We have several hotspots available for check out here in our library! You can find more information on this on the flyer below.
Light or quick reads for your enjoyment and enlightenment: Let It Bang, How to Do Nothing, A Knock at Midnight, The Gifts of Imperfection, & Bad Blood.
Let It Bang: a Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey into Guns by RJ Young
What to do when your white, rancher father-in-law only has eyes for guns? You accept his offer to buy you a Glock, of course. You may even join the NRA, but only to get discounts on their classes and work to be a certified instructor. Guns may help get RJ close to those around him, but where will the radicalized fear from our institutional forces end?
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
Our values used to show by where we placed our time and effort. Today, with more entertainment and education options than ever before, our values show through where we focus our attention. Those trying to save anything – wilderness, culture, historic buildings – invariably experience “sadness, fascination, and above all a wish to attend to the past in the name of the future.” Online or off there is more to see than we can ever accomplish in a lifetime. Spend a day recharging and wander regularly.
A Knock at Midnight: a Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany Barnett
Many of the victims in the war on drugs were African Americans trying to better their lives. In Sharanda Jones’ case, Brittany saw many connections to her own mother’s incarceration. Fighting for justice in Sharanda’s case led her away from corporate law and into social justice. Brittany had a brief, successful career in corporate law and went on to found many nonprofits that are dedicated to overturning life sentences for non-violent federal drug offenses. Hear the stories of Sharanda, Mike, Genice, Donel, Corey, Alice, Robert, and Chris as they serve time throughout the United States of America; rolled over by a justice system focused on easing the fears of white citizens instead of serving “we the people.”
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown audio & ebook available
One of the original wholehearted, mindful, living in the present books, there is good advice in this thin title for anyone. Even New Yorker Franklin Roosevelt’s famous the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself” quote would feel at home. Embrace living an authentic life of life of honest beauty – a perfectly imperfect life.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou large print, audio, & ebook available
Theranos had a gifted female founder, Elizabeth Holmes, who was focused on being a billionaire from a young age. She created novel ways to approach blood testing and recruited PhDs and Apple employees to attempt creating the iPod of healthcare. She was also single-minded in her pursuit of money and willing to do anything to make Theranos prototypes appear perfect. Truth was simply another obstacle to be overcome. Those who disagreed were quickly fired and she ruled over Theranos with an iron fist. Step inside but think twice before investing.
There is nothing Zoe Washington likes better than to bake. She is so excited about the Kids Bake Challenge for the Food Network. Low and behold, her entry wins her an internship at Ari’s cakes. She shows up all ready to bake, only to realize that she is relegated to the role of observer. Chef Victor does not allow her to participate in the cake creations until annoying Trevor buts his ideas into the mix. Suddenly, Arianna is telling the girl how to fill the cupcake cups halfway with batter from an ice cream scoop so that the mix has space to rise in the oven. What fun! Zoe is on her way to becoming a cupcake connoisseur!
On the home front, the 12-year-old has mixed feelings about the letters that she begins to receive from her incarcerated father, Marcus Johnson. Her grandmother encourages contact between the two, but her mother forbids it. Her dad seems so nice; her calls her “my little tomato.” The relationship progresses, and her grandmother facilitates a phone conversation between them. The youngster is nervous at first, but the man’s voice is gentle and convivial, and they have a congenial talk. She is delighted that he seems so caring, but his conviction eats at her, and she struggles to find the words to question him about it.
Marcus Johnson was convicted of murder.
Johnson did know the victim, but he had an alibi of a vendor from a garage sale that he was present at when the killing occurred. A destitute man of color, he was stuck with an uninterested public defender who did not adequately investigate the case or the man’s alibi. Instead, he urged Johnson to take a plea deal. When Zoe discovers this, she asks her father for the name of the alibi, which he does not provide. Then, in the local library, Zoe takes a look in the legal section. She discovers the existence of The Innocence Project. Zoe is desperate to help vindicate her dad, and she will do whatever she can to assist.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, 2020
This book was interesting, yet disturbing in the light of recent murders of people of color by police officers.
The inventor of the wooden golf tee began his education in Oswego and was one of the first children to use the Oswego Public Library. In 1857 George Franklin Grant was 11 when the library opened here in our Castle on the Hill.
Born in 1800, Tudor Elandor Grant, the father of George Franklin Grant, was a runaway slave from Maryland who settled in Oswego in 1832. When George was young, Tudor had a barber shop in the basement of the Welland Building and later in the Buckhout-Jones Building where the Children’s Museum of Oswego now resides. Tudor worked tirelessly to free slaves and outlaw slavery. The Grant family lived at 134 W. Bridge St. where George was one of seven children.
George began work at 15 as an errand boy for a local dentist and soon became the lab assistant, learning the basics of a dental practice. In 1867 George moved to Boston graduating from Harvard Dental School in 1870 — the second African American dental graduate in the country. Dr. George Grant went on to be the first African American faculty member at Harvard. He pioneered the treatment of cleft palates, an opening in the roof of the mouth, inventing an oblate palate prosthesis. The oblate palate helped patients around the world eat and speak well.
When he left Harvard, Dr. George Grant opened his own successful dental practice treating patients from as far away as Michigan. He also invented the wooden golf tee in 1899 which was made in an Arlington Heights shop. In Game of Privilege: An African American History of Golf, George’s daughter Frances is quoted as saying “My father had burlap bags of golf tees, but he gave them away instead of selling them.”
In 2012, Obama and Biden ran and won the presidential and vice presidential race.
In 2013, Beau Biden was diagnosed with brain cancer.
In 2014, Beau’s diagnosis and prognosis weighed heavily on the family.
In 2015, Joe Biden needed to decide whether to run for president. His son died in May.
In 2016, Biden decided to take the time he needed to grieve the loss of Beau.
Initially, Joe Biden was hesitant to accept a vice presidential position with Obama in 2012 due to the fact that the job has been widely viewed essentially as a non-position. In fact, when he received the request from Obama while riding the train, he flat-out said no. Later, his family urged him to reconsider the offer. After meeting with Barack Obama and discussing the potential partnership, Biden decided that he appreciated Obama’s style of management. He was convinced that he would be able to have input and influence into all aspects of Obama’s administration. He would be invited to attend all the key meetings and to give Obama his advice and impressions of each of them.
During Obama’s second term as president, concern about his son troubled the vice president. Beau’s brother, Hunter, was especially close to Beau, and he provided him with an incredible amount of support. Joe Biden visited Beau at the hospital whenever he could. Beau was an inspiration to all of his family and the medical personnel who worked closely with him. Beau was stoic, and he willingly tried all of the options that the doctors laid out for him. He allowed experimental treatments to be utilized on himself. Through all of the pain and anxiety, Beau had a wonderfully positive attitude about himself, the world, and his loved ones.
As vice president, Joe Biden had the opportunity to travel the world. He ensured that all of his grandchildren travelled to nations with him. He liked to enhance their civic education by taking his grandfatherly duties as seriously as the negotiation talks that he engaged in while he was abroad. In Iraq and Ukraine, he attempted to minimize war and harm to civilians. He spent countless hours in conversation to reach compromises that all countries involved could live with.
Among his many accomplishments, 46-year-old Beau Biden was a Delaware state attorney general, and he served for a year in the Iraq War. He was married, and he had two children. He wanted everyone to be happy, and he did not want his illness to sadden his father. He urged his father to run for president in 2016. Beau would have been so proud to see his dad take on the herculean task of running to lead the country through the pandemic and racial strife of the USA in 2020.
This was a touching book that was difficult to get through due to the pain and heartache of watching a vibrant middle-aged man suffer through cancer treatments.
Jasmine “Jay” Barton longs to work with horses at a racetrack. She visits all of the yards in the racetrack to request a job. At the last barn, the wife of trainer, Mr. Wilkinson, summons her to speak with him. The trainer reluctantly agrees to giver her a job as a “lad.” The lads act as grooms, cleaning the stable, horses and tack. Her training consists of instructions to do as she is told, not ask questions, and remain quiet. The horses come first, or so they say.
The teen has a front-row seat to the ugly underbelly of the horse world. She gets paid little, and her rent is deducted from her paycheck. She is assigned to work in the back yard with the second string horses, which is much less snazzy than the stable filled with prize equines. The girl observes one of the workers threaten a horse with a pitchfork and the remnants of evidence that his abuse has left behind. She sees a neglected horse left in a bullpen with a solemn, disconsolate look in her eye. Then, Jay is caught between a nasty colleague and a terrified horse when someone plays a trick on her.
The girl’s home life was troubled, which led her to the job with horses. Jay loves the majesty of horses, and all of these magical qualities are personified in Manhattan. The mare is a big, grey Thoroughbred who has shown promise on the track, but then turned sour. Her unfriendly attitude has led to her disuse. She dislikes men in particular, and no one approaches her without fear of injury. However, Jay takes a shine to her. The troubled teen sees through the equine’s bravado. She acknowledges the fact that the horse despises people simply because they terrorize and attack her. The teen begs her supervisor to allow her to work with and ride Manhattan. She is deterred at first, but persistence leads the way to a better life for both girl and mare. Mr. Wilkinson, finally, grudgingly, allows Jay to bond with the cantankerous equine.
The young apprentice rider is handling several other horses, and as time passes, she is even assigned to work a race. Jay cannot believe that her dream goal of becoming a jockey has suddenly become true! She has been working hard in the gym on the racehorse simulator to build up her racing muscles, and she studied hard at the training school. Jay rides the second string horse in front of the owner. She is told to ride in the race, but not to win since a winner for that race has already been selected. This unexpected requirement slaps Jay in the face with the reality of the racehorse industry.
The horse racing world is notoriously difficult for both equines and humans. I worked briefly in Australia as a hotwalker at a notable horse racing barn. This book was clearly well-researched and was written by a former amateur jockey.
Hitler stole more than 17 million lives, including 6 million Jewish lives.
He confiscated the mental health of many survivors, and many years of people’s lives wondering and worrying about the war.
Adolf Hitler also kidnapped horses.
Alois Podhajsky, director, rider and riding instructor from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, devoted himself to saving the precious Lipizzaner and Arabian horses that were taken from Austria and shipped off to Czechoslovakia. Numerous military officials, such as Colonel Hank Reed, spent much time trying to save these horses. The equines were moved from farm to farm to attempt to escape the dangers of war. Their handlers did not want the hungry Russian troops to eat the horses, have them shot or otherwise destroyed by war, or simply frightened into dangerous situations or starved to death due to lack of resources. Food was scarce for both humans and equines; grain and hay was rationed.
Lipizzaners are a rare and fantastic breed, and people did not want this treasure to be lost and the art of dressage to die out. The horses execute high-level dressage movements, which is a delicate dance between horse and rider. All of these moves occur naturally in the wild during play, sex or fighting. Sometimes performed to music, dressage requires the horse to execute physically difficult maneuvers that are subtly cued by the rider. Examples include a piaffe, is a trot in place, and a passage, an extended trot with a distinct pause midair, in which the horse appears to “float.” Other moves are pirouettes, hand gallops and leg yields. Airs about ground are courbettes and caprioles.
The horses were moved from place to place, sometimes by walking them and sometimes by truck. The treks were exhausting for the equines, and many died during the arduous journeys. In some cases, moving the horses was impossible, and the troops simply attempted to protect the horses where they were. Broodmares ready to drop foals and young colts and fillies could not make the journey on foot. Thankfully, the determination of the American military force allowed some of these precious, sweet, and well-trained animals to be preserved. The high-level art of dressage could live on.
This was a tragic story of the incredible toll that WWII took on non-human animals as well as humans. The suffering that the entire world endured in the early 1940s makes the obstacles that we face today pale in comparison. I have seen the performance of these magnificent creatures live, and it was an awesome sight to behold.
Alex is smitten by a new hot boy that she meets in her class, Cole Cozen. He is sexy, fun and he seems so nice. He is sweet, and he hugs her warmly. The boy waits for her while she is working at The Bread Basket, and then he takes her home. The teen is loving the feeling of being loved. She likes the idea of having a boyfriend… someone to care about and share her life with.
Alex can always count on her best friends forever, Zack and Bethany. They have been a threesome for years. They recall her awkward moments as a seven-year-old. The friends are currently planning a fantastic skiing trip together. They go out to eat, attend parties and support each other in life. They have so much fun joking together and fooling around. Alex does not know what she would do without them.
Then, Cole gets jealous of Alex’s relationship with Zack. He insists that Zack wants to be her girlfriend, even though she tries to assure him that their relationship is purely platonic. Cole randomly shows up at her house and admits that he has been following her. He swings her too fast at the playground and refuses to stop even when she pleads with him. Cole is too rough with her, but he apologizes. Then she visits him, and he calls her a slut because he observed her roughhousing with Zack. Alex gets angry and argues with him. Then, he does something unforgiveable.
Cole grabs Alex roughly and punches her twice in the cheek.
Alex sees flashes of light and she experiences searing pain. Her hip, face and other parts of her body have never known so much pain. She is forced to miss two days of school. Even makeup and clothing do little to hide the marks and bruises. Her sister, father and work supervisor are concerned, and they try to entice her to talk about her problems. The girl desperately wishes to confide in Georgia, her supervisor, but something holds her back. Cole brings her flowers, sweet apologies and promises to mend his ways. Alex knows that she should leave Cole, but she is hesitant to make the break and trapped in her own silence about the abuse.
Bitter End by Jennifer Brown, 2011
This work was a stark look into the reality of teenage domestic violence.
In 2020, Kamala Harris became the first Black and Indian American US vice presidential nominee. In 2017, she became the first woman of color Californian district attorney. Prior to that she was the San Francisco district attorney. Harris has been a lot of firsts in her career, and she does not want to be the last of anything.
Harris’ mother was from India, and her father is from Jamaica. She appreciates her relatives from both sides of her family very much. As a kid growing up in California, she attended one of the first integrated schools in the 1960’s. The rich diversity and exposure to a variety of cultures in the unique learning environment had a lasting effect on her. When she was a teen, her mother took a job at a Canadian university so they moved to Canada. After that, the young woman attended Howard University in Washington, DC.
Harris has a passion to work for the people, and she feels compassion for individuals who are facing financial and other hardships. She fights for disenfranchised groups. Kamala Harris is indefatigable in her struggle for justice and equity in this society. This woman is a force to be reckoned with on the political landscape of America today.
- Bail reform – Harris believes in busting wide open the school-to-prison pipeline, the poverty-to-prison pipeline, and the young man of color-to-prison pipeline. Incarcerating juveniles only subjects them to the high recidivism rate that plagues individuals in jail and perpetuates the cycle of chronic incarceration.
- Back on Track – Many young people will reform their ways if given educational and job training opportunities.
- Elementary truancy – 92% of high school drop-outs were truant in elementary school. She understands that impoverished, overworked parents may ask older children to care for younger ones, but this trend must be stopped. With appropriate supports, the kids can be helped to attend school.
- Making health care affordable – Most people cannot afford health care in the United States. We need to fund health care for all, perhaps through a single-payer system. We should stop making big pharmaceutical companies filthy rich.
- Home Foreclosure Crisis – During the Great Recession of 2008, many homes were foreclosed upon. This was largely the fault of big banks that approved loans to individuals who did not have the collateral to repay them. Harris turned a proposed $2 – $4 million dollar settlement into a $18 – $20 million dollar settlement by withdrawing from negotiations, then having a heart-to-heart talk with the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
- Marriage equality – Harris fought to expedite the right to wed regardless of gender of the spouses. She officiated in 2013 at one of the first gay marriages in California.
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – Harris fights for Dreamers to become citizens and continue contributing to the American economy. She deeply values their contributions, and she wants to prevent the cruelty of kids being ripped from their parents’ arms by immigration officials.
Kamala Harris became a legal prosecutor in order to represent the people of the United States because a crime against any American resident is considered to be a crime against us all. She has worked to reduce the prison population of the most overincarcerated nation in the world. Harris stands for women’s rights, the rights of minorities and incarcerated persons. She also strongly believes in preserving our environment for future generations; and she has vowed to end fracking and the use of harmful fossil fuels. The USA is so lucky to have her as its Democratic vice presidential nominee.
The Truths We Hold: an American Journey by Kamala Harris, 2019
Kamala Harris inspires people to take action and change societal for the better by contacting their local legislators. I hope that the parole system will be reformed. Parolees could be given lawyers to help plead their cases. In many instances, only “the nature of the offense” is considered when individuals come up for parole consideration, and the importance of good behavior and other factors are dismissed. This leads to warehousing individuals who are not a danger to society at the taxpayers’ expense.
I also read her picture book for kids, Superheroes Are Everywhere. I liked the structure of the children’s book, the illustrations, the photographs and the positive, empowering message for kids.
New York City in 1910, site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Bella, Yetta and Jane. Three young women, seemingly so different, yet so entwined in their thought, attitudes and actions. Three teens devoted to cause, workers’ rights and women’s rights. Females who are ahead of their time with progressive ideas.
Bella works diligently in the factory to make a life for herself and to send money back home to her family. She tries to accomplish her work systematically and carefully, but she is goaded into speed by threats of not being paid. Every needle broken and every shirtwaist with threads still dangling means a deduction from her week’s pay. The workers are watched constantly, and bags are checked upon departure to ensure that no shirtwaists are stolen. Her landlord takes her money and promises to send it to her relatives.
Yetta is a worker in the same factory… until some of the workers go on strike. She stands outside in the freezing cold and chants with the others, demanding better pay, hours and working conditions. Police bloody and arrest the striking workers. They send them to work camps. Fatigue, hunger and poverty wear on these young women, yet they carry on. The union leaders come back to them with a deal from the bosses: better hours and pay, but no closed shop. This means that management can hire non-union workers and treat them as they please. Yetta and her colleagues find this deal completely unacceptable. Yet the union settles with management.
Jane lives in the lap of luxury, but she detests it. Her father is one of the owners of a factory, and she is appalled by how little he pays his domestic staff. He will not allow her to attend college as her friend, Eleanor, does. Jane is bored out of her mind, staying home with nothing to do but dress fittings and society balls. She longs to be active in the world and not passively allow her life to slip by. The teen gets the opportunity to watch the workers’ strike, and she attempts to help the workers that she meets and comes to care about.
Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix, 2007
This book blew my mind. The women’s lives are intricately woven together. The social issues of the time, women’s suffrage and workers’ rights, are brilliantly highlighted. Yetta, Bella and Jane have staunch, iron wills that they put to good use.
Michelle Obama became the first black First Lady of the United States in January of 2008. In order to get there, she had to be better, stronger, and faster than the rest. Being a first anything is tough, but Michelle Obama did an excellent job at promoting physical fitness and healthy eating at a time when childhood and adult obesity rates were at epic proportions. She epitomized grace in her role, inspired young women, and supported her family through all of the ups and downs of constant surveillance. Her opinions influenced the presidency of Barack Obama and their daughters thrived throughout the experience, which is no small feat. I am so glad that Michelle Obama was the First Lady of color en la casa blanca.
Getting to the Oval office was no small feat. Michelle honestly did not think that her husband could win, but she went above and beyond to make sure that it happened. She reduced her hours at a Chicago hospital to three days per week so that she could spend more time out on the campaign trail. She and the girls spent hours in transit between events in order to promote the Obama-Biden ticket. She spoke about her personal experience with Barack and her belief in what her husband had to offer so many times. In thanks for her efforts, the press labelled her as “angry,” which caused her to adjust her nonverbal communication.
Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama met in Chicago in the 1980s as young lawyers. Barack was an intern that the law office assigned to Michelle. Her job was basically to mentor and woo him to the firm as a permanent employee. Michelle was struck by his nonchalant and humble manner. Barack was still in law school, but he was a few years older than her. He quickly became known in the firm as a rising star. Michelle was unsure about the appropriateness of dating him. Nevertheless, the two were soon together, and staff of the firm were aware of this. They eventually moved in together, married, and had Malia and Sasha. The demands of Barack’s work put some strain on the marriage, but counseling helped them resolve their issues.
Michelle never thought of herself as the political type. However, her sprint through schooling and the bar exam towards societal standards of success left her feeling empty. Her law career earned her much money and took up all of her time, but it did not provide fulfillment. Michelle found herself working in the mayor’s office for much less money, but she liked it. She became an assistant commissioner then she took an administrative job in a local hospital. Being a great mother is what she did when not on the job. She and Barack always made sure that the girls had everything they needed, including happiness.
Becoming by Michelle Obama, 2018
This is the story of a remarkable woman who did everything under her power to promote her husband’s talents and shatter the barriers of color and socio-economic status. She shared her husband’s talents with the world. Through sheer exhaustive effort, she persevered in helping America elect its first black president and first black family. Millions of individuals were elated to experience the historic moment of just one more step towards racial equality in this country. Thank you for all that you do and all that you did for America, Michelle Obama.
Braids or pigtails. This was the big morning drama while raising four young daughters and a son. Nancy Pelosi was happy to put her little kids in a stroller while leafletting local venues to support her candidates whose ideals she believed in. Pelosi loved raising kids, and she was happy enough doing housework, but she did not want that to be her reality forever. She wanted more… Eventually she became more involved with the Democratic National Convention, but it was not until her youngest child was in high school that she contemplated running for office. She consulted Alexandra, who told her to get a life, and she did.
Nancy Pelosi had her sights set on Washington.
Pelosi ran for a congressional seat to represent San Fransisco, her beloved city, in the United States House of Representatives, and she won. Growing up in a political family helped prepare her for this eventuality. Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro, was also a US rep and the former mayor of Baltimore, Maryland. The lady was familiar with what it took to run a campaign, win, and do a splendid job of representing the people in governmental bodies. Being a woman, of course, made her path all the more challenging. Since policy is a male-dominated field, Pelosi was often the only woman or one of few in meetings. Pelosi was so excited to be working in Washington and fighting for her district. Healthcare for all, including children and those with painful diseases, was and is a top priority for her. In fact, in 1987 when she was sworn in she mentioned the eradication or cure of HIV and AIDS as one of the issues that she would fight for.
Nancy Pelosi was not interested in running for speaker in 1994 when members initially approached her. Her plan was to simply serve five terms (a decade) in office and call it a day. She thought that 10 years was plenty long. However, she decided to run for Whip, and she loved securing the Democratic votes that were necessary to help whichever bill was on the floor to pass. Of course, she has now been a congresswoman for 33 years, and she is still going strong. It is not so surprising that she is championing work on the second federal covid relief bill, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.
Know Your Power: a Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi, 2008
This lady is an inspiration to girls and women everywhere.
Robin Roberts: the happy-go-lucky host of Good Morning America (GMA). After beating breast cancer, it seemed like a double blow when she discovered that she now suffered from bone marrow cancer. Miraculously, one of her sisters, Sally Ann, was a perfect match. Of course, she agreed to be a donor. Complicating everyone’s lives and worrying the sisters was their mother’s illness. She had recently suffered a stroke, and her life was on the decline. Their other sister, Dorothy, was caring for her at home in hospice. Lucimarian Roberts died a few days before Robin’s transplant.
Being a donor and a recipient of a transplant are both excruciatingly painful experiences. Robin rallied as best she could to get through this life hurdle. She was extremely grateful to the staff of GMA for being understanding and assuring her that her job would wait for her. They held a wonderful send-off for her. Fans gifted her blankets, get well cards and medical equipment. Robin also appreciated her medical team for caring for her, and her friends and family, especially her life partner, Amber, who was always present. She sacrificed so much to ensure that Robin was as well as possible under the circumstances. Oprah Winfrey sent thoughtful texts, and the Obamas sent flowers to the family for the loss of their mother.
Robin was so excited to leave the hospital, see the sunshine and breathe fresh air. Though she was required to quarantine in her apartment for 100 days due to her weakened immune system, she was delighted to be home. She missed her Jack Russell terrier, but she was soon to be reunited with him. After 100 days, she got her dog, KJ, back, and her chances of survival were greatly improved. KJ was so happy to be back in the house that he scampered throughout the apartment with joy. In time, Robin was able to return to work at GMA on a part-time basis. Her energy flowed in fits and starts. Sometimes, she wanted to be back at work, and at others, she did not. She also needed to grieve for her mother, since chemotherapy stole her focus from that while she was in the hospital. Robin Roberts was on the mend; look out, world!
Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts, 2014
I love the tenacity and upbeat nature of this indefatigable woman. Not only a TV icon, she is an inspiration to women everywhere, especially women of color.
12-year-old Cady Bennett finally gets to see her mother’s sister. The meeting does not occur in exactly the manner that she had hoped. Instead of having a wonderful family event, Shell arrives to remove her from foster care after her father ends up in jail… again. She takes the girl to Julian, a small rural community, to live with her and her partner, Suzanne. Michelle has dogs, chickens who lay eggs, a nice house, land, and best of all… a pie shop, Shell’s Pies. There is plenty of food there for Cady to eat and a place for her to stay, unlike the food and housing insecurity that she experienced with her father. However, the teen is unsure how long all of this will last. No one can tell her when her father will get out of prison.
Cady is a foodie: she loves food and baking. She cannot wait to perfect her pie-making and cake-baking skills. Shell encourages the girl to make a thousand crusts in order to perfect the craft of pie making, and the first dozen or so have to be completed by hand. In the girl’s cooking adventures, she has a few foibles. One pie lands on the floor, pitched there by Cady in her frustration of not achieving a perfect crust. Her attempt at baking a cake and then forgetting it while it is baking results in a scorched mess… but she and Shell manage to salvage a few of the remains. Most troubling… this misadventure almost burned down the house.
Cady likes Maria and her kids, Claudia and Jay, all of whom work in the pie shop. Jay becomes her buddy, and she hangs around town with him. It is distressing to the girl to learn of the family’s limited opportunities since they are undocumented immigrants. Jay and family live in constant fear of deportation, and they do not trust law enforcement officials. Cady’s family situation has different problems: her parents were addicted to drugs, and her father has not been stable. The two of them lived as vagabonds and homeless persons.
By contrast, Shell and Suzanne are loving and sweet. There is only one glaring problem with this storybook scenario: the pie shop is in real financial trouble. Shell has had difficulty paying the bills, and the pie shop is alarmingly empty much of the time. Similar restaurant businesses in the area seem to be booming. Shell’s and Maria’s families depend of the shop for their livelihood. Can Cady imagine up any ideas to keep Shell’s Pies open for business? She better dream up a brilliant plan fast since bankruptcy is swiftly approaching.
Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway, 2019
I loved the stark, honest look into the lives of an undocumented family.
Nala’s life revolves around Imani, the cousin that she lives with, Tye, the boy she is crushing on, and her Grandma, whom she visits at her senior residential complex with Grandma’s friends. Imani is completely engulfed in her activist work at Imagine Harlem, and she is very enthusiastic about recycling. Tye has recently joined Imagine Harlem, and he wants Nala to be an activist, as well. Nala is a bit overwhelmed by their passion for the environment and zeal for social justice.
But she has a solution. She will become whoever it is that she thinks Tye wants.
Nala lies left and right to impress Tye. She professes to be a tree-hugging vegetarian. She falsely claims that she volunteers at a senior residential center. She even makes a faltering speech about doing the right thing at an Imagine Harlem event. But her heart is not in the social change movement. She wants to stop the dishonesty and be who she was meant to be. She is not ultra-prepared and she does not have her life figured out yet. She simply wants to enjoy a leisurely teenage summer with her friends, the food carts of Harlem, the festival, and the local creamery. Family and friends lie at the very heart of this teen’s existence.
Sugar Hill, Harlem, is Nala’s universe. The girl loves spending time with her grandmother and the other older folks who reside in the senior living complex. During her frequently lengthy visits, the group discusses young people today, the lives of other residents, and the decor in the apartment complex. One day, one of the older women commented on the need for a redesign of the lounge space. Visual art on the walls would definitely spruce the place up. With that, Nala was up and running with grand plans for a photo legacy project to adorn the walls of the home. She even dragged Tye along with her to help.
I am a big fan of Renée Watson. This novel is fun.
by Miranda McDermott