The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern
Review by Maria Colina (Library Assistant)
"There is a book on a shelf in a university library..."
Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea is a love letter to stories and storytelling, and it was one of my favorite reads of 2020.
When Zachary Ezra Rawlins comes across an old, author-less book in his university library, he is enchanted with its stories of lovelorn prisoners and lost cities, but with a turn of the page, Zachary finds himself reading a memory from his own childhood. The impossibility of the book leads him on a magical and whimsical adventure through masquerade balls and subterranean labyrinths filled with stories.
Sometimes a book finds you at just the right time in your life.
I had had an idle daydream about working in a library for some time when I picked up this book. And it was while I was reading it, that this secret fantasy of mine began to solidify into a real possibility.
Now, I won't credit my decision to go back to school to get a Library Science degree entirely on this novel. It's very possible that the timing was a coincidence, but I do love the idea that a book has the power to take us on adventures we never would have dared to consider without them.
Keeper of The Lost Cities (series)
by Shannon Messenger
Review by Elizabeth Przybyla, grade 10 student
One of the saddest misconceptions of the teenage years is that we have to "grow up" and put away childish things, including children's literature. The sad reality is, often we go from living our own stressful dramatic everyday lives, to reading about other's stressful dramatic everyday lives. I am not saying these books are bad or not fun to read sometimes, but the truth is, occasionally it's good to pick up an imaginative children's fantasy and have a little fun. Keeper of the Lost Cities may be written for a middle school audience, but it's clever plot, fanciful ideas, and loveable characters make it timeless. It may be cheesy at times yes, but it also explores deeper themes of betrayal, friendship, and figuring out who you are. The star of the series, Sophie Foster, suddenly figures out that she is an Elf (yes, an elf ;) and proceeds to be ushered into a magical world that is not as perfect as it seems to be. While building friendships and trust, she becomes more confident in who she is and strives to fight for freedom in an epic battle of light against darkness. I suggest this read for anyone who needs to be reminded of the innocence that is left in this world and the good people out there willing to fight for it.
"France is not a racist country." "I have a friend who is Black." "I don't see color." "Focusing on race is what divides us." "I work in a very diverse environment."...
Most of us are able to recognise our own biases and prejudices but few of us see ourselves as racists. And if someone dared to challenge our beliefs about race, it is safe to say we would go in defensive mode. Well, that very defensive response is what author Robin Diangelo calls "white fragility". And she calls all Whites, racists.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and more specifically after the death of George Floyd, debates about racism have fired up. And if you pay attention you can also hear discussion about what it means to be White. Books from authors like Ibram X. Kindi, Jason Reynolds, Layla F. Saad, and Robin Diangelo are filling up people's reading lists. Diangelo's White Fragility: Why it's so hard for White people to talk about racism may be one of the most popular books on the topic right now, possibly the most provocative, and probably the most controversial (see reviews at the end of this text).
For Diangelo, the United States' White supremacist worldview, and as a correlate, the establishment of institutional racism, goes back to the birth of the nation, built around the perception of race and slavery. And because we have been socialised in a racist system we are reproducing racial inequalities. Recognising our biases and prejudices is not enough, we must admit that all White people are racists and have difficulty taking part in the racial conversation.
Diangelo defines the various nuances of racism - structural, color-blind, aversive, implicit, cultural - and gives several examples of the racist behavior and patterns that poison racial interactions and discussion. In the last chapter of the book she attempts to offer ideas and strategies to move forward and interrupt our white fragility such as accepting feedback about our behavior, stop denying and start owning one's racism, developing a positive white identity, and learning how to work together. "Stopping our racist patterns must be more important than working to convince others that we don't have them." (p. 129).
White Fragility is a book written for White people, is US-centric, often uncomfortable to read, may have a reductive view of White people, and can have a certain air of racial condescension. But it adds a powerful and important voice in today's debate on white privilege. May it provoke serious self-reflection, trigger important discussion, and bring some, however minor, behavior changes.
Robin Diangelo is an academic, educator, and author working in the fields of critical discourse analysis and whiteness studies. She is a consultant and trainer on issues of racial and social justice. She is White.
- "White Fragility: A Reading Guide" - Özlem Sensoy and author Robin DiAngelo
- 'White Fragility' Is Everywhere. But Does Antiracism Training Work?" - The New York Times Magazine
- "How Capitalism Drives Cancel Culture" - The Atlantic
- "The Dehumanizing Condescension of White Fragility" - The Atlantic
- The 29 August 2020 issue of New Scientist has a couple of excellent articles on racism.
Here is a small selection of titles about race, racism, and civil rights from our collection.
- Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Ibram X Kendi and Jackson Reynold's
- How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
- March (graphic novel; 3 volumes) by John Lewis, recently deceased
- I can't breathe: A killing on Bay Street by Matt Taibbi
- From Black power to hip hop : racism, nationalism, and feminism - Patricia Hils Collins
- Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
FREEDOM TO READ
or Censoring Censorship
Opinion by Maria Colina
Every year at the end of September, the book community celebrates the freedom to read with Banned Book Week (Sept. 27 - Oct 3, 2020). By highlighting current and historical attempts to censor books in our communities, the aim is to draw attention to the harms of censorship.
That my starting to work in our library coincides with this annual celebration of the freedom to read feels especially felicitous. I have been given an opportunity to flex my literature-teacher-cum-library-professional muscles. In the English classroom our students study the works of Sherman Alexie, Ralph Ellison, J. D. Salinger, and Marjane Satrapi - all authors of works that have found themselves on the list of challenged and banned books throughout the decades. The reasons texts are challenged are often predictable - frequently they are thought to be too violent or sexually explicit.
But in focusing on the objectionable, we ignore the value that literature offers. Literature is a tool that helps our students navigate the sometimes turbulent world around them. Stories of racism, confinement, and overcoming great obstacles situate us in the timeline of human history.
Our curriculums are designed to respect free expression and encourage discourse. As educators, it is our duty to promote open access to ideas and to teach our students to become critical thinkers. We are champions of free access to books and information. I count myself fortunate to have the responsibility of protecting our students' freedom to read.
Please stop by the library to take a look at our Banned Books display, share your thoughts on censorship, and pick up a book that someone doesn't want you to read. Go on, be a rebel!
A COURT OF THORN AND ROSES
by Sarah J. Maas
My introduction to Maas was through a new student who was entering her senior year. She raved about the author and A Court of Thorn And Roses. I love great recommendations...
This modern, romantic retelling of Beauty and the Beast has been marketed for adults because of some of its passionate scenes and violent descriptions. So, it's not for everyone and nor for every taste. Maybe partly due to that warning, but most probably because of her story telling and writing, Maas has been able to gain wide popularity with young adults as well as with adults.
The story is set in an ancient world that is mostly inhabited by Faeries. During one of her hunting outings 19-year old human Feyre ends up killing a large wolf that happens to be a Faerie. Big mistake... For her punishment she is taken to a magical kingdom where she discovers that everything, mostly her survival, comes at a high price.
Some of the titles in the series won the Goodreads Choice Award and the series was a #1 New York Times Bestselling Series. The fifth title is expected to come out in early 2021, and a film adaptation is said to be in the works.
"As a first time reader of Maas, I have to say that her writing style, although slow to begin with, is amazing and so beautiful. The way she writes is so delicate: perhaps the only way I could describe it would be as a piece of lace, so beautiful that it appears so fragile that you daren't touch it (...)
Overall, I have been able to place this novel within the seven books which I have rated five stars so far this year. I loved it so much and advise anyone looking at this review to go and read the book now." HannahLoveBook, teen reviewer for The Guardian
There, you have it. If fairies, a bit of gore, and mature fantasy interest you, be the next one in line to borrow it or put it on hold in Discover, our online catalog.
The library also has House of Earth and Blood by Maas - not part of this series.
Are we more attracted to the genre during pandemics? It would seem so when you see classics fiction reclaiming their places on bestsellers list. The Paris attacks gave renewed popularity to books such as Voltaire's Treatise Against Intolerance, and Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. Now, Albert Camus' The Plague is commanding a lot of renewed attention.
Here are some great recommendations.
A Journal of the Plague Year - Daniel Defoe
A Journal of the Plague Year is a book by Daniel Defoe, first published in March 1722. It is an account of one man's experiences of the year 1665, in which the bubonic plague struck the city of London in what become known as the Great Plague of London.
A love story that ranges from the late nineteenth century to the early decades of our own, tracing the lives of three people and their entwined fates.
The Plague (La peste) - Camus
Chaos prevails when the bubonic plague strikes the Algerian coastal city Oran.
The Stand - Stephen King
The Stand is a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel written by American author Stephen King and first published in 1978 by Doubleday. The plot centers on a pandemic of a weaponized strain of influenza that kills almost the entire world population.
The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton
A satellite crashes near a tiny Arizona town. After everyone in the community dies within days, a few scientists are called upon to study and defeat the alien virus that accompanied the satellite.
Ammonite - Nicola Griffith
In the face of this crisis, anthropologist Marghe Taishan arrives to test a new vaccine. As she risks death to uncover the women's biological secret, she finds that she, too, is changing–and realizes that not only has she found a home on Jeep, but that she alone carries the seeds of its destruction
Blindness - José Saramago
A novel about the chaos that ensues when a city is struck with an epidemic of blindness in which its victims see only white
Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
Jimmy, perhaps the last living human unaltered by science, struggles for survival in a post-apocalyptic world as he tries to make sense of how everything went wrong, mourns the loss of his beloved Oryx, a girl he met through a kiddie porn Web site, and considers the role of his genius friend Crake who had been working on a formula for immortality at the RejoovenEsenseCompound.
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
In a future in which a pandemic has left few survivors, actress Kirsten Raymonde, having witnessed paparazzo-turned-EMT Jeevan Chaudhary try to save the life of actor Arthur Leander after he suffered a heart attack on stage, travels with a troupe performing Shakespeare and finds herself in a community in which a prophet will not let anyone leave alive. Includes subplots about Jeevan as he watches the world change from the pandemic and Arthur before his death.
Find Me - Laura van den Berg
Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune.
A Prayer For the Dying - Stewart O'Nan
Set just after the Civil War, A Prayer for the Dying is the story of a small Wisconsin town gripped by a mysterious, deadly epidemic, and one man desperate to save it. Torn between his loyalty to his family, his faith in God, and his terror of this vicious disease, Jacob Hansen struggles to preserve his sanity amid the chaos and violence around him.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks
Max Brooks, son of actor Mel Brooks, chronicles the fictitious "zombie wars" that nearly decimated the human population, with first-hand accounts from people who have had a brush with the undead and facts and figures documenting how many undead currently roam the planet.
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
A man and a boy, father and son, "each the other's world entire, walk a road in "the ashes of the late world". Cities have been destroyed, plants and animals have died, and few humans survive.The man remembers the world before; as his memories die, so, too dies that world. The boy was born after everything changed...
Why am I reading Apocalyptic novels now? (Agnes Callard, NYT)
Apocalyptic fiction helps us deal with the anxiety of the corona pandemic (The Conversation)
Inversion Aversion de Camille Lebienvenu-Afaf (ASP teacher)
"Je vous invite à entrer dans un monde où les hommes sont emprisonnés, où les femmes règnent sur un univers qu'elles croient parfait, et où pourtant l'amour et la rébellion font leur apparition, aux risques et périls de notre héroïne.
Ceci n'est pas un livre féministe. Ce n'est pas un livre antiféministe. Ce n'est pas une histoire réelle, et pourtant elle n'est pas irréelle non plus (...) je peux vous dire que c'est un roman, un roman avec des personnages attachants un roman qui interroge notre humanité, qui questionne notre monde et ses limites."
Camille Lebienvenu-Afaf enseigne le français à l'American School of Paris. Dans ce premier roman franc et très bien ficelé, l'autrice nous plonge dans un monde dystopique qui se veut d'actualité et ce, pour le meilleur et pour le pire.
Drawndown, Edited by Paul Hawken
"Drawdown describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. For each solution, we describe its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world." (from the drawdown.org website)
The book's sub-title, The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming is ambitious and optimistic, but every solution brought forward seem real and tangible, and the model-based results sound convincing. Drawdown reads extremely well without paternalising the reader. Will a social movement be the answer to most of our environmental problems? The book measures the optimistic in us.Related books in the library:
. Replenish: The virtuous cycle of water and prosperity by Sandra Postel
. Power Trip by Michael E. Webber (reviewed in December)
. On Fire: The burning case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
In his neighbourhood there are three rules:
No. 1. Crying: Don't. / No matter what. / Don't.
No. 2. No snitching: Don't. / No matter what. / Don't.
No. 3. Get revenge: If someone yo love / gets killed, / find the person / who killed / them / and / kill them.
What can happen in sixty seconds...? As Will, fifteen, sets out to avenge his brother Shawn's fatal shooting, various people will board the elevator and reveal truths Will needs to know. Written in verse this powerful and highly praised teen novel delivers a powerful moral message.
Long Way Down received over 30 awards and honors and 4.33/5 stars on Goodreads.
The Testaments & Nickel Boys
More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.
As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.
'Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in.' Margaret Atwood (The Booker Prizes)
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides "physical, intellectual, and moral training" so the delinquent boys in their charge can become "honorable and honest men."
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back." Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King's ringing assertion "Throw us in jail and we will still love you." His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.
The tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys' fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.
Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers. (Publisher)
DECEMBER - POWER TRIP
by Dr. Michael Webber
ERRATUM: There has been a change in dates and Dr. Webber will speak at the American Library in Paris on February 11th.
Power Trip explores how energy has transformed societies of the past and offers wisdom for today's looming energy crisis. There is no magic bullet; energy advances always come with costs. Scientific innovation needs public support. Energy initiatives need to be tailored to individual societies. We must look for long-term solutions. Our current energy crisis is real, but it is solvable. We have the power." From the publisher's website
Dr. Michael Webber is Chief Science & Technology Officer at ENGIE (a global energy & infrastructure services firm headquartered in Paris) and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin... as well as an ASP parent.
- Dr. Webber will speak about Power Trip at the American Library in Paris on February 11th (date was changed). (Click here for more information)
- The Book Review from the New York Times
- Review fom the Wall Street Journal.
NOVEMBER - PERMANENT RECORD
by Edward Snowden
"My name is Edward Joseph Snowden. I used to work for the government, but now I work for the public. It took me three decades to recognise that there was a distinction, and when I did, it got me into a bit of trouble at the office." Opening sentences of the Preface
In the world of Big Brother, there's a before and an after Snowden. In 2013, the then unknown NSA employee disclosed intelligence files that showed the world how the American government was using surveillance on a global scale. Snowden's autobiography is his attempt to contextualise the actions for which he is still paying for. Called a traitor by some, and hailed as a hero by others, Permanent Record tries to set the record straight.
Snowden's 2013 Events Timeline (The Guardian)
OCTOBER - SAT, AP... and Shmoop
'Tis (soon) the season.... for external prep tests. The library offers several SAT subject test books, AP practice tests and a digital resource called Shmoop, a resource we highlight in the body of this month's newsletter.
New this month.
. SAT Math 1 & Math 2
. US History
. AP French Language
. Comparative government and politics
SEPTEMBER 2019 - CITING
Generally we suggest that students use the Modern Language Association citation format, MLA 8, to cite their sources. It's widely known and is fairly straight forward. However, some teachers prefer to use a citation format that is more specific to their field such as Chicago and APA.
To guide students amidst all these styles the library offers various works on MLA 8, APA and Chicago. We've also created a LibGuide (pathfinder) that pertains specifically to MLA 8. Click here to access the page.
Finally, we've added several books on how to write papers in History, which includes chapters on citing... Check this issue of the newsletter and our catalog, Destiny.
Cite Right - 3rd Edition (NEW)
An excellent overview of MLA, APA, Chicago and others with plenty of examples.
The official handbook from the mOdern Language Association.
How to Cite APA [Style]
A Manual for Writers (Chicago) - Ninth Edition (NEW)
Kate L. Turabian
Chicago Manual of Style Guidelines (NEW)
Quick Study Academic