Author works: Gail Tsukiyama

The book cover depicts the small town of Hilo at the shoreline, with buildings in shades of white and brown against a foreground and backdrop of turquoise sea and sky; in the distance, Mauna Loa is erupting into the sky, with yellow flame and reddish clouds above the silhouette of the mountain.

JOIN US! Author presentation: Thursday, Aug 5 from 7 – 8 pm, online
Register via this link or at hclibrary.org > classes & events. Once you register, a Zoom link will be emailed to you.

By Julie F.

The beloved bestselling author and recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, Gail Tsukiyama returns with The Color of Air. A novelist whose dual Chinese and Japanese background features prominently in her writing, Tsukiyama presents a novel whose prose flows like the lava threatening her characters, with the grace of stringing leis with fragrant jasmine, kukui nuts, and ti leaves. The literal and figurative emblems of Hawai’i leap off the page and into the vision, sounds, taste, and touch of readers as they live alongside the Hilo locals, and hear the voices of the ghosts they cannot let go.

The residents’ stories move through alternating sections from 1935 to the even deeper past — a rich, vibrant, bittersweet chorus which tells the interweaving stories and a lifelong bond to each other and to others in their immigrant community. Even as the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano threatens their lives and livelihoods, it also unearths long-held secrets that have been simmering just below the surface.

What I love about the book is that there is a subplot for everyone. If you’ve had a relative challenged by dementia or Alzheimer’s, you see how Mama Natua’s family tries to cope with the help of Daniel, the Hilo native and urban Chicago doctor who has returned to the island to work among his people. Daniel himself wrestles with paternal abandonment, maternal loss, and the guilty sting of feeling that he failed a patient on the mainland. His high school sweetheart, Maile, has an abusive relationship in her past and is tentative about finding happiness again. Razor, the best friend of Daniel’s uncle Koji, tries to unionize the immigrant workers who are taken advantage of by the sugar and pineapple plantation owners and overseers. Each person has their secrets and struggles, yet all come together to find solutions. That’s one of the best things about Tsukiyama’s novels: the sense of love, community, and found family that permeates each page, with characters who learn to face and overcome their fears in order to adapt and grow.

Another strength is the remarkable visual and sensual imagery of the island, which is like a living being itself: “just as volatile and unpredictable as anything a big city could offer” (48). The native Hawaiian words interspersed throughout give the reader a sense of the geology, the fruit, the pikake blossoms, the music of the Filipino bands in the town, and the diversity of languages spoken on the island (at one point, she notes that signs on the street were printed in Tagalog, Portuguese, and Japanese). Hawai’i is truly a distinct cultural melding of sounds, sights, and scents, and Tsukiyama’s descriptive language conveys its unique beauty.

In her years aside from writing, Tsukiyama co-founded the nonprofit WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water. Alongside bestselling authors Ann Patchett, Gillian Flynn, Karen Joy Fowler, Mary Roach, and Lisa See, the foundation’s mission is to give children in developing communities hope for the future through nourishing their minds and bodies with books and water.

Gail Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco, California to a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a Japanese father from Hawai’i. She is the bestselling author of Women of the Silk (available from HCLS in eAudiobook format from Libby/OverDrive) and The Samurai’s Garden, as well as the more recent A Hundred Flowers (also available as a book on CD and as an eAudiobook from CloudLibrary).

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch. She loves gardening, birds, books, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Racism, Health & Action

A photo of a hospital's emergency room entrance, with EMERGENCY in large red letters, acts as a marquee for "Dr. Camara Jones speaks on racism, health, and action."

by Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

What can we do to live in a more just society where more people thrive, and race doesn’t determine people’s health?

HCLS is proud to present Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD, a family physician, epidemiologist, and past President of the American Public Health Association, whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of our nation and the world. Dr. Jones speaks online tomorrow, Tuesday July 13, at 7 pm. Registration is required.

Dr. Jones’ work has been foundational to how our country thinks about race and public health and racial equity more broadly. This live webinar is a great opportunity to begin or deepen your understanding of these issues.

Dr. Jones speaks on how racism is a huge roadblock to achieving health equity in the United States, and how systemic racism, which we can act to dismantle, saps the strength of the whole society. She also provides definitions, frameworks, and other tools to equip participants to engage in a National Campaign Against Racism with three tasks: 1) name racism, 2) ask “How is racism operating here?”, and 3) organize and strategize to act.

In the Q&A segment and subsequent programs, we will bring the conversation to our county. What health disparities do people suffer from in Howard County and what can we do about it? Want a taste of Dr. Jones’ insight and perspective? Listen to this NPR piece.

Join us for the live Zoom presentation and Q&A discussion moderated by Kenitra Fokwa Kengne, Senior Program Officer at the Horizon Foundation. This is the first event in the Racial Equity and Local Action series, presented by Howard County Library System and sponsored by the Horizon Foundation. Register today.

Katie is the Community Education and Engagement Manager for HCLS. She loves people, the big questions, the woods, and chocolate.

Author Works with Daniel Silva

Photo credit: Marco Grob. Author wears a dark jacket, a white shirt, and black framed glasses. He leans against a wall with his arms folded
Photo credit: Marco Grob

by Kristen B.

ONLINE EVENT: Wed Jul 21 7 – 8 pm
Register at hclibrary.org > classes & events

WIN A BOOK!  One hundred lucky Zoom (randomly selected) attendees will win a hardback copy of The Cellist by Daniel Silva. Book giveaway sponsored by Friends & Foundation of HCLS.

What do you consider ideal summer reading? Do you dive into doorstop-sized classics or do you look for a bit of fun fluff to read in the sunshine? I think summer is a great time to fall into a series and get to know one set of characters. Sometimes, it’s the perfect time to re-acquaint myself with a long-running series that I’ve let languish.

Such is the case with Daniel Silva’s spy thriller series featuring Gabriel Allon, which began in 2000 with The Kill Artist. Gabriel Allon may be the perfect action-adventure hero. Honestly, I’m surprised there isn’t a film franchise yet. He’s darkly handsome, desperately in love with his young beautiful wife, has a tragic, haunting background, and works as an art restorer of Renaissance paintings. He resides in a cliffside cottage in Cornwall and goes for long brooding walks between missions. What’s not to love?!

About those missions: Gabriel Allon is also an operative for the Israeli version of the CIA (referred to in the books as The Office), and he travels the world with his trusted team protecting the safety and integrity of his homeland against all sorts of criminals, politicians, terrorists, and other nefarious folks. This series never disappoints with books set in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Vatican and Italy, Israel, Afghanistan, Russia, and the US. Often, many of those countries are involved in one story’s whirlwind, time-racing plot. As with many books in this genre, these are not for the faint of heart, as they contain graphic violence and hard people making hard decisions, most of whom will do anything to advance their own agendas and desires.

As I mentioned above, I plan to spend this summer jumping back into this series since I’m a couple of books behind. The last one I read, The Black Widow, published in 2016, is probably the best spy thriller I’ve ever read. It encompasses modern geopolitics, ancient grudges, double agents, and enough heart-pounding action that I’m pretty sure I lost sleep to finish it. The books are also excellent audiobooks, if you prefer to listen (beware the inevitable point of not being able to stop the story, though).

Book cover for The Cellist: A woman wearing a bright red coat and high black heels walks with her back to the reader. The cover is a bright blue that fades to black along the edges.

So, I invite you to join me at an upcoming Author Works event with author Daniel Silva! His newest novel (being published July 13), The Cellist, follows up the acclaimed #1 New York Times bestsellers The Order, The New Girl, and The Other Woman with a riveting, action-packed tale of espionage and suspense. The fatal poisoning of a Russian billionaire sends Gabriel Allon on a dangerous journey across Europe and into the orbit of a musical virtuoso who may hold the key to the truth about his friend’s death. The plot Allon uncovers leads to secret channels of money and influence that go to the very heart of Western democracy and threaten the stability of the global order. The Cellist is a breathtaking entry in Daniel Silva’s “outstanding series” (People magazine) and reveals once more his superb artistry and genius for invention—and demonstrates why he belongs, “firmly alongside le Carré and Forsyth as one of the greatest spy novelists of all time” (The Real Book Spy).

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 Other Black Girl

Photo of Zakiya Dalila Harris, with the book cover in the bottom right hand corner. Book features a black woman in profile, with her hair up in complex braids. The "I" in "Girl" is an afro hair-pick.

By Rohini G.

This book defies genre. Is it a sly satire or a hard-hitting social commentary? Is it a sharp page-turning thriller or contemporary literature at its best? A witty and playful debut or a manual for code-switching? I could not slot it into just one category. It is the book you will be discussing with your friends and neighbors. Right, Linda?

In blue round italics, "What was she going to do? Who was she going to be?"

Zakiyah Dalila Harris’s novel debuted as a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by Time, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Parade, Goodreads, Fortune, and the BBC. Deservedly so. The Other Black Girl is an electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Written with wit and incisive humor, this book delves into the modern corporate atmosphere with its microaggressions, isolation, and manipulations. Working at Wagner Books as the only black editorial assistant, Nella Rogers is very excited when one morning, she looks through a small crack in a cubicle and sees what she calls “the flash of a brown hand.” Enter Hazel-May McCall. Nella finds a confidante in Hazel and someone who finally gets it. But it doesn’t take long for Nella to realize there’s something off about Hazel, even if she can’t quite put her finger on it. And then, shortly after Hazel’s arrival, the first anonymous note arrives on Nella’s desk: “Leave Wagner Now.” Hazel? And if not Hazel, then who? Nella begins searching for answers—and in the process, finds herself at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that runs far deeper than she ever could have known 

I thoroughly enjoyed Zakiyah’s sparkling style of writing and her ability to paint office dynamics in nuanced shades of privilege and discrimination, while juggling an un-put-down-able mystery: a mystery that leaves your insides twisted at the end. In her review in The Washington Post, Naomi Jackson says, “One of the pleasures of “The Other Black Girl” is its unapologetic appeal to Black female readers. From references to 90s Black culture to ample servings of hair-related angst, conversations and plot points, Black girls will appreciate how their experiences, perspectives and quirks are centered in this novel.”

We are excited to host Zakiyah on June 23 at 7 pm. Listen to Zakiyah Harris and bring your questions. Register here

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

Classical Indian Dances – Kathak and Bharatnatyam

An Indian woman wearing an elaborate red and multi-colored embroidered dress raises her arms, with her hands flexed above he head. Background is purple and blue.
Jaya Mathur dancing.

by Piyali C.

Dance is an ancient and celebrated cultural tradition in India and its origins go back into the ancient times. There are eight schools of classical Indian dance, each of which can be traced to different parts of the country. Register to join us on Wednesday, June 16 at 7 pm to learn more about these dance forms from Jaya Mathur.

During an enlightening and entertaining evening of virtual Indian Classical Dance class, Jaya Mathur, of ‘Rock on with Bollywood’ fame, will share an overview of the history of two famous dance forms from India – Kathak and Bharatnatyam, as well as her personal journey of continuing these traditional dance forms as a first-generation American. She will demonstrate some mudras: the portrayal of mood through facial expression and hand gestures, and the audience will have the opportunity to experience dance performances through videos. 

According to kathadance.org, the Kathak form of Indian classical dance originated in Hindu temples in the northern part of India to aid in worshipful storytelling, portraying the epic tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata (the two grand Indian epics). However, this particular dance form was not confined within the walls of temples for long. Nomadic Kathak dancers and storytellers took this dance and traveled throughout the nation with added emotions and theatricality, and it soon transitioned to a means of storytelling and entertainment. Over time, Kathak became an integral part of court culture under the patronage of Mughal kings and, as a result, this dance form imbued within itself influences of both Hindu and Islamic traditions.

Bharatnatyam, according to nrutyashala.com, was performed in the temples of southern India by devadasis, or dancers dedicated to God. The devadasis were women who were trained in this dance form since childhood, and they dedicated their lives to performing in front of idols in temples. They were educated in Sanskrit and were trained to perform as well as choreograph Bharatnatyam, accompanied by singers and musicians. Over the years, Bharatnatyam also underwent changes as devadasis lost their status in society and rajnartakis (or court dancers), under the patronage of Hindu kings in southern kingdoms in India, continued this form of dance in courts to entertain kings and royalty.

Bharatnatyam and Kathak remain two very popular forms of Indian classical dancing to this day in India and are practiced by Indians all over the world. Jaya has performed at many different venues, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Locally, she has choreographed with the Kinetics Dance Theater.

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction.

Flowers and Planters are Great

The photograph shows DIY INstructor Eric seated in a red adirondack chair, with outdoor tools, a hammock, and a kids' swimming pool in the background, and his dog at his side with his feet up on a white DIY planter box he constructed.
DIY Instructor Eric and friend.

By Eric L.

I used to be young and naïve and I didn’t appreciate flowers, or maybe didn’t realize I appreciated them. Deep down, I was probably always the sort of person that would admire beauty around. That said, I’d implore you to get some flowers, plants, vegetation in your life.  

After renovating two entire houses I have come to appreciate the beauty of living space, indoor and outdoor. How one’s surroundings engender certain feelings. My surroundings make me feel comfortable and then calm. I recall the first place that my significant other and I shared, and changed. I felt more comfortable there than I had before. 

I’ll be honest, I used to think that flowers, gardens, and more generally my surroundings at home were sort of a bourgeois waste of time. Why would I spend work attending to these sorts of things, when I could read, hang out with friends, chat, drink at bars, or so many other exciting things? However, my mind has changed with innumerable carpentry projects accomplished, many, many holes dug, trees planted, landscape projects complete, planters made, and a stacked stone wall, literally built from two tons of rough stone (my least favorite project, ever).  

Having trees, flowers, and plants around does indeed make me calm. (There is science to support this). So let’s take it even further: imagine if you’ve selected the plants, then planted them yourself, and watched them grow and or blossom. How about even further: what if you’d made the planter, planter box, or raised bed that holds your plants? While it may not change your life, I think you may feel happy and proud. I do, so why not try it?

Building planters, window boxes, and raised garden beds are all relatively easy DIY carpentry projects. I’ve done these all with groups in person at the HCLS Elkridge Branch DIY Education Center. I don’t mean to oversimplify this, but you’re essentially making a box, one that you spruce up however you like. For example, add some architectural detail, paint it, hand-paint a design, stain it, make it rustic, use pallet lumber. There are myriad possibilities! It is a great way to practice and learn all sorts of carpentry skills. This endeavor is made even easier because you can borrow everything you need from HCLS. 

Please watch the video, and try it out. And it looks as though we’ll be able to do this in person soon at the Elkridge branch! 

There are two men, radical in many respects, and I’m a fan of both, who would receive flowers from fans. I can’t say I thought it was odd, but realize that some may consider it “feminine” for a man to receive flowers. It seems strange that flowers are associated with gender at all; they’re beautiful, please bring them to me!

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

Dr. Erika Lee: The Making of Asian America

On the left, the cover of Dr. Lee's book: The color shades from deep blue to bright red with lettering in gold. A paper lantern floats in the top right corner. On the right: A photo of Dr. Lee wearing a denim jacket and large blue necklace, her hair is shoulder length and she wears glasses. A sunny green yard is out of focus behind her.

Monumental. . . . Lee handles her scholarly materials with grace, never overwhelming the reader with too many facts or incidents. She tells an American story familiar to anyone who has read Walt Whitman, seeking to capture America in all its diversity and difference, while at the same time pleading for America to realize its democratic potential. . . . Powerful Asian American stories . . . are inspiring, and Lee herself does them justice in a book that is long overdue.” ― LA Times

On Wednesday, May 26 at 7 pm, Dr. Erika Lee discusses her acclaimed book The Making of Asian-AmericaIn the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest-growing group in the United States. As award-winning historian Erika Lee also reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from their first arrival to the present-day.

An epic history of global journeys and new beginnings, this book shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life in the United States: sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500s; indentured “coolies” who worked alongside African slaves in the Caribbean; and Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and South Asian immigrants who were recruited to work in the United States only to face massive racial discrimination, Asian exclusion laws, and, for Japanese Americans, incarceration during World War II. During the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. No longer a “despised minority,” Asian Americans are now held up as America’s “model minorities” in ways that reveal the complicated role that race still plays in the United States.

Copies of The Making of Asian America are available to borrow (also as an eAudiobook) from HCLS or to purchase from Books with a Past. 

A stunning achievement, The Making of Asian America establishes the centrality of Asians to American history, and poses alternatives to US national and immigration histories. Asians, this remarkable text reveals, transformed the face of America, and they locate the US firmly within a hemispheric and global order.” ― Gary Y. Okihiro, Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

ABOUT DR. ERIKA LEE One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she is a Regents Professor, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, and the Director of the Immigration History Research Center. The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, Lee grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, attended Tufts University, and received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She was recently elected into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, testified before Congress during its historic hearings on discrimination and violence against Asian Americans, was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, and named Vice President of the Organization of American Historians.

Ancient History: The Silk Road

The public domain map in green, blue, and tan shades depicts the Silk Road Route that ran from China through India and Persia and into Europe,, as well as a more southerly route that encompassed modern-day Malaysia and Singapore, the coast along the Indian Ocean, and eastern Africa up to Europe via the Red Sea.
Map of the Silk Road Routes (Public Domain)

Formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, the Silk Road was a vast network of trade routes that was the lifeline of commerce from 130 BCE – 1453 CE. Many different branches comprised this road connecting China, India, and Persia, with Persia being a gateway further into Europe. The main route of the Silk Road was established much before the Han dynasty; known as the Persian Royal Road during the Achaemenid Empire, it connected north Persia (modern-day Iran) to Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). The Persian Road was maintained with a system of postal stations and gradually expanded into the Indian sub-continent across Mesopotamia and into Egypt.  

Howard County Library System and the Walters Art Museum present a fascinating class that looks at works from the Walters Art Museum that illuminate the expansive story of the Silk Road. 

May 17 from 12 – 1 pm. Register here.  

A manuscript page with Arabic script at the top, featuring a shade tree, bamboo, and a man in a turban studying with writing tools surrounding him. A smaller figure kneels in the bottom right hand cornder.

The term “Silk Road” wasn’t coined until 1877, when German geographer and historian Ferdinand von Richthofen first used it to describe the trade routes. Historians now prefer the term “Silk Routes,” which more accurately reflects the fact that there was more than one thoroughfare. 

Many different goods including gunpowder, precious stones, and ivory were traded along this route; however, it was the exotic silk that gave its name to this road. Many of the goods traded across this route had a great impact on the cultural development of the world. Paper and gunpowder, both developed in China, and the rich spices from India contributed to both European culture and warfare. Similarly, techniques for making glass migrated eastward to China from the Islamic world. However, silk continued to be the most sought-after and expensive commodity, especially in Rome. The Byzantine emperor Justinian (327-565 CE) sent emissaries to steal the closely guarded secret of silk and bring it back to initiate the Byzantine silk industry. In 1453 CE, the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire which closed the Silk Road and cut ties with the west.  

The legacy of the Silk Road is the impact on art, religion, technology, science, and language that fostered a growth and enrichment of world civilization. Unfortunately, disease also traveled along and the bubonic plague of 542 CE was thought to have spread to Constantinople via the Silk Road. Famous Italian explorer Marco Polo traveled overland on the Silk Road to the Mongol Empire ruled by Kublai Khan in 1275 and wrote the epic The Travels of Marco Polo (also available as an eBook from Libby/OverDrive). 

The closing of the Silk Road in 1453 forced traders to explore sea routes and discover new ports. This was the beginning of the Age of Discovery which led to a new era with the rise of seafaring nations. Join us for the class with a docent from The Walters Art Museum to learn more.

Let’s Grow Potatoes!

The photograph depicts two hands in the sunlight holding two small seed potatoes with eyes on them.
Enchanted Garden Coordinator Ann holds two seed potatoes.

By Ann H.

Three cheers for the arrival of spring! I am ready to embrace a new season full of hope and fresh, local vegetables. Cool nights, sunshiny days, and plenty of rain signal the right time to plant cool-season crops. First on my list this year are potatoes!

Potatoes are a great family garden project. They come in an assortment of colors, they are easy to grow and as much fun as a treasure hunt to harvest. Sunshine and timing are the first considerations for growing potatoes. You must have a spot that receives six or more hours of sunshine a day. Potatoes should be started from now until early May. Don’t delay! You’ll have little success once the temperatures rise in summer.

Growing potatoes in a container is a good solution for those of us who want to grow food, but are short on space or new to gardening. Containers could be 5 gallon or larger buckets, grow bags, or a large fabric or strong plastic bag that drains. The larger the container the more potatoes you’ll grow. This year I’m experimenting with growing potatoes in a burlap sack. Our friends at Orinoco Coffee Roasters donated some burlap coffee sacks to the Enchanted Garden. They are selling burlap sacks to raise money for the Howard County Food Bank.

Potato plants start with seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are really tubers with eyes or buds. Those buds are the start of new potato plants. Give them soil, water, and the right conditions and you’ll be harvesting potatoes in three to four months. You can purchase seed potatoes locally where you would buy seeds, or you can order them online. Don’t be tempted to try grocery store variety potatoes. Most of those have been inoculated to prevent root growth. You might see eyes on grocery store potatoes, but rarely roots.

Potatoes are filled with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. You can prepare them mashed, roasted, fried, or in other creative ways. You can add them to salads, top them with almost anything for a main course, or turn them into latkes. Potatoes store well and feed many. Don’t you want to grow potatoes? To try this project at home, check out my video tutorial that explains all the steps.

Burlap bags: https://www.orinococoffeeandtea.com/product/green-bean-burlap-bag/

For additional information and inspiration, please check out these HCLS resources:

Adult collection:

The Complete Book of Potatoes: What Every Grower and Gardener Needs to Know by Hielke De Jong

Children’s collection:

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison (also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive)

Ann joined the Miller HCLS staff as the Enchanted Garden Coordinator and Instructor in 2012. When not gardening you’ll find her reading, cooking, and exploring trails in the Patapsco River Valley with her husband and dog.

Introducing… Reads of Acceptance!

Horizontal rainbow stripes with an inset of triangle of white,

by Ash and Angie

C.S. Lewis once said that we read to know we are not alone, which is why many of us look to literature as a source of comfort. Years ago at the library, Angie helped a teen find young adult novels on coming out. The teen quietly said thank you, and afterwards, Angie could not help but notice that she went over to a woman whom she called “mom.” As she showed her the books, the woman hugged her and told her it was going to be okay.

One of the most rewarding opportunities while working in a library is being able to connect customers with reading materials that can make a profound impact in their lives. This holds especially true when dealing with potentially sensitive subject matter such as LGBTQ+ issues, which often come with fear of judgment. In Teri Gross’s All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists, she interviews Ann Bannon, one of the first writers of lesbian pulp fiction. In answer to Gross’s question about what it was like to be gay in the 1950s or to write lesbian fiction, Bannon responds:

The big thing was ‘Thank God, I’m not the only one.’
That’s how isolated people were then.
But also that it’s okay to open up a little bit. It can be healthy. It can be a warm, generous, wonderful way to spend your life.
It is scary to walk up to a drugstore counter with your arms full of lesbian paperbacks and survive the stare from the clerk,
pull yourself together, buy them, and walk out with your head held high.

Having your voice heard and knowing there are others out there, both through the books you read and the people you meet and sometimes befriend, can go a long, long way to helping you survive in a world not always friendly to LGBTQ+ people. No matter your age, your background, your outness or your in-ness, you can find comfort in the universality of knowing “you’re not the only one.” That is one reason, among many, it can be so good to find a sense of community.

Howard County Library System’s new LGBTQ+ book club, Reads of Acceptance, holds its first meeting on Monday, April 19 at 7 pm. This monthly book club aims at fostering social support, personal growth, and intergenerational learning for LGBTQ+ adults and our allies. Reads of Acceptance will encourage education, reflection, and respect for LGBTQ+ identities by hosting group discussions that connect literature with our lived experiences.

Pale blue color with the title at the bottom shows a man in a blue suit falling. He is busy writing and papers surround him.

At Reads of Acceptance’s first meeting, we will discuss the Pulitzer Prize-winning Less by Andrew Sean Greer (also available in eBook and eAudiobook format). Funny yet also sad, the novel follows writer Arthur Less while he travels the world on a literary tour to try and get over the loss of the man he loves. Turning 50, Less finds himself struggling with life, including his career as a writer not going where he had hoped it would. Even so, he could handle being a bad writer, but being considered “a bad gay”?

That is so much harder to grapple with. It also speaks to a constant fear for queer people: that your community will reject you on top of everything else. (Source: https://ew.com/books/2018/07/24/less-summer-breakout-essay/) Greer’s writing speaks to an experience so many of us, queer or not, can relate to in a way that says, “Yes, I have been there.”

Relating to media in a manner that resonates with and reassures one’s identity is part of what makes seeing ourselves reflected in art and literature so affirming and powerful. Being able to relate to real-life people can be even more so. Both older and younger people in the LGBTQ+ community have often suffered in silence or experienced ostracism, looking for safe outlets to share their feelings, thoughts, and what they have been through. Reads of Acceptance can be one of those safe outlets. We hope to see you there! Register here.

For a special preview of Reads of Acceptance and an opportunity to meet Ash and Angie, join Book Corner on Friday April 16th @ 11am. Register here.

Angie is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch of HCLS.

Ash is an Online Instructor & Research Specialist, also at Central Branch. Their favorite reads often involve magic, nature, queer and trans joy, coming of age, cultural traditions, romance, and cute illustrations.