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

The People Behind the PAWS

By - Program Coordinator November 1st, 2017

End of term is fast approaching and the library looks forward to welcoming back the therapy dogs of St. PAWs. The club, founded by sixth formers Hunt Hobbs, Ruth Covo and Haley Fuller, is a wonderful group of certified dogs and dog owners who offer respite to our hard working students as exams loom. I had a chance to catch up with Hunt and asked him how they got this club off the ground and what his hopes are for it once he graduates this spring.

What inspired you to start St. PAWS?

In the fall of my third form year, I looked at the list of clubs on the website and didn’t see a dog club, which was disappointing. I wanted to start a dog appreciation society, but didn’t know how to go about doing that. I was also hesitant to start the club as a third former. It wasn’t until Challenge Day that I met Ms. Whalen, who I soon realized was also a dog lover. She described to me the concept of a therapy dog and told me there were a few on campus. She said she had always wanted to have a therapy dog club on campus, and she gave me the support and confidence that I needed to start St. Paws later that day.



Who has supported you in this project?

I would like to thank Haley Fuller and Ruthie Covo, two enthusiastic dog lovers who have been there since the beginning. They’ve seen the club grow from nothing into what it is today. I’d also like to thank Emily Mitchell and Willa King, who stepped in this year and were a great help at all the events. These students have helped St. Paws become the great success that it is today.

The St. Paul’s library staff, especially Ms. Kittler and Ms. Ludwig, have been very supportive as well. They kindly hold several St. Paws events in the library each year.

The SPCA, especially the head volunteer coordinator Justin Nadolski, has been supportive of St. Paws, and they are nice to bring their puppies and dogs to the chapel lawn for students to pet.

We couldn’t have done it though without the therapy dog owners on campus: Rev. Spencer (faculty advisor for St. Paws), Ms. Daniels, and Mr. Gray. They bring their dogs to the library during exams and midterms for students to take a study break and allow faculty children to read to their dogs in the St. Paws reading program. They walk around the dormitories and sports games with their dogs too. They provide great support and serve as the backbone of our club.

Most importantly, the three campus therapy dogs, Henry, Duncan, and Jake. They have done a great job and everybody loves them. St. Paws wouldn’t exist without them.

Do you have plans for St. PAWS beyond SPS?

This upcoming year, I’m going to be focused on finding junior heads, so that once I graduate the club can survive and keep serving St. Paul’s and the surrounding community. We’re going to be focused on forming the relationship with the hospital and nursing homes across the street so that local anxious, sick, and injured people can receive pet therapy.

Once I graduate and go to college, I want to either join an existing therapy dog club or recreate something similar to St. Paws.

Are you a dog lover? Tell me about your dog or dogs who have touched your life.

I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with dogs. At my old school, we had a school dog named Cisco who pretty much served as a therapy dog for the kids. The dog owner happened to be my homeroom leader, so every morning I was able to pet and hang out with Cisco, which was really fun.

Two summers ago, I made my own neighborhood dog walking business, called St. Paws Critter Care, so I’ve enjoyed walking dogs around the neighborhood during my breaks. From my business proceeds, I donated over $5000 over the past two summers and plan to donate more to help the dogs at the Concord SPCA, who I enjoy walking throughout the school year.

My favorite dog in the world though is my family’s Llewellin Setter, Joe.

How are the therapy dogs different from a family pet?

Therapy dogs are usually more relaxed, and they don’t jump on you or bark. Many are trained to help people with PTSD, so they need to be calm.

What challenges have you faced setting up St. Paws?

After my third form year, Ms. Whalen left St. Paul’s, so it was really hard getting St. Paws off the ground. It was relatively easy to meet the therapy dog owners and set up pet therapy sessions in the library because they and the library staff were very supportive. That’s the only thing St. Paws did though for most of my fourth form year because it took a while to form the great relationship that we have today with the SPCA. It started off with just a few kids going over there to volunteer, but after they realized that we meant business, they became very supportive of our club and set up dog walking certification courses exclusively for St. Paul’s students, which was a big help. Now we have dozens of kids who are going over there regularly to walk and take care of the dogs. The relationship between the SPCA and St. Paul’s has become so good that they want our club to lead the annual “Walk for the Dogs” in Concord this fall, which is exciting.

How do you plan to address naysayers?

I’ve never heard anybody speak out against St. Paws. The club helps students deal with exam stress and faculty children learn how to read. We are hoping to help the people at the hospital and nursing homes across the street. We are also helping the dogs at the SPCA, who are often abandoned and need to be trained for adoption. St. Paws is benefiting everybody, and I think the only people who might not like the club are people who don’t like dogs. Even then, they can still join and volunteer at the SPCA by helping other animals like cats and bunnies. The student body seems to love the club. This year, about 31% of students signed up for St. Paws by paper and pen. It’s pretty hard not to like dogs.

Thank you Hunt for your insight and for bringing such a great program to St. Paul’s.

Witchcraft Programming Event

By - Systems Librarian October 9th, 2017

We are making preparations for tomorrow evening’s event with historian Margo Burns, who will be speaking in the library on the Capital Crime of Witchcraft: What the Primary Sources Tell Us. The program starts at 7:00 pm – all are welcome to join us! #ohrstromlibrary #libraryevent #speaker #margoburns #witchcraft #witchhunt #skull #primarysource #librariesofinstagram

We are making preparations for tomorrow evening’s event with historian Margo Burns, who will be speaking in the library on the Capital Crime of Witchcraft: What the Primary Sources Tell Us. The program starts at 7:00 pm – all are welcome to join us!

Read more details on our event calendar HERE.

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Look what’s new!

By - Systems Librarian October 6th, 2017

Look what’s new! New books on the new display in the main level lobby of Ohrstrom Library. Check it out and check something out today! #ohrstromlibrary #newbooks #bookdisplay #newbookdisplay #checkitout #iamsps

Look what’s new! New books on the new display in the main level lobby of Ohrstrom Library. Check it out and check something out today!

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