Winter Reading Bingo: Attend a Program

I will let you in on a secret. One of the easiest squares to fill on our bingo board is this one:

square

A book may take days to finish (possibly weeks, if you read as slowly as I do), but attending a library program? You could knock out that square in an hour.

Here are the exciting events coming up in January and February. I hope you can make it out to at least one of them!

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Vision Poster Workshop
Saturday, January 19 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Registration required.

We will have scissors. And glue. And poster board. And a whooooole lot of magazines. Come think about your goals for the upcoming year, cut out images and words that speak to you, and turn the chaos of what 2019 could be into an inspirational collage.

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Knife Skills Screening
Thursday, January 31 at 7:00 p.m.

Come see the Oscar-nominated short documentary about the Shaker Square restaurant that all of Cleveland is talking about. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with a representative from Edwins Leadership & Restaurant.

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The Oscars Through the Years
Tuesday, February 5 at 7:00 p.m.

Learn the history of the awards and hear what a film scholar thinks about this year’s nominees for Best Picture.

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Tea with Rosa Parks
Monday, February 11 at 7:00 p.m.
Rocky River Memorial Hall (next to the Don Umerley Center)
Registration required.

Celebrate Black History Month by hearing stories from Rosa Parks and Viola Liuzzo about their work in the Civil Rights Movement. Tea and pastries will be served.

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Date Night
Thursday, February 28
Pottery tour begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Grand Reading Room.
Concert begins at 7:15 in the Auditorium.

Is there a more romantic combination than music, Cowan Pottery, and dessert (all for free)? We think not.

Lyndsey

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Lyndsey’s Top 10 in 2018

Hi, I’m Lyndsey. Thanks for taking a moment to scroll through my favorite reads from this year. As with last year, most of my favorites were memoir, nonfiction, and poetry, but some fiction (albeit children’s and teen) made the list too! Enjoy! And please, make sure to tell me if you read a book I recommended. It would make my day!

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller

This book influenced in the way I think about and relate to food and my body. In this memoir, the author commits to unlearning disordered eating and distorted body image. With the help of an Intuitive Eating coach, she figures out how to eat based on her body’s instincts and how to exercise rationally and sustainably. All throughout this process, she examines how her relationship with food and her body was impacted by family, friends, and significant others. I listened to the audiobook, and Kelsey is hilarious, sharp-as-a-whip, and wholly relatable. I highly recommend this book for any person who has been made to feel shame for their body shape or food choices. It is a liberating and empowering read (or listen).

The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright

As a former missionary, I saw a lot of harm done by people claiming to do “God’s work.” This book is an urgent prophetic call to stop that harmful behavior. After living in Costa Rica as a missionary for five years, Jamie Wright pulls back the curtain on missionary life, writing about her experiences and observations. She points the finger at the careless and nonsensical ways of “helping” that sending organizations permitted to happen, veiled by the vague language of “loving on people,” “just showing up,” and “hearing from God.” Her stories about mutually exploitative practices, wasted resources, and underequipped ministers helped clarify the gravity of the harm Christian missionaries can do, if not prepared to serve in careful, sensible, and sustainable ways. Even though the content of the book is serious, Jamie’s voice is fun and entertaining, but also scathing – maybe a little like watching a Trevor Noah routine. While I appreciated the foundation that the beginning chapters laid about Jamie’s early years, the final two sections were ultimately the worthwhile ones.

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

This masterfully-told story tells how four characters – a sweet, shy Filipino American boy, a strong-willed, says-what-she-thinks deaf girl, a mystical Japanese-American girl, and the school bully – cross paths one afternoon in the woods, and how their lives change because of the encounter. This book is everything that a Newberry Medal winner should be: funny, smart, engrossing, poignant, and heartwarming. Hand this to a kid (or adult) who feels afraid or unseen.

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Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

From the glowing reviews this book received, I expected that this book would be engrossing, that I would cry, and that the stories Westover told about her childhood would be haunting, striking, masterfully sequenced, and infused with symbolism. What I didn’t expect was that I would resonate so deeply with her experiences of living with abusive family members who need to get help for their mental health. I applaud Tara for her beautiful, brave book that helped me reflect on my own childhood.

Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley

Spoiler alert: This book will make you very, very mad. Read it anyway. Especially if you’re married or thinking about getting married. It’s about the gendering of household labor and management (what has been termed “emotional labor” by scholars). I am only a few chapters in, but already I see how society’s expectations of women can be an unbearable weight that harms relationships overtime. I appreciate the interviewing and research that went into constructing this book, and I am looking forward to what actions Hartley prescribes for spouses seeking a more equal partnership.

The Poet X: A Novel by Elizabeth Acevedo

This book was so (clap) well (clap) done (clap). Poet Elizabeth Acevedo is a former National Slam Champion, and her poetry is as beautiful and innovative as it is powerful. In this novel in verse, twins Xiomara and Xavier Batista are not just children of Dominican immigrants – they are miracle babies. Their ultra-religious mother prayed for children and conceived them in her old age. Mami has always insisted that Xiomara show her gratefulness to God by living a chaste, humble, devoted life, but Xiomara wants freedom to live outside of the church’s expectations. Mami signed her up for confirmation classes at the church, but she wants to skip and attend poetry club and go on dates. But Xiomara can only hide who she truly is for so long. Pro tip: Listen to the audiobook to hear Acevedo’s striking performances of these poems.

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff

It took me a looooong time (six years) to get around to reading this book, but I’m so glad that I did. David Sheff explores the way he and his family coped with his son Nick’s drug addiction, recovery, and relapses. The story is delivered through a journalist’s eyes, so the narrative is peppered with research about addiction and interviews with doctors and addiction counselors. Sheff’s writing is spare in style, straightforward and raw. We ride the rollercoaster of being an addict’s parent along with David, feeling his desperation, anger, defeat, and finally, acceptance. This book should be required reading for anyone who knows an addict – but it is also a really good story about a complicated father/son relationship.

Citizen Illegal by Jose Olivarez

I am trying to convince you to read every book on my list. And you should. But really, the next book you read should be a book of poetry, and it should be this one. These poems have their fingers on the pulse of the Latinx experience. Olivarez’s poems show us what it’s like to be a Mexican immigrant, or the child of Mexican immigrants, in America. The writing is so smart, and it’s in-your-face, and it’s wonderful. But really, I don’t have to tell you that. Just read for yourself.

Second Bloom by Anya Silver

This is the final book of poems from Guggenheim Fellow Anya Silver who passed away this August after living with cancer. As with all of Anya’s books, the poems are brilliant, beautiful, quietly powerful observations of ordinary life: washing the dishes, finding a bird in the house, biting into a pepper, holding her infant son, and comforting a dying friend during the holidays. Truly, a worthwhile and rewarding collection.

Relish by Lucy Knisley

I have been trying my very best to get into graphic novels, and I was lucky to have picked this one up. There was so much to love here. This is a fascinating and fun autobiographical journey through Lucy Knisley’s childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood through the lens of her food. Each chapter centers around a certain dish (for instance, the author’s trip to Mexico during her teenage years exposed her to Mexican cuisine), and at the end of the chapter, Lucy shows us the step-by-step illustrated instructions of how to make that dish. Of course, the book is not just about food – it’s about having divorced parents, traveling the world, and becoming (and being) a woman.

“Keep the Change” might be the most important film I saw this year.

Something I learned, and continue to learn, as the sister to a brother who has Asperger Syndrome is that autistic people are not typically well understood in North American culture. Maybe this has something to do with who’s doing the storytelling. While a few films about people with autism have been released in recent years, the actors who tell the story aren’t always autistic.

This is what makes Keep the Change—and the fact that it won Best Picture at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival—so important. It is a film about autistic people, based on the lives of real autistic people, played by autistic people. It’s a film that dignifies their lives, validates their experiences, and helps others understand their situations in a way that abled actors couldn’t convey.

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In short, Keep the Change is about David, a thirty-something autistic man who, after telling a cop an inappropriate joke, is mandated to join a social skills group at the Jewish Community Center.

But it is about so much more than that. It’s a story about coming to terms with who you are, when you have long denied that you’re different. It’s about being a person with special needs in a family that looks down on and stigmatizes people who have special needs. It is about becoming part of a group of people like you, and admitting that you need their help. It’s about falling in love with one of those people, and the complications of being in a romantic relationship when you’re autistic (for instance, touching each other affectionately or going out on dates can be confusing and hard).

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One of the words critics are using to describe Keep the Change is “disarming.” And it is that. The characters have brave, difficult conversations about the behavior of and attitudes toward people with special needs. In a particularly wince-worthy scene, David feels ashamed when his girlfriend, not understanding social cues, embarrasses him in front of a group of Broadway actors. He ends up angrily telling her to shut up, further embarrassing everyone present. While the film portrays the characters empathetically and thoughtfully, it doesn’t sugarcoat or romanticize autism.

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The film is also disarming in its sweetness. One scene that brought me to tears was when David took Sarah on a date at Coney Island. The two go on a ride together, and David, feeling overwhelmed by the lights and sounds around him, has a meltdown. Instead of judging him, Sarah gives him a hug. She receives him with tenderness and patience in a way that his family has not.

Another beautiful thing about the film is how vibrant, warm, and genuinely funny the supporting cast of autistic actors are. They are playing real people, not caricatures of autistic people. The joy and power they bring to the film is not something that abled actors playing autistic adults could replicate.

Our society needs stories that dignify and shed light on the lives of autistic people, and Keep the Change is one small but important step in that direction. I am so excited and proud that our library has selected it to be part of our collection.

Lyndsey

Lyndsey’s Top 10 of 2017

Hi, my name is Lyndsey, and I plan events for adults at RRPL. Because of my love for young adult literature, juvenile literature, and poetry, at college I studied to be a high school English teacher and minored in theology, if that gives you any indication where my interests lie. Here are the movies, music, and books I most enjoyed this year.

Books

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When We Were On Fire by Addie Zierman
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This is a beautifully crafted, sharply felt memoir about a girl raised in an aggressive, strange, and at times manipulative Christian 90s youth culture. As her life went on, the author continued to amass church-inflicted wounds at her conservative college, living and working for a Christian organization in China, and trying to settle into a string of bizarre churches. Eventually she became an alcoholic. When she hit rock bottom, she resolved to work through her anger and depression with a trauma counselor and with the support of her husband. Addie’s prose — her symbolism, her way of recreating a scene and dropping you into it — struck chords in me.

 

Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro
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Another memoir. At 23, Dani Shapiro had dropped out of college, began having an affair with a wealthy married man (who happened to be her best friend’s father), and fell into drug addiction. Then came the phone call that changed—and possibly saved—her life: her parents had been in a near-fatal car accident. As Shapiro moves home to take care of her parents and work through her addiction, she meditates on how her isolated, overprotected Orthodox Jewish childhood brought her to this point. Shapiro is a master storyteller, and the scenes she creates last beyond the book’s final page. The self-excavation is so well done.

 


Still by Lauren Winner
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Again, it’s a memoir. Again, it’s about trauma and religion. And again, it’s written by a woman. (Apparently, this year I was all about these types of stories.) After Lauren Winner’s mom dies, her marriage collapses—and so too does her faith. In this honest, smartly written collection of reflections on her “dark night of the soul,” Dr. Winner, who teaches at Duke Divinity school and since the book’s publication became an Episcopal priest, doesn’t let herself settle for easy answers. I just loved her voice: smart, relatable, funny, ballsy, and sometimes, soft.

 


From Nothing and I Watched You Disappear by Anya Krugovoy Silver
Borrow From Nothing in eBook format | Borrow I Watched You Disappear in eBook format

Anya Silver is–hands down–my favorite poet. She is terminally ill and writes about sickness—hers and her friends’—so, so beautifully. Her poems are accessible but deep. When I read her poetry, I don’t feel like I have to put in a ton of work to unlock it. But, the more attention I gave to her language use, the more meaningful the poems are. I got to meet her earlier this year when she gave a reading in Ohio, and she was as lovely as her poems are.

 

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
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It’s 1970. 10 years ago, in 1959, Alaska was made a state, and it forever altered the lives of four children and their parents. Now, those children have become teenagers, and their lives become entangled. When one of the four falls into grave danger, it’s up to the others to step in. Gayle Forman’s blurb said, “Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s Alaska is beautiful and wholly unfamiliar”—and it’s true. Aside from her compellingly drawn characters, The Smell of Other People’s Houses presents us with a side of United States history we haven’t seen before. Alaska comes alive and becomes a character all of its own.

 

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
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Not sure why I didn’t read this book as a kid. It was obvious to me, upon listening to the audiobook, that there is a reason Bud, Not Buddy won pretty much every award known to kid lit: The Newbery Medal, The Coretta Scott King Award, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, IRA Children’s Book Award winner, and on. And on. Christopher Paul Curtis’ narrator, Bud Caldwell, is equal parts perceptiveness and hilarity, and James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and reads the audiobook, makes Bud’s personality even more vibrant. As an adult, there was a lot to love about this story of a brave orphan searching for family during The Great Depression.

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Movies

Their Finest Poster

Their Finest
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With the men off to war, it’s up to Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to write the “slop”—otherwise known as female dialogue—for a WWII propaganda film. As Catrin works on the script, she begins to fall for her co-worker Buckley (Sam Claflin), who is the first man to encourage her as a professional and validate her voice. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that she’s married. Arterton and Claflin are charming and earnest. Bill Nighy turns in a hilarious performance as a vain, aging Hollywood star who is oblivious to his own self-centeredness.

I am Not

I Am Not Your Negro
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I am so glad to have seen this important film. It is not just an autobiographical film about the author and activist James Baldwin, and it’s not just a film about racial tension in the 1960s. It is a haunting and prophetic in the way that it exposes how anti-black sentiment is still operating in our society, embedded not only into our social and political lives, but into our “cultural imagination.” Juxtaposed with footage of modern-day black deaths (Trayvon Martin et al), Baldwin’s words about the deaths of MLK, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evars were chilling.

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Gifted
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This is a fun and light recommendation for watching with family or friends. Mary (Mckenna Grace) is a six-year-old math genius being raised by her Uncle Frank (Chris Evans), a boat mechanic, in a Florida trailer park. Frank decides to enroll Mary in school, because (as he says), her only friends are the landlord (Octavia Spencer) and Fred, their one-eyed cat. One day, Frank’s mother Evelyn shows up and insists that a genius like Mary’s can’t be neglected. She wants to take Mary and give her a “proper,” private education with the best tutors. The film is at its best when Uncle Frank and Mary share the screen. Bring tissues.

 

Music

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A Seat at the Table
by Solange
Borrow a physical copy

I heard a lot of great music this year, but if I had to pick one album to recommend, it would be Solange’s A Seat at the Table. Solange’s soprano a treat. The album’s content (songs about how it feels to be black in America) and the album’s style (ranging from funk to soul to R&B) feel classy and timeless. The album is a work of art. As a white woman, I felt privileged to listen in and take, for a moment, a seat at her table.

Our Eclipse Picks

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Are you ready for the August 21st solar eclipse? Why not get ready by reading a story that features a solar eclipse as an important plot point? Or, you could read a nonfiction title about the history of eclipses. Whether you’re looking to learn or be entertained, we’ve got some recommendations for you!

Every Soul a Star (2008) by Wendy Mass

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Every Soul a Star is an award-winning novel for children and young adults about three teenagers whose totally different lives intersect during a rare total solar eclipse.  The book hops between the first person narration of overweight and unconfident Jack, beautiful and popular Bree, and homeschooled, science-minded Ally.

After failing science class, Jack’s teacher offers him the chance to be his assistant on an eclipse-viewing trip to Moon Shadow campground. At Moon Shadow, he meets the daughter of the campground caretakers, Ally, who loves her nature-saturated life in the Middle of Nowhere, USA. When model-esque, queen bee Bree arrives at camp with her astrophysicist parents, she and Ally learn that they’re going to be switching lives after the eclipse: Bree’s parents will stay at the campground to do research while Ally’s parents take their children to “civilization” to expose them to new cultural experiences. The girls are horrified and begin scheming up ways to stop the switch from happening.

After Jack’s teacher’s wife falls ill and leaves the campground, the three characters band together to continue his work. As their unexpected friendship grows, so does their confidence, sense of wonder, and contentment with their roles in the world.

American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World (2017) by David Baron 

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Interestingly, this book also follows three characters—though, this time, they’re American historical figures who grabbed their telescopes, headed West, and observed the 1878 total eclipse.

James Craig Watson was a “planet hunter” who wanted to prove the popular belief of his day: that there was another planet between the sun and Mercury that the science community dubbed “Vulcan”. Maria Mitchell was a leader of a woman’s college and astronomer who paved the way for many American women to study science. And Thomas Edison was an up-and-coming inventor who wanted to prove that his invention worked. Watson, Mitchell, and Edison’s work, including their observations of the eclipse, put the United States on the radar of the global science community.

In its starred review, Booklist said David Baron brilliantly presents “three larger-than-life figures intent on making their mark” while “transport[ing] us to a remarkable moment that brought a nation together to witness the wonders of the heavens.”

The Strain (2009) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan 

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In this horror novel, Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro and crime novelist Chuck Hogan pair up to imagine what might happen during a solar eclipse–in a universe where vampires exist.

When the story opens, a plane arrives in New York City, touches down, and goes dark. Authorities force open the airplane door and discover all the passengers and crew but four are dead. One of the survivors, an attorney, threatens legal action, and the four survivors are released. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather and his former colleague and lover, Dr. Nora Martinez, are called in to examine the bodies. They find no disease. They do find, however, that a large coffin filled with soil ended up in the plane’s cargo hold.

Meanwhile, a total eclipse occurs over NYC, and a creature stowed on the plane escapes into the city. Over the next 24 hours, the four survivors gradually transform into vampires while many of the seemingly dead passengers disappear from the morgue and return to their families, spreading the vampire virus all over the city. Joined by a motley crew of fighters, Eph and Nora must find a way to stop the infection and save the city—including Eph’s wife and son—before it’s too late.

The Strain is the first of a trilogy of books and has been running as a television series on FX since 2014.

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Mask of the Sun: The Science, History, and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses (2017) by John Dvorak

Get it in print

One part scientific explanation, one part historic snapshot, this book is a fascinating introduction to all things solar eclipse. After giving an overview of how eclipses work (including a four-page illustrated “eclipse primer” that is so so helpful), Dvorak presents an interesting collection of stories and anecdotes that chronicles humanity’s obsession with eclipses. Civilizations in Asia, Europe, Central America, and the Middle East interpreted eclipses as bad omens and devoted a surprising amount of effort to predicting when they would occur. They had sets of rules for what you should and shouldn’t do during an eclipse to avoid becoming unlucky.

The Library Journal gave Mask of the Sun a starred review, noting that the author “does an excellent job of conveying the wonder of eclipses, describing both their historical-cultural value and the inspirational effect they have on people.”

George R. R. Martin Recommends…

Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres on July 16, 2017, and we’re pumped.

So you’ve read the all books, binge-watched seasons 1 – 6, and formed attachments to (some of) the characters. What next? Why not try reading a recent title recommended by GoT author George R. R. Martin himself?

Follow the links to get these recommendations in print, audio, eBook, and eAudiobook from RRPL.

Happy reading!

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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print | audioeBook | eAudio

What Martin said: “The main narrator, an alcoholic who is slowly falling apart, is especially well drawn. It’s a strong story, with a great sense of time and place, and one that had me from start to finish.”

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

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print | audio | eBook | eAudio

What Martin said: “Larson is a journalist who writes non-fiction books that read like novels, real page-turners. This one is no exception. I had known a lot about the Titanic but little about the Lusitania. This filled in those gaps. Larson’s masterpiece remains THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, but this one is pretty darned good too. Thoroughly engrossing.”

Armada by Ernest Cline

Title details for Armada by Ernest Cline - Available

print | audio | eBook | eAudio

What Martin said: “I read an ARC of the long-awaited new novel from Ernie Cline of READY PLAYER ONE fame. ARMADA, like READY PLAYER ONE, is a paean to the video games of a bygone era, and is a tremendous amount of fun for anyone who remembers that time and played those games. (Those who did not may find it incomprehensible, admittedly). Hugely entertaining… though it does make me wonder if we’ll ever see Ernie write something that isn’t about video games. He’s a talented guy, and I am sure that anything he writes would be terrific.”

Lyndsey

Libraries Are Awareness Creators

In observation of mental health awareness month, Rocky River Public Library will welcome author Sakeenah Francis to tell her story of living with paranoid schizophrenia. Ms. Francis will speak on Thursday, May 18 at 7:00 PM.

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The event comes at an opportune time, with mental health appearing often in the headlines. What ramifications, if any, will the change in laws have for those in need of mental health care? Suicide rates are on the rise, while access to mental health care is becoming more limited. The media is buzzing about the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and its glamorized portrayal of suicide.

Our library, like many across the United States, aims to provide informational, educational, recreational, and cultural resources to patrons in the community. To me, community education starts with creating pockets of awareness. Sometimes this means giving patrons an opportunity to learn a skill, like cooking or jewelry making. Sometimes this means preparing patrons to transition well into the next stage of life, such as retirement or college.

Other times, this can mean giving a voice to people at the margins of society, in hopes of humanizing cancer patients or lifting stigmas around mental health. When we give Sakeenah a space to share her story, we are providing patrons an opportunity to become aware of her struggles and empathize with the situation she has found herself in. Same goes for Joanna Connors, a Cleveland writer and survivor of rape and PTSD, who spoke to us in February about her memoir, I Will Find You.

Some have challenged the idea that education can help eliminate stigma. In last week’s Crain’s New York article, How to Eliminate the Stigma Around Mental Illness, researcher and psychology professor Patrick Corrigan said, “Education is grossly overrated for changing the stigma of mental illness, especially for adults. Stigma doesn’t really change much when you go out and tell people what to think.”

While Corrigan didn’t define what, in his opinion, education is or is not, he said that meeting a person with a mental illness is a more effective route to normalizing mental illness and reducing stigma. He encouraged those affected by anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia to “come out everywhere.”

Corrigan seems to separate “formal” education and casual interactions, but I would argue that by providing authors a venue to tell their stories—placing books on our shelves or arranging a visit with an author—we are facilitating a hybrid of formal and casual that makes for deeply personal dialogue.

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Library programs provide just enough structure to form a pocket where awareness can be created and empathy can be extended. I am proud of the library’s role in our community, and my role within the library, where planning programs that encourage community members to listen to one another is all in a day’s work.

Lyndsey