What to Read During Hispanic Heritage Month

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion. It is also the subject of the December 17th meeting of our horror book discussion group, Novel Scares. Register now to join us, via Zoom.

Virtual Book Club – Readalikes for The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

If you follow publishing news, then you know that the #1 New York Times bestselling Own Voices novel The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett has been generating a ton of buzz in the literary world. But that also means that the holds list for it at the library is long … very long. So while you wait for your prized copy of the book, we thought we’d put together a list of similar titles for you to read!

If you’ve never heard of The Vanishing Half, no problem! The book stars Black twin sisters: one who lives as a Black woman in the town where they grew up, and the other who passes as white, with a white husband who has no idea she is Black. Both have children, and who knows what will happen when their lives intersect. This is a timely novel and deserves all of the praise it’s been getting, but it may be difficult to get your hands on it at the library any time soon.

Click any of the readalike book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. You can find The Vanishing Half on Overdrive here. We guarantee that any of the books below will come in faster!

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

In a near-future South where an increasing number of people with dark skin endure cosmetic procedures to pass as white, a father embarks on an obsessive quest to protect his son, who bears a dark, spreading birthmark.

We Cast a Shadow Overdrive link


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in 18th-century Ghana and experience profoundly different lives and legacies throughout subsequent generations marked by wealth, slavery, war, coal mining, the Great Migration and the realities of 20th-century Harlem.

Homegoing Overdrive link


The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy 

Learning after a half-century of family life that their house on Detroit’s East Side is worth only a fraction of its mortgage, the members of the Turner family gather to reckon with their pasts and decide the house’s fate.

The Turner House Hoopla link

The Turner House Overdrive link

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Explores the legacy of racial disparity in the South through the story of three generations of an African American family in New Orleans.

A Kind of Freedom Hoopla link

A Kind of Freedom Overdrive link

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

In 1980s Atlanta, James Witherspoon is living a double life. He has two families, a public one and a secret one. When the daughters from each family become friends, James’ secrets are revealed and lives are changed forever.

Silver Sparrow Hoopla link

Silver Sparrow Overdrive link

All plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Join us next week for another installment of the Virtual Book Club!

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Opioid Crisis

With everything going on in the world, it is easy to forget that Ohio is still in the middle of the opioid epidemic. Ohio is considered “ground zero” in the ongoing crisis, so for this week’s virtual book club, we thought we’d spotlight books to start the conversation, as well as local organizations that need your help and further information and reading from various authorities on the matter. 

Click on any of the book covers below to be taken to the library’s catalog, where you can place a hold on any of the books with your library card number and PIN. Links to our ebook service Overdrive have been included where available. 

Books to start the conversation:

Title: This is Ohio : the overdose crisis and the front lines of a new America
Author: Shuler, Jack
Note: This Is Ohio will be released on Sept. 8, 2020.

Local organizations: 

St. Vincent Charity Rosary Hall 

Salvation Army Harbor Light

Hitchcock Center for Women

Stella Maris 

Community Assessment and Treatment Services 

More information: 

Ohio State University Extension has an extensive page of resources on the opiate epidemic in Ohio. You can also find facts on statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse here. Lastly, Ohio Guidestone, an addiction treatment center, has an article with sobering facts on the opioid crisis in Ohio.

Stay tuned next Sunday for our next virtual book club post! 

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Incarceration

This week in social justice topics, we’re looking at mass incarceration, reentry, and recidivism. While people of all races are incarcerated, African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites, so many of the books below deal specifically with the Black experience (for more information, see the NAACP’s Crimincal Justice Fact Sheet). To see our past virtual book club post on racism, click here. These two virtual book club posts go hand in hand.

Below we’ve got books to start the discussion, local organizations that need your aid, and further recommended reading. To check out any of the books below, have your library card number and PIN ready, and click on one of the book covers to be taken to Hoopla, one of our ebook services. From there, you can check out your book at any time, with no holds lists and no waiting! 

Books to start the discussion: 

Local organizations to support: 

North Star Neighborhood Reentry Resource Center

Aspire Greater Cleveland

Cleveland Eastside Ex-Offender Coalition

Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry

Oriana House

Further resources: 

The question of mass incarceration is a complicated one. For some quick facts and figures on reentry and recidivism, check out The Challenges of Prisoner Reentry: Facts and Figures from the Urban Institute, a fact sheet on Barriers to Successful Re-entry of Formerly Incarcerated People, and a former incarcerated person’s personal account of reentry from the ACLU.

Check back next Sunday for our next difficult topic in social justice! 

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Immigration

Welcome back to the virtual book club on difficult topics – we hope that these resources have helped spark conversations and new ideas for all of you! This week, we’re looking at another facet in the social justice sphere – immigration. Specifically, that of undocumented immigrants and people of color.  

As always, we’ve got a list of books to start your reading journey, local organizations that could use your support, and more reading to further the conversation. Click on any of the book covers below to be taken to Hoopla, one of our emedia sites. Just log in with your library card number and PIN, and you’re ready to go! 

Books to start the conversation: 

Local Organizations to Support: 

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

Hope Center for Refugees and Immigrants

Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland  

The Refugee Response 

Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland – Migration and Refugee Services

US Citizenship Privilege Checklist: 

  1. Most if not all of the time I am able to surround myself with people who share a common or collective history, who understand the norms of U.S. society, who speak the same language that I do, and who understand my culture.  
  2. I can see my nation as “default” – it is normal, everybody else is “different”.  
  3. I can view my cultural norms as universal.  
  4. I do not know what is like to have war in my homeland.  
  5. I expect people in other countries to speak my language when I travel abroad.  
  6. I can assume everybody knows, or should know, my culture (for example, “American Idol” contestants).  
  7. I can assume no one else has any of the technological advantages I have (for example, assuming others do not know how to use a computer or oven).  
  8. I can easily ignore the fact that most news stories are told from the USAmerican or Western point of view and are not a universal truth.  
  9. I assume everybody wants to live in the United States, since I have been trained to believe is the best place to live (even without universal health care).  
  10. I see people from other countries as inferior to me, even if they are highly educated and successful. 

The list continues here, in the Examples of US Citizenship Privilege document from the University of Michigan. 

For further reading, check out this summary of key findings on immigrants from the Pew Research Center, a teaching guide on refugees from the UN Refugee Agency, and a lesson plan on asylum seekers from the Advocates of Human Rights

Check back next Sunday for more of the virtual book club!

Virtual Book Club – Week 5 – Book Woman

We can’t believe it’s the final week of our May virtual book club already! So in this last Sunday, we’re going to wrap up the discussion of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

If you’re just finding this post today, no worries! Click the link above to get a copy of the book from Hoopla, where it is always available. If you are a little late to join the discussion, you can always go back and comment on the older posts, too, using the ‘virtual book club’ tag. We are so interested to hear what you think about this fascinating work of historical fiction, so please share! Now, let’s get to the discussion questions:

  • What do you think life was like for the people of Troublesome? What are some of the highlights of living in such a remote place? What are some of the challenges the people on Cussy’s library route face?  
  • Back then, entering into a prohibited or interracial marriage in Kentucky was a misdemeanor that could result in incarceration, and we see these racial tensions attempt to sever Cussy and Jackson’s relationship. Discuss antimiscegenation laws and marriage laws. Do you think this kind of prejudice still exists toward interracial couples?  
  • What do you think happens to Cussy, Jackson, Honey, and the other inhabitants of Troublesome after the story ends? Imagine you were Cussy. How would you feel leaving Troublesome for good? 

Questions from the author’s website.

Thank for you joining us on this journey into the hills of Appalachia! We hoped you learned a lot about life in Kentucky during the Great Depression, the Librarian Pack Horse Program, and about Kentucky’s famous Blue People.  

And please make sure to join us for the Summer Reading Program, starting June 6! Find more information here. Check back here at the blog every week for more summer reading posts, book lists, virtual programs, and lots of other fun stuff!

Virtual Book Club – Week 4 – Book Woman

This Memorial Day weekend, we’re talking about another holiday celebration: one that takes place in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.

If you’d like to read along with us, click the link above to go to Hoopla, one of our e-media services. All you need is your card number and PIN to check out a copy of the book – no holds, no waiting! And what better to do over a long weekend stuck at home than to read? Now, let’s get to the discussion…

  • How do you think Cussy feels when she is ostracized at the Independence Day celebration, despite her change of skin color? Can you relate to her feelings of isolation? 
  • If Cussy was alive today, do you think she would still face the same kind of prejudices against her skin color that she did during the Great Depression?
  • Cussy has to deal with the loss of many loved ones in a very short amount of time. How do you think she handles her grief? Which loss was the most difficult for you to read?  

Some questions from the author’s website, some additions by me.

Check back next Sunday for our final week of discussing Book Woman! We’ll post the last batch of discussion questions and close out our virtual book club for May. Whether you comment or just read, we’re happy you’re here!

Virtual Book Club – Week 3 – Book Woman

Hello everyone, it’s time again for our virtual book club! We’re in our third week of talking about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, which you can get right now from Hoopla if you click that link. No waiting, no holds, always available!

This week, we will talk about the community scrapbooks that Cussy makes, as well as a ‘spoilery’ question about Cussy’s genetic condition. Don’t read the second question if you haven’t read about the ‘cure’ for Cussy’s blueness. You’ve been warned!

  • Imagine you were making a community scrapbook like the ones Cussy distributes to the people of Troublesome. What would you include? Do you think these materials were helpful to Cussy’s library patrons?  
  • When Cussy receives the cure for her blueness from Doc, she realizes there’s a price to pay for her white skin and the side effects soon become too much to handle. If you were in Cussy’s shoes, would you sacrifice your health for a chance at “normalcy”? If there weren’t any side effects, do you think Cussy would have continued to take the medication? Would you? 

Questions from the author’s website.

We’re dying to hear what you think in the comment section below! And make sure to check back next Sunday for our next batch of discussion questions and comments.

Check out our new Virtual Book Club!

It’s Sunday. What day of quarantine is it? Who knows – we’ve all been stuck inside for what seems like forever.

We librarians know that you miss all of our face-to-face library programs, but especially our beloved book clubs. So, good news, everyone: we are hosting a virtual book club! And the first book is… drumroll please… Little Fires Everywhere! (Click that title for a direct link to the book in our Overdrive e-book catalog).

Set in our very own Shaker Heights, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a gripping drama of the complicated relationships between Mia Warren, a wandering artist, her daughter Pearl, and the rich family of socialites that are their landlords. The streaming service Hulu also just released their adaptation of the book, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

We’ll be talking about this book through the month of April and will post a few questions to discuss each week on Sunday. If the quarantine continues, we’ll announce a new book at the beginning of May, and so on.

We invite you, our lovely patrons, to make your voices heard in the comments below. Tell us if you think Mia is a scam artist, or if Elena is a crazy stalker! We want to hear it all, but please keep your comments courteous.

Our first questions are: 

  • How would you describe Mrs. Richardson and Mia, the two mothers in this novel? In what ways are they different? Why might the former always be referred to as “Mrs.” rather than Elena, while Mia is always referred to by her first name? Clearly it is done purposely by the author: how does it shape the way we feel about the two women? 
  • Talk about the four Richardson children, Lexi, Trip, Moody, and Izzy. Are any of the four more sympathetic than others? What is their relationship to one another? How does their affluence shape their outlooks on life?

Questions from litlovers.com.

Check back next Sunday for more discussion questions!