Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Sixth grade was a big birthday year for me. My older sister gave me earrings with my birthstone and proceeded to pierce my ears, using the ice cube/potato/“match-sterilized needle” method, without our parents’ permission. Luckily my earlobes didn’t get infected, and I could hide the evidence from Mom and Dad till my earlobes had healed by keeping my longish hair down around my face.
That same birthday a friend gave me The Outsiders. This book rocked my world. I grew up in a smallish town, where the main social difference I knew to that point were country kids vs. town kids, and we didn’t fight. We just had different lives. I read the book over and over, and then again every few years into my 20s. I knew the first sentence by heart and thought it was cool how the author (S.E. Hinton) wrapped that sentence back into the last line of the book.
“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” With this sentence, Ponyboy Curtis launches into an amazing story which just doesn’t quit. He’s about to get jumped by the Socs for being a greaser. The ‘Socs’ are the rich west-side kids, who hold beer blasts, drive fancy cars and jump ‘greasers’ for fun. Ponyboy, his brothers and friends, are ‘greasers,’ the poorer east-side kids. They have a reputation for robbing gas stations, holding gang fights and wearing their long hair greased back. But not all greasers are alike, and neither are all Socs, as Ponyboy learns, after a lot of violence, heartbreak and growing up.
I’ve recently been re-reading The Outsiders, and I can’t put it down. It still grabs my heart. It ranks in my memory right up there with The Pigman and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.
In 2011, Zach Wahls’ speech to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee was posted online and went viral, where it gleaned over 17 million hits on YouTube. For those who’d like to hear more from this promising young activist, you can read his book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family.
Wahls, an Eagle Scout, was raised -- in a home steeped in family values, discussing morals at the dinner table—by two moms. In his book, Wahls breaks down the Boy Scout motto, law, oath and slogan, giving concrete examples of how his family exemplified values in each of those codes and what he learned from the Boy Scouts about living out those values. He also gives a moving account of his mother, Terry’s, struggle with MS, and how her illness and triumphs over her condition impacted the whole family. In general, we see a family sharing love and struggles, as all families do. This family’s parents ultimately earned the legal right to marry in their home state, partly due to Zach Wahls’ inspiring speech on the Iowa legislative floor.
The library has other materials by, and/or for, children of gay or lesbian parents, and their parents. If you don’t find what you are looking for, please ask!
My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family
I recently read two books about people living with autism. I found both of them to be moving and insightful.
Now I See the Moon: a mother, a son, a miracle - When Elaine Hall’s adopted son, Neal, was diagnosed with autism, she had a variety of negative emotional responses to the news. Over time, Hall learned not only to accept her son’s condition, but to see and appreciate the very special gifts that her son and other autistic children offer. Hall, who already had experience training child actors, developed a groundbreaking program to engage autistic children in drama and other performing arts.
The Journal of Best Practices David Finch describes, with humor and insight, his own journey of discovering that he has Asperger syndrome. He developed a very systematic process for understanding his condition and improving his relationship with his wife and his children.
The Journal of Best Practices: a memoir of marriage, Asperger syndrome, and one man's quest to be a better husband
I’ve known three pairs of people now, who have been a kidney donor and a recipient to that donated kidney. I know bits and pieces of their stories, more from the donor’s perspective than the recipient’s. In each case, the donor knew instinctively that she was meant to give her kidney, and each time, she was sure she would be a “match” to the recipient, which in fact she was.
So I was intrigued to read this moving account of journalist colleagues, who grow to be friends and eventually "kidneys-in-law” (their humor,) when Martha McNeil Hamilton donates her kidney to Warren Brown for transplant. It was poignant and illuminating to learn, from Brown’s perspective, the difficulties he lived with prior to the transplants. (Previously, his wife donated a kidney to him. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for Brown’s body.)
Brown and Hamilton each describe growing up in a segregated South—she, a white female, and he, a black male. As colleagues at the Washington Post, they moved beyond the segregation of their youth, to develop a strong friendship over the years. Both were journalists at the Washington Post during and after 9/11, so part of their story covers how they dealt with the stress of post 9/11, in the news media world, in addition to the health crises and personal challenges they faced.
Black and white and red all over : the story of a friendship
If you or a family member are one of the estimated 1 in 133 people needing to avoid gluten, due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance, look to KPL for more information. We have dozens of gluten-free cookbooks. Most have helpful suggestions in front about navigating a gluten-free lifestyle, like which foods to avoid and what ingredients to keep on hand. And the recipes are inspiring!
Consider these options:
Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, by Kelli and Peter Bronski. Check out the Crab Cakes recipe on p. 52.
Getting your Kid on a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet, by Susan Lord. Filled with straightforward advice and easy tips from a registered dietician, whose daughter was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and has been on a gluten-free, casein-free diet for many years. The “Nutrition First” chapter has wise tips for anyone pursuing a gluten-free diet. I can’t wait to try the Pad Thai recipe.
Deliciously G-free: Food so Flavorful They’ll never Believe it’s Gluten-Free, by Elizabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of The View. Chock-full of delicious recipe ideas, such as Smoked Salmon on Corn Fritters, Chocolista Chocolate Cupcakes and French Toast with Caramel Rum Banana. This one is even available in an e-book.
Getting your kid on a gluten-free casein-free diet
Some say that prostitution is a “victimless crime,” because presumably everyone involved participates willingly. Rachel Lloyd, in Girls Like Us, demonstrates that many girls and young women recruited and trafficked into the commercial sex industry are clearly victims of the system.
Lloyd, the executive director of GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, was once a victim of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE.) She was eventually able to escape, through the support of a caring church community and some adults—surrogate parents, in essence-- who reached out to her, offering her a chance for educational and professional success, beyond the life she knew.
In Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World where Girls are not for Sale, an Activist Finds her Calling and Heals Herself, Lloyd breaks it all down: how the neglect and abuse most girls experience prior to exploitation sets them up to become victims of CSE; the methods pimps use to keep the girls from leaving; the stigma that surrounds girls, once they’ve become commercially sexually exploited. She also describes in detail what factors must be present to support someone leaving and successfully thriving, after living ‘in the life.’
Lloyd, along with several of the girls served by GEMS, successfully persuaded the New York State legislature to enact the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, which aims to protect –rather than prosecute—children subjected to sex trafficking.
Girls like us: fighting for a world where girls are not for sale an activist finds her calling and heals herself
Sally May Harrison is a slave. Pa learns that Master is planning to sell her and her brother, Abraham, so Pa plans for the whole family to run away from the plantation. They encounter many terrors and tragedy en route. Ultimately, Sally’s family finds and lives with a tribe of Seminole people.
I was moved by the poetry at the beginning of each chapter of My Name is Sally Little Song, by Brenda Woods. Sally makes up songs, like her Mama taught her to do. With very few words, her songs capture the essence of what she and her family experience.
Pa tells the family they are leaving “day after t’morrow afore sunrise,” and to keep it a secret…”send no one a farewell look with your eyes.” The following chapter starts with:
“Gotta look down
Into the dirt all day
Or my brown eyes
Is sure to give us away”
Sally’s family travels at night, in hopes of escaping notice. When they get to swampland, her poem both describes the feeling in the swamp and foreshadows danger:
Beneath my feet
Night bugs fly
Woods is the author of a 2003 Coretta Scott King Honor book, The Red Rose Box.
My Name is Sally Little Song