Tag Archives: Leigh Anne

New in SF/F: Sisters, Storms, and Song

Everything’s coming up sci-fi and fantasy on my reading list these days. Whenever I get frustrated with the world as it is, it cheers me up to spend time in the company of authors dedicated to imagining the world as it could be…or, arguably, should be.

Here are a few of the many fantastic–in multiple senses of the word–reads I’ve picked up from the Library this week.

Sisters of the RevolutionAnn and Jeff VanderMeer, eds.

The VanderMeers have a long track record of publishing excellent SF/F anthologies, and Sisters is no exception. This crowdfunded collection describes itself as Sisters of the Revolution. Click on image to reserve a library copy.“feminist speculative fiction,” and as such will appeal to anyone who enjoyed Octavia’s Brood or The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women. You might also want to try these stories on for size if you’re not sure about sci-fi, but are definitely interested in race, class, gender, motherhood, or any of feminism’s other concerns, and want to see how the genre handles them.

The collection is a healthy mix of material from the 1970s/80s and today, and includes work by Nnedi Okorafor, Angela Carter, Hiromi Goto, and James Tiptree Jr. (a/k/a Alice B. Sheldon). At least one reviewer has described the collection’s older stories as “cringe-worthy” in terms of expressing outdated attitudes. While keeping that in mind, it’s also possible to read the stories critically, with an eye to where women’s SF/F has been, and where it’s going. Available in print only (which is kind of ironic, but that’s the future for you).

Loosed Upon the World, John Joseph Adams, ed.

With a title drawn from W.B. Yeats’s famous poem “The Second Coming,” you know this anthology is going to be literally earthshaking. Adams delivers a a solid collection in the Loosed Upon the Worldrelatively new subgenre of climate fiction (Cli-fi, for short) featuring tales of environmental woe from Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, and other contemporary luminaries. Though the premise behind the stories is pretty clear-cut–we broke the planet and now we must pay–the variety in the execution makes this collection seem like a bouquet of poisoned flowers: gorgeous, but deadly.

Cli-fi makes no bones about having an agenda, and the stories in this volume–published by Simon & Schuster’s SAGA imprint–point the finger at excessive consumerism, ignorance, and flawed public policy (among other things) as the reason for environmental catastrophe. Long on cautionary tale and short on solutions, this is a great read for passionate environmentalists, their skeptical opponents, and anyone who enjoys a good disaster flick.  I’d suggest pacing yourself, though: you’re reading fiction here, not watching the news. At least, not yet.

Last Song Before Night, Ilana C. Myer

Lin is an incredibly gifted musician in a world where women are forbidden to sing or play. Once upon a time she had another name, but she fled her family and her fate to follow her musical destiny. Once upon a far more distant time, Lin’s world was filled with magic, and musicians and poets could work wonders far beyond simply entertaining the masses. A terrible plague, unleashed by the quest for dark magic, put an end to all that. But now somebody’s trying to work dark magic again, which means Lin must venture to the Last Song Before Night - click URL to order from libraryOtherworld to bring back their ancient musical powers and save their culture…if she can.

Myer delivers high fantasy at its best, creating a world in which artistic skill and political savvy are equally valued (and having both certainly doesn’t hurt). Lin is a dauntless heroine who is willing to suffer an awful lot for a world that doesn’t appreciate her properly in the first place, if only because dark magic loosed upon the world would be an even more unpleasant alternative. Lin isn’t even sure the object of her quest, a legendary silver branch, actually exists; all she has is her teacher’s word. That’s still enough to send her and some of her fellow poets (think “frenemies”)off to seek it. It’s sort of like the Orpheus myth in reverse, except Eurydice might be a myth. While we’re gender-swapping things, don’t think the menfolk won’t learn a lesson or two about denying women their musical, magical birthright. Good stuff for folks who like their fantasy fiction with both melody and conscience.

It’s hard to keep up with the really avid SF/F fans and their serious reading addictions, but I’ll never stop trying. Where are my genre warriors and social justice mages? Sound off in the comments section if you’ve read any of these books, plan to read them, or have other suggestions you think the rest of the blog audience would enjoy.

–Leigh Anne

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Reader, She Nailed It

You know what’s better than a classic novel? A classic novel retold in a fresh, exciting way. I recently stayed up way past my bedtime to finish Patricia Park’s Re Jane, and am completely delighted with how Jane Eyre’s story might have played out if Jane were a 21st century Korean-American woman from Queens. Park has captured the spirit of the original novel while also exploring how a story’s theme–in this case, the story of an orphan trying to find her rightful place in the world–can be influenced by a character’s race, class, and culture.

Photo by Allana Taranto, all rights reserved. Click through to read the New York Times review of Re Jane.

Photo by Allana Taranto, all rights reserved. Click through to read the New York Times review of Re Jane.

21st-century Jane is an orphan who just had a sweet job offer rescinded due to the bad economy. Now she’s stuck working for her uncle at his grocery store, and his whole family is getting on her nerves. Because she’s honhyol (only half Korean), she gets a lot of flak–and pity–from both her family and the local Korean community. Fed up with having to be on her best behavior all the time (a strict code of respect called nunchi), Jane takes a job as a live-in au pair with the Mazer-Farleys, a pair of college professors in Brooklyn.

Jane and Ed Farley develop feelings for each other much in the way that Jane #1 and her Mr. Rochester do: slowly and awkwardly. But then the narrative takes an unexpected turn, sending present-day Jane off on a literal voyage of self-discovery. The more she learns about Korean culture, her family, and herself, the more Jane comes to realize that she’s going to have to take charge of her own destiny if she wants her life to have a happy ending.

Click through to read an excerpt of the novel and listen to an interview with Park on WBUR.

Click through to read an excerpt of the novel and listen to an interview with Park on WBUR.

When the world is full of unread books to consider, and your TBR list takes up multiple bookshelves, it’s a pleasure when such a terrific piece of literary fiction finally makes its way to the top of that list. Re Jane is a thoughtful exploration of a woman’s life that’s grounded in an obvious respect for, and careful study of, the text that inspired it. It’s difficult to discuss more of the plot without giving away a major spoiler; No matter where in the world Jane happens to be, though, her tone remains true to Bronte: although the language is contemporary, it’s not hard to imagine the original Jane having the same kind of thoughts and feelings, and going through similar internal struggles with belonging and self-image. A little moody and melancholy, but at the same time, focused and determined. I was so captivated that I’m probably going to grab an audio version, too, so I can hear how the narrative voice I imagined plays out in a recording.

If you find re-examinations of classic themes as fascinating as I do, you should definitely check out Re Jane in your format of choice. Have you read Jane Eyre or Wide Sargasso Sea? How do you feel, in general, about modern twists on classic lit? The floor is yours in the comments section.

–Leigh Anne

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And the Winners Are…

Thank you for reading along with us during Pride Week! We close out our 5-day series with a brief look at some award-winning books.

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The winners of the 27th annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced on June 1, 2015. The Lammys, as they are affectionately called, honor the best LGBTQIA+ writing in a variety of categories. If you’re new to queer lit and don’t know where to start, why not right at the top?

Here are a few of this year’s award-winners.

Bisexual Nonfiction: Fire Shut Up in my Bones, Charles Blow.

Blow, a dynamic art/op-ed member of The New York Times staff, winds the many threads of his life story around the violation of trust that kept his spirit in chains.

Gay General Fiction: I Loved You More, Tom Spanbauer.

Ben and Hank meet and fall in love in 1980s New York. Years after their affair, Ben falls in love with a woman named Ruth. Their life together is calm and pleasant, until Hank reappears. Whose love will carry the day?

Lesbian Mystery: The Old Deep and Dark, Ellen Hart.

The title refers to an old theatre in downtown Minneapolis two sisters are restoring to its former glory. Unfortunately, there’s a dead body in the basement that’s mucking up the project. Even though she’s hard at work on another case, private investigator Jane Lawless agrees to tackle the problem, and discovers her twin mysteries just might have elements in common.

LGBT Anthology: Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History, Leila J. Rupp & Susan K. Freeman, eds.

Same-sex love and gender fluidity are hardly new concepts in world history. Rupp and Freeman’s textbook collects information and materials teachers can use to incorporate often-neglected queer historical narratives in their classrooms. Also contains essays written by teachers of LGBTQ history describing their experiences.

LGBT Graphic Novels: Second Avenue Caper, Joyce Brabner & Mark Zingarelli. 

Local artist Zingarelli illustrates Brabner’s story about her friend Ray Dobbins, a nurse in New York City. After the government basically turns its back on what was then a frightening new disease, Dobbins and his circle of friends team up to find help for people suffering from AIDS….no matter how risky or dramatic said help might turn out to be.

Transgender Nonfiction: Man Alive, Thomas Page McBee.

In very short chapters that zig-zag through time, Page explores the two traumatic events that shaped his life experiences and questions the mythical elements of manhood.

For a complete list of this year’s winners and finalists, click here. To learn more about queer writing/literature, the Library’s LGBTQ book/film collections, or related programming / community involvement, ask a librarian!

Enjoy Pride Weekend, Pittsburgh, and happy reading.

–Leigh Anne

 

 

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4 More Ways to #DiversifyAgentCarter

Last weekend ABC announced there would be a second season of Agent Carter, and Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree. Amidst the general jubilation, the devoted internet fan base reiterated what’s been its primary criticism of the show since its inception: a lack of character diversity. Author and activist Mikki Kendall got the party started:

The hashtag caught on like a house on fire, with fans offering up plenty of real-life examples whose inclusion would help make Agent Carter more historically accurate in terms of representation. Curious and inspired, I turned to the library collection for more information. Here are four more character concepts that would be historically accurate if they appeared in Agent Carter.

1. A Latinx* in uniform, civil or military.

In the companion book to his PBS miniseries,  Ray Suarez tells the stories of the many men and women of Latino descent who served their country during WWII. These include Rafaela Muniz Esquivel, a second lieutenant in the Nurse Army Corps, who worked in military hospitals both stateside and overseas**; then there was Guy Gabaldon, who earned the Silver Star and Navy Cross for his actions in the Battle of Saipan; he captured over 1,000 soldiers single-handedly, and because that wasn’t remarkable enough, Hollywood made a fictional version of his exploits. Macario Garcia, the first Mexican citizen to receive the Medal of Honor, helped take Paris back from the Germans and was at Utah Beach during the invasion of Normandy; he also earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. Eugene Calderon, a company clerk with the Tuskegee Airmen, joined the NYPD after the war, and Dr. Hector Garcia, who could have opted out of military service by virtue of his professional position, chose instead to serve both in the medical corps and as an infantryman. It is not inconceivable, then, that Peggy Carter could encounter soldiers, nurses, or other civil/military folks in uniform as part of her adventures.

Rafaela Esquivel (right) with colleague Adele Bensis, 1943. Photo obtained  from the University of Texas at Austin, which retains all rights. click through to visit source page.

Rafaela Esquivel (right) with colleague Adele Bensis, 1943. Photo obtained from the University of Texas at Austin, which retains all rights. click through to visit source page.

 

2. An African-American co-worker at the SSR.

Black Americans in World War II, by A. Russell Buchanan, devotes an entire chapter to the roles middle-class*** African American women played in American society. Because there were so many jobs to fill during wartime, opportunities and training programs for black women were abundant; these included “training as stenographers, bookkeepers… switchboard operators, and file clerks” (106), making it perfectly plausible that Peggy could meet, and strike up a friendship, with a co-worker of color. Black women also served their country as WACs and WAVES, and were well represented in both civilian and military nursing.

In 1942, Crisis magazine published a series of photographs called “The First Ladies of Colored America,” a tribute to the important work African American women were doing.  Buchanan’s description reveals just how diverse those roles and job opportunities were:

One started and directed a school for delinquent girls, and another headed a private school for Negro children. Some had successful business careers, often in partnership with their husbands.The business enterprises included a candymaking company in Alabama, an undertaking business in Louisiana, a publishing company in Pennsylvania, a fox farm in Alaska, and a chain of beauty colleges throughout the country. Some of the selectees held public office, a first for Negro women; one was a deputy collector of internal revenue in New York and another a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (105).

I don’t know about you, but I would love to see Peggy and a bookkeeper hiding from goons on a fox farm in Alaska, aided by a sympathetic entrepreneur with whom she thereafter forms a lifelong friendship.

Although Buchanan fails to cite names of specific people, a quick Google search remedies that, uncovering such fabulous women as Dorothy Height, Bernice Bowman, and Birdia Bush. You might also want to read up on the spy chops of Josephine Baker, the cryptology skills of Annie Briggs (whose story is included here), and the military service of Brenda L. Moore.

 

3. An Asian-American character who is not “the enemy.”

Although the Japanese-American experience during WWII should never be forgotten, it is not the only storyline available to a writer who wanted to give Peggy Carter an Asian-American friend or co-worker. Countless Chinese, Korean, Filipino/a, and Asian Indian-Americans played key roles during wartime. Shelley Sang-Hee Lee documents some of these in her book,  A New History of Asian America:

Between 1942 and 1943, Koreans in Hawaii purchased more than $239,000 worth of bonds, an enormous sum for such a small population, and Filipino Americans oversubscribed by nearly 100 percent above their $1 million goal of war-bond purchases. Chinese Americans formed patriotic organizations, such as the Chinese Young Women’s Society in Oakland in 1944, which provided a welcoming space for Chinese American servicemen passing through the area. Others put their unique skills and knowledge to use against the enemy. Korean Americans who knew Japanese worked as propaganda broadcasters in the Pacific front, agents for underground activities in Japanese-occupied parts of Asia, and for the U.S. government as teachers and translators of secret documents….Older and female volunteers were channeled into civilian support roles, such as working for the Red Cross and serving as emergency fire and air-raid wardens (225-26).

And, of course, like other people of color in wartime, many Asian Americans served their country in a military capacity.

Portrait of Anacieto Soriano, Sr. (at right) and unidentified friend wearing their 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment uniforms from World War II. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of The University of California. Click through for source page.

Portrait of Anacieto Soriano, Sr. (at right) and unidentified friend wearing their 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment uniforms from World War II. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of The University of California. Click through for source page.

With so many roles to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Who knows? Marvel could even give us someone from Agent May’s family tree. But whether they’d opt for a civilian, like actress Anna May Wong, or a military figure like those of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team , they would be historically correct in presenting an Asian-American patriot.

4. A plucky newspaper guy…or gal.

You pretty much can’t have a comics-based story without an intrepid reporter in it somewhere. Sure, Peggy’s job is a secret, but being friends with a newsie could make for all kinds of dramatic tension, don’t you think?

There’s the businessman angle, as represented by black entrepreneur John Sengstacke, who published The Chicago Daily Defender for almost 60 years; wouldn’t you love to see him go toe-to-toe with Howard Stark? For a more boots-on-the-ground experience, there’s the examples of Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne; Dunnigan started writing for newspapers at age 13, and Payne’s career began with the publication of a journal she kept while hostessing in a military service club. See also journalist/poet Juan Antonio Corretjer, as well as the husband and wife team of Larry and Guyo Tajiri. Plenty of material there for a well-rounded character of color.

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think you get the idea. What about your family history? Could one of your relatives inspire a historically accurate Agent Carter character? Do you know something about history that I don’t (very likely!)? Share your stories and information in the comments section.

–Leigh Anne****

*Not familiar with this term? Click here for a good explanation. Suarez uses the term “Latino,” so I have retained that when referring to his work. Other terminology includes Latina and Latin@. If you’re not sure what somebody would like to be called, you can always ask.

**Many other Latinas served in WWII.  Suarez does not mention them.

***The role of working class women in WWII is fairly well-known. What most people don’t realize is that African Americans held white-collar positions, too.

****Always learning. Please call me out on any mistakes/mis-representations here.

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Cuts Like An Impossible Knife

Laurie Halse Anderson has made a name for herself by writing young adult fiction that tackles difficult topics like rape and eating disorders, to name just a few. Her no-punches-pulled explorations of tough issues have prompted various classroom bans and challenges, which–as challenges usually do–have only increased her popularity, not just among her target audience, but among adults who read YA fiction. Both sets of readers will find the same issue-driven, unflinching prose in Anderson’s latest novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory; what remains to be seen, however, is how her detractors will respond to her theme, which happens to be combat-related PTSD and its effects on not just veterans, but on their families.

Image via USA Today . Click through to read a Q&A with Anderson

Image obtained from USA Today – click through to read a Q&A with Anderson

Since 2001, over 300,000 veterans have been treated for PTSD at an official VA facility. A 2008 Rand report indicates that many more cases go unreported and/or untreated, due to either fear of stigma or access to adequate medical care, with a resulting cost to the U.S. of $6.2 billion. The Impossible Knife of Memory asks the reader to imagine the stories behind the data with one representative portrait of a father and daughter trying to escape their troubled past.

Andy and Hayley Kincain have just moved back to Andy’s hometown after five years of truck driving and homeschooling on the road. This is supposedly to give Hayley some semblance of a normal life, but the bored, bright teenager is not fitting in well with high school and its comparatively restrictive rules. Of course, it’s hard to concentrate in school when you’re constantly worrying about what’s going on at home, and whether you’ll be seeing normal dad, depressed dad, blackout dad, or flashback dad in any given moment. But Hayley’s just fine, thank you, and she doesn’t need teachers, guidance counselors, friends, or cute boys to help her deal. And yet, they keep trying anyway, much to Hayley’s exasperation.

Told mostly from Hayley’s point of view, but interwoven with haunting images from Andy’s trauma, Anderson has given us a well-crafted portrait of what happens when coping mechanisms no longer work, and things fall apart. The story’s greatest strength, however, is in showing how wounded people can become strong again without losing their dignity or compromising their essential selves, a long, slow process that Anderson skillfully spins out over a series of short, intense chapters. As a result, Hayley and Andy are initially hard to like, but worth getting to know, not only for themselves, but for the untold stories they represent.

“Problem novels” aren’t exactly fun to read, but they are important. They shine light on aspects of the human condition some people would rather keep in the dark. Considering the sacrifices so many men and women have made for their country, I’m grateful to Anderson for making this issue the latest focus of her clear-eyed literary spotlight.

–Leigh Anne

with gratitude to all who have served

 

 

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Read It, Loved It, Bought It

erasmus-books

It’s like this Erasmus guy knows me. My Amazon wishlist is larger than my book-buying budget, but thanks to the Library I can make better decisions about which books I want to own by checking them out first. Here are just a few of the many titles I’ve purchased after the “try before you buy” period.

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh. Why would you buy a book when you can read the blog posts for free on the internet? hyperboleBecause some people are just so darned funny that you want to support their livelihood. Brosh’s blunt descriptions of her weird childhood, adult struggles with depression and the oddball dogs with whom she has shared her life, are required reading for anybody with a dark sense of humor and an affinity for awkward people (or a similar awkward past). Illustrated with colorful vignettes just a few steps up from stick figure art (that’s not a complaint), Brosh’s collection is the perfect addition to my home library, so that I can go back to its absurdity and humor whenever I like, and not just when I’m near a screen or a device. Maybe if I’m really lucky, she’ll publish another book…

yogaThe Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, Linda Sparrowe. When I decided to try yoga, I was too embarrassed to actually go to a class and interact with other human beings. I had the mistaken notion that all yoginis were a size two and incredibly spiritually advanced, and since I was neither, I should probably practice at home until I was a lean, laid-back adept (or could fake it reasonably well). Of the flurry of library books I tried, Sparrowe’s was the first one I bought: its clear illustrations/instructions, use of modifications and otherwise sensible advice about both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga helped me calm down a little and focus on the learning process instead of the person next to me at the studio I eventually started attending. Thanks for helping me get over myself, Linda Sparrowe!

Happy Herbivore Abroad, Lindsay S. Nixon. It’s really important to take cookbooks for a test drive before you buy them. happyOtherwise you’re going to end up with a shelf full of books you’ll never use, which is neither cost-effective nor tasty. Nixon’s collection of plant-based recipes made the cut because it presents a global sampler of delicious meals that will suit adventurous palates, but not send you all over town hunting for expensive, exotic ingredients. Nixon also tells interesting stories about the places she’s visited, which makes this a fun book to sit down and read at length. This cookbook paid for itself when I shared the recipe for German lentil stew with my parents, who enjoyed it so much that they made it again when I came to visit, then sent me home with a huge container of it as a thank-you. Now, that’s what I call the circle of life.

TFIOSThe Fault in Our Stars, John Green. I know, I know. Truth be told, I actually resisted this book for quite some time, despite hearing great things about it in the media and from other readers, because I’m always a little leery of the book “everybody” is reading. As it turns out, “everybody” is reading the book for very good reasons, some of which include Swedish hip-hop, a rant about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the inescapable truth that the world is, indeed, not a wish-granting factory. You don’t get to choose whether or not you get your heart broken in this world, but you do get to choose the books that break your heart…and I choose this one, because I know that if it ever stops breaking my heart, I’ve probably lost some essential human quality that makes both love and empathy possible.

Your turn: do you use the Library to pre-shop for your permanent bookshelf? What titles have you checked out that made you say…

shutup

Leigh Anne
supporting the literary economy, one enjoyable read at a time

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Thick As A Brick

Nothing says “summer reading” to me like a giant doorstop of a book that requires two hands to read and a huge tote bag to carry. This may not be the reading experience you want to have, and I can’t say I blame you: those suckers can get pretty heavy, which is why I’m always happy to help people find less hefty alternatives in our e-book collection. Nobody should have to throw out their back or shoulder to enjoy a book!

But, under the correct circumstances–a warm (yet breezy) day, a comfy shady spot, a refreshing cold beverage nearby–curling up with one of those text-monsters sends a definite signal: I am not at all kidding around about reading this giant book here; think twice before dragging me away from it, because I am enjoying myself immensely. It’s an incredibly pleasurable, self-indulgent reading experience, the kind I think everyone should treat themselves to from time to time.

bigbooks

Image spotted at LetterMidst

However, if you’re going to do this, you have to make sure you pick the right book. There’s nothing worse than lugging what one book blogger calls “chunksters” all the way home only to find yourself flailing with disappointment by page three. No matter what you’re in the mood for, though, there’s bound to be a “thick as a brick” pick for you to while away a cool summer night with. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

ozeki A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki (422 pages). Ruth, an author suffering from writers’ block, finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach. The contents? The diary of a Japanese teen called Nao. Despite her conviction that suicide is the only answer to her problems, Nao is determined to write down the story of her grandmother, a Buddhist nun, before checking out permanently. Fascinated by Nao’s tale, Ruth drops her own project to solve the literary mystery that has magically landed in her lap. A lovely, layered tale with a fair share of heartbreak, but also equal parts wonder and joy.

NOS4A2, Joe Hill (692 pages). Beat the summer sun with Hill’s bone-chilling novel about the madman of Christmasland, and the Hillone woman who’s managed to outsmart him. Victoria escaped the clutches of the preternatural Charlie Manx as a teen, but evil always comes back, and this time Victoria’s son is in danger. Can she find her way back to Christmasland and save her boy before it’s too late? A page-turner with a number of wickedly clever “Wait, what???” surprises.

AdichieAmericanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (477 pages). Ifemelu does, and does not, want to go home to Nigeria. A scholarship to an American college has opened doors for her, and her blog about racism in America has earned her a fellowship at Princeton. Still, Ifemelu can’t forget the country–and the man–she left behind, even though returning to both will prove difficult. A sweeping novel that travels back and forth in time, explores life on three continents, and pulls no punches in its examination of race and culture.

 The Eye of the World , Robert Jordan (670 pages). If you’ve been meaning to try out the epic fantasy genre, the long, lazy days of summer jordanare the perfect time. Also, now that the Wheel of Time series is finally complete, you have no excuse not to dive in. There’s an evil power seeking to hasten the end of the world (isn’t there always?), and it falls to three unremarkable boys from a small backwater village to take up the hero’s mantle and try to save the day. Jordan’s saga, which rambles over fourteen volumes, begins with The Eye of the World, in which we meet our heroes, a mysterious priestess, the knight who is bound to her honor, and the big bad who just wants to break things. Good fun for anyone relishing an old-school tale of fantasy adventure.

krantzMistral’s Daughter, Judith Krantz (531 pages). This is not a romance novel to be tossed aside lightly. This is a romance novel meant to be heaved across the room with great force at anyone who makes fun of you for reading romance novels. Krantz’s tale spans three generations in the life of passionate painter Julien Mistral, and the three women who mean the most to him: Maggy (his lover), Teddy (his best beloved), and Fauve (his daughter). From the bohemian arts circles of Paris in the 1920s up to the ritzy glitz of New York in the 1980s, Krantz spins a tale of passion, fashion, exotic locales, heartbreak, jealousy, deceit, art, and haute couture. It’s a delicious romp through the social circles of the wealthy and talented, with just enough sex and scandal to keep you hooked until the end. A classic masterpiece to discover–or rediscover–on a steamy summer night (or three!).

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, eds. (676 pages). Non-fiction and literature lovers cathertake note: Jewell and Stout’s volume is a treasure trove of living history. Cather, who wanted to be judged by her work and not her personal life, specifically stated in her will that her letters were not to be published. The editors went ahead and produced the volume anyway–presumably with permission from Cather’s literary executor!–on the grounds that enough time had passed to soften any objections Cather might have had to the letters being exposed. Arranged chronologically, the correspondence includes missives from Cather’s years living in Pittsburgh, as well as the only known letter from Cather to her partner, Edith Lewis. There are no scandals or secrets here, but the letters are rich with details of Cather’s ordinary life, filled with joy and love of nature and travel, and, of course, many thoughts on writing.

What say you, constant readers? Will you be giving the chunksters some love this summer? Or do you prefer to put in your weight training time at the gym? What’s the biggest book you’ve ever hauled around just for the love of it?

–Leigh Anne

with apologies to Jethro Tull

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