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New from Celeste Ng: Little Fires Everywhere

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 3:32pm by eapearce

By now you've probably heard that Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, has published her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere. Like Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere is focused on family intricacies. However, while her first book centered upon one family, Ng's latest work explores how two families become intertwined. Set in Shaker Heights, Ohio (an idyllic community that got its start as an envisioned utopia by its creator) in the 1990s, the book masterfully weaves together several storylines full of moral ambiguities.

Single mother Mia and her daughter Pearl arrive in Shaker Heights in the summer, looking for a place to rent. Although most spaces are out of their price range, local landlady and prominent Shaker Heights resident Elena Richardson takes a liking to them and rents them the upper half of a duplex that she owns. Pearl quickly befriends the Richardson children, who are all about her age, and Mia, an artist, begins working as a housekeeper for the Richardsons to help make rent money. Readers know from the very beginning that this close relationship between landlords and tenants is a ticking time bomb; the book opens with the Richardsons' house in flames and Mia and Pearl leaving town in the dead of night. Still, we can't help but cheer for all of the characters in the book who--although all flawed in their own ways--are mostly kind-hearted. As the book goes on, Mrs. Richardson begins to dig into Mia and Pearl's past and all of the characters become involved in a local scandal--some intentionally and others by accident.

Little Fires Everywhere, like Everything I Never Told You, showcases Ng's ability to create amazingly nuanced characters that tell a story that is thought-provoking in part because of its shocking believability. I did feel that this story wasn't quite as gut-wrenching as her first, mostly because the number of players in Little Fires Everywhere makes it so that readers cannot really get to know and understand any single one. Without a doubt, however, if you liked Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere is a must-read. And, if you're unfamiliar with Celeste Ng, now is the time to play catch up! I am already eagerly anticipating her third work.

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Lad: A Yorkshire Story

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:18pm by ballybeg

A truly lovely film, Lad: A Yorkshire Story, will make you fall in love with the Dales. Slow, sweeping views of the hills and valleys, provide a natural remedy for the turmoil of the story, and the world. The landscape is a strong presence throughout the film, and plays a role in soothing the souls of all the characters. That landscape is distinctly of Yorkshire, as the title suggests, but Lad is, ultimately, an archetypal tale, of relating to one's place and family of origin, of finding resolution and peace in your own backyard.

The film is notable for its simplicity. Very low-budget, using local settings and almost unknown actors, with no computer enhancements or special effects, the result is a triumph for the writer/director, Dan Hartley, and the cast, all Yorkshire born and bred.

Lad is a classic coming-of-age story, but with a fresh, original face, and such a sweet, unassuming style, that it never appears sentimentalized or maudlin. Young Tom’s world is falling apart and he is saved by love and friendship, which he finds in familiar and new places. Simple. But intricate and heartbreaking, fragile and surprising. Would that every troubled 13-year-old could find solace working outside under the guidance of a wise, seasoned park ranger. Would that we all could.

I almost stopped watching Lad after about ten minutes. It starts slow and deliberate, and I couldn’t tell where it was going, and there are no subtitles to help decipher the accents, and no one told me that it would turn into one of the sweetest, most satisfying stories ever. Now I am so glad I saw it.

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A Woman Is a Woman Until She Is a Mother

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 1:39pm by evelyn

The end of pregnancy is a strange time. You wait for the biggest change that can happen to a person other than death and yet, for most, you don’t know when the change will happen. When will the baby be born? When will a woman become a mother? When I was pregnant with my son, I read the title essay of A Woman Is a Woman Until She Is a Mother by Anna Prushinskaya probably 15 times. It became almost a talisman to me, a promise that he would eventually be born, that I would be able to cross over to motherhood.

In A Woman Is a Woman Until She Is a Mother, Prushinskaya writes beautifully about her experience balancing between places, between states: between pregnancy and motherhood, and between her Soviet homeland and her current home of Ann Arbor. Her essays range from parenthood to identifying local woody plants, and they are all gorgeous- sparse and lyrical.

I spoke with Prushinskaya about her experience writing the book, how motherhood has changed her as a writer, and the birth of her second son. Find our conversation on Pulp!

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The Making of Jane Austen

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 9:05am by howarde

At the time of Jane Austen’s death in 1817, no one but close family and friends knew that she was a published author. Fast forward to 1995: a wet-shirted Colin Firth, starring in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries, seemingly launches Austen into pop culture superstardom and initiates an Austen craze that has continued ever since.

We are now used to Jane Austen cosplay conventions, spin-off novels, and countless Austen-themed tchotchkes. But it’s worth asking the question: How did Austen go from complete anonymity to a cultural institution?

The answer to that question, Devoney Looser argues, starts long before Colin Firth. And, she continues, it often has less to do with Jane Austen herself than with how Austen has been interpreted—and invented—by readers, illustrators, playwrights, screenwriters, actors, activists, and teachers.

In her new book, The Making of Jane Austen, Looser sets out uncover the little-known parts of Austen’s legacy in British and American culture. She focuses on five areas: how Austen has been illustrated, adapted for the stage, adapted for the screen, politicized, and taught in schools.

Looser turns away from literary histories of Austen and instead focuses on equally important but long-neglected appearances of Austen in popular culture. What makes her book so enjoyable is that she strolls down the byways of history, tracking down obscure figures like the young women (yes, women) who played Mr. Darcy in early stage adaptations of Pride and Prejudice or the author of the first Jane Austen dissertation, who was supposedly channeled by a spirit medium after his untimely death. (You can’t make this stuff up, folks!)

If The Making of Jane Austen piques your interest, be sure to mark your calendar for Anne-Charlotte Mecklenburg’s talk, “Lights, Camera, Austen: the screen adaptations of Jane Austen” at Westgate Branch from 7-8:30pm on Wednesday, December 13th. And stay tuned for info about all our upcoming Jane Austen events this winter in partnership with the University of Michigan—Austen Trivia! Embroidery! English Country Dancing! Everything to satisfy the Austenian heart.

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Cozy Winter Documentaries

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 6:38pm by Nholtzman

Do you enjoy a good documentary?

Search no further!

Ken Burns has directed a number of outstanding documentaries that are perfect for the transition into these cold winter months.

These documentaries have multiple DVDs, so get ready to snuggle under a big blanket with some hot tea and enjoy!

The Civil War

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

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'1Q84'

Fri, 02/24/2012 - 11:15am by jaegerla

Recently, I've read several books that were good enough to recommend: Stephen King's 11/22/63, Lev Grossman's The Magician King, and Pascal Girard's Reunion, to name a few. The problem is that none of those books come as close to, well, perfect, as 1Q84.

To be fair, I haven't actually finished Haruki Murakami's "1Q84" yet, but this is because the process of reading it cannot be rushed. I'm going to go out on a corny limb here and actually put this next sentence in print. Reading "1Q84" is the literary equivalent of watching a flower bloom. The plot unfolds slowly, the direction of the book is kept mysterious, and the reader is drawn in to see what will happen next. The writing is wildly eloquent and the characters are fascinating. Only halfway through this book it already surpasses everything I've read since Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex.

The story begins with the introduction of Aomame, who steps down a ladder and enters a parallel universe. Next, the story sits down with Tengo, a man who can write lyrically, but cannot create a story in which to lyricize. Soon afterward the audience is shown Fuka-Eri, a nearly monosyllabic teenage girl with wisdom beyond her years and a past she won't explain.

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'Dead End in Norvelt'

Fri, 02/24/2012 - 11:00am by annevm

Handed to me late last year by a savvy children’s librarian, Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, surpassed my wildest hopes for a good read. Imagine my delight in January when the novel -- written for ages 10 and up -- won the American Library Association’s 2012 Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, plus the 2012 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

This fabulous story is the "entirely true and the wildly fictional" story of the author’s childhood, unfolding in historic Norvelt, Pennsylvania, during the summer of 1962, as the narrator awkwardly turns twelve. “Eccentric” is not too strong to describe his family and his adorable, elderly buddy, Miss Volker, the town historian who helps Jack with his nosebleeds, while also teaching him valuable life lessons about humans, tenacity, and love. The writing in the novel is seamless, while the story manages to be both heartwarming and hilarious. Comedian Dave Barry praised the book as “brilliant . . . full of history, mystery, and laughs. It reminded me of my small-town childhood, although my small town was never as delightfully weird as Norvelt.”

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Teen Novel Soars On Wings of Quirkiness, Love and Friendship

Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:00pm by annevm

If you are sick and tired of reading – or even just hearing about – teen novels centered on vampires, zombies, suicide, and alienation, here’s a fresh and extremely worthwhile alternative: The Summer I Learned to Fly, by Dana Reinhardt.

The star is Drew Robin Solo, sometimes known as Birdie, a cautious and loner-ish adolescent trying hard to separate from her ADD mom who runs a trendy cheese shop in a sleepy town on the California coast. Drew has a pet rat, her dead father’s Book of Lists, and a big crush on Nick, the surfer guy who works at the cheese shop. The sweet, steady, engaging action of this novel takes place the summer Drew is going into eighth grade. When Drew meets enigmatic Emmett Crane in the alley behind the cheese shop, her life changes subtly and enormously, as she moves swiftly towards more confidence and the first real friendship of her life.

I couldn’t put this coming-of-age novel down until all 216 pages had been flipped. Now I’m eager to read Reinhardt’s other books, The Things a Brother Knows, How to Build a House, Harmless, and A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life.

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aadl.org: Down for Upgrades on Monday!

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 4:35pm by eli

As all AADL locations are closed Monday for our annual staff training day, we're taking the opportunity to roll out some upgrades to aadl.org. In the process, aadl.org will be unavailable most of the day Monday. We've set it up so that nothing is due on Monday, so take a day off from managing your AADL account and relax as we implement some long-awaited new features! You can get a sneak peek at http://usability.aadl.org, or as always don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns before or after the upgrades. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for using the Library!

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Idol is Back!

Sat, 01/16/2010 - 10:56am by sarahc

American Idol returned to television this week with the first rounds of auditions for season 9. It's hard to believe the show has been on for that long! I only started watching a couple years ago, but Idol is strangely addicting, and no matter how many times I'm told that it's silly, that it's rigged, etc., I just can't turn the TV off. Not in the American Idol spirit yet? Get prepared for this new season (minus Paula, plus Ellen, and said to be Simon's last!) by checking out the latest albums from past Idol winners and contestants:

Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson: All I Ever Wanted
Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood: Play On
Season 5 finalist Chris Daughtry: Leave This Town
Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert: For Your Entertainment

And if you’re feeling nostalgic for the “good old days”, here are a few lesser-known Idol contestants you might recall: Bo Bice, Fantasia, Kimberley Locke, Elliott Yamin.