National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week – November 10-18

By - November 6th, 2018

The federal government’s official poverty threshold for a family of four is about $25,100.00. In 2016, 40.6 million people lived in Poverty in the USA. That means the poverty rate for 2016 was 12.7%! In 2016, 21.2% of all children (15.3 million kids) lived in Poverty in the USA—that’s almost 1 in every 5 children.

 

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America– Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

Edin and Shaefer chronicle the unintended consequences of the 1996 welfare reforms meant to encourage employment and reduce reliance on government cash payments. The reforms have been modestly successful for poor people who are employed. However, for those who are unable to get in or stay in the workforce, life is harsher than ever. The number of individuals in America who survive on less than $2 per person per day, the World Bank standard for global poverty, is growing. It means being inadequately fed, inadequately housed, and underemployed or unemployed. – Library Journal (02/01/2016)

High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing – Ben Austen

In his first book, journalist Austen traces the birth, life, and death of one of America’s most notorious public housing projects: the Cabrini-Green towers and row houses of Chicago’s Near North Side. Constructed in the 1940s and 1950s as a New Deal solution to Chicago’s overcrowded tenements, Cabrini-Green was intended for carefully screened working-class families. Initially integrating many different races, the neighborhood quickly became predominantly African American. Never adequately funded, Cabrini-Green’s structural needs were soon neglected and it became housing of last resort for the city’s poor. By the 1980s, Cabrini-Green was a national symbol of entrenched poverty, gang violence, and community neglect. In 2010, the towers were forcibly emptied and demolition began. Austen’s intimate portrait of the neighborhood follows individual residents from the halcyon days of sparkling new construction and optimism to the final hours before demolition. He draws on interviews with residents, staff, and public-housing experts, as well as contemporary news coverage, popular culture, and secondary literature. -Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc. (Library Journal (12/01/2017)

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City – Matthew Desmond

A groundbreaking work on the central role of housing in the lives of the poor. Based on two years (2008-2009) spent embedded with eight poor families in Milwaukee, Desmond delivers a gripping, novelistic narrative exploring the ceaseless cycle of “making rent, delaying eviction, or finding another place to live when homeless” as experienced by adults and children, both black and white, surviving in trailer parks and ghettos. “We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty,” writes the author. Once rare, eviction is now commonplace for millions of Americans each year, most often as a result of insufficient government support, rising rent and utility costs, and stagnant incomes. Their frantic experiences–they spend an astonishing 70 to 80 percent of their incomes on rent–make for harrowing reading, interspersed with moving moments revealing their resilience and humanity. “All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary,” writes Desmond, who bolsters his stories with important new survey findings. He argues that universal housing vouchers and publicly funded legal services for the evicted (90 percent lack attorneys in housing courts) would help alleviate this growing, often overlooked housing crisis. This stunning, remarkable book–a scholar’s 21st-century How the Other Half Lives–demands a wide audience.  Kirkus Reviews (12/15/2015)

 

Born Bright – C. Nicole Mason

Mason (Me First: A Deliciously Selfish Take on Life) provides a sobering account of the struggle of growing up in poverty in 1970s Southern California. Born to a teenage mother and mostly absent father, Mason here details the ongoing trials her family endured in finding basic necessities such as housing and food. Raised in neighborhoods with mostly African American families like her own, the author shares the sense of isolation she felt from the more affluent parts of society. Included in Mason’s candid anecdotes are the challenges she faced in completing the college application process, and how this nearly blocked her entry into post-secondary education. From inequalities in public school funding to a dysfunctional criminal justice system, she offers her take on cultural barriers to economic parity. Mason, now a respected voice on socioeconomics, also delivers her views on how to improve life for marginalized Americans. Works such as Sasha Abramsky’s The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives offer studies of economic disparity but without the compelling personal perspective. VERDICT This firsthand account of a passage out of poverty will inspire readers interested in the strength of the human spirit in overcoming formidable obstacles.–Mary Jennings, Camano Island Lib., WALibrary Journal (06/15/2016)

Breaking Night: a memoir of forgiveness, survival, and my journey from homeless to Harvard – Liz Murray

Murray is the daughter of drug addicts who died of Aids. They neglected her, scandalously, but loved her in their own hopelessly dysfunctional way. By the age of six she was accustomed to watching her parents shoot up (her mother was almost blind, so her father had to help her do it). She left home at 15, carrying with her a crumpled snapshot of her mother, taken at a similar age – a girl with a storm cloud of hair and an unnervingly absent stare. It is the only picture reproduced in the book – her talisman. Murray’s mother was dying of Aids while her daughter rode the subways at night for warmth, slept in stairwells on marble floors, camped in friends’ houses, scavenged in rubbish bins and played truant from school. And, at 17, she motivated herself to return to high school – making up a year’s work with every term. Murray set herself the highest goals and won a New York Times scholarship that led to the place at Harvard. By far the most memorable stretches of the book are those describing the squalid particulars of the family flat in the Bronx. By the time you have envisaged the coffee table strewn with her mother’s knickers, her parents’ blood on the walls and the Wonder Bread, the lice having a field day on her head, you are desperate to read about scouring, clean water and gallons of shampoo. Murray describes hunger vividly, too – she and her sister, on one occasion, share toothpaste and a cherry flavoured chapstick to keep them going. At every turn, what one salutes is Murray’s unjudgmental stoicism, her compassion and lack of self-pity. One gets the sense she has spent her life trying not to rock the boat – and is still aiming for calm waters. She won’t let misery win. – Kate Kellaway – The Guardian

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

By - October 1st, 2018

A 2016- 2017 CDC survey showed New Hampshire had the 8th highest rate of cyber bullying in the country for High School aged students. An April 2018 study found that 59% of students admitted to experiencing cyber bullying in the last year. Check out some of the library’s offerings on bullying and let’s work to reduce these numbers.

At LeakyCon, a young lady asked me how I dealt with bullying. I wasn’t able to give her a very good answer, which troubles me. Well, there were lots of shouts of “It gets better” and “Stay strong” and “We love you”. But when I put myself back in time to when I was being bullied, none of those things would’ve helped me. Yes, absolutely it does get better. But when you are being physically and psychologically tortured, it is difficult to remove yourself from the pressingness of the moment at hand. Here’s how I dealt with bullying: I cried, I hated myself, I hated my life. I didn’t deal with it, I survived it, but I never dealt with it. So here are two tips from someone with lots of experience. 1: It’s not about you, it has nothing to do with you, it’s about the assholes doing it to you. 2: Your job is not to deal with it, your job is to survive it, which you CAN do because it WILL end. And then yes, it will get better.- Hank Green, entrepreneur, musician, educator, producer, vlogger, and author.

 

Freak – Marcella Pixley

An expertly—and lovingly—narrated story about girls and bullying is told by the novel’s main character Miriam Fisher. The persecution is frightening; the pain is real; the telling excruciating. But in the end, Miriam is transformed by an act so startling that readers will find themselves suddenly breathing again. Stunning.” – Kirkus Reviews

 

Jumped – Rita Williams-Garcia

References to A Separate Peace and other literary and historical allusions help fuel the riveting debate. With a realistic look at girl-on-girl violence and gripping characterization, Williams-Garcia masterfully builds tension to the momentous ending. Although readers can anticipate the tragedy that transpires, it is shocking and agonizing nonetheless. – Kirkus Reviews

 

The Improbable Rise of Paco Jones- Dominic Carillo

Paco Jones is a teen stuck between two worlds and doesn’t fit into either one. As a half-white, half-Mexican boy attending an elite private school his parents sacrifice to send him to, Paco is bullied because of his race, clothes, and food and is quite the loner. In the spirit of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and John Green’s Looking for Alaska, this is a coming-of-age story about a young man who has been given an opportunity and almost loses it by caving in to peer pressure. VERDICT A quick yet heavy-laden read about race, class, and friendship. Recommended for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Matt de la Peña –School Library Journal

Freak Show

Freakshow– James St. James

St. James pulls no punches in describing the escalating verbal and physical abuse Billy suffers at the hands of his classmates. On a day when he comes to school outfitted as a primeval swamp queen (“This is not a dress, it’s an ecosystem”), Billy’s peers so brutally attack him that he goes into a coma. Rather than leave the academy, Billy takes a stand for outcasts everywhere by running for homecoming queen, and attracts statewide media attention. In Billy Bloom, St. James has created an archetypal hero for outsiders and freaks. Though the subject matter and language will likely prove controversial, it’s nearly impossible to remain untouched after walking a mile in the stilettos of someone so unfailingly true to himself and so blisteringly funny- Publishers Weekly

 

All the Rage – Courtney Summers

Summers takes victim-shaming to task in this timely story, and the cruelties not only of Romy’s classmates but also the adults she should be able to trust come heartbreakingly to the fore. Romy’s internal monologue is breathy and filled with bitter indignation, and while the narrative style may require some patience, older teens who like gritty realism will find plenty to ponder.” —Booklist

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Spring has sprung!

By - April 20th, 2018

Spring has sprung! Check out the library’s expanding collection of gardening, sports, and cookbooks!

 

Succulents- Robin Stockwell

“Succulents are the ultimate easy-care plant: versatile, effortless to grow both indoors and outdoors, and drought tolerant. From Aloe and Agaves, to Senecio and Taciveria, this handbook by leading garden expert Robin Stockwell highlights 200 of the easiest, most useful, and gorgeous plants, and shares advice on care and cultivation. Readers will find inspiration for imaginative and exciting new ways to use succulents in striking garden designs, containers, vertical walls, and indoor arrangements, as well as step-by-step projects, such as living bouquets and terrarium ornaments.” (from the back cover)

Carrots Love Tomatoes- Louise Riotte

“Plant parsley and asparagus together and you’ll have more of each, but keep broccoli and tomato plants far apart if you want them to thrive. Utilize the natural properties of plants to nourish the soil, repel pests, and secure a greater harvest. With plenty of insightful advice and suggestions for planting schemes, Louise Riotte will inspire you to turn your garden into a naturally nurturing ecosystem.” (from the publisher’s website)

The Perfect Scoop- David Lebovitz

“This is the definitive book on frozen desserts. David has the most amazing recipes for homemade ice cream, plus lots of ideas for crunchy toppings, sweet mix-ins, and edible ‘vessels’ such as sugar cones, meringues, and cream puffs. I want to make them all!” –Ina Garten (from the back cover)

 

The Complete History of Cross-Country Running- Andrew Boyd Hutchinson

“Hutchinson… does a marvelous job documenting the lengthy history of cross-country running from the early 1800s, when the sport developed from “hare and hounds” or “paper chase” events in England to the present day, when groups are advocating that cross-country be reestablished as an Olympic event. This is a well-researched, informative tribute to cross-country running and belongs in most public-library sports collections. – Brenda Barrera, Booklist

The Away Game- Sebastian Abbott

“African teens vying to become pros in elite soccer leagues find their dreams turning to dust in this alternately hopeful and dispiriting sports saga… Abbot’s narrative features vivid profiles, engrossing play-by-play, and a sobering lesson: bad breaks and cold business calculations sometimes trump ability in the making of champions.” – Publisher’s Weekly

 

SPS welcomes Poet Safia Elhillo February 12th

By - February 7th, 2018


On Monday, February 12th, Safia Elhillo will be giving a poetry workshop and reading at Ohrstrom Library – see our event listing for details. Safia is the author of The January Children and the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, Crescendo Literary, and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator. In addition to appearing in several journals and anthologies, her work has been translated into Arabic, Japanese, Estonian, and Greek. With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me. She is currently a teaching artist with Split This Rock.

Ohrstrom Library has Safia’s book, The January Children, available:

The January Children-

“Elhillo contemplates the meaning of home and what it means to belong in a taut debut collection of heartfelt poems that speak to the push-and-pull predicament specific to people who can claim multiple cultural identities, and whose identities reflect multiple geographies.” – Publishers Weekly

Safia has also supplied the library with a list of recommended readings, including these titles:

Autobiography of Red– Anne Carson

“In lyric mode, the scholar and poet Anne Carson has created, from fragments of the Greek poet Stesichorus, a profound love story — a reverie on the mystery of one person’s power over another, seen through the double lens of scholarship and verse… a hybrid work of poetry and prose that includes witty critical reflections on Stesichorus and an imaginary interview with him.”  – Ruth Padel, The New York Times

Ancestors– Kamau Brathwaite

“Brathwaite sketches a vast, economically determined history encompassing the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and the Middle East–as if the shadows of Prospero, Caliban and Miranda extended from the plantation (a frequent setting) across the globe, fiercely throwing exploitation, misery, loneliness, joy, celebration, dignity and humanity into bold, intensely detailed relief… Derek Walcott and Jamaica Kincaid may get all the press, but Brathwaite is one of the most significant Caribbean-born writers of the 20th century and is recognized as such by academia if not by trade readers.”- Publishers Weekly

Incendiary Art– Patricia Smith

“Using the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till as her anchor, Smith explores how the lives of black Americans get cut short by racism, particularly by white fear of black masculinity… Smith exhibits razor-sharp linguistic sensibilities that give her scenes a cinematic flair and her lines a momentum that buoys their emotional weight…  Smith’s urgent collection lives up to its title, burning bright and urgent as a bonfire.” – Publishers Weekly

The Black Maria– Aracelis Girmay

“Girmay crafts a moving collection of lyrical, image-thick poems that balance on the knife edge separating vulnerability and unapologetic strength. The ideas of diaspora, alienation, and separation—whether borne by the devastating legacies of slavery or the heartbreaking necessities of political asylum—are viewed as the repetitious and stubborn waves of history. However, these ideas are never treated as the heritage or sole narrative of particular peoples, but rather an indictment of colonialism and nationalism. Girmay effortlessly slips between collective history and personal memory, tackling the subject of black pain without victimizing herself or exploiting the voices of the marginalized.”- Publishers Weekly

New Year, New Books

By - January 12th, 2018

Happy New Year! Escape the chilly weather and stay inside to curl up with some of our great new fiction titles!

 

Stay With Me– By Ayobami Adebayo

“Powerfully magnetic and heartbreaking…At once, a gothic parable about pride and betrayal; a thoroughly contemporary — and deeply moving — portrait of a marriage; and a novel, in the lineage of great works by Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie… Adebayo is an exceptional storyteller. She writes not just with extraordinary grace but with genuine wisdom about love and loss and the possibility of redemption.”- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

New People– By Danzy Senna

“In “New People,” her captivating and incisive fifth book, Danzy Senna has crafted a tragicomic novel that powerfully conjures the sense of optimism once associated with future racial transcendence, even as it grounds that idealism in a present that bears more than just a family resemblance to the racialized past… Inventive, sharp-witted and frequently hilarious.- Alexandra Kleeman, New York Times book review

Wonder Valley– By Ivy Pochoda

“It’s a dizzying, kaleidoscopic thriller that refuses to let readers look away from the dark side of Southern California… Fairly or not, literary thrillers live or die by their endings, and the last pages of “Wonder Valley” are unexpected and pitch-perfect… Pochoda has a real gift for pacing, and she’s a remarkably psychologically astute writer. It’s a gorgeous portrayal of, as one character puts it, “the place to be when you don’t belong anywhere else, when you’ve done things that make the straight world an impossible place to live.” –Michael Schaub, LA Times

Waking Lions– By Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, Translated by Sondra Silverston

“ Part psychological thriller, part morality play — takes readers through the wilderness of the Negev desert and its underworld of Israeli drug dealers, Bedouin gangs and desperate refugees. Gundar-Goshen has said that she believes the writer’s job is to force readers to look at what they’d usually avoid. Not short on discomfiting scenes, “Waking Lions” offers a commentary on privilege and otherness, challenging readers to confront their own blind spots and preconceptions.” –Ayelet Tsabari, New York Times Book Review.

A Kind of Freedom– By Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

“Luminous and remarkably assured… a writer of uncommon nerve and talent. Whether writing of black girlhood, the quotidian fears and hopes of mothering, or the lure of street life, she places her characters in the path of momentous choices while making it clear they have little to hope for. A Kind of Freedom” attends to the marks left on a family where its links have been bruised and sometimes broken, but dwells on the endurance and not the damage. The force of this naturalistic vision is disquieting; it is also moving.” –Jesse McCarthy, New York Times Book Review

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