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Pride Month Reads for All Ages

A good library will have books that reflect the entire spectrum of its community. There’s enough space on our shelves for everyone to find reflections of themselves in a book.

For this Pride month, and all year long, celebrate lives too often relegated to the margins of our community. Below are recommendations for all age groups. Find yourself, or someone you know and/or love, in these pages.

Adult fiction

Dead Collections. Isaac Fellman.
This offbeat, moving fantasy features Sol Kats, a trans vampire archivist, who lives in his underground office at the Historical Society of Northern California. Elsie, a widow dropping off her famous husband’s memorabilia for the archive, falls in love with Sol as they work together, piecing together the collection. Heartfelt and humorous, the book follows the couple as they grapple with identity, attraction, and unfinished business.

To Paradise. Hanya Yanagihara.
Yanigihara’s heartbreaking 2015 novel A Little Life cemented her place as a writer of haunting, complex fiction. To Paradise features an intricate dystopian plot, entwined with alternate histories—beginning in 1893 during a lingering Civil War, to 1993 in the terror of the AIDS crisis, and finally to a totalitarian 2094, where homosexuality is forbidden, the press is outlawed, and pandemics sweep the world wave after wave.

Young Mungo. Douglas Stuart.
Following the success of his Booker Prize winning novel Shuggie Bain, Stuart returns with a powerful story of working-class adolescent love in 1980s Scotland—with all the anxiety and passion of a star-crossed pairing. Violence is a constant threat for fifteen-year-old Mungo, who lives in the slums where his brother leads a Protestant gang. Mungo falls in love with James, a Catholic, who offers dreams of peace and refuge, but with the ever-present threat of disclosure and religious violence.

Teen

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester. Maya MacGregor.
Sam, a nonbinary autistic teen, adjusts to life in Oregon following a hate crime in their Montana hometown. But Oregon offers its own chilling reality, when Sam’s family begins wondering whether their new house is haunted by spirits of an unsolved murder, some 30 years ago.

Only on the Weekends. Dean Atta.
Presented in free verse, this novel follows Mack, an openly gay teen of Nigerian descent, as he struggles with teenage insecurities and a love triangle between himself and two other others: Karim, a closeted basketball player, and Fin, a trans activist and social media star.

Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement. Stella Caldwell.
Aimed at young adult readers, this important book describes the challenges and triumphs of LGBTQ+ movements and history, from the ancient world to modern events and icons, like Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson.

Children’s

Obie Is Man Enough. Schuyler Bailar.
Obie, a transgender Korean American, faces discrimination when kicked off the middle school boys’ swimming team. When he joins another swim team, and finds a support network through a therapist and new group of friends, Obie comes into his own and his confidence strengthens.

What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns. Katherine Locke, Anne Passchier.
This picture book follows Ari, a child who isn’t sure which pronouns feel right to describe themselves. Ari and their favorite person, Uncle Lior, consider the different pronouns people in their neighborhood use. This colorful, affirming book serves as a good introduction for kids to gender diversity.

Two Grooms on a Cake. Rob Sanders, Robbie Cathro.
For young readers, this book tells the story of the first legally married same-sex couple in United States history. The figurines on their wedding cake recount the story of their relationship: how they met, how they fell in love, and how their 1971 marriage was later vindicated by Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).

Looking for more?

Further books can be found at this list, or by asking a librarian for more recommendations!

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Since 1978, May has marked the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. Lawmakers chose the month of May to commemorate two significant events: the first Japanese immigrant arrived to America on May 7, 1843, and the First Transcontinental Railroad (largely built by Chinese immigrants) opened May 10, 1869.

To honor those with Asian/Pacific Islander ancestry, we have compiled some books and movies for all ages below. These works recognize the stories and experiences of Asian/Pacific Americans and their contributions to American history and culture.

Adult Fiction

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Ocean Vuong.
Little Dog, a young Vietnamese immigrant, writes this book-length letter to his illiterate mother, examining intersecting issues of race, class, and sexuality—what it means to be a poor, gay immigrant living in the traumatic shadow of the Vietnam War. Vuong, an accomplished poet, uses equally poetic prose, Offers a haunting meditation on family, loss, and love.

Pachinko. Min Jin Lee.
Written by a Korean American author, Pachinko follows a Korean family who immigrate to Japan, following the annexation of their homeland in 1910. Set across the 20th century, this moving historical saga immerses readers in one family’s struggle to outlast the complex forces of history and discrimination.

Interior Chinatown. Charles Yu.
An unconventional family saga, this nonlinear book follows an Asian actor, dreaming of becoming a Hollywood star. Bittersweet. Unconventional. An Asian actor dreams of becoming a star, but is stuck in demeaning roles, like “Generic Asian.” A bittersweet examination on Asian Americans, and how they’re often still seen as foreigners.

Adult Nonfiction

Midnight in Broad Daylight. Pamela Rotner Sakamoto.
During World War II, the Fukuharas found themselves on both sides of the conflict. Sakamoto examines the experiences of this Japanese American family that was torn in two, and shines a light on the Asian American contributions to the war effort, as well as the racism they endured.

The Souls of Yellow Folk: Essays. Wesley Yang.
Already an accomplished essayist, here Yang looks at race and sex in Asian American culture, particularly from the point of view of Asian men. Topics run the gamut from Amy Chua (the self-proclaimed Tiger Mom) to Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

Movies

The Farewell
When her grandmother is diagnosed with cancer, Billi (played by actress-rapper Awkwafina) is troubled by her family’s plan to keep the diagnosis a secret from the family matriarch. An interesting look at the conflict between traditional Chinese values, and the Westernization of young Chinese-Americans.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Trapped by financial woes and the boredom of everyday life, Evelyn Wang awakens to her role in an interdimensional conflict, experiencing a multiverse of unexplored lifepaths while fighting to preserve the love of her family. With callbacks to Asian film classics (kung fu and Wong Kar-Wai, in particular), this is a movie-lover’s delight.

Minari
A Korean-American family moves to Arkansas in the 1980s, pursuing their version of the American dream, struggling with the elements to establish a prosperous farm. When the cheeky, cantankerous, but loving grandmother moves in, everything changes, and the family’s resilience is tested. Starring The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun.

Teen

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea. Axie Oh.
A fantasy inspired by Korean folklore, this story follows Mina in her pursuit to stop the Sea God’s endless assault on her homeland. Equal parts romance and fantasy adventure, Oh’s fast-paced, richly-detailed fable is perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone series and the Empirium trilogy.

Not Here To Be Liked. Michelle Quach.
After accidentally starting a feminist movement while campaigning for the editor-in-chief position of her school paper, Eliza Quan ends up working side-by-side with her former competitor, handsome ex-jock Len. Soon, Eliza catches herself falling for her former rival in this thought-provoking Gen Z rom-com.

The Tiger at Midnight. Swati Teerdhala.
Another fantasy, this one inspired by South Indian culture, Teerdhala presents an atmospheric world of intrigue and assassinations. Kunal and Esha, caught on either side of warring countries, struggle with their forbidden love while performing their duty to king and family. Fast-paced and action-packed.

Children

Amina’s Song. Hena Khan.
A moving look at the Pakistani American experience, Khan’s Amina returns to Wisconsin after visiting family in Pakistan. When performing a songwriting project, Amina must balance her love of Pakistani culture with her classmates’ assumptions. An interesting look at what it means to be caught between worlds.

Prairie Lotus. Linda Sue Park.
Facing both blatant and insidious racism, half-Chinese Hanna and her White father struggle in 1880s Dakota Territory, as her family tries to establish a successful dry goods store. An absorbing, richly detailed historical fiction that has been lauded an instant classic.

Watercress. Andrea Wang, Jason Chin.
A simple but beautiful story about a Chinese-American child, embarrassed by her parents picking roadside watercress during a car ride through Ohio. When her parents talk about the cultural meaning of watercress, the girl realizes the importance of the plant and her heritage. Winner of the Picture Book Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the Caldecott Medal, and Newberry Honor.

Looking for more? Check out these lists below!

Southern Stories, With a Twist

Love Southern Fiction? You’re not alone. Here at DCPL, it’s one of the top genres for checkouts, and every year new titles arrive with buzz and excitement (and a long list of holds). With super-popular titles like Where the Crawdad’s Sing, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, and The Giver of Stars, Southern Fiction has proved it’s here to stay.

But in the past few years, authors have been branching out from the typical Southern genre. With primordial entities lurking in Appalachia, to vampires stalking the suburban streets of Charleston, these stories detour into the darker, stranger parts of the South.

Revelator – Daryl Gregory

Set in the backwoods of Tennessee, Revelator follows the Birch family, whose women have a dark secret: they worship and commune with Ghostdaddy, a god living in the hills of the Smoky Mountains. Stella, the daughter of the Birch family, trained as a child to become one of the family’s revelators, interpreters of Ghostdaddy’s will, but turned away from the god and from her family. Now an adult, she must come to terms with Ghostdaddy’s true intentions, as the next girl chosen as revelator appears.

Pew – Catherine Lacey

In a small Southern town, a family finds a being sleeping in a church. This being has only vague descriptors—no name, no history, ambiguous in gender, age, and race. The family name it Pew—after what it used for a bed. What follows is a week of interaction with the townsfolk, leading up to a Shirley Jackson-esque Forgiveness Festival. Some see Pew as a “new Jesus,” confessing their shortcomings and worries—more often projecting their own prejudices and desires onto the being. The town’s hospitality gradually sours, as Pew faces the alienation and intolerance common in Southern Gothic tales.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires – Grady Hendrix

Housewives in Charleston form a true crime book club to break up the boredom of day-to-day suburban life. When James Harris moves to town, the handsome stranger upends the quiet suburban neighborhood, and soon the book club has a mystery to solve, right next door. See, James avoids the sun, stays up all hours of the night, and has a glib charm like the serial killers in the book club’s reading list. Once children start disappearing, and the menacing truth comes to light, the book club ladies get more excitement than they could possibly bargain for, and must band together to protect the suburbs.

Check out these and more at DCPL!

Top Movies and Fiction by Women

Every year since 1978, we celebrate Women’s History Month during March by looking back at the accomplishments of women and their contributions to society. For this blog entry, we’ll be looking at the books and movies by female writers and directors that have checked out the most at DCPL in the past year.

Most Popular Movies Directed by Women

By some estimates, women make up only about 20-30% of directors. But there have been some important strides in the past few years. Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her 2009 film The Hurt Locker.  Chloé Zhao became the second with last year’s Nomadland, and this year, Jane Campion became the first woman with two nominations. Her latest movie, The Power of the Dog, is nominated for a slew of awards.

Three films directed by women have proved very popular in the past year at DCPL: Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, and Land. All three have risen to the top of the checkout lists, proving female directors are just as capable at creating popular, buzzworthy movies.

Directed by Cate Shortland, Black Widow serves as a sort of prequel to the Avengers. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) confronts dark conspiracies in her rise to become the Black Widow. Since September, it’s checked out nearly 250 times.

Wonder Woman 1984, directed by Patty Jenkins, is the sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman. Set during the Cold War, the film follows Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as she faces Maxwell Lord (a power-hungry businessman) and Cheetah (a geologist-turned-killer). While not as well-received as the first, this movie beat several worldwide streaming records.

Land, directed by and starring Robin Wright, follows an isolated woman suffering with grief after a tragedy, and a hunter who brings her back from the wilderness. Wright is a veteran actor (Forrest Gump, Message in a Bottle, House of Cards), so it’s interesting to see her directorial debut.

Most Popular Fiction Written by Women

Fiction by women always crowds the top of the charts. In the past year, several acclaimed authors have returned with their latest hits.

Kristin Hannah returned with The Four Winds, an epic set in the Great Depression, following a mother’s plight to survive and save her children from poverty. Already celebrated for several romances and historical novels (The Nightingale, The Great Alone, Home Front), each novel by Hannah proves more popular than the last. The Four Winds has checked out over 260 times since its arrival at DCPL.

An instant #1 NYT Best Seller, Laura Dave’s mystery-thriller The Last Thing He Told Me, follows a newlywed whose husband disappears, leaving behind an ominous note. A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick, the novel was also named the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2021 by voters on Goodreads. A movie adaptation is in the works, starring Jennifer Garner in the main role.

Following the success of her novels Nine Perfect Strangers and Big Little Lies (with its popular TV adaptation), it’s no surprise Liane Moriarty returned to the top of the charts with last year’s Apples Never Fall. Another psychological thriller, here Moriarty examines four siblings whose mother has disappeared, with suspicions pointing to their father as the culprit. As always, exciting twists and turns abound.

Check out all more great hits in our catalog at this link.

Black History in Owensboro: Dracin Williams Recommends

During Black History Month each February, we celebrate the joy and honor the struggle of Black Americans. This month, DCPL has been recognizing the Black experience with displays and programming for all ages.

To round out this month with a local connection, we asked local community activist and advocate Dracin Williams for his recommendations of books that have shaped him and give insight into the local African American community. Williams was born and raised on the Westside of Owensboro, in the Mechanicsville and Baptist Town neighborhoods. He believes public libraries are “one of the most important local institutions for all Americans, including African Americans.”

We also asked Williams how DCPL can serve the local African American community more effectively. He believes outreach is important—more extensive programming, like building small libraries in communities with high concentrations of African Americans—H.L. Neblett and Dugan Best, for example. Stepping up our commitment would show that we work and exist for all the people of Owensboro and Daviess County.

Below, you’ll see some of his recommendations that touch on the Black experience, in Owensboro and beyond.

History of Daviess County, Kentucky. Together with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages and Townships, Educational, Religious, Civil, Military, and Political History; Portraits of Prominent Persons, Biographies of Representative Citizens. And an Outline History of Kentucky

“This book is important for Owensboroans to understand their own history, including the plights and investments of diverse groups in the development of our city. After reading this book, I developed a sense of pride in being from and a part of Owensboro.”

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Martin Luther King Jr’s final book prior to his assassination. The book, written in 1967, is relevant more than ever given the current political and social climate in the United States. King presents thoughtful plans and analysis on ways the United States can address important issues around racism, poverty and education.”

The Last Public Execution in America
Perry T. Ryan

“The hanging of Rainey Bethea is one of the more important events in the history of Owensboro and impacted the nation’s view on legalized public executions. As Owensboroans, this book provides an insight into the Owensboro community as it pertains to race. From the book, I got a sense on how vulnerable African Americans were to being targeted by the white community and ways the judicial system was used unfairly.”

 
 
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