Six More Recommendations from Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Summer’s not over yet! There’s still time to discover your favorite summer read.

Adult Summer Challenge 2017 participants recommend the following:

Cherrie W. (Central Library) on Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn: I’m still reeling from reading this book[…] […]I am amazed at how well it describes growing up in poverty in the Caribbean. To read about the generational neglect and pain of the three protagonists – Delores, Margot, and Thandi and their life experiences amid the colonialism, classism, and colorism that existed in Jamaica at that time, in addition to the challenges of living in a country that relies on tourism dollars, was painful and yet poignant. Excellent read!

Monty P. (Central Library) on American Eclipse by David Baron: David Baron shows us a fascinating glimpse of 1878 America as several scientists and adventurers travel into the West to chronicle the first major solar eclipse in our nation’s history.  Pioneering scientists James Craig Watson, astronomer Maria Mitchell, Thomas Edison, and many more braved early railroad travel, stagecoach and numerous hazards to bring us out of a barbarous Gilded Age and onto the world scientific stage by recording a remarkable celestial event.  This book reminds me of some of Bill Bryson’s work, with multiple facets of interest and wonderful details.  This is a good book-group choice in this year when we are anticipating another total solar eclipse.

Anne M. (Govans Branch) on A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin: This is the story of a family that falls to pieces under the pressure of living with an abundantly gifted tyrant.  Milo Andret is a mathematician whose way of living in the world is painful, both for his family, colleagues and lastly, himself.  He had an unwillingness to ease anyone’s pain; or rather, a complete ‘inability’ to ease it.  His or anyone else’s.

Mona P. (Light Street Branch) on A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler: Baltimore author has written a sweet story of a single dad who struggles to be a good person, father, son, worker, and friend.

Lucie F. (Staff) on The Muse by Jessie Burton: I was happily caught up in Jessie Burton’s beautiful words and in the entwining stories of the two heroines in two different eras, as a mysterious painting of St. Rufina is created, then discovered. At first Odelle and Olive seem very different: one is a Trinidadian immigrant and writer trying to find her place in 1960’s London, the other a wealthy British daughter on vacation in Civil-War-era Spain, who paints in secret. The painting’s backstory connects them plot-wise, but as the novel progresses, Burton explores their connection more deeply in terms of what it means to create, to put your creation out in the world, and the way it affects relationships.

Emily  A. (Washington Village Branch) on Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly: The extensive research done for this story combines with the former journalist author’s talent to provide an extensive view of society on two continents from the beginning of Germany’s invasion of Poland in World War Two and throughout the war, to the late-twentieth-century aftermaths of the three main characters. Well done!

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here. The program ends August 16.

Eight Page-Turners: More Adult Summer Challenge Reviews

We’re still receiving terrific reviews from our 2017 Adult Summer Challenge participants. Take these, for example:

Tracy G. (Canton Branch) on A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab: Read this riveting fantasy novel on my honeymoon and it swept me away to another world, just as I had hoped! Great for teens and adults alike.

Alexandra P. (Central Library) on Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay: Gay’s writing is always brave, bold, and powerful but never more than in Hunger. Her honesty and vulnerability make the reader want to be more honest and vulnerable themselves.

 Jamie P. (Edmondson Avenue Branch) on The Sellout by Paul Beatty: I don’t usually read social satire, but this book is an amazing rip through race in America — hard to find a more complex and important subject to spend time with… to spend time laughing with and at (and at yourself)… because some things are so tangled and fraught that you have to get out a good laugh before you get your back up to working on making it better.

Bob M. (Govans Branch) on Trajectory by Richard Russo: Russo’s best writing since Nobody’s Fool. This book contains four short stories (really novellas) that reflect upon life in middle age. One of our best living American male writers, writing at his highest level. Very funny and poignant, highly recommended.

Terry S. (Light Street Branch) on Route 66 A.D. by Tony Perrottet: A witty and wonderful trip with the author and his pregnant wife as they retrace the steps of ancient Roman tourists around the Mediterranean, while comparing notes from the ancients’ writing with modern experience.  (Spoiler alert: Little has changed.)

Tracy D. (Staff) on Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place by Scott McClanahan: This book will make you feel every person you’ve ever known, those ghosts you loved that have never left. I felt really sad, because fate, but really hopeful, because reflection, while reading this book. Though home follows you, you can never go back. “I felt darkness because I had been deep in the hollers, and I knew glory because I had stood on top of the beautiful mountaintops. More mountaintops please. More mountaintops.”

Dominic F. (Central Library) on Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge: A must-read for anyone approaching 50 or retirement, especially men. How to exercise and the science of why it’s necessary are explained in fun and interesting style. This book could change your life. Sounds hokey, but it could.

Lu Ann M. (Washington Village Branch) on Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich: Evanovich never fails to deliver–Stephanie Plum, a bond-enforcement agent in New Jersey, and her cohorts serve up adventure and humor.  I try to read these at home, because people tend to look at you like you’re crazy when you are by yourself and laughing out loud.  Can’t wait until #23.

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here.


Pools, Picnics, and Protests: Notes on the History of African American Travel, Recreation, and Leisure

by Emily Sachs, Librarian, African American Department

July is my favorite month.  It’s the heart of summer, which evokes childhood memories of family road trips to the beach, afternoons swimming and playing H-O-R-S-E at the park, and washing the day’s sweaty adventures down with a slushie or a snowball. A powerful nostalgia surfaces when I recall these youthful experiences of relaxation and recreation, but a closer look at materials in the African American Department are a reminder of a related yet quite different chapter in history: the fight to end discrimination and segregation in recreation and leisure venues around the country. Of particular interest–and inspiration–are the local stories of community empowerment and acts of social protest that defined this period.  

While many Americans take summer travel for granted, not all citizens enjoyed the luxury of the leisurely road trip punctuated by the occasional rest stop to stretch their legs or get a cold drink.  In order to avoid discrimination and sometimes violent harassment during the Jim Crow era, African Americans often consulted the Negro Motorist Green Book, a guidebook published between 1936-1966 that listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, taverns, and other businesses that welcomed African American travelers. Flip through our copy of the guidebook to find the local establishments that opened their doors to African American travelers–many of them located on Baltimore’s famed Pennsylvania Avenue.  

The integration of public parks was a watershed moment in history. At the library you can dig into our extensive digital archives of the Baltimore Afro-American and Baltimore Sun newspapers to uncover articles chronicling local protests, including a July 1948 interracial tennis match at Druid Hill Park that ended in 24 arrests (and an infamous steaming indictment of the state’s segregation laws by Baltimore icon H.L. Mencken) and the 1956 integration of the city’s public swimming pools.

The Free State gets several nods in Victoria Wolcott’s Race, Riots and Roller Coasters: the Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America. Wolcott’s book traces the history of racial discrimination at amusement parks and other entertainment facilities around the nation and highlights acts of resistance. Locally this includes protests at Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County, where a group of Howard University students led a famous sit-in at the park’s carousel and at Gwynn Oak Park in Baltimore County, where a series of demonstrations involving a number of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish clergy culminated in the arrest of over 260 people in July 1963 and led to the park’s integration that same year.    

In addition to protesting and picketing at segregated facilities, African Americans developed their own community spaces for recreation and leisure. In Patsy Mose Fletcher’s Historically African American Leisure Destinations around Washington D.C., photos abound of African American beach communities in Maryland such as Highland, Sparrows, and Carr’s beaches in Anne Arundel County, and smaller resorts such as Eagle Harbor in Prince George’s County and Seagull Beach in Calvert County. The largest of these venues hosted shows by famous musicians touring the “Chitlin Circuit,” the colloquial name given to the collection of performance venues considered safe for traveling African American entertainers. Veteran Pratt library employee Doris Thompson remembers visiting Carr’s Beach in the1960’s to see Jackie Wilson, Diana Washington, and James Brown. “When the stage shows came on in the evening, they’d kick us kids out back to the playground, but we’d just jump in the water, circle around behind the adults and find our way back in. Those were good times,” reminisces Thompson. Thumb through Fletcher’s book to see pictures of  pleasure seekers, from early residents who boarded steamships in their summer finery to visit African American resorts along the Potomac to swimsuit clad citizens parading, picnicking and partying at black-owned beachfront communities on the Chesapeake Bay.

To learn more about the history of African American travel, recreation, and leisure, or a variety of other topics, stop by the African American Department on the first floor of the Enoch Pratt Central Library Annex to investigate the Eddie and Sylvia Brown African American Collection. Sandwich it in between a trip to the pool and your local snowball stand, and call it a perfect summer day.     

Eight Great Reviews from 2017 Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Our 2017 Adult Summer Challenge participants have discovered some fantastic summer reads. Here are some:

Latanya C. (Central Library) on Fun Home : A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel: This was the first time I ever read a graphic novel.  It was really fun and interesting.  The story was amazing.  To live with someone all your life and not know that they are living a secret life is mind-blowing.  I saw a lot of me in the author.  Even though the story was a comedy, you could feel her pain.  I recommend this book to everyone.

Catherine H. (Govans Branch) on Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: A great read with a fascinating lead character, this story explores what happens when a woman accustomed to a life of isolation begins to make meaningful connections with others. Both funny and heartbreaking at times, Honeyman manages to strike a balance that keeps Eleanor from being too quirky or too sad.  By the end, you’ll be cheering for Eleanor and reveling in her transformation.

Mark C. (Govans Branch) on Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: An incredible memoir of the Daily Show host growing up in Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa. What a life! Easy to read and very engaging, filled with a mix of humor, poignancy, critique of Apartheid, history, and celebration of his mother.

Jenna H. (Hampden Branch) on A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: A good read to help you think deeply about people and how to make a positive change in the lives of others.

Michael D. (Light Street Branch) on A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918 by G. J. Meyer: Consider this book as a beautifully researched update of Tuchman’s Guns of August. And then the history goes on for many readable pages, emphasizing European events on the battlefields of the Great Powers as well as some lesser events on the ground, giving general coverage to events at sea and in the colonies of the warring power through the end of 1917.  The author clearly benefited from the five decades of more released information since Tuchman. He will cover the impact of America’s entry into the war in the next volume…which I look forward to.

Nicole M. (Orleans Street Branch) on And Then There Was Me by Sadeqa Johnson: Great book! All women can relate with family, children, friendship, marriage, and infidelities.

Holly T. (Staff) on Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani: Anita Moorjani’s Near-Death Experience and complete recovery from stage 4 cancer is amazing and wondrous! It’s also hard to believe. But it’s a beautiful story. “I want to believe” as Fox Mulder’s UFO poster says.

Yvonne M. (Walbrook Branch) on The Shack by William P. Young: What a great read. The Shack makes you contemplate everything you’ve been taught about religion.

For a chance to win fabulous prizes, submit an entry to the Adult Summer Challenge here.

A Tribute to Prodigy

by Will Johnson, “The Uncommon Librarian,” Northwood Branch Manager

Hip Hop has lost another legend. Albert Johnson, also known as “Prodigy,” succumbed to his battle with Sickle cell disease at the age of 42. One half of the Mobb Deep duo, Prodigy was known for his poignant rhymes, storytelling, and bringing the struggle of growing up in Queens, New York to life.  Baltimore isn’t Queens, but Mobb Deep’s music spoke about the grittiness of growing up in Queensbridge Housing Projects, the biggest housing project in North America. His music also spoke to the struggle a lot of young black men deal with across the country.

Prodigy began his rapping career at the age of sixteen. His first album was called Juvenile Hell.  The album was not a commercial success however; it prepped Mobb Deep for their critically acclaimed second album The Infamous. The album produced four singles that reached billboard status; “Shook Ones Pt. II“, “Survival of the Fittest“, “Temperature’s Rising“, “Give Up the Goods (Just Step)“.  Rolling Stone listed “Shook Ones Pt. II” on their list of 50 Greatest Hip Hop Songs Of All Times.

Over the year’s Prodigy released five albums as a soloist and seven albums as a member of Mobb Deep. He also authored four books, including: My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, H.N.I.C: An Infamous Novella and Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook.

Click on the images to link to materials in the library catalog.

You can also listen to a podcast of his 2011 Writers LIVE program.

R.I.Paradise,  Prodigy.