Equity Resource Collection and New Brave Stories Exhibit

by Ash B. and Christie L.

Enrich your summer at the Equity Resource Center! Visit for the books, movies, music – and exhibits. The space upstairs at Central Branch purposefully has plenty of room for exhibits that focus on equity issues. If you missed our previous one, Undesign the Redline, you can still view a video tour on YouTube. Make time to see the new show and attend the related classes:

BRAVE STORIES EXHIBIT 

View of Brave Voices display at Central Branch, header read Story informs, heals, and ins

Stories shape narratives. Narratives shape perceptions. Perceptions shape actions. 

Whether they are told around a campfire, around a kitchen table, or online, stories have the power to move people to tears of sadness or tears of joy and to action. At Howard County Library System, we are a home for brave stories and a place to be heard. We provide a platform for people to tell their stories. This helps to better inform perceptions, develop new narratives, and re-position equity as the ideal state of being from which everyone benefits.  

HCLS is a safe space for racial equity work, but real progress begins with you. You have the power to lead, share, and connect. As we move forward as a community in Howard County, we have the chance to extend equitable treatment to those around us. How are you helping to improve life in Howard County?  

Start by making room for new stories. Visit the new Brave Stories exhibit in the Equity Resource Center at the Central Branch. Read about your neighbors’ experiences. Take the time to listen to their Brave Stories—and share your own. 

We invite you to respond to the exhibit in a series of art workshops, each using a different material, with facilitators from Notre Dame of Maryland University’s Art Therapy Department. Attend one or both workshops: Tuesday, Jul 26 and Thursday, Aug 4.

We also invite you to share your own stories in a facilitated circle. Bring your experiences and insights, listening ears, and an open mind and heart to one or more sessions: Wednesday, Aug 3; Saturday, Aug 13, and Saturday, Aug 20.

EQUITY RESOURCE COLLECTION

If you haven’t already read it, you might want to check out my previous post about the Equity Resource Collection.

Adult Fiction 

A collage of adult novels found in the Equity Resource Collection.

The second floor at Central Branch houses the adult fiction of the Equity Resource Collection, along with its adult nonfiction, DVDs, and CDs. More than 900+ adult fiction titles span all genres, including classics, bestsellers, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, romance, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. 

Like other areas of the Equity Resource Collection, some of these titles specifically center equity issues such as racism, whereas others feature diverse characters and authors. Whatever genre or style of novel you enjoy, there is a great read for you here. One of my favorites is Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson, which I actually reviewed in-depth in a previous blog post. If you like poetic and tender novels, this is a must-read. 

Adult Nonfiction 

Three race and gender titles found in the Equity Resource Collection: Anti-Racist Ally, Demystifying Disability, and Gender: Your Guide

As excited as I am about fiction, I’m even more interested in the nonfiction section – partially because of how many of these titles are exclusive to the Equity Resource Collection. While these items can be requested for pickup at any HCLS branch, browsing in person offers the opportunity to find an amazing book more by chance. 

When you head into the Equity Resource Center, the nonfiction collection rests to the right. You can find introductory guides to equity issues, history books, academic texts, memoirs and biographies, art books, cookbooks, and more.  

For folks who are beginning to explore these topics, I recommend: 

For readers who are ready to delve deeper, some terrific title: 

Audio-Visual 

A collage of movies found in the Equity Resource Collection.

Are you more of a film lover than a reader? Well, no worries. The ERC has you covered, too.

From indie films to big-budget productions, you have a variety of choices from multicultural movies and movies that center Black history. While most titles are for adults and teens, there are kid-friendly favorites such as Moana and Coco as well. 

If you’re interested in TV series or nonfiction DVDs, look for the shelving close to adult nonfiction. With titles from distributors such as HBO and PBS, including Stonewall Uprising and The Central Park Five, this section is worth checking out if you appreciate a good documentary. 

For the music lover, the ERC includes CDs, shelved next to the nonfiction DVDs, from artists past and present, across genres. For the pop fan, check out Sawayama by Rina Sawayama, a contemporary singer-songwriter who is Japanese-British and bisexual.

If you like rock, blues, soul, or gospel, a must-listen is Shout Sister Shout by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “The Godmother of Rock’N’Roll,” who pioneered music in the 30s, 40s and 50s by combining electric guitar with spiritual lyrics – providing the foundations for subsequent artists like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. 

Whether you’re a fan of Latin music or someone in your family still can’t get enough of the Encanto soundtrack, check out Cumbiana by Carlos Vives, the beloved Colombian singer-songwriter whose song “Colombia, Mi Encanto” plays at the end of the 2021 Disney hit movie. 

Think our collection is missing an important title? Go to hclibrary.org/contact-us/ and “Make a purchase suggestion” – after you submit the online form, it will be reviewed by one of our materials selectors as a potential addition.  

Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. Their favorite place to read is spread out on a blanket under the shade of the tree. 

Christie is the Director of Communication and Partnerships for Howard County Library System. She loves walking through the network of pathways in Columbia, sitting on the beach, and cheering for the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Aggies football team.

Equity Resource Center – Children’s and Teen Collections 

Wide view of the upstairs at Central Branch of Howard County Library System, where the Equity Resource Center is housed.

by Ash B.

Enrich your summer with entertainment and educational materials from the Equity Resource Collection!

The Equity Resource Collection (ERC) launched in October 2021 in response to growing community demand for materials related to racial equity, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the increase in mainstream attention to #BlackLivesMatter and systemic racism. 

The special collection was created along with the Equity Resource Center, a 700 square foot space located on the second floor of the Central Branch, directly behind the public access computers. An intentional space for learning, healing, and discussing issues, the Center also provides room for thoughtful exhibits (such as Undesign the Redline). This area houses thousands of new ERC materials, including movies, documentaries, and music CDs, as well as fiction and nonfiction books and audiobooks.  

While HCLS works hard to maintain a diverse, balanced general collection, the ERC is specifically focused on centering equity, diversity, and inclusive representation, including but not limited to race/ethnicity and racism, immigration, disability, gender, and sexual orientation. By concentrating these titles in a specific place, the ERC serves as a resource if you are interested in books on one of these topics but aren’t sure where to start. I find this particularly beneficial when browsing the children’s ERC and all the nonfiction ERC shelves.

Some titles in the ERC are duplicated in our general collection, particularly popular titles, whereas other titles exclusively belong to the Equity Resource Collection. However, all ERC titles can be requested for pickup at any HCLS branch – which we highly encourage!

If you visit the Central Branch, you might notice three “Equity Resource Center” areas, with materials located in the children’s and teen area in addition to the upstairs section. All ERC DVDs, however, are located in the main Equity Resource Center along with the adult materials, including family-friendly movies like Moana.

Children’s 

Located on the main floor behind and around the research desk, the children’s ERC contains chapter books, picture books, and nonfiction books for a variety of ages and interests.

The collection provides exceptional “mirrors, window, and sliding glass doors” for young readers – allowing youth to discover books about and by people who look like them, as well as to learn about people who may be different from them. Some of these titles are clearly informational in nature – defining terminology, explaining concepts, and narrating history. These range from textbook-like materials for tweens to picture books for the earliest of readers! 

A pastel background shows four young folx, with the two on either side holding plants that fountain with all sorts of flowers and artistry. One person is sitting in a wheelchair with a ukulele.

One example of the latter is It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni. This gorgeously illustrated book shows examples of gender identity – boy, girl, both, neither – in a way that is nuanced but extremely clear for children (and adults!) to understand. It is simple without being oversimplified, which is an excellent achievement! If you’ve ever wondered “how do I explain gender to a child?” – or if you are new to learning about trans and nonbinary gender identities – then this book is for you! 

The Equity Resource Collection also includes children’s books that aren’t necessarily educational in the didactic sense but are still rich sources of learning, with stories about a wide variety of experiences, identities, and cultures. This is the window and doors part of what I was talking about earlier.

A young girl with dark hair and brown skin sits on a suitcase between a house in the a tropical seeting and an urban environment, with a plane overhead.

One of my favorite recent reads is Home Is In Between written by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Lavanya Naidu. In this picture book, a young Indian girl moves to the U.S. with her parents, while their extended family remains in India. Vibrant and heart-warming, Home Is In Between tenderly depicts the immigrant experience by conveying the excitement of new things and the challenges of feeling ‘in between’ two cultures. The illustrations are gorgeous, too!

Teen 

Also located on the main floor, you will find the Teen ERC in the far right corner, with organization similar to the children’s area. Some teen and adult graphic novels reside on the top left shelf, followed by novels and short story anthologies, then fiction audiobooks, and finally, nonfiction. 

Compilation of: You Should See Me In a Crown that features a young Black girl with natural hair and a tiara drawn on top; Cemetery Boys with two young men standing back-to-back with a mysterious figure in front of a full moon; and We Are Not Free with sketched carachters sitting on a pile of luggage and boxes.

Some of these novels center the high school experience, such as the award-winning You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, which follows a poor, queer, Midwestern Black girl’s pursuit of prom queen-dom, in the hope of earning a scholarship. The recipient of a Black-Eyed Susan award, Stonewall Book honor, and one of TIME’s best 100 YA books of all time, this title has earned high praise – it’s a sweet, joyous read that evokes the spirit of great teen movies. 

Other titles delve into cultural practices, such as Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, which brings together traditions from various Latinx cultures in a supernatural, urban fantasy setting – along with a gay rom-com storyline for a trans male protagonist. With its humor, heart, mystery-adventure, and magic, this is one of my personal favorite books (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook from Libby/OverDrive)!

Fantastic historical fiction novels also address legacies of injustice, such as the incarceration of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, as depicted in We Are Not Free by Traci Chee. The granddaughter of Japanese-Americans who were imprisoned as teenagers at that time, Chee felt personally invested in bringing attention to this oft-neglected history. With many moments inspired by the stories of her relatives, this is an incredibly powerful story about fear, hope and resilience. 

Compilation of: The Burning which features yellow flame motif and red lettering; The Stonewall Riots which features illustrated crowd and rainbow sky; A Disability History of the United States which features seven photographs of people with physical ailments; Trouble Maker for Justice features a young Bayard Rustin against a faded photo of a protest; Protest features Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad in her fencing gear; Rolling Warrior features the illustration of a white woman in a wheelchair holding a sign that says Rights Now!

Of course, there are also excellent nonfiction titles to help you learn about history. Some delve into specific events, such as The Burning: Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 (Young Readers’ edition) by Tim Madigan and Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman. Other titles use a broader lens to approach the history of marginalized people, such as A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen. There’s also important history to be learned in biographies and memoirs of icons of the past and present, from the Civil Rights organizer Bayard Rustin, to Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, to disability rights activist Judith Heumann. 

For aspiring activists, there are books that can serve as guides as well as stories of youth who are speaking out and affecting change today. Kids on the March by Michael G. Long talks about youth protests from the 1903 March of the Mill Children to the recent movements of Black Lives Matter, March for Our Lives, and the Climate Strike. 

There is so much to discover and learn within the Equity Resource Collection! We highly encourage you to come visit if you can… and stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about the other areas of the collection! 

Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. Their favorite place to read is spread out on a blanket under the shade of the tree.

Skye Falling by Mia Mackenzie

The book cover shows a cityscape with multicolored homes in the foreground, trees in the middle ground, and a skyline view of tall skyscrapers in the background.  People are in purple silhouette walking along the street, sitting or leaning on their porches, and looking out of windows.  The whole cover is done in shades of blue, purple, pink, and peach.

by Ash B.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming read that is thought-provoking, discussable, and hilarious, look no further than Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie. 

Skye is an elder millennial who is quickly approaching her 40th birthday, and she has no interest in ‘settling down’ or having any deep sort of meaningful human connection. The successful founder of a small travel company, Skye has spent years adventuring around the world in the fleeting company of strangers… which has provided her the perfect opportunity to avoid lasting relationships of any kind.  

In short, Skye has an impressive career but she is a hot mess when it comes to her personal life. 

Her brief returns to her hometown, Philadelphia, usually consist of crashing at her friend’s B&B, dodging her brother’s calls about their chronically ill mother, and planning for upcoming trips she will lead for work. She typically does not spend this time reflecting on the past or dredging up emotions that she has long since buried. 

So, when she finds that the egg she donated over a decade ago has actually developed into a real human child – now a twelve year old girl, to be exact – her initial reaction is to run. Literally. Skye tries to run and hide from this girl, Vicky, who introduces herself as “your egg.” But it turns out Vicky is actually pretty cool… so cool that Skye might want to stick around and try to be responsible for the first time in her life.  

However, this is complicated by the fact that Vicky’s aunt and caretaker is not a big fan of Skye, at least not at first. But, as they get closer, let’s just say the tension between these two women isn’t solely about their different approaches to parenting…  

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, believe me when I say McKenzie is a master of comedic writing. The outrageous situations she puts her characters in, and the figurative language she uses to describe them, is top tier. Not to mention her hilarious one-liners, too! 

This novel isn’t just funny, though – it is emotionally rich and insightful about a range of issues from family trauma and fractured friendships to gentrification and policing. McKenzie creates an engaging balance between humor and tragedy, joy and anger, fear and love. The result is a feel-good, fun book that holds space and respect for serious topics that are part of everyday life. 

This is ultimately what makes Skye Falling one of my favorite 2021 releases, and I believe it is also what makes it a great choice for book club discussions – which is why I included it on the HCLS 2022 Books for Discussion list (which you should take a look at for more reading suggestions). 

While I think Skye Falling can appeal to a variety of readers, I would particularly recommend this title to lovers of Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers. Both novels center queer Black women who put pause on their careers in order to sort out personal relationships, figure out what they are doing with their lives, and eventually begin to process their complicated relationships with their parents. They each have rom-com elements without that being the entire plot, are full of millennial humor (albeit on different ends of the generation), and celebrate friendship and chosen family. I wholeheartedly recommend both! 

Skye Falling is available to borrow from HCLS in print and is one of the many titles included in our Equity Resource Collection.  

Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. This time of year, they are especially fond of reading while cuddling with their golden retriever and sipping hot cocoa or tea.