Virtual Book Club – #OwnVoices Alternatives to American Dirt

While the book American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins has had its share of success – debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, selected for Oprah’s book club – it has also had a quite large (and justified) share of controversy. It is a novel about the experiences of a Mexican migrant, written by a white American woman, praised by many review sites for being an ‘authentic’ novel about the border crisis.

What this novel actually does is steal the spotlight from books written by Latinx and Mexican authors. For more information on the controversy, click here. In light of this, as our patrons are starting to come back to the library and may want to read Cummins’ book, we thought we’d share some excellent alternatives that are written by members of the Latinx community.

For all of the books below, click on the cover to be taken to our catalog, where you can place the book on hold with your library card number and PIN. Links to our ebook services have been included where available.

Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

An award-winning poet chronicles his experiences of growing up undocumented in the United States, describing how his family and his attempt to establish an adult life were heartbreakingly complicated by racist policies. 

Overdrive link



Where We Come From by Oscar Casares

Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares 

Moving to his godmother’s volatile Texas border town after his mother’s sudden death, a 12-year-old Mexican-American boy discovers a young illegal immigrant taking shelter in his godmother’s home before their shared desire for independence puts all of them at risk. 



Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras 

Follows a sheltered girl and a teen maid, who forge an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both amid the violence of 1990s Columbia. 

Overdrive link



Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine  

A debut story collection about female relationships and the deep-rooted truths of our homelands features Latina protagonists of indigenous descent who cautiously navigate the violence and changes in a Denver, Colorado community. 

Overdrive link



With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Navigating the challenges of finishing high school while caring for a daughter, talented cook Emoni Santiago struggles with a lack of time and money that complicate her dream of working in a professional kitchen. 

Overdrive link


All plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Join us next Sunday for the next installment of the virtual book club!

Virtual Book Club – Readalikes for Where the Crawdads Sing

Still trying to get a copy of 2018’s smash hit novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens? Us too! Don’t know what Crawdads is about? We’ve got you there too: viewed with suspicion in the aftermath of a tragedy, a beautiful hermit who has survived for years in a marsh becomes targeted by unthinkable forces. This book has topped the New York Times Bestseller list for over 30 weeks and was also selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club.

While you wait, try one of the novels below! They are recommended by our librarians as being similar in feel to Crawdads. Click any book cover for a link to our library catalog, where you can put the book on hold with your library card number and PIN. And we know they’ll probably come in faster than Crawdads! Links to our ebook services have been included where available. 

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Her world upended by the death of a beloved artist uncle who was the only person who understood her, fourteen-year-old June is mailed a teapot by her uncle’s grieving friend, with whom June forges a poignant relationship. 

Overdrive link





My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Enduring an isolated existence after the death of her mother, 14-year-old Turtle roams the rocky shores and tide pools of the California coast and refutes every outside attempt to engage her before an unexpected friendship with a newcomer helps her realize the vulnerabilities of her life with her charismatic father.

Overdrive link


Let's No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda

Let’s No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda

A teenage girl squatting in an abandoned boathouse with her disgraced college professor father in the swamps of the American South begins an unbalanced relationship with the rich, bratty son of a developer who has bought the property. 





A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Jess Hall, growing up deep in the heart of an unassuming mountain town that believes in protecting its own, is plunged into an adulthood for which he is not prepared when his autistic older brother, Stump, sneaks a look at something he isn’t supposed to, which has catastrophic repercussions. 

Overdrive link



Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Coming of age in a dwindling 1960s farming community in eastern Pennsylvania, Mimi struggles with profound family secrets and the pain of falling in love with the wrong person against a backdrop of dynamic historical periods.

Overdrive link





All book summaries courtesy of Novelist. Check back next Sunday for our next ‘Readalikes’ 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 – Native American Voices

For this week’s virtual book club, we’re looking at books written by indigenous peoples. What better time than now, especially with the controversy around changing the name of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Though the First Nations peoples who lived in Ohio were largely forced out of the state by settlers, it is estimated that 0.3% of Ohio’s population is American Indian – around 350,000 people, or the total population of Toledo. Find more information here, from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Below we’ve got books to start the discussion, local organizations that need your support, and some more information about the Native American mascot debate. Click on any title to be taken to our catalog, where you can put a hold on the book to be picked up at the Library. Hoopla links are included in the captions where available, and as always, books from Hoopla are ready whenever you are with your library card number and PIN. 

Books to start the discussion 

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
The Only Good Indians: a Novel by Stephen Graham Jones

Local organizations to support: 

Lake Erie Native American Council

Cleveland American Indian Movement

North American Indian Cultural Center

Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance

Lake Erie Professional Chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society

More information:  

For more information on the psychosocial effects of Native American mascots, see this scientific journal article from Race Ethnicity and Education, here. The American Psychological Association has also recommended the retirement of these mascots, which you can find here. Lastly, find here an opinion column on Native American mascots published last week on Cleveland.com.

Check back next week for another installment of our virtual book club on difficult topics!

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 – Poverty and Homelessness

For July’s virtual book club, we’ve decided to continue our series on difficult topics – this week’s is homelessness and poverty. We’ve curated a book list to spark ideas and conversations, local organizations that need your help and support, and a list of questions and resources to help you examine your own privilege.

If you’d like to check out any of the books below, just click on the cover to be taken to Hoopla, one of our e-book platforms. All you need is your library card and PIN, and you can check any of them out at any time, no waiting!

Books to start the conversation:

Local organizations to support:

The City Mission

Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

Family Promise of Greater Cleveland

Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program

A Place 4 Me

Focus Cleveland

Examples of Socioeconomic (Class) Privilege:

  1. I assume I will be able to meet my basic needs. I take having necessities for
    granted.
  2. I buy what I need and want without worry. I can afford luxury items easily.
  3. I do not fear being hungry or homeless.
  4. I am free of the burden of debt.
  5. I have the freedom to waste.
  6. I can manage to know only people of similar class background by exclusively
    frequenting places where such people gather — neighborhoods, schools, clubs,
    workplaces, etc.
  7. I evaluate others and recognize those of similar class background because I was
    taught to do that kind of evaluation.
  8. I can avoid spending time with people whom I am trained or have learned to
    mistrust and who may have learned to mistrust my kind.
  9. I can hide family secrets and family failures behind the doors of my home.
  10. I am in control of how I spend my time.

The list continues here, in the “Examples of Socioeconomic Status (“Class”) Privilege” document from the University of Michigan.

Find more information on the homeless and homelessness here, from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Check back next Sunday for a new reading list on another topic that deserves our attention!

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 – Difficult Topics – Feminism

For our third week of the virtual book club on difficult topics, we want to focus on women and feminism. Why is that? Partly because of this statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“In 2018, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings that were 81 percent of the earnings of male fulltime wage and salary workers.”

– from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Highlights of Women’s Earnings 2018”

Even in 2020, women’s work isn’t valued as much as men’s – and the disparity is even worse for women of color. 

Below are books that we thought would shine a light on the experience of women in the United States. Every one is available right now from Hoopla – no holds, no waiting. All you need is your library card number and PIN. We’re also including local women-focused organizations here in Cleveland, as well as a ‘privilege checklist’ to get you thinking.  

Every Sunday in June, we’ll be sharing curated book lists on difficult topics, organizations in the area to support, and more resources to explore. 

Books to start the conversation: 

Local organizations to support: 

The City Mission

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

League of Women Voters Ohio

Renee Jones Empowerment Center

Women’s Recovery Center

YWCA Greater Cleveland

Male Privilege Checklist: 

  1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favour. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed. [However, men who appear to come from poverty or the working class are much more likely to be turned away from a prestigious job than a middle class or wealthier-appearing man.] 
  1. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true. [This is far more true for white men than for many men of color.] 
  1. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex. [But may well be due to my race or ethnicity, if I’m not white.] 
  1. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities. [“Black mark” is part of racist speech. Black Monday, black mark, black sheep of the family: all generate negative associations with blackness and Blackness. See Dreaming The Dark, by Starhawk, for more on this.] 
  1. The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible. [This is much more likely to be the case for men perceived to be heterosexual.] 

The list continues here, in the Male Privilege Checklist from Arizona State University. 

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Race and Racism

In light of everything going on in the world right now, we’ve decided to pivot from choosing just one book to discuss for a whole month to sharing curated lists of books on difficult topics. Every Sunday, we’ll be linking books to help start kick-start discussion on challenging topics, as well as including links to local organizations that need your support.  We know that these conversations will be hard, and they will make people uncomfortable, but we believe that they are important to have.

To start, we’ll be looking at race and racism, especially racism that predominantly affects Black people in America. All of the items below can be  checked out right now from Hoopla with your library card and PIN – just click on the book cover!

Books to start the discussion:

Local organizations to support: 

Questions to consider: 

  • What is privilege? Who has it? Who doesn’t? Why do some people have privilege while others don’t?
  • Name some examples of White Privilege.
  • Where do these privileges come from? What can people with privilege do that people without privilege can’t?
  • What is the cost of White Privilege for persons of color? What is the cost of White Privilege for white people?
  • How are issues like education, healthcare, poverty, housing, and economic status relate to White Privilege?
  • How are societal challenges like drugs, crime, failing schools, high drop out rates, and food deserts related to White Privilege?
  • Why is it challenging for white people to think about (and do something about) White Privilege?
  • When did you first realize you were white?
  • How do you see White Privilege demonstrated in media daily?

Questions from Chicago Theological Seminary. Click that link to find their White Privilege Glasses Discussion Guide, which has many helpful links to further reading and discussion.

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!