Happy Reading and Gifting.
Setting your New Year’s reading agenda? Consider including works translated into English. Although not nearly enough is translated, there are still plenty to choose from even within the speculative fiction subgenres like science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, and horror. Translating is definitely an art form and represents a small portion within these genres. In highlighting these books, we hope that translated works get more reading exposure. If you are interested in more translated speculative fiction, visit the Speculative Fiction in Translation site for further suggested readings.
Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated from Polish by David French | Request Now
Penned by the author known for the legendary Witcher series, the first in his epic fantasy Hussite trilogy is brimming with rich European history and magic. Originally written in Polish, The Tower of Fools follows a doctor-magician-nobleman who lands himself in the Narrenturm, a notorious asylum in which he must fight to keep his own sanity.
Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder | Request Now
The story centers on an unnamed novelist who lives on an unnamed island where the residents’ memories are routinely removed, along with any ideas or objects that could be associated with them. While most people participate willingly, the memory police also go after anyone who can remember, or tries to hold on to, any of the banned objects. The narrator finds out her editor, R, is one such person and decides to help him hide. As her memories disappear, continuing to work on her latest novel with R is a means of holding onto the past and trying to reconcile the situation. The Memory Police explores themes surrounding identity, conformity, creativity, definitions of history, and the role of government in society.
Mars by Asja Bakic, translated from Bosnian by Jennifer Zoble | Request Now
Set in worlds that somehow manage to feel both bizarre and familiar at the same time, these short stories reimagine different science fiction tropes to explore themes like sexual and political oppression. It would be easy to imagine an episode of Black Mirror based on one of these stories, which are propelled by a sense of dread and unease while also being readable and compelling.
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez, translated from Portuguese by Megan McDowell | Request Now
Slow, dreadful, and razor-sharp, Our Share of Night charts a family’s desperate attempt at escaping the clutches of a death cult in Argentina. Its members seek the secrets of immortality, and many are willing to pay any price to obtain it. Set in 1981, the novel’s supernatural terrors intertwine with those of the Dirty War, the authoritarian violence offering cover for the cult to operate uninhibited.
Counterweight by Djuna, translated from Korean by Anton Hur | Request Now
Djuna is one of South Korea’s most important science fiction writers, having published ten short story collections and five novels, all without revealing any personal information such as age, gender or a real name. In this book reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, a South Korean megacorporation called LK establishes a factory city to support the construction of their space elevator. Mac, LK's External Affairs spymaster, is constantly on the lookout for potential threats to this mission. When Choi Gangwu, a low-ranking LK employee with an obsession for the space elevator, appears on a captured terrorist's intel list, Mac initially doesn't find him particularly interesting. However, everything changes when Mac meets Choi Gangwu. Unbeknownst to Choi Gangwu himself, he carries fragments of another personality in his brain - that of LK's recently deceased president, Han Junghyuk, the most important man in the world. Now, Mac must protect Choi Gangwu from those seeking Han Junghyuk's secrets and uncover what Han Junghyuk would go to great lengths to achieve, even in death. Hur's translation of this fast-paced and often humorous narrative delves into a thrilling cyberespionage plot while exploring profound questions about legacies, artificial intelligence, and the sacrifices one must make to accomplish something truly remarkable.
The IndigiLit Book Club is a discussion series that celebrates Native American authors and books, across genres, across time, and across the continent. Here's a selection of IndigiLit titles explored by AADL staff throughout the discussion series.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid To Ask by Anton Treuer | Request Now
What's it like for natives who don't look native?" to "Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?", and beyond, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask does exactly what its title says for young readers, in a style consistently thoughtful, personal, and engaging. Updated and expanded to include: dozens of new questions and new sections, including a social activism section that explores the Dakota Access Pipeline, racism, identity, politics, and more.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger | Request Now
Seventeen-year-old Elatsoe ("Ellie" for short) lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect façade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family
This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila | Request Now
A young woman decides to take revenge on the man who had her father murdered - only to find that her father wasn't who she thought he was. Three different groups of Hawaiian women observe and comment on the progress of an American tourist through one day and one night in Honolulu, and a young couple have an encounter with a stray dog that shakes their relationship to the core. Intimately tied to the Hawaiian Islands, This is Paradise explores the relationships among native Hawaiians, local citizens, and emigrants from (and to) the contiguous forty-eight states.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich | Request Now
It is 1953. Thomas Wazhushk is the night watchman at the first factory to open near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a prominent Chippewa Council member, trying to understand a new bill that is soon to be put before Congress. The US Government calls it an 'emancipation' bill; but it isn't about freedom - it threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land, their very identity. In The Night Watchman, multi-award winning author Louise Erdrich weaves together a story of past and future generations, of preservation and progress.
There There by Tommy Orange | Request Now
Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame in Oakland. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life together after his uncle's death and has come to work the powwow and to honor his uncle's memory. Edwin Black has come to find his true father. Thomas Frank has come to drum the Grand Entry. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil Red Feather; Orvil has taught himself Indian dance through YouTube videos, and he has come to the Big Oakland Powwow to dance in public for the very first time. Tony Loneman is a young Native American boy whose future seems destined to be as bleak as his past, and he has come to the Powwow with darker intentions.
November is National Native American Heritage Month. To celebrate the culture, heritage, & resiliency of Native Americans below you will find books from Native American writers of different genres and formats including Fantasy, Non-fiction, Graphic Novels, Horror, & Historical Fiction. These are just a few of the many Native American authors to enjoy at your library.
To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose | Request Now
The Indigenous population of Masquapaug was greatly reduced by the devastating event known as the great dying. Over time, the dragons known as Nampeshiwe disappeared from the island. However, when a young teenager named Anequs discovers a dragon egg and forms a bond with the hatchling, she is hailed as Nampeshiweisit, a member of her people connected to a dragon. In the past, dragons used to coexist with the islanders, helping them ward off autumn storms and bringing prosperity to the land. The Anglish, who have conquered the territory, have their own strict methods of raising dragons and managing their bonded relationships. In order to save her dragon Kasaqua from being killed, Anequs reluctantly agrees to attend an Anglish dragon school. In this unfamiliar environment, surrounded by individuals who believe they are superior to her, Anequs must not only demonstrate that she and Kasaqua can acquire the necessary skills to control their powers, but also prove that they can do so while remaining true to themselves.
Never Whistle at Night (various writers) | Request Now
This anthology focuses on Indigenous writing encompassing 26 stories of various levels of speculative fiction from new and established Indigenous North American authors. There are themes that run throughout these stories like supernatural horror (as in the story of Kushtuka by Mathilda Zeller), blood ties (like the story Quantum by Nick Medina where a character asks of the tribe, “Is it our blood that makes us who we are?”), & psychological terror (like Behind Colin’s Eyes by Shane Hawk where the character’s obsession with killing an elk may cost him his sanity). All have some connection to Indigenous customs, beliefs, or experiences which may include characters suffering from real life trauma like oppression, mental illness, or abuse. Every story in this book tells a fantastical story but leaves the reader pondering the deeper meanings behind them.
Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power | Request Now
Told in the first person from a child’s point of view, with 3 different young girls a generation apart, who each struggle from the impact of colonialism on their Yanktonai Dakota families. The story starts in 1969 with young Sissy’s strained relationship with her mother. It then jumps back in time to the 1930s where Lillian and her sister endure horrific treatment at a residential school far from their home. Then going farther back into the 1880s, Cora is shipped far from home to a place for re-education in ‘civilized’ ways. But it is also a story of how each girl’s doll (even when it is taken away in one case) saves them, gives them comfort in tragic times, and may even live on within them as they grow. Emotional and heart-wrenching, with a much-needed healing moment with the final adult Sissy taking stock of the dolls’ impact on each successive generation.
Rediscovery of America : Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History by Ned Blackhawk | Request Now
This major history of America corrects what the majority of text books lack, the Indigenous representation and significance to the creation of present-day America. Professor Blackhawk (Yale University) includes a map on the inside cover to introduce the scope of his work. This map depicts the current United States, highlighting the geographical locations of Native Nations and indicating their original settlements prior to forced removal. The back inside cover and end page mirror this map, providing an updated depiction of the current locations of state and federally recognized Native Nations. I am amazed by the number of unfamiliar names on this map, which serves as a poignant reminder of the gaps in our historical knowledge. Professor Blackhawk's meticulous work admirably addresses this void. He begins the book within the 16th century when Spanish explorers came to Mexico and Florida before the colonization by the British and French in the Northeast. All leads to violence and epidemics but not without perseverance on the part of the Indigenous communities whether fighting back, converting to Christianity, relocating, or intermarrying. Blackhawk weaves a powerful and important part of history that should be a part of everyone’s education. Read alongside Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.
Earthdivers: V. 1 Kill Columbus by Stephen Graham Jones | Request Now
Jones is a award winning horror writer (see My Heart is a Chainsaw) and member of the Blackfeet Tribe, this is his comic debut. In the year 2112, a devastating apocalypse engulfs the world, leaving only four survivors from the Indigenous tribes of Inupiat, Seminole, Lakota, and Blackfeet. United by their shared heritage, they embark on an extraordinary mission. Together, they stumble upon a mysterious cave that possesses the power to transport individuals through time. Recognizing the dire state of the world's affairs, they make a bold decision to alter history forever. Their plan is to erase America from existence, believing that this act will bring about a better future for all. Taking on the role of leader, Tad volunteers to be the one to travel back in time, journeying 600 years to the past. His destination: the Santa Maria, the ship that carried Christopher Columbus. Tad's objective is clear - to eliminate Columbus and prevent the colonization that followed. With gorgeous artwork by Davide Gianfelice this sci-fi thriller will keep anyone interested in this genre waiting on the next volume. This book contains issues 1-6 with the next volume due out next year collecting issues 7-11.
The 2024 Washtenaw Read has been announced! Pick up a copy of this year's chosen read, How the Word Is Passed, then check out these honorable mentions from the list of titles considered for the Washtenaw Read this year.
The Seed Keeper, by Diane Wilson | Request Now
Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn't return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato - where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they've inherited. On a winter's day many years later, Rosalie returns to her childhood home. A widow and mother, she has spent the previous two decades on her white husband's farm, finding solace in her garden even as the farm is threatened first by drought and then by a predatory chemical company. Now, grieving, Rosalie begins to confront the past, on a search for family, identity, and a community where she can finally belong. In the process, she learns what it means to be descended from women with souls of iron - women who have protected their families, their traditions, and a precious cache of seeds through generations of hardship and loss, through war and the insidious trauma of boarding schools.
Memphis, by Tara M. Stringfellow | Request Now
In the summer of 1995, ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father's violence to the only place they have left: her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. Half a century ago, Joan's grandfather built this majestic house for her grandmother--only to be lynched, days after becoming the first Black detective in Memphis, by his all-white police squad. This wasn't the first time violence altered the course of Joan's family's trajectory, and given who lives inside this house now, she knows it won't be the last. When her aunt opens the door, Joan sees the cousin who once brutally assaulted her. Over the next few years, she is determined not just to survive, but to find something to dream for. Longing to become an artist, she pours her rage and grief into sketching portraits of the women in her life--including old Miss Dawn from down the street, who seems to know something about curses...
Olga Dies Dreaming, by Xochitl Gonzalez | Request Now
A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane María. It's 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro "Prieto" Acevedo, are bold-faced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan's powerbrokers. Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1%, but she can't seem to find her own...until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets... Twenty-seven years ago, their mother, Blanca, a Young Lord-turned-radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives. Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico's history, Xochitl Gonzalez's Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife and the very notion of the American dream-all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.
When Women Were Dragons, by Kelly Regan Barnhill | Request Now
Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950's America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, left a trail of fiery destruction in their path, and took to the skies. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex's beloved Aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn't know. It's taboo to speak of. Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of this disturbing event: a mother more protective than ever; a father growing increasingly distant; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and helping to raise a beloved younger girl obsessed with dragons far beyond propriety. In this timely and timeless speculative novel, award-winning author Kelly Barnhill boldly explores rage, memory, and the forced limitations of girlhood. When Women Were Dragons exposes a world that wants to keep women small-their lives and their prospects-and examines what happens when they rise en masse and take up the space they deserve.
Fun paranormal romances have had an upsurge in popularity lately and it’s easy to see why! With all the juiciness of a standard romance plus maybe some vampires, werewolves or witches added in, or a unique fantastical setting, they’re transportive reading! Here are a few new additions to the genre that you might want to check out.
A Witch’s Guide to Fake Dating a Demon, by Sarah Hawley | Request Now
Mariel Spark is prophesied to be the most powerful witch in centuries in her famous family, but she’s not particularly interested in brewing potions or casting spells. She prefers baking and gardening to anything magical. When she accidentally summons a demon while baking a cake one day, she finds herself in a bit of a pickle. Formerly known as a ruthless and powerful collector of mortal souls, Ozroth the demon has lost a bit of his fearsomeness ever since a soul bargain went wrong. Despite unrelated goals, can the two work together to get what they both want out of life? And if so, might they just fall in love while going about it? This is a quirky and unique story that will leave readers smiling.
What the Hex, by Jessica Clare | Request Now
This witchy romantic comedy uses the familiar enemies-to-lovers trope in a fresh storyline. Penny Roundtree is desperate to be a familiar to a witch, but witches and warlocks live so long that there are many more familiars than there are witches to train them. When Penny gets an unusual opportunity to apprentice on the sly for a warlock forbidden from having a familiar due to past transgressions, she takes what she can get. The two immediately clash and the arrangement seems doomed to fail until a shared enemy out to get them both forces them to work–closely–together. Place a hold on the title to see exactly how close they get!
Fall of Ruin and Wrath, by Jennifer Armentrout | Request Now
If you’re looking for a more fantasy-heavy romance, you might want to check out the newest from NY Times best-selling author Jennifer Armentrout. She launched a new series with Fall of Ruin and Wrath that blends suspense and romance in a fantastical realm. In the book, gods have destroyed the world in ancient times and now only nine far apart cities remain, separated by terrible wildernesses and all ruled by a royal who feeds on mortal pleasure. Calista has special powers to see parts of the future and in exchange for protection, she works for the Baron of Archwood giving him information. When she has a premonition about a prince in danger and saves him, her life takes turns that even she could not foresee.
Enchanted to Meet You, by Meg Cabot | Request Now
When she was a teenager, Jessica Gold cast a spell that went terribly wrong and caused her to be banned for life from the World Council of Witches. She’s surprised to say the least when Council-member Derrick Winters shows up in her quaint village and tells her that she’s the chosen one. Chosen, that is, to save her village from impending doom. As she and Derrick begin to work together, she starts to wonder if there might be a different kind of magic between the two of them–one of the love variety. But then she finds out that Derrick isn’t who he said he was, and she must choose if she is going to retreat into solitude again to keep herself and her heart safe, or if she’ll forge ahead with her powers and try to use them for good.
One of the casualties of being a prolific reader is that it can be challenging for any one book to be memorable. Sure, you know you’ve read it, and probably remember whether you liked it or not, but the specifics get fuzzy. Or is it just me? There are those books, though, that have an eerie quality that just sticks with me. Did I like them? Yes. But is that why I keep thinking about them? Maybe not. If you’re looking for a good book to quietly haunt you, here are four that will always be with me.
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam | Request Now
Amanda and Clay, and their teenage children Archie and Rose, drive from New York City to Long Island to enjoy a week’s vacation outside of the city at a swanky rented house. The first 30-pages or so of this taut novel are relatable details of travel and trying to unwind and minor family drama that quietly build tension: the dark, abandoned pool on the book cover clearly indicates something more sinister. And, with an unexpected knock at the door after dark, the shoe drops. Ruth and G.H., purportedly the owners of the home, show up, seeking refuge after something happened in the city. Something – a blackout? – But maybe something more? The story unfolds with strained relations between the renting family and the owning family, further tightened due to uncertainty of what is happening in the world outside of the vacation home. As a reader, you’re generally kept just as in the dark as the characters are, with the occasional haunting sentence about the near future, dousing all hope that their vacation (and lives) will continue on as expected. The film adaptation of Leave the World Behind is set to hit Netflix next week, and I’m very curious to see how it will translate to screen.
The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka| Request Now
There are a number of unspoken rules that govern the goings on at the underground pool, a structure seemingly appreciated by its regular membership. Given the preference for predictability, life for the swimmers is thrown into flux when a crack appears on the floor of the pool. Perhaps none struggle so much as Alice, a woman whose dementia is heightened by the break in structure and routine. Otsuka deftly transitions from second person narration of the swimmers and their cracking pool to storytelling focused on Alice, her daughter, and the impact memory loss has on their lives. The book may be slim, but its resonance has weight.
Girl in the Walls by A.J. Gnuse | Request Now
After losing her parents, preteen Elise runs from her foster family and slips into the walls of their old large home, surviving in secret while watching the Masons, the house’s current residents. Learning to survive on less, Elise’s coexistence is relatively smooth until her presence is felt by Eddie and Marshall, the Mason’s teen boys, and they become determined to catch her and exile her. At a time when their parents are out of town, the Mason boys elicit the help of J.T., an online acquaintance who posits himself an expert in rooting out the people secretly living within houses. However, Eddie and Marshall’s plans don’t go as expected; after all, they have just invited another stranger into their home. Jumping between the various children’s perspectives, the short chapters of Girl in the Walls keep the suspense high and the pages turning.
We had to Remove this Post by Hannah Bervoets | Request Now
It’s not a job everyone can handle: watching hour after hour of social media footage that has been flagged as disturbing and determining whether or not it breaks the platform’s rules. Kayleigh doesn’t love it, but powers through because she needs the money. It doesn’t take long, though for her to find connection, friendship and even romance, among her coworkers. But what toll does the constant exposure to online depravity take on their lives? We Had to Remove This Post is a brief look at how it impacts these young workers. As perhaps expected from a book with this subject matter, there are certainly troubling images and language in the novella. Clearly written to resonate, the book leaves you thinking about social media’s impact.
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #832, A little bit witchy, loads of magic, a touch of horror, in these retellings of the classics
The Scandalous Confessions of Lydia Bennet, Witch * Melina Taub’s (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), adult debut, examines Pride and Prejudice through a new lens, and offers a highly unexpected redemption for the wildest Bennet sister.
This retelling, in the form of a long letter, recounts how Lydia, being the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter discovers her magical powers as a witch (there had been three stillborns before Jane, Lizzy and Mary) and promptly turns the family cat into her human sister Kitty. As the novel opens, Lydia, living with Wickham in Newcastle, under much reduced circumstances, is dependent on her magic to get by. Then unexpectedly, she comes to the aid of the much hexed Georgiana Darcy.
But magic comes at a price here, and for every spell a witch casts she must offer up something in return. In order to spare her and Kitty's lives, she had foolishly made a promise to Lord Wormenheart, a dragon demon, and soon Wormenheart came to collect, sending Lydia on a dangerous adventure to procure the Jewel of Prophecy.
“Full of spell-casting garden parties, demons, hidden jewels, vibrant dances, backstabbing, and societal slights, this is vividly descriptive, frothy fun.”(Library Journal)
“Taub breathes new life into classic characters in a novel that is carefully researched and surprisingly layered… A delight for both Austen lovers and fans of magical adventure stories.“ (Kirkus Reviews)
Back in their homestead in the Village of Lindenfeld, deep in the Black Forest, the siblings are relying on the mysteriously addictive gingerbread Greta bakes for income, and to pay off Han’s gambling debts. In part because of the deliciousness of her goods (from a recipe she found in an old grimoire, a witch's handbook), rumors grow around town that Greta herself is a witch. And as dark magic is returning to the woods, Greta must learn to embrace her power, come into her own as a witch, and work together with new allies to save herself and her home.
“Each chapter opens with a clever retelling of part of "Snow-White and Rose-Red," eventually linking that fairy tale with Greta's own neo-Grimm journey toward both emotional and magical maturity as, despite her initial distaste for witchcraft, she comes into her own and learns to wield her nascent powers to help the people she loves. The romantic subplot is similarly well-wrought and fantastical: Greta's lover Matthias, a stranger from the Tyrol, is a prince-charming-in-disguise. All of Woods's characters are drawn with exceptional sensitivity, and Greta's well-crafted struggle to thrive despite early suffering and ongoing societal prejudice resonates. Woods is a powerful new voice in speculative fiction.” (Publishers Weekly)
Every year the twin cities of San-Er hold a set of gladiatorial-style games, a fight to the death with the promise of unimaginable riches for the victor. This year, among the 88 contestants is a disguised Princess Calla Tuoleimi of Talin, who disappeared after assassinating her parents five years ago. Her goal - to finally bring down the brutal monarchy, inequality and poverty by killing her uncle, reclusive King Kasa who will be on hand to greet the winner. But first, she must win the game.
Enter Anton Makusa, an exiled aristocrat, one of the best jumpers in the kingdom, flitting from body to body at will, who aims to use the winner’s take toward keeping his comatose lover alive. “As the games unfold, Calla and Anton strike an unlikely alliance that blossoms into a love affair--but only one can win, and to become victor, the star-crossed lovers will have to break their bond. Though this outing owes debts to both Shakespeare and The Hunger Games, the intricate magic system feels entirely fresh. Gong keeps the pages flying with pulse-pounding action, tension, and intrigue, creating an adventure that will linger in readers' minds long after the last page.” (Publishers Weekly)
* * * * = 4 starred reviews
* * * = 3 starred reviews
* = Starred review
Did you know that, since 2020, AADL staff has hosted regular readings and discussion of books written by authors from the Black diaspora? This intentionally broad discussion series seeks to encourage and support community members in their exploration of and engagement with works that provide insight on anti-Black racism. Staff has read fiction and non-fiction titles, titles for youth, teens and adults, titles of all genres, and titles written in three different centuries! You can read more about the BLM Discussion series here, and read on for some recent titles that AADL staff have spent time reading and discussing. The recording of these discussions has either aired recently on our website, or will air soon.
Blended, by Sharon M. Draper | Request Now
This youth fiction title stars protagonist Isabella, who has a Black father and a white mother who struggle to share custody of Bella after their divorce. Isabella loves playing the piano, her friends at school, ice cream, her older stepbrother and both of her families, but sometimes she just feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. When racial tensions escalate at her school, Isabella starts to feel particularly lost and confused. Her bravery and strength shine through throughout the novel, and the different scenarios she deals with make for a thoughtful and realistic read for people of all ages.
Lover Man, by Alston Anderson | Request Now
Lover Man is a slim collection of short stories set in the North Carolina of Anderson’s youth, focused on outsiders and the cost of white supremacy. Though Anderson was well-known in literary circles at the time of the book’s publication in 1958, many of his readers were somewhat troubled and bewildered by the raw nature of the stories collected in the volume. Despite several other prominent Black authors later championing his work, Lover Man remained out of print since its first publication in the late 1950s. Just this year in February, the first reprint was issued by Simon & Schuster, giving modern readers the chance to engage with Anderson’s work, and look back at the stories he wrote through the lens of modernity.
The Street, by Ann Petry | Request Now
Another recently reissued title, The Street is a classic first published in 1946. The story focuses on Lutie Johnson, a young black woman living in Harlem in the 1940s, who struggles to raise her spirited son amidst the poverty and chaos of her surroundings. Determinedly pursuing the “American dream,” Lutie is beset daily by racism, sexism, and classism but holds steadfast to her belief that if she works hard and saves carefully, she can make a good life for her and her son. This was the first book by a Black American woman to sell more than a million copies, and is both heartbreaking and eye-opening for modern readers.
Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delaney | Request Now
This 1966 science fiction novel has a plot centered on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis–that language influences thought and perception. During an interstellar war, Babel-17 is developed as a language that can be used as a weapon by invaders, as it changes one’s thought processes and gives speakers certain skills. Main character Rydra Wong begins to learn the language in an attempt to predict attacks and head off the enemy. It’s a short but thought-provoking read that took several of us some careful reading to truly grasp!
AADL’s BLM Discussion series will continue in 2024 with more titles by Black authors from a variety of genres and decades.
Horror movies are about more than just the familiar tropes of violent slashers and creepy haunted mansions. In fact, horror movies often reflect the major concerns of our times, whether it is the climate crisis, racial or gender-based prejudice, economic inequity, or humanity’s hubris. Consider Frankenstein’s monster, Dawn of the Dead (rampant consumerism), or Jordan Peele’s movies (Get Out, Us, Nope) (racism, class privilege, exploitation), that are among so many great films past and present alike. Here are some lesser known but just as worthy films to take in this Halloween or any time the mood for a scare strikes.
Amulet directed by Romola Garai | Request Now
In Romola Garai's directorial debut, the audience is introduced to a destitute former soldier who becomes employed by a young woman and her terminally ill mother. However, he soon becomes aware of a disturbing presence within the decaying, enigmatic old house: a force of life that is both eerie and unsettling. Amulet skillfully combines elements of a haunted house film and body horror, while also incorporating religious themes. Garai deftly challenges preconceived notions of victimhood and heroism by subverting traditional gender roles in her main characters, Tomaz and Magda. Initially, it appears that Magda is the one in need of rescue, but in reality, it is Tomaz's dark past of war crimes, specifically rape, that catches up with him, placing him in the position of the pursued. Through this narrative twist, the film offers a rare portrayal of a man who is alone and fearful on screen, a departure from the typical horror genre conventions.
The Babadook directed by Jennifer Kent | Request now
Kent’s film launched a new generation of horror filmmakers who deal with PTSD and the aftermath of trauma; now we see what happens after a woman survives a horrible event and how she deals with it. Set six years after the violent car crash that claimed her husband's life, Essie struggles to maintain her composure as her young son's troubling behavior escalates. He believes a monster, the Babadook, has emerged from the pages of a book…and he’s not wrong. The Babadook serves as a powerful representation of grief, survivor's guilt, motherhood, and the journey towards recovery. It stands as one of the first poignant examples of narratives that emerge when women take control of storytelling.
The Girl With All The Gifts directed by Colm McCarthy | Request Now
In this dystopian version of civilization’s decline, a parasitic fungus has led to a world overrun with “hungries”—the mindless afflicted who feed on any living thing that moves. Brought together by circumstance and desperation, an ensemble of battle-scarred soldiers, a hard-nosed scientist (Glenn Close), a compassionate school teacher, and a very special 10-year-old girl (Sennia Nanua) who holds the key to the future travel through the countryside to escape death-by-zombie and come up with a cure. But this is not just another mindless zombie flick. This genre-defying masterpiece challenges our very notion of what it means to be human. It dares to ask: Is our current model of humankind truly sustainable? Could it be that our species has reached its expiration date? And perhaps, just perhaps, it's time to let a more intelligent and adaptable species take the reins.
The Host directed by Bong Joon-ho | Request Now
A monstrous creature emerges from the Han River in Seoul, seizing the daughter of a family who operates a snack shack along the riverbank, only to vanish back into the depths. Under the direction of Bong Joon-ho, this brief incident evolves into a captivating amalgamation of a monster film, a domestic comedy, and a piece of social commentary. The family finds themselves engaged in a relentless struggle against both the government and the monstrous entity, all in a desperate attempt to rescue their beloved daughter. Symbolic of Bong's distinctive cleverness and insightful social observations, The Host features Song Kang-ho, a long-time collaborator of Bong and the star of the acclaimed film Parasite (2019). Similarly, this film revolves around the marginalized individuals within Korean society and the looming threat of American imperialist intervention.
The Reflecting Skin directed by Philip Ridley | Request Now
The Reflecting Skin is set on a post-nuclear American Midwestern landscape of isolated farmland. The first in Ridley’s horror-themed trilogy, the film is told through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who escapes a troubled home life by fixating on the belief that a mysterious widow neighbor is a vampire determined to destroy his terminally ill brother (Viggo Mortensen, in an early starring role). The drama is motivated by an interest in the mysteries of adulthood seen from an adolescent perspective, the destabilizing effects of sexual desire, and questions of gender identity.
Gaia directed by Jaco Bouwer | Request Now
This South African ecological horror film is a stunning, repulsive, and hallucinatory journey that transports individuals back into the Earth. The title itself, which means "Earth," is based on the Gaianist belief that humans are not the center of all existence, nor are we essential for evolution. The film is particularly poignant in light of the increasing impacts of climate change and the global pandemic. When two park rangers on a routine survey venture into the forest to retrieve a drone, they come across a father and son who live off the grid and fungal creatures that alter their perception and physical appearance. Gaia envisions a literal return to the earth, a reconnection of "us" with the soil, and serves as a solemn reminder of our place in the universe.