! Cleave will be visiting just 10 days after the release of Everyone Brave is Forgiven, in which he weaves a beautiful and heartbreaking portrait of World War II London, a story that was inspired by the experiences of his grandparents.

The basic plot follows Mary North, her friend Hilda, and two young men they meet. Mary signs up at the War Office when World War II breaks out, and is assigned a position at a teacher in an elementary school. While there, she meets Tom Shaw, who runs the school district, and his roommate Alistair, who enlists in the war. The novel details the various struggles and intrigues of these characters, explores their feelings for each other, and traces their lives as they grow and mature.

The book is a hit and has gotten rave review from People, Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly and just about every other publication that reviews literary fiction. Here’s a snippet from Kirkus:

Among all the recent fictions about the war, Cleave’s miniseries of a novel is a surprising standout, with irresistibly engaging characters who sharply illuminate issues of class, race, and wartime morality.

But all of you Cleave fans out there already know all of that. What you need to know is that you can meet Chris at the Lecture Hall on Friday at 7 pm.

Tickets are $10, and you can get them by clicking here or by calling Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures at 412-622-8866.

-Dan, who will probably be at the Lecture Hall door to smile and greet you at the door on the 13th

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I Absolutely Didn’t Hate The Haters

After my soapbox-declaring love for Jesse Andrews’ debut novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, let’s just say I was eagerly awaiting his followup, The Haters.

Best friends Wes and Corey love hating on everything, even the stuff they love. When we find them at the novel’s beginning at a super-competitive jazz camp filled with really intense campers they start hating on it immediately. But, as the great philosopher Swift once said, “haters gonna hate” and Wes and Corey find a likeminded hater in Ash, seemingly the only girl at camp. After bonding over their mutual hateship, the trio ditch camp, form their own band and go on tour, which turns out exactly like you’d expect a tour planned by pre-college teenagers to turn out.

bookcoverMe and Earl and the Dying Girl was a fairly mature young adult novel, what with (spoiler alert) one of the title characters (spoiler alert) dying from (spoiler alert) cancer, but with The Haters Andrews has doubled-down on the young adult experience, including all the ridiculosity and awkwardness that comes with it. Not to give too much away, it’s a much less sad book, but no less realistic. From Corey defying his parents for the first time to Wes’ first time having sex—in a scene that so closely resembles my own first time that I’m half-convinced Andrews was hiding in my closet—The Haters will undoubtedly have something in it to which you can relate, and it rewarded my eager anticipation in spades.

Similar to Wes and Corey, I was in jazz and concert band in high school, but I didn’t hate on it. As my classmates listened to the whispers of the Ying Yang Twins, Kelly Clarkson‘s complain about her career in optometry and the Black Eyed Peas sing about camels, I was plugged into my portable CD player (remember those?) listening for countermelodies, harmonies and other musical flourishes on the first CD I ever bought—the Jurassic Park soundtrack. Yes, I was that band geek.

Maybe it’s cliché to describe writing like this as “real,” but I can think of no better term. Andrews imbues his characters with a penchant for self-deprecation and I absolutely love that, mostly because I’m the mayor of self-deprecating humor. If you ever see me on the street, ask me to tell you about my one pickup line that involves me carrying a microscope around a bar. My friends get a kick out of it. Anyway, when Andrews uses this humor it adds a natural level of realism to his writing and it makes the characters feel like friends I haven’t met yet. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the world of The Haters and couldn’t stop myself from reading, even though I dreaded what I’d do with my life when I finished. I considered being an alpaca farmer a few times.


“When I leave, alpaca this book.”

While Andrews obviously excels at capturing teen angst and awkwardness, I’d love to see him branch out to more adult novels. I’m not asking for Fifty Shades of Grey written by Jesse Andrews (but now that I’ve typed those words I want nothing more), but I’m eager to see him tackle a different genre. For example, Matthew Quick maintains his style in both adult and young adult books, and although I’ve never read anything by James Patterson, I’m pretty sure he’s written books for every reading audience. He even wrote a book for zoo animals.

Wes, Corey and Ash might not be the most likeable characters in the beginning, but that could be the point. Do you remember what you were like as a teenager? Besides a lot more acne, you probably weren’t the pleasant bouquet of posies you are today. You most likely changed, as does our trio. Likewise, your opinion of them may change. No matter what flaws readers may perceive in The Haters, I’ll definitely be in line for whatever Andrews writes next. He wrote the screenplay for the movie version of Me and Earl and the Dying Girlwhich I also loved—so maybe an film adaption of The Haters is right around the corner …



Part Scott Pilgrim with shades of a Monty Python sketch plus a lot of heart,  you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason to hate on The Haters.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We all have flaws

I just recently finished a book called Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. According to the book jacket, Ahern is the author of P.S. I Love You & Love, Rosie, and they were both made into films. This is Ahern’s first young adult novel. The book’s cover is what garnered my attention. It’s very simple, but the big F and a circle around it is hard to miss.

bookcoverThe novel’s protagonist is Celestine North, and she’s the quintessential perfect teenage girl. She gets good grades, has good looks, is polite and never gets in trouble. She also has the perfect relationship with her boyfriend, Art. Celestine lives in a society where everyone is supposed to be perfect. If you do something morally or ethically wrong, then you are deemed Flawed. They have to go to trial, which is run by an organization called the Guild, lead by Art’s father, Judge Crevan. After you’re deemed Flawed, you get branded. There are 5 places on your body where you can be branded:  your temple, the palm of your hand, your foot, your chest and your tongue.

Things are going great in Celestine’s life until their neighbor and Celestine’s piano teacher, Angelina Tinder, is accused of being Flawed and taken into custody. Angelina is later deemed Flawed. Celestine starts to question the system because she’s known Angelina practically her whole life and never saw a Flawed quality in her.

One day Celestine, Art and Celestine’s sister, Juniper, are on the bus on their way home from school. To give some background, on the bus there’s a special section of seats on the front of the bus for the Flawed and all of the other seats are for everyone else. This bus ride will change Celestine’s life forever. Anyway, two ladies who aren’t Flawed are sitting in the Flawed seats having a conversation, one of whom has a broken leg. A Flawed elderly man gets on the bus and he can’t sit down because of the ladies sitting in the Flawed seats. Suddenly, the man starts to have a coughing fit. Celestine sees what’s going on and has to decide whether she is going to help the man or not because if she helps him that’s considered aiding a Flawed and that’s against the law.

So, Celestine decides to ask the ladies to move so the old man can sit down. They refuse and act like the old man doesn’t even exist. Celestine helps the man into a seat and then is taken into custody. Judge Crevan wants Celestine to lie and say that she didn’t help the old man. If she does this, she would only serve two years in prison. Otherwise she will be deemed Flawed.

Initially, she does lie, but in the end she tells the truth, much to the anger of Judge Crevan. He makes her get 5 brands, the most ever. Crevan is so angry that he ends up secretly putting a 6th brand on Celestine’s spine. If anyone finds out that he did this, Crevan would be ruined. He’s so desperate to maintain his power that he’s prepared to do anything to keep it a secret.

The experience drastically changes Celestine. Now on the other side of society, people look at her differently. Juniper is afraid that Celestine is angry with her because she doesn’t speak up for her. Celestine’s relationship with Art is pretty much over because Judge Crevan doesn’t want her anywhere near his son. She is ostracized at school because she’s the only Flawed student, and some teachers even refuse to teach her.

Here’s an interview with Cecila Ahern talking about what her inspiration was to write Flawed.

There were some quotes in the novel that struck me. One was when Celestine said:

-have found that it is their right to express their opinion of me freely, as though it can’t hurt or alter me. It’s the branding that does that. And I know it. It dehumanizes me in a way to others. I’m to be stared at and talked about as if I’m not here.

To feel invisible or inhuman and to have people treat you with no respect just because you made one mistake has got to hurt. Personally, I wouldn’t consider what Celestine did a mistake. She was trying to help an elderly man who was in need.

Another quote that struck me was:

Good. You remember that. It’s easy to forget sometimes. Though criminals get better treatment than us. As soon as they serve their time, they’re out. We’re like this forever.

This quote was interesting because in our society criminals are reminded of what they did every day and find it hard to go back to their lives before they went to prison. Meanwhile, in this novel criminals are treated better than the Flawed, and that’s crazy to think about.

The last interesting quote was:

Everything has been given a soul in advertising. Yet the soul is being taken from people. Humanizing objects, dehumanizing people.

Sadly, I’m sure that we can think of plenty of characters from commercials that are given human qualities. Meanwhile, there are actual humans who aren’t treated with any respect because of who they love, what they believe in, the color of their skin, etc.

This book was very interesting to me, and along Celestine’s journey she goes through a lot and finds it hard to trust anybody except for her parents. The ending leaves it open for a sequel which commonly happens with young adult novels these days. Flawed  is available in our catalog. Does Celestine’s world sound similar to ours? What do you think of the flawed society? Let us know in the comments below!



1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Stretch Goals: Nobody’s Jackknife

Poetry is a lot like yoga: it asks you to stretch out of your comfort zone, and the level of difficulty varies from situation to situation. Nobody’s Jackknife, the first full-length collection from Pittsburgh’s own Ellen McGrath Smith, functions as a master class for advanced readers and a challenge to motivated beginners. Like the best classes, it is by turns gentle and fierce, and by the time you get to the end of it, you should be glowing and panting a little bit; if not, you might be reading it wrong … or, at least, not wholeheartedly.

The yoga metaphor fits because Smith used it first: an entire section of Nobody’s Jacknife is made up of poems that bear the name of specific poses. These pieces explore the nature of the pose and its relationship to the world in which one poses, as explained in “Downward Facing Dog (adho mukha svanasana)”:

Each posture some kind of creature. Each minute
some kind of creature. Each creature is some sort
of time but not waiting (67).

In this particular poem the nature and performance of downward dog are juxtaposed with the damage done by Hurricane Katrina; like a good teacher, Smith urges the reader to explore the relationship:

…Or is the dog the stretch itself
and not the body that could bark and growl if only

it could see a city under water,
under a lid that the leaders don’t lift
until it’s too late. In the beginning,
keep the eyes open. Then you will know
what you are doing and where you go wrong–(ibid).

As readers move through the sequence of poem-poses they’re asked to consider their internal and external worlds, how they’re held in tension, how to reconcile them through awareness and effort. It’s fine if you’re wobbly because you don’t have to get it right the first time; in fact, it’s better if you don’t: as you read and reread each poem, new levels of connection and meaning rise to the surface, just as continued yoga practice will, inevitably, change you.

Though they work well on their own, the yoga poems take on greater depth and resonance when read in context. Each of the three previous sections of Nobody’s Jackknife is an invitation to experience life as Smith does: full-throttle, no apologies, level-headed and clear-sighted. Her emotional range is wide and honest, as if she not only would not, but could not lie to the reader.

“The Locust: A Foundational Narrative,” for example, which stands alone as part one, will knock the breath right out of your chest. It’s pretty clear just why the poem won a 2012 Orlando Award from A Room of One’s Own Foundation, but you’ll need to read it six more times to fully absorb its impact (and really appreciate the rest of the volume). Part two  revolves around drinking, with most of the poems named after beverages (“Absinthe,” “Port,” “Rolling Rock Beer,” etc.). In this sequence, booze consumes you, but the final poem in the series, “First Communion,” with its shift towards sacramental consumption ends the section on a hopeful note:

Every tongue awaits the body.

Every body is a word.

Every word a possibility (37).

Section three has a gentler, more introspective tone and a somewhat experimental style; the imagery glides by like waves, lapping over the reader and lulling her into reflection. When linear narrative returns near the end of the sequence, it’s no surprise that it manifests in a few yoga poems, preludes to the deeper exploration in section four: I was nothing
     but a body--good or bad--
          and it was something
               they could draw--
          it had mass; it was not

("Camel Pose (Ustasana) 48).

I never feel like I’m doing the poets I review quite enough justice, but this time I’m telling you straight up: I am not doing this volume justice. Perhaps it’s not fair to you to review a work that cannot be neatly encapsulated in a few sound bites or fully appreciated on one reading. Then again, if you’ve made it this far into the essay without running away screaming, a stretch reading goal might be just what you’re after.

If I’ve guessed correctly, you can reserve your own library copy of Nobody’s Jackknife here. Are you in the mood to challenge yourself these days? Or do your summer reading plans err on the side of calm and chill? Leave us a comment and let us know where your comfort zone is.

–Leigh Anne


Filed under Uncategorized

That one book…

I was struggling to come up with a topic for this blog post, so I started perusing previous posts to try and spark my creative writing. Many of our posts are about items we recommend, because they have stuck with us, had an impact and/or meant something to us (and that’s great!). It made me wonder if anyone else had experienced a book or movie, that afterwards you couldn’t remember what you had just seen or read?

There have been a couple of books that I have had that experience with, and I don’t think it’s because they are poorly written. They just don’t have the same impact that so many other books have had. I mean, I have 773 books on my Goodreads list — I joined it in 2012, so that’s about 200 books a year on average — and sometimes when I scroll through, I see a title and can’t remember what happened or how the book ended. Like at all. I see the title, and I think “Did I really read that? What the heck is that book?”

Here are the top three books that I’ve read … apparently … but cannot remember:

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
mystic city

In a Manhattan where the streets are under water and outcasts called mystics have paranormal powers, Aria Rose is engaged to Thomas Foster and the powerful Rose and Foster families—long time enemies—are uniting politically; the only trouble is that Aria can not remember ever meeting Thomas, much less falling in love with him.

What I do remember about this book is that it is part of a series, and it is in the dystopian realm. If you like series because you know exactly what you are going to read next, then give this one a try. I know it seems weird that I’m recommending a book that I don’t (entirely) remember, but I gave it 3 stars!

City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
city of falling angels

An intimate look at the “magic, mystery and decadence” of the city of Venice and its inhabitants.

I remember I wanted to read this book because it was about Venice (I’ve traveled there), and it was about a fire that destroyed a historical part of Venice (I was also a history major). I’m not a HUGE fan of nonfiction though. I’ve always struggled getting through them for some reason (I’m working on it).

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
dante club

In 1865 Boston, a small group of literary geniuses put the finishing touches on America’s first translation of “The Divine Comedy.” When a series of murders erupt throughout Boston, only the scholars realize that the style of the killings are stolen directly from “Dante’s Inferno.”


What books have you forgotten?



Filed under Uncategorized

Frequently Asked Questions about Library Volunteering

Last month, we celebrated both National Library Week and National Volunteer Week.  The fact that these two national celebrations always coincide is apropos; I always say “If the library is doing it, volunteers probably do it, too.”

Talking up our volunteers’ accomplishments is one of my favorite things to do, but I realize that there are still a lot of misconceptions about volunteering in general and volunteering for the library in particular, so I thought I’d use a blog post to address them all at once.

Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions I get about Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh volunteers.

How many volunteers does CLP have?

According to our official stats, in 2015, 1,428 volunteers contributed 36,717 hours. That’s an in-kind value of more than $850,000.  About 400 volunteers are active in any given month.

So, do volunteers just shelve books?

Shelving, cleaning and shifting books is important work, and volunteers do help with that sometimes, but make no mistake, it’s far from our primary volunteer role. In fact, we’ve had to turn volunteers away who want to shelve books when we don’t have shelving work available!

Andrew Card-negie

You can even volunteer to be Andrew Card-negie. Seriously.

Volunteers at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh teach global language classes, record audiobooks for visually impaired patrons,  spend hours each week reading with young children, plan special events,  promote library programs and services, facilitate book clubs and lots, lots more.  Look around at all the cool things happening in your neighborhood library — there’s a chance that volunteers can get involved.

Level with  me, are all library volunteers old ladies?

First of all, old ladies are awesome and do really meaningful work to support our community. Secondly, no! We are lucky enough to have support from volunteers of all ages.  One of the things that’s great about the Library is that it’s a meeting place for lots of different folks, and that’s reflected in our volunteer demographics.

We try hard to structure volunteer roles so that there’s a variety. For people who are retired or who have flexible work schedules, we do need daytime help. For people who are busy and would prefer to have evening or weekend options, we’ve got that too.  We even have special opportunities just for teens.  For people who aren’t able, for whatever reason, to make an ongoing commitment, we have one-time and occasional chances to help out with a special program or event.

Bottom line? If you’ve counted yourself out because you think volunteers are one “type” of person, reconsider!

Can I complete a required number of volunteer hours?

Maybe! We do provide lots of opportunities to volunteers who are looking to complete required community service hours, whether they are mandated by school, court, a scouting organization, a religious group or some other entity. We do, however, have to work with realistic time constraints, and sometimes we just don’t have the work available. I always suggest checking out or as a way to find an opportunity that works with your schedule and deadline. It’s always good to get started on hours as soon as possible — volunteer roles might be more limited than you imagine!


Volunteers from AmeriCorps and Gamma Sigma Sigma (University of Pittsburgh) volunteering in April 2016

Can my group volunteer at the library?

Maybe! It depends on your group size and how flexible you are with your date and volunteering location. We don’t like to make up “busy work” for volunteers, but we are thrilled to have groups help when we have projects, which is often. We have quite a few opportunities for groups to volunteer this summer, so get in touch at 412-622-3168 or

What is the “Friends of the Library” and how is that different from a Volunteer?

The Friends of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is actually a separate, all-volunteer nonprofit organization whose primary focus is fundraising and supporting Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations.  All “Friends” are volunteers, but not all volunteers are “Friends.”

If you’d be interested in volunteering to fundraise through book sales or other events and projects, contact Volunteer Services or ask a librarian at your neighborhood library whether that location has it’s own Friends group.

I have a great idea for a class or program I’d like to facilitate at the library! How can I make that happen?

We are thoughtful about adding new programs to our libraries — trying to make sure we balance the needs and wants of our communities with the resources we have available, including space and staff time.  If you’d like to go through the application process, contact the Office of Programs & Partnerships at 412-924-0063  x. 1411 or at

Ok, so how do I start volunteering?

The easiest thing to do is fill out a volunteer application form or apply directly to an open volunteer position. If you’d like to talk over your options or you have more questions, get in touch at 412-622-3168 or

Thanks for your support!



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

April Recap

Art courtesy Marcel L. Walker. Click through for his website.

Art courtesy Marcel L. Walker. Click through for his website.

April saw another huge celebrity loss in Prince, which left all of us here at Eleventh Stack more than a little sad. On the happier side of thing, baseball season started, and Abbey highlighted some baseball-related resources. Sheila also helped us celebrate children author Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday.

Kayla gave a big thumbs up to Kara Thomas’s The Darkest Corners and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass. Kelly looked at the theme of displacement in Ranbir Singh Sidhu’s work, and Ross mused on cultural expectations in his review of Nookietown. Jess looked a few non-superhero comics, and Natalie enjoyed Jane Steele, a new adaptation of Jane Eyre.

In movie land, Ross explored the desolation of Sunset Edge and the iconic movie-related art of Drew Struzan. Tara reviewed Victoria, a film shot all in one take.

novelcureLeigh Anne plugged poet Martin Espada’s new collection Failed and Sharon Dolan’s Manual for Living. Suzy made us think about mistakes and how we handle them. Melissa considered a career change to bibliotherapist, and one of our volunteers wrote about her efforts advocating for the library. Brittany compared her childhood to those of refugee kids, and Adina highlighted some recent memoirs and autobiographies she’s enjoyed.

Of course we didn’t forget about food—Scott M. took us on a tour of local Greek food festivals and highlighted some of his favorite Greek cookbooks.

What’s your favorite book, movie, or album from April? Let us know in the comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized