Tag Archives: Graphic Novels

Watching More Books

A while back, I featured some books that would making their way to the small screen with adaptations (That was in August? Holy smokes!). Well, now that the networks are announcing their choices for the next TV season, it’s clear that more folks jumping on board the comic book party train for their source material.  Let’s check out a few of the books that I can’t wait to watch in a few months.

Thanks to the fantastic Arrow series on right now (Scott was not wrong about that show), we’ll get to see The Flash this fall. Arrow has done some legwork in building this spin-off in the past few months, with characters popping up and even setting the stage for Barry Allen’s transformation from skinny nerd to The Fastest Man Alive. I really hope these series work together in the BuffyAngel mold, in that they support two strong, separate plots, but allow for movement between shows in a seamless way.

I’m beside myself over Gotham. I love the idea of a show living in the world of Batman, but focusing on the people around Bruce Wayne in the years leading up to him putting on the cape and cowl. This hasn’t been explored much in the comics, but I think Gotham Central might be the closest match, in that it revolves around the work Jim Gordon and other members of the Gotham PD are doing to solve crimes in their city.

I knew Rob Thomas (this one, not that one) was working on a new show and there would be zombies, but I had no idea that it was based on a comic series. iZombie follows a young woman who happens to be a zombie – as she consumes new brains, the memories of the dead person take over and she works to fulfill their last request. The show is moving away from the graveyard of the comics to a coroner’s office for a more defined detective story angle. Slightly gory Veronica Mars? Sign me up.

Are there any comics/graphic novels that you’d love to see turned into a TV show?

– Jess, who is still holding out hope for a Y: The Last Man series

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Snow White, Master Swordswoman?!

Happy National Library Week 2014! Help us celebrate by visiting any Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location this week to tell us about the books that changed your life.

Like most any kid, Disney animated films figured hugely into my childhood. My favorite one changed, depending on which villain scared my little brother more at the time. For a while I’d demand we watch The Little Mermaid over and over until, I guess, sheer exposure desensitized him to the terror of Ursula. Then I moved on to torturing him with Beauty and the Beast. When I was feeling magnanimous, we watched The Lion King, which we both enjoyed.

Snow White and the Seven DwarvesOne Disney movie neither of us could get into, either to enjoy or be scared of, was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We thought it was boring. And that the songs were meh. And maybe that the dwarfs were a little creepy.

Fables vol. 1: Legends in ExileSo in high school, when I discovered Bill Willingham’s comic Fables, the story of basically every fairy tale character you’ve ever heard of living undercover in modern Manhattan, the character of Snow White did not interest me. I wanted to know more about Bigby Wolf, the chain-smoking, trenchcoat-wearing sheriff of Fabletown, who in his previous life went by the Big Bad Wolf and can transform into wolf form any time the situation calls for it.

Willingham’s portrayal of this fairy tale princess drew me in, though. Snow is the deputy mayor of Fabletown, the neighborhood of Manhattan the “Fables” created for themselves when they fled their homelands in front of an invading army led by a tyrant dictator known only as the Adversary. When we meet her, she’s already divorced Prince Charming for being a womanizer and all around terrible husband, and she just might be attracted to Bigby.

And then you find out that those dwarfs were definitely NOT helping Snow when she was lost in the woods, and that she forced Prince Charming to teach her sword fighting shortly after they got married so she could enact her revenge. She does so. Bloodily.

Fables vol. 19: Snow WhiteThe latest trade paperback volume to come out, volume nineteen, is aptly titled Snow White and highlights all of this character’s strengths: She’s intelligent, she’s a fierce mother, she’s a loyal and loving wife, and she keeps those physical fighting skills sharp in order to protect her family.

But most of all, she is willing to make hard choices. In this volume, characters who are physically much stronger than Snow fail, and it is she who must save the day, using not only her master sword fighting skills, but her wit and strength of will.

No meek, pale princess, this, but a modern warrior woman.

Once Upon A Time Season 1Snow White has gotten makeovers in other media as well. In ABC’s Once Upon A Time, the fairy tale characters don’t know who they are because of a curse. In this version, pre-curse Snow White is a wiley woods woman who would do anything for true love. Her cursed alter ego Mary Margaret, though, does start out rather meek.

Mary Margaret doesn’t stay meek for long. Even before she recovers her memories, and therefore her true identity, she begins to stand up for herself and the things she wants. When her daughter Emma breaks the curse and Mary Margaret recovers her memory, her ferocity comes out full force.

Although I can’t help but look at the similarities between Once Upon A Time and Fables and think, a little possessively, “Fables did this first!” (I have been reading this series for ten years, so I’m just a little bit attached), I’m exceedingly glad that Disney’s version of Snow White is no longer the only visible version in our culture.

Excellent, woman-empowering retellings of Snow White and other fairy tales give us role models we can look up to, examples we can hope to follow. Willingham’s Snow and ABC’s Mary Margaret are much closer to real women than their fairy tale princess counterparts; they just have a few extra powers. But they have problems, they make decisions, they take actions, and they deal with the consequences themselves instead of always relying on others to protect them.

And when the situation requires, they pull out their swords and fight.

–Kelly

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Public Image (Comics) Limited

Today’s post is the first from our newest blogger, Kelly, who works in the Customer Services department of Main Library. You’ll be reading Kelly’s take on life, the universe and everything at least once a month going forward. To learn more, visit the About Us page to read her bio.

Do you like comics?

If you answered yes, keep reading. If you answered no, keep reading.

Image Comics is an independent publisher of (primarily) creator-owned comic books and graphic novels. The writers and artists who put out books through Image each month don’t have to worry about pleasing any corporate bosses. They own their characters, and they can let those characters take them where they will. This leads to awesome stuff.

If you haven’t tried a comic book lately, or if you’ve been stuck in the same DC vs. Marvel superhero rut, try one of these excellent books from Image.

Saga, Volume I and Volume 2, Brian K. Vaughan.

No one thought it was possible for a native of Landfall and a native of Wreath to have a child together. No one imagined that sagaindividuals of the two species would want to. But Alana and Marko did, and now everyone in the galaxy wants them and their daughter either dead or captured.

sagatwoIn Saga, Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples haven’t just put a space opera spin on Romeo and JulietVaughan deftly avoids every potential cliché by using wonderfully quirky details for both the world and its characters: robots with televisions for heads, the use of secrets as ingredients for spells, a cat that can detect lies. Staples uses bold lines and rich colors to make the world shine, and she adds her own details too (like adorable seal and walrus people).

What I love most about this series is how much diversity Vaughan and Staples work into the cast. Character skin tones run from light to dark. There are what we would consider traditional relationships, and then there’s one character’s relationship with an eight-legged spider woman. There are gay characters. There are ghosts, who are red instead of the tired blue or green. And there’s everything in between.

Fatale, Ed Brubaker. Book 1: Death Chases Me, Book 2: The Devil’s Business, Book 3: West of Hell.

In this aptly-named noir detective series, Nicolas Lash meets Josephine at his godfather’s funeral, and quickly realizes the story fatale1she spins about her grandmother being an old friend of the deceased doesn’t add up. She is the woman in the old photo she shows him. And she hasn’t aged.

fatale2Lash’s godfather and Josephine had some kind of connection to a weird cult/mafia group. Lash lets his curiosity get the best of him, and is drawn into a world of crooked cops, mobsters with monster heads, and Cthulhu-esque tentacles. Josephine and her supernatural power to enthrall men unsurprisingly sit at the center of everything.

Although Brubaker uses Lash (and sometimes other men that Josephine meets) as a frame for the narrative, they are also tools forfatale3 exploring Josephine’s history and character. These men feel either an overwhelming need to kill or protect Josephine, but she proves that she’s capable of taking care of herself, without being the kind of leather-clad black-belt-super-markswoman-type character we see so much of these days.

Artist Sean Phillips uses dark shades and lots of shadow to create the noir horror effect. His panel layouts are simple and effective. I like that he doesn’t rely on gimmicks, just solid artwork. It helps ground the reader when Brubaker lets the plot get complicated.

Lazarus, Volume I: Family, Greg Rucka.

Forever Carlyle protects her family and its resources above all. And as the Carlyle Lazarus–a person genetically engineered to be an essentially un-killable and excellent fighter–Forever has little trouble fulfilling her duty.

lazarusThe future Forever and her family inhabit is bleak. A few powerful families control all the resources, including food. Peace between the families is tentative, and when someone attacks the Carlyles’ seed storage facility, a war between Carlyle and Morray seems inevitable. But was it truly Morray who orchestrated the attack? As Forever investigates, she begins to question her job and discover some uncomfortable truths about herself.

Author Rucka’s writing zips the plot along, and Michael Lark’s artwork makes a bleak and scary future look gorgeous. I love that Rucka has thought of how this future would come about, and that it’s something that I could imagine happening. That makes the story feel real, and rather terrifying.

–Kelly

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

See You in the Funny Pages

My family subscribed to the daily newspaper when I was a child, including the extra large Sunday edition, complete with the color comic strip section. This was the only part that I read at the time. While I did enjoy stretching out and leisurely perusing the latest Bloom CountyCathy, Garfield, MarmadukeHagar the Horrible, and Family Circus, I really am not nostalgic for the vast amounts of paper garbage that it left behind. Now I get my daily dose of the latest news online, Apps on my phone, NPR, and evening TV. I fill my funny pages void in another way.

puncherDragon Puncher by James Kochalka. This is one of my favorite books. I brought this home for my kids and it was a huge hit. When I brought it back to the library, I made all of my coworkers read it. Yes, it’s in the Children’s Department – so? No, I don’t think I’ll give you a synopsis, you’ll just have to read it. I wish I could read this book out loud to all of you right now. I do a great Spoony-E.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

HellboyHellboy by Mike Mignola. Funny ha-ha AND funny weird. Two great tastes that taste great together. This series is about a red guy who is in a secret U.S. government program to defeat the Nazis. It has lots of supernatural Lovecraftian (a real word) things, plus lots of wry comments. It has been adapted for two movies, but read the original – the original is almost always better, and in this case, is much, much better.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

calCalvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Comic strips are like short stories, a satisfying whole in bite-sized chunks. I however, cannot get enough of Calvin and Hobbes. Amusing tales told through the eyes of a rambunctious boy and his stuffed tiger. A modern day Winnie-the-Pooh, but so much funnier.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

goreyAmphigorey by Edward Gorey. I urge you to read everything by Gorey. Read his biographies as well. The man is as unusual as his work. It’s funny, and creepy, and weird, and icky. Kids love this stuff. If you love this, try Gahan Wilson as well.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

beanworldBeanworld by Larry Marder. I am so glad this was republished, for your sake. Marder uses the fact that the piece of paper in your hand is two-dimensional, and creates a  funny and quirky world. Hoka Hoka Hey!
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

So I am no longer able to press Silly Putty on the newspaper to get the image. It ruined the Silly Putty anyway.

-Joelle

A day of comics, a day of giving. Click here to learn how you can support the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on October 3rd.

DoG2013

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Superman or Green Lantern Ain’t Got Nothin’ on Me

Taken from the Facebook page of the Carnegie Library.

Taken from the Facebook page of the Carnegie Library. Photo by Ian Eberhardt. Drawing by Elyse Anderson.

I am a middle-aged woman, mom, librarian, and (drum roll please) a comic book geek. I started actively collecting comic books around 1980 as a teenager, but even before that I had a bunch of Archie Comics, Harvey Comics, Mad Magazines, and compilations of Peanuts that I appropriated from my grandfather.

Comics—I mean graphic novels—are more than just the sum of their parts, writing and illustration. The image on the paper evokes emotions—pleasure, fear, creepiness, hilarity, anxiety, romance, passion. A great graphic novel will have a talented writer at its helm, but can only work when an illustrator translates the feeling on the page with style.

My favorite emotion-evoking graphic novels:

Swamp ThingSaga of the Swamp Thing How can I describe what this is about without making it seem lame? Set (mainly) in the swamps of Louisiana, a man dies and becomes a plant elemental, fighting on the environment’s behalf. It’s also a romance between a woman and a monster. It really is so much more nuanced than I can relate here. I enjoyed Len Wein’s pulpy original from 1972, Secret of the Swamp Thing, but Alan Moore’s tenure (1984-1987), with illustrations by Stephen R. Bissette, is masterful and groundbreaking. This was the first mainstream comic book written for adults, not because of eroticism or violence, but for its complex thematic elements. I love this so much that Moore’s more famous Watchmen and V for Vendetta series were disappointments.

Here is a bonus for those familiar with Alan Moore and Frank Miller (of The Dark Knight Returns fame) but haven’t seen this yet: Alan Moore vs. Frank Miller.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Heartbreak SoupLove and Rockets by Los Bros. Hernandez. This series in toto is one of the most poignant pieces of literature I have read. Favorably compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the authors use the panels to convey deeper meaning. Little bubbles emanate from the mouth of a sickly child causing his older brother to warn him not to laugh. A tough female sheriff’s inner dialog is conveyed as thought bubbles. A wordless panel shows a baby in a playpen while blood is pooling on the floor from out of view. In opposition to my colleague, I enjoy Beto’s work more. When I picked up part 2 of Duck Feet (a story set in the fictional town of Palomar, somewhere in Latin America), it changed my literary life forever.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Building StoriesBuilding Stories (contains 2 books, 5 booklets, 1 newspaper, 5 folded sheets, 1 folded board, in a box) by Chris Ware. So sad. So depressing. So, so awesome. Every piece fits together in ways that don’t become clear until you read all of them. It doesn’t matter what you start with either. The cast includes a few people, a few bees and a building. You get snapshots of their lives and interactions at different points in time. Excuse me, Chris Ware, but just how did you look into my mind and write about my life?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

SandmanSandman by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is my very favorite writer right now, and his latest effort Ocean at the End of the Lane  is among his best work. I remember not being terribly impressed by this series until issue 3 or 4, but since then I have been an avid and obsessive Neil fan. The series has a few different artists, and the interpretations of the material changes in interesting/disturbing/beautiful ways. Bonus nerd alert: the character Matthew (the crow) is really Matt Cable from the Swamp Thing.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Here is one that was critically acclaimed, but I am giving a pan to:

Are You My MotherAre You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel. There are so many references and quotes taken directly from other books she read, and the illustrations, while expertly drawn, are mostly of those quotes, and Bechdel herself talking to her mother, reading a book, or looking at her computer. Why be graphic at all? So boring!

These are all graphic novels on the “Dark Side.” My next post will be about some of my favorite lighter fare. Do you have any favorites that you’d like to share? I need new blood!

See you in the funny pages,

-Joelle

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Murder Most Charming

The First Floor: New and Featured section of the Main library has a pretty epic graphic novel collection. That’s where I first came upon the works of Rick Geary, who writes and illustrates A Treasury of Victorian Murder and A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, two of the most delightful historical true crime series that’ll you’ll ever find (though to be fair, I’m not sure that he has a lot of competition in this arena).

I’ve read them all a few times, and always pounce on the new titles as soon as they come in. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

beast

That is not a trustworthy mustache.

The Beast of Chicago: an Account of the Life and Crimes of Herman W. Mudgett, Known to the World as H.H. Holmes – This character may sound familiar to you. It’s because he’s the Devil in Erik Larson’s most excellent book, The Devil in the White City. If you want both murder and lengthy digressions about architecture, read Larson’s book. If you want to get right down to business, read Geary’s book instead – there’s more than enough historical detail in here to make it both educational and an exciting romp. For the best of both worlds, you should (of course) read both books. This one really helped me picture the events described in The Devil in the White City, because, well, pictures. There are excellent diagrams of Holmes’ bizarre mansion, illustrations of Chicago and the World’s Fair, and maps of Holmes’ final flight. Good stuff all around.

(Bonus: Here’s a DVD about architectin’, and here’s one about murderin’. Because I belong to the Film & Audio department and have to work this stuff in somewhere.)

The Borden Tragedy: a Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder at Fall River, Mass., 1892 – Before I read this book, all I knew about Lizzie Borden could be summarized as “Lizzie Borden took an axe, something something something.” But after reading just the title of this book, my Internal Borden Murder Fact Database instantly tripled in size! And once you crack open the covers, there’s even more good stuff – Borden’s mother wasn’t murdered, it was her stepmother. Borden’s father didn’t believe in hallways, so their house looked really weird (the floor plans are mighty confusing). Mrs. Borden died while cleaning the guest bedroom (19 blows), and Mr. Borden died while napping in the sitting room (10 blows). The back cover even lists the similarities between Lizzie’s case and that of the formerly illustrious O.J. Simpson.

that song

Copyright 1997 by Rick Geary!

Those two are pretty famous cases, like most of the titles in the series – there are books about the Lindbergh kidnapping, Jack the Ripper, and the assassinations of presidents Lincoln and Garfield, to name a few. But there are others – cases that were famous in their day but aren’t remembered now, like the murder of actor and director William Desmond Taylor, the trial of poisoner Madeline Smith, and the story of the Bender family, described below.

Hospitable looking, aren’t they?

The Saga of the Bloody Benders: the Infamous Homicidal Family of Labette County, Kansas – The Bender family (mother, father, son, and daughter) appeared in Kansas in 1870, purchased land near a local trail, and set up a small inn and grocery store to attract the business of people travelling west. Over the next three years or so travelers and locals alike started to disappear, usually after last visiting the Bender property. The family themselves vanished just when the townsfolk decided to start investigating – and then all sorts of things came to light: a missing man’s glasses, an odd assortment of hammers, a blood-soaked basement floor, and a collection of shallow graves. Ew.

If you enjoy true crime, unhappy books, Victorian history, cool illustrations, and gruesome facts, these are the books for you. Or if you have a slightly morbid reluctant reader (with strong nerves) in your home, introduce him (her/it/them) to Rick Geary. His books are educational, beautifully illustrated, and creepy good fun.

– Amy

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear!

250px-Daredevil_65

Daredevil has always been one of my favorite superheroes. After all, he is “the man without fear!” The character of Matt Murdock always appealed to me. He was a working-class Catholic kid raised by a single father who was a boxer. Blinded in an accident as a youth (by a “radioactive isotope” no less! Ahhh, the brilliant Stan Lee and the 1960s, when radioactive exposure gave you superpowers!), Matt Murdock gains superhuman abilities to compensate for his loss of sight. Everything from “radar” vision, to super-sensitive hearing and smell is now in Matt Murdock’s arsenal. And so, the boy once sarcastically and tauntingly called “dare devil” by neighborhood bullies (for being too much of a bookworm, and on the advice of his pugilistic father, avoiding fights at all costs), adopts the name Daredevil as his superhero identity. Working-class-kid-made-good Matt Murdock follows his father’s advice and studies hard, graduating at the top of his law school class. As a lawyer, Matt works with the downtrodden and is happy to work pro bono, or for barter when he can. He also stuck around his old neighborhood.

Daredevil

You, True Believer, and lucky Eleventh Stack blog reader, should take a moment to look at a few collections of fantastic Daredevil books that the CLP has in our system. First up is the now classic Frank Miller Daredevil Born Again collection. I’m not a big fan of much of Miller’s stuff (and I’m certainly not into his critique of social issues and movements – I’ll take Alan Moore’s side, thank you very much), but this book is a very good read. It gets into some interesting character development and sets up a fascinating back story that many writers that came after used.

Next up is the Guardian Devil stuff by Kevin Smith. Possibly best known for his films and podcasts, Kevin Smith is also a writer and has written not only Daredevil books, but also Batman and Green Arrow! Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil material is a very interesting/weird/cool book with a slick cartoonish illustration style. This is also the book that essentially helped to relaunch the title. At the time Smith wrote these comics, Daredevil was really a flagging title with a relatively small readership. This run really re-energized it!

406px-Daredevil

Last up is Mark Waid’s  Daredevil Vol. 1 Collection. This is the newest title of the bunch. Since Waid took over, Daredevil has shifted gears a bit and has become more of a swashbuckling, high flying adventure superhero as opposed to the brooding, noir-esque books that had been written over the last 5 years or so.

So get into it! Daredevil has a rich history, and can be a serious, funny, strange and fantastic comic to read. And I don’t have to tell you…it’s all at your local CLP!

-Eric

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Drawing Power: Comics, Zines, and Books in Pittsburgh and Beyond

drawing power banner

art work by Jim Rugg

Drawing Power: Comics, Zines, and Books in Pittsburgh and Beyond   is a one-day event celebrating and exploring the small press and self-publishing comics and zine community of Pittsburgh and its connection to the larger world.

Saturday, April 20th 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Carnegie Museum of Art Theater (lower level), 4400 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

Moderators will be Bill Boichel from Copacetic Comics and Caitlin McGurk from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at OSU.

Schedule
10-10:30 Meet & Greet, tabling
10:30-11:15 Pittsburgh Creators Panel
11:30-12:15 Boulet presentation
12:15-1pm Big Feminist But presentation
1:15-2pm John Porcellino presentation
2:15-3pm 2nd Panel
3:15-4pm Dash Shaw presentation

Pittsburgh Panel (First), Boichel moderator
Andy Scott
Nate McDonough
Lizzee Solomon
Paulette Poullet

littletiredlogo

image Andy Scott

2nd Panel, McGurk moderator
Ramsey Beyer
John Porcellino
Bill Boichel
Rachel Masilamani

porcellino

image John Porcellino

Last Panel, McGurk moderator
Jim Rugg
Ed Piskor
Frank Santoro
Dash Shaw

dash-shaw-sigur-ros

image Dash Shaw

There will be tables packed with locally-produced zines and books for both perusal and sale, as well as new releases from our out-of-town artist guests and a selection from around the world.

You can keep up with DP participants at: http://drawingpower.tumblr.com/

Sprout Fund  Green on White   Drawing Power is sponsored by the Sprout Fund.

– Jude

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

What I Did (Read) on My Winter Vacation

I just emerged from two weeks of hibernation to rejoin productive society. In other words, I’ve been on vacation. I participated in the usual family holiday festivities, sure, albeit fewer than most others did due to the small size of my clan. To be honest, I was actively trying to keep this vacation relaxed and low-key. I felt I needed it and deserved it. My promise to myself was to spend as much time reading as I possibly could. And read I did. I may not have made as huge a dent in my To-Read pile as I might have hoped, but over the course of 15 days, I read 6 books. Considering that I currently average about 1½ books per month, I was pretty thrilled with those results. I was also thrilled that I read books from several genres. Reading outside my usual categories was one of my goals for 2012, one that I will continue to explore in 2013.

So here’s a run-down of what I read on my winter holiday break (in the order read):

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier — The second book in a trilogy about a time-traveling teen who is now a reluctant member of a secret society that goes back generations in her family. I read the first book (Ruby Red) earlier this year and couldn’t wait for this one to come out in October. There’s mystery, a sinister villain from the past, fencing and a convoluted romance (of course). The only problem is now I’m stuck waiting for the last volume to come out in fall of 2013. Sigh. This series was originally published in Germany and has been since translated into several languages.

Lou! #1- Secret Diary by Julien Neel — This graphic novel tells the story of a tween and her single mom. You get to follow along as they survive adopting a stray cat, a visit from Memaw, video game addiction, love and each other! The self-deprecating humor and colorful panels make the story a stand-out. I can’t wait to see about getting my hands on numbers 2-4. (Update: I read volumes 2 & 3 last night and they were just as funny and cute as the first one!)

Driving the Saudis: A Chauffeur’s Tale of the World’s Richest Princesses (Plus Their Servants, Nannies, and One Royal Hairdresser) by Jayne Amelia Larson — If you’ve read the subtitle, you’ve pretty much read this book. You’re going to get exactly what you expect, stories about the uber-rich spending like there’s no tomorrow. Only, there is a tomorrow and they spend just as much money that day too. What is also included, that you may not expect, is the opportunity to get to know the people who take care of these wealthy Saudis. Their servants and caretakers are real people, with real feelings, and hopes and dreams that they, all too realistically, know won’t come true. To sum up: the princesses are spoiled (not necessarily their fault) and the author, as well as the rest of their domestic help, was overworked.

A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters — This more recent, and possibly last, of the Amelia Peabody mystery series finds her archeological family in the Holy Land instead of their beloved Egypt. Amelia’s son, nicknamed Ramses, and his brother from another mother, David, are kidnapped (as usual). Amelia uses her wits to deduce what’s happened to them and her pointy parasol to prod the story along. Her dashing and boisterous husband, Emerson, uses his massive countenance and forceful personality to orchestrate the rescue of Ramses and David.

White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story by Jenna Weber — Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be another cooking-blog-turned-book, here it is! Jenna always wanted to be a writer and the idea of combining her love of cooking and writing into a career led her to culinary school. Her journey, from making the decision to attend school, through graduation and entrance into the world of work, is interesting. You come to understand that the culinary arts are not as simple as they may appear and no one’s career path is smooth and straight. We all have bumps and roadblocks to make life interesting, and hopefully worthwhile.

Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding by Jessie Sholl — I’ll admit it. I’m kind of fascinated by the television shows about hoarding. Well actually, more than kind of. It’s like the proverbial train wreck that you can’t look away from. I am always shocked by the living conditions of these people, some more than others, and I am always rooting for them to get it together so they can pitch the stuff, mental as well as physical, that’s keeping them a prisoner in their own home. This book approaches hoarding from a slightly different point of view. You get to see how this mental illness specifically affects the child of the afflicted. Jessie finally comes to the realization that she has to “divorce” herself from her mother’s house. Accepting that she cannot change her mother, however, doesn’t mean Jessie loves her any less.

“What’s Melissa going to read next?” you may ask. The answer is I’m reading the book for the Mystery Book Group which is meeting on Friday, January 18th at 1pm in the Teen Meeting Space on the First Floor. Our current theme is Middle East Mysteries and the book for January is Belshazzar’s Daughter by Barbara Nadel. All are welcome!

Happy Snuggly Winter Reading!
-Melissa M.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Banned Books Week: Fun Home

In celebration of Banned Books Week, we’re highlighting a few of our favorite books (and authors) that have been challenged in schools and libraries because of content or appropriateness.

Used by permission of the American Library Association

Banned and challenged authors frequently state that the books they write are the ones their younger selves always wanted to read, but couldn’t find. Too often, people forget that while a particular book dealing with topics like diverse sexual orientations may not be right for them or their children, it is probably exactly the right book for someone else. —Maren Williams, reference librarian extraordinaire

A dear friend gently reminded me yesterday that comic books–sometimes known by their gentrified moniker “graphic novels”–are still frequently challenged in schools and libraries. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website is an amazing respository of information on banned and challenged comics, as well as the long, twisted history of comics censorship in America, and reading it got me all fired up!

After deciding to write about a comic for Banned Books week, though, my next problem was huge: which one? There are so many, and so many of them are so good! But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that there was one graphic novel in particular that deserved my shouts and love today: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

Image spotted at Brevity Book Reviews

Bechdel, who made her mark on the world of comics with the hilarious-delicious series Dykes to Watch Out For, spent seven years writing and illustrating Fun Home, a graphic memoir of growing up in rural Pennyslvania. Although it was nominated for multiple awards, including three Eisners (it won “Best Reality-Based Work”), the book was challenged in Missouri for being “inappropriate” and “pornographic” (an honor it shared with Craig Thompson’s Blankets, which was challenged at the same time for the same reason.)

The heart of Fun Home lies in Bechdel’s relationship with her father. A closeted gay man, Bruce Bechdel died in an accident two weeks after his wife asked him for a divorce; this, and other subtle clues, lead Bechdel to believe her father killed himself.  The narrative weaves back and forth through time as Bechdel examines both her father’s life and her own for clues, comparing and contrasting their experiences of being gay and coming out (or not). We also see many scenes of small-town family life, in which the author and her parents, drawn in gorgeous shades of blue-green-gray, bang up against each other’s secrets and difficulties.

Steeped in literary allusion–Bechdel’s father was, among other things, a passionate reader and English teacher–the story almost demands familiarity with James Joyce’s Ulysses just to keep up. It’s also a book about writing and reading as tools for self-discovery, one that exposes pages and pages of Bechdel’s own childhood journals, and shows scene after scene of the Bechdels reading, reading, reading–a poignant bibliotherapy that, ultimately, saves the author, even if it could not do the same for her father.

What’s so “inappropriate” about being gay, coping with the loss of a parent, or reading and writing yourself into adulthood? Darned if I know.  Neither, I suppose, did the library board in Marshall, Missouri, which ultimately decided to keep the book in the adult section where it had originally been shelved (hurray!). I fear, however, that I simply haven’t done the book justice; you really have to experience Fun Home for yourself to see just what a powerful story it is.

–Leigh Anne

with love and gratitude for everyone who ever said to her, “Read this comic book.”

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized