Category Archives: Reviews

Femme Magnifique: A Comic Anthology Salute to 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed the World

This is the original cover from the Black Crown Kickstarter edition. Black Crown, overseen by Shelly Bond, is a former imprint of IDW that ended in 2019. Shelly Bond was an executive-editor and the VP of Vertigo Comics before starting the imprint.

In 2018, IDW published this amazing anthology of graphic stories that is perfect for anyone interested in the impact that women have had on modern society. Artists, astronauts, inventors, martial arts experts, musicians, politicians, skateboarders, writers, and more are all featured. They’ve claimed their own power and utterly changed the course of history.

The talent pool on this work is deep. Talents like Gail SimoneKelly Sue DeConnickMarguerite Bennett, Lucy Knisley, Ming Doyle, Bill SienkiewiczKieron GillenGilbert HernandezGerard Way, and Mike Carey (just to name a few) have crafted short narratives with love toward each and every profiled subject. There are so many individual subjects and so many different writers and artists that anyone with a genuine interest can find multiple stories to enjoy.

A potential criticism is that while the authors, writers, letters, colorists, and editorial team are very diverse in background, the anthology can be said to be light on women of color. Another criticism is that many stories do not get to breathe due the constraint of each having only three pages for the telling. Lastly, a good number of the stories are really more about the influence of the subject on the writer than a biographical sketch.

I don’t think that any of these are crippling criticisms. The anthology is not one geared to focus on any particular racial or ethnic group as a whole, though approximately a quarter of the vignettes feature minorities. Three pages is quite short but probably helped the writers with their scheduling time constraints, as well as allowing for more subjects to be included. And while biographies would have been more expected, the mix of approaches keeps the anthology from feeling like a text book, making it more engaging overall.

Lurking below the surface are somewhat related criticisms that I have not immediately addressed. Femme Magnifique is, to some folks, damaged by being an avowedly feminist work. And as feminism is a philosophy or political stance that many strongly disagree with on principle, they claim it will not only turn away readers for this work but many other projects (either by the creators or by the publisher).

Then there are others who just disagree on aesthetic grounds. They believe that having a clear politics inherently ruins it because good storytelling is sacrificed to communicate that stance. I think the hidden message is that stories are somehow separate from the world itself and should stay that way.

I’ll take the last one first, the aesthetic argument. It is true, directly communicated politics can ruin a story. Everyone has probably read some kind of work that wore its heart on its sleeve and bored them to tears, but I don’t think it’s necessarily always so. As to the hidden message, that fails to be other than the fervent wish of the aesthete because stories can only exist in the real world, coming and going based on both cultural reasons and on, particularly these days, marketing.

For example, Star Wars is clearly a political tale of a full-blown rebellion of the masses yearning for freedom from the oppressive yoke of an authoritarian empire (one so cruel that it literally creates a way to destroy whole planets at a time to retain its control). But it’s a rousing tale (especially if we skip certain Episodes) that resonates with many. And it is a gazillion dollar real world business that is (seemingly) guaranteed to survive forever.

Criticism of the anthology based on it being feminist is trickier to handle because the label itself can be many different things depending on who you ask. First one has to figure out what the person objecting to it really means. If they just don’t like women, for instance, then why are they reading a 224 page tome of nothing but stories about women? But what if they believe that the movement of women out of the home into the public sphere and out of the secretarial pool into the chambers of power is detrimental to eudaimonia? Further, that failed eudaimonia of an individual is injurious to society as a whole?

Geez, who wants to spend time unpacking that stack of nesting boxes?

But no fear, true believers (and hardcore atheists alike)! That is not a problem in this work. There are some profiles of politicians but the majority are from the fields of arts and other endeavors. There is no specific set of political goals that can be found throughout the book. If anything, Femme Magnifique is a set of aspirational tales for girls and boys alike.

No thrown together or low quality material here. So, who’s herding all these cats to make a satisfying whole out of the “cat-caphony”? (ha ha) We have to give it to the team of editors (Shelly Bond, Kristy Miller, and Brian Miller), colorists (Claudia Aguirre, Jordie Bellaire, Tamra Bonvillain, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Irma Kniivila, Lee Loughridge, Fabi Marques, Rick Taylor, and Hi-Fi), and sole letterer (Aditya Bidikar). This team took all the individual tales, sequenced them, got them to the finish line, and made them all pop.

Now it’s your turn to pop…on over to the library and pick up this fantastic collection!


Review by Tony, Main Library

LFPL celebrates anime, manga, cosplay, and Asian culture

AnimeCon 17

Just for teens ages 12-19, AnimeCon is a FREE annual festival celebrating Asian cultural experiences, cosplay, and Japanese-style animation. Due to COVID-19, Animecon 17 will be held virtually through the Library’s website and on Discord.

This year’s convention features:

Register for AnimeCon

Join us on Discord

The LFPL-Teens Discord server is your virtual meeting space to talk about books, games, attend programs, chat with librarians, and MORE!

To join, you must be between the ages of 13-19, qualify for a Louisville Free Public Library card, and agree to be respectful and considerate of the other users.

Things that will be happening within Discord:

  • Ongoing manga, anime, gaming chats
  • Post your cosplay pics
  • Post your anime-inspired art

Discord Registration

Katherine’s Bookshelf – China Under the Empress Dowager

This time, on a Very Special Episode of Katherine’s Bookshelf, I’ve got a Very Special book for you, and it’s one of my favorites, but not for the reasons you might think.

Faded yellow cover with red lettering.
LIES! It’s all lies!

Cover to cover, this book is basically the history writing equivalent of a fresh cowpat steaming in the crisp autumnal air at dawn. A giant pile of bullplop and a hot mess. In fact, it’s one of the most notorious history non-fiction forgeries of the 20th Century.

Published in 1910 – just two years before the Qing Dynasty would fall, this book about the life and policies of Dowager Empress Cixi claims to be based on the diary of a court official, which just so happened to fall into Backhouse’s hands. Backhouse then went to Bland, who was a journalist at the time, and wrote the book with his assistance. Yes, this is absolutely a work of wild-eyed sensationalism, designed to appeal to what the English-reading audience already believed, and wanted to have reflected back at them.

The first tip-off that the whole thing was a hoax probably should have been that Backhouse was a dude, his co-author Bland was a dude, and the supposed court official was also a dude. (This wasn’t, for example, claiming to be based on letters of a court official’s daughter who was serving in the inner palace, which would have been at least plausible.) There is absolutely no way that any of these biological males ever would have gotten firsthand information of what was going on in the private quarters of the Forbidden City. That’s why there were court eunuchs, whose primary job it was to relay information and orders between the Empress and Dowager Empress’ offices and the court. It’s called the Forbidden City for a reason, not the Everybody Come in and Make Yourselves at Home City.

The Dowager Empress Cixi in a sedan chair with attendant court eunuchs.
The Dowager Empress Cixi in a sedan chair with attendant court eunuchs.
Dowager Empress Cixi and four Western ladies and a small girl in a frilly dress.
Obviously, you could visit, if you weren’t an intact biological male. That’s how the lion’s share of these photos were made: biological female photographer.
Dowager Empress Cixi as the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin.
Empress Dowager Cixi was very image-conscious and savvy. She commissioned many portraits and photographs of herself and her attendants. Here, she is depicted as Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of mercy, possibly to put a good spin on the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion. This is a political statement, definitely not a frivolous game of dress-up.

The most obnoxious part of all this for me is that it’s not like China Under the Empress Dowager by J.O. Bland was the first and only book about the topic available in English at the time. There were at least two previous accounts of Dowager Empress Cixi’s inner court atmosphere. One, published in 1907, was written by Katharine A. Carl, a painter who had made a portrait of her, and the other was a 1909 collection of published letters by the wife of the American Minister to China, Sarah Pike Conger. In 1911, just one year after the publication of China Under the Empress Dowager, a third account was published, this time by one of the ladies of the court, Princess Der Ling. But, of course, all three of these authors were women, which probably impacted their reception by the public. That’s not to say, of course, that these three books are without bias – Sarah Pike Conger and Katharine Carl had their own agenda and racist prejudices, naturally, and Princess Der Ling wanted to defend the Qing Dynasty. Nevertheless, they weren’t made up nearly whole cloth, as Backhouse’s infamous book was. Keeping their inevitable biases in mind, these firsthand accounts can be used to approach the truth, or at least something nearer to it.

Despite these accounts, two of which beat his to publication, and each of which had more direct information, Backhouse’s book was more salacious and conformed better to what his audience wanted to believe. The media echo-chamber is not a problem of the present alone, it’s a problem of human nature, and definitely not unique to the 21st Century and the Internet. Does anyone remember the Maine? William Randolph Hearst? Turn-of-the-century Yellow Journalism? We should. So spare a thought for your information, how you get it, from where and why.

— Article by Katherine, Shawnee

Drive-Thru Grab Bag Book Sale at the Main Library

The Friends of the Library will host a Drive-Thru Grab Bag Book Sale October 22-24 outside the Main Library.

Customers can select a genre and Friends staff will fill a bag with 5 oversized books or 8 regular-sized books for $10 and bring them to the car. The Friends will accept exact cash, credit/debit, Venmo, or Cash App.

Members-Only Night is Thursday, October 22, from 4:30–6:30 p.m. Memberships will be available for purchase at the event.

Public hours will be 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, patrons can visit friendsofthelfpl.org or call (502) 574-1654.

William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘N’ Roll by Casey Rae

David Bowie and William Burroughs, photo by by Terry O’Neill 

I didn’t read much as a child. As a late teen, I discovered good literature via my love for Rock & Roll. And I continue to do so as an old man.

I had a need to find the sources of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Lou Reed’s references in their lyrics and interviews. Once I found The Beats, Thomas Wolfe, Henry Miller, Nelson Algren, and Hubert Selby, the flood gates broke and unleashed a “word hoard” that has drowned me. But, I believe, literature is a good way to die. Or live.

The writer who has influenced all the rockers that I mentioned before is WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS.

Paul McCartney chose him to be on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And through Paul, Burroughs was a big influence on The Beatles’ avant-garde development in the mid 60’s. Bob Dylan read Naked Lunch (1959) and it influenced his lyrics and poetry collection, Tarantula, which is like reading Burroughs’s later cut-ups. Lou Reed was very influenced by Burroughs’ subject matter in Junky, Queer, and Naked Lunch, reflected in many songs such as “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” and “Heroin.”

Lou Reed and William S. Burroughs, photo by Victor Bockris

Bill lived a very hard and lonely life. But an exciting life.

Born in 1914 in St. Louis to a prominent family, Harvard educated, but bored and a total misfit, he began hanging with seedy people in seedy places. Bill was a founding member of The Beat Generation that began in the late 40’s with the meeting of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg.

He began doing morphine around age 30 and was a heroin junkie for a large part of his life. This made for him a very peripatetic life around the globe (Tangiers, Paris, London) until he landed in NYC in the mid 70’s. He was always running from the law. He was in his early 60’s and managed to get another bad heroin addiction in NYC. His assistant helped him move to Kansas to get away from drugs. He was on the methadone program and smoked weed until his death at age 83.

This book is not a biography but a travel through Burroughs’ life and those that choose him as a friend and an influence. And the list is long of musicians that sought Bill out at his place in NYC (known as “the Bunker”) or to his modest home that he owned, late in life, in Lawrence, Kansas. David Bowie (pictured above), Iggy Pop (pictured below), Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger, members of Hüsker Dü, R.E.M., and Sonic Youth to name a few. Many just mined his writings for their band name (Soft Machine, Steely Dan, and Mugwumps – an early version of The Mama and Papas – to name a few), or for song titles/lyrics.

Iggy Pop and William S. Burroughs

This book explores every musician inspired by Bill’s very wild life and writings. The irony in such a book is that Bill had no interest in Rock & Roll or Punk Rock (which he is oftentimes called the Godfather of Punk Rock). But he took a great interest in the musicians that visited him. And he formed a few friendships with men young enough to be his grandsons.

He was very fond of Kurt Cobain, who visited him 6 months before Kurt committed suicide. As Kurt drove away, Burroughs remarked to his assistant, “There’s something wrong with that boy; he frowns for no good reason.”

I have read a lot about Burroughs’ life and some of his books, yet there are stories told here that I have never heard before. For example, there’s a very funny one about his first visit from Al Jourgensen, the leader of the band Ministry.

William S. Burroughs is a writer that you should know and this book is a good way to begin. Or if you already familiar with him, it is a good book to add to your knowledge of him.

Reviewed by Tom,Main Library

Spanish Language Books at LFPL for Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15th to October 15th

Books available for a Spanish Book Kit

 1. Hija de la Fortuna Allende, Isabel
 2. De Amor y de Sombra Allende, Isabel
 3. Bestiario Cortázar, Julio
 4. Cien Años de Soledad García Márquez, Gabriel
 5. Memorias de Mis Putas Tristes García Márquez, Gabriel
 6. Mascaras Padura, Leonardo
 7. El Secreto de Sus Ojos Sacheri, Eduardo
 8. Pedro Páramo Rulfo, Juan
 9. La Ciudad y Los Perros Vargas-Llosa, Mario
Fiction titles

 TitleAuthor
 1. Iker Casillas: Manos de Santo Cabeza, Gonzalo
 2. Jorge Bergolio Francisco Tornielli, Andrea
 3. Lorca y el Mundo Gay Gibson, Ian
 4. Frida Kahlo: Una Biografía Hesse, María
 5. Yo soy el Diego Maradona, Diego Armando
 6. Neymar: El Nuevo O’ Rei García-Ochoa, Juan Ignacio
 7. Cada Día Más Fuerte Sodi Miranda Mottola, Thalía
Biographies
 eBooks

Library materials in Español (Spanish)

International and English Language Learning materials at the Library

Library Materials in a Variety of Languages

العربية (Arabic)नेपाली (Nepali)
中国的 (Chinese)Srpsko-Hrvatski (Serbo-Croatian)
رسیدن (Farsi)Somali (Soomaali)
Français (French)Español (Spanish)
Deutsch (German)اردو  (Urdu)
हिंदी (Hindi)Việt (Vietnamese)
한국의 (Korean)አማርኛ (Amharic) 

English Language Learning (ELL / ESL) Materials

More Library Resources:

Downloadable Audiobooks
One Click Digital offers downloadable audiobooks for speakers of many different languages. Create a free account with your library card to begin practicing English today!

Learning Express Library*
Learning Express Library contains practice exams to prepare for the TOEFL, TOEIC, GED and Citizenship Tests. Recursos en espa�±ol.  

*A valid LFPL library card is needed to access these resources when not visiting the library in person. 

Digital content from TumbleBooks

  • TumbleBookLibrary is a collection of animated, talking picture books which teach kids the joy of reading in a format they’ll love. TumbleBooks are created by taking existing picture books, adding animation, sound, music, and narration to produce an electronic picture book which you can read, or have read to you.

  • TeenBookCloud is an online database of eBooks and educator resources that offers a robust selection of Graphic Novels, Enhanced Novels, eBooks, classic literature, National Geographic videos, educator resources, and audiobooks.

Courtesy of the Louisville Free Public Library and the Kentucky Virtual Library.

Book Bundles for All Readers

Book Bundles are a collection of books that you can check out for your family or yourself.

Each bundle will be checked out to your library card for 21 days. When your book bundle is ready for pickup, a library staff person will call to schedule a curbside pickup appointment.

  • Teen or Adult Book Bundles contain FOUR titles.
  • Child Book Bundles contain TEN titles.

Please allow at least one week for staff to get your Book Bundle ready.

Click here to request your Book Bundle.

Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay

Growing Things and Other Stories is the eighth book published by Paul Tremblay, winner of the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards.  Growing Things is a page-turning collection of nineteen short stories with strong character development and psychological suspense. Tremblay is acclaimed for his previous work, the bestselling The Cabin at the End of the World.

While all the stories are new, some blend past moments or use characters from Tremblay’s previous works with the current tale. I identified with several of the protagonists throughout. The piece which I enjoyed most is called “Her Red Right Hand,” which pays homage to popular comic book and movie character Hellboy. At the end of the collection, he has a list of notes discussing the thought process coming up with each story. 

This particular book reminds me of Stephen King‘s works with a little more thought-provoking “what if” scenarios. I appreciate how Tremblay makes me want to read more and more until no end. I recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a good read during the fall season, specifically Halloween or Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). 

Tremblay has just released his latest novel, a tale about a rapidly-spreading disease, called Survivor Song, which seems eerily on point for the current pandemic. It was released on July 7, 2020.

For similar reads, I suggest the following titles:
Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Review by Micah, St Matthews Branch

Editor’s Note: We have a review of Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts by Calliope Woods.