ALAMW18 Haul: Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth

Public services librarians get all the fun.  One of those fun things is reader’s advisory.  As an academic technical services librarian, I don’t get to do reader’s advisory.  But I’ve got this blog, so here I will divulge some good reads.

Any ALA Annual or ALA Midwinter, I raid the exhibit hall for ARCs (advanced readers copies).  I get a bunch of free entertainment, and I get to see what’s going on in the publishing world.

Since I’m coming back home with a big haul of books and I have at least one reader devoted to my reader’s advisory, I figure I should start a new series here on my blog.  An ALAMW18 haul series.

Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth edited by Kate Farrell was the third book in my Midwinter haul.  This was a series of 12 essays about menstruation.  Pretty simple.  It’s got great lines and fun insight into menstruation for a wide variety of women.  One does, however, wonder if anyone has a “normal” period.  What is “standard”? What do the “majority” of people experience?  Do we all have endometriosis, PCOS, a 3rd chromosome? Do we all free bleed or struggle with society’s and life’s various whims, from homelessness to lack of education?

I’d read it – and it even has a 2 pager on Grinnell College – particularly if you’re into menstruation and other “girly” things.

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Review: Algorithms of Oppression

I took time off from reading my ALAMW haul to read Safiya U. Noble‘s new title Algorithms of Oppression.  I had read her Bitch article back in grad school and was fascinated. When I saw the full-blown monograph, you know I had to select it for the Libraries.

With Algorithms of Oppression, Noble wants to put pressure on tech companies to not include pre-existing biases in their algorithms and to actively combat any emergent biases that their algorithms develop.  She also encourages consumers of these technologies (due to her book’s tone and style, primarily academic consumers) to critically engage with the technologies, and to also demand the companies combat biases in their products.

She primarily looks at Google (though her conclusion has an excellent interview concerning Yelp).  She starts with her initial 2010 search of “black girls” – which she had done in hopes of finding topics to discuss with her stepdaughter and nieces.  Google answered her search with pornographic representations of black women.  From then, she spent hours and hours testing Google, only to find that the search engine consistently failed to provide credible information about women of color (3).  Google Images supplies images of Black people when “gorillas” is searched.  Google Maps had the White House labeled as “N*gga House” during the Obama Administration (7).  When searching Michelle Obama, Google offers a related search that includes the word “ape” (9).

Then, Noble discusses the “historical and social conditions” that led to Google’s search results (17).  She notes that the search results allows us to see a representation of how Google, through its algorithm, conceptualizes the search term (24); and often these search results show that Google’s concept of everything is biased towards Google’s own market interests (28).  (See page 39 for a breakdown of Google’s search results page, and how many advertisements there are.)  This allows those with power and money to more strongly dictate search results.

She also discusses in-depth the search results surrounding various groups.  As her article in Bitch would suggest, she spends many pages on the search “black girls.”  She also “Hispanic” and “Latina” girls, “Indian girls” (which brings up commentary on both Indian men and women), “white girls,” and “Native American girls.”  Different professions and careers are also examined: for example, searches for “doctor” lead to images of white men (82).

Noble’s third chapter is a fascinating look at what happens when an individual searches for certain communities.  For example, Dylan Roof, who murdered worshipers at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, wanted to better understand the death and subsequent legal proceedings of the murder of Trayyvon Martin.  Roof’s search led him to White Nationalist groups, rather than information on how homicide is most often intraracial (110-115).

Next, Noble discusses legal restrictions on search engines.  They are few and far between in the United States, though the European Union has managed a few protections, including the Right to Be Forgotten.  She also notes the links between library classifications and their problematic issues and search engines.  Finally, Noble pushes readers to demand public policy around technology products as well as to not rely exclusively on technology for social justice.


As for my recommendation: if you are ready for a very academic text about Google and technology, then by all means, I recommend it.  It is however, as I mentioned, very academic so it is not a light read.  However, for those of us who are systems librarians hiding in the basement, this is worth reading.

ALAMW18 Haul: Brightly Burning

Public services librarians get all the fun.  One of those fun things is reader’s advisory.  As an academic technical services librarian, I don’t get to do reader’s advisory.  But I’ve got this blog, so here I will divulge some good reads.

Any ALA Annual or ALA Midwinter, I raid the exhibit hall for ARCs (advanced readers copies).  I get a bunch of free entertainment, and I get to see what’s going on in the publishing world.

Since I’m coming back home with a big haul of books and I have at least one reader devoted to my reader’s advisory, I figure I should start a new series here on my blog.  An ALAMW18 haul series.

35721194The second book I grabbed was Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne.  It’s supposed to be “Jane Eyre in SPACE!”  I read Fonda Lee’s Zeroboxer which what “Rocky (Balboa) in SPACE!” and loved it, so I figured I’d give the “in SPACE!” thing another go.

Now, I find the storyline of Jane Eyre suspect as is.  I wondered if one could really make it all that appealing as a YA romance.  I was right: you can’t.  I liked the space and the world-building and the little tinge of mystery the book had.  But you can’t re-make a Bronte sister.  There is nothing less romantic than a Bronte sister’s male lead.  Trying to make him romantic…doesn’t work. No one wants a moody, alcoholic, lying romantic lead, thank you.

So, if you want to read Brightly Burning, enjoy the space, the sci-fi, the world-building, and the little mystery plot line (that you can kinda see right through because you know Rochester keeps a woman with mental health issues in his attic).  And try to ignore the attempted romance.

ALAMW18 Haul: Bone’s Gift

bone-s-gift

Public services librarians get all the fun.  One of those fun things is reader’s advisory.  As an academic technical services librarian, I don’t get to do reader’s advisory.  But I’ve got this blog, so here I will divulge some good reads.

Any ALA Annual or ALA Midwinter, I raid the exhibit hall for ARCs (advanced readers copies).  I get a bunch of free entertainment, and I get to see what’s going on in the publishing world.

Since I’m coming back home with a big haul of books and I have at least one reader devoted to my reader’s advisory, I figure I should start a new series here on my blog.  An ALAMW18 haul series.

The first book on my list, I read in less than 24 hours.  Bone’s Gift by Angie Smibert is about a girl (age 12) that can touch objects and see past events related to that object.  Worried that this ability – this “Gift” – might be dangerous, the protagonist Bone investigates her town, searching for answers about her family and herself.  It is set in WWII-era Appalachia, in a coal-mining town.  And we see the Virginia Writer’s Project, a part of the WPA (cue Rebecca geeking out about the New Deal), collecting folklore and other stories from the colliers.  It is a middle-grade book, but it has much wider appeal than that.

loved this book.  When it comes out on March 20th, 2018, I highly recommend grabbing it from your library (or bookstore, as you prefer).  The setting is beautiful, the characters rich, and the plot just windy enough to keep you interested (but not confused).

Great ALAMW18 haul book.

We’ll have to see if the next one is as good.

A Few of My Favorite Things, Fantasy, Part II

I had a reader ask me about my series “A Few of My Favorite Things.” Particularly, about my love of fantasy.

“It’s not just plain old Tolkien,” they said.

“Well, it is,” I said. “But I try to say something new. Everybody knows you should read Tolkien.”

So, here it is again: some fantasy novels that are not Tolkien and that you might not have read yet.

Afar by Leila del Luca and Kit SeatonAfar by Leila del Duca and Kit Seaton

For those of you who like graphic novels (I’m usually not one of them), you can pick up Afar. I enjoyed reading this short graphic novel with beautiful artwork. It’s about astral projections, which I was all about. I do wish the book was longer. Because I wanted more astral projections. I wanted to explore the worlds the main character Boetema visited. This would be great for someone who likes fantasy and graphic novels, and wants a quick read. You are welcome to pick up this graphic novel and get entranced…for much too short a period of time.

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

I don’t know why I didn’t get on this bandwagon earlier, but I did this past January. The Witcher series is a popular video game here in the United States. I first heard about it when reading an article comparing Skyrim to one of The Witcher‘s installations. My brother and my partner also tried their hand at reading the books that inspired the game. It took me several more months to decide to interlibrary loan the first novel in the series (there are short strories proceeding it). It’s an old school fantasy with a good dose of humor; and I want to know what happens with this Child Surprise and Geralt-who-sleeps-with-everyone. This is a good novel for those of us who like old school high fantasies, a la Tolkien.

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wellscloud roads by martha wells

I don’t understand why everyone hasn’t read Martha Wells’s Books of the Raksura. I don’t understand why it’s not famous like Wheel of Time or Mistborn. Perhaps because it is so unlike anything else, it’s hard to compare it to anything to drum up such a large readership. The down low is: the story follows a bunch of shapeshifters (one shape is humanoid form, the other is that bat-slash-lizard thing on the cover to the right) on their journey to find a new home, now that their original home seems to be cursed. Who would I recommend this to? Everyone. It’s really good. It plays on several fantasy tropes as well as gender roles, so it’s all around fun.

Happy Halloween

This Monday is October 31st – on which North Americans celebrate Halloween.

2016 is also the anniversary of my favorite move – Pan’s Labyrinth – which is considered pretty creepy.

So, I’ll much the two together for this post. For all those fans of creepy fairy tales, have a happy Halloween and check out some cool tidbits about creepy fairy tales.

  • There is a soothing power to fantasy, or fairy tales. (Stonebarger, Amanda. “Pied Piper vs. Faun: Storybooks and Female Empowerment in The Sweet Hereafter and Pan’s Labyrinth.” Film Matters 4, no. 1 (Spring2013 2013): 44-50. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed October 24, 2016).)
  • Pan’s Labyrinth uses children’s literature as a means of exploring Spanish Fascism and its traumas. (Clark, Roger, and Keith McDonald. 2010. ““A Constant Transit of Finding”: Fantasy as Realisation in Pan’s Labyrinth.” Children’s Literature In Education 41, no. 1: 52-63. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 24, 2016).)
  • Fairy tales like the “Frog King” (know more commonly known as “The Princess and the Frog”) are often about the abuse of girls and women. In the original “Frog King,” the princess is forced to marry an animal (a frog) by her parents; the tale reflects the pitfalls (and supposed rewards, a prince out of a frog) of obeying your parents. “The Little Mermaid.” (“Wait. What Happened to the KISSING Part? “The Frog King …” Accessed October 24, 2016. http://www.tor.com/2016/05/26/wait-what-happened-to-the-kissing-part-the-frog-king-or-iron-henry/.)

So Many Exellent Writers

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t become a librarian because I love books.  But even if that’s not the reason I became a librarian, I still love books.  And being a librarian sometimes means doing reader’s advisory.  Yes, I know I’m a tech services librarian so I don’t get really get to do reader’s advisory for my job.  So, like with my “A Few of My Favorite Things” posts, I’m going to use this blog to do some reader’s advisory.

So, are you wondering about some authors to try?  Want to get out of your usual genre?  I’m sure someone on this list will appeal.

If you’re into science fiction and fantasy, like I am, then I’ve got some good news for you: I know of lot of authors for you to try.  There’s the obvious ones like Ursula Le Guin and J.K. Rowling.  If you haven’t read at least one book by either of these authors, get on it.  N.K. Jemisin‘s The Fifth Season has been a recent smash hit.  I personally love Nnedi Okorafor and her post-apocalyptic Who Fears Death (I even included the book in “A Few of My Favorite Things”).  Then, there are the “newbies” of sci fi and fantasy.  Fonda Lee and Sabaa Tahir premiered Zeroboxer and An Ember in the Ashes in 2015; I’m still reeling from those two books.  Read these authors and be amazed.  There’s also the short storyist Shveta Thakrar; I particularly recommend “The Rainbow Flame.”

For my political and/or activist reader, I have a few suggestions. Hillary Clinton is a 2016 presidential candidate and a (rather) prolific author, with five published monographs.  It might be worth your while to read the works of one of the most powerful people in the world. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is probably most famous for being sampled in a Beyoncé song.  But she’s a lot cooler still: she is a famous feminist an theories with five books ready for you to read. Malala Yousafzai is a women’s education advocate, famous for standing up to the Taliban.  Her book I Am Malala is a must-read.  (I really should be getting onto that…) Another must-read is Sheryl Sandberg‘s Lean In.  I doubt there is any book so talked about and referenced in the past 5 years, except maybe Fifty Shades of Grey or the ever-popular Bible.

Do I have any romance readers in my audience?  I don’t always read romance (like I *always* read fantasy), but when I do – I read it hard.  Pun intended.  My favorite romance author is Jeannie Lin.  I can’t get enough of her romance, but she’s also writing a new steampunk series which might entertain some of my sci fi and fantasy readers too.

Whew, that’s twelve excellent authors for you to look out for and try.  Stay tuned at this blog, and I might post more excellent writers.

Featured image by: Karin Porley von Bergen, CC BY-SA 2.0.

A Few of My Favorite Things (Fantasy)

Public librarians get to do the cool job of readers’ advisory.  Academic librarians rarely do; and definitely not academic acquisitions librarians.  Even though I don’t have the opportunity to recommend books particularly often, I have a few books that are favorites that I would like to recommend.

In the series “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll perform some readers’ advisory and give some reading recommendations.

In this iteration of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I want to talk about fantasy fiction.  If you’re going to see me reading something, it’s probably a fantasy novel.  I’ve loved fantasy since the beginning of my memory, when I would compel my mother to read me Tolkien.  Just as I love Tolkien, you probably do too.  Or, you’ve probably at least read him.  Likewise for Ursula Le Guin or George R.R. Martin or Terry Prachett or a host of others.  So, herein, I’m going to suggest some “off the beaten path” fantasy novels.

51kqmymui0l-_sx315_bo1204203200_Eyes of God (John Marco). This is my favorite “off the beaten path” fantasy novel.  (It’s the first in a series that’s also worth reading in its entirety.)  Eyes of God is definitely standard fantasy fare, so I feel quite safe recommending it.  What makes this book stand out is its grotesque characters.  If you like your characters flawed, you’ve come to the right place.  Every well-intentioned yet flawed choice drives the plot further and further forward in an exquisite tale of betrayal and hidden magic.

Feist_&_Wurts_-_Daughter_of_the_Empire_CoverartDaughter of the Empire (Raymond E Feist, Janny Wurts).  Daughter of the Empire is the oldest of these books, and the most popular. It’s popular for good reason. A part of Feist’s larger Riftwar Cycle, this novel (and its two sequels) take readers to the Japanese-inspired world of Kelewan where an untested but crafty Ruling lady fights for the survival of her family. If you want intelligent and feminine protagonists, Mara is it.  And I personally love the alien species, the cho-ja.  Always great to see a fantasy race that isn’t elf-like or dwarf-like – and is very clearly not human.

81h8qe2bmbalWho Fears Death (Nnedi Okorafor). Nnedi Okorafor’s award-winning novel Who Fears Death is the newest title on here, and the least fantasy-like of the three.  Some have even classified the novel as sci-fi or dystopian future. While the novel is set in what is now known as the Sudan and includes electronics like computers, GPSes, and MP3 players, this book is truly fantasy – a journey across an unfamiliar landscape with magic and fantastic beasts. It’s different and a tad experimental – but you won’t regret reading Who Fears Death.

Toulouse Bookstore

A Few of My Favorite Things (Nonfiction), Part II

Public librarians get to do the cool job of readers’ advisory.  Academic librarians rarely do; and definitely not academic acquisitions librarians.  Even though I don’t have the opportunity to recommend books particularly often, I have a few books that are favorites that I would like to recommend.

In the series “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll perform some readers’ advisory and give some reading recommendations.

In this iteration of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll discuss 3 of my favorite nonfiction books.  (See my first set of nonfiction recommendations in Part I.)  Unlike Part I, these are a little more geeky, a little more academic in scope.  These are for the serious knowledge-seekers out there.

The Book in Japan by Peter KornickiThe Book in Japan: A Cultural History from the Beginnings to the Nineteenth Century (Peter Kornicki). I sold my copy of this book back in 2014. I’m still regretting it. For anyone who wants facts about Japanese book culture (like me), this is the book to have.  It is plain old chock full of almost anything you would want to know. Or at least, anything that you could find out without learning grass script. I’ve found that a book with such a narrow scope actually comes in extremely handy when you’re trying to prove a point at being more multicultural in a profession (librarianship) that is much too Eurocentric.

The Harlem Renaissance in the American West: The New Negro's Western Experience by Wintz and GlasrudThe Harlem Renaissance in the American West: The New Negro’s Western Experience (Cary D. Wintz & Bruce Glasrud). I’ve read historians that say – and have been flat out told by an archivist – that blacks did not exist in the Southwest during the first half of the 20th century. I did not believe them – and still don’t. This collection of rather pithy essays collected by Wintz and Glasrud proves that blacks did in fact live in the Southwestern United States in the first half of the 20th century. And these black communities and individuals had thriving cultures. Read about literature and music with The Harlem Renaissance in the American West, and try to lessen the impact of the erasure of People of Color in United States history.

Mysteries of the Jaguar Shamans of the Northwest Amazon (Robin Wright). ThisMysteries of the Jaguar Shamans of the Northwest Amazon by Robin Wright book is for only the staunchest geeks: it’s ultra-academic and ultra-niche. When you’ve gone over European history more than three times, know a little too much for comfort about East Asian (book) history, have read tens of books and articles on North American Natives and First Nations, what else do you have to look at? What can you learn about that no one within a 50-mile radius will know? I recommend learning about the jaguar shamans of the Baniwa people of the northwest Amazon rain forest. Yeah, that’s a very specific and geeky person who would want to read about that…but I definitely came out with a lot more rare knowledge when I finished this book.

Paris book stalls

A Few of My Favorite Things (Nonfiction), Part I

Public librarians get to do the cool job of readers’ advisory.  Academic librarians rarely do; and definitely not academic acquisitions librarians.  Even though I don’t have the opportunity to recommend books particularly often, I have a few books that are favorites that I would like to recommend.

In the series “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll perform some readers’ advisory and give some reading recommendations.

In this iteration of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll discuss 3 of my favorite nonfiction books.

Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. ErhmanJesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (Bart D. Erhman). This book is fabulous – it’s easy to read and follow; and it’s almost like a mystery novel.  Biblical historian Bart D. Ehrman examines archaeological and textual evidence in order to create an image of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, a man who believed the end days would come in his lifetime or that of his followers.  Even though I was assigned this book for a college course, I could not put the damned thing down.  If you have even the slightest interest in religion or Christianity, this is a great book to look into.

Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun (A.J. Somerset).  Yet another book in Arms: The Credo and Culture of the Gun by A.J. Somersetthis list that I seriously could not put down.  Journalist (and former army reservist) A.J. Somerset examines North American gun culture – primarily of the United States and Canada.  The gun culture in North America is highly gendered (in particular, masculine) and this book seems written in a much more masculine style – but it’s a read that readers of all genders will like.  Readers learn about how the military fostered gun culture in order to train snipers and sharpshooters for WWI and WWII, how most pro-gun rhetoric is aimed towards men only, how the gun is a symbol that divides communities.

Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans J. MassaquoiDestined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany (Hans J. Massaquoi). This book has moments that are slower than the above two books, but Hans J. Massaquoi’s Destined to Witness is not a real life story that anyone wants to miss.  In this autobiography, Massaquoi details his experience growing up as biracial with a German mother in Hamburg, Germany during the Nazi regime.  At the end of the World War, he travels to Liberia to find his father and his Liberian family, then finally to the United States.  It’s a book I will recommend to anyone.

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