Summer of Cinema!

Keep an eye out for these recent Cinema Studies acquisitions at the Literatures and Languages Library!

Cinematic settlers: the settler colonial world in film Edited by Janne Lahti

In this anthology, the contributing scholars explore examples of settler colonialism in film. Settler colonialism is a method of colonization that displaces the indigenous peoples of a colonized territory and replaces them with new settlers. Taking a broad international approach, scholars analyze specific films, study genres, and examine national trends in film making. This volume seeks to add to the study of settler colonialism by evaluating the ways film contributes to and validates settler narratives.

Projecting the nation: history and ideology on the Israeli screen by Eran Kaplan

This book tackles 70 years of Israeli cinema history. Kaplan analyzes films that cover “the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Ashkenazi-Mizrahi divide, the kibbutz and urban life, the rise of religion,” to examine the way film represents the life and culture of modern Israel. He also questions the ways these films have shaped our understanding of Israeli history.

 

Contemporary Balkan  Cinema: Transnational Exchanges and Global Circuits Edited by Lydia Papadimitriou and Ana Grgić

Looking at key subject characteristics and aesthetics of Balkan films, this book analyzes the impact of transnational links and the role of international film festivals in the production and distribution of films from this region. With each chapter focusing on a different region, scholars examine cross cultural exchange and the importance of Balkan Cinema.

 

A Cultural History of the Disney Fairy Tale: Once Upon an American Dream by Tracey Louise Mollet

“In all of its fairy tales of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Walt Disney studios works to sell its audiences the national myth of the United States at any one historical moment.” This book analyzes the shifting ethos of the Disney Fairy tale through time in order to meet changing national viewpoints and keep the utopian myth of the United States alive. Using Disney films and tv shows, Mollet investigates the links between Disney morality and the American Dream.

Experts in Action: Transnational Hong Kong–Style Stunt Work and Performance by Lauren Steimer

In this book Steimer explores the transnational influence and spread of Hong Kong film aesthetics, stunt work, and fighting styles. Analyzing the work of specific stunt people in film and tv, this book explores the mixing of artistic influences, genre, and localities, with Hong Kong style fight work.

 

 

Women in the International Film Industry: Policy, Practice and Power Edited by Susan Liddy

The topic of this series of essays from international scholars is gender-based discrimination in the film industry. Detailing the industry culture in seventeen different countries, these essays argue for an end to gender discrimination and more opportunities for women in film.

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Reading Recommendations for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month. As Anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise and the AAPI community is threatened by ignorance and cruelty, this APAHM feels particularly important. It is a time to reflect on all of the tremendous gifts, literary and otherwise, that the Asian-American community has contributed to our country and the world. With this in mind, we are highlighting some of the incredible new works by Asian-American authors in our collection.

cover art for Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless GirlsLong Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

Literary essayist Madden’s debut memoir pulls no punches in depicting her coming of age as queer, biracial teenager in Boco Raton, Florida. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls fearlessly lays bare the many contradictions of Madden’s young life–from the immense privileges of her wealthy upbringing, to the trauma and isolation wrought by her parents’ drug addiction, to the precious and devastating nature of friendship between fatherless girls.

 

cover art for The Color of AirThe Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama

Tsukiyama’s brilliant historical novel tells the story of a Japanese-American family, set against the backdrop of Hawai’i’s sugar plantations. Just as long-standing family secrets and tensions appear primed to explode, another devastating eruption occurs: that of Mauna Loa volcano.

 

cover art for The Unpassing

 

 

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin

Lin’s gripping debut novel interrogates the myth of the American Dream through a Taiwanese immigrant family struggling to get by in Anchorage, Alaska. When tragedy strikes, the resultant upheaval forces the family to reckon with grief and guilt amidst unfamiliar, and often unforgiving, surroundings.

 

cover art for How Much of These Hills is GoldHow Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

In Zhang’s epic Western set during the American Gold Rush, the orphaned children of Chinese immigrants set out across a harsh and unforgiving landscape in the hopes of burying their father, and their past. The unforgettable sights and adventures they encounter along the way provide a fascinating glimpse of the future that might await them.

 

cover art for Pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Lee’s powerful historical novel follows a single Korean family through a dramatic saga of betrayal, sacrifice, ambition, and love. The family’s tumultuous story begins with a young Sunja’s unplanned and potentially devastating pregnancy. Unbeknownst to her, the choices Sunja makes will reverberate through generations to come.

 

 

Anti-Violence and Anti-Racism Resources to Support the AAPI Community:

https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/

https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org/anti-asian-hate

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/anti-racism-resources-support-asian-american-pacific-islander-community-n1260467

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a35862857/stop-asian-hate-organizations-to-support/

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Summer Reading in the Classics

Looking for some classics-inspired reading to sink your teeth into this summer? Check out this list of fiction set in the ancient world or drawing inspiration from Greco-Roman mythology.

Blue cover with a golden Grecian helmet emblazoned with the book title.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Click for catalog link.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

A heartbreaking retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of Patroclus. Our narrator meets the heroic Achilles at a young age, and we watch alongside him as his companion grows into a seemingly invincible warrior. Throughout their adolescence and preparation for war, their relationship develops into one of profound love. By the time the pair reach the beaches of Troy, the plot churns forward as the audience braces for an inevitably tragic end. Fans of this novel should definitely check out Miller’s Circe and her earlier novella Galatea.

 

 

Purple and gold illustration of the Trojan Horse with five women in front of it.

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker. Release date: June 2021.

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

Set in the aftermath of the sacking of Troy, this novel gives a voice to the women left behind in the aftermath of a bloody Greek victory. Briseis, a Trojan royal captured by Achilles, navigates the shattered world of her ruined city alongside the other overlooked women of the former court. A gritty, visceral imagining that pairs seamlessly with Barker’s previous novel set during the Trojan War, The Silence of the Girls.

 

 

 

 

Illustration of Roman women in archways with stars in the distance.

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper. Release date: May 2021.

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

A story about Pompeii that fleshes out the people living in the ill-fated town. Amara is a sex worker in a city brothel (a lupanar, or wolf den) attempting to assert her agency in a society that denies her bodily autonomy. An absorbing tale of womanhood and resistance that will resonate with contemporary readers looking for strong female characters in a vivid reimagining of the past.

 

 

 

 

A still life of a Roman feast with a robed figure standing next to it.

Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King. Click for catalog link.

Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King
Enslaved Thrasius navigates a dangerous political climate and the changing whims of his avaricious gourmand of a master, Apicius, as he serves extravagant dishes to Rome’s most powerful patricians in the Augustan age. Richly detailed and emotionally evocative, King presents a sumptuous feast of a novel inspired by a centuries-old collection of recipes. Her world-building is excellent; she instantly draws readers into the past through her sensory-laden prose. May leave you hungry, may not — depends on how deeply you crave peacock meatballs, milk snails, and flamingo tongues.

 

 

A woman underwater covering her face.

The Deep End of the Sea by Heather Lyons.

The Deep End of the Sea by Heather Lyons
A clever reimagining of Medusa that tackles relatable themes of loneliness and companionship. It follows Medusa through her daily life of isolation as she reminisces on her long-lost days of human existence and waits for something to break the monotony of life as a lone monster. She begins to seek solace in visits from the god Hermes, and as the years roll by, their relationship strengthens. A feminist take on Medusa that grants her much more happiness than the myths.

 

 

 

An illustration of a woman in all orange with sun rays radiating from her head.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne is a formidable new force in mythological retellings. It follows Ariadne and Phaedra, princesses of Crete, from the birth of their younger half-brother Asterion (more popularly known as the Minotaur) to their subsequent separations, marriages, and tragic ends. This is a well-written woman-centered story that breathes life into mythical characters. Saint raises questions of women’s autonomy and her characters acknowledge and challenge their own limitations in a world that disproportionately punishes women. Fans of Madeline Miller, Margaret Atwood, and Pat Barker will find much to savor in this bold new story.

 

A girl in a pink coat holds a statuette of the Eiffel Tower.

Lovely War by Julie Berry. Click for catalog link.

Lovely War by Julie Berry
Set against the backdrops of World War I and II, Lovely War follows Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Ares as they recount the lives of four teenagers finding love during the Great War. Filled with memorable characters, lush prose, and vivid settings, the novel considers how love persists even in immense peril. The Olympian trio provides a timeless framing to the woven narrative of the two young couples fighting for their lives and their happiness amidst a global catastrophe.

 

 

 

A black cover with a bust of a Grecian marble statue with the title "The Maidens" covering the eyes.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. Release date June 2021.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
One by one, the students of a brilliant, charismatic Cambridge classics professor are found dead. Grieving therapist Mariana receives a panicked call from her niece Zoe, whose friend and classmate is the first to show up brutally murdered in the woods off campus. Rushing to Cambridge – a place imbued with memories, as she recalls meeting her recently deceased husband when they were young students there – Mariana comforts Zoe and starts to pick apart the threads of the mystery unraveling before her. If you’ve read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, this classics-inspired contemporary thriller should definitely be on your to-read shelf.

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Happy Poetry Month!

Here is a roundup of some of the excellent new poetry and books about poets at the Literatures and Languages Library. To keep up on our new poetry, be sure to follow us on Instagram, where we post about all our latest books!

The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography by Hilary Holladay

This is the latest biography of the queer feminist icon and National Book award winning poet, Adrienne Rich. The book pays particular attention to Rich’s early life and the role of her parents and events on her development. Through Rich’s and other family members’ correspondence and interviews with people close to the poet, Holladay brings to life the writer whose poetry was at the forefront of American literature for decades.

Foxlogic Fireweed by Jennifer K. Sweeney

Winner of the Backwaters Prize in Poetry, this collection highlights the dynamic nature of place and space and the impacts our relationships and environments have on us- “a lyrical sequence of five physical and emotional terrains—floodplain, coast, desert, suburbia, and mesa—braiding themes of nature, domesticity, isolation, and human relationships.” Sweeney explores these themes from a distinctively feminine perspective. Her poetry and perspective is rooted in the physical rhythms of the natural world.

The Age of Phillis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

This book is about the life and time of Phillis Wheatley, a Black poet, who was born in West Africa and later stolen and brought to Boston as an enslaved child. In 1773 she published a book of poetry and became a prominent literary figure. Jeffers employs her own poetry, based on rigorous archival research, to recontextualize Phillis’s life, to see beyond Phillis’s fame as a “literary or racial symbol” and find the person she was. Her poetry explores Wheatley’s childhood in Gambia, her life with her white owners, her experiences as a poet who achieved contemporary fame, and her eventual emancipation and life with her husband.

 The Swan of the Well by Titia Brongersma, Eric Miller

This is the first English translation of the works of Titia Brongersma, a 17th century Frisian poet.  Contemporary humanists hailed Bongersma as “Sappho reborn.”  Brongersma’s poetry is incredibly versatile in its scope and mixes genres and disciplines, such as mythology, epic poetry, history, and art. Key themes are: the poet’s love for Elisabeth Joly, her excavation of an ancient monument, her family, patrons, and friends, and the life of women. Eric Miller’s translation includes an introduction that provides context for Brongersma life and time and attempts to uncover some of her aspirations.

The Selected Works of Audre Lorde Edited by Roxane Gay

This book offers a selection of poetry and prose by Audre Lorde, with an introduction by Roxane Gay. Self-described as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Lorde’s work centers the experiences of Black and queer women. This collection makes clear why Lorde has remained an influential and crucial figure in the field of “intersectional feminism, queer theory, and critical race studies.” This is an essential reader for those new to Lorde’s work and an excellent companion for those who are more familiar.

Owed by Joshua Bennett

“You always or almost

always only the one

in the room

Maybe two

Three is a crowd

Three is a gang

Three is a company

of thieves        Three is

wow there’s so many of you”

Thus begins the poem Token Sings the Blues, one of the first poems in Joshua Bennett’s new book, Owed. The works in this book address the “aesthetics of repair.” They challenge the notion of insignificant aspects of daily life, discussing objects, people and spaces that are often overlooked. With Poems like Ode to the Durag and Ode to the Plastic on Your Grandmother’s Couch, Bennett not only calls attention to these objects, but he also centers the lived experiences of being Black in America.

Whatever Happened to Black Boys by James Jabar

This collection of poems from James Jabar is an exploration of Black maleness. Through his poems, which vary in form and genre, black boys tell their own stories. The black boys in this work are both fictional and real, and Jabar uses this play on reality, to tackle the archetype of Black maleness, both by breaking traditional forms of poetry and by telling stories from a range of perspectives. This is an exploration of identity, storytelling, and poetry, it also challenges the limited presentations of Black maleness in media.

 

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Comics in the Time of Corona: Angoulême Prize Winners

Each year, the town of Angoulême in southwestern France plays host to the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême (FIBD), which is frequently known as the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Started in 1974, the four-day event is devoted to the ninth art (as comics are often called in France) and celebrates achievements in the medium.

The Angoulême International Comics Festival also administers several prestigious prizes, referred to as Fauves (“Wild Cats”) in reference to FIBD’s mascot. The Angoulême Fauves honor the versatility and transgressive power of the art form. Prizes include the coveted Fauve d’Or (“Golden Wildcat”) for best comics album of the year, as well as prizes for best artwork, best script, and best new work in a series.

The festival is internationally renowned and typically attracts around 200,000 artists, journalists, and comics enthusiasts to Angoulême every January. Attendees typically take part in workshops, master classes, and panels dispersed throughout the city. However, as with many other highly-anticipated events, this year was far from typical. To accommodate the travel restrictions and social distancing requirements brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, FIBD was split into two parts. The announcement of the 2021 prize winners took place at its usual time in late January, while the in-person events are delayed until late June.

To celebrate the first part of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, the Literatures and Languages Library is highlighting Fauve winners coming soon to our collection. These French-language works, full of innovative story-telling and stunning visuals, will have you dreaming of Angoulême in June.

Click here to learn more about the prizes and prize-winners.

Cover art for Anaïs Nin sur la mer des mensonges

PRIX DU PUBLIC FRANCE TÉLÉVISIONS: Anaïs Nin, sur la mer des mensonges by Léonie Bischoff

Cover art for Paul à la maison

PRIX DE LA SÉRIE: Paul à la maison by Michel Rabagliati

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover art for Tanz!

PRIX RÉVÉLATION: Tanz! by Maurane Mazars

cover art for Black-out

PRIX GOSCINNY DU SCÉNARIO: Black-out by Loo Hui Phang and Hugues Micol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover art for La Mécanique du Sage

PRIX DE L’AUDACE: La Mécanique du Sage by Gabrielle Piquet

 

 

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New Fiction Spotlight: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

Cover art for the Secret Lives of Church Ladies

“I don’t question God,” declares the titular character of “Eulah,” the first story in The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

“But maybe you should question the people who taught you this version of God. Because it’s not doing you any favors,” the narrator replies.

This exchange is at the crux of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection. The collection is full of hope, heartbreak, hunger, and love. Its protagonists find themselves torn between the demands of church and family and those of their own bodies. They wrestle with their appetites, illicit or otherwise, and usually come out on top in one way or another.

The nine stories that make up The Secret Lives of Church Ladies span a wide array of turbulent and fascinating relationships with mothers, fathers, sisters, and lovers. In “Dear Sister,” a woman writes a letter to the half-sister she’s never met to inform her of the death of their father. In “Snowfall,” the narrator struggles to adjust to both the realities of living in a northern climate and her mother’s disavowal of her relationship with another woman.

Despite these tumultuous relationships, the stories are full of comfort—offered from sister to sister, daughter to mother, and lover to lover. These offerings are often in the form of food, whether it be homemade, fast-food, or frozen.

One of the collection’s most powerful stories, for example, is “Peach Cobbler,” which begins: “My mother’s peach cobbler was so good, it made God himself cheat on his wife.” Like many in the collection, “Peach Cobbler” deals with infidelity, unhealthy relationships, and the ache to be loved with wry humor and compassion.

Each story is told in the first-person, lending the collection a powerful intimacy. The reader is left feeling as though they really have been let in on the secret lives of these powerful storytellers. In The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Philyaw paints nuanced portraits of vulnerable and resilient women who rely upon each other and create communities worth treasuring.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is available now at the Literatures and Languages Library.

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Literary Fiction to Read at Home

Even though the library’s closed, there are an abundance of resources you can still access online, including ebooks and audiobooks. Below, you’ll find recommendations of award-winning and entertaining works of literary fiction, all of which can be accessed as an ebook or audiobook through the library catalog.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (Audiobook)

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All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Click for catalog link.

 

A Pulitzer Prize winning book, All The Light We Cannot See follows a French girl and a German boy as they each try to survive WWII. When the Nazis occupy Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo, hoping to find some sort of safety. Werner Pfennig is an orphan living in Germany and has a knack for building and fixing radios. When he’s enlisted by the Nazis to track down the enemy, he finds himself struggling to support the cause. Beautifully written, Doerr weaves the lives of Marie and Werner together with powerful prose and moving imagery.

 

 

Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward (Audiobook)

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

Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, Salvage the Bones tells the story of a rural, working-class family who must survive hurricane Katrina. In the town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, hurricane season can mean destruction. When a hurricane begins to form over the Gulf of Mexico, Esch and her family must prepare for the potential danger while also facing their own personal struggles. Esch’s father is mostly absent and only concerned about the looming hurricane. Esch is pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is trying to sneak food to a litter of puppies, and her other brothers Randall and Junior are trying to find their place in the family. Following the week leading up to Hurricane Katrina, Jesmyn Ward’s award-winning novel is a powerful and revelatory story.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders (Ebook)

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Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. Click for catalog link.

A Booker Prize-winning book, Lincoln in the Bardo takes place in February of 1862. The Civil War has just begun, and Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie is deathly ill. When he passes away a mere few days later, he’s buried in a Georgetown cemetery, which Lincoln has reportedly visited several times. From this, Saunders weaves a story with an astounding cast of characters, including Lincoln’s own son, who finds himself in a bardo, or a place of purgatory. There, ghosts and spirits mingle and communicate with one another, ultimately seeking to help both Willie Lincoln and his father find peace. A moving exploration of love, death, and grief, Lincoln in the Bardo is an utterly captivating story.

 

The Overstory, Richard Powers (Audiobook)

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The Overstory, by Richard Powers. Click for catalog link.

 

Written by an alumnus of the University of Illinois and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Overstory is a story about the power of activism and the natural world. Following a cast of characters who each have a special relationship to trees and nature, Powers interweaves their individual stories as they try to fight for the survival of the Redwoods. Their stories show the world beyond ours–a world of beauty, nature, and magnificence.

 

 

 

Women Talking, Miriam Toews (Audiobook) 

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Women Talking, by Miriam Toews. Click for catalog link.

 

When a group of Mennonite women learn that they’ve been drugged and attacked by men from their own community, they come together in an attempt to protect one another and their daughters from further harm. While the men are away, these women meet to make a difficult choice: do they stay in the community, or do they risk the danger of running away?  Women Talking is a story of women reclaiming their power despite the odds being stacked against them.

 

 

 

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (Audiobook) 

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The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. Click for catalog link.

 

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction, The Underground Railroad follows the story of a woman named Cora, who learns about the Underground Railroad through a man named Cesar. In Whitehead’s novel, though, the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad, with a network of stations, trains, and tracks. Together Cora and Cesar risk escape, fleeing from state to state trying to avoid a slave catcher named Ridgeway. The Underground Railroad is a powerful narrative about the terrors faced by slaves in the pre-Civil War era, and one woman’s fierce determination to escape bondage.

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The International Booker Prize Shortlist Has Been Announced!

Since 2004, the International Booker Prize has served as a complement to the Booker Prize. Celebrating translated international literature, the award committee selects a longlist, which is then narrowed to a shortlist. From the shortlist, a winner is selected. Last year, the winning book was Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi, translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth. This year, the International Booker Prize shortlist features five authors, five different languages, and a vast variety of themes.

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The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar. Click for catalog link.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, Shokoofeh Azar, trans. by Anonymous (Farsi)

Set in Iran, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree follows a family as they live through the fallout and chaos of the Islamic Revolution. Through magical realism and traditional Persian storytelling, Azar weaves a heartfelt tale of love and sorrow, life and death, and politics and religion.

 

 

 

 

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The Adventures of China Iron, by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara. Click for catalog link.

The Adventures of China Iron, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, trans. by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh (Spanish)

Cámara’s novel follows the journey of Mrs. China Iron as she travels across the Pampas (South American lowlands). Traveling by wagon, she finds a companion in Liz, who exposes her to the injustices of the world as they move through beautiful flora and fauna. Their adventures bring them to new cultures and peoples, languages, and, unfortunately, political strife. This postcolonial novel is a delightful romp through the Argentinian landscape, while also exposing the effects of British Colonial efforts.

 

 

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Tyll, by Daniel Kehlmann. Click for catalog link.

Tyll, Daniel Kehlmann, trans. by Ross Benjamin (German)

Tyll Ulenspiegel is a traditional German folktale, reimagined by Daniel Kehlmann in Tyll. Kehlmann’s novel follows the trickster as he runs across battlefields, goes on quests for royalty, witch-hunters, and nobility, and exposes the wisdom of fools and folly of kings. Placing the German legend in the context of the Thirty Years’ War, Tyll is humorous-yet-dramatic retelling that will certainly entertain readers.

 

 

 

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Hurricane Season, by Fernanda Melchor. Click for catalog link.

Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor, trans. by Sophie Hughes (Spanish)

Hurricane Season begins with the death of a local witch, who had been helping citizens of La Matosa, a rural Mexican village. The novel explores the events leading up to the woman’s death from multiple perspectives. Though it appears to be a typical mystery, the novel is so much more. Instead of wondering who killed the woman, the book focuses on the why. Brutal and beautiful, Hurricane Season is Melchor’s first novel to be translated into English.

 

 

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The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa. Click for catalog link.

The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder (Japanese)

Things disappear. People are forgetting. On an unnamed island, a group called the Memory Police make sure that anything that disappears is forgotten. Most islanders don’t remember the objects that disappear, but there remains a select few who live in fear of the Memory Police. Who fear what would happen if it was discovered that they can still remember forgotten things. When a young novelist learns that the Memory Police are after her editor, she hides him in her floorboards, risking both of their lives. Emotional and thought-provoking, The Memory Police is a stunning exploration of a police state.

 

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The Discomfort of Evening, by Marieke Lucas Rijnveld. Click for catalog link.

The Discomfort of Evening, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, trans. By Michele Hutchinson (Dutch)

When Jas, daughter of a devout family, finds herself angry at her brother for leaving to go on a ski trip, she makes a devastating plea to God. When her brother never returns, the family is devastated. While they grieve their loss, Jas descends into darkness, imagining disturbing fantasies that threaten the very core of her family. Raw and moving, Rijneveld’s debut novel is striking and unforgettable.

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The Organs of Sense, by Adam Ehrlich Sachs

Posted on behalf of Raka Bhattacharyya

The Organs of Sense: A Novel by [Sachs, Adam Ehrlich]

The Organs of Sense, by Adam Ehrlich Sachs. Click for catalog link.

Where to begin with such an absurd, surreal tale that defies logic, physics, and all concept of sense?

We all must begin somewhere, and I will begin by saying that this is the sort of book that somehow makes enough sense to not make any sense, or it doesn’t make enough sense in order to make actual sense. 

It is the inexplicable tale of an astrologer, who, without eyes, predicted some of the most important and ground-breaking astrological discoveries. To see whether or not the aforementioned astrological events were predicted accurately, young Gottfried Leibnitz braves through the desert to meet with the astrologer. 

What unfolds when the astrologer tells Leibnitz the tale of his life is one of the most surreal, nonsensical tales that you may ever come across. It’s a complex tale of confusion, love, hate, and madness that makes less and less sense the more that you read yet continues to grow on you. The astrologer, being one of the most confounding characters in the stories, continues to grow more and more intriguing despite making less and less sense throughout the story.

Sachs has a skill of endearing us to the human condition, which is clear in this nonsensical story and how it appeals to its readers. While the story is exaggerated, it is this exact quality that I personally admired very deeply. The shared madness of the prince and the king, the loneliness of the astrologer and his strange, disillusioned relationship with his son- all of these interactions have a profound sense of emotion attached to them purely due to their strange nature.

And this is something that humans all have in common- that we all experience things and form inexplicable relationships with one another that we cannot fully comprehend. And this is an aspect of the human nature that Sachs elaborates on and capitalizes on with all of the experiences and interactions of the characters in the story; reassuring the readers that these strange occurrences or bonds that we form need not be completely understood and instead enjoyed. 

Sachs’ work encourages readers to enjoy the bits of life that appeal to us yet never make any sense. 

If you’re looking for the type of book that makes little to no sense but somehow teaches you more about yourself and the other humans around you, look no further, because Adam Ehrlich Sachs’ The Organs of Sense has it down to a T.

Photo by Lulu Liu

Adam Ehrlich Sachs, photo by Lulu Liu. Click for author website.

 

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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Reviewed by Zoe Stein 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. Click for catalog link.

Location: Uni High New Books (temporarily shelved)
Call number: Fiction At96te

Location: Residence Halls Illinois Street SciFi/Fantasy
Call Number: 813 At96te

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Testaments, is on hundreds of to-read lists and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Man-Booker Prize. A sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, the book is yet another foray into the horrific world of Gilead, following three all-new perspectives. Surprisingly, though, Offred barely makes an appearance. Instead, Atwood gives voice to the vicious Aunt Lydia, Agnes, a child of Gilead, and Daisy, a Canadian child who finds herself embroiled in a plot to take down Gilead.

While all three women are represented in the chapters of the novel, the most compelling ones are those of Aunt Lydia. During and after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, Aunt Lydia was seen as an agent of Gilead—a woman destined to spend the rest of her life enforcing the misogynist laws of the new country. The Testaments, though, provides depth to the previously one-dimensional character. Her past, present, and innermost thoughts are explored as the reader learns that everything is not quite as it seems. Every chapter is compelling and utterly addictive.

The Testaments is a departure from the plot structure of The Handmaid’s Tale. While the latter is an exploration of Offred’s past and the world around her, The Testaments reads more like a thriller. It is action based and plot heavy most of the time and character exploration is at a minimum, with the exception of Aunt Lydia. Though the novel is certainly entertaining, it’s undoubtedly a different reading experience than that of The Handmaid’s Tale. 

While certainly a compelling read, it is unfair to compare The Testaments to Atwood’s earlier exploration into the world. This new book is an entirely different experience, and I urge readers to go in with an open mind.

Margaret Atwood. Photo by Jean Malek. Click for author’s website.

Read other reviews:

New York Times

Kirkus Reviews 

Publisher’s Weekly 

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