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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Club Pick: The Green Road

“I am sorry I can’t invite you home for Christmas because I am Irish and my family is mad.”

Anne Enright in The Green Road serves up a delicious Irish stew, complete with equal portions of sorrow and laughter laced with intricate gravy of compassion.

The novel is divided into two basic parts: leaving and coming home, and when you think about it – that’s every family’s saga.

This particular family consists of Patrick and Rosaleen Madigan and their four children – Dan, Constance, Emmet and Hanna. Though Patrick’s role is largely silent – even while he’s alive – he provides a firm foundation of loving, moral decency. As a mother, Rosaleen, despite her strong love for her children, doles out a daily diet of mixed signals. A compliment is chased with a criticism as though the glare of day could not sustain a ray of encouragement. Disappointment crowns her queenly ways. Nothing is ever completely good. But still the children hover, waiting for that boon of approval and living on it for days.

The story begins with a young Dan announcing his plans to become a priest – which sends the mother into a paroxysm of tears, which water down her Easter dinner, and then to a “horizontal solution” for days. Patrick retreats from the apple pie dessert as well, leaving the rest of the pie and book to be divided between the children and the formidable will of Rosaleen.

They all leave in the next years except Constance. Instead of becoming a priest, Dan heads for New York City where he sells shoes and his Irish charm. And despite, or because of his live-in girlfriend Isabel, he explores the 1980s gay scene that is ricocheting with the frenzy of AIDS. Life and death are chilling bedfellows. With kinetic disregard, he flits dangerously from petal to petal, never stopping long enough to assess or commit.

Constance remains the keeper of home fires, always within reach, always within the smother of resentment. From societal standards, she succeeds, with a loving husband and family, comfortable home, luxury car and an endless longing to drive – anywhere. Emmet roams the world looking for humanity to save from war, hunger, poverty, disease, seeing the suffering of the larger world but unable to salvage relationships in his own bedroom. Hanna strives for a career on stage, lubricating her every possible moment with alcohol. Her relationship with Hugh yields a baby whose birth she describes as “a fight wrapped up in a blanket.” Still she longs for healing, for a firm place to place her feet, for the security of the early days when she snuggled close to her father and smelled “the day’s work: fresh air, diesel, hay, with a memory of cattle in there somewhere and beyond that again the memory of milk.”

So, all the children run. Far. And Rosaleen, now a widow, anchored in the family home, Ardeevin, muses about their ingratitude. To bring her straying flock home, she invites them to Christmas, with the hook that she is going to sell the homestead. Suddenly, all roads lead to home.

Christmas becomes the quintessential formula for dysfunction in a hilarious confluence of grocery shopping, gifts, decorations, food, togetherness. Enright laughs at their foibles, while holding them close in a most loving embrace. At the height of the disruption, Rosaleen flees to the Green Road in despair but finds in the end, among the stars, her children’s love.

Though the book has Irish lens aplenty, the story is brilliantly universal and Rosaleen ends by saying “I should have paid more attention to things.

And we all would do well to pause at that particular pot of gold.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Comic Con fun for all!

What do stormtroopers, an award winning author, board game enthusiasts and food truck aficionados have in common? They all gathered this past Saturday at Chantilly High School and geeked out at Fairfax County Public Library's first ever Library Comic Con.

This free event was a great success and welcomed hundreds of participants. Author and illustrator Gene Luen Yang signed tons of books, and fans and librarians alike swooned over Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and a MacArthur Fellow.



Yang with many of his fans


Attendees played a variety of board games, learned how to craft cosplay costumes, tested their wits with nerd jeopardy and checked out the many vendors selling games, books and delicious treats.


 
 
Check out more photos at Fairfax County Public Library's Flickr page. Were you there? Would you like to see the Library Comic Con become an annual event? Tell us in the comments!

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

5 Yummy Picture Books for Asian American / Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched the culture of the United States. What better way to explore cultural diversity than through stories, art and delicious food?  Most of these fun illustrated books for children include recipes, so you can try cooking the food from the stories at home.

  



Hot, Hot, Roti for Dada-Ji, by F. Zia

Aneel’s grandfather, Dada-ji, amazes him with tall tales of the feats that he could accomplish in his boyhood fueled by the power of his mother’s delicious roti. Motivated by his grandfather’s stories, Aneel decides they simply must make some of this traditional Indian fried bread right away.



A young girl wonders why her mother’s garden doesn’t look like the neighbors' gardens, which are blooming with pretty flowers. Mother explains that they are growing something better than flowers - these odd-looking Chinese vegetables will make the most delicious soup. This book includes a pronunciation guide and a recipe for “ugly vegetable soup.”


Bee-Bim Bop, Linda Sue Park

An eager girl helps her mother make the traditional Korean rice dish Bi-Bim Bop. From a shopping trip for ingredients to setting the table and eating, the story is written in upbeat rhyming text that is ideal for group storytimes. The book also includes the author’s own recipe.





Cora Cooks Pancit, by Dorina K. Lazo

Garbed in her grandfather’s red apron, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama's assistant chef and help make pancit, her favorite Filipino noodle dish. Family and food are intertwined in this charming tale about the trials of being the youngest and smallest family member.


Dumpling Soup, by Jama Kim Rattigan

Set in Hawaii, this story weaves together a variety of cultural traditions as Marisa helps her grandmother make their family’s traditional dumpling soup to celebrate the new year. The dumplings she forms with her novice fingers look a little funny, though – will they taste as good as she remembers? 

Do you have a favorite book that would help people learn more about your culture?  Let us know in the comments field.


-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Fact-Checking Ourselves

Fact checking. Information Literacy. Research. To a librarian, these words and phrases mean essentially the same thing.

Psychologists have been studying the way humans think and why we do what we do in all kinds of situations – from conflict resolution (or lack thereof) to shopping trips to politics – for a long time, both in the lab and in real life. They have found that subtle biases affect the way we interact with information at all levels. Our biases affect what information we take in when learning something new, who we trust and what information we choose to surround ourselves with in the first place, and, ultimately, what we do with the information we have taken in – in both simple and complex situations. Do you understand how your own mind works?

Check out the books below to learn more, along with advice on how to sort through what’s true, what’s partly true and what’s false in the things we know to be true - whether they’re things we have learned ourselves or things others have taught us.





Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

This book breaks the thought process down into two systems – one a faster, intuitive and more emotional response system and the other a slower, deliberating and more logical system – and explains how these two systems shape the way we understand and respond to information.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell

This book focuses on the decisions that people make in what seems like an instant and why some people are better at making good choices in those split-second decisions than others.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You - Eli Pariser

Pariser looks at how sites like Google and Facebook customize results for the individual user based on what they think that user is most likely to click on and how this practice can strengthen biases and keep people from other information.



Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload - Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

Kovach and Rosenstiel examine how journalists think and try to get at what’s true, to help readers better understand and navigate today’s Internet news sources.
 
The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives - Shankar Vedantam
This book examines the cognitive and emotional processes that occur in the unconscious part of the brain, how those hidden responses can be manipulated without conscious awareness, and what individuals can do to compensate for their blind spots.


There are also many great resources here at Fairfax County Public Library that you can use to learn about new subjects and viewpoints and conduct your own fact-checking research. A few that we recommend include:


The Facts on File Guide to Research – Jeff Lenburg
This book explains how to do thorough and accurate research using general research methods and both physical and digital information resources. It includes detailed lists of resources and how to properly cite sources.

The Opposing Viewpoints Series

The many books in this series cover a large quantity of controversial topics, offering both pro and con opinions for each side, selected from respected sources.

The Very Short Introduction Series

The pocket-sized books in this series offer a thorough but short and readable introduction to many different, often challenging, topics.


CQ Researcher [Online resource] Use your Fairfax County Public Library card to login to this searchable collection of articles on current issues. Articles include resources for further research, including a pro/con feature.


-Denise Dolan & Sarah Souther, George Mason Regional Library