Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bookstore Lost and Found

Are you missing Various and Sundry Items?

Many many things get left behind at the store by happy shoppers! To make it easier to reunite Various and Sundry Items with Their People, we'll now be posting pictures here.

Missing something? Check here first. Except credit cards - we won't post pictures of those. You'll have call us. Like, you know, on an actual phone.

If one of these items is yours, stop in to claim it. We'll be more than happy to see it go back out of the store. Once something has been here a few months, we'll donate it.

In our stewardship as of 03/19/2017 are:

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

"Franklinstein" by Sue Landers

The March, 2017 Poetry Is Not a Luxury Book Club selection is Franklinstein by Susan Landers

A place of good blocks and bad blocks and brick roads
and boxwoods. The site
of America’s first gingko tree.
The birthplace of pushpins and Louisa May Alcott.
A place of sparrows and spires and schist

Franklinstein is both poetry and literary nonfiction. Its hybrid poetry/prose genre tells the story of one Philadelphia neighborhood, Germantown—a historic, beloved place, wrestling with legacies of colonialism, racism, and capitalism. Drawing from interviews, historical research, and two divergent but quintessential American texts (The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans), Landers' Franklinstein is a monster readers have not encountered before.

"FRANKLINSTEIN is a church of stained glass truth- telling."—Yolanda Wisher

"In her study of Germantown, Landers derives a poetics of urban history, of being from, really from, a place—Philadelphia—that cuts itself into your skin."—Simone White


Susan Landers on how this collection came to be

At the beginning of this writing I was reading. Reading two books I had never read before: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and The Making of Americans. And as I was reading, I thought: I should make a new book. A new book from pieces. A new book using only Ben’s words and Gertrude’s. And so I did that. For months. Cutting and pasting little pieces. To make a monster. And it was so boring.

It was so boring, my dead thing of parts.

Then the church I grew up in closed. The church where my mother and father were married. The church where they baptized their babies. A church in Philadelphia in the neighborhood where I grew up. A kind of rundown place. A place of row homes and vacants and schist.

And when I went there to see that place—the place that was with me from my very beginning—I thought, this will breathe life into my pieces. This will be the soul of my parents. I thought: if I could write the story of this place and its beginnings, this writing would be the right thing, a kind of living.

This is where my writing began. 

from An interview with Susan Landers in Tinge magazine:  My project started when I could no longer stand the fact that I hadn’t yet read Making of Americans (as a Stein fan) or The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (as a Philadelphian). So, I decided to spend 40 days of my 40th year reading them both and writing down lines that stood out to me — either musically or semantically.

from A review in FemLit Magazine:  In Franklinstein, Susan Landers tells the story of Germantown, a Philadelphia neighborhood. The mixed-genre volume starts as an elegy for a closing church in Germantown. It is at once an ode to this place and a critical scouring of how the history of such places are made.

PhillyVoice explores Germantown with Susan Landers:  It was right around this time, this church [St. Francis of Assisi] I had grown up in, in Germantown, was closing. And I remember appreciating it as a child and said ‘I want to see it before it becomes’ — what I said at the time —  ‘another abandoned building in a neighborhood of abandoned buildings.’ So I wanted to see it before it became this lost space. And when I went down to see it, I realized that interpretation of Germantown was totally wrong. It’s not a place of abandoned buildings, even though there are some, and I realized that Germantown, this place, was really complex. It wears all of its history on its sleeve. You hear the language of the Lenape in the Wissahickon and the street names are all [named after] these Revolutionary War generals. And there’s like an — it’ll be an 18th-century mansion next to a steak and cheese [shop] next to a factory from the industrial revolution. It’s just all [these sights] combined. All these layers. 




of incense and boxwood and brick

pride and bullets and prayer

wisteria and helicopters and figs

turtles and burkas and hacks.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Brief List of Memorable Young Adult Series

I've been spending some time lately curled up with some of my favorite YA series, excellent rereads for comfort and inspiration.  Please see a list of some memorable series below, divided into loose categories.

Please email us to reserve a copy of any of these books!

Alternate History:
Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: World War I with hybrid Darwinist beasties and steam-powered war machines.
  • Finishing School (Etiquette & Espionage) by Gail Carriger: Victorian era with (well-mannered) vampires and werewolves.
  • Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede: Regency England with magic and chocolate.

Historical Fiction:
Chains, Forge, Ashes
  • Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein: Young women flying and imprisoned during World War II.
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: Slavery and loyalty during Revolutionary times.

Fantasy with Kingdom Intrigue:
Graceling Realms covers
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore: How to use one's power to help and not to hurt. The two following books (to read in either order, but Graceling first) have similar focus with different main characters.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: How to survive in court as a secret half-dragon when one's existence is considered an abomination.
  • Provost's Dog/Beka Cooper (Terrier) by Tamora Pierce: How to be fair in one's work for the Provost's Guard and engage in only the right amount of corruption. Takes place 200 years before the Alanna books. (If you prefer espionage, try the Trickster series, about Alanna's daughter.)
  • The Queen's Thief (The Thief) by Megan Whalen Turner: Don't believe everything the narrator says. He's a thief, after all, and kind of sneaky.  5th book coming out in May!

Coming of Age:
    Tiffany Aching books 1-4
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: Learning to speak up about what one really wants.
  • Tiffany Aching (The Wee Free Men) by Terry Pratchett: Learning to be a witch, and how much of that is learning to be oneself.
  • Every Day and Another Day by David Levithan: Learning to navigate sustained human interaction when one wakes up in a different body every day.
  • Annals of the Western Shore (Gifts) by Ursula K. Le Guin: Similar to Graceling -- can one's power be used to create and not destroy? Also similar to Graceling (and to Le Guin's Earthsea series) in that the books focus on separate, though interlocking, stories.
Previously published in the January 2017 Big Blue YA Newsletter.  
For links to recent YA newsletters, see August post "Young Adult Book Club Post-Book-Club Newsletters".

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Yolanda Wisher, "Monk Eats An Afro"

Poetry Is Not a Luxury Book Club
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 @ 7pm

Monk Eats an Afro by Yolanda Wisher

Yolanda's Philly launch party for Monk Eats an Afro at Big Blue Marble is legendary. The store was packed, the music went on for hours, the energy was through the roof and walls, and (we are booksellers after all) the sales were so busy Yolanda had to keep bringing more cases of books out of her car.

And that was before she was named Philadelphia's 3rd Poet Laureate!

Monk Eats an Afro is an extraordinary poetry collection, and Yolanda Wisher is an extraordinary poet. Not only talented, but outrageous, generous, inspired and driven to bring the gifts of poetry to everyone, everywhere.

Below you'll find a collection of resources to help you explore the book and the poet. Read up, because Yolanda will be visiting our book club as we discuss her book!

Cold Front Magazine, Best Poetry Books of 2014:
Yolanda Wisher’s Monk Eats an Afro is the most complete and perfectly constructed book of poems I read in 2014. Each poem seems built ideally unto itself and in the context of the full product. Every single note and line break is perfectly suited to the mood or condition of the poem, and she keeps our attention by fitting the entire manuscript with interludes–“Songs” that are deeply felt, that are deeply musical, and that read like standards
Yolanda Wisher on finding out she was the next Philadelphia Poet Laureate in Philly Voice
 How did you react when you first heard the news that you’d be the next poet laureate?
I danced to a Missy Elliott song on the third floor of my house.

 Philadelphia Neighborhoods, Interview with Yolanda Wisher
Poetry has always been a healing tool. I grew up in a house that was embroiled in some domestic violence and addiction and poetry was my outlet, so I knew what kind of space it was able to create. And I also knew what kind of dreams it could make for me.
So, as much as I can see that and connect with that in other people, regardless of age, I want to support it and guide it and create a space for it. Knowing that not everybody is going to want to be a professional poet, but the tools of poetry, expression, giving form to your emotions and your ideas, all of the little minute things about the craft that I learned as an undergraduate and graduate student can be boiled down to some way of connecting with people, some kind of human relationship.
Poetry Society of America on Yolanda Wisher
Yolanda Wisher's debut collection of poems Monk Eats an Afro is blues: sorrow, soul, rhythm, breath. The poems in this collection coincide with italicized song lyrics (Wisher is a singer and musician, not just a poet). The narrator of these poems often speaks to the reader colloquially (recounting stories, images) then shape-shifting words, sounds, and meanings. "I be the ruby flo / I be the ruby flowin / that jewel / anciently / aggravatin / undulatin..." 

Poetry Foundation on Yolanda Wisher
Wisher’s poems are musical, playful, and brutal, and she infuses spoken language with blues-informed cadence to engage themes of intimacy, power, and identity. In a 2014 interview with Lynn Rosen for the Philadelphia City Paper, Wisher stated, “I definitely saw early on the job of the poet being [to create] a collective and collaborative experience. I love the solitary experience of writing and mulling over and reflecting on things. But something about the exchange, whether it’s through a reading or a workshop, … the communal experience of poetry really speaks to me.”

Publishers Weekly on Monk Eats an Afro
“You are Black/ and have a right to this// this be your fiddle/ claim it,” announces Wisher in her debut collection, a blend of beat and slam poetry, peppered with lullabies and ballads. For all of Wisher’s songsmithing, her poems are strongest for their dexterous mix of gall (“America, you beautiful suitor of indigenous bitches. I am a slaveship and you are a skyscraper”) and lyric restraint (“the trees/ were her lovers/ the wet earth/ her alibi/ she knew the way/ forward/ was going back/ and she gathered us up”).
Hear Yolanda perform some of the poems from Monk Eats an Afro, including "Ruby Flo"

On Immigration and Refugees: Books for Kids and Teens

In the wake of the new president's unethical halt on immigration from select Muslim-majority countries, I am compiling some beautiful and inspiring books that focus, first, on exactly those populations -- Muslim people and/or refugees from the Middle East. They are joined by other books that focus on immigration and different cultures. This is not at all a comprehensive list; at the end, I'm including links to other, similar lists, and some further resources for understanding the issues.

Compiled by Jennifer Sheffield
latest update: 2/9/17

Picture books:

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammad; illustrated by Doug Chayka (2007)
Two kids meet in a refugee camp in Pakistan, each having acquired one of the same pair of shoes. Story of sharing and friendship.
Email us to order.

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle; illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix (2009)
Detailed and gorgeously illustrated account, based on scant available research, of the ways the Muslim community of Paris were able to smuggle Jewish refugees out of the city during the Holocaust.
Email us to order.

Coming to America: A Muslim Family's Story by Bernard Wolf (2003)
Photo-essay about an immigrant family living in New York. Tells the story of their emigration from Egypt while focusing on a year in their life in the U.S.
Email us to order.

Migrant by José Manuel Mateo; illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro (2014)
This detailed fanfold book follows the journey of a kid and his family from Mexico to the United States, through both text in English and Spanish and a single connected narrative illustration.
Email us to order.

Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye (1994)
A Palestinian-American child goes to meet her sitti, or grandmother, who lives halfway around the world.
Email us to order.

Yoko Learns to Read by Rosemary Wells (2012)
With only Japanese picture books at home, Yoko worries that she won't be able to learn to read English as soon as her classmates.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (2001)
Worried about not being accepted at her new school, Unhei announces she will choose a new name. A story of self-acceptance.
Email us to order.

My Dadima Wears a Sari by Kashmira Sheth (2007)
Rupa's grandmother tells wonderful stories about what a sari can do, and shows her the sari she wore to travel to America.
Email us to order.

We Came to America by Faith Ringgold (2016)
Vivid illustration of the diversity of peoples that make up this country. (Including those who were already here.)
Email us to order.

Chapter/Middle Grade books:

The Storyteller's Beads by Jane Kurtz (1998)
Two children, one Christian, one Jewish (and blind), learn to trust each other while fleeing the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2007)
A wordless, detailed, and surreal graphic novel of migration to a partly real, partly fantastical new world.
Email us to order.

The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow (2016)
A story of four kids from different social circles who together develop strange and awkward powers, including a kid who's been ostracized due to made-up fears about his Iranian parentage. Sequel coming in May!
Email us to order.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1989)
A Christian girl helps her Jewish friend's family to escape Denmark during the Holocaust. Based on true history: the Danish resistance managed to rescue nearly all of the Danish Jews.
Email us to order.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (2011)
A verse novel based on the author's experiences as a refugee in Alabama after fleeing the Fall of Saigon: at first speaking no English, and then struggling to find happiness in a new world.
Email us to order.

Young Adult:

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)
Two teens, one a child of Korean immigrants and one trying to halt her whole family's imminent deportation to Jamaica, meet and fall for each other.
Email us to order.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (2015)
Set in the 1930s in both the US and Ethiopia, a story of two kids of different races, raised as siblings after one of their mothers dies, learning to navigate both air flight in peacetime and wartime, and issues of race, gender, and parentage.
Email us to order.

This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barret Osborne (2016)
A nicely accessible history of immigration from the 1500s to almost-present, not shying away from the contradictions and cognitive dissonance that have followed that history over the centuries. Illustrated with photos and historical documents.
Email us to order.

More Young Adult: I also highlighted quite a few Young Adult books (and one for Middle Grade) on these topics in September's YA newsletter. Follow the link for descriptions of the following:

Highlighting: The World Trade Center attacks of 2001 and resulting xenophobia
Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (2009) Email to Order
Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes (2016) Email to Order

Highlighting: Arabic/Muslim kids
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye (1999) Email to Order
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (2013/2014) Email to Order

Highlighting: Immigration and refugees
Surviving Santiago by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (2015) Email to Order
Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peña (2008) Email to Order
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (2007) Email to Order
Outcasts United by Warren St. John (2009/2012) Email to Order

Additional lists and resources:

Books to Help Kids Understand What It’s Like to Be a Refugee by author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Young Adult and Middle Grade Reads from & about Countries from Trump’s Travel Ban by Kelly Jensen at Book Riot (2017)
I'm Your Neighbor Books, a searchable database of books portraying the contemporary immigrant and refugee experience.
Ten Middle Grade Books that Reflect the US Immigration Experience by librarian Natalie Dias Lorenzi (2012)
Children's Books about the Refugee/Immigrant Experience from Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS)
Contemporary Immigrant Experiences in Children’s Books from the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) of the American Library Association (2006)
Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff from Teaching Tolerance
Fact Sheet for Refugee Week 2016 from the British Red Cross
8 educational resources to better understand the refugee crisis from Amnesty International (2015)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Look" by Solmaz Sharif

Let it matter what we call a thing

The Poetry is Not a Luxury Book Club January selection is Look by Solmaz Sharif. 

Look is an astonishing first book that asks us to see the ongoing costs of war as the unbearable losses of human lives and also the insidious abuses against our everyday speech. In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, and sequences, Sharif assembles her family’s and her own fragmented narratives in the aftermath of warfare. Those repercussions echo into the present day, in the grief for those killed, in America’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the discriminations endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter.

In Look, Sharif, who was born in Istanbul to Iranian parents who fled the country after the 1979 revolution, appropriates terms from the United States Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, which appear in small caps in a majority of Look’s poems. Through careful juxtaposition of military language designed to disguise and discount human life and of the lives of her family, Sharif makes private moments of everyday life precarious—a “thermal shadow” marks sexual intimacy deadly in “Look” and a “permanent echo” rebounds less divinely than ominously through the acoustically designed domes of Masjid-e Imam in “Break-Up.” In her most powerful political poems, among them “Safe House,” “Deception Story,” and the elegiac “Personal Effects,” the technique tears through the expected discourse put forth by the America government and media, forcing readers to confront the personal realities that grow out of seemingly distant policy decisions.

Below you'll find links to articles and review to help you more fully explore this amazing collection.

Look is:
A Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry
One of The New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2016
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016
A Washington Post Best Poetry Collection of 2016
One of The New Yorker's Books We Loved in 2016
One of the San Francisco Chronicle's 100 Recommended Books of 2016
Click here for a video of Sharif reading from the collection at the 2016 National Book Awards 
Click here to read the title poem "Look" on PEN America
Solmaz Sharif in an interview with the National Book Award on who she wrote this book for:  
I wrote Look for the dead. For the displaced. For myself and my own outrage and perceived powerlessness. For history, believing that somewhere in our literary record, this outrage, this grief, this Mustapha Mohammad Khalaf, 15 months old must be registered, that the history of the “Wars on Terror” should not be left to the generals and the embedded journalists. read more
Lisa Higgs, in the Kenyon Review Online, writing about Sharif's use of "I" in the poems:
Sharif’s use of first-person in her collection invites readers into points of view that have largely been ignored, with the “I’s” as likely to be an intelligence officer or a battlefield soldier as the poet herself. At first, the effect is disorienting—who is talking, and to whom? Is it the poet as herself or the poet as persona? Am I the intended “I” in these poems? read more

Brandon Amico in The Rumpus on the forms Sharif uses in the poems:
Formally, the poems in Look defy expectation, and in some cases easy categorization—indeed, it appears that a static and predictable form might be seen as a form of creative oppression (“What is fascism? / a student asked me … The sonnet, / I said” – from “Force Visibility”). The poems reflect and channel the energy of a speaker that is agitated, uncomfortable with the way the world is shaped around her, and is actively attempting to enact change. They shift between thin, enjambed columns and prose; they take the shape of definitions or short encyclopedia articles; some have lines that stretch or alternate between the page’s left and right margins, that braid narratives; others make ample use of white space, lists, indentations, even erasure. read more