CIFF 2021 Recap

It’s been a couple of months since the Cleveland International Film Festival held their 2021 event. Again this year, all films were available through streaming; they should be back to live and in person beginning on March 30, 2022!

Beth, Mary and I were lucky enough to be able to attend the Film Festival, watching a total of 11 films all together, from around the world, including the film sponsored by Rocky River Public Library, For Madmen Only, directed by Heather Ross.

We chatted about all the movies we watched – you can check it out on our YouTube channel. We really enjoyed all the movies we picked, which is not always the case :).

Beth watched: A Perfectly Normal Family (Denmark, 2020), Games People Play (Finland, 2020), Spaceboy (Belgium, 2020) and Goodbye Soviet Union (Estonia, 2020).

Mary watched: Masha (Russia, 2020), Felicita (France, 2020 – available on Amazon Prime), The Tailor (Greece, 2020), and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (U.S., 2020 – available on PBS)

I watched: The Columnist (2019) and The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet (Argentina, 2020).

Don’t forget that you can find a lot of independent, CIFF-type movies on Kanopy and Hoopla. In fact, I’m sure you can find some past CIFF films there, too!

This summer, explore some some indie films – you’ll be glad you did!

~ Dori

New Books Tuesday @RRPL

Semanur’s off this week, so I get the fun task of letting you know what books are coming out today!

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn: Joining the elite Bletchley Park codebreaking team during World War II, three women from very different walks of life uncover a spy’s dangerous agenda against a backdrop of the royal wedding of Elizabeth and Philip.

Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson: A portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning scientist explores the impact of James Watson’s The Double Helix on her career and how her team’s invention of CRISPR technology enabled revolutionary DNA-editing approaches to fighting disease.

Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison: Disregarding messages from an anonymous texter who claims her fiancé is not the man he pretends to be, Claire travels to Italy for her destination wedding before harrowing discoveries and accidents expose ominous family secrets. 

2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Eliot Ackerman & James Stavridis: Two former military officers and award-winning authors present a near-future geopolitical thriller that depicts a naval clash between America and Asia in the South China Sea of 2034. Co-written by the National Book Award-nominated author of Waiting for Eden

The Dark Heart of Florence, No. 15 (Lady Emily) by Tasha Alexander: While Colin teams up with a fellow agent to investigate a series of burglaries at his daughter’s palazzo in Florence, Lady Emily secretly launches an inquiry into the falling death of a man in Tuscany.

How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self by Nicole LePera: The expert behind the popular @the.holistic.psychology Instagram account outlines alternative-therapy approaches to improving mental, physical and spiritual health by tapping the power of the self to overcome trauma and create a more authentic and fulfilling life. 

Everything After by Jill Santopolo: Helping troubled students navigate personal losses, a university psychologist is forced to reckon with her own painful past when a tragic event compels her to reevaluate her goals, passions and sense of identity.

Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive by Carl Zimmer: The New York Times “Matter” columnist investigates the science community’s conflicting views on what it actually means to be alive as demonstrated by laboratory attempts to recreate life and the examples of particularly remarkable life forms. 

The Little French Bridal Shop by Jennifer Dupee: Renovating an inherited colonial property in her Massachusetts hometown to manage painful losses, Larissa buys a wedding gown as a private joke only to have word of her impending nuptials spread throughout the community. A first novel. 

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green: Documents the decades-long effort to capture the “Last Call Killer” of 1980s and 1990s New York City, discussing how he took advantage of period discrimination to prey upon gay victims against a backdrop of the AIDS epidemic.

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan: The scattered members of a Middle-Eastern clan unite at an ancestral home in Beirut to change a new patriarch’s decision to sell the property, igniting revelations about their family’s past in Lebanon, Syria and the United States. 

The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn: Receiving ominous threats during a 10-year college reunion, Ambrosia and her best friend discover that they are being targeted by an unknown adversary who would exact revenge for a dangerous secret from their past. 

My Heart by Semezdin Mehmedinovic: An intimate work of autobiographical fiction by the author of Sarajevo Blues traces the experiences of a writer who in the wake of a life-risking heart attack reevaluates his past as a member of a Bosnian war refugee family. 

Two Meals a Day: The Simple, Sustainable Strategy to Lose Fat, Reverse Aging, and Break Free from Diet Frustration Forever by Mark Sisson: The New York Times best-selling author of The Primal Blueprint uses his health and fitness expertise to bring you the facts about the latest diet trend: intermittent fasting.

The Hospital: Life, Death and Dollars in a Small American Town by Brian Alexander: The award-winning author of Glass House presents an intimate portrait of a small American hospital to identify the economic and systemic causes of today’s lower life-expectancy rates and poorer health quality. 

My Old Home: A Novel of Exile by Orville Schell: A former Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism dean and Emmy Award-winning PBS producer presents the story of a rare Chinese student at 1950 San Francisco’s Conservatory of Music who upon returning home is confronted by an erratic new government.

Sarahland by Sam Cohen: A debut story collection imagines new origins and futures for its cast of unforgettable protagonists—almost all of whom are named Sarah. 

~ Dori

Discover a New Book Club @RRPL

Some amazing news for 2021 – Roxane Gay is starting The Audacious Book Club and inviting all interested parties to join! Roxane is an award winning fiction and non-fiction author, Twitter goddess and New York Times op-ed contributor. Her books include Bad Feminist, Hunger, Difficult Women, An Untamed State and Black Panther graphic novels. Roxane is brainy, funny, and pointedly insightful.

She’s already announced the list of books but there’s not a lot of details. I’ll keep you posted when I find out more so we can read and explore the titles together with Roxane on future Mondays. First, though, get a copy of January’s title, Black Futures.

JanuaryBlack Futures, edited by Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew (Week of 1/25)
FebruaryDetransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (Week of 2/22)
MarchThe Removed by Brandon Hobson (Week of 3/22)
AprilMilk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (Week of 4/26)
MayLibertie by Kaitlyn Greenridge (Week of 5/24)
JuneOf Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (Week of 6/21)
JulyThe Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade (Week of 7/26)
AugustSomebody’s Daughterby Ashley C. Ford (Week of 8/23)
SeptemberThe Renunciations by Donika Kelly (Week of 9/20)
OctoberThe Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (Week of 10/25)
NovemberSometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be by Nichole Perkins (Week of 11/22)
DecemberAfterparties by Anthony Veasna So (Week of 12/13)

~ Dori

Discover Winter Indoors & Out @RRPL

It’s a new month, a new year, with Winter and the long months of January and February providing a time to either snuggle in for contemplation and calm, or to go outdoors for a chilly adventure. Either way, here are a few books, tips, and links that can guide your journey.

If you want to stay in and stay warm, you can get through the Winter by cooking: bake a pie, sip a hot toddy, roast some vegetables or make a pot of soup. There’s a resurgence of fondue recipes – who can resist dipping things into a big pot of cheese?

What about crafting, putting together food for the birds, learning knitting, or making paper snowflakes?Wouldn’t it be fun to make homemade valentines this year? RealSimple has some punny ideas for adults.

Self-care is essential right now: burn some scented candles, enjoy a bubble bath, drink tea and read (always recommended), try a few puzzles (come and get one at the library) or word games. You just need a blanket, and some fuzzy slippers. It’s also time for some resolutions – they don’t need to be about change, but can just be about learning – taking on a new hobby, signing up for an online class, participating in a book club, or starting seeds from scratch.

If you’re game to venture outdoors, go hiking! The Cleveland Metroparks is beautiful this time of year and they even have a Winter Bucket List that you can participate in!

Grab your binoculars and find what birds live in your neighborhood. While you’re out and about, try to identify animal tracks. Or go out at night and learn about the constellations.

The next time it snows, go take a look at snowflakes up close. Then return inside, snug with a cup of hot chocolate, and read the book Snowflake Bentley, a lovely book about the man who first photographed snowflakes.

The Winter might be long, but there is so much to do!

~ Dori

Dori’s Top Ten of 2020

Yikes – what a year, right? I’ve been caught between not being able to focus on reading at all, with my concentration as slippery as an eel, and total and complete immersion in a book, with a desire to never leave!

What that means in terms of the quantity of books read is that I did not read a lot, but those that I did read I sunk into and they felt like the perfect book to read at the time. Lots of historical fiction, a graphic novel, essays about nature and climate change, and an endearing fable all provided me with an outlet, an escape, or an insightful way to get through this year. I hope you found similar ways to take your mind off 2020. Here’s to getting to 2021!

Hamnet: a Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell: a story about the family of William Shakespeare and the death of his young son, Hamnet, from the plague. The best of historical fiction, O’Farrell tells us the story from multiple perspectives, focusing on Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes.

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel: sad, but expected, the fascinating trilogy about Thomas Cromwell had to end, but it was a riveting journey.

Weather by Jenny Offill: I read this early in pandemic shutdown time and it just was a perfect fit – a meditative look at a woman and her family and her future; funny and prescient.

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza: this is the kind of book that I love – it’s narrated by an art historian in Argentina and each chapter she talks about a piece of art that she’s affected by and weaves the story of the artist and artwork into stories about her life and family in Argentina.

Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley: ok, this may seem like a silly book, a book with talking animals, but it’s not at all cheesy, or sickly sweet. It’s Smiley writing well, a lovely story about what all of us need, love, freedom, respect, and to dream.

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon: I love Yoon’s writing; his latest is set in Cambodia and we see the effects of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War through the eyes of the 3 friends.

Trieste by Dasa Drndic: I picked this up because it was on my list to discard from the collection, then I read about it and took it home and became immersed in the story. I have read many things about the Holocaust, but this one has a new perspective – it’s fiction, but uses historical facts to tell the story of the Holocaust in Northern Italy and children removed from their parents. Challenging but worth it.

Sapiens: A Graphic History, The Birth of Humankind (Vol. 1) by Yuval Noah Harari, Daniel Casanave,  and David Vandermeulen: This book is based on the author’s book Sapiens, which I never read (but should now) and is volume 1 of the story of the evolution of humanity – clever and eye-opening.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King: King’s Euphoria was a favorite of mine a few years back; this one is altogether different – set in the present, a woman writer finding her way.

Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald: MacDonald’s H is for Hawk took the world by storm and this new book of collected essays continues with her focus on the natural world and climate change, with glorious writing to boot.

A joyful holiday season to all –

~ Dori

RRPL Gift Guide – Guest Post!

Who better than the experts in the RRPL Children’s Department to guest host our blog sharing holiday gift ideas! Below you’ll find new book titles, Christmas titles, and a few non-book items as well. Enjoy!

NEW 2020 RELEASES:

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman

The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney

Natalie Portman’s Fables by Natalie Portman

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman

The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling

The Story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Biography Book for New Readers by Susan B. Katz

How We Got to the Moon by John Rocco

Up to My Knees by Grace Lin (and other board books in the Storytelling Math series)

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle

CHRISTMAS BOOKS:

Christmas is Joy by Emma Dodd

5 More Sleeps ‘til Christmas by Jimmy Fallon and Rich Deas

Disney Christmas Storybook Collection

Jingle Jangle: The Invention of Jeronicus by Lyn Sisson-Talbert and David E. Talbert

Here are a few gift ideas as well!

Happy Holidays from RRPL!

~ Dori & the RRPL Children’s Department

RRPL Gift Guide Kickoff

It’s the last day of November and the Black Friday sales are behind us, but there is still plenty of time to shop for holiday gifts. At Rocky River Public Library, we’re in the business of recommending books and movies, music and audiobooks, so we thought we’d spend the next couple of weeks sharing with you some titles we’d like to give, or get, for the 2020 Holiday season.

Below I’ll mainly talk about 2020 books and link them to our catalog so you can read a longer description. If you’re interested in buying the book, go to bookshop.org and they’ll find you a local, independent bookstore to order from. We want to support our independent bookstores!

First, for anyone on your list who likes to DIY or who has spent their pandemic time learning new skills, check out Storey’s Curious Compendium of Practical and Obscure Skills: 214 Things You can Actually Learn How to Do, an oversized book with images and step-by-step instructions. Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers, and Cocktail Party Snacks by Maria Del Mar Sacasa would make any cocktail afficionando light up. Me, I hope to get Jacques Pepin’s new cookbook Quick & Simple, which is how I like to cook right now.

For lovers of historical fiction, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a fascinating look at the family of William Shakespeare, particularly his wife, Agnes, an expert in nature and cures. It’s perfect for a winter lie-in (the audiobook is also very well done). I’m going to give my daughter an oldie, but one of my favorites, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, the story of a former slave who becomes a slaveholder; it’s become a classic.

For scifi/fantasy fans, I’ve recently read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and this story of a woman who makes a deal with the Devil will mesmerize you. Again, the audiobook is stellar, so hop to it! Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarer Series, has a new addition to the series coming out next year, so now’s the time to buy your space-loving, fantasy adoring giftee the 3 previous volumes – it’s fun, character-rich, and so so good!

If your recepient is interested in the state of the world, politics or, searing experiences, please give them Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar. I also really love the writing of Paul Yoon, who’s Run Me to Earth follows a group of 3 friends in Laos during and after the Vietnam War. If non-fiction is their bag, try Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, described as, an “Instant American Classic”.

I love a good crime novel or thriller. The Searcher by Tana French brings a Chicago police detective to Ireland, where all is not fairies and rainbows. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is altogether different, a funny murder mystery starring retirees. Both would make great gifts for your mystery loving pals.

I’ll finish up with some more books that I’d like for Christmas, as well as a few I’m going to buy for family and friends.

I love the great outdoors and would be so happy to get a copy of Robert McFarlane’s Lost Spells, with poetry and art to inspire. Other nature books that I’d like to receive are World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald (she of H is for Hawk).

I gave my daughter Say Nothing by Patrick Keefe last year, and she then took a deep dive into “The Troubles” and Irish politics. I thought I’d add Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen to her gifts this year; it’s lighter, , about an autistic young woman who lives in a town in Northern Ireland still affected by “The Troubles” For my son, who has been reading Anna Karenina, but also loves Murakami and history, I will buy the 2020 National Book Award Winner for Translated Fiction, Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Marie. Or maybe the non-fiction award winner, The Dead are Arising, a Life of Malcom X. Wait, I think he’d really like Vassily Grossman’s, republished classic, Life and Fate. Oh what to buy?!?

And to close, you couldn’t do better than to give The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories: From Hans Christian Anderson to Angela Carter, “…a collection of the most magical, moving, chilling and surprising Christmas stories from around the world, taking us from frozen Nordic woods to glittering Paris, a New York speakeasy to an English country house, bustling Lagos to midnight mass in Rio, and even outer space.”

Have a beautiful, peaceful, and loving holiday season.

~ Dori

Reconnect@RRPL – We Read Together, We Stand Together Reading Challenge

Beginning in September, we invited patrons to join us in a reading challenge. It’s not too late to get started, however! First, join Beanstack, or sign in if you’ve already created an account. Then read any book that fits within the following 10 topics: African-American Voices, Asian-American Voices, Diverse Abilities, Female Voices, Hispanic-American Voices, Immigration, LGBTQ+ Voices, Native American Voices, Social Injustice, and Voices Experiencing Poverty and Homelessness.

Within each category, you are asked to look at the lists of books provided and read and share the name of one book you’ve read in that category. Then you earn a ticket to enter a drawing to win a gift card from the following businesses: The One World Shop, Al-Pita, Brown Sugar Thai, Southern Cafe West, and the Vegan Donut Company.

Starting today, visit the library, where we will have a display of titles and book lists so that you can find a book to get started. Also, check out Shannon’s past blog posts– she lists books and organizations that address difficult topics, from Immigration to Incarceration. The American Library Association’s Celebrating Diversity Recommended Reading is also a place to start.

Over the next weeks, I’ll share a few titles that I’ve personally read that fit into these categories, starting with African-American voices:

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Beloved or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
The Fifth Season series by N.K. Jemisin
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Americanah by
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride


Hope to see your choices in our Reading Challenge; when we read together and share together, we stand together.

~ Dori


5Days4Democracy – Why Democracy?

Why democracy? This is a question that has been wrestled with since the Greeks first introduced a system of political reforms called demokratia, or “rule by the people” (from demos, “the people,” and kratos, or “power”). Today, we think of democracy as giving each person a voice, but in Ancient Greek only males had a voice, and, of course, only males with a certain amount of property and social status.

We’ve come quite a long way since some Ancient Greeks gathered to discuss their fates in the square of Athens. Modern democracies help to ensure that oppressed groups who would otherwise be excluded from politics have their voices heard – they can vote for policies and people they believe in. Modern democracies are also flexible; they have built-in checks and balances forcing regular electoral turnover and are able to adjust as society changes.

American democracy, due to geographic and population limitations, was formed as an indirect, representative democracy – we elect representatives who we think will give us a voice in our government. This however, means that we have to participate as citizens. At the very least, we have to vote, but citizenship also requires being aware of who is running, not just in the national elections, but in our local school board or city council elections. Democracy functions best when citizens are involved.

Overlapping silhouettes of Hands in a watercolour texture.

Why democracy? It gives us a voice – but to have that voice, we have to put in the work. National Voter Registration Day just passed, but you have until 10/5/2020 to register to vote before the November 3rd election. You can do that online here, print a blank form here or stop in at your local library to pick up a form. For additional information on voter registration or mail-in voting, check out RRPL’s 2020 General Election information page – or give us a call – we’ll be glad to answer your questions.

To get started researching who is running, try Ballotpedia; it’s a great source for non-partisan election information. It allows you to look up your ballot, find candidates in national and local elections, and take an in-depth look at candidates’ positions. Judge4Yourself provides independent non-partisan ratings of judicial candidates before every election. If you want to dig a little deeper, here are some other ways to participate in our democracy (from AARP.com):

  • Check out candidates’ websites – see what their stances are on issues you’re concerned about.
  • If one of the candidates is an incumbent in the House of Representatives or Senate, go to Congress.gov and research their voting records, find out what issues they concentrate on, and how to contact them.
  • Attend campaign events, including town halls (or participate in them  by phone or online) and informal coffees and other stops the candidates might be making in your community. Local party offices, public libraries and other community organizations usually have information on such events.
  • Find the campaign office and call or drop in. Candidates want your vote. Make them work for it. Ask to speak to the candidate or her or his representative and get your questions answered about the issues that matter to you.
  • Check the candidates’ answers on important issues. Factcheck.org, which is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, keeps track of candidates’ statements and claims.

Why democracy? Our democracy will work best if all Americans can have full and equal access to participation – and if all Americans participate fully.

~ Dori