Namaste, Howard County

A group of people in winter coats and masks stand in front of a white pop-up tent, from which hangs a red banner that read Indian Cultural Association.

by Rohini G.

I volunteer with the food pantry run by the Indian Cultural Association (ICA) and I’d like to share a little bit of what I see in the parking lot at HCLS Miller Branch. Just the other day while we were unloading boxes, a lady walked up to me. She had come to pick up books at the library and was curious about the long line of cars. When I told her about the boxes of food – milk, eggs, meat, fresh produce, that ICA was prepping to deliver, she quickly got into the line. After about five minutes she beckoned me to her car, and her mother, or mother-in-law, and her young son were with her. She asked how much she’d have to pay for the food, and I told her – it’s free. She looked away and mumbled something that I didn’t quite understand. I said, “Excuse me?” She looked up and said that her family hadn’t had a proper meal in three days. That look of desperation in her eyes is imprinted on my brain. 

That is why cars start lining up hours in advance of the start time even in bitter cold. When the food distribution starts, the cars flow through non-stop and all four loading stations are constantly busy. The folks in that line represent a wide diversity – from older couples to families with kids in car seats. In that parking lot we see all the shades of skin color – both in the cars collecting food as well as among the volunteers loading the boxes into the cars. More than 350 volunteers help ICA distribute the food. The way ICA is bringing the community together gives me a lot of hope for our future.  

The Indian Cultural Association’s mission is to introduce and enhance the vibrant culture and heritage of India through various programs. A fledgling organization, it was incorporated in 2018 by Sanjay and Niti Srivastava. ICA has been working to help put food on the table of families in our community and alleviate hunger among so many affected by the pandemic. Niti shares some surprising statistics, “Nearly 28% of Howard Countians are food insecure, meaning they are not certain about where their next meal will come from or they will be making a choice between paying essential bills or buying food for their families. 1 in 4 children and 1 in 6 adults are food insecure. You will be surprised to learn that these are 2018 figures”.  

Inspired by the core philosophy of Seva, or selfless service to those in need, ICA has distributed more than 1,600,000 pounds to date (and counting) of food to more than 100,000 hungry families. ICA has distributed more food to Howard County residents than the Howard Food Bank during the pandemic.  

The food pantry by The Indian Cultural Association. 

Working in tandem with community organizations, Howard County Library System has been tirelessly engaged in supporting and assisting our customers and our community through this troubling year. These efforts have included lending Chromebooks and hotspots to enhance digital learning as well as supporting food pantries to address food insecurity among Howard County households. One of our most valuable partners in this effort at mitigating hunger has been The Indian Cultural Association (ICA) of Howard County. 

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

At Noon: Poetry Moments

The photograph depicts poet laureate Joy Harjo wearing a bright red shirt and blue jeans, with her tattooed hand across her knee and a turquoise bracelet on her wrist.
Photograph of poet laureate Joy Harjo by Paul Abdoo

by Susan Thornton Hobby and Rohini Gupta

Have lunch with the poets during National Poetry Month.

I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me: they are about questions.” — Lucille Clifton

Lots of people think they need to know what a poem means. Sometimes professors and experts dissect a poem so much that a poem dies before we allow it to live. But what if a poem was written not to answer questions, but to ask them?

Lucille Clifton, a National Book Award-winning poet, wrote from her home office in a townhouse in Columbia for decades until her death in 2010. And she never stopped asking questions with her poetry.

Sometimes, when we talk about poetry, people’s eyes glaze over. Occasionally (or more often) poetry just seems impenetrable. But it doesn’t have to be. Clifton’s poetry is accessible, understood at a first reading, with meaning that grows deeper with a second or third reading, prompting those questions that bring readers to her poetry over and over again.

Once we’ve hooked you with Clifton’s work, we have plenty of other ideas of where to start with poetry. Perhaps with Amanda Gorman’s performances at President Joe Biden’s inauguration and at the Super Bowl, more people are intrigued about poetry, but don’t really know where to go for good poetry beyond inspirational quotes on Instagram. We’ve got your poetry questions covered.

Soon after the Howard County Library’s Central Branch opened in 1981, Clifton read her poetry with three other amazing poets, William Stafford, Roland Flint, and current Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri. HoCoPoLitSo (Howard County Poetry and Literature Society) brought those poets and library customers together forty years ago, and we’re still collaborating today. Across those decades, we have together sponsored movies about Gwendolyn Brooks and Seamus Heaney, organized readings by poets such as Josephine Jacobsen and Stanley Kunitz, judged student poetry contests, and even staged a play about poet Emily Dickinson, “The Belle of Amherst.”

Since National Library Week (April 4-10) coincides with National Poetry Month in April, HoCoPoLitSo and Howard County Library System thought it would be the perfect time to launch a new program. Every Tuesday in April, HoCoPoLitSo and the library collaborate to bring you a lunchtime buffet of poetry, virtually.

Join HoCoPoLitSo and Howard County Library System for their newest program, a lunch break of poetry every Tuesday in April. At Noon: Poetry Moments. Register here.

When the pandemic closed everyone’s doors, HoCoPoLitSo created a new video series, both to reach out to people at home who were hungry for the arts, and to amplify the voices of Black poets who have visited HoCoPoLitSo audiences since 1974. With the help of Howard Community College’s Arts Collective, and director Sue Kramer, we produced the Poetry Moment series. Local actors Chania Hudson, Shawn Sebastian Naar, and Sarah Luckadoo offer introductions, then famous poets like Clifton and Kunitz and Heaney and Brooks read their work, with selections extracted from archival video. Ellen Conroy Kennedy, the late founding director and heart and soul of HoCoPoLitSo, started this archive in 1986 when she began documenting the poetry and literature programs she was producing. The Writing Life resulted, with more than 100 full interviews with authors carried on HoCoPoLitSo’s YouTube page.

In April, every Tuesday at noon, we’ll gather virtually to talk poetry. We’ve grouped the poems by theme for each week, and will talk a little about poetry, then watch the videos together and discuss.

Here’s our poetry hit parade:

April 6: We’ll talk about grief, something many people are dealing with this year. Poems we’ll be discussing include “Elegy” by Linda Pastan, “My Deepest Condiments” by Taylor Mali, and “The Long Boat” by Stanley Kunitz.

April 13: History is this week’s theme, and we’ll talk about Sterling Allen Brown’s “Southern Road,” read by poet Toi Derricotte, “In the Tradition” by Amiri Baraka, and “Requiem” by Anna Akhmatova, read by poet Carolyn Forché.

April 20: Many contemporary poets turn to their families as sources for poetry. The poems we’ll read this week are “good times” by Lucille Clifton, “The Pomegranate” by Eavan Boland, and “A Final Thing” by Li-Young Lee.

April 27: Our last week is centered on pep talks in poetry, verse to lift us up and give us strength. We’ll discuss “The Solstice” by W. S. Merwin, “For Every One” by Jason Reynolds, and “I Give You Back” by Joy Harjo.

HoCoPoLitSo and the HCLS are happy to collaborate in bringing poetry to all who ask questions, to any who believe, like we do, that words can change the world.

If we hook you on poetry, consider tuning in to the April 29 Blackbird Poetry Festival, featuring Ilya Kaminsky and sponsored by Howard Community College and HoCoPoLitSo.

Register for the HCLS lunch poetry programs At Noon: Poetry Moments.

Susan Thornton Hobby is a proud library volunteer and HoCoPoLitSo board member and consultant, and with the library’s support, she coordinated this April poetry feast. Rohini Gupta is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS.

What is Home? asks Brandon Hobson

The book cover depicts a woodsy scene in grays and blues, with a lone figure inverted on a path in the center, framed by three interlocking triangles in pink, green, and gold.

by Rohini G.

Brandon Hobson, author of The Removed, believes that good fiction starts with a question. 

“The big question here was how do we grieve, and how do we heal. But I’m also interested in the question of what is home?” Examining these questions is the starting place for his writing, Hobson says in an interview with Zibby Owens.  

In The Removed, Hobson hauntingly weaves together two strands. First is the story of personal loss experienced by the Echota family; second, the devastating loss experienced by the Cherokee Nation – the traumatic heritage of the Trail of Tears, the forced removal by the U.S. government from 1830 to 1850 of an estimated 100,000 indigenous people (including Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, among other nations) from their homes. 

After fifteen years, the Echotas are still struggling to come to terms with the death of their son, Ray-Ray, who was killed in a police shooting at the mall. Maria tries to keep the flame of remembrance alive for her son, as she deals with her husband Ernest’s struggle with Alzheimers, son Edgar’s meth use, and daughter Sonja’s detachment. As the family’s annual bonfire approaches – an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death – Maria takes in a foster child, Wyatt. Buoyant and quirky, Wyatt is a born storyteller, spinning gripping tales about snakes and birds and an underworld, called the Darkening Land. 

While reading this book, I was enthralled with the way Hobson shifted perspective with each character and got into the skin of that person, especially Tsala, a Cherokee spirit who tells a story of his own murder for refusing to be removed. Written in a lyrical, minimalistic style, The Removed is a a powerful story, a profound yet quick read, available in book format and also as an eaudiobook and ebook from Libby/OverDrive. 

Hear author Brandon Hobson in person on Wednesday, March 10. For information, click here.

The book cover depicts a stylized eagle in black silhouette with outstretched wings against an orange background, with a single feather fallen to the ground beneath.

Hobson is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, with a PhD in English and seven years’ experience as a social worker for disadvantaged youth. His previous book, Where the Dead Sit Talking (also available as an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive) was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction and winner of the Reading the West Book Award. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University and teaches in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

A RECOMMENDED BOOK FROM

USA Today * O, the Oprah Magazine * Entertainment Weekly * Harper’s Bazaar * Buzzfeed * Washington Post * Elle * Parade * San Francisco Chronicle * Good Housekeeping * Vulture * Refinery29 * AARP * Kirkus * PopSugar * Alma * Woman’s Day * Chicago Review of Books * The Millions * Biblio Lifestyle * Library Journal * Publishers Weekly * LitHub 

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

Veterans Book Group: A Journey

The mostly blue cover features a an illustration of people gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Wall, drawn in the primitive style.

by Rohini G.

Last year we embarked on a powerful journey of connection through reading and discussion among veterans in Howard County. This journey continues in 2021. Our facilitator, David Owens, USNA Class of ‘94, shares his thoughts in a candid interview.    

David, you are a former Naval officer and an entrepreneur with your own media production company. You are also the facilitator of a Veterans Book Group (VBG) at the library. Tell us more about all these different hats that you don so effortlessly.  

I do indeed juggle a lot, but I love it! I want to be someone who makes communities better, and thus volunteering (Veterans Reading Group, etc.) makes me feel more satisfied. I’m a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent six years active duty stationed at Naval Station San Diego. I was also a news reporter for 15 years after leaving the service. 

Running a small business has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, and much of the success of the company centers on human connecting and teambuilding. I learned many of those skills in the military and try to bring those abilities to the reading group as well.  

The Veterans Book Group was a first for Howard County Library System and a first for you. What prompted you to take on this role? 

First of all, I love this reading group, and I hope it continues! I wanted to be involved in the group because I love to read, and I like listening to other people’s opinions on things. This has been the best of both worlds for me! We all read the same book, yet we sometimes have different perspectives, which helps us all grow. Additionally, it is awesome to meet new people and connect with them. 

What makes a Veterans Book Group different from other book groups? 

Just by the nature of the job, military members tend to have experience working in high intense environments with diverse groups of people. I believe those experiences facilitate deeper discussions in our group. I also believe there is increased sensitivity and empathy among the members because we understand some have had life-altering experiences during their service/lives. As for the readings, we are a relaxed group that gives members plenty of time to read all the books. 

Would you like to share any special memories or experiences from last year’s VBG? 

Last year we were honored to have author Madeline Mysko (Bringing Vincent Home) join us for a session. She was so gracious, and having her talk about how the book was really a reflection of her own experiences brought a realness factor to our discussion.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Covid-19. Our group initially met in person, then held our final few meetings virtually. Howard County Library and Maryland Humanities were great at adjusting on the fly. Being able to remain connected to people brought positive energy for me, and provided a bit of normal human interaction during such a difficult time. 

I understand that participants at VBG read novels, short stories, articles, and just about every format. What was your favorite story, book or excerpt from what you read last year? 

Again, I have to give a lot of kudos to Howard County Library and Maryland Humanities because they work hard to assist the facilitators in selecting a good cross-section of books. Bringing Vincent Home was my favorite. The characters in her story were so identifiable and really hit home for me. I honestly had to remind myself on several occasions that it was actually a novel.  

You are embarking on another journey with VBG in 2021. What are your plans for this year? How are you feeling about it? 

I am really excited about the diversity of subjects in this year’s books. We will explore issues with the VA (Dead Soldier by Carmelo Rodriguez), as well as a few eras that might not get read as much (Korean War and Civil War). We are also planning to invite authors to our discussions; in fact, Carmelo Rodriguez has expressed a desire to speak with us. I’m looking forward to the journey, and I know the group is going to have a lot of great discussions and connections! 

The Veterans Book Group 2021 starts on February 2. For more information and to register, click HERE.

Charge Up Your Career

The photograph depicts a recruiter and a job seeker at a career fair looking at a presentation board.

By Rohini G.

Whether you are stepping into a career for the first time, looking to accelerate your growth, or seeking a change in direction, check out our upcoming Employment and Workforce Development series.

Through a series of workshops being offered from November through January, HCLS has partnered with the UMBC Career Center to discuss three topics in career building.

Your new job may be just around the corner. Recruiters scan a resume for seven seconds or less. Write a powerful resume using bullet points to highlight accomplishments with Rachel Bachman, M.Ed., as she presents Resumes Recruiters Recognize on November 18 at 7 pm. Rachel has over six years of career counseling and coaching experience in higher education. She currently serves as a Career Specialist in the Career Center at UMBC. Her goal is to help all people reach their full potential through career development. Register for her workshop here.

The second workshop in this series focuses on honing networking skills to achieve visibility through a well-thought-out online image. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 80 percent of jobs are never posted anywhere, but instead come from connections between people. The importance of LinkedIn and other social media sites has moved beyond social connection into the realm of creating a professional brand. Build your LinkedIn and Social Media Profile on December 9 at 3 pm. Register here.

And finally, learn communication strategies to effectively market yourself in an interview or while networking. Rachel discusses how to present achievements during an interview, what to expect, and how to answer behavioral questions. Mastering the Elevator Pitch and Interview, on January 20 at 7 pm, helps you in crafting the perfect impression. Register here.

These diverse skills are applicable in an arena wider than career development and can enhance interactions during all experiences in life. For a list of additional employment resources available through HCLS, please visit the link on our website.

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

New Online Calendar!

Events calendar for June 2020, with classes listed in a grid. On the left side, a green filters menu to help with searching is visible.

HCLS is pleased to launch a new online calendar that provides an easy-to-use, snapshot view of all of our upcoming classes and events. The calendar can be accessed here, or by going to hclibrary.org and clicking on “Classes & Events.”

This user-friendly and easy-to-navigate tool allows customers to search and register for classes and events quickly and easily. Hovering above a title brings up a preview sidebar, and clicking on that title will take you to the full details and registration page. It is important to register with an email address so that you receive the automatic confirmation email and the link to join the online class.

You can search for classes in many ways through the Filters menu. The calendar has a basic keyword search. For example, typing in ‘STEAM’ will display all of the upcoming STEAM classes. You can also search by subject by using the “Program Type” list on the left-hand sidebar.

The feature I find most useful is that all the classes are color coded by age group! I just select Ages 14-17 (High School) to look for classes for my teenager, and interesting classes like Science Lab, Digital Design Lab and Food Truck Entrepreneur pop up! Click “reset” to search again with a different filter.

Play around and explore this new online calendar, and discover classes and events for everyone! If you love literature, I suggest searching for Staff Picks & Book Chat (scheduled for this Friday, June 26th, at 11am) and register – you will love how speedy and simple this process is!

If you have any questions, we can be reached at Ask HCLS.

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

20th Century Women

review by Eric L.

A group of people stand on a beach with the ocean behind them. 20th Century Women is in basic type above their heads. A gold banner at the top announces that the movie has been nominated for an Academy Award

The story centers around a middle-aged single mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening), raising a fifteen-year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). Dorothea owns a large old house (under slow renovation) wherein she rents rooms to Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and William (Billy Crudup). Abbie is a twenty-something, artistic, feminist photographer interested in the nascent punk rock scene; William is a forty-something hippie and handyman mechanic. The other character often in the house is Jamie’s seventeen-year-old female friend Julie (Elle Fanning), with whom he has a complicated relationship.

The thrust of the film is that the overly analytical Dorothea decides to enlist Abbie and Julie to help raise Jamie, in lieu of another man. The different ages and experiences of the characters in the film create the tension. People of different ages and backgrounds attempting to understand and relate to each other is always fraught with problems, irrespective of the setting. Different characters narrate the background of each character as they are introduced and understood, which is very well done with dialogue and images.

The washed out, sunny Southern California setting and the wardrobe selection create a strong visual aesthetic for the film. There are also wonderful scenes of a punk rock club and a seemingly out of place, psychedelic style to the car travel scenes.

I enjoyed the film very much, but perhaps that’s because it “reflected” aspects of me back. However, it’s my opinion that many people will feel the same about it. It’s “indie” and “artsy,” but has a mass appeal due to the characters deftly portrayed in the film. I would describe it as feel-good, but not overly sentimental or trite.

The film is rated R and does include some sexual content.

DVD Fiction. Available to view through Kanopy.

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.