Trilogy and Beyond

Provided by Penguin Random House: a red background with white type, "Read the Entire Series" then the four covers in the series featuring illustration of the main characters and fantastical creatures.

by Monae R.

Kelley Armstrong, a Canadian writer born in 2001, completed a wonderful children’s series in June 2022. Originally an author for teens and adults, her Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series, illustrated by Xavière Daumarie, comes as a nice refreshment for children. The first book, A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying (followed by sequels The Gryphon’s Lair and The Serpent’s Fury) was a Black Eyed Susan 2021-2022 nominee. Despite its enticing and interactive story, it did not win the award. The series follows the story of a princess and her journey to become the Royal Monster Slayer of her Kingdom.

Rowan, a 13-year-old girl, is adamant to fight alongside her aunt in the battle to understand and drive the monsters of the kingdom back to the mountains. Her journey towards this encompasses loss, friendship, family, and excitement beyond belief. Rowan’s bloodline, that of clan Dacre, gives her a gift many cannot fathom and allows her to find friends in unusual places.

Many see Rowan as a young, incapable princess. Over time, they see the error of their ways as she fights to increase her knowledge and strength. Her journey takes her out of the kingdom and past the mountains, where many have not traveled before, where she encounters rare and extinct monsters and develops relationships with bordering clans.

This series is full of unexpected twists and turns. The characters are silly and relatable and the monsters are fascinating and frightening. As someone who is deeply in love with fantasy stories, I could not put these books down. I placed a hold on the fourth book, The Final Trial, as soon as it was on order here at the library.

I highly recommend this inclusive fantasy quick read.

Monae is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS East Columbia Branch.

For Native American Heritage Month

Native American hoop dancer with her interlocked hoops above her head against a sunny sky.

Native American Heritage Month Celebration

Saturday, Nov 5
11 am – 3 pm
East Columbia Branch

Celebrate Native American culture and resilience at this free event. Filled with performances, arts and crafts, and food vendors (including Navajo tacos), you can have lunch, do a little shopping, and enjoy amazing traditional dance.

2 pm: Meet the Author Brian Lee Young
An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Young grew up on the Navajo Reservation and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. His debut novel, Healer of the Water Monster, shares the story of a seemingly ordinary Navajo boy who must save the life of a Water Monster—and who comes to realize that he’s a hero at heart.

Performances by:
Angela Gladue
Chris EagleHawk
Shawn Iron Maker
Max Yamne
Rose Powhatan
Lance Fisher & Giovanna
Walking Eagle

Sponsored by Capital Native Nations and Nava Be Diné

Understanding Land Acknowledgements and How to Move Beyond Them

Thursday, Nov 10
7 – 8:30 pm
Miller Branch
Register here.

“Land acknowledgments” are statements that recognize Indigenous peoples dispossessed of their land and/or relationships with land by settler colonists. These statements are seen as an effective and ethical way to begin acknowledging Indigenous sovereignty, begin correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture, and begin inviting and honoring the truth.

Join Maryland State Arts Council Folklife Specialist Ryan Koons for a presentation about land acknowledgements using materials from MSAC’s Land Acknowledgement Project. In this project, MSAC staff engaged in compensated consultations with tribal elders from American Indian tribes whose lands are claimed by Maryland. Most importantly, this presentation will discuss ways to move beyond land acknowledgements towards positive change led by tribal peoples.

Reading Human Rights

Thursday, Nov 17
6:30 – 7:30 pm
Savage Branch
Register here.

The book cover depicts two feathers facing in opposite directions, sketched in brown ink against a bright orange background, with the title in yellow lettering.

Reading Human Rights is a monthly book discussion hosted by the Howard County Office of Human Rights & Equity and Howard County Library System. We read books that promote cultural awareness, diversity, and equity.

In November, we read and discuss national bestseller There There by Tommy Orange (also available in large print, e-Book, e-Audiobook, and book on CD formats). This wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary, and truly unforgettable.

Native Expulsion & Manifest Destiny

Monday, Nov 21
7 – 8 pm
online
Register here.

This talk explores westward expansion and its impact upon Native communities.

Even though the phrase ‘manifest destiny’ was not used in print until 1845, the spirit of American expansionism that it referred to was very apparent long before the 1840s. Americans had been talking about pushing westward as if it was their manifest destiny ever since folks in Jamestown in the 1600s had started eyeing the land on which Natives were settled.

University of Maryland historian Richard Bell begins by tracking the story of Native expulsion and colonial expansion from the Revolution era through the 1850s, paying particular attention to the ways in which the West and westward expansion came to be romanticized in the American imagination.

Living Nations, Living Words

The image has the book title superimposed over a black and white map of North America.

Wednesday, Nov 30
7 – 8 pm
Miller Branch
Register here.

Explore Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s edited poetry collection and accompanying project for the Library of Congress: “Living Nations, Living Words.” Listen to poems and author commentary, explore an interactive story-map, reflect on common themes, and discuss Native American representation in literature and society.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

The book cover shows a Victorian-era white house with a wide front porch, surrounded by flowers and greenery, with some growing out of the windows. A seagull perches on the cupola at the very top.

By Rebecca R.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken is a story built along side a family history – and an odd one at that. Bertha Truitt, the family’s matriarch loves candlepin bowling and opens a bowling alley in the small town of Salford, MA.

Throughout the book we see Bertha navigate relationships and her bowling alley, which are sometimes indistinguishable from on another. She balances both with a strong and determined hand. She marries Leviticus Sprague and has a daughter, Minna, before she succumbs to drowning in a flood of molasses.

After Bertha dies things start to fall apart. Readers see begin to see the characters for who they really are. Their quirkiness really starts to shine, which, in my mind, makes this story a standout.

We learn that Bertha had a long lost son (or is it her son?). After Leviticus dies (like his wife, under mysterious circumstances), Nahum Truitt comes to Salford to try and run the bowling alley but his heart isn’t in it. Minna is sent away to live with relatives abroad, and she comes in and out of the storyline throughout the book.

More and more odd characters are introduced as the story goes forward, and the Truitt family grows and generations pass. As the story closes we meet Bertha’s great, great, grandchildren and are re-introduced to a character from the beginning of the book who brings the story full circle.

Readers who enjoy authors such as Karen Russell, Lauren Groff, John Irving, or Kristen Arnett should enjoy this book. The characters are well developed, the story is engaging and has visual elements to it that allows readers to easily get to know this family and their small town and follow them through the generations.

Rebecca is the Assistant Branch Manager of the HCLS Glenwood Branch. She enjoys creative art projects and taking long walks with her puppy.

No Exit by Taylor Adams

A hand print appears smeared across a frosty blue window. The cover fades to black at top and bottom, with title and author in

by Piyali C.

It was almost 1 am when I let out a long breath. I did not even realize I was holding my breath and at the edge of my seat till I read the last page of No Exit by Taylor Adams. This is the kind of thriller I like to read – one that allows me ‘no exit’ until I finish the last page. A thriller that is crisp, fast paced and yes, thrilling. In one word – unputdownable! 

Darby Thorne, a sophomore at CU-Boulder, gets a message from her sister Devon that their mother has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is, most likely, at the last stage of her life. Darby, who was determined not to venture ‘any further off campus than Ralphie’s Thriftway’ (p.4), finds herself racing down the highway in the middle of a fierce blizzard in the Colorado Rockies to reach her dying mother in Utah. Darby’s old Honda Civic does not have snow chains on the tires and the last sign that Darby read before heavy snow obliterated her vision was ‘CHAINS MANDATORY’.  Darby is forced to pull in to a desolate rest stop to wait out the raging snowstorm. She discovers, much to her dismay, there is no cell reception at that rest stop. There are, however, a coffee machine, a vending machine and….. four complete strangers taking refuge, just like her. 

The charge in Darby’s phone is at 17 percent and rapidly depleting. She is desperate to talk to her sister to know more about her mother’s condition so Darby goes out in the snow to search for signal. As she tries to hold her phone up near the cars parked in the parking lot of the rest stop, she sees a little hand – the hand of a child in the back window of one of the parked cars. Shocked at this discovery, Darby moves closer to the car and tries to look inside. The inside is dark and she can detect no movement or sound. She convinces herself that the hand she she saw was nothing more than a trick of light and gets ready to go inside. But before she goes, she wants to put her suspicion to rest so she directs the LED light from her phone inside the back of the car. A child’s face stares back at her. The little girl is confined in a dog kennel in the back of a car in a raging snow storm. 

Darby has no way to call for help and no idea how to rescue this little girl. It is clear that one of the strangers inside the rest stop is a kidnapper who may come out any moment and discover that Darby has uncovered his or her secret. Thus begins a chilling and suspenseful tale of young Darby’s effort to unmask and outsmart a psychopath in an increasingly dangerous and alienating situation as the snow piles up and threatens to bury them in the rest stop at the edge of civilization. 

Darby must keep the little girl alive and stay alive herself to save the child. As the odds pile against her, her determination and will to save the kidnapped child increase exponentially. But is her determination enough to defeat the kidnapper who has an answer for all the challenges that Darby throws their way?

This book is not for the faint of heart. If you enjoy a chilling, suspenseful, edgy thriller that will keep you reading late at night, this is the book for you! No Exit by Taylor Adams is available in print and Large Print formats.

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction and keeps the hope alive that someday she will reach the bottom of her to-read list.

The Kingston Cycle by C. L. Polk

Covers of the three books in the series: Witchmark in blue, Stormsong in deep purple, and Soulstar in reds and pink. Each features figures in black silhouette against colorful backgrounds.

by Kristen B.

Ursula LeGuin wrote a famous short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” about a utopian city with a catch. The peaceful and joyous life of the city’s citizens is made possible only through the absolute suffering of a single child. Everyone is made aware of the bargain as they reach adulthood, and those who can’t sanction it become those who walk away. In Witchmark (also available as an e-audiobook), author C. L. Polk answers LeGuin’s moral question more firmly: Those who can’t sanction a bad bargain are destined to unmake it.

Meet Miles, a war veteran who works as a psych doctor in a veterans hospital. The book begins with a dying man dumped, almost literally, into Miles’ arms. Our brave doctor has been tracking some worrisome patterns at the hospital, with traumatized veterans reporting a mysterious malaise, one that actively promotes domestic violence and mayhem. Miles sees the connection but can’t figure out why it’s happening or how to stop it. Side note: the role of newspapers in this series delights me!

Miles has turned his back on a wealthy but constrained life to use his healing talents. In Kingston, capital city of Aeland, the uppermost class possesses magic to control the weather, particularly the huge storms that threaten every winter. Other witches are considered dangerous to themselves and others, and they are institutionalized around the country. The author provides an antidote to all these troubles with a lovely romance blossoming between Miles and Tristan Hunter. Tristan has a rather unusual background that plays into solving both the initial murder and the other issues.

Polk continues to weave a Gordian knot of interrelated troubles, because the problems aren’t limited to a single world. There’s also the Solace, which exists parallel to Aeland, where souls go to reside after death. The Amaranthines rule there, an immortal race that serves as a sort of overarching moral conscience to the regular world, though one with real teeth. It turns out that they have noticed strange happenings during and after the recent war, and they are concerned because no Aelander souls have come into the Solace in decades. Therein hangs the rest of the story, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Witchmark sets the stage for the next two books, which are substantially more political in nature. Miles’ sister, heir to the family’s fortune and magic, becomes the main point of view for the second book, Stormsong (also in e-audiobook format). Grace has to balance the country’s needs against her own as her one true love also happens to be a star newspaper reporter. She must further balance her magical duties to protect Aeland from increasingly violent storms with her political position as Chancellor to a queen who has no desire to make necessary changes. A locked door political assassination only adds to her difficulties.

The third book, Soulstar, moves to yet another character, Robin, who has been part of the proceedings all along as a nurse and friend at Miles’ hospital and a key player in Grace’s political striving. She belongs to a minority and operates as a secret witch, whose talent lies in seeing and communicating with the dead. As the books progress, we see Aeland’s highly inequitable, stratified, royalist society change drastically. Revolution is the name of the game in this final book. Modern parallels are clear, but it’s still fun to root for the underdogs who want a seat at the table and their fair share of pie. Maybe what we need is a magical, immortal race to encourage us to live with compassion and sympathy for others.

All three books take place in Kingston, in which Polk gives us a deeply imagined, tangible city that seems as real as the wonderful, persistent people who live there. In each installment, you get a rousing story, a queer romance, and a hero who is trying to make the world a better place. Because if you can’t condone living in a society that excels only by requiring the suffering of some people, what does that require of you?

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, dance, and watch baseball (but not all at the same time).

The Searcher by Tana French

The cover features the duo-tone image in a dusty green of long grass in a field and a cloud covered sky.

by Kristen B.

Tana French’s The Searcher offers homage to the American Western, from its namesake The Searchers to John Wayne’s True Grit. In this slightly updated version, Cal Hooper retires from the Chicago PD to a small town in the west of Ireland. He’s an outsider, looking to start a new life after leaving his job and getting divorced. He’s focused on making the house he bought livable before winter arrives.

Cal’s cop senses come to high alert unexpectedly. He eventually figures out that a local teenager has been spying. Trey Reddy comes from a family generally unapproved of in Ardnakelty and is desperately looking for a missing big brother. The two form an uneasy relationship as Cal agrees to do a little sleuthing about Brendan’s disappearance and Trey helps with chores around the house, refinishing an old desk and painting the walls. At heart, Cal is a doer and fixer – hence the extensive retirement project. It’s easier to put his professional skills to use helping with Trey’s cause than to deal with the emotional fallout of the past and present. Cal even has a theory about how all most young men need is the equivalent of a horse, a gun, and a homestead.

A slow burn mystery then unspools around the whereabouts of Brendan Reddy, involving local lads, drug dealers from Dublin, and whatever is terrorizing the local sheep. Cal wrestles with taciturn country folk plus his continued confusion over how and why his marriage ended. The author does a marvelous job of winding the past and the present together as Cal tries to make sense of it all. As I attempted to put the pieces of the puzzle together, it resolved into the idea of a small town trying to keep on keeping on, without examining any preconceived notions too closely. And, perhaps, not being quite as friendly to newcomers as it originally seemed. The scene at the local pub involving shots of poteen that literally make Cal go a little cross-eyed might be one of my favorites. The gift of gab can disguise as much as it reveals. A little humor can serve to distract and deceive equally so. The Irish are masters at it.

Ireland itself serves almost as another character, with the townsfolk, the shops, the sheep, and the countryside itself. French’s descriptions of mists and bogs and biting winds are simply lyrical. They paint such vivid pictures that I could imagine the landscapes almost better than I could the characters. This book is just begging to be made into a movie with clear cut characters, a plot that wraps you up in its mysteries, and gorgeous scenery. I’d watch it (although I usually like the book better).

The Searcher by Tana French is available in print and large print, as e-book and e-audiobook, and audio on CD.

Author Works with Naima Coster: What’s Mine and Yours – 2022 One Maryland One Book 

By Piyali C.

Swatches of color in pale green, beige-pink, cranberry, orange read, and yellow are layered above the silhouette of a town. The swatches resolve to be

Tue, October 4 | 7 – 8 pm
HCLS Miller Branch
Register at this link. 

The theme for One Maryland One Book this year was “new beginning.” As a member of the selection committee, I was assigned to read What’s Mine and Yours as a potential title. It took me a while to recognize the theme in this story, but I realized that instead of the theme being overarching, hope or a new beginning, operates somewhat cyclically in this novel.  

The story opens with the prospect of new beginnings – two men stand at the cusp of a beautiful, happy life. Two fathers share a cigarette and a brief conversation one day about their dreams surrounding the amazing lives that they envision for their children. However, disaster strikes soon after and the lives of both those families take vastly different turns than what the fathers dreamed.  

The story revolves around two families who confront each other over a busing initiative in 2002 in Piedmont, North Carolina. Jade has suffered an immeasurable loss in her life already. Now she wants her only son, Gee, to get all the opportunities that she did not have so he can become a successful, sensitive Black man in America. After her husband is incarcerated, Lacy May, a White woman, is equally determined to keep children like Gee away from her White-passing, biracial daughters. She does not want them influenced by the children from the east side of town at their predominantly white school.

However, Gee and Noelle, Lacy May’s eldest daughter, become friends, which soon turns into more when they meet during a school play. The lives of these two families intersect despite the mothers being on opposite sides of the debate over the county’s decision to enforce integration. The busing initiative provides the primary conflict, with the repercussions manifested in the adult lives of the central characters – Jade and Gee, Lacy May and her three daughters. Despite the different directions each character grows, they all manage to find their new beginnings by the end of the book, in big ways and small.  

Although the story begins in Piedmont, North Carolina, the issues addressed in What’s Mine and Yours are relevant to other parts of United States, including in Maryland and even Howard County. The theme of school desegregation to address socioeconomic disparity is especially pertinent as The Baltimore Sun reports, by 2014, Maryland was the third most racially segregated state in the nation, with one-quarter of its schools considered highly segregated.  

The integration efforts described in the book will touch a relatable chord and inspire interesting and, hopefully, productive discussions. While the story revolves around an effort to desegregate schools, the book explores other, hugely relevant issues, such as the struggles of Black teens trying to prove that they are good enough to be in a White-dominated world, the question of why they have to prove that they are good enough, White-passing biracial people and issues that they deal with, complicated relationships between lovers, sisters, LGBTQIA+ identity, infidelity, abortion, and miscarriage – all things relevant to our present moment. 

We are thrilled that Howard County Library system is the only public library in Maryland on author Naima Coster’s six-stop tour! 

A young Black woman with short curly hair, wearing a black V-neck shirt stands by a wall painted in flowers.

Naima Coster is a graduate of Yale University, Fordham University, and the Columbia University School of the Arts where she earned her MFA. She has taught writing for more than a decade in community settings, youth programs, and universities. She currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Antioch University in L.A. She is a 2022 mentor for the Periplus Collective.

One Maryland One Book is a program of Maryland Humanities. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Maryland State Library. We would also like to thank our valuable partners Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) and the Office of Human Rights & Equity (OHRE) and the Last Word bookstore.  

What’s Mine and Yours is available in print and e-audiobook

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction and keeps the hope alive that someday she will reach the bottom of her to-read list.
 

What I Read on My Summer Vacation 

You see feet in flip flops (with pink toenails) under a dress hem. Between the feet is a smashed small birthday cake with

by Christie L.

I’m a speed reader. When I told my family that I read four books on a recent getaway, they teased me about whether I remembered any details. One was an advanced reader copy and not widely available for a couple of months. While I may not have encyclopedic recall, I can tell you enough about the other three to entice you to check them out for yourself. 

The first was by one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris. His latest book, Happy-Go-Lucky, (also as an e-book and an e-audiobook) chronicles his adventures in London, New York, North Carolina, and other locations. He begins with a story about going with his sister Lisa to a shooting range in North Carolina where he learns how to shoot a gun while pondering what types of people own them. From there, he jumps to a story about his father. Sedaris spends a considerable amount of the book talking about his father’s declining health and their complicated relationship. He shares deeply personal stories about his father and his sisters – the funny, awkward, and sometimes uncomfortable interactions, including painful questions about whether their dad sexually assaulted their sister Tina. Sprinkled throughout these recollections are other unrelated stories about a speech he thinks about giving to college graduates, the falling-apart house he and his partner Hugh purchase and fix up in France, travels to Eastern Europe, and life in NYC during the pandemic and protests following George Floyd’s murder. As with all of his previous works, one never knows what the next page holds – it may be laugh-out-loud funny, awkward, or thought-provoking. But it will never be boring. 

Next was Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters by Annie Choi. She often made me laugh while also giving me some insight into life as the child of Korean immigrants. Choi relates stories about her mother’s obsession with her daughter’s grades so she can go to an Ivy League school, her mother’s collection of knick-knacks, trips to Korea to see extended family, dating non-Koreans, going to Korean school, saving her stuffed animal collection, and defending her vegetarian diet. When she wrote about her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, I could relate. It doesn’t matter who you are – it’s incredibly hard to live across the country from your parents when they struggle with health issues. Choi’s witty and touching memoir transcends cultures and gives us a glimpse into her world – and ours.

A wide horizon of a rural setting at sunset with a viviid red sky. Two figures are walking on the grass.

Finally, I finished the week with God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney, a book I discovered from a Texas fiction list curated by Texas Monthly. As a native Texan who’s also a pastor’s daughter, I was interested in this story that follows two sisters whose father is a pastor and who are expected to be above reproach at all times. But that’s where the similarity ends. Before he retired, my dad served Lutheran congregations in rural Texas, living in parsonages (houses provided by the church) and ministering to folks in our small community. In this story, Luke Nolan is the pastor of an evangelical megachurch who has a secret that could end his career. (Side note: career vs. calling is a philosophical discussion for another time.)

When his daughters find out, they question not only their father but also their faith. Without giving anything away, the book explores double-standards, patriarchy, relationships between sisters and between children and parents, and how faith guides and impacts lives. It’s a fascinating coming-of-age story about two sisters who come to terms with what they really believe and how they will decide to live their lives.

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.

Join a Book Discussion Group

A stack of books next to a keyboard, being checked out of the library.

Books: They are one of the fundamental reasons for a public library – purchasing, lending, recommending, and discussing. After all, as much fun as reading is all by itself, sometimes there are books you NEED to talk about. HCLS staff facilitate a wide variety of groups that read and discuss all sorts of books – from nonfiction to romance to graphic novels. Some meet online, some in person, and some change depending on guidelines.

Maybe you’re looking for something new to do this fall? Maybe you (like me) have missed social interaction and think an hour or so, in a small group, once a month, sounds about right?

Consider joining one of these regular meetings, led by library staff. Each month’s title is held at the branch for you for the month previous to the meeting, unless otherwise noted.

CENTRAL BRANCH

Eclectic Evenings: Second Tuesdays at 7 pm
Read an eclectic array of various genres, both contemporary and classic. 
Sep 13: The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

Noontime Books: Third Thursdays at 12 pm
Consider a variety of fiction and nonfiction books, diverse in themes, characters, settings, time periods, and authorship. 
Sep 15: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Reads of Acceptance: Second Thursdays at 7 pm
Discuss books pertaining to LGBTQ+ experiences! All identities are welcome. 
Sep 8: The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

EAST COLUMBIA BRANCH

Black Fiction: First Saturdays at 1 pm
Discuss critically-acclaimed recently published fiction titles by black authors of African descent.
Sep 3: The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Good Reads: Second Mondays at 7 pm
Consider fiction and nonfiction titles that embrace universal themes.
Sep 12: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

In Other Worlds: Fourth Wednesdays at 7 pm
Welcome sci-fi enthusiasts and other intrepid readers! 
Sep 28: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Nonfiction Addiction: Third Thursdays at 7 pm
Expand your mind reading and discussing a variety of nonfiction books, from memoirs to history, and from philosophy to popular science. 
Sep 22: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Romantic Reads: Fourth Wednesdays at 7 pm
Discuss your favorite romance author and book or series with other fellow romance readers.
Sep 28: any title by Suzanne Brockmann

Warning: Graphic Content: Third Tuesdays at 7 pm
Discover the full spectrum of what is available as a graphic novel – from Archie to horror and Caped Crusaders to crime drama. 
Sep 20: Something is Killing the Children, vols. 1 & 2 by James Tynion IV

ELKRIDGE BRANCH

ELKS Excellent Reads: Second Tuesdays at 12:30 pm
Read mostly fiction, both contemporary and historical, as well as narrative nonfiction. 
Sep 13: The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Murder, Mischief and Mayhem: Fourth Thursdays at 7 pm
Discuss titles including detective, spy, intrigue, and mystery. Mostly fiction, occasionally true crime.
Sep 22: Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Read. Think. Talk.: First Mondays at 7 pm (Second Monday this month due to Labor Day holiday)
Discuss great novels about the American experience before they’re critically acclaimed television shows and films. 
Sep 12: The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Thursday Next Book Club: Third Thursdays at 7 pm
Read mostly fiction, both contemporary and historical, as well as narrative nonfiction. 
Sep 15: What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (One Maryland One Book selection)

GLENWOOD BRANCH

The Reading Cafe: Last Tuesdays at 7 pm
Dip into a different genre each month. 
Sep 27: What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (One Maryland One Book selection)

MILLER BRANCH

Asian American Literature: Second or Third Mondays at 7 pm
Enjoy a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, biography/autobiography that explores the Asian American identity and experiences. 
Sep 19: On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

Bas Bleu: Third Wednesdays at 7 pm
Bas Bleu, French for “bluestocking,” refers to an intellectual or literary woman. We read a variety of literary fiction, and all are welcome – not just bluestockings!  
Sep 21: What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (One Maryland One Book selection)

Global Reads: First Mondays at 7 pm
Read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books on different cultures around the world as well as immigrant fiction. 
No meeting in September because of Labor Day holiday.

An Inconvenient Book Club: Meets quarterly on First Thursdays at 7 pm
Discuss speculative fiction, cli-fi (climate fiction), short stories, and verse — exploring themes of climate disruption, dystopia, recovery, and redemption. Next meeting in November.
Nov 3: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Spies, Lies & Alibis: First Tuesdays at 7 pm
Focus on spies, espionage, and world intrigue, alternating both classic and contemporary fiction and nonfiction, from the twentieth century and beyond. 
Sep 6: Two Spies in Caracas by Moisés Naím

Strictly Historical Fiction: Third Mondays at 2 pm
Step into the past and connect with characters living in times different than our own. 
Sep 19: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

SAVAGE BRANCH

Mystery: Second Wednesdays at 7 pm
Discuss a wide range of mysteries, including procedurals, detective novels, and capers.
Sep 14: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Nonfiction: Third Wednesdays at 7 pm
Share your thoughts on a varied array of nonfiction selections. 
Sep 21: Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth Century China by Jung Chang

Savage Hearts: Third Tuesdays at 2 pm
Enjoy romantic reads with others who love the genre.
Sep 20: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

IN THE COMMUNITY

Books on Tap: First Wednesdays at 6 pm – meets at The Periodic Table
Read a wide variety of titles and genres looking to experience an equally wide set of perspectives and experiences. Please arrange to borrow books as you would any other.
Sep 7: The Searcher by Tana French

Reading Human Rights: Varying Thursdays at 6:30 pm at East Columbia Branch
In partnership with the Office of Human Rights, read books that promote cultural awareness, diversity, equity. 
Sep 29: The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

You may notice multiple discussions of What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster. This is the One Maryland One Book selection for 2022, and several groups will be reading it throughout the fall. Register here to join us for an event with author Naima Coster at Miller Branch on Tuesday, October 4 at 7 pm.

Am I Southern? Does It Matter? 

A Black woman with short hair looks pensively downward. Along the bottom, a black and white photo of slave quarters is superimposed, and the edges are faded like an old photograph.

by Eric L.

I recently read Kindred by Octavia Butler in my book discussion group. It was my first exposure to Butler, and I like both her style and the book overall quite a bit. We also read the graphic novel as a supplement. I recommend it, too, as the illustration and style were excellent.

Written in the 1970s, the plot concerns a Black woman from Los Angeles who is mysteriously transported back to the antebellum south, specifically to the eastern shore of Maryland. It continues to happen, and each time the protagonist remains a bit longer. The time she stays in the past is greater than the length of time she is missing from 1970s L.A. It goes without saying that the past is terrible for a Black woman. 

Hence my question about being southern. As someone from Baltimore, I tend to view myself as an “enlightened north-easter.” However, the racial history of this country is something that should be given some thought. It’s not just a southern plantation owner issue that ended in 1863.

Dana is a writer. Her husband is also a writer, and he is white. I’d rather not give too much away so you can read the book to determine why this is happening, but in a little bit of a spoiler, she has relatives on this plantation that she returns to again and again. One of them, who eventually becomes the plantation owner, is white; the other is a Black woman, technically a “free” woman. It’s not exactly the freest environment even if you’re not enslaved.

Her reminiscence about how she met her husband is sweetly romantic and interspersed throughout the book. The juxtaposition of the recent past, the present, and the distant past is an interesting story technique. At one point, her husband purposefully holds on to her during one of her time travels in an effort to accompany her. As a white man, he obviously has a much higher social standing than she does and hopes to provide some protection. He is successful, to some extent. She wonders if he will somehow be changed by spending time in this time period. Really, she’s wondering how anyone could not be changed, herself included.  

The discussions and disagreements between the two of them about common misunderstandings between men and women, Black people and white people, are telling. The whole book offers a compelling study in empathy. The protagonist’s own status as a free Black woman and a visitor to the plantation, along with her relations with both white people and enslaved persons, highlight ideas of jealousy and privilege. That said, Butler deftly deals with the concept of how we all think we’d comport ourselves in oppressive situations. When one’s actual survival is at stake, how outspoken could anyone be with a very real threat of state-sanctioned terror and beatings?  

To be clear: this is not a defense of race relations in the 1970s, or now for that matter. The protagonist experiences profound culture shock (e.g., I could beat you for speaking to me that way). For me, this story further acknowledges the history of those who resisted and fought back against nearly insurmountable odds. The protagonist is forced to reckon with her own privilege in the antebellum south and her relatively comfortable life in 1970s America. She leads you to this by thinking that, in just a few years, Harriet Tubman begins bringing enslaved people to freedom. As a reader you wonder, how? 

This book is the type of fiction that weaves a thought-provoking story with great social and moral commentary. It is my kind of read: messy, complicated, and realistic (except for the time travel). 

In sum, I think I am southern. Maybe many Americans are?

Kindred is available in print, e-book, and e-audiobook.

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