Congratulations to Shortlisted Authors for the Booker Prize!

On September 15th, the Booker Prize announced its shortlisted works and authors, all finalists for the prestigious award. Of the thirteen longlisted novels, six were chosen as finalists for the prize. Congratulations to all authors!

The winner, selected from the six finalists, will be chosen on November 19th. If you’d like to read any of the shortlisted works, we’ve got you covered! The library has just about every novel listed.

The shortlisted novels include:

cover art featuring pink birds on a blue background

Though the library doesn’t have Diane Cook’s newest book quite yet, for more information on the novel, click the image above, which will take you to the author’s webpage.

cover art of a green succulent on a purple background

Burnt Sugar, by Avni Doshi. Click image for catalog link.




cover art of legs in ballet flats on a black background

This Mournable Body, by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Click image for catalog link.

cover art of a person in shadow with a multicolored background

The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste. Click image for catalog link.

black and white cover of parent and child facing each other

Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart. Click image for catalog link.






cover art of bird on a black and red background

Real Life, by Brandon Taylor. Click image for catalog link.

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Congratulations to the Winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction!

Recently, the winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced. Congratulations to Maggie O’Farrell, who won for her novel, Hamnet!

cover art for hamnet, with a giant letter h covered in leaves and flowers

This year was the 25th anniversary for the award, which was first given out in 1996 under the title of the Orange Prize for Fiction. The creation of Women’s Prize began back in 1991, after not a single woman was on the Booker Prize shortlist, despite the fact that a great number of novels published that year (around 60%) were written by women. After further research showed that only 10% of all writers shortlisted for the Booker Prize were women, the eventual founding committee sought to create a prize that celebrated these neglected authors. Thus, the Women’s Prize for Fiction was born.

Previous winners of the award include Tayari Jones, Kamila Shamsie, and Naomi Alderman.

Even though Hamnet isn’t available through the library just yet, you can read Maggie O’Farrell’s other works, as well as those of former winners of the prize! Here are a few you can get through the library:

cover art for i am, i am, i am.

I am, I am, I am, by Maggie O’Farrell. Click for catalog link.

cover art for an american marriage.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Click for catalog link.









cover art for home fire

Home Fire, by Kamila Shamsie. Click for catalog link.

cover art for the power

The Power, by Naomi Alderman. Click for catalog link.



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Marcel Proust & His Madeleines

Marcel Proust is famous for many things, one of which is his inclusion of madeleines in his infamous work, In Search of Lost Time. But where did madeleines originate, and why would Proust choose include this specific dessert in his writing?

Madelines are small, spongy cakes, known for their seashell-like shape and iconic “hump” that develops when baked in the oven. The way in which the cake batter is whisked and mixed together results in an airy and light cake when baked in the oven and is a lighter sort of batter than the traditional sponge cake.

The dessert was thought to have originated in 17th century France, specifically in the Lorraine region. Over time, several legends explaining the invention of these sweets began to circulate. No one knows the true story, but one such tale focuses on a woman named Madeline. The legend claims that when a young woman stepped in as the pastry chef to the Duke of Lorraine, she chose to bake these delicious, airy cakes that came from her grandmother’s recipe, as they were the only thing she knew how to make. The Duke loved them so much that he decided to name them after the girl who’d baked them. Thus, madeleines were born.

There are several other legends regarding the origins of the madeleine, including finding the recipe on a pilgrimage to Spain; in fact, one story claims that Louis XV tried this new dessert and loved it so much that he popularized it in France. Though these stories all differ, there’s one thing in common: each time, a woman named Madeline is the one responsible for the invention.

We may never know the true origins of the madeleine, but its popularity–particularly in France–is obvious. But what about these desserts enamored Proust so much?

Proust first mentions madeleines in connection to memory:

“She set out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell…No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and i stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.”

–Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, Volume One

As soon as the narrator tries the madeleine, his senses are overwhelmed by the flavor, causing him to remember–involuntarily–an old memory from his past.

“And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray…when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the interval…But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered…the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment.”

–Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Lost Things, Volume One

Whether he shares the narrator’s experience of this dessert evoking a specific memory, or simply enjoyed the pastry enough to want to include it, Proust’s fondness for madeleines is undeniable. Perhaps that’s why, instead of including macarons–another dessert commonly associated with France–he instead opted for a more delicate pastry. One that happens to pair incredibly well with coffee and tea.

Despite their exquisite appearance, you can make madeleines of your own at home. All you need is a whisk, a madeleine tin, and a little bit of patience.

Madelines (recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)


  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs, room temp.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Chocolate if desired (for dipping)


  1. Melt butter and set aside to cool.
  2. With a whisk (or equivalent attachment for a stand or handheld mixer), whisk eggs and sugar together until the batter becomes thick and pale, and forms ribbons when you lift the whisk (approx. 8 mins.).
  3. Beat in vanilla extract until combined.
  4. Fold in flour, baking powder, and salt. Be gentle when folding the dry ingredients into the egg and sugar mixture, as the batter is delicate.
  5. Stir about 1/4 of the butter into batter. It will take a minute to incorporate. After its combined, stir the rest of the butter into the mixture. Batter will appear thick and shiny.
  6. Cover and chill for ~30-60 mins. 45 minutes is ideal.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  8. Spray madeleine pan with nonstick cooking spray, or brush melted butter into pan to avoid sticking. Drop about 1 tbsp of batter into each madeleine mold.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops spring back after being lightly pressed on.
  10. Transfer to baking rack to cool, and if desired, dip in chocolate or add any other desired toppings.
  11. Enjoy!


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The 2020 Booker Prize Longlist Has Been Announced!

Congratulations to all authors longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize! 

The Booker Prize is one of the leading literary awards for books written in the English language. The Prize is awarded to the book that a panel of judges believe is the best English-language novel of the year. This year, all novels considered must have been published between October 1st, 2019 and September  30th, 2020.

The shortlist will be announced on September 15th, 2020.

The longlisted novels include:

  • The New Wilderness, by Diane Cook
  • This Mournable Body, by Tsitsi Dangarembga
  • Burnt Sugar, by Avni Doshi
  • Who They Was, by Gabriel Krauze
  • The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
  • Apeirogon, by Colum McCann
  • The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste
  • Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
  • Real Life, by Brandon Taylor
  • Redhead by The Side of The Road, by Anne Tyler
  • Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart
  • Love and Other Thought Experiments, by Sophie Ward
  • How Much of these Hills is Gold, by C Pam Zhang

You can read some of the longlisted books now, too! Several of the nominees are available in the library catalog or via I-Share; find them by clicking on the cover image for each title below.

This Mournable Body, by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Click for catalog link.

The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel. Click for catalog link.









Apeirogon, by Colum McCann. Click for catalog link.

The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste. Click for catalog link.









Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid. Click for catalog link.

Real Life, by Brandon Taylor. Click for catalog link.









Redhead by the Side of the Road, by Anne Tyler. Click for catalog link.

Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart. Click for catalog link.










How Much of These Hills is Gold, by C Pam Zhang. Click for catalog link.

Congratulations to all nominated authors!

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The Distance Between High and Low: A Southern Gothic Novel (Book Review)

“Pearl said I’d have to let go of stuff I couldn’t have, no matter how much I wanted it, or got used to chasing it.”—Peck (Pearl’s grandson), one of the two protagonists in the novel

cover of book, "The distance between high and Low"

Photo by Sarah Lerch

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. In The Distance Between High and Low: A Southern Gothic Novel by Kaye Park Hinckley, the ‘it’ asked for is an absent father’s identity. But knowing who your father is is not the same as having a father. He must want you more than he wants drugs, alcohol, a ‘good time,’ gambling, money, or prestige, as is made clear by the end of the novel. A father’s love should be a given in a child’s life. The characters in this novel each confront this longing for perfect parental love in their own way.

The novel’s subtitle is “a Southern Gothic Novel,” and it fulfills that promise. The location is Highlow, Alabama. Anyone from north of the Mason-Dixon line is a Yankee, not to be trusted, not one of ‘us.’ The characters are or have been damaged people (some have been ‘fixed’). Gambling, neglect, booze, death, entangled family relations, drugs, guns, church, secrets, and rumors are woven throughout the story. I enjoy the Southern Gothic genre, so I jumped right in and I’m glad that I did.

Using a slightly modified version of Faulkner’s technique in As I Lay Dying, Hinckley has different characters narrate each of the (sometimes very short) chapters to drive the plot forward. It works. We gain insight to the characters’ thoughts beyond the well-written dialogue (that include conversations between preteens in the 1960s). The narrators are the characters that grow over the course of the story; those that do not narrate but are still essential characters remain predictable in their behavior; what they think is made obvious for the reader through the other narrators.

“After that, Lila wouldn’t go anywhere with her father, though she wanted to. She couldn’t trust him. ‘Of course, it all left an empty hole in her heart,’ Miss Pearl said. ‘It changed her, made her fragile, and out of balance. Futile longing for what you don’t have will do that.’”

The book is written in two parts: Part One covers the period when the twins Peck and Lizzie, the main characters of the novel, are thirteen years old. They are the children of their ‘sometimes crazy’ single mother, Lila. A little over thirteen years prior, Lila headed to a Cincinnati art school against her mother Pearl’s advice.  About nine months later, she returns, blurry eyed and heavily pregnant. She now spends her time in her attic room painting pictures of faces on china plates.

All live in Pearl’s house with Izear, adopted years ago by her to save him from his abusive father and absent mother. Pearl is a descendant of the founding father of Highlow, Alabama. They are Main Street kind of people. They are the accepted; if they accept you, then you are considered respectable.

“The mystery of our father’s identity feeds on his heart like an unhurried dragon. But it doesn’t bother me so much.”—Lizzie, Peck’s twin sister, the other protagonist

Peck wants to find out who his father is; Lizzie doesn’t seem to care that much—only for her brother’s sake.

“I was in the care of the bird-women from the time I was four, so I don’t remember much of my real parents.”—Hobart, Peck and Lizzie’s next-door neighbor

Hobart, their “Yankee” (an outsider to the folks of Highlow, Alabama) neighbor, was adopted out of one of Detroit’s Catholic orphanages by the childless McSwains when he was about eleven. When he arrived in Highlow he was a just a bit younger than Lila.

“I have a father!”—Little Benedict, Peck and Lizzie’s younger playmate

Little Benedict is younger than Peck and Lizzie, and is an annoying, but well-tolerated tagalong playmate. Little Benedict’s mom despises him, and his spineless father allows him to be emotionally abused by her. Big Benedict loves him but loves peace with his wife more. Little Benedict does have it better than his little sister. She isn’t given a name or brought home after her birth. Her mother doesn’t want her, and her father is too weak to stand up for her. Little Benedict is proud to announce to the ‘fatherless’ Peck and Lizzie though, “I HAVE a father.” Quantity over quality, I guess.

The pace of Part One is just what is needed. Time enough to get to know the characters and their peculiarities, but fast moving enough to keep the story interesting and move the plot along. If Peck can’t literally meet his father (who he has been told lives in Cincinnati and is an artist like is mother), then he decides that catching a live osprey will do. The captured bird would be taken home and tethered in the backyard as an acceptable substitute for his biological father. This quest becomes Peck’s obsession.

The pace of Part Two naturally changes as it covers the period a few years later as the characters (that are still alive) mature. Some go away to college, start businesses, and some marry. They live on, the scars of their childhoods visible in their life choices.

There are a few bumps in Part Two. I felt the way that Lizzie’s attitude changed towards her late husband after reading files on his computer needed to be explained. I wish the author would have shared what changed her mind and softened her heart to his serial cheating and controlling nature. Also, Lizzie’s feelings toward Anthony, her husband’s friend, seemed rather flat, even at the end.

“I never held my father. But once, I held the hawk.”—Peck

The author brilliantly used different symbolism throughout the novel to tie the people and the time periods together.

The Judge, a second cousin to Pearl and the only judge (only one God) in Highlow, is mentioned, but we only hear him speak once, when he saves (a savior) Hobart from one of his poor, stupid decisions and, for this decision, eventual death. He narrates a few chapters, not by speaking to the reader, but by letting the reader glance over his shoulder at the “Official Notes of Pearl’s Cousin, The Judge.” He keeps ‘notes’ on the people of Highlow and all that pass through it (his Bible or is this his Book of Life?). Pearl occasionally visit him to fill him in (confession). The Judge is “responsible for conclusions” and the keeper of “the truth, and nothing but the truth,” as Little Benedict’s little sister parrots from watching too many Perry Mason reruns. He is the one that banishes the liars, cheaters, violent, drug dealers and users, and the like) from Highlow and sets them up in a used car lot and real estate business in Florida (sends them to “Hell.” Have you ever been to Florida in August?).

With only Baptist churches locally, Pearl and her family must to leave town to find a Catholic church (to meet with their Heavenly Father), just as Peck and Lizzie thought they would have to leave town (get on a bus and go to Cincinnati) to visit their biological father. Lizzie asked at one point why they couldn’t just go to a Baptist church (even though she wasn’t big on going to either church), an attitude she had towards her father—not caring much to meet or know him either.

The most frequently used symbol used in this novel is that of the osprey. From the first page “the moonlight divides like the wide wings of the Osprey and falls on Lizzie’s twin children” to the end of the novel, the osprey is always there, but unattainable.

The osprey can be “low enough to tempt, then flying too high to touch.” It makes its presence known by flying around and distracting Peck but is always out of reach by the time Peck can get to him. The osprey comes into town and alights on houses; when noticed and chased, it flies away.

Peck’s desire is to catch a live osprey; he doesn’t want to kill it, he wants to hold it—to have it. The novel recounts the only time Peck held an osprey. The osprey had its talons stuck in a fish too heavy for it to be able to fly away. When Peck helped free its talons from the fish, the osprey lashed out and pierced Peck’s palms, drawing blood and leaving scars. Izear warned Peck that the bird will “claw out yo’ eyes, you ever caught it.” Once, in a fit of rage, Lizzie yelled at him, “Let it claw your eyes out!”

Fathers that don’t want you, hurt you and leave behind scars. Izear and Lizzie knew this; deep down, Peck probably knew it too. The pain this father symbol caused did not deter him. He was determined to ‘catch’ his father, to have him, or at least the bird, alive and physically with him.

Hobart even offers to help him catch an osprey. In describing his childhood, Hobart describes the nuns at the orphanage before his adoption as “swooping white-winged women” and that he was “under the care of the hooded bird-women.” But Hobart doesn’t want to catch the ospreys, he wants to kill them; and he does. He has them stuffed; he does it for Peck, but by that point, Peck can’t appreciate it—Peck wouldn’t have appreciated it.

But it is Little Benedict that is the character that has the osprey symbolism applied to him: when Little Benedict nasty mother hollers him home, he “flies,” and he is described as having a “little bird chest.” By the end of the novel, you understand why Little Benedict is described in terms saved for the father symbol.

And at one of Pearl’s annual Christmas open houses, a blind man arrives wearing a golden-eyed eagle on the back of his jacket, with the wings continuing down the sleeves. Is this their father? Surely this is too obvious. He glides into the house as if he’d been there before, selects the lucky piece of lane cake that contains the porcelain baby Jesus, goes over the Lila and is kissed by her gently, and then leaves without the porcelain baby Jesus $100 prize winnings or a word to anyone. I told you this was Southern Gothic.

I am glad I found and read this book. There is so much more to it; hopefully I have whetted your appetite for it, like a slice of Izear’s sour cream pound cake offered up at one of Pearl’s Christmas open houses. I enjoyed it thoroughly, rereading some sentence just to savor their richness. So much wisdom in clusters of fifteen or so words. The characters were well-developed and for even the worst of them, I felt some sympathy, knowing what had happened to them when they were children. Some of Pearl’s wisdom and mercy must have rubbed off on me while reading. In the end, not everyone got what they wanted, but everyone got what they needed—or deserved.

At one point there were at least three sudden, unexpected events that occurred within a ten-page span in the novel. After the third one, I had to close the book, sit there, and grin. She had me and I loved it. Please continue writing, Ms. Hinckley; keep writing your Southern Gothic novels, and I’ll read each and every one of them. In fact, I have two more being shipped to me right now.



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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.

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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.

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