February 22, 2021
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Judge a Book By Its Cover Bracket 2021

CLICK HERE FOR ROUND TWO VOTING!

We’re back with our second year of the Judge a Book By Its Cover Bracket! No one should be surprised that there are still many more delightfully goofy library book covers in our collection to judge and enjoy. We all know how outdated and silly some book covers can be to us now, and this bracket is all about embracing and enjoying everything these covers have to offer! We have selected 16 of our most ridiculous covers for you to compare and vote for the best/worst. Each book featured in the bracket is from our collection and is available for check-out by Chatham community members.

While we are clearly encouraging you to put on your judgment caps for this activity, don’t forget that the old saying is true: never judge a book by its cover…unless your librarians are demanding that you do it in the name of fun. But in all seriousness, some of the best books out there have been saddled with covers that just don’t fit what’s inside. So while we all love a beautiful book cover, don’t let the outdated covers discourage you from picking up what might end up being your next favorite book.

Now that the disclaimer is over, let’s get to the judgment. Feel free to download a bracket to fill out for fun prior to the voting. You can access the ballot HERE and on Instagram and Facebook. Make sure to follow us on social media to see which covers advance and how to vote in round two! Keep scrolling for a preview of the round one matchups and to help you fill out your brackets.

2021 Matchups

December 22, 2020
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You Need to Read This: The Best Inclusive Titles of 2020

2020 has truly been a year of turmoil and adversity, but that doesn’t mean it stopped the literature industry from producing new gems. Our shifting cultural climate has been met with a new wave of prose and poetry that addresses issues of injustice on a deeper level, and now more than ever, books are providing us with an outlet for the powerlessness we’re feeling due to the effects of this year’s chaos. In order to be culturally responsible literary citizens, we need to expand our horizons and develop as wide of a cultural canon as we can. I’ve compiled a list of 2020’s best inclusive titles and while the JKM Library is currently closed for the winter season before the next semester, upon our reopening, patrons can utilize E-ZBorrow and Interlibrary Loan to request newer titles that we may not have on our own shelves.

Best Fiction

The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich is known for her impressive blend of historical and literary fiction, highlighting the struggles of Native Americans suffering the effects of colonialism. The Night Watchman is loosely based on Erdrich’s grandfather’s experience working as a night watchmen during the Native dispossession era. One of the novel’s protagonists, Patrice, desires a life outside of the reservation and rejects the matriarchal roles that are set out for her, longing to move to Minneapolis to follow the lead of her older sister. The second hero, Thomas, is a night watchman and Chippewa council member on their North Dakota reservation, fighting against Congress’ new “termination” bill to eradicate Native communities. Erdrich does not romanticize life on the rez–rather, she paints a colorful cast of characters that encapsulates the essence of the Native struggle, one that is poignant, witty, and tender.

The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi

Powerhouse newcomer Akwaeke Emezi third novel addresses the intersection of African identity with queer identity, highlighting otherness, isolation, and the feeling of finding home. A deep, complex mystery that finds itself in the middle of political reform in the 1990s Nigeria, The Death of Vivek Oji forces the reader into complicated literary disorientation. The titular protagonist Vivek struggles with dissociation and a sense of belonging, befriending the mixed-race children of immigrant mothers to Africa and struggling with what he considers a “sinful” relationship. Emezi’s swirling prose coupled with the layered cultural narrative present in the novel creates a tension that is so hard to achieve in literary fiction, but when attained, is incredibly significant.

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, by Julian K. Jarboe

This is my personal favorite title of 2020, and for good reason. Jarboe’s debut fiction collection covers everything from cyberpunk dystopia, body horror, mythical lore, subtle romance, and stories of abusive religious institutions. All of these vastly different narratives share a common thread, though: the constant threat of being stripped of our individuality, whether it be our culture, our community, our physical vessel. Jarboe’s literary voice is spectacular from segment to segment and the pacing never falls flat. I particularly enjoyed the stories “I Am a Beautiful Bug!,” which is part love letter to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and part transgender allegory, and “Self Care,” an antiestablishment stream-of-consciousness narrative that highlights the end of times at the hands of ostentatious religiosity and greed.

Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar

Loosely inspired by Akhtar’s own experiences as an Arab-American following 9/11, Homeland Elegies tells the story of a family struggling with feelings of national dispossession. While the story is fictional, the content is autobiographical in nature, drawing directly on the oppression that Akhbar felt in the field of the humanities. He makes you long for an America that never truly existed, one that could have hyperbolized peace and unity. Rather, we’re exposed to a more complex, pessimistic America whose racial bias and detestment of immigrants bleeds through to our everyday life whether we’re cognizant of it or not.

Best Nonfiction

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, by Mikki Kendall

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that racial injustice has always been a reality, it has only become more apparent in the media because we have more access to the struggles of others. Kendall discusses the overwhelming power of white feminism, and how so often gender overpowers other facets of identity. The crux at which true allyship happens includes race, class, ability, and sexuality, and Kendall’s thesis statement enforces that all issues of denial to access are issues of feminism. The critique of mainstream feminist scholars is biting and well-written, tackling issues like food insecurity, education, medical care, and more in its analysis. Kendall truly reminds us that it’s not feminism unless it’s inclusive and intersectional.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, by Cathy Park Hong

Part immigration memoir, part critical cultural studies, Hong’s essays directly confront modern-day racial consciousness here in America with a twist. What she calls “minor feelings” are stand-ins for the grief, shame, and internalized notions about race that we face in a society that is so inherently whitewashed. Hong works to unpack this implicit bias of self and others in a way that is both intellectual and entertaining, peppering in stories from her youth to punctuate the more theoretical elements of the text. Park discusses the stereotypes typically inscribed upon Asian Americans; she manages to blend the educational with the conversational in a way that even the newest of allies can process.

Me and White Supremacy, by Layla Saad

What started as an Instagram challenge to encourage white people to address their implicit biases became one of the year’s best tools for white allies to use to confront their implicit biases surrounding race and ethnicity. Saad creates a resource that elevates BIPOC people and teaches white people about their levels of privilege and unconscious engagement in the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy without forcing people of color to exert their emotional labor. So often, communities exploit the emotional and mental work of its scholars of color and assume they will be educators for white people without providing compensation. This book can provide that insight for white allies to understand that they must use their power to support people of color, and that with privilege comes a special position to support others.

The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

DACA recipient Villavicencio decided to start writing this collection in response to the 2016 election results, and in it paints a beautiful depiction of undocumented immigrants in the United States. She meets with immigrants all over the country and learns their stories in order to come up with some semblance of her own. It is a touching, unrestrained take on refuge and sanctuary, how with citizenship comes privilege, and the denial to access that goes hand-in-hand with undocumented status. Rather than living in the shadows of her own identity, Villavicencio advocates on behalf of other undocumented people in an unflinching critique on how our society treats those simply seeking solace in the world.

Best Poetry

Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine

A spiritual successor to her collection Citizen, Rankine tackles the big issues of white supremacy in a jarring collection of poems, short prose, and art. Just Us highlights the microcosms of Americana, a nation divided, and how indifference has made even liminal spaces hostile for nonwhite individuals. Rankine dives into the politics of politeness, calling attention to the way that privilege often encourages the majority to turn a blind eye to oppression and marginalization. Her poetic voice is blatant and urgent while still providing a strong aesthetic flow, a varied poetic voice that has cemented itself as one of the most striking of the 21st century.

Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems, by Wanda Coleman.

Poetry spanning a forty-year body of work, Wicked Enchantment is a consciously anti-racist collection that confronts marginalization with humor, ennui, and sometimes anger. Coleman’s legacy on the poetry community is insurmountable, and with an introduction and edits from the great Terrence Hayes, she so rawly and honestly depicts the progression of racism in America. The poems in this collection are not about being pretty or being pleasing. They are about feeling and filling a void where society has failed us. In addition to the overarching theme of racial injustice, Coleman also tackles concepts like mental illness, wealth inequality, and the failings of the healthcare system particularly against Black women. This is a dense read, but a very worthwhile one.

Music for the Dead and Resurrected: Poems, by Valzhyna Mort

Belarusian poet Mort discusses the traumatic intergenerational legacy of war and propaganda in this heart-wrenching collection of love letters to the dead. She weaves historical elements like World War II, Soviet labor camps, and tyrannical dictatorships throughout the text, tracing the timeline of her native country’s development to her and her family’s experiences in these toxic, violent environments. Tethering her own coming-of-age with the mythology of a fragmented nation, Mort creates a lyricism of ghosts, an existence that will always be permeated by the atrocities committed against or by our ancestors. Music for the Dead and Resurrected confronts the American historical myths and forces the reader to take an uncomfortable but nonetheless poetic look at how they got to where they are.

Inheritance, by Taylor Johnson

A recent release, Taylor Johnson asserts the precariousness of poor Black identity in a nation that constantly surveils our most at-risk populations in this collection. They elaborate in their poems about the intrinsic link of capitalism to the exploitation of bodies of color, and with broad lyricism, Johnson opens a dialogue as to what a world without the boundaries of class and financial standing would look like. Cynicism of cultural monoliths permeate the text as Johnson conveys their theories through the lens of radical love and sex. There is a stark juxtaposition of lightheartedness with the prison industrial complex, pleasure against poverty. This jarring dichotomy conveys the meaning of the collection: suffering will always plague us so long as we allow ourselves to adhere to oppressive cultural rules.

Best Children’s and Young Adult

You Should See Me in a Crown, by Leah Johnson

Johnson’s debut novel is one that is sweet and fun, typical of YA, but tackles the very real issues of growing up a minority in small-town America. Protagonist Liz Lighty views herself as being “too Black, too poor, too awkward” to be taken seriously in her rural, conservative community, and she desires nothing more than to break out of this restrictive town and attend a prestigious university. Johnson highlights the very real threat of financial insecurity that plagues teens and young adults, and Liz’s reluctant journey to attain prom royalty to assure financial aid is an interesting subversion of the traditional high school narrative. It’s so important to see young, empowered Black girls in stories where they have agency and dreams, and where their hardships are not fetishized–Johnson creates a new kind of Black hero in Liz, one in which many young viewers can see bits of themselves.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, by Hank Green

The follow-up to Hank Green’s bestseller An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is just as stunning as its predecessor, a science-fiction tale that tackles concepts like colonization, decimation of lands, and class consciousness. Green’s social commentary is presented in a youth-friendly way, fast-paced and action-packed. The elements of mystery and eclectic cast of characters is what will draw you in, but the interesting theories surrounding technology, reality, and virtuality will keep you coming back for more. Considering Green’s science background, there’s validity to the scientific elements of the text, but it’s not so academic that it’ll go over the head of the readers.

Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

In a similar style to her bestseller The Poet X, Acevedo crafts a novel-in-verse that ties together the notions of togetherness and grief in an incredibly touching testament to the power of familial love. Camino, who lives in the Dominican Republic, and Yahaira, who lives in New York City, are sisters who are totally unaware of one another’s existence until a horrible tragedy brings them together. Their intrinsic connection forces them to think about the boundaries between their cultures and what sorts of secrets lurked within their families. The blend of poetry and prose makes for an easy reading experience and the content helps to show the subtle differences between groups of Latinx identity.

The Degenerates, by J. Albert Mann

Disability is a subject of intersectionality that we don’t see too often in modern fiction, or at least when it’s not portrayed in the unfortunate genre of “inspiration porn.” The Degenerates does not glamorize the disabled experience in the case of mental, physical, and learning disabilities. Taking place in an institution for the mentally ill or disabled, these girls are not portrayed as weak, simple, or naive. Instead, they are empowered and fierce young women, dedicated to escaping the system that oppresses them. The Degenerates also doesn’t shy away from the severity of institutionalization–the interactions are coarse, belittling, and show the reality of living with a disability in a world that does not provide access or accommodations.

Carina Stopenski is the Access Services Associate at Chatham University’s Jennie King Mellon Library. They started out as a student worker while getting their creative writing degree at Chatham, and received their Master’s of Library Science at Clarion University in summer 2020. They enjoy games of both the board and video persuasion, vegan baking, and reading graphic novels. They also teach cultural studies and “cartoon theory” classes on the platform Outschool.

June 10, 2020
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The JKM Library’s Antiracist eBook Reading List

Antiracist eBook List header imageMany organizations and institutions have been offering incredible antiracist reading lists, packed with critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction that add to our individual education on systemic and institutional racism in the United States and around the world. You should consult these lists and make your own TBR (to be read) pile of antiracist titles. It is a personal, moral, and civic duty that we commit to learning about the history, hardships, and experiences of our fellow Americans. It is also our duty to confront white supremacy on personal, local, and systemic levels. These reading lists can be an excellent start to that work. Armed with new knowledge and understanding, we can be better equipped to help push for lasting change in this country and around the world. Knowledge truly is power.

Below is a list of eBook titles that can be accessed freely by Chatham University students, faculty, and staff. Some are antiracist staples, some are more specifically focused on education, and some can help you take the next step in turning your knowledge into productive action for the collective good. Images are from Goodreads. Descriptions are from the publishers and/or Goodreads. Follow the linked titles to check out the eBook today.

The Souls of Black Folk book coverThe Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

“This collection of essays by scholar-activist W. E. B. Du Bois is a masterpiece in the African American canon. Du Bois, arguably the most influential African American leader of the early twentieth century, offers insightful commentary on Black history, racism, and the struggles of Black Americans following emancipation. In his groundbreaking work, the author presciently writes that ‘the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,’ and offers powerful arguments for the absolute necessity of moral, social, political, and economic equality. These essays on the Black experience in America range from sociological studies of the African American community to illuminating discourses on religion and ‘Negro music,’ and remain essential reading. A new introduction by Jonathan Holloway explores Du Bois’s signature accomplishments while helping readers to better understand his writings in the context of his time as well as ours.”

The New Jim Crow book coverThe New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

“Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as ‘brave and bold,’ this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that ‘we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.’ By targeting Black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a ‘call to action.’ Called ‘stunning’ by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Levering Lewis, ‘invaluable’ by the Daily Kos, ‘explosive’ by Kirkus, and ‘profoundly necessary’ by the Miami Herald, this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow, now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.”

Black Feminist Thought book coverBlack Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins

“In spite of the double burden of racial and gender discrimination, African-American women have developed a rich intellectual tradition that is not widely known. In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins explores the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals as well as those African-American women outside academe. She provides an interpretive framework for the work of such prominent Black feminist thinkers as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde. The result is a superbly crafted book that provides the first synthetic overview of Black feminist thought.”

On Lynchings book coverOn Lynchings by Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Though the end of the Civil War brought legal emancipation to Blacks, it is a fact of history that their social oppression continued long after. The most virulent form of this ongoing persecution was the practice of lynching carried out by mob rule, often as local law enforcement officials looked the other way. During the 1880s and 1890s, more than 100 African Americans per year were lynched, and in 1892 alone the toll of murdered men and women reached a peak of 161.

In that awful year, the 23-year-old Ida B. Wells, the editor of a small newspaper for Blacks in Memphis, Tennessee, raised one lone voice of protest. In her paper, she charged that white businessmen had instigated three local lynchings against their black competitors. In retaliation for her outspoken courage, a goon-squad of angry whites destroyed her editorial office and print shop, and she was forced to flee the South and move to New York City. So began a crusade against lynching which became the focus of her long, active, and very courageous life. In New York, she began lecturing against the abhorrent vigilante practice and published her first pamphlet on the subject called ‘Southern Horrors.’ After moving to Chicago and marrying lawyer Ferdinand Barnett, she continued her campaign, publishing ‘A Red Record’ in 1895 and ‘Mob Rule in New Orleans,’ about the race riots in that city, in 1900. All three of these documents are collected in On Lynchings, a shocking testament to cruelty and the dark American legacy of racial prejudice.”

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass book coverNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself, Critical Edition

“A new edition of one of the most influential literary documents in American and African American history. Ideal for coursework in American and African American history, this revised edition of Frederick Douglass’s memoir of his life as a slave in pre-Civil War Maryland incorporates a wide range of supplemental materials to enhance students’ understanding of slavery, abolitionism, and the role of race in American society. Offering readers a new appreciation of Douglass’s world, it includes documents relating to the slave narrative genre and to the later career of an essential figure in the nineteenth-century abolition movement.”

Race for Profit book coverRace for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

“By the late 1960s and early 1970s, reeling from a wave of urban uprisings, politicians finally worked to end the practice of redlining. Reasoning that the turbulence could be calmed by turning Black city-dwellers into homeowners, they passed the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, and set about establishing policies to induce mortgage lenders and the real estate industry to treat Black homebuyers equally. The disaster that ensued revealed that racist exclusion had not been eradicated, but rather transmuted into a new phenomenon of predatory inclusion. Race for Profit uncovers how exploitative real estate practices continued well after housing discrimination was banned. The same racist structures and individuals remained intact after redlining’s end, and close relationships between regulators and the industry created incentives to ignore improprieties. Meanwhile, new policies meant to encourage low-income homeownership created new methods to exploit Black homeowners. The federal government guaranteed urban mortgages in an attempt to overcome resistance to lending to Black buyers – as if unprofitability, rather than racism, was the cause of housing segregation. Bankers, investors, and real estate agents took advantage of the perverse incentives, targeting the Black women most likely to fail to keep up their home payments and slip into foreclosure, multiplying their profits. As a result, by the end of the 1970s, the nation’s first programs to encourage Black homeownership ended with tens of thousands of foreclosures in Black communities across the country. The push to uplift Black homeownership had descended into a goldmine for realtors and mortgage lenders, and a ready-made cudgel for the champions of deregulation to wield against government intervention of any kind. Narrating the story of a sea-change in housing policy and its dire impact on African Americans, Race for Profit reveals how the urban core was transformed into a new frontier of cynical extraction.”

Black and Blue book coverBlack and Blue: The Origins and Consequences of Medical Racism by John Hoberman

Black and Blue is the first systematic description of how American doctors think about racial differences and how this kind of thinking affects the treatment of their black patients. The standard studies of medical racism examine past medical abuses of Black people and do not address the racially motivated thinking and behaviors of physicians practicing medicine today. Black and Blue penetrates the physician’s private sphere where racial fantasies and misinformation distort diagnoses and treatments. Doctors have always absorbed the racial stereotypes and folkloric beliefs about racial differences that permeate the general population. Within the world of medicine this racial folklore has infiltrated all of the medical sub-disciplines, from cardiology to gynecology to psychiatry. Doctors have thus imposed White or Black racial identities upon every organ system of the human body, along with racial interpretations of Black children, the Black elderly, the Black athlete, Black musicality, Black pain thresholds, and other aspects of Black minds and bodies. The American medical establishment does not readily absorb either historical or current information about medical racism. For this reason, racial enlightenment will not reach medical schools until the current race-aversive curricula include new historical and sociological perspectives.”

We Have Not Been Moved book coverWe Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America by Elizabeth Betita Martinez (Editor) Matt Meyer (Editor), Mandy Carter (Editor), Alice Walker (Afterword), Sonia Sanchez (Afterword), Cornel West (Foreword)

“A compendium of writings that detail the grassroots actions of social and political activists from the civil rights era of the early 1960s to the present day, this book reviews the major points of intersection between white supremacy and the war machine through historic and contemporary articles from a diverse range of scholars and activists. Among the historic texts included are rarely seen writings by antiracist icons such as Anne Braden, Barbara Deming, and Audre Lorde as well as a dialogue between Dr. King, revolutionary nationalist Robert F. Williams, Dave Dellinger, and Dorothy Day. Never-before-published pieces appear from civil rights and gay rights organizer Bayard Rustin and from celebrated U.S. pacifist supporter of Puerto Rican sovereignty Ruth Reynolds. Additional articles, essays, interviews, and poems from numerous contributors examine the strategic and tactical possibilities of radical transformation for lasting social change through revolutionary nonviolence.”

Antiracist School LeadershipAntiracist School Leadership: Toward Equity in Education for America’s Students by Jeffrey S. Brooks

“Since the passing of Brown versus Board of Education to the election of the first Black president of the United States, there has been much discussion on how far we have come as a nation on issues of race. Some continue to assert that Barack Obama’s election ushered in a new era—making the US a post-racial society. But this argument is either a political contrivance, borne of ignorance or a bold-faced lie. There is no recent data on school inequities, or inequity in society for that matter, that suggests we have arrived at Dr. King’s dream that his ‘four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ Children today are instead still judged by the color of their skin, and this inequitable practice is manifest in today’s schools for students of color in the form of disproportionate student discipline referrals, achievement and opportunity gaps, pushout rates, overrepresentation in special education and underrepresentation in advanced coursework, among other indicators (Brooks, 2012). Though issues of race in the public education system may take an overt or covert form; racial injustice in public schools is still pervasive, complex, and cumulative. The authors in this book explore various ways that racism is manifest in the American school system. Through a plurality of perspectives, they deconstruct, challenge, and reconstruct an educational leadership committed to equity and excellence for marginalized students and educators.”

Towards Collective Liberation book coverTowards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy by Chris Crass

“Organized into four sections, this collection of essays is geared toward activists engaging with the dynamic questions of how to create and support effective movements for visionary systemic change. These essays and interviews present powerful lessons for transformative organizing. It offers a firsthand look at the challenges and the opportunities of antiracist work in white communities, feminist work with men, and bringing women of color feminism into the heart of social movements. Drawing on two decades of personal activist experience and case studies within these areas, Crass’s essays insightfully explore ways of transforming divisions of race, class, and gender into catalysts for powerful vision, strategy, and building movements in the United States today. This collection will inspire and empower anyone who is interested in implementing change through organizing.”

The Next American Revolution book coverThe Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs

“The pioneering Asian American labor organizer and writer’s vision for intersectional and anti-racist activism. In this powerful, deeply humanistic book, Grace Lee Boggs, a legendary figure in the struggle for justice in America, shrewdly assesses the current crisis—political, economical, and environmental—and shows how to create the radical social change we need to confront new realities. A vibrant, inspirational force, Boggs has participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements—for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’rights, and more. She draws from seven decades of activist experience, and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times. From her home in Detroit, she reveals how hope and creativity are overcoming despair and decay within the most devastated urban communities. Her book is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will collectively constitute the next American Revolution—which is unraveling before our eyes.”

We hope you find this eBook reading list helpful as you begin or continue your antiracist work. You can follow the JKM Library’s Instagram account (@jkmlibrary) for more book recommendations on various topics. And you can recommend a specific book to be added to the JKM Library’s collection by emailing Reference@Chatham.edu or reaching out to a specific librarian.

May 12, 2020
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Keeping Your Cool in Quarantine: Free (eBook) Titles to Help You Escape During Self-Isolation

During this difficult period of shelter-in-place, one can sometimes feel trapped by the ennui of their everyday life. As we all acclimate to our new “normal,” things may feel stale or boring, and it can be hard to keep positive. Have no fear–fiction can provide a welcome escape from the real world turmoil we face! Take a gander at this list to find some titles either available freely online or via our eBook collection that can help you find a bit of respite during this trying time!

How to Fracture a Fairy TaleHow to Fracture a Fairy Tale, Jane Yolen (available in the JKM Library eBook collection)

This collection of short stories takes some of the most well-known fairy tales and turns them on their heads, exploring new, modern structures and complex, unexpected takes. Yolen even gives notes at the end of the book on how she decided to construct each tale, giving the worlds an even richer history. These stories provide a perfect escape from the real world, and despite being an adult-oriented book, evokes a sense of childlike wonder due to its roots in familiar stories. I highly recommend “The Undine,” a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Foxwife,” which delves into the folklore of the Japanese kitsune. While some stories in this book may be a bit dark, the nostalgic ties that readers have to fairy tales may just provide a bit of escapism from the comfort of your own couch!

The Weekend BucketlistThe Weekend Bucket List, Mia Kerick (available in the JKM Library eBook collection)

This coming-of-age adventure centers around friends Cady and Cooper as they try to burn through their high-school “bucket list” two days before their high school graduation. The story is sweet, adventurous, and full of teenage shenanigans, and provides a great way to get away from the stress of everyday adult life. Kerick captures the adolescent experience well, and the light, fast-paced story is coupled with a really wonderful message about the significance of good relationships. Even though the reader may be stuck at home unable to see friends  right now, watching Cooper and Cady engage in these wacky adventures may just fill that space that’s been a little empty.

On a SunbeamOn a Sunbeam, Tillie Walden (available on the author’s website)

I personally believe that everyone should read Walden’s graphic novels, not only because of their rich stories but their incredible illustrations. This story takes place in outer space, where protagonist Mia works on a team restoring decrepit intergalactic monuments. It’s a poignant, beautiful story, full of love, family, and self-discovery, but what is most striking is its gorgeous artwork. Through detailed spacecrafts, swirling galaxies, and flashback scenes of a prestigious academy, Walden transports the reader through to a brand new universe that is so unlike our own but still full of humanity. Plus, the whole book is available in an online serialized format for easy access!

Rodrigo Salazar A Warrior's TaleRodrigo Salazar: A Warrior’s Tale, David A. Ballentine (available in the JKM Library eBook collection)

This historical fiction piece is jam-packed with action and is bound to transport you to 10th-century medieval Iberia! The titular main character encounters everything from monasteries to war to escaping enslavement–talk about a wild ride! While some turn their nose up at historical fiction, the adventure that this story brings to the table is definitely enough to bring you out of your doldrums and allow the reader to explore an incredibly complicated world that may they may never have had experience with before! While the author expresses that the characters are purely fictional, the writing truly makes these characters feel real!

NimonaNimona, Noelle Stevenson (available on the Internet Archive)

From the creator of the popular Lumberjanes series, this young adult graphic novel focused around the eponymous Nimona, a teen shapeshifter who works with a supervillain in order to showcase a “good guy” as a fraud. Part witty comedy, part fantasy adventure, and part emotional journey about how everything is not as it seems, Nimona has a bit of something for everybody! Stevenson builds a diverse world that diverts the typical fantasy tropes by creating sympathetic characters in typically “evil” stereotypes. Published online in a webcomic format, it makes for easy reading, and Stevenson’s distinctive art style adds fun and flair to an already-interesting storyline!

These are just a few interesting titles worth exploring. Remember that the library has a list of COVID-19 digital resources that features thousands of eBooks worth exploring! Also consider checking out the Internet Archive–by making an account, you can get free access to thousands more titles through digital checkout. Hope everyone gets some good reading in during this troubling time, sometimes a little literary escapism can go a long way!

Carina Stopenski is the Access Services Associate at Chatham University’s Jennie King Mellon Library. They started out as a student worker while getting their creative writing degree at Chatham, and have since started working on their Master’s of Library Science at Clarion University. They enjoy games of both the board and video persuasion, vegan baking, and reading graphic novels.

January 7, 2020
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The Year of Morocco Book Display

It’s the year of Morocco! The global focus of the 2019-2020 academic year here at Chatham has turned its eye to this multifaceted North African country. Morocco is located in an advantageous region of the world for trade and travel, which led to a fascinating blending of cultures, customs, goods, and people.

Year Of Morocco Book Display

The Year of Morocco first floor book display

The region of modern day Morocco was originally inhabited by Berber tribes and were under both Phoenician and then Carthaginian rule, acting as a critical resource in trade activity with the Iberian Peninsula. When Roman rule expanded and then collapsed, control of Morocco went back to the Berbers. Arab populations invaded in AD 684, adding yet another cultural element to the region.

Over the centuries, Morocco found itself in a unique position in terms of early globalization. As empires blossomed and crumbled, trade expanded and new religious and scientific thought was shared. Morocco’s physical location placed it in the middle of much of this change and movement. Leadership and rule of the region changed as influence in Europe and the Middle East shifted.

Continue Reading →

November 12, 2019
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Joy Harjo: 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

On June 19, 2019, Joy Harjo, member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was announced as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the first Native American to be honored with this title. Harjo is a celebrated author, poet, teacher, activist and musician. She has been awarded multiple high-profile honors and awards in addition to Poet Laureate, including (but not limited to) the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award.

She has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry. Her memoir, Crazy Brave, was awarded both the PEN USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the American Book Award.

Harjo has written nine books of poetry, a memoir, two award-winning children’s books, several screenplays, three plays, and a number of prose interviews. Harjo often centers native storytelling, histories, myths, symbols, and values. She also focuses on autobiographical, feminist, and social justice themes throughout her writing.

“I feel strongly that I have a responsibility to all the sources that I am: to all past and future ancestors, to my home country, to all places that I touch down on and that are myself, to all voices, all women, all of my tribe, all people, all earth, and beyond that to all beginnings and endings. In a strange kind of sense [writing] frees me to believe in myself, to be able to speak, to have voice, because I have to; it is my survival.” (The Poetry Foundation)

Service is important to Harjo in practice as well as in her art. She is the director of For Girls Becoming, an organization focused on arts mentorship for young Muscogee women. She is also is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

Harjo does not restrict her creativity and art to writing. She is also an accomplished saxophonist, flutist, and vocalist and has released a handful of award-winning albums. Like her writing, her music draws from her native roots and collaborates with other native musicians. She tours regularly with her band, Arrow Dynamics.

Read more about Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo on the Poetry Foundation’s website and on her own website. You can check out a number of her works through the JKM Library. We recommend beginning with her acclaimed collection She Had Some Horses. Browse here!

June 17, 2019
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Book Recommendation: The Stranger

Image from Goodreads

Imagine it’s 1942. You’re French. Einstein has already refuted the absolutist notions of time and space, Darwin’s findings have nearly dismantled creationism, and Freud has speculated that there’s a subconscious realm where much of the mind’s processes are at work. Nietzsche fathomed nihilism, addressing the question: what would happen to a post-religious society? Worse yet, the Nazis have risen; you’ve been warring with Germany for three years.

Albert Camus published his debut novel, The Stranger, in this context. The soccer-loving philosopher writes an apathetic, emotionless protagonist who searches for meaning in a meaningless world. Camus prescribes a set of absurdist strategies for dealing with love, grief, and violence. In short, he suggests one ought to refrain from investing in such matters.

Though Camus personally rejected the term ‘existentialist,’ he is often grouped with his existentialist contemporaries. Like them, Camus rejected the notion of a universal purpose. No overarching truth or religion suits existentialists, nor do they accept the notion of a comprehensive moral code befitting to all. Fundamentally, they believe human flourishing is a myth; life is nothing more than a waiting room, and the room is full of hardship, loss, and setbacks. Ironically, from this rejection of Meaning arises a new purpose. The existentialists’ simple commandment is to treat life as something to conquer. Do not get bogged down with other people or expectations or feelings or morality. Existentialists urge: do what you want to do, precisely when you want to do it.

All of these philosophies are instantiated in Meursault—a man who traipses around avoiding his feelings to a nearly sociopathic degree. He makes sense of his world by suspending his passions. In the opening pages, for example, when the reader discovers that Meursault’s mother has died, the protagonist treats the event as a mild annoyance. One might expect that this degree of flippancy could only arise from someone who despises his parentage. Yet Meursault does not seem angry. Rather, he appears dispassionate, reacting as if his own mother were not the one dead.

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April 16, 2019
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8th Annual International Edible Book Festival

On April 1st 2019, the Jennie King Mellon Library held its 8th Annual International Edible Book Festival, co-sponsored by Chatham University’s Food Studies Program. The entries were delightfully creative and absolutely delicious. And while every year we are impressed with the Edible Book creations submitted by participants, we were extra blown away this year. The competition was incredibly tough! We saw 12 Edible Book creations and enjoyed record breaking attendance with over 50 folks joining us for some yummy fun!

Family fun at the JKM Library’s 8th Annual International Edible Book Festival

The event was held in the Jennie King Mellon Library lobby. Our planning committee included Reference and Outreach Librarian Jocelyn Codner and food studies graduate student Jordan Mason, with support from Falk School Administrative Assistant Hallie Jensen. Hallie is always a huge help during the logistical planning of this event.

The International Edible Book Festival is an event celebrated in libraries around the world. It began in 2000 by two women who wanted to combine love for literature with love for food and cooking. It is traditionally celebrated on or around April 1st in honor of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

Folks who decide to submit an Edible Book select a favorite book, or perhaps just a book that sparks inspiration, and they craft a food item or beverage that creatively interprets and represents that book! A few ways to accomplish this could be in a clever name (puns encouraged), the way the food item is decorated, the ingredients in the food item, or perhaps by featuring a particular food item that was featured in the book itself. The result is fun, delicious, and literary. Participants bring their Edible Books to the event, and attendees and judges get to taste and judge each entry!

JKM Library book display featuring food writing, cookbooks, and more to celebrate Edible Books.

At our Edible Book Festival, we offer five prize categories:

  • Most Sustainable (ingredients must be clearly marked as being organic, local, sustainable, etc)
  • Most Creative Literary Interpretation
  • Best Tasting
  • Crowd’s Choice
  • Grand Prize

This year’s official judges included Assistant Professor Marc Nieson and Archivist and Public Services Librarian Molly Tighe, who both have volunteered to judge in previous years, and new judge Assistant Professor Sarah Shotland. They selected the winners of Most Sustainable, Most Creative Literary Interpretation, Best Tasting, and the Grand Prize. The 50+ attendees all voted on Crowd’s Choice. Keep scrolling to see who the big winners were and what kind of amazing Edible Books were submitted this year!

This year’s amazing judges, (left to right) Sarah Shotland, Marc Nieson, and Molly Tighe

“Call Me by Your Bundo” by Erica Cohen and Sarah Fink.

Most Sustainable Winners Erica Cohen and Sarah Fink for “Call Me by Your Bundo”.

“Make Room! Make Room!” by Dan Nolting

Most Creative Literary Interpretation winner Dan Nolting for “Make Room! Make Room!”

“Game of Scones” By Kate Emory

Best Tasting winner Kate Emory for “Game of Scones”

“Jack and the Beanstalk” by Suhui Dong and Yuchun Tung

Crowd’s Choice winners Suhui Dong and Yuchun Tung for “Jack and the Beanstalk”

“Dune” by Sarah Birmingham

Grand Prize winner Sarah Birmingham for “Dune”

Our Most Sustainable winner was “Call Me by Your Bundo” by Erica Cohen and Sarah Fink. This Edible Book played off of the books Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman and A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by E.G. Keller (presented by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver). It was a playfully decorated carrot cake that won for it’s sustainable ingredients and it’s socially sustainable message. Our Most Creative Literary Interpretation was “Make Room! Make Room!” by Dan Nolting, which drew its inspiration from the book Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (later turned into the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green). Dan created a multimedia experience with his scifi steam-punk Edible Book that included a looping video with sound to accompany his lime coconut jello shots. The Best Tasting award went to “Game of Scones” by Kate Emory, obviously inspired by A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin. This Edible Book featured scones with four different delicious flavor profiles to represent four major families in the book series. The winner’s of the Crowd’s Choice award was “Jack and the Beanstalk” by Suhui Dong and Yuchun Tung for their stunning crepe cake flavored with matcha, rum, and red bean paste decorated with candy meringues and adorable illustrations and figures. And finally, the Grand Prize was awarded to Sarah Birmingham for “Dune”, inspired by the science fiction novel Dune (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert. Sarah’s Edible Book involved handmade pumpkin sherbet (pun intended), handmade cinnamon beignets, and (most impressively) handmade chai gummy worms!

Our 2019 winners!

Click through the gallery to see additional Edible Book entries and more photos from the festivities! We hope this inspires you to join us next spring for our 9th Annual International Edible Book Festival.

December 6, 2018
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Clear This Display Contest!

Don’t be fooled by our gentle demeanor. Librarians have a bit of a competitive side as well. True, it comes out in strange ways, but it is definitely there. For example, it is not uncommon for groups of librarians to ask one another how many books they currently have checked out from their respective libraries. The winner will usually have a number in the hundreds. We LOVE checking books out of the library, sometimes more than actually reading them.

While we don’t expect you to match our own checkout numbers, we invite you to pile up a fun stack of books to checkout over your upcoming winter break! What could be better than fun, comforting winter reads while you’re resting up for the spring? Well, what if we told you that you could actually win prizes as well? That’s better, right?

2018’s Clear This Display main book display

Welcome to our annual Clear This Display Contest! Each book you check out from our main book display earns you an entry into our raffle. You may enter as many times as you like (read: check out as many books as you like). Simply fill out the slip tucked in the book, fold it up, and put it in the red contest submission box at circulation! We draw two winners in January once we’re all back from break.

The rules for the contest are as follows:

  • Be a Chatham University student.
  • When checking an item out, fill out the slip that comes with it and submit your entry at the circulation desk after check-out.
  • Enter as many times as you want! One entry per item checked out from the table.
  • Take items home and enjoy 🙂 Be aware of the due dates.

We have two prizes for participating students: a guaranteed individual study room for ALL of Spring 2019 finals week, stocked with your favorite study goodies, OR a $10 gift certificate to Café Rachel. We alert winners via their Chatham email, so it’s important not to skip that line on the slip when submitting an entry for a prize.

So, how many books do you think you can check out before you leave for winter break? We want nothing left on this table by the end of the semester…do your worst.

October 31, 2018
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Book Recommendation: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Image taken from Amazon.

Looking for something spooky to read under the covers with some tea tonight? Look no further than Shirley Jackson, the master of creeping dread and spooky suspense. You may know Jackson’s famous short story The Lottery from high school, or perhaps you have watched the recent Netflix reimagining of her classic The Haunting of Hill House. Her works are often described as horror, but the subtlety of her writing gives it something more universal. Her themes often focus on the dark side of domestic life and isolation, and they often feature agoraphobia and critiques of the expectations of traditional society.

Jackson also wrote nonfiction about what it was like to be a mother and manage a home, something she considered to hold its own degree of horror. Jackson also felt that she and her family were considered outcasts in her small New England town, and they experienced anti-Semitism in the insidious manner one sees in “civilized society”.  Toward the end of her life, she became so painfully agoraphobic she wouldn’t leave her bedroom. Much of what makes her fiction work horrific is because it is Jackson’s true-life experiences expressed through a fantastical lens, and as such there is something recognizable in it to all of us. We see how easy it could be for us to slip into some kind of madness, or for the precarious society around us to suddenly turn vicious. It is not gore or jump scares that make Jackson’s work terrifying, it is how she exposes the truth and ugliness in us all.

For this fall, I wanted to recommend a lesser talked about Jackson classic: We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This short (under 200 pages) novel is dark, twisted, unconventional, and incredibly beautiful. We enter into the lives of Mary Katherine (Merricat) and Constance Blackwood, two young women who live isolated in their large house with their wheelchair-bound uncle, Julian. The fractured family fell into disrepair after arsenic in the sugar bowl killed the rest of the Blackwoods half a decade ago. The only two who were not poisoned in the incident were Merricat and Constance, while Uncle Julian did not ingest enough of the poison to kill him. Constance, having been put on trial and then acquitted of the crime, now suffers from such extreme agoraphobia that she cannot leave the house. Uncle Julian is so much diminished from the poisoning that he struggles to keep one foot in reality. He depends on his nieces to care for him, which they do lovingly. The town is happy to keep them isolated, making disparaging comments and singing a haunting little nursery rhyme about the murders whenever Merricat comes near. And it is only ever Merricat that leaves their extensive grounds to go grocery shopping and run quick errands.

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