Teens Need Their Space. The Friends & Foundation of HCLS is Working to Provide It – Won’t You Join Us?

A series of photos showing teens at the library layer beneath two banners. One reads "Teens need their space." The other says, "Donate nowo to make it happen." Hashtag: Friends Make It Happen.

By Mickey Gomez, Board Chair, Friends & Foundation of HCLS

Howard County routinely ranks among the best places in the country to live (Money Magazine). We have it all, from downtown Columbia to Patapsco Valley State Park. Instrumental in our community’s success has always been Howard County Library System (HCLS), the only five-star library in Maryland (Library Journal).

The Library’s success comes from always striving to exceed our customers’ expectations. Not only does HCLS lend books and movies, but also tools and art. Not only does HCLS teach early literacy classes to children, but also brings in well-known authors and speakers for adults. Not only can you stream and download electronic books and audiobooks, but you can also conduct genealogical research and practice a new language with HCLS online resources.

Truly, our public library provides countless services and benefits the community in a wide variety of ways, striving to ensure that everyone who walks in the doors is met with a welcoming environment and dedicated space where learning, creativity, and friendships can flourish.

This year, HCLS is focusing particularly on teens.

Do you remember being a teenager? What was your favorite place to be? What made it so?

HCLS is poised to be the third place for teenagers: somewhere that’s not school and not home, but still safe and fun. Safe spaces are important for tweens and teens, a place to be themselves, cement friendships, and interact with adult mentors.

Teens have a healthy need for their own places, and HCLS is working to provide exactly that.

Each of the Library’s six branches has a designated location within the building set aside for middle and high school students. At present, the spaces tend to focus on academic needs – with tables and chairs for homework and silent study – but are absent furnishings and technology that invite teens to stay and engage with the resources and one another.

Your donation to Friends & Foundation of HCLS will help change that!

While the library will always remain an excellent place to learn and do schoolwork, HCLS wants to do even more!

  • The Library will outfit its teen areas with comfortable furniture that encourages connection, collaboration, and conversation.
  • HCLS will enhance offerings with even more opportunities of interest, including more hands-on STEM and Arts education, and other educational, fun, and even quirky things teens declare as important to them.
  • Library staff and community engagement teams plan to listen to these young customers’ thoughts on what they want and need, then work to fulfill those requests, creating lifelong Library patrons along the way.

We are asking for your help in providing these nurturing, welcoming spaces.

Howard County has very few places for teens to just be themselves, places that don’t require a purchase or a membership to be there. HCLS wants to be that free and open place, and your donation to the Friends can help make this happen.

The Friends & Foundation of HCLS is a nonprofit organization that supports HCLS in its mission to deliver high quality education for all ages, and most recently, with the new Pop-Up Library to meet the youngest customers in their neighborhoods and help them get ready for Kindergarten.

Now, HCLS is focusing equally on teenagers and providing what they need to thrive and succeed, and we invite you to join us in making it a reality.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A metal watering pail holds fall greenery and herbs, and three small gourds sit on the wooden table at its base.

by Kristen B. and Julie F.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving! The past year and a half have brought trying times, which makes taking a moment to give thanks an exercise in hopefulness. Here’s to hoping we’re in an even better place by this time next year! If you wish to do some reading (it is the blog, after all) about gratitude, check out these lists: adult fiction, adult nonfiction, and for children and teens.

We would like to take a minute to express our gratitude to you, our loyal Chapter Chats readers. We, along with many colleagues here at the library, began this enterprise shortly after the pandemic struck. We were working from home and not very sure how it was all going to work out. We have now surpassed 230 entries that have spanned reviews of books, movies, and online resources, classes and events, and other library news. Thank you for sticking with us!

HCLS is open again now, as you surely know, and our statistics are once again proving why we rate as a 5-Star Library. We reopen the Glenwood Branch in a little over a week on Dec 4, and we hope to see you there and at any of the other branches soon.

On behalf of all the HCLS staff who write for Chapter Chats, enjoy your celebrations this holiday season with family, friends, and loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The cover shows a young Black woman looking to the left, dressed for the trail in a leather coat and a strap for a bag across her chest. She has a floral tattoo on the side of her neck.

by Kristen B.

The Good Luck Girls is a flat-out running adventure of escape and escapade, complete with undead monsters, bank robberies, and a secret rebel base. In the country of Arketta, good luck girls are sold to “welcome houses” as children, basically into indentured servitude where they start as housemaids until they graduate to serving customers more personally. The male patrons of welcome houses are called “brags” by the women who work there. This book is filled with so many smart details that make it real.

Favors are the magical tattoos that mark the girls’ throats and match their names, which cannot be removed or covered without dire consequences. The girls in this story will do almost anything to remove those favors and be free of the welcome house. Meet the girls:

Aster, the protector, is the big sister and the one who has gumption to say, “time to go, girls.”

Violet, the favorite and the survivor who may have regrets, also has the secret information to get everyone to safety.

Tansy, the herbalist and medic, is the heart of the bunch who keeps everyone pointed in the same direction.

Mallow, the fighter, meets life with fists up but learns the hard way how to pick which fights are worth having.

Clementine, the catalyst and Aster’s younger sister, has a catastrophic Lucky Night and becomes the reason this group of girls flees into the wilderness. She wants so much more from life than a Welcome House can offer.

After Clementine’s debut ends with a very important brag dead in her bed, the girls figure out how make an escape, heading North to freedom. The girls follow clues from the story of Lady Ghost passed from good luck girl to good luck girl, but no one knows the truth – although Violet claims to have special knowledge. They discover a male guide to take them through rough country, who brings all the usual complications. He is also looking for redemption and a new life, and makes the difference for surviving in the deep wilderness. The group learns to rely on and (maybe even a little bit) love each other like family.

There are some solid themes underlying all the fun, including gender and race issues. These young women demonstrate their abilities to do what’s necessary to achieve their goals, despite physical and emotional trauma. As they reclaim their identities and their independence, questions arise about who the law protects and serves and when a little rebellion is a good thing. Honestly, I rooted for the girls during their first bank heist … even if it’s a crime.

I gulped this book down over one weekend. I can’t wait to see what these girls do next as I am pretty sure that each one of them is entirely capable of making her own good luck.

The Good Luck Girls is available in traditional print, book on CD, and as an eBook.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.

Celebrate Native American Heritage

Four pictures in a row picture a storyteller, singer, hoop dancer, and cover of We Are Water Protectors.

Join the celebration of Native American Culture and Resilience on Saturday, Nov 6 from 11 am to 3 pm at HCLS East Columbia Branch.

In an interview with Ani Begay Auld, member of the Navajo Nation and owner of Navabedine.com, she wants you to know, “We are still here. A lot of people put Native Americans into this certain time frame … like we’re relics from the past.” Nearly 600 federally recognized Native Nations exist, with dozens more recognized solely by states. Here in Maryland, the Piscataway Conoy and the Accohannock Nations are recognized, and Howard County sits on land that belonged to the Susquehannock nation. At one time, at least eight nations lived in Maryland.

Auld also recommends that you, “Seek out films or books written by native authors and look at the land that you’re on.” The author of the award-winning children’s book, We Are Water Protectors, will be part of the FREE event that also features dancing, singing, drumming, storytelling, children’s crafts, vendors, Navajo Tacos, and more. The line-up includes:

  • Rose Powhatan, Storyteller
  • Lance Fisher, Singer
  • Angela Gladue, Hoop Dancer
  • Chris Eaglehawk, Traditional Dance
  • Karelle Hall, Nanticoke Toe Dance
  • Sonny Elm, Smoke Dance
  • AND
  • Carole Lindstrom, author and #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal, at 2 pm

This event is a collaboration between Nava Be Diné, Howard County Library System, County Executive Calvin Ball, and Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity.

This free event will be held outside the HCLS East Columbia Branch unless inclement weather causes the event to move inside the branch. Masks are required.

Registration is optional and appreciated.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

A dark haired young woman sits in a coral colored party dress. Her skirts fade into the skyline of Havana's seaside.

by Kristen B.

“Next Year in Havana” is apparently a traditional toast for those of Cuban descent living in the US. It’s also the title of a thought-provoking historical novel that takes place in 1959 and the present.

I have to admit … I know almost nothing about Cuban politics and history beyond the obvious. The ongoing, repressive Castro regime brings communism to our back porch, cars are beautifully well-preserved old models, and Miami is home to exiles/immigrants. The revolution happened before I was born, and these are fleeting impressions left from public school and news programs.

Next Year in Havana added some details to that rough sketch. In the first timeline, Elisa Perez is the wealthy, privileged daughter of a sugar “king,” who supports Batista … or at least has every interest in maintaining the status quo. In the present day, her granddaughter Marisol returns to Havana after Elisa’s death to fulfill her final wishes. Beautiful descriptions of the island, the sea-walk, the old city, and the beaches complete this love story Cleeton has written to the country her family left.

As Castro’s forces are lobbing bombs, Elisa sneaks out one night with her older sisters to a party in a working class neighborhood where a friend of a friend of a boyfriend is throwing a get-together. Here she meets Pablo, a university student who is part of the 26th of July movement. Also, Elisa’s brother has been disowned for being part of the rebellion, but he works with a different faction. It all gets complicated, and it all goes wrong.

In the opening scene, the Perez family flees Havana for Coral Gables, Florida, where they rebuild their fortunes. As she and her sisters become the family matriarchs, Elisa essentially raises Marisol. And so we transition to the present, when Marisol makes arrangements to stay with her grandmother’s best friend and old neighbor, Ana, as she returns her grandmother’s ashes to Havana. Ana’s grandson, a professor of history and underground blogger, picks up Marisol from the airport, and their attraction is immediate and electric. Luis becomes her guide to Cuba, both physically and historically. The addition of a Perez scion in his life attracts the wrong sort of attention from the government, for both of them.

Everyone has to make hard choices entangled by expectations, family dynamics, and politics. Money and power have very little grace for young lovers, either 60 years ago or now. While the stories share certain parallels, the women carry these plots each in their own way. The supporting cast of sisters/aunts and extended family makes it all more believable. These characters truly behave like people grounded in their families, cultures, and belief systems.

This book, however, is not really a romance – despite the couples at the heart of both stories. The soft focus packaging is disingenuous marketing and does this excellent historical novel no favors. This book is a sucker punch of how real world choices can have devastating consequences. I enjoyed this book immensely. It may have helped that I read it during a weekend at the beach, with the sounds of the ocean in the background.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton is available in print, as an eBook, and as an eAudiobook through OverDrive and CloudLibrary.

Join us for the 5-Star Showcase!

We are celebrating, and you are invited! 

HCLS is a Five Star Library, as ranked by Library Journal for excellence, because of our services, initiatives, and most importantly – you! Join us this Saturday, October 2 for the 5-Star Showcase at HCLS East Columbia Branch. The FREE event runs from 2 – 5 pm with fun for everyone. You can purchase refreshments from the food trucks, More Than Java Cafe and Dogs on the Curb.

Booths and activities include a 3-D printer demonstration; the Art Collection with cubism, pointillism, and a gallery; and make-your-own cyanotype artwork and pinwheels. Friends & Foundation of HCLS is offering an adult spelling bee – can you spell better than a fifth grader? Kids can also make a bookmark. The Enchanted Garden is visiting with fall planters and leaf rubbings. The folks from the DIY Collection are demonstrating their skills at 2:30 and 3:30 pm. Project Literacy’s booth will have a milk bottle toss, and the Passport office is running a cornhole game. And it’s the LIBRARY … which means you can borrow materials directly from our selectors as well as the new mobile unit.

Brave Voices Brave Choices will be both sharing and collecting stories relevant to racial equity in our county. Come be part of this meaningful work! 

HiTech STEM provides tons of fun with a horse racing game, slime and ooblek, and a one-button race game. They are also running a Ten80 RC Gran Prix, with multiple heats at 2 (NSBE teams), 3 (community cars) and 4 (anyone!) pm.

Whether you want to give the 360° photo booth a spin, get hands-on with HiTech, take in tunes from the live DJ, enjoy a cozy storytime and kids crafts at our new Pop-up Library, or just relax in one of our outdoor lounges and connect with someone new, we can’t wait to see you there.

Many thanks to our sponsors! Friends & Foundation of HCLS and the Howard Hughes Corporation.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A colorful cover full of jade green, deep purple, and gold features the profile of a young Mexican woman gazing at the starys. The panels are decorated with Mayan symbols, including a double headed snake, a caiman, and a skull.
Cover image of Gods of Jade and Shadow

by Kristen B.

Casiopeia Tun, the main character in Gods of Jade and Shadow, may be my favorite heroine so far this year! This Mexican young woman is grounded in real life and is as stubborn as the day as long. Casiopeia believes in fairness, mostly because life hasn’t shown much of it to her. She and her mother subsist as the poor relations within her mother’s family, who are the big fish in the small pond of their Yucatan peninsula town. Casiopeia lives at the mercy of her crotchety grandfather and her privileged cousin Martin, who combine to make her life mostly miserable with chores and petty insults. She suffers with no particular grace. I do love a girl who can glare!

When the rest of the family leaves for an afternoon of fun and relaxation, Casiopeia is left behind for perceived dereliction of duties. In a fit of curiosity and rebellion, she opens an old chest that resides at the foot of her grandfather’s bed. And so the adventure begins!

She has inadvertently awakened a Lord of Death, Hun-Kame. He invites her on a mission to recover his lost power and to defeat his twin brother. She accepts with much trepidation, figuring it to be her one chance to escape dusty Uukumil. The two embark on a quest that takes them across the country, from the Yucatan to Baja. The entire story is grounded in Mayan mythology filtered through 1920s Mexico. Grand hotels, Prohibition-fueled tourism, and early automobiles provide a lively backdrop. Casiopeia and Hun-Kame equally cross great personal distances, from lord and servant to friends who share dreams of the future.

Meanwhile, the insufferable Martin has been co-opted by the god’s twin brother, Vucub-Kame, who has long-laid plans to return to the days of worshiping the old gods with blood sacrifices. Martin tries on multiple occasions to lure Casiopeia away from Hun-Kame. I cheered for her and her stubborn sense of justice the entire way. Her interactions with Martin eventually influence how she understands the dynamics between the divine brothers. In the end, she must make a terrible choice … but I don’t want to give too much away.

This is a lovely, lush book. I am not overly familiar with Mayan myth, but the author so perfectly describes the Black Road through Xibalba (land of the dead) that I could picture it. When Casiopeia and Hun-Kame ride the trains, the evocative sense of motion and rhythm is conveyed beautifully. I enjoyed the book as much for its language and imagery as the fast-paced story itself.

Moreno-Garcia is best known, at the moment, for the best-selling Mexican Gothic. She joyfully mines her grandmother’s stories and her native Mexican mythology for her books. Gods of Jade and Shadow is available as a physical book, and as an eBook and an eAudiobook on Overdrive/Libby.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.

The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

“In this engrossing new book, Robert S. Levine has penned a nuanced and detailed study of the ‘hopes and frustrations of Reconstruction’ during Andrew Johnson’s presidency. While focusing on the relationship between Johnson and Frederick Douglass, the author also includes the views of numerous African American writers who witnessed Johnson’s transformation from self-styled ‘Moses to Black People’ to betrayer of Reconstruction. The Failed Promise is a lesson for our times as we continue to confront our nation’s unfulfilled promise of racial equality.” 

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow

Tuesday, Sep 21 from 7 – 8 pm online 

HCLS is pleased to welcome author Robert S. Levine as he discusses his new book, The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, which tells the story of Frederick Douglass’ heated struggle with President Andrew Johnson over the rights of Black Americans in the years immediately following the Civil War. 

Professor Levine recounts the conflicts that led to Johnson’s impeachment from the perspective of Douglass and the wider Black community. Douglass believed that the Union victory in the Civil War, aided by nearly 200,000 Black soldiers, meant that African Americans should gain the full rights of U.S. citizenship, including the right to vote. Sadly, Black Americans and other minorities are continuing to fight for such rights. Douglass’ struggle with Johnson speaks to the promise and failure of Reconstruction, and to the struggles of our own moment as well. 

Learn more and register at bit.ly/failedpromise

Robert S. Levine is a distinguished University Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author and editor of a number of books, including The Lives of Frederick Douglass, and he is the General Editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, the world’s most widely used American literature anthology. Visit his website for more starred reviews of The Failed Promise as well as a bibliography of his other writings.

Read it! Watch it!

by Emily B.

Book to film adaptations are some of the most beloved and memorable works of pop culture, and devoted fans are always excited to see their favorite novels made into movies or TV series. Whether the adaptation is completely faithful to the book or takes dramatic liberties to make the material fit the medium, reworking an author’s vision in a new format complements and enhances the reader’s understanding of the original work. Check out these awesome books, then see the stories come to life on screen! 

Paddington by Michael Bond (book and movie)
Follow the adventures of Paddington, the marmalade-loving bear from Peru, as he adjusts to life with a family of humans in London. The movie adaptations are the equivalent of a warm hug – wholesome and fun for all ages.
For all ages.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie)
After planning a big trip to Antarctica, the family matriarch Bernadette disappears with no notice, and it’s up to her teenage daughter to figure out what happened. Cate Blanchett stars as the titular character in the film adaptation.
For adults.

You by Caroline Kepnes (book and TV series)
An eerie tale narrated by an obsessive stalker and master manipulator, Joe, who will stop at nothing to be with his dream girl. In the television series, Penn Badgley perfectly plays the role of the unassuming creep.
For adults.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and TV series)
The perfect twisty summer read, Moriarty’s novel features elementary school drama, female friendship, and mystery. Season 1 of the television show is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel, and season two continues the story and expands on the aftermath of the book’s ending.
For adults.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie with subtitles)
The heartwarming tale of a curmudgeonly old man, Ove, whose world is turned topsy-turvy when a young family moves in next door. Will this new family be able to crack Ove’s tough exterior?
For adults.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (book and movie)
This autobiographical graphic novel tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s tumultuous childhood growing up in Iran amidst the Islamic Revolution. The film adaptation was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2007 Academy Awards.
For ages 14+.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (book and most recent movie)
Louisa May Alcott’s beloved coming-of-age tale of the four March sisters has been adapted many times. Most recently, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation garnered six Academy Award nominations and took home the prize for Best Costume Design.
For ages 14+.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (book, eBook, eAudiobook, and movie)
The heart-wrenching story of Starr, a teen who witnesses her best friend’s murder at the hands of a police officer and has to deal with the emotional and political fallout that ensues.
For ages 14+.

Emily is a Customer Service Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.

Two Tales of Two Sisters

An ornate curved dagger with a jeweled hilt appears against a swirling red background, with "Magic is in her blood" at the top and Tasha Suri, Empire of Sand across it along the bottom.
Book cover of Empire of Sand

by Kristen B.

Empire of Sand opens with a young woman painting a window sill with her blood, looking to ward against the daiva spirits of the wild sands. In some ways, the rest of Tasha Suri’s duology revolves around these older spirits that have been subjugated by the Ambhan Empire – and by those who consider them monsters and those who count them as family. Suri’s books are set in a lush, vibrant world based on the Mughal Empire – complete with vast deserts and verdant oases. Here, the Emperor governs but the Maha rules. Here, the upper class consists solely of Ambhan people and the Amrithi are outcast because of their magic.

Mehr is the privileged child of the regional governor, acknowledged but nonetheless the daughter of an Amrithi courtesan. She possesses the full inheritance of her mother’s people, but is protected by her father’s influence. Mehr lives in an uneasy truce with her step-mother, who has adopted Mehr’s younger sister as her own daughter to be raised as an Ambhan noblewoman. Mehr has no ambition for a noble marriage, but when she is discovered practicing Amrithi magic, she is given little choice.

The Maha rules the Empire through the prayers of his mystics. When Mehr accidentally divulges her abilities, she is forcibly married to the powerful mystic Amun and taken away to live a sequestered life in a distant oasis. At the Maha’s Temple, Mehr learns that she and her husband are expected to perform the Rite of the Bound. This magical rite, a choreographed dance with particular poses and gestures, allows the magic of the desert daiva and older gods to flow through the Maha and into the Empire, extending its territory and influence. Through their practice and discipline, Mehr and Amun learn about each other and the tragedies that brought each to the Maha’s temple.

It is this romance of desperation and rebellion that powers the second half of the book. I read this novel in large gulps, needing to know what happened next. As much as I enjoyed the world building, I truly came to love both Mehr and Amun, rooting for them to find a way to be together and free of the Empire. The underlying themes of colonization and prejudice give Empire of Sand an unexpected sense of gravity. There is no doubt but that individual lives were used and abused for the supposed greater good. The consequences of generations of such cruelty cannot easily be constrained or controlled.

A spear points downward against a patterned blue background, with "A curse is upon the throne" in gold script above "Realm of Ash" overlaying the spear, and "Tasha Suri" at the bottom.
Book cover of Realm of Ash

The second book, Realm of Ash, deals with the unfolding repercussions from Mehr and Amun’s story, but from another perspective entirely. We encounter Mehr’s younger sister, Arwa, again as she makes her way to a distant convent for widowed noblewomen. Arwa was, indeed, raised as an Ambhan noblewoman and married a military officer with a bright future. When the garrison is massacred by daiva, Arwa is one of the few survivors and chooses to absent herself from high society. Not entirely surprisingly, the convent is a hotbed of Imperial politics and Arwa soon finds herself on the way to the capital city to serve in the retinue of a princess.

Where her sister has the magic of the Amrithi rites, Arwa discovers that she has a different ability that allows her to access the memories in her blood, remembrances of her ancestors, in the Realm of Ash. The princess’ illegitimate brother lives in nocturnal solitude, researching and experimenting for a way to restore the Ambhan Empire to its former safety and prestige. Arwa must learn to embrace her Amrithi heritage to help the prince and to accept her own worth. Again, a forbidden romance (Ambhan noblewomen may not remarry) lies at the heart of a rebellion against a court built on deception and corruption. And again, I found myself rooting for these two against all odds.

In some ways I preferred Realm of Ash because it shows more of the interconnected elements of the Ambhan Empire, the military and the regular people of Jah Ambha (the capital city), servants and spies. As Arwa and her prince flee into the desert and join a pilgrimage, the wide variety of life outside of palaces and temples make for a wonderful sense of place and history. The bigger picture at play in the second book is, perhaps, only made possible by the laser focus of the first novel.

The fantasy genre is chock-full of strong heroines, women who can outfight anyone and snark about it after … the term kick-ass is usually employed. Mehr and Arwa gave me a much more grounded reality, finding their courage in the face of terrifying odds. Neither young woman wants to be an agent of change or is a rebel at heart. Both have learned to keep their heads down and mouths shut so as not to attract attention or draw criticism. They do have, however, an unerring sense of fairness and a desire to be allowed to live their own lives, loving whom they choose. These sisters indelibly alter their entire world by being brave enough to take the chances presented to them, sometimes fearlessly and sometimes with only a hope and a prayer.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.