DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 12 2017

Is it done yet? Now? How about now?

by Dea Anne M

salt1I had a friend in college who insisted on McDonald’s if we were stopping for fast food – which happened about as often as you might expect for two college students who were too “poor” to buy food to cook for ourselves and yet managed to regularly unearth enough “sofa money” (i.e. coins and cash found under and between furniture cushions, in the pockets of clothes heaped up on the floor, inside that semester’s textbooks and sometimes even in wallets) to take ourselves out to eat. One thing my friend always ordered were fries – large fries – and he always sprinkled them liberally with salt.

“What are you doing?” I would ask.

“What? I’m adding salt!”

“But they’re already salted.”

“Haven’t you ever heard that salt brings out the flavors in food?”

“Yeah, but…uh, so what?”

“Well, duh, McDonald’s fries are the best so adding more salt makes them taste even more like the best!”

He had me there. Thankfully, we both learned to take better care of ourselves shortly thereafter. He got a job as a server at a local restaurant that fed him before his shifts and sometimes allowed staff to take home leftovers. As for me,  I finally just learned to cook. I don’t know if he still salts fast food fries since we lost touch with each other through the years, but I have, I think, become a much better cook and one thing that I know for sure is that salt truly does enhance the flavors of food. Of course, many people are advised to limit salt for reasons of health, and I think that’s probably good for all of us, particularly in regard to processed food.

For home cooking though the right amount of salt can work wonders. I still think that my college friend’s taste was a little extreme…I really don’t think that McDonald’s fries require additional salt. On the other side of the question, I would never think to impose on my dinner guests the sort of strictures that diners at a few top-flight restaurants have been subject to. At these sorts of places, not only is there no salt provided at the table – any customer unwitting and naive enough to dare ask for any risks coming face to face with a furious chef. Still, I hope that I’m able to cook food that’s well seasoned and tasty enough to need no doctoring at the table at least some of the time.

What pops into your head when you think of these things: salt, fat, acid and heat? I imagine the reaction of many will be:

Salt (bad!)

Fat (really bad!)

Acid (huh…what?)

Heat (well, sure, we’re cooking aren’t we?)

Anyway, this somewhat rambling discourse is all by way of letting all of you know about a great new book that I’ve discovered in my ongoing quest to become a competent improvisational cook. I’m probably going to come across as a true believer here but I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat: mastering the elements of good cooking by Samin Nosrat. Be warned, this is really more of an instructive guide to cooking than an actual recipe book. There are recipes, true, butnosrat they function more as practical illustrations of Nosrat’s principles and are, as a whole, quite simple to understand and execute. The real meat of the book (so to speak) is the extensive chapters that examine in great depth each of the four “elements” that Nosrat considers essential. Some of this is bound to be controversial. Salt, as mentioned above, is something that many people must avoid for reasons of health. Some of us approach fat with the same wariness that a kitten might an elephant. As far as acid goes, it isn’t always clear what acid actually is in cooking. Let’s follow Nosrat’s lead and look at the elements one by one.

Salt – Enhances the inherent flavors of food. This is its purpose. Potatoes taste more like potatoes – steak more like steak. Used judiciously, salt makes your food taste taste wonderfully like itself. Too much just makes food taste salty which is definitely not what you want.

Fat – Helps flavors permeate throughout your food.

Acid – Balances flavors. Salt and oil on lettuce makes for a pretty ho-hum salad but a little vinegar or lemon juice make the whole assembly sing. And acid isn’t provided only by the obvious suspects. Cheese, for example, delivers salt, fat and acid together. Ketchup, mustard and yogurt all carry the “pop” you get from acid.

Heat – Determines texture as well as certain flavors. Boiling green beans might work perfectly but you don’t necessarily want to do the same thing with pork chops.

The real point of Nosrat’s writing and teaching is to show cooks how to trust their own senses and palates. She encourages you to taste food while you’re cooking it then taste again and again and again until it is exactly how you want. “You” is the operative word here. “Salt to taste” means exactly that. You are adding enough salt or fat or acid or heat until what you’re cooking tastes perfect to you and not necessarily what someone else thinks that you should prefer. And lest you fear that this approach renders Nosrat’s writing pedantic and dull be assured that nothing could be further from the truth. She is, first of all, an excellent writer both engaging and precise. She also seems to possess an enormous sense of fun and a lack of pretension that caused me to think all the time that I was reading that she would be a great person to be friends with. In any case, she is quite a wonderful teacher and I daresay that my own cooking has been transformed for the better due to her lessons.

I must also mention that instead of  the glossy and perfectly staged photographs that are usual in cookbooks these days, you have here Wendy McNaughton’s charming illustrations. I particularly love the “Spices of the World” wheel and the similar wheel for “The World of Acid.” Both provide a surprisingly handy reference when you might be improvising in the kitchen and want to create a dish that tastes French (wine, dijon mustard, tarragon) or reminds you of that week you spent in Mexico (oregano, chili, lime juice).

Whether you’re an experienced cook or an absolute beginner you can’t go wrong with this book. It will instill confidence in your own skills and in your own taste. That confidence is the most valuable tool that a cook can possess in my opinion. Also, I guarantee that following Nosrat’s lesson will not leave you with food that’s too salty, or a fat bomb, or turns your mouth inside out from sourness. Instead your food will just taste good and what isn’t to like about that?

 

 

 

{ 1 comment }

Jun 5 2017

Better Than The Movie

by Camille B

Image 4My family hates it when I’ve already read the book to the movie that we’re watching. In spite of my best efforts, I always find myself blurting out at some point, “That’s not what happened in the book.”

There would be loud groans and eyes rolling (and probably a secret meeting to vote me off the island), but I’d find myself unable to resist every time.

Book lovers know what I mean, that feeling of disappointment you get when you see a book that you thoroughly enjoyed butchered on its way to the movie screen, the final product barely resembling its original story line.

For movie lovers there’s no love lost, their mantra is, “I’ll just wait for the movie to come out.” Their take is, why waste time reading the book when they’re going to make it into a movie anyway?

But oh, how much of the story you miss that way. According to Rich Santos of B&N Reads, a movie gets lost in translation. Once a filmmaker decides upon settings and characters, we’re limited to seeing those characters and settings through their eyes.” 

It’s no wonder then, why a lot of times we are left disappointed when the characters don’t turn up on screen looking the way we imagine them, or we’re left waiting for scenes that never appear because the producer couldn’t squeeze them into the budget or time frame.

To me, no movie is better than the one that plays out inside the head of you the reader when you get wrapped up in a really good book. Time is suspended, characters appear on cue looking exactly as you expect them to look. You can enjoy it at your own pace because you don’t have to cram everything into a 90 minute time frame.

In your mind’s eye, it can be as long as you want it to be and include everything that you want it to include because it’s all coming from your imagination. A book allows you to feel the characters’ emotions and hear their inner thoughts, in a way that not even the best movie narration can. Here is a lists of books that are described as better than their movie version: Books That Were Better Than The Movie

Don’t get me wrong I love movies, but I would never watch one instead of the book. Even though I know there’s a good chance I might be in for a let down, I still get excited whenever I see a book that I enjoyed made into film.

It isn’t just me, whenever a book is made into a movie, the waiting list at the library for that particular book goes up again. Some people are re-reading the book and others are curious because of the sensation the movie is causing.

I think too, that producers are making a greater effort to stay true to story lines. There are movies that some say are actually better than the book (hmm). I haven’t seen all of them but here’s a list, you be the judge: Movies that are better than the book

So which are you? Do you prefer to get lost in the pages of the book, or sit tight and wait for the movie trailer?

Below are just a few popular books that were made into movies. You can find both the book and the movie at your DCPL library:

The Fault In Our Stars                                     My Sister’s Keeper

The Devil Wears Prada                                    The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Notebook                                                     A Man Called Ove  (Swedish with English subtitles)

Gone Girl                                                             The Girl On The Train

Life of Pi                                                               The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

The Time Traveler’s Wife                                 The Great Gatsby

The Help                                                               The Lovely Bones

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 1 comment }

May 11 2017

Cooking with Diana Gabaldon!

by Jencey G

gabaldonI have been a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s books for a long time.  I have read most of the Outlander series.  I also really enjoy the Outlander series on television which are available on DVD from the library.   Diana has a couple of Outlandish companions that give extra details on the Outlander series and allow readers delve  deeper into the series.

Another book that has recently come out is the Outlander Kitchen cookbook.  This book takes readers into the food and drink aspect of the Outlander series.   Dishes such as: Claire’s Nettle Kissed Buns; Brianna’s Bridies; Banoffee Pie; Bannocks; Battlefield Blackberry Jam;  Garlic and Sage Sausage; and many more.  The food follows the storyline of Outlander.  So many of these dishes are native to England, Scotland, and the USA.

I have enjoyed cooking since I was a girl.  I also love to bake.  So I thought it would be a fun experience to check out some of the recipes included in this book.  I flipped through the book and picked several that I thought I might be able to make.

So my first recipe attempt was Mrs. Bugs Buttermilk Drop Biscuits.  It was the first time I made biscuits from scratch that actually tasted like biscuits.  I think this recipe was better than anything I have in my current collection of recipes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs was the next recipe. The cookbook goes into a description about the characters and their process for preparation.  The author’s of the cookbook include which book the dish came from and some dialogue describing the scene. I followed the recipe, but I did not enjoy this recipe.

I have a few more recipes I would like to try.  I am also looking forward to reading the further adventures of Jamie, Claire, Brianna and Roger’s family.  I always look forward to the next season of Outlander!

Try a few recipes from your favorite characters in the Outlander Kitchen cookbook! Diana’s books are available in all formats with DCPL.

These items can be found in the catalog:

Outlander                                                                                                                   Outlander TV

Dragon Fly In Amber

Voyager

Drums of Autumn

The Fiery Cross

A Breath of Snow and Ash

An Echo In The Bone

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood

The Outlandish Companion

The Outlandish Companion Volume 2

The Outlander series DVDs

 

{ 0 comments }

May 9 2017

Are You A Book Snob?

by Camille B

Book Snob 2Several months ago I picked up a Harlequin Romance to casually browse its back cover. It had been several years since I’d read one, and I associated them mainly with my teen years and early twenties, so I didn’t really expect it to hold my interest.

Well! Wonder of wonders if I didn’t find myself completely drawn into the first few pages of the book-all the while telling myself that I was going to put it down just as soon as I discovered what Prince Rihad’s brother was up to. Of course I was only kidding myself, and I ended up reading it to the very end.

Sadly, it was like eating a can of Pringles. I couldn’t stop myself from reading another, and then another, and pretty soon I was out in the stacks hunting for them, making neat little piles on my desk and searching Amazon for sequels to the ones I’d already read. It was like there was some sort of romance-sized hole inside of me that I was trying to fill.

The problem, however, was that even though I was enjoying this new secret indulgence, it was just that, a secret. I found myself hiding my book every time I’d bump into a friend or co-worker which seemed really silly. It’s not like there were naked people all over the front covers.

But I think that on some level a part of me knew that my “lighthearted books” would probably be met with some raised eyebrows from those who were more literary minded. After all, to be taken seriously as a reader you have to read “serious books” right?

First of all, I don’t believe all serious readers are necessarily “book snobs.” I know there are readers who enjoy and appreciate great literature and the classics, but they would also read any good book regardless of its genre. These readers would never judge others who don’t share their literary preferences.

On the other hand, true book snobs are those individuals who have an aversion to anything they consider to be light or fluffy writing. I imagine their idea is: The Great Gatsby- yes, yes, yes and The Hunger Games- not so much. They would rather be burnt at the stake than caught reading The Twilight Saga in public, and they would consider any book that hasn’t won a Pulitzer, made an appearance on the New York Times Best Seller’s List or been recommended by Oprah, not worthy of their time.

I often wonder how they cleanse their reading palate. For instance, when you go to a restaurant you don’t just sit there and eat salad all night long do you? You eat a little of everything to ensure a well balanced meal and the experience of a variety of tastes. I believe the same applies to reading-you need the balance and variety.

I have to tell you that it didn’t take long for my paperback rendezvous to fizzle away, and I soon found myself craving a difference in scenery so to speak. This is why the genres complement each other, and why I would never put one up against the other. We need all of them at different times in our lives.

And maybe the truth is we all have a little book snob in us somewhere, though we may not be aware of it. All of us could be more tolerant of other people’s literary choices. We should not judge people or their intellect based on what they choose to read.

Remember your early reading years when you would read anything and everything you could get your hands on including the TV guide? Fiction, non-fiction, romance, mysteries, fantasies, thrillers, memoirs, biographies. You read them freely and without fear of ridicule or judgment. You didn’t wait to check the Sunday paper to see what everybody else was reading before you chose a book. Your love for words was your master and reading guide, not the hype or prestige associated with an author or genre.

I applaud all great writers who continue to turn out tremendous work and thrill their audiences even in the face of the snobbery. These writers remain steadfast and stalwart against the book snobs and critics even though their books are squeezed into categories that no longer seem able to hold them, and are slapped with labels that are less than flattering, even while the demand for their books continue to soar.

All snobbery aside, a great book is a great book. It should not matter if the author is male, female, young, old, black, white, a stay-at-home-mom or a professor. If a book is well written and touches the reader, then it has accomplished what it was meant to accomplish.  

Check out DCPL’s Reference database NoveList Plus where you can browse other genres, find books that you’re in the mood to read and discover other books and writers similar to the ones you already know.

{ 5 comments }

Apr 26 2017

Salad Days

by Dea Anne M

salad

You’ve known it. I’ve known it. It’s that empty feeling, that sense of lacking something, that special bereftness that causes you to drape yourself across the handiest piece of furniture moaning and sighing and exclaiming out loud to (the bafflement of roommates, significant others and pets)…

“Why, oh why, is there no month – just one lousy month – during the year in which we celebrate salad and all things salad related?”

Fret no more because, believe it or not, May is National Salad Month! Granted, this extended occasion was created by an organization known as the Association for Dressings and Sauces back in 1992. Still, it might be said that National Salad Month must have been created to fill a need recognized by people who are obviously wiser than myself. After all, I had no idea – until about two minutes ago that is – that a 1991 Gallup Poll showed that “three out of four people eat a tossed salad everyday” and that other (unnamed) polls revealed the startling news that “salads taste better with salad dressing.” Of course, what a salad actually is can be a matter of some debate. The classic French salad course consists of plain greens dressed simply with oil and vinegar and is meant to follow the main course instead of preceding it. In parts of the South, when I was growing up, any random mix of edible objects could be suspended in gelatin and called a salad. No doubt some of these mixtures were, and continue to be, delicious, but I still remember a particularly garish presentation of sliced radishes and carrots in lime Jello with a combination of fascination and dread. The Midwest has its Snickers Salad which includes chopped Granny Smith apples, mini-marshmallows and…wait for it…chopped Snickers bars. About Frog Eye Salad I will only say that its ingredients include tiny round pasta, Cool Whip and pineapple juice.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this sort of exhaustive culinary research makes me hungry. I happen to be one of those three in four people who eats a tossed salad everyday, although I do make my own salad dressing which I suppose wouldn’t make me popular with the Association for Dressings and Sauces. Still, I proudly declare my love of salad and if you are fond of it as well – but feel the need for some new salad ideas in your life – then DCPL has resources for you.food52

From the excellent community website, Food52, comes Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 new ways to turn salad into dinner – and make ahead lunches too. These are hearty dishes, make no mistake, and certainly will provide you with some creative new ideas. By the way, if you’ve yet to visit Food52, then please do. The site is beautiful and the recipes are great. Try the Mujaddara With Spiced Yogurt!

In a similar vein is Tasha DeSerio’s Salad For Dinner: simple recipes for salads that make a meal. DeSerio presents a lovely range of salads here. Plus, detailed instructions and a beautiful photographs will be sure to inspire your wildest salad dreams.

bigAt 288 pages, Cooking Light: big book of salads from the editors of the excellent Cooking Light magazine, certainly covers the bases. The salads look good too. You’ll find intriguing dressing recipes and interesting variations on green salads plus dishes made from heartier vegetables as well as grains and meats. All are presented with the magazine’s typical close attention to eye appeal and high flavor profile. Of course, there’s a focus here on good nutrition too which isn’t a bad thing when you consider the fact that some restaurant salads can pack as much as 1,200 calories and over 1,400 mg sodium inside a single bowl.

How about you? Do you love salad? What’s the most unusual salad that you’ve encountered?

{ 2 comments }

For me, there is one Disney princess that stands out from the rest and that is Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  I identify with her because she is a princess who reads. I also like how the movie discusses appreciating people for who they are as opposed to what they look like.Belle

Bob Thomas, in his book Disney’s Art of Animation, discusses Walt Disney’s beginnings in film with characters such as Mickey Mouse and Snow White (the first princess). Last Christmas, I watched a documentary about how Snow White was made into the first feature film for Walt Disney. It discussed in length the process of getting to the finished result.  The journey continued after Walt Disney passed on with The Little Mermaid and then Beauty and the BeastThe Little Mermaid was the first feature made after Walk passed and Beauty and the Beast the second. Thomas goes onto to share the updates of animation and storyboarding in the process of making Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast was adapted from the original story by Ms. Jean Marie Leprince De Beaumont.  We have some versions of the translation here at the library. In the original, there was no Gaston or animated inanimate objects that acted like servants.  Did you know that Belle actually had sisters?  These sisters were considered Belle’s enemy instead of Gaston.  The character of the beast is different as well.  He was more polite and not like the Disney version of the  character. Beauty and the BeastThe finished product  of  1991 Beauty and the Beast is a personal favorite of mine.  It is also a DVD we carry in the DCPL system.   I still remember all the words to songs like “Belle” or “Be Our Guest.”  I revisited the movie over the weekend and enjoyed it just as much as the first time seeing it in the theater.  We have a special edition DVD of the 1991 movie which includes a preview of the live action Beauty and the Beast that is in theaters now.

Be Our Guest and check out these fabulous books and media about Beauty and the Beast:

Beauty and the Beast 1991 movie

Beauty and the Beast soundtrack

DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION:  From Mickey Mouse to  Beauty and the Beast by Bob Thomas

Beauty and the Beast by Ms. Jean Marie Leprince De Beaumont (There are also other versions of this story in the DeKalb Library System)

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by A.L. Singer

{ 0 comments }

Apr 7 2017

Your Books Are Due On…

by Camille B

library stamp 2

“Man returns library book checked out 75 years ago.”

This newsworthy article caught my attention a couple months ago, and I just had to share it.

Working at the library you think you’ve seen it all: sticky book covers, dog-chewed spines, charred audio cases, and seriously overdue items.

But my mind still reeled when I saw the above headline. What in the world could have happened to delay this book’s return?

Turns out that the children’s book Val Rides the Oregon Trail was found by Robert Lockmon Jr. while he  was cleaning out his basement. It belonged to his late father Robert Lockmon Sr. who, according to the receipt in the book, had checked it out in 1941 when he was just 9 years old.

The book’s due date was Dec 2, five days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the 7, and Lockmon figures that in light of an ensuing world war, the book’s return may have been forgotten.

I tried to imagine what my reaction would be if I looked down and saw that the due date on a book was Dec. 2, 1941. It would probably be like finding a rare coin or postage stamp, and the circulation staff would most likely be huddled around together with me, to stare at it in awe.

Due Date Card

Well, the folks at the Osterhout Free Library in Pennsylvania were certainly happy to see the book back, and waived the fine which was a whopping, wait for it, $554! That’s 2 cents a day for 75 years, two months and 13 days.

“We just laughed about it.” said Jeannette Karaska, the circulation clerk who was on duty at the time.

She says that it’s unlikely that they’ll place the book back in circulation, but she plans to put it on display because of its unique story. For more of the story you can watch this video link here.

Of course I was curious to find out if this was the longest a book had ever been kept out by a patron, and surprisingly the answer was no. In an article in the Daily Mail Reporter, an overdue Library book was returned 123 years late and the fine of 4,500 British pounds was also waived.

The Victorian miscellany Good Words for 1888 was borrowed from the Troutbeck Institute Library shortly after it was first published, but it was never returned.

It sat on the fireside shelf at Townsend House in Troubeck, home to the wealthy Browne family ever since. It was discovered by chance by staff at the National Trust, which now owns the building.

Speaking of waiving of fines and fees, DeKalb County Public Library is also offering Fine Forgiveness to our patrons in the month of April. Beginning April 3 through April 23, we are encouraging patrons to take this opportunity to return any lost and overdue items they may have no matter how old or late, so that we can work with expunging their records. It’s still early in the year and a good time to wipe your library slates clean, replace your library cards and start anew.

I leave you with this list of Ridiculously Overdue Library Books (that were finally returned).

                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 3 comments }

Mar 30 2017

The Eternal Jane

by Dea Anne M

“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine.”northanger

Upon reading this sentence, the first in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, during my second year of college – I was hooked and from that moment forward I joined the legions of passionate Jane Austen fans. “Janeite” is a term coined and taken up during the late nineteenth century by a group of male literary critics and publishers and the label carried a clubby sort of aura. It denoted a privately held enthusiasm, almost on the order of a guilty pleasure, sort of how some people nurture a secret fondness for mayo and peanut butter sandwiches or for playing the lute. Now, “Janeite” often carries mansfielda pejorative meaning (though not always) for those who move in the rarefied academic world and tends to refer to people who indulge in the campier side of Jane Austen fandom such as costuming and reenactment events. Me? I just love the books. From the popular, much beloved and often filmed Pride and Prejudice to the undeniably problematic Mansfield Park – I can’t get enough Austen. I admit that I’ve yet to read Lady Susan – an early work of Austen’s which has been adapted for the screen by Whit Stillman as Love and Friendship (see it – it’s fun!) – but I look forward to doing so soon.

Make no mistake, I’m not one of those readers who swoon over Mr. Darcy (although there’s nothing wrong with it if you are!). My appreciation for Austen is tied up more with her consistently acute observation of what was, admittedly, a fairly narrow slice of the world and with her ironic sense of humor. Indeed, I’ve read most of Austen’s novels more than once and never fail to find them newly entertaining. I also remain fascinated with the offshoots and culture that have grown up around Jane Austen’s life and work. From the weird (but kind of wonderful) to the knitsearnestly correct there appears to be something for everyone in Austenland (which, incidentally, is the title of a 2013 feature film based on a Shannon Hale’s 2007 novel). I encourage you to explore and find your own cozy niche. Are you into needlework? Don’t miss The Best of Jane Austen Knits: 27 regency-inspired designs. Do you fancy a stirring love story mixed in with your epic struggle against the undead?  Be sure to check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: the classic Regency romance – now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem.

Of course, apart from Austen’s own novels, there’s a plethora of fiction inspired by it. Here’s a very abbreviated list.

Longbourn by Jo Baker (Pride and Prejudice told from the household servants point of view)

longbornEmma: a modern retelling by Alexander McCall Smith ( from the creator of the wonderful Mma Precious Ramotswe series)

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict: a novel by Laurie Viera Rigler (A modern woman’s time travel leads to amusing complication…and culture shock!)

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron (the first in a mystery series featuring Jane Austen as sleuth)

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (an engaging YA romp set at an exclusive girl’s academy)

The works of Jane Austen have also inspired a host of non-fiction books. Here’s a few that provide an unusual approach to the material.

A Jane Austen Education: how six novels taught me about love, friendship and the things that really matter by educationWilliam Deresiewicz

The Jane Austen Handbook: a sensible yet elegant guide to her world by Margaret C. Sullivan

At Home With Jane Austen by Kim Wilson

Jane Austen Rules: a classic guide to modern love by Sinead Murphy

Do you like Jane Austen? What’s your favorite of her novels? If you’ve never read her books and want to see what they’re all about, I would recommend starting with Pride and Prejudice – to my mind still her best – although I can’t help putting in a plug for my first Austen crush, Northanger Abbey. It’s one of her shorter novels, and most important, it’s very, very funny. Enjoy!

{ 1 comment }

VictHow many of you have watched the PBS series Victoria? This show is based on Queen Victoria of England. She was one of England’s longest reigning monarchs. At the library we have many opportunities to explore the various lives of women. Daisy Goodwin has, in her latest book Victoria, created a great a companion to the PBS program.

I find it so fascinating to read about another life. One that I will never experience. What is it like to be royal or a head of state? What constrictions does it place on one’s life? Can they truly have the freedom to marry who they choose or live where they want to?

 

Victoria became queen after her two uncles died with no heir. Her early life was spent at Kensington Palace. Where she often felt like a prisoner. Upon her uncle the King of England’s death she achieved the throne and her independence. What kind of monarch would she become? Who would her husband be?

Ms. Goodwin also introduces us to other characters such as: Lord Melbourne (Lord M), the Duchess of Kent, Sir John Conroy, King Leopold of Belgium, and Prince Albert. There are many others as well.

Readers will fly through the pages of the fabulous book on Victoria. The library has other books on Victoria listed here:

Victoria A Life by A.N. Wilson

We two: Victoria and Albert Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill

Queen Victoria At Home by Michael De-La-Noy

We also hYoung Elizabethave books that follow the lives of other monarchs of England who also are featured on current television shows, such as The Crown and The White Princess.  If you are not familiar with The Crown it follows the rise of Elizabeth II to the throne of England.  It also delves into the personal lives of the Queen and her family.  The White Princess on the other hand follows the conclusion of  the War of the Roses or the Cousins War.  It follows the perspective of the young princess Elizabeth of York.

 

Other titles include: 
Young Elizabeth: the Making of a Queen by Kate Wililams

Prince Philip: the turbulent early life of the man who married the Queen Elizabeth the Second by Philip Eade

 

The White Princess by Philippa GregoryPrincess of York

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir

Elizabeth of York, the mother of Henry VIII by Nancy Lenz Harvey

{ 0 comments }

Mar 10 2017

Small Great Things

by Camille B

Small Great Things(No Spoilers)

I have never been a member of a Book Club, but after reading this book I honestly wished that I was. Small Great Things left me so charged up- in a good way- that I wanted to sit down with others who had read it to hear what they had to say about it. Did the emotions they experienced mirror mine? Or were they totally opposite?

There is probably no author worth his salt, who has ever written a book that was totally loved the world over, no matter the effort, research, humility and best intentions he’d put into capturing a particular truth. There would always be the few who felt that the facts weren’t accurate, or if they were, they weren’t presented the right way. Or maybe they simply felt that the author was presumptuous to speak on the topic at all. To these folk I say, get it right when you write your book.

The blurb of Small Great Things actually sells itself, and I found myself being quickly reeled in as I read it: a black labor and delivery nurse, white supremacist parents; the black nurse is told not to touch their baby because of the color of her skin, she ends up doing so anyway in a moment of crisis, the baby dies and the story takes off! I placed a hold on the book immediately. Who was going to pay for this…crime? How? And most importantly…why?

Jodi Picoult uses the lives of her three main characters:  Ruth, a nurse; Turk, a white supremacist father; and Kennedy, a white public defender, each with different lives, cultures and backgrounds, to explore a topic that so many tiptoe around or find difficult to speak about. “Racism is hard to discuss,” says Picoult in the author’s note. “And as a result we often don’t.”  So she puts out the three pairs of shoes for us to walk in, and as we do we see firsthand the many cracks and crevices where racism can lie, sometimes hidden in plain sight. 

Parts of the book will make you squirm, and you may be tempted to skip over a few pages or even chapters. Some of the deeds done would seem atrocious and cause your blood to boil. There are words that may make you cringe, because you can’t imagine ever saying them yourself, but they’re necessary and the book won’t be complete without them.

And Picoult stays true to her characters and their voices throughout her book. I remember commenting to a friend while reading it that, had I written the book myself, I would have been drenched in sweat by the end of the final chapter from the sheer effort of having to keep those three voices as clear and distinct in the reader’s mind as they were throughout the entire novel- a black nurse, a white lawyer and a white supremacist.

The wealth of research that went into breathing life into Ruth Jefferson, Kennedy McQuarrie and Turk Bauer, and causing them to come alive for us on the pages included Jodi sitting down to speak with women of color- many of them mothers- who were willing to share with her openly what it really feels like to be black. She interviewed former skinheads who gave her an inside look of how white supremacists think and what they actually believe. She spoke with white mothers as well, many of whom admitted that they never discussed racism with their children. She spent hours poring over books on the topic and even enrolled in a social justice workshop called Undoing Racism.

I was learning about myself,” Picoult says in her author’s note. “I was exploring my past, my upbringing, my biases, and I was discovering that I was not as blameless and progressive as I had imagined.” Mrs. Picoult is white, I am black, but her words ring true for me as well, as I’m sure they will for you, whether you’re black, white, blue or purple.

For some, this might be a difficult book to read, but what growth is there if we only read the books that we’re comfortable with? The ones with easy answers and a happy ending? I think that it’s imperative that we also  read the ones that stretch us; the ones that make us look at life in another way, whether we agree with that way ourselves or not. And this is what Small Great Things does– it causes you to walk in the other person’s shoes, see through the other person’s eyes, even though doing so might be uncomfortable.

So if you’re looking for an easy read, this is not the book for you. Easy it’s not and change you it will, because there’s no way you can remain indifferent to the racism we see in our world everyday after the myriad of emotions you’re bound to experience as you go through the pages of this book.  There is no way you can continue to hide beneath a cloak of ignorance.

It’s the best book I’ve read so far this year, with a surprising twist that will knock your socks off. I urge you to get it, read it and pass it on to your friends, share it with your husband, wife and coworkers.  I guarantee you that unless your heart is made of stone, there is no way you can read it and not come away with a different imprint upon your  soul that wasn’t there before.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way” 

                                                                   – Martin Luther King Jr.

Small Great Things– Jodi Picoult

 

 

 

{ 2 comments }