Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Nevermore: Kendi, Ozeki, George, Malerich


The first book discussed in Nevermore was How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.  Our reader was impressed with Kendi’s intellectual rigor in approaching the subject and his explanations of why he uses the terms he does.  Antiracist, for example, is the idea that all races are equal. The book addresses non-overt racism and the assumptions underlying it, such as that there are just two ways to deal with race issues:  segregation or assimilation, which fails to acknowledge that there are any other courses of action.  While a slim volume, it discusses some important concepts and provides much food for thought. 

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki beautifully intertwines the stories of several different people at different points in time.  Ruth, a writer who is experiencing writer’s block, finds a Hello Kitty box washed up on a shore in British Columbia.  Inside is the diary of sixteen year old Nao, whose family moved from California back to Japan after the dot com bubble burst.  Unhappy, Nao has decided she is going to commit suicide but first she wants to write down the story of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun.  The book moves back and forth in time and points of view.  Our reader said that the beginning was a little off-putting, but it turned out to be a wonderful book which she highly recommends.


Paris, 1927 was the setting for the next book, Alex George’s Paris Hours.  The story revolves around four ordinary people, each of whom is seeking something or someone: there’s an Armenian refugee who ekes out a living by putting on puppet shows for children; Proust’s former maid who fears her deepest secret will be revealed; a man searching for his lost daughter; and a man who is secretly following an old lover because he believes she may have had his child.  There are many famous people who flit in and out of the stories—Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker, and Proust—but the important stories are those of the ordinary people.  There is some description of the horror of WWI, but our Nevermore member said that it was a very good book and she does recommend it.


 History and fantasy meet in The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich when the mill workers of Lowell, Massachusetts are driven to a desperate strike for better working conditions.  Long hours, low pay, and dangerous work is the norm for these workers, almost all young women, who have seen their co-workers die from respiratory diseases and who have seen their wages cut while still working over 70 hours a week.  The workers live together in company-owned boarding houses and when the owners raise their rent, they decide to strike. Judith Whittier leads the strike, pinning part of her hopes on her friend Hannah who may have magical talents. Our member said this short book was magical and filled with a lot of facts.  Others mentioned visiting the museum at Lowell and the exhibits on the historical portion of the book.

Finally, a staff member attending the meeting took advantage of the gathering to plug the “Lucky Day” book from Tennessee READs.  “Lucky Day” items are high demand titles that are available for immediate checkout.  The loan period is shortened to seven days and only two titles per card are allowed.  Our staffer was delighted to have found two excellent books which she checked out immediately.  She was delighted to have gotten them so quickly!

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