Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward

Posted on behalf of students in ENGL 350: 21st Century African-American Literature

Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward. Click image for catalog link.

Location: Literatures and Languages
Call Number: PS3623.A7323 S36 2011

Location: Residence Hall Florida Ave Circulating Collection
Call Number: 813 W2132sa

Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones illustrates one family’s experience of Hurricane Katrina in the days surrounding the disaster. Each of the twelve chapters conveys the events of a single day, as told from the perspective of Esch, a fifteen year-old-girl living in Mississippi with her daddy and teenage brothers. Ward begins by writing of the family’s dog, China, giving birth. Throughout the novel, China is a significant figure, as she is so important to the family. When one of her puppies falls ill with Parvovirus, Skeetah, Esch’s brother, devises a way to steal medicine from the white neighbors. When the family’s house floods and they are forced to swim to a nearby higher house, China comes loose and gets lost in the water, devastating the family. Throughout the novel, Esch is also dealing with a problem of her own: she is pregnant with her brother Randall’s friend, Manny’s, child. At only fifteen years old, and emotionally invested in her casual relationship with him, she is terrified. By the end of the novel, Daddy has found out and eventually vows to care for Esch and her unborn child. The story concludes with the calming of Katrina, the family returning home, shocked by the damage to their community, and anxiously await for China to return to them.

This work conveys the struggles brought on by a natural disaster, while relating it to race and family. As Esch deals with her pregnancy, she is reminded of the loss of her mother at a young age, especially being surrounded by only males. Her attachment to China, a new mother, is revealing of this. Ward also demonstrates how race is a factor in the face of tragedy. The boys are forced to steal from the white neighbors in order to care for the sick puppy. This novel is important particularly when considering it in the context of how black people’s Hurricane Katrina experience compared to white’s. Black neighborhoods received less and slower aid in the midst of it, and also received less attention in the recovery process following. By conveying the story of one family in the days surrounding the disaster, Ward provides a more intimate look into the effects of this on a personal level. Salvage the Bones is a very powerful and compelling novel that explores a black family in poverty and their efforts for survival throughout obstacles such as pregnancy, and Hurricane Katrina. One should read this book to better understand minority groups, and their disadvantages within the socioeconomic sphere. Esch’s family shows how to overcome the struggle and persist when times are tough in order for survival. For example, Esch and her brother must go out of their way to allow their dog’s offspring to survive in order for them to sell the babies to collect money to get by, as well as going through the house and property of a “white” household to collect materials for survival. This book is useful in the sense that it teaches about motherhood as Esch must cope with becoming a mother, all while having an absent father, a mother who passed away, and being treated poorly by her baby’s father. The audience along with Esch are able to learn about motherhood through their dog China. This is useful because China teaches us that one of the most important aspects of motherhood is the protection of one’s children from the violence that the outside world may bring. We even see China become stronger and more violent after delivering her babies. China does whatever she can to protect her offspring, even chasing after them to find and save them during a very dangerous, level 5 hurricane. This novel allows the audience to gain the perspective of an African American family who must deal with a natural disaster, when they are already struggling on a daily basis, as well as giving the readers a sense of gratefulness for what they do have in life.

I thought that this novel was really interesting because it allows the readers to explore the intersectionality of Esch’s character, as an impoverished black female. As a part of more than one minority groups, it helped me to better understand that Esch is dealing with a lot on her plate. She deals with helping her family get by financially, the struggles of being black in White America, the obstacles that come along with being a female who is constantly surrounded by men, on top of trying to be a teen girl at the same time. I was personally quite struck by the relationship between Esch and Manny, and more specifically the way in which Manny treats Esch. From the start, I empathized with Esch because of her love for Manny, which was unreciprocated, except for the purposes of sexual relations for his benefit. On top of all of Esch’s struggles, having a trusting and loving romantic relationship would surely assist her along the way. However, his coldness towards her just adds to the pain and sadness in which she must deal with. I began to really dislike Manny’s character after the moment where he discovered that Esch was pregnant. Instead of helping her cope with the emotional and physical pain that comes with pregnancy, he got angry with her and even called her a “slut,” diminishing her as a woman. This stuck out to me because unfortunately this is a disgusting situation that happens quite often in with teen pregnancy, where the male figure takes control of the power dynamic in the relationship, leaving the woman to feel worthless about themselves. It greatly saddened me how Esch still blamed herself after Manny refused to take part of the responsibility for getting Esch pregnant. She refers to the situation in a way in which she has failed to get Manny to fall in love with her, however, I feel that his mistreatment of her as a woman and as his baby’s mother reflects poorly on himself and not her.

Jesmyn Ward. Click image for author webpage.

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2019 Booker Prize Winners!

Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood, winners of the 2019 Booker Prize. Getty Images.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Booker Prize, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo!

In a rare decision from the judges, two winners were selected for this prestigious honor. This is the third time this has happened in the history of the award, with two winners having been selected in 1974 and 1992 as well.

Margaret Atwood, who is a previous winner of the Booker Prize, won for The Testaments, a sequel to her 1985 Booker nominated novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The Testaments is set fifteen years later, following three new perspectives as they navigate the world of Gilead and beyond. She is also the oldest winner of the prize, at 79 years old.

Bernardine Evaristo, author of winning novel Girl, Woman, Other, is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. Her novel explores the lives, joys, and struggles of twelve characters, most of whom are black, British women. This is Evaristo’s first nomination for the Booker Prize.

You can find the winning novels of both authors in the Literatures and Languages Library, as well as their other works and other shortlisted authors

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books Call Number: PR6055.V25 G57 2019

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books Call Number: PR9199.3.A8 T48 2019

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2018 and 2019 Winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the 2018 Prize.

Peter Handke, winner of the 2019 Prize









Just last week, the winners of the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature were announced.

Following a scandal within the Nobel Community—which led to no winner being selected for last year—Olga Tokarczuk, a Polish novelist, has been awarded the 2018 prize. This is not the first award for Tokarczuk. Last year, she was the first Polish author to win the Man Booker International prize for her novel Flights. Regarding Tokarczuk, the Committee chose to honor her for her “narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

Peter Handke was awarded the prize for 2019, which many view as a controversial choice by the judges. Handke, an Austrian novelist and playwright, has been lauded as one of the best living writers in the German language. Previously, Handke has won the Franz Kafka Prize and the International Ibsen Award, among several others. The Committee honored him “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”

You can find the works of both authors at the Literatures and Languages Library.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books Call Number: PG7179.O37 B5413 2018

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books Call Number: PG7179.O37 P7613 2019










Location: Literatures & Languages Call Number: PT2668.A5 U2413 1996

Location: Literatures & Languages Call Number: PT2668.A5 B5713 2010

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Celebrate African American History Month with Natasha Trethewey’s Monument: Poems New and Selected

Posted on behalf of Matthew Roberts, English Librarian

The Literatures and Languages Library celebrates African American History Month with Natasha Trethewey’s retrospective volume, Monument: Poems New and Selected. The monograph, which features poems from Domestic Work (2000), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), and the Pulitzer Prize winning, Native Guard (2006), introduces readers to Trethewey’s unflinching ability to observe how the remnants of both personal and historical traumas live on in the American landscape and imagination.

Cover art for Monument

Cover art for Monument., by Natasha Trethewey. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3570.R433 A6 2018

In this work, the reader will confront a complex poetic engagement with the topic of memory, as Trethewey’s poetry poignantly observes how the past and future survive contemporaneously in the present. This feature of Trethewey’s work appears explicitly throughout Native Guard, a collection that, among other things, examines the legacy of the all black Louisiana Native Guard, which protected the Union fort on Ship Island during the American Civil War. For instance, the poem “Theories of Time and Space,” informally addresses the reader, and offers some direction as to the roads that one might take while reading the collection:

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

This photograph of who you were will be waiting for you, waiting for you in some future time and some future place. And yet, the past always waits, waits for one to return to it. But insofar as it waits, the past is not solidified, not set in stone like a monument. In this regard, the subjects of Trethewey’s poetry—for instance slavery, miscegenation, the Civil War, or socio-economic disparity—do not capture who ‘we’ as a nation were, but rather portray who ‘we’ as a nation are. Rather than a reference to the past and a symbol of completion, Monument waits for its readers, sending them on a journey from which there is no return.

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New Arrivals – Books to Break the Ice

Posted on behalf of Karen Huck

Hope this chilly season is treating you well! Here are some books on our new arrivals shelf that you might enjoy.

1. The Winter Solder – Daniel Mason

Winter Soldier Cover art

The Winter Soldier cover. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3613.A816 W56 2018

When WWI breaks out in Austria, 3rd-year medical research student, Lucius, is sent to the front to treat wounded soldiers, not knowing anything practical about how to care for them.  Under the tutelage of a young nun who has no medical training, but who has gleaned necessary procedures on the fly from Lucius’ predecessor, Lucius slowly learns the intricacies of casualty care.  Shell shock, however, a new phenomenon to this medical team, remains a mystery that the two struggle to relieve.  The ramifications of war and medicine clash in ways never imagined in this atmospheric novel that will draw you in and keep you rooting for young Lucius and his nun.

Headshot of Daniel Mason

Author Daniel Mason, Photo Credit Sara Houghteling

You don’t have to take our word for it. Here are reviews in:

The Washington Post

The New York Times

Publisher’s Weekly

2. America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

Cover art for America for Beginners

America For Beginners cover. Links to Library Catalog entry.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3606.R422578 A78 2018

Planning a reconciliatory trip to America to see her son, Pival Sengupta, a newly widowed Bengali from Kolkata embarks on her first foray into the world against the unwanted advice from her servants. Her journey is guided by a Bangladeshi twenty year old and an American “companion” who take her to sights she has only heard of and ultimately to the home of her son’s lover, Jake. All parties learn about the intricacies of human interaction and relating in ways none of them would have imagined. A darkly humorous story of love. You will not be disappointed.

Photo of author Leah Franqui

Photo by Priyam Dhar.

Read more reviews here:

USA Today

Broad Street Review

The Washington Times

3. Stella: A Play for Lovers by Goethe

Cover art for Stella

Stella, a Play for Lovers cover. Links to Catalog record.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PT2026 .S813 2018

A shocking new translation of a love triangle in 1776, the year The United States of America was born! When a young woman and her mother travel to escape from poverty and enter the service of a young woman who’s been left by her husband three years prior, the three bond quickly over lost love stories and the plight of women in that age. The story remains suspenseful throughout, and the denouement surprises with all of the force no doubt originally intended.

More reviews:



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Literatures and Languages Library to Participate in Ithaka SR

This academic year the Literatures and Languages Library (LLL) will participate in a joint Ithaka S+R and Modern Languages Association project to gather data on how local faculty carry out their research. Over the course of the year, Paula Carns, Head of LLL, and Matt Roberts, Librarian for English, will work closely with UIUC faculty to learn about their research habits and in response will create services to better meet their needs.

More on the project can be found here:

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The University Library subscribes to RBdigital, eAudio books from Recorded Books, which allows unlimited simultaneous users for each title. I tried the app out for the past few weeks, and I enjoyed using it. There are 5714 eAudio books from which a user can browse from, and the selections are pretty good, with many genres to chose from. I was lucky to find the newest Expanse novel on there, Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey. You can download the app on both Apple and Android phones/devices and on Amazon Kindle. Having the app at your fingertips on your phone is a really easy way to have access to audio books, and that it can be on both Apple and Android phones was a huge plus for me. At the time that I was trying the application out I was in between those two phones and using a tablet. The only big downside to this app was that the devices never synced together; I usually only got so far in one device by the time I moved on to the next, and the places where I left out where not automatically saved. I had to put a bookmark to save my place, which logically makes sense but I was expecting the application to just do that without any interference from me (sort of like Netflix or Hulu).
The layout of the platform is bordered by red with a background of black, which is a nice way for the covers of the books to be really seen and noticed. While browsing, the digital bookshelves allow you to see the covers of the books, along with the title, author and availability in plain text underneath them. You can search books by keyword, title, author or narrator while doing an easy search. There’s also an advanced search option that has genre, availability, or audience as search options (there will be dropdown menus for all of them with options to select from). You get to check out the books for three weeks, and as long as no one is checking that some ebook out, you can check it out again after those three weeks are over if you need more time. 
While listening to your books, at the bottom of your screen you will have 4 selections: the playback speed, chapter list, bookmarks and sleep timer. You have playback speed options from 0.5x to 2.0x, with 0.25x increments. Clicking on the chapter list tells you how long each chapter is, and allows you to move from chapter to chapter. The bookmarks lets you view and save multiple bookmarks. The sleep timer has the options of 15, 30, 45, 60 and 90 minutes before the app stops playing. 
Overall, I had a good experience using the app, and you should give at a try too. You’ll need to create an individual account to check out books. For more information on how to use this, you can use the following resource page:
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Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize Win

One of the many covers of articles circulating the web, from CNN Money

A few days ago, the Pulitzer Prizes where announced, and one winner in particular surprised many people: Kendrick Lamar for his album Damn. I for one was not surprised at all because if you, like me, have listened to his amazing albums, you knew that this was coming. His lyrics in sweet tempo with his sound choices is so relevant and representative of today’s black culture that I am honestly surprised that this has not happened earlier. All of his albums have explored very similar themes, and have also recreated (at least for me) what poetry is. To Pimp A Butterfly at times reads more like a complex poetic piece exploring life than actual music, and is in his ability to create deep, and sometimes even, analytic pieces what makes Kendrick Lamar one of the best artists out there. It’s in his formidable capability to recreate the rough gang world from which he comes from and intermesh it with his feelings, contemplations, and most importantly, hope, that makes him so worthy of a Pulitzer and the public fame he is now under.

If you don’t believe me, or haven’t checked out his dope music yet, I recommend you do!

Here is where you can get To Pimp a Butterfly.
Here is where you can get Damn.
If you want to check out all that’s available by Kendrick, click here.
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