Tag Archives: diversity

2015 Reading Resolutions: Onward and Upward!

With another year of books under our belts, it’s time to look ahead. To bring the blogging year to a close, some Eleventh Stackers have chosen to share their reading resolutions for 2015. There’s nowhere to go, but up, and our team has aimed high — check it out!

Jess

Every time someone asks for a mystery recommendation, I cringe. Despite my love for serialized crime shows (Criminal Minds, Veronica Mars, Murder She Wrote…), I just have a hard time with the genre in book form. 2015 is the year I step up my game and have some titles in my back pocket for the next time I’m put on the spot. I have Anthony Hororwitz’s Moriarty on my list (I read The House of Silk last year for our Tuesday book club, and liked his take on Sherlock). And a regular patron suggested the Ian Rutledge series, by Charles Todd. Readers, if you have any must-reads, maybe some non-historicals that are maybe a bit John Grisham-y, please send ’em my way.

suzy

Unfinished business.

Unfinished business.

I’m going to finish some books in 2015. This year, for whatever reason, I’d get almost to the end of a book and stop reading it. It didn’t matter whether I liked the book or not: I just stopped. I don’t know if this is a sign of mental illness or a newly shortened attention span. Here is a sampling of the books I started, thoroughly enjoyed, and never finished. Feel free to tell me the endings.

Ross

In 2010 I started Stephen King’s It. “Started” being the key word here.  That book is thick, yo.  Maybe 2015 will be the year I finish it.  Or maybe I’ll focus on the classics that I missed out on for one reason or the other, like Animal Farm or Moby-Dick.  Maybe I’ll go back to the books of my childhood, like the Narnia books. Or, since I just started re-watching Gilmore Girls, maybe I’ll focus on a Rory Gilmore reading list.

Irene

I’ve never had much use for audio-books, but I recently discovered how much I like listening to them on long runs. So my reading resolution for 2015 is actually more of a listening resolution: to delve into the library’s collection of super-portable Playaways. I just started listening to Runner.

Scott

I plan to read some more Anne Sexton. I am also slowly re-reading all of the Song Of Ice And Fire novels using the eCLP format.

Leigh Anne

I like to play along with formal reading challenges, to make sure that I regularly step out of my favorite genres and formats to try a little bit of everything. Luckily the magical internet is filled with such opportunities, most of which I find via A Novel Challenge, a terrific blog that collects news and info about different reading games. Of course, I always load up on way too many challenges, and rarely finish any of them…but I sure do have a great time trying!

Here are some challenges I’ll be signing up for in 2015:

The Bookish 2015 TBR Reading Challenge. I have two bookcases at home filled with books I own that I haven’t read yet (I blame the Library, both for being so excellent and for fueling my book-buying habit). It’s getting a little bit out of hand, so I’ve decided to dive into those TBR shelves and decide whether to keep or regift what I’ve got.

It's not bragging if it's true.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

Janet Ursel’s We Read Diverse Books Challenge. It’s no secret that the publishing  industry is still predominantly white, which means there are a lot of stories out there untold or overlooked. This bothers me both professionally and personally, so I’m on a constant mission to make sure my own reading and reviewing is as inclusive as possible. This challenge was inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign of 2014.

The 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge. Ebooks are an important part of the reading landscape these days, and I really should be looking at more of them (Overdrive READ is my friend right now, until I finally decide which tablet I want). Ebooks are also sometimes challenging for me because of my vision impairments, but I’m hoping Consumer Reports , a little web sleuthing, and input from other users (maybe you?) will help me pick out the tablet with the best accessibility features. Thanks in advance!

The 2015 Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge. This one’s kind of a cheat, as I adore comics of all kinds. The problem is, I rarely make time to read them, mostly out of guilt because they’re so much fun and there are many other Terribly Serious Things I should be reading dontcha know. However, this means I missed a lot of good stuff in 2014, so I’ve decided to ditch the guilt and spend 2015 savoring the fine art of comics. Woohoo!

Four challenges is do-able, right?  I’ll report back regularly in upcoming blog posts.

Melissa F.

Browsing the historical fiction section

Browsing the historical fiction section

I’ve become a little too comfortable insofar as my reading habits go. On one hand, I don’t see any problem with this, since reading is something I do for fun and entertainment. Still, there’s something to be said for expanding one’s knowledge and horizons.

In 2015, I’m planning to do more of my reading from the World Fiction and Historical Fiction sections on the First Floor of CLP-Main. I’m not setting an actual numerical goal for this resolution, just challenging myself to read more from these areas (which I admittedly tend to overlook while perusing the new fiction, nonfiction, and short stories).  Your suggestions are most welcome.

And there you have it! Do you have any reading recommendations or advice for the Eleventh Stackers? Do you set yourself reading goals or just let the books fall where they may? Share the wisdom, leave a comment!

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The Colors of Challenge

Last week author Malinda Lo published a blog post that raised some disturbing questions:

If a book like Beloved by Toni Morrison is challenged because it is “sexually explicit” and has a “religious viewpoint” and contains “violence” (these are the stated reasons for its challenges in 2012), is it simply accidental that Beloved is also a novel about an African American woman, written by an African American woman?

I wondered if there was a correlation between books with diverse content — that is, books by and about people of color, LGBT people, and/or disabled people — and book challenges, so I decided to take a look at the data available from the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and see what emerged.

After looking at a variety of data points (including several lists from the American Library Association‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom) and creating a number of revealing pie charts, Lo came to the following conclusion:

It’s clear to me that books that fall outside the white, straight, abled mainstream are challenged more often than books that do not destabilize the status quo. This isn’t surprising, but the extent to which diverse books are represented on these lists — as a majority — is quite disheartening. Diversity is slim throughout all genres of books and across all age groups — except when it comes to book challenges.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.

 

I strongly urge you to read Lo’s entire analysis (you really need to see those pie charts) and examine her data-crunching, which she has made publicly available here and here. Once you’re done with that, I invite you to celebrate Banned Books Week this year by checking out any of the titles Lo analyzed, or the following suggestions, which are taken from the ALA’s list of Most Frequently Challenged Books Written by Authors of Color, 1990-1999:

Kaffir Boy, Mark Mathabane. Protests. Boycotts. Fear. Hunger. A true tale of life under apartheid in South Africa, told by a man who suffered through it first-hand, eventually escaping to became a well-known tennis player. Most often challenged for homosexuality and explicit sexuality in general.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor. Taylor’s Newbery medal-winning novel tells the story of Cassie Logan and her family, who are struggling to hold on to the land they own in Mississippi, despite the challenges of the Great Depression. Most often challenged for offensive language. Also available in OverDrive.

The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende. Meet the Trueba family, three proud, passionate generations of them. The Truebas are known for two things: the psychic giftedness that seems to run in their bloodline, and their political involvement, which frequently puts them at odds with fellow family members. A long, sweeping saga that is most often challenged for being sexually explicit, and containing offensive language.

Always Running, Luis Rodriguez. By the time he was twelve, Rodriguez was already a battle-scarred veteran of L.A.’s gang wars. The power of words led him to complete his education, become a poet, and leave his former life behind him…at least, that is, until his own son joins a gang. A New York Times notable book, and winner of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, Always Running  is most often challenged for being sexually explicit and containing offensive language.

If you’d prefer to keep to this year’s theme, banned and challenged comics, you can explore diverse works like Alison Bechdel’s  Fun Home, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, or Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth. But what I’d really like you to do is go back and read (or re-read) Malinda Lo’s essay, and then tell two friends, who will hopefully tell two friends, and so on, and so on. It’s a whole new (albeit appalling) way of thinking about book bans and challenges, and it will be interesting to see if there is an even stronger correlation over time (though we librarians will do our best to ensure that doesn’t happen).

Keep your reading diverse and colorful!

Leigh Anne

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Somewhere Inside the Rainbow: Pride 2014

Pride Pittsburgh is only a few days away, so this week the Eleventh Stack blog is highlighting selections from the Library’s LGBTQ collections. We’ll be covering a wide selection of materials, from movies to memoirs, written by, for, and about LGBTQ people and their families, friends, and other allies.

Pride week 2014

Of course, the term LGBTQ isn’t an end in itself, but a jumping-off point for exploration; there are millions of ways to be in the world, including pansexual, asexual, intersex, genderqueer, and androgynous (click here to see one blogger’s list of frequently used terms and definitions). You could say that LGBTQ is a continually evolving conversation from a chorus of voices, simultaneously complicated and enriched by considerations of race, religion, and class.

If you are–or would like to be–part of that conversation, there are as many points of entry in the Library as there are kinds of people in the world: comics, biography, short stories, history, theology, cultural studies, YA lit, wedding planners, you name it. Whether you’re reading to broaden your horizons, or to see your own experiences reflected in the literary/ cultural record, we’ll be happy to help you find the perfect title (or fifty).

Welcome inside the rainbow – we hope you’ll enjoy reading along with us this week.

–Leigh Anne

 

 

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Because Poetry

Happy National Poetry Month!

Spotted at Jennifer Grassman's blog - click through for a 2014 poetry writing challenge.

Spotted at Jennifer Grassman’s blog – click through for a 2014 poetry writing challenge.

Occasionally I wonder if we should call poetry something else, like lexicography gymnastics or maybe the grand sensual buffet. Something sexier, peppier, less likely to make people break out in hives. People who love poetry see the word quite differently of course. It even sounds different: all those uninhibited vowels floating around (broad o, bridge of eh, musical tweet of ee), anchored solely by p and t, with the r kind of gliding by, like the tail of a kite. Just enough consonants to hang on to, sturdy fence posts in a windstorm.

Hm. Maybe we should stick with “poetry” a little longer: like a bracing spring gale, it has hopeful possibilities.

Every year or so I make a case for exploring poetry. This year, though, I’m taking the next step and writing my way through the exercises in The Poet’s Companion. It’s messy, joyful, splendid work, and if you’re ready too, there are a whole lot of other books to guide and inspire you. If you’re not quite there yet (never say never),  the Academy of American Poets has other suggestions for celebrating National Poetry Month, including celebrating “Poem in Your Pocket Day” (April 18) and playing Exquisite Corpse, which not only sounds edgy and dangerous, but is also guaranteed to rescue any meeting stretching into its third hour, provided you can find some co-conspirators.

Here are some other ways you can explore poetry in April, and all year ’round:

  • 3 Poems By… is a great opportunity to be social with other poetry-curious folks, and try a poet on for size with small chunks of her/his work. This month’s discussion spotlights Edna St. Vincent Millay, the “First Fig” fraulein; e-mail newandfeatured at carnegielibrary dot org to get the scoop, and the poems.
  • Curious about how poetry intersects with the mundane world? Don’t forget Sam Hazo’s presentation, Poetry and Public Speech, on April 7th, 2014, 6-8 p.m.
  • Consult the Pittsburgh Literary Calendar to find a reading that’s convenient for you. You’ll be surprised and pleased at how much diversity and range there is on the local poetry scene.
  • Pressed for time, but have your phone with you? Download some poetry from our Overdrive digital collection. Busy Apple users can also download the Poem Flow app and share the communal reading experience of a new poem every day.
  • Countless options for streaming and recorded poetry online abound, both on the free web and via the Library’s subscription to Naxos Spoken Word Library (valid card number required for login). Bonus: NPR’s Music and Metaphor has just kicked off its 2014 Poetry Month programming.
  • Shake up your perceptions of what poetry is by flirting with cowboy poetry! You know you want to. We’ll never tell.
  • Like videos? You can watch everyday people reading their favorite poems at the Favorite Poem Project.
  • More of the research and facts type? Check out this report on the state of poetry in America.

And, of course, we’d be thrilled if you’d consider stopping by the library to meet the poets in person, as it were. Introduce yourself to Yona Harvey, Nikky Finney, David Whyte, Rumi, Sonia Sanchez, anybody whose cover art looks interesting, or whose titles grab you. Go for an anthology, so you can meet a whole lot of poets at one time. Keep throwing things against your heart to see what sticks. Borrow then as audiobooks, Playaways, or DVDs, and don’t forget that musicians can be poets too.

Just don’t let National Poetry month go by without giving it a teensy bit of a whirl. Because poetry is for kidsadults, and teens, working people and retirees. Because poetry covers every single point on the erotic spectrum, and is produced by as many different kinds of people as there are in the world (and, sometimes, their cats). Because…well, why not?

Because poetry.

–Leigh Anne

who promises she won’t corner you in the elevator and ask your opinion on drafts

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By Any Other Name

My sister and her husband are expecting their third child sometime next spring, which made it doubly wonderful to spend time with the growing family over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Hanging out with a tween and a pre-schooler definitely honed the aunt skills, but suggesting potential names for the new sprout proved trickier. Although I’m very good at naming pets, none of my baby name suggestions, male or female, struck a chord with the parents-to-be.

To be fair, naming is a difficult thing, and a very personal one. Whenever you name a person, pet or thing, you want something that sounds good, carries meaning, and can’t be twisted into a cruel or otherwise unfortunate nickname. On top of that, there may be religious or cultural factors to take into consideration, as well as the desire to avoid–or accommodate– the trendy or unusual.

The world wide web is awash with baby name websites, to be sure, but if you have a name to choose, and you’re tired of staring at your computer screen, why not try a different tack?  Make yourself a cup of tea, then settle into a comfy chair in a quiet place with one of the library’s many books about names and naming.  Not sure where to start?  Consider these:

Penguin ClassicThe Penguin Classic Baby Name Book, ed. Grace Hamlin. Looking for a literary namesake? Take a flip through nearly 500 pages of options from the world’s greatest works of fiction.

Mother of all Baby Name Books

The Mother of All Baby Name Books, Bruce Lansky. Because puns are fun! Also, with 94,000 names to choose from, this is a great option if you don’t have room in your bag for multiple books.

Celtic Baby NamesCeltic Baby Names, Judy Sierra. If Western mythology and folklore tend to inspire you, grab this guide to pronunciations and meanings from the British Isles and figure out if Declan, Dylan, or Dana might be a good option for you and your baby (I’d avoid Tristan and Isolde, though, just on general principle).

World NamesA World of Baby Names, Teresa Norman. Diversity abounds in this collection of names that dedicates a chapter to just about every country and culture under the sun, including Czech/Slovak, Hawaiian, Native American, and Southeast Asian names. Perfect for families seeking to honor an ancestor, celebrate an adoption, or otherwise open up their naming options.

Auntie LAV can’t wait to see what they pick, but until then, she’ll just have to wait patiently.  Did you have difficulty naming your children?  Your kittens?  Your computer?  If you were going to take a new name to reflect the person you’ve grown up to be, what would you pick?

Dana Elizabeth Veronica Leigh Anne

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The Wendy Chronicles

It’s been a little over four years since Wendy Wasserstein died, and I still miss her.  Not, obviously, in the way her relatives and friends do; that’s presumptive in the extreme.  It’s Wasserstein’s literary absence that smarts, the loss of a wise and witty author gone too soon.

Best-known for her multiple-prizewinning play, The Heidi Chronicles, Wasserstein’s body of work also includes humorous essays and one smashing novel, the kind of fictional debut that hurts to read because it’s so good, and there will never be another.  As if to atone, Wasserstein did leave behind various recordings that, when read alongside her literary work, flesh out our posthumous portrait of the quirky, determined author.

Whip-smart, and packed to the gills with artistic and cultural references with which you might not be familiar — I made more than a few trips to the library the first time I read Heidi Chronicles — Wasserstein’s writings constitute encyclopedic coverage of women’s history within a particular context. Her entry in the Jewish Women’s Archive succinctly explains her singular position in contemporary American literature:

Wasserstein made a special place for herself in the American theater by being one of the first women to stage women’s issues with the astute and comic eye of a social critic. As her characters, accomplished women who are trying to find fulfillment in their personal and professional lives, discover that it is impossible to “have it all,” they gain a better understanding of who they are. Although she resisted being labeled a “feminist” playwright, arguing that men are not subject to such labels, she was seriously troubled by the unjust inequities based on gender that she saw in American society. Therefore, her plays continued to focus on women struggling to define themselves in a “postfeminist” America that still suffered from the backlash of sexism, homophobia and traditional values but also from the problem of liberal entitlement. Her writing not only reflected her passionate interest in women but also revealed the fact that she was Jewish and a New Yorker.

On the surface Wendy Wasserstein and I have next to nothing in common, but when she speaks of what unites all women — our desire to succeed on our own terms, and to make peace with women whose terms are not ours — I feel a sense of kinship that transcends the boundaries of age, religion, class and privilege.  Reading Wasserstein has taught me to keep my heart as open as my mind, and to laugh at the obstacles in my path, even as I work diligently to strike them down.

This is, of course, one of the reasons we read:  to learn from those who sing with different voices.  Their compositions are meant to encourage us, not to copy theirs, but to inspire our own.

–Leigh Anne
uncommon woman in training

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