Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

After simmering on this book for a couple of weeks now, I’m changing my original 4 stars to a 2 ½ stars.

Ruth Jefferson is a Labor and Delivery nurse in Connecticut. She has worked more than twenty years in this field. For all intents and purposes, she is good at what she does.

One morning, she meets Davis Bauer, a beautiful baby boy. As she is giving him his newborn checkup, she senses something off with the parents. When she hands the baby back to his mother, his father requests to see her manager. When her manager returns from meeting with the new baby’s parents, Ruth is made aware that she is no longer allowed to work on their case.

You see, Ruth is African-American and the Bauer’s are white supremacists. What happens later is both sad and eye opening. After a sudden turn of events, the Bauer’s baby dies and Ruth is put on trial for his murder.

As I delved more into this book, it felt more like racism was on trial. This woman, who was simply doing her job, was thrown to the wolves by her employer because they knew that the parents wanted blood. It made me angry and it also made me very sad.

Small Great Things is told from the points of view of Ruth Jefferson, Turk Bauer and Ruth’s lawyer, Kennedy McQuarrie. I can completely relate to Ruth. I, too, am an African-American woman, raising a teenage son, albeit with my husband, in a time when it’s not very easy to be an African-American. Especially when it feels like our sons are targets for all types of things. I, like Ruth, have raised my son with integrity and the knowledge that he can be anything that he wants to be as long as he puts in the work. I, like Ruth, just want to prove that I can do my job just as well as anyone else.

When I started to read the words of Turk Bauer, my stomach clenched up in metaphorical knots. I wanted to vomit. I felt pent up rage and anger coursing through my blood. His words were vile and spoken with vitriol and I hated him instantly. I wanted to hate Jodi Picoult, too, because she had written these words for this character. I also know that, in order to be a great writer, you have to be able to draw out your reader’s emotions. She did just that.

I don’t even want to call Turk a man because he acted like an animal. He was out for revenge and the driving factor was the color of Ruth’s skin. Although I knew that he wasn’t real, he was a caricature of people that we all know exist.

Kennedy McQuarrie was also a character that I don’t know if I liked or just tolerated. She existed in her own world with her physician husband and outspoken young daughter. Until she met Ruth, her main thought was that she didn’t see color. Her character seemed to be one that was added for readers who may not like the content of Ms. Picoult’s new book yet would find comfort in reading about someone that was just like them. She is that person that insists they aren’t racist.

The more I read about race and how it pertained to the plight that Ruth Jefferson was going through, the more that I realized that the color of my skin is more than just a color. It symbolizes who I am in this country, in this state, in this city, in my life. This book brought out so many emotions that I didn’t really understand that I had. I felt anger at times and I wanted to punch Turk Bauer in the throat with all that I had. I also felt helpless and very sad. Most of all, I felt hurt.

The more I read this book, I became a little bit more perturbed and questioned the author’s motives. Like The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, Ms. Picoult has taken to writing a book from the viewpoint of an African-American woman, even though she is white. What bothers me about books like this are, although they are written well, if you have not had the African-American experience, how can you portray it as though you have? When you leave your pen and paper behind, you are able to settle back into your privilege and reap the benefits of it.

Like Ms. Stockett, Jodi Picoult is set to make money from the movie about this book. A book about experiences that she has never had. A book off the back of a fictional, African-American character with real world problems.

Picoult says, in an interview that she did with NPR’s Scott Simon, that she has wanted to write a book on race relations for about twenty years. Why did she wait until now, when so many things are happening with regards to race, to cash in on this movement? Maybe that is what bothers me the most.

I implore you to read the book. Maybe I read too much into it and am completely absorbed by my feelings about it. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll give it a 3.

Formats Available:  Regular Type, Large Type, eBook, Audiobook

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Run Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

Spring time in the city of Louisville means one important event is on the horizon – Derby.  While many who have lived here their whole lives might get frustrated with the swarm of people who descend upon our town it’s hard not to get swept up in all the festivities; Thunder, the Boat Race, and many of the other special events that make up this unique time of the year.  An event that until recently wasn’t really on my radar is the Derby mini marathon.

While I have always vaguely been aware of its presence in the Derby events line-up, it seems like recently there has been a running craze.  It seems like every weekend as soon as the weather gets warm there’s a race somewhere!  Now we have color runs, chocolate runs, zombie runs, fun runs, you name it and there is now at least a 5K celebrating its existence.

I ran cross country in high school and have continued to run for exercise and stress reduction into my adulthood.  I never really put much thought into training smart until a couple of years I ago I myself was training for a half marathon and got injured.  After spending several weeks on crutches I vowed I would be smarter about the way I trained.

Although I ran cross country in high school, I’ve only been a casual runner for stress and exercise since so it has been a struggle to get good reliable information to help train properly and avoid further health issues.  I started looking through the library  catalogue one day and found a plethora of books on training for races and building endurance but it was one book in particular that sparked my interest.

Titled Run Fast. Eat Slow: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky, this book is designed specifically to help athletes recover from runs, learn to nourish their bodies with important vitamins and minerals which will help them build endurance while staying healthy and strong.  It has been the first book I’ve discovered which really targets those who want to train and perform better but also provide overall quality health.

Written and created by two long distance career runners, one of which medaled in the Beijing Olympics, these women know what it takes to stay healthy and not become injured.  Some of my favorite recipes in the book include the Runner’s Recovery Tea which at first glance includes some ingredients which to the average person might sound a bit unappetizing (horsetail, dried alfalfa) is surprisingly delicious and pleasant to drink hot or cold.  I was able to easily find all five of the tea ingredients online for large quantities at less than $20 total and will be able to drink a cup of tea after each from for at least the next six month.

There’s also a Long Run Mineral Broth that is fantastic and easy to make.  I’ve never experimented with making broths before and was happy to find it a fairly straightforward process.  This recipe also included a couple of specialty items which took a bit of searching to find but the results made the hunt well worth it.

I love that each recipe is well thought out for a runner in mind and goes through the details of explaining why specific ingredients were chosen and how they aid the runner.  For example, the recovery tea includes aspects which reduce inflammation, help adrenal glands, provide vitamin C and antioxidants, iron, zinc, and phosphorus all things which help your body absorb oxygen, store more calcium for bone strength, and help muscles recover.  The injury I suffered while training is pretty common for runners- a stress fracture, so I’m very aware of bone strength and getting as much calcium as possible.  Just like the recovery tea, just a small mugful of the mineral broth contains vitamins A,C, E, and K.  It also has rich antioxidants and other healing and nourishing ingredients which help speed up recovery time from a long run.  Even the authors claim that if there’s only one recipe you make for yourself as a runner, let it be the mineral broth.

With the time demands of a normal life plus training for any type of race things can get hectic quickly.  I like that many of the recipes included in this book could be made in large batches and then stored for several days, sometimes weeks in the freezer or refrigerator.  It made making some of these which included slightly unusual (or at least unusual for me) ingredients much more manageable because I could make a batch and not have to do it again for a while.

I found all of the recipes I tried very tasty and worth the time spent preparing them for the benefits I received.  The most important lesson I learned, and I’m sure it’s something most seasoned runners already know, is that any type of training you do requires planning and mindfulness.  It’s not enough to simply get out each day, lace up your shoes, pick up a racket, or find a ball, an athlete must have whole and complete health and nutrition to perform their best and avoid injuries.

It’s an exciting time of the year for our city.  Derby is here, it’s getting sunnier, flowers are blooming, and lots and lots of runners are flooding the streets and parks.  If you’re one of them I highly recommend checking out Run Fast. Eat Slow.  I truly believe that whether you’re a casual runner like me looking to train for something bigger, or a seasoned runner who has been running all their life, the recipes and helpful information included in this book can help provide nourishment to increase performance and speed recovery.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch

 

History Nuggets – Gold

Three bite-size non-fiction reviews tied together with a delicious topical dipping sauce!

The theme: Mansa Musa, Sultan of Mali, was arguably the wealthiest person ever to live. No kidding. You know you’ve reached mythological levels of lucre when you show up on maps made by people living halfway across the known world with an annotation about how much gold you have. Mali was such a rich kingdom because the territory it controls – centered around the city Timbuktu – is situated on the Niger River and in a position to control trade across the Sahara to and from the European subcontinent.

Ivory Coast jewelry

By Papischou (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast are still known for the quality and quantity of their goldwork. A stupefying amount of trade flowed through Timbuktu, with most of it paid for in gold, mined out of ore-bearing seams just to the South. There’s a reason we call the ocean-border of Ghana the Gold Coast. Did I mention the gold?

I like to imagine Sultan Mansa Musa swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck. But that would probably understate how much gold he had. According to legend, Mansa Musa had so much gold, that when he went on the Hajj he took an enormous caravan including camels with sacks of pure gold dust on their backs, and crashed the unsuspecting economies of entire city states with inflation because their markets literally could not handle the influx of gold. Did this actually happen? Historical accounts disagree (with most saying it did happen). However, we do know that the Sultan bankrolled a massive building boom in Mali, with new mosques, libraries, and colleges sprouting up in cities all over the kingdom.

Great Mosque of Djenne

By BluesyPete (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Above is a prime example of Malian architecture, the Great Mosque of Djenne. These are not cheap to build. Here’s another one, financed by the Sultan himself.

Another massive public building paid for by the Sultan.

By KaTeznik (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

If the style of these buildings look weirdly familiar, like they belong to a desert planet orbiting twin suns in a galaxy far far away, it’s because Star Wars Episode IV: a New Hope was filmed on a relatively tiny budget, largely on location in Tunisia, which has some of the same classically Northwest African architecture. The Skywalker home was an actual house, which is now Hotel Sidi Driss. Bits of Star Wars set are strewn all over parts of the Tunisian desert. Understanding history is all about making connections, after all, so put on that John Williams soundtrack, and read on!

 

Salt, Kurlansky

Sodium Chloride makes for some seriously gripping reading. Doesn’t hurt that it’s really well written.

As for the big picture of what (aside from gold) the Kingdom of Mali was built on, and where Timbuktu fit in on the world stage of the international salt trade, Mark Kurlansky’s excellent overview Salt: A World History will put it nicely in context.  Salt was first published in 2002, but it’s every bit the excellent true world history it’s ever been.

 

Timbuktu book cover

I like my histories dense and well-seasoned with primary material. Bonus points for Ibn Battuta!

If, however, what you wanted was a history of the city of Timbuktu – the center, but not the capitol, of Mali – read Timbuktu: the Sahara’s Fabled City of Gold. This book gives a very thorough treatment of the history of the city, especially the establishment of the trade and the Kingdom of Mali, and the heyday of the city as a hub of trade for caravans across the Sahara.

 

Librarians of Timbuktu

I couldn’t resist.

For an even more focused view on the world of Sultan Mansa Musa and how it intersects with our own there’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of TimbuktuThe Kingdom’s wealth and economic connections meant a massive heap of documentation, making the medieval libraries and colleges of Timbuktu a treasure-trove of manuscripts. When Mali’s most recent rebellion broke out in 2012, the race was on to secure and hide the priceless documents before the historic buildings and the knowledge they housed were destroyed by Islamist forces. History is littered with tragic library-burnings – Alexandria, Hanlin Academy – but, this time, the books were saved, and our world is truly richer for it in wealth of knowledge, not gold.

Reviews by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Dorothea Lange

I was recently introduced to the photography of Dorothea Lange and I became instantly intrigued and immediately reserved several books on her. The first being a new children’s non-fiction book called Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford. In this picture book biography I learned Lange had polio as a child and although she survived, it left her with a limp. A limp that caused her classmates to bully and avoid her. This later would influence Lange’s empathy toward people’s “otherness” and apartness.

When the Great Depression struck Lange took her camera to the streets. She photographed men waiting in bread lines and sleeping on sidewalks. The Depression had stolen their livelihoods and they had nowhere to go. Lange took their photos for the world to truly see them. This becomes a recurring theme in Lange’s work; seeking the downtrodden and showing the world their stories.

Weatherford’s book also includes beautiful illustrations about this inspiring and motivated woman.

Next I chose an adult non-fiction title, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, where again I learned her most significant body of work was in the 30’s and 40’s documenting the Depression years. But my favorite work of Lange’s stems from her experiences working for the government photographing starving migrant workers in California. She also has some incredibly heartrending photographs of Japanese Americans interned on the West Coast during World War II. Lange managed to capture some of the darkest episodes of America’s history and her black and white photos evoke such emotion and empathy.

 

Finally, I chose a teen non-fiction title, Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge (Lange’s goddaughter), which is a more personal portrait of a woman who struggled to balance her passion for her career and her love for her family. Dorothea Lange was way ahead of her time. She existed during a period in America when women mainly stayed home with their children and husbands. Lange basically farmed out her children to others to be on the road pursuing her dreams. It’s easy to see and hear her frustration in her writings and photos of her love for her children but her desire and need to pursue her art.

All three books give a wide view of Lange’s intimate triumphs and failures. She was a complex and driven woman. I think she should be required reading and viewing for all Americans to understand our history.

Anyone interested in photography, American history or humanity will find her work exceedingly powerful and compelling.

Formats Available: Regular Print

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

The Book Jumper

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser is a novel translated from the author’s native German, and while it is a teen novel most book lovers would love it. Amy Lennox grew up not knowing anything about her mother’s family or anything about their unique ability. Amy has always been a bookworm so to her reading is an escape, a way to visit new worlds without leaving home. But when she and her mother return to Scotland for the summer Amy discovers that her family reads books differently from other people; they are book jumpers.

As a book jumper Amy discovers that books can indeed take you to new worlds, in the sense that you can end up in the middle of the story. The books come alive around you. But you don’t become part of the story, you can’t, because the first rule that Amy learns is that a book jumper must protect the stories. Don’t do anything to change the story. It cannot change its path.

But Amy discovers that someone or something is trying to change the stories. At first everyone wants to blame her because she’s new to the island. The only one who believes her is fellow book jumper Will. Will agrees to help her get to the bottom of the mystery. But in the process the two end up on an adventure neither saw coming.

The book starts out slow but once Amy and her mom go to Scotland the story picks up and becomes a page turner from then on.

   Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Insurrections: Stories by Rion Amilcar Scott

Short fiction can be an acquired taste; as a reader you have to be satiated by just enough. I have tried to suggest a book of short fiction to my book club but the ladies always scoff and complain that they are left unsatisfied.  They want more time with the characters, more development of the story, more finality than “a prose narrative shorter than a novel” can provide. I can understand the need for more, but a masterful short story collection is at ease with less.

Recently, I was in a book funk; every book I picked up was not right or the story didn’t grab me. That is until I picked up Insurrections: Stories, published by the University of Kentucky Press.  The simplicity of the cover – a flock of birds in flight – and the title, the juxtaposition was striking to me. Mr. Scott held my attention from the very first sentence:

“Walter caught the sight out the corner of his eye one hot July day, and for so long afterward he asked himself what if he had never seen those dangling legs from the balcony above, kicking, kicking, kicking against the open air.” (Good Times).

That indelible image gave me goose bumps and urged me to read on. As I mentioned, I was struck by the title, but the definition escaped me; so I looked it up. By definition, the act of insurrection is a violent uprising against authority or an opposing force which is stifling, throughout the collection characters are “suffering the quiet tragedies of everyday life and fighting for survival” (http://www.rionamilcarscott.com/thebook/).

In the story, “Boxing Day”, a son gauges his father’s mood by the sound and speed of his boxing gloves hitting the bag – from the first sentence the scene is wrought with tension and unease.

“It’s a flapping noise. The louder the sound, the more pissed he’s become. He says every day he punches the bag is boxing day…I would stay out of the basement, away from my punch drunk father and every delusion he’s used to sew himself together, but my mother’s sent me to descend into his Hades to deliver a message” (p. 53).

Scott’s prose is lyrical, authentic, and jarring all at once while he tells the stories of African Americans growing up and growing old in their community where despite seemingly endless hardship, they are resilient. Though bleak and haunting at times, Insurrections: Stories is a portrait of existence; its struggles and its joys.

Formats Available: Audiobook, Paperback, eBook

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch

Changes to LFPL’s Book Discussion Kits

Beginning March 15, 2017, the Louisville Free Public Library will be using KitKeeper to manage the Book Discussion Kit Collection. KitKeeper is a popular web-based application widely used by many libraries across the country. We hope you find KitKeeper easy and fun to use.

KitKeeper will provide you many advantages, such as the ability to:

  • Reserve a specific book kit for a specific reading period of your choosing
  • Pick up your book kit on a specific date of your choosing
  • Reserve up to 12 titles up to 1 year in advance
  • View your upcoming selections at any time
  • Receive automatic email notifications when you reserve a kit, when your kit is ready to pick up and when the kit is due back

KitKeeper reservations will take place online and will require a valid email address.

Important: Beginning March 15th you can make reservations for the coming year in KitKeeper. If you currently have a kit checked out, return it as scheduled and make your future reservations in KitKeeper.

There will be some changes in our circulation policy for the kits. For more on these changes, as well as detailed instructions for using KitKeeper, click here.

Questions? Please email us at KitKeeper@LFPL.org or call (502) 574-1611.

LFPL Home

Books to You

LFPL’s Adult Outreach Services brings library resources and materials to adult patrons who are unable to visit any of our 18 locations. LFPL offers outreach services to adults in two ways: Adult Bookmobile and Books By Mail.

Adult Bookmobile

LFPL Books To YouThe Library’s adult bookmobile can make monthly visits to qualifying group residences, which allows patrons to enjoy a rotating selection of materials.  In addition to the delivery of books and other library materials, these visits can sometimes include book talks or book discussion groups.

For more information about adding a group residence to our schedule, please call (502) 574-1611 or send an email.

Free Matter for the Blind Mail Service

LFPL Books To YouThe Library’s Free Matter for the Blind Mail Service offers a free books-by-mail service for patrons who qualify.  This service allows qualified patrons to have large print books or audio books mailed directly to their residence free of charge via the United States Postal Service. To learn more about this service, please click here.

If you think you qualify for the Library’s Free Matter for the Blind Mail Service, please print this enrollment form and have it signed by a competent authority, as defined on the form. In addition, please fill out the Patron Reading Preferences form for your library location found here.

If you would prefer for the Library to mail paper copies of these forms to your home us at BooksToYou@LFPL.org and include your name and complete mailing address. Once the Library has received both your signed enrollment form and your reading preferences form, they can begin mailing materials to your home.

If you do not qualify for either of the Library’s Adult Outreach Services, please contact the library branch closest to your home (list of library locations) to learn about other services for which you may qualify.

LFPL Resources for Local Writers

IndieLou resources

 

 

 

 

Local authors – indie, self-published, aspiring, and mainstream – now have a unique opportunity to create an eBook, connect with readers and promote their books at the Library.

Self-published authors can even upload their eBooks for possible inclusion in the Library’s online collection.

create and design your own professional eBook Upload your eBook and share it with local libraries throughout the state Promote - schedule an author talk at the library

MORE HELPFUL LINKS

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story by Timothy Tyson

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

On May 11, 1970 in the North Carolina town of Oxford, an African American man named Henry Dortress Marrow, Jr. was viciously beaten and murdered in public by three white men who would all three be acquitted by an all-white jury of this horrendous, cold-blooded crime. In response to this travesty of justice, there were demonstrations, riots, and a months-long boycott by African Americans in the community of white-owned businesses that eventually forced the leaders of Oxford to end segregation practices there. That’s right, end segregation practices in 1970, despite the passage by the Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

blooddonesigned

This is very difficult book to read, and I am not referring to the writing or narrative style. The violence and injustice that is recorded within its pages is repugnant and infuriating, but this is an important story to hear. I feel certain that there may be some who would say: Why write this book and drudge up hard feelings? Nothing good can come from it. To these people I would reply that in order for a country and its society to move forward as a unified people, it is essential to study the past, most especially those events that continue to divide, so that chasms may close and wounds healed.

Mr. Tyson, the son of a white Methodist minister who was a strong and public advocate for the Civil Rights Movement, was ten years old and living in Oxford at the time of Mr. Marrow’s murder, and it is this crime and its fallout that shaped the person that Mr. Tyson developed into as an adult. The reader joins Mr. Tyson in reflecting very deeply upon the Civil Rights Movement and the history of race relations in the United States, which leads to a litany of questions. How does one define freedom? How is change most effectively encouraged by a movement? What is the current state of race relations in America today?

It is absolutely vital that these and additional questions be examined by all, as the future of our country really does depend upon everyone facing our past in order to understand the present so that we may make progress together as a single people. And Blood Done Sign My Name serves as an emotional and powerful impetus for just such a purpose.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”
Maya Angelou
Conversations with Maya Angelou, 1989

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), Audiobook (CD), Downloadable Audiobook

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill