Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Zivia's Picks for December

The -Ologies books (Candlewick, $21.99-$24.99)
Everything from Alienology to Wizardology. They have a good feel to them, and I like that they're interactive and full of information.

Dungeons & Dragons materials
From Starter Sets ($19.99) to sets of dice ($5.00), from the Player's Handbook ($49.95) to DM screens ($14.95).

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection (Scholastic, $35.96)
These are good both for learning about the game and as a reference for when you don't have everything in your head.

Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, starting with Stonekeeper (Scholastic, $12.99)
These graphic novels have great illustrations!

Zivia Avelin, December 2016

Nif's Five New Gifts from Continuum Games

Catan: Trade, Build, Settle ($49.99)
(aka Settlers of Catan) A game of cards, dice, and resources.

Mastermind ($15.99)
A game of guessing and logic, with colorful pegs. A bit like Battleship.

Rubik's Cube ($15.00)
Exactly what it sounds like.

Dolphin Magnetic Sculpture ($5.99)
Big magnetic base, many little metal dolphins to balance and do acrobatics on top.

Floating Color Timer/Liquid Layers ($4.99)
Kind of like an egg timer, only more fun, and with colored immiscible liquids instead of sand.

Jennifer Woodfin, December 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jen's Five New Books of Maps and Infographics

Best American Infographics 2016, edited by Gareth Cook (Mariner Books, $20)
Populations in war and peace, a periodic table of sweeteners, who's fighting whom in Syria, 163 years of Atlantic hurricanes, a literary road map. And so much more.

Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: a Visual Guide by Josh Katz (Houghton Mifflin, $25)
Colorful dialect maps of many, many words and phrases. I was particularly pleased that after my first flip through the pages, I had gathered enough clues to conclude (correctly) that the author is from around here...

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton (Workman, $35)
Now I want to go to some pretty obscure places to see some pretty weird things...

The Way Things Work Now: From Levers to Lasers, Windmills to Wi-fi, a Visual Guide to the World of Machines by David MacAulay with Neil Ardley (HMH Books for Young Readers, $35)
Detailed and friendly diagrams of the way things work. I want to study it. Newly updated version!

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss (Random House, $35)
"...a spellbinding combination of storytelling, art, and science." -from the publisher's website

Jennifer Sheffield, December 2016

Monday, December 05, 2016

Sarah's Seven Dystopian Novels We Might Soon Be Living In

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King (Little, Brown, $10.99)

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (HMH, $8.99)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, $10.99)

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin, $8.99)

Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos (HMH, $8.99)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, $11.99)

Matched by Ally Condie (Speak, $9.99)

Sarah Sawyers-Lovett, December 2016

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Community Organizing: Books for Troubled Times, Part 2

More book recommendations from our community. Over the three instances of On Fridays, We Fight Back!, people have been finding space, guidance, and company for the various actions we've taken -- calling representatives and other government officials, writing to electors, sending comfort to survivors of violence. Please come join us, Fridays between 2pm and 6pm!

from Lucas Jaeger:
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
"It's a captivating tale that will keep you entranced for days."

from a customer:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
"A nested series of six stories that will linger with you for years. I've never stopped thinking about it."

from Anndee Hochman:
Angels in America by Tony Kushner
"The Reagan years were no picnic either; Angels in America captures that time with ferocity and hope."

from staffer Mariga Temple-West:
A is for Atom: A Midcentury Alphabet by Greg Paprocki
"Humorous alphabet book with marvelous 'mid-century' illustrations, and so wonderfully inclusive!"

from a customer:
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
"Great book for young people."

from Hillary Kruger:
Delicious by Ruth Reichl
"A great escape into the world of food!"

from Paul Fitzpatrick:
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
"Frankl's philosophy is a survivalist philosophy. Despite staring into the face of evil itself, Frankl reminds us of the importance of meaning and maintaining our own personal freedom."

from Robert Bingham:
The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen
"'Money is a communal delusion.' (Comment I just overheard that is very relevant.)"

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sheila's Five Escapist Books to Nurture Resistance in Hard Times

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan (Square Fish, $7.99)

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Harper Teen, $10.99)

Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Razorbill, $11.99)

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit, $15.99)

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit, $16.00)

Sheila Avelin, November 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Community Organizing: Practical Resources for the Post-Election Times

Here is an attempt to organize a post compiling local and national information on different actions and such. It necessarily won't be complete, but if I could manage compiling papal visit logistics last year, this ought to be possible...

So. This is an enormous amount of information. Please take what you need, and if you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of wanting (or feeling expected) to do it all, know that any one thing you do will add to the whole. "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." - Talmud, Pirkei Avot

Note: Taking that quote for myself, I'm going to post what I have at this point, with further refinements in updates going forward. I think getting the information centralized and out there quickly is more important than what it looks like, and whether I have things complete or in the right order.

So please bear with me, and do check back.
Thank you.

compiled by Jennifer Sheffield, Web Manager
most recent update: 12/8/16


Note: Top level links should work now.


Twenty Lessons from the 20th Century
by Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History
Yale University

Similar clearinghouses of information:

Makeitrightphl.com is a local website offering all sorts of concrete ideas and actions to take post-election, in an interactive flow chart format. Significantly, it has sections for both "take action" and "take care".

"We're His Problem Now" Calling Sheet. This spreadsheet highlights certain specific issues, offers scripts for those and many others, and provides phone numbers -- including district phone numbers, which are more likely to be effective than DC numbers -- for Congress members.

Weekly Actions to Resist Trump: This website similarly offers highlighted actions, plus more actions if you want to keep going, in an interactive format instead of a spreadsheet. It includes phone numbers and scripts, plus a place to click that you've made each call, and they're tallying those numbers.

What to Do This Week -- Actions for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of Conscience. Here's another spreadsheet of actions, many with additional sources for fact-checking.

At the Store and Nearby

In the City

City of Philadelphia: Resources For Supporting Diversity And Inclusion - from Mayor Jim Kenney, 11/18/16

Big Blue Marble

We at the store, alongside our community, are reeling from the results of the election. We also know we have important resources here: books, writers, activists, and space. Workshops and conversations and organizing events are on their way -- check the events page of our website and our newsletters (go here to sign up) for forthcoming announcements.

If your group wants a space to meet and plan, or wants to provide training, organizing, or skill-sharing, please contact us! We have the third floor community room, which is open all day, and the performance space on the second floor available after hours.

On Fridays, We Fight Back:
Last Friday we began On Fridays, We Fight Back, a series of communal actions. More than 25 people joined us through the afternoon to make phone calls to protest the appointment of white supremacist Steve Bannon as White House advisor.
Friday actions will be ongoing. If you have ideas for actions, or workshops you'd like to offer, or ideas for authors or speakers, please contact us. We believe in the strength of our diversity and the possibilities of our voices.

Friday, November 18: Stop Bannon.
We called PA reps to thank them for statements or urge them to repudiate DT's appt of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist
If you're on Facebook, check out the discussion in the 11/18 Facebook Event for various scripts that Elliott printed out for us to use.

Friday, November 25: Write to electors.
We'll write to members of the electoral college to encourage them to vote their consciences.
And we'll call to Get Out the Vote in Louisiana, where one senate seat still hangs in the balance.

Friday, December 2: Electors, HOC, and Standing Rock. (Also Sanctuary Cities, and the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act)
This week, we'll be focusing on the Electoral College, on pressuring the House Oversight Committee, and supporting the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.
If you're on Facebook, check out the discussion in the 12/2 Facebook Event for issues and various scripts that Elliott printed out for us to use.

Friday, December 9: Contacting the Electoral College, and Getting Out the Vote in LA.
This week, we'll write to members of the electoral college to encourage them to vote their consciences.
And we'll call to Get Out the Vote in Louisiana, where one senate seat still hangs in the balance.

Northwest Philly Sanctuary Project

"A call for artists, musicians, storytellers, community members, poets and anyone interested in community building to come and join Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) in partnership with Mt. Airy USA, Sarah Napolitan and Community Circle to collaborate on ideas for the NW Philadelphia Sanctuary Project, a project designed to bring the community together through artistic expression of positive messages to people in our community in a tumultuous time.

"The NWPSP is in the beginning stages of planning and devlopment, and is a project that will involve the fostering and cultivation of support, acceptance, and love for our community and its members through positive messages that the community makes through art, written expression, storytelling and poetry. The event will take place on December 11th from 1-5 p.m. in the brand new amazing space of the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub. The entrance is on the side on Westview Ave., in the basement of High Point Bulk Coffee Center."

Here is a link to a Facebook event for the first planning meeting, which already happened (11/21), but check it out for a detailed description of the project.

Appointments So Far

  • Chief Strategist and Counselor: Steve Bannon
  • Chief of Staff: Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus
  • Attorney General: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions
  • Director of the Central Intelligence Agency: Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo
  • White House National Security Adviser: Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn
Brief summaries of their experience, 11/18/16. (Caution: huge photographs.)
  • U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley
  • Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos
  • Health and Human Services Secretary: Georgia Rep. Tom Price
  • Transportation Secretary: former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao
  • Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin
  • Commerce Secretary: Wilbur Ross
  • Defense Secretary: Retired Gen. James Mattis
  • EPA Administrator: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt
  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary: Ben Carson
  • Homeland Security Secretary: Retired Gen. John Kelly
  • Labor Secretary: Andy Puzder
More brief experience listings, 11/30/16 (updated 12/8)

Steve Bannon

Facebook Initiative: Postcard Avalanche to Denounce Bannon (Saturday, Nov. 26, through Monday, Nov. 28)

6 Things You Can Do To Keep Steve Bannon Out Of The White House

Some Quick Actions

US Representative Lamar Smith, Chair of House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology - and climate change denier - has a one question survey on his website about congressional priorities for the year. Please select Other and write in "Mitigate climate change". His website is: lamarsmith.house.gov.

More to come.

Details on Some Issues

Contacting the Electoral College Before 12/19 Vote

There are several campaigns to ask electors from Trump-winning states to become "faithless" and to vote against Donald Trump.
- How to write to the Electoral College. This contains mail-merge letters to personalize (and edit, if preferred) and address labels to print. (Total cost for postage: $122, if you write to ALL of them. Also broken down by state.)
- And here are the (modified) PA address list and argument suggestions from last week's On Fridays, We Fight Back!

Huffington Post: 32 Nonpartisan, Non-Ideological Reasons The Electoral College Must Reject Trump
National Archives and Records: About the Electoral College
Atlantic column: The Electoral College Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President

Voter Suppression, Gerrymandering, and Election Integrity

Update, 11/27: Wisconsin to Recount Ballots After Claims of Irregularities

Update, 11/25: Jill Stein's campaign for donations to request vote recounts has reached enough of their goal to request a recount in two (WI, PA) of three states (MI pending). If you live in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, or Michigan, you can also volunteer to monitor a recount, should they occur. For Pennsylvania, they're also requesting three people from each election district to submit the requests.

Update: Here are two articles suggesting that vote audit is possible (but only at the instigation of the candidates), two urging that vote audits become normal practice, and one saying that calling the DOJ will not change anything unless you have evidence of specific wrongdoing. (Hm. Do Voter ID laws count?)

Meanwhile: Federal Court: Wisconsin’s Republican-Drawn Redistricting Maps Are Unconstitutional

Donald Trump's Finances and the House Oversight Committee

"Please call the House Oversight Committee (202-225-5074) to support the call for a bipartisan review of Trump's financials and apparent conflicts of interest. They are absolutely tallying calls - the more they get, the more likely the Committee is to demand ALL of Trump’s financial information.
There’s not much time left, as they are out of the office soon for Thanksgiving. And after that, they’re going to make a decision.
NOW is your chance to make a difference. Please, do this ASAP. If you get a "mailbox is full" message, call back in a minute or so - that seems to be the default when lines are busy. If the voicemail is accepting messages, leave a message!"

Note that the decision is to be made asap the week after Thanksgiving. I've heard recommendations to call first thing on Monday morning, 11/28 (Unless it's Tuesday they come back; not sure).

Followup - calling members of the committee directly, when the main number's mailbox is full.

Standing Rock

Update 11/6: The Army Corps of Engineers has refused to grant the easement for the pipeline, which means they have blocked it (at least temporarily) from its proposed path through Standing Rock. Yay! Links to come.

A #NoDAPL Map by cartographer Carl Sack (11/2/16-11/4/16)

Two links about banks that are funding the pipeline:
Who's Banking Against the Sioux infographic from Food & Water Watch
How to Contact the 17 Banks Funding the Dakota Access Pipeline (9/29/16)

from truth-out: Don't Be Passive Observers of Last Night's Terrorization in Standing Rock: Here's What You Can Do. This article lists numbers to call and also an address to send supplies. (11/21/16) See also script and action below.

How to Contact the People Sending Militarized Police to Standing Rock (10/31/16)

How To Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective (10/27/16)

from the "We're His Problem Now Calling Sheet (above):
**Breaking Issue*** Dakota Access Pipeline Protestors Injured
I’m --- ---- calling about the 167 water protectors injured by law enforcement at Standing Rock today. Attacking the water protectors with hoses in sub-freezing temps is inhumane, cruel, and unacceptable. I want to :
*Allow water protestors to exercise their right to peaceful assembly/protest.
*Immediately stop attacking water protectors with tear gas, water cannons, hoses, or other violent means.
*Refrain from arresting/interfering with peaceful demonstrators.
Morton County Sheriff → Morton County Sheriff's Dept: 701-667-3330
Morton County Sheriff's Office (if the first one is continuously busy): 701-328-8118
Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County: 701.667.3330
ND Governor Jack Dalrymple → 701.328.2200 or 701-328-2200
White House → (202) 456-1111, 202-456-1414 or White House Situation Room: 202 456 9431
Army → Army Corps of Engineers: 202-761-8700; National Guard ND: 701-333-2000

The Affordable Care Act

Note: This doesn't involve talking to anyone if you don't want to.

"Paul Ryan is conducting a phone poll on the ACA (Obamacare), hoping to hear overwhelming popular opposition to it. If you would like to express your support for the Affordable Care Act, the numbers to call are (202) 225-3031 OR try 202-225-0600. Press 2 to weigh in on the issue. You'll hear a brief recording about HR-3762* (grit your teeth and wait it out to get to where you have to register your stance!), Paul Ryan's proposal to gut the ACA, and President Obama's use of his veto power to stop it. Then, you will have a chance to indicate your opinion with the press of a button.
Press 1 if you support the ACA, 2 if you oppose it.
Then you hear a pre-recorded spiel from Ryan about how he cares about what we think about issues, etc., etc., and you have a chance to leave a message."

*which they don't mention includes a freeze on federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Confirmation from Snopes:
Connecting to the Speaker. You can give the House Speaker your opinion on the Affordable Care Act — if you're patient.

Climate Change

Trump’s Plan to Eliminate NASA Climate Research Is Ill-Informed and Dangerous

Info for LBGTQ/quiltbag Americans

Some articles from Jerner & Palmer, the attorneys who worked with us on our second-parent adoption:

Trans Relief Project

HR 2802, the so-called First Amendment Defense Act

I want to highlight that we have to reframe this bill. Do not let it get away with being called a defense of the 1st amendment. Add "so-called" when you can. Call it HR 2802. Call it a travesty. I don't know. I do know that that when the "Defense of Marriage Act" and the "welfare reform bill" were both passed in 1996, I was raging that the latter would never have happened if it had been called the "Be Mean to Children" act. And I immediately began calling the former the "Discrimination of Marriage Act".

The GOP’s Anti-LGBT, Anti-Women ‘Religious Freedom’ Law on Steroids
The First Amendment Defense Act would allow hospitals, governments, universities, and businesses to ignore same-sex marriage, deny women health care, and fire gay people.

Note that the bill was introduced in 2015. Here's the full text.

To come: Find information about Public accommodation.

Islamophobia/Religious Discrimination

CAIR: Council on American-Islamic Relations

NAACP Statement on Proposed “Muslim Registry”

No Religious Registry Act (H.R. 6382)

DelBene Introduces Bill to Prohibit Religious Registry

Calling Senators to oppose Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor. Here's a sample script from a friend:
"President-elect Donald Trump has appointed General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. General Flynn has called Islam 'a cancer' and has said 'fear of Muslims is rational.' Our country was founded on freedom of religion. PA has more than 80,000 Muslims. I ask the Senator to call out General Flynn on these statements and to oppose his appointment. While I realize that Congress does not have to approve the National Security Adviser, it is still possible for the Senator to issue a strong statement opposing General Flynn and his radical statements about a peaceful religion practiced by millions of Americans."

Truth, Fact-Checking, and Fake News

Snopes.com: a place to check the truth/rumor status of circulating stories.

This Is How You Can Stop Fake News From Spreading On Facebook
. Not clear is how the fake news status is verified within Facebook.

From The Philadelpha Inquirer: Fake news? Bias? How colleges teach students not to be duped

From NPR, All Tech Considered: Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts

Calling Our Representatives

Some links about the process of calling:

Known Issues for Calling
  • Call on our senators to issue a statement opposing Michael Flynn's appointment as National Security Advisor, based on his anti-Muslim statements.
  • Call those responsible for the 11/20 violence toward peaceful protestors at Standing Rock, ND
  • Call the House Oversight Committee to demand DT release his financial information (by 11/28 or 29).
  • Urge our representatives (or anyone) to reject and speak out against Donald Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as chief strategist. (Or Jeff Sessions. Or Mike Pompeo. Or...)
  • Urge the Senate to do their jobs and confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
  • Let them know your personal fears about this administration.
  • Call the automated survey that Paul Ryan has set up for your feelings (+/-) on the Affordable Care Act

Pennsylvania Representation

Phone numbers for some of our representatives in Congress. Always better to call local or regional offices than DC office.

Senator Bob Casey released a statement condemning Bannon. Call his office and thank him:
Senator Casey (202) 224-6324, (215) 405-9660, (814) 357-0314, (610) 782-9470

Representative Dwight Evans Phone: (215) 549-0220
He has signed a letter from 169 Representatives to Donald Trump, so please call to thank him.

Senator Toomey (215) 241-1090, (717) 782-3951, (610) 434-1444, (202) 224-4254
He can use more persuasion. When I called on 11/18 I was told he "has not yet made a statement".

If you're on Facebook, check out the discussion in the bookstore's Stop Bannon Facebook Event for various scripts that Elliott printed out for us to use. If not, try some of the other links listed above.

Transition Team

(As of 11/16, from Elliott's calling plan)
Calling President Popular Vote Loser's transition team members. These are hard-core supporters, but you'll be talking to their staff members, so be nice. 2 are from PA, so we have a special role in calling them.
These are the numbers for the transition team members who currently hold office:
PA Representative Tom Marino 202-225-3731
PA Representative Lou Barletta 717-525-7002
TN Representative Marsha Blackburn 202-225-2811
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi 850-414-3300
NY Representative Chris Collins 202-225-5265
Rep. Devin Nunes 202-225-2523
Reince Priebus 202-863-8500, Option number 1"

If you're on Facebook, check out the discussion in the bookstore's Stop Bannon Facebook Event for various scripts that Elliott printed out for us to use. If not, try some of the other links listed above.

Other Kinds of Actions


Here are some petitions I have seen circulating.

from change.org: Demand An Audit Of The 2016 Presidential Election

from We the People: Investigate Allegations of Election Tampering

from We the People: We the People ask President Obama to immediately appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court (Here's a Washington Post opinion piece from April explaining why this might be possible. I think President Obama would have to give them a deadline first, though.)
Update: This one has reached enough signatures to be considered by the White House. It still keeps counting beyond that, however, so you can still add your name!

from Southern Poverty Law Center: Bannon Must Go.

from actionsprout: Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Multiple issues from the Anti-Defamation League's advocacy center: RAISE YOUR VOICE HERE: Tell your Members of Congress where you stand on the following ADL issues.

Signatory Letters

Info to come.

Demonstrations and Marches

Info to come.

Local and National Organizations for Volunteering or Donations

Philly Groups Organizing Campaigns for Economic and Racial Justice by Robin Markle

City of Philadelphia: Resources For Supporting Diversity And Inclusion - from Mayor Jim Kenney, 11/18/16

Anti-Defamation League: #NeverIsNow.

Planned Parenthood

Trans Relief Project

Southern Poverty Law Center

CAIR: Council on American-Islamic Relations

Monday, November 21, 2016

Elliott's Five Favorite Books from 2016 Author Events

The Great American Songbook: Stories by Sam Allingham (Philadelphia)
I started reading these stories while waiting for Sam's event to begin, and could barely stop in order to sell the book to everyone else. Remarkable, haunting, funny, smart.

This Is Not a Confession: Essays by David Olimpio (New Jersey)
Essays that take on the lingering effects of sexual abuse, divorce, and grief and still manage humor and playfulness. This book moved me deeply, and I fell in love with David's online pictures of his dogs, too.

Green Shoots of Democracy within the Philadelphia Democratic Party by Karen Bojar (Philadelphia).
Interested in changing the nature of the national Democratic Party? That change starts locally - only 2 of Philadelphia's Democratic wards are actually run through a democratic process. Karen Bojar explores how we got here, and shows us successful ways to organize for change.

god's breath hovering across the waters by Henry Israeli (Ardmore).
This new collection of poems by Saturnalia Books editor Henry Israeli was written and published before this election, but are eerily timely. Written in the wake of the death of his mother, who barely escaped from Nazi Germany as a young child, The ugly power of nationalism and fascism haunt these poems: "Germany created a Hitler, / and, in turn, Hitler created / a Germany he could embrace / without flinching."

Flat Head Zed by Ellen Marcus (Philadelphia).
This imaginative picture book tells the story of a girl who does NOT want to make the same kind of snowman as other children. Instead, she creates a fun-loving block monster she names Flat Head Zed. What will happen when the other kids see her unique creation??

Events Coordinator Elliott bat Tzedek, November 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

Community Organizing: Books for Troubled Times

There was great turnout for our first Friday phone banking action today! Lots of people showed up (not all at the same time), made calls, cheered each other on, and helped each other through logistical phone difficulties. We argued against Steve Bannon, we argued against hateful rhetoric, we named our identities. In a lot of cases, we reached real people who said that indeed they have been receiving lots and lots of calls...

I asked those who came whether they'd like to recommend a book, and here is what they came up with, from inspiring to intense to comforting:

from Anndee Hochman:
19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye
"Nye, a Palestinian-American poet, speaks with clarity, curiosity & humanity. 'How Long Peace Takes' is essential reading!"

from Stacia:
The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart
"Epic novel of the history of persecution of Jews, by a French author"

from Nora:
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
"Hilarious, great storyline"

from Karen Bruhin:
Liber Null by Peter J. Carroll
"Perfect introduction to chaos magic"

from Blair Thornburgh:
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
"It will make you laugh out loud and also weep -- in a very short span of pages."

from Agatha Andrews:
Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time by Paul Rogat Loeb
"This is a beautiful book about how to move from inaction to action as a citizen. Beautifully written, gentle, and inspiring!"

from Rahul Mehta:
Diving Makes the Water Deep by Zach Savich
"A beautiful, wise, brave book about how to live fiercely and fully -- and with radical hope -- during difficult times."

from Robert Bingham:
Start where You are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chödrön
"This book is a gift that keeps giving. I have returned to it again and again during difficult times."

from a 12-year-old visitor:
Hamilton by Ron Chernow
"A look at the founding of the U.S. government and what it was like back then (before Trump was president 😞 )."

from Sonia Rosen:
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
"Reading both of these together is really useful. Together they do a good job tracking the relationship the Black community has with the criminal justice system and political institutions, and putting forth a vision for Black liberation."

from Ryan Lovett:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
"Historical fiction about Chechnya -- familiarize yourselves with the history of our coming Russian overlords."

from Mel:
Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill
"Little bit Harry Potter set in vampire world. Female hero and just a good series."

from Genie Ravital:
Quantam Night by Robert Sawyer

from Sarah Napolitan:
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
"A whimsical journey through the universe, clever, personified, and distracting."

Come next week for another round of calls: same time (or maybe an hour off...check back), same place!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Community Organizing: Books and Bookstores as Sites of Resistance!

We at the store, alongside our community, are reeling from the results of the election. We also know we have important resources here: books, writers, activists, and space. Workshops and conversations and organizing events are on their way -- check the events page of our website and our newsletters (go here to sign up) for forthcoming announcements.

If your group wants a space to meet and plan, please contact us! We have the third floor community room, which is open all day, and the performance space on the second floor available after hours.

Our first such action:

Friday, November 18, 2:00-6:00pm.
Community Organizing - Stop Hate! Protest Steve Bannon.

We'll be phone banking from the store this Friday. Stop in to make phone calls to our elected officials and members of the president-elect's transition team to protest the role of white supremacist/anti-Semite/misogynist Stephen Bannon in the new government-elect.
Bring your phone! We'll have phone numbers, a simple short script, and comforting hot tea.

Here's a Facebook event for tomorrow's action. It includes some phone numbers and various calling scripts, so if you can't make it and want to do calling on your own, there's a place to check in for some resources.

Finally, I will make an attempt, over the next week or so, to organize a post compiling local information on different actions and such. It necessarily won't be complete, but if I could manage compiling papal visit logistics last year, this ought to be possible...
So do check back.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Jen's Five Children's Books About Children's Books

Okay, so I was all set to work on a grim list of dystopic books starting with The Handmaid's Tale and Native Tongue, and then thankfully I noticed a brand new picture book by Andrea Davis Pinkney about Ezra Jack Keats, author of The Snowy Day*. I picked it up and was won over by her tribute to both a poor Jewish child of immigrant parents and the African American child he chose to bring to life in stories designed to diversify the world of picture books. And then I thought simultaneously of the nearly-as-new bio of E.B. White and the rather older story of Margret and H.A. Rey escaping the Nazis. And a more compassionate list was born.

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (Viking, $18.99)
The publishers of The Snowy Day were on the side of diversity, too, even back in 1962. Keats was expecting to use a snow sculpture on the cover, and his editor insisted he use an image of Peter instead.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, $18.99)
Another heartfelt tribute. An illustrated biography full of collages of images and letters and early drafts of White's books. Note: Charlotte's Web didn't originally have that arresting first line the world has come to know and love...

The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden, illustrated by Allan Drummond (Houghton Mifflin, $8.99)
The Reys were German Jewish expatriates living in Paris when the Nazis swept through France. They escaped by bicycle shortly before the occupation of the city, and among their few possessions was the manuscript of Curious George. This book, beautifully illustrated, follows the story of their lives, both before and after their daring escape.

Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw by Deborah Kogan Ray (Viking, $16.99)
This is the story of the creator of the classic book Millions of Cats, and her struggles to keep art in her life while helping her family. Her name, by the way, rhymes with bog, not bag. (Assuming you pronounce "bog" with an "ah".) She added the accent herself. And Deborah Kogan Ray is a local author who's read at our Kids' Literary Festival!

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown, $18.00)
Before Winnie was immortalized as Winnie-the-Pooh, she was a small brown bear, rescued in wartime and taken to the London Zoo, where she met a kid named Christopher Robin. Actually met. Meaning he was allowed into the enclosure, and they got to hang out together.

*which last year passed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the store's number one bestseller.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Nasty Women Getting Out the Vote! ...With Cake!

Come to the store on Election Day with your "I voted!" sticker, and we will have Election Cake for you!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jen's Five Books Full of Heroes and Innovators

Five books of familiar and unsung heroes. The first three -- all focused on women's work -- are brand new as of this summer and this month. The other two, celebrating African American inventors and Jewish-American heroes, have been around for a while, with the latter expecting a re-release in 2017!

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs (Quirk Books, $16.99)
I will mention that this book in fact contains far more than 25 people. It's just that some of them get in-depth coverage, while others get a paragraph. There are also interviews with living figures in each field. The writing is sharp and quirky, and it's a lot of fun.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky (Ten Speed Press, $16.99)
Don't think it's all just Marie Sklodowska Curie.
It's got cool illustrations, so it lives in the graphic novels section of the store.

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl (Ten Speed Press, $15.99)
Another release by the duo who created store-favorite Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History...and Our Future! -- which I particularly love because U is for Ursula (K. Le Guin). Happy birthday to her, by the way. (-:

What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford (Candlewick, $5.99 paperback, $17.99 hardcover)
Hey, I had not realised that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had just been named US Global Cultural Ambassador (by Secretary Of State Hillary Rodham Clinton) at the time this book first came out. Cool. Two kids learn about the contributions of African American inventors to fields like open-heart surgery, telecommunications, blood banks, and more.

Portraits of Jewish-American Heroes by Malka Drucker, illustrated by Elizabeth Rosen (Dutton hardcover $22.99, paperback forthcoming from Puffin in January)
From Harry Houdini to Albert Einstein, from Bella Savitsky Abzug to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from Emma Lazarus to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman... I know a lot more of the names profiled in this book than in the others, but some are still new to me.

Jennifer Sheffield, October 2016

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Celebrating Adoptive and Foster Families: A List of Books for Kids

Here are some books featuring families that have grown through adoption and/or foster care. Domestic and international, fiction and nonfiction, human and nonhuman, adoption from birth and new homes for older kids. There's a section for stories, a section for books celebrating families in general, and a list of links to further resources. The lists are by no means comprehensive, and there are links to other lists below; we'll keep updating as we add to our knowledge and collections.
Compiled by Jennifer Sheffield and Elliott batTzedek
latest update: 7/9/17

Picture books about adoption and fostering:
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza (1992)
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell (1996)
The Day We Met You by Phoebe Koehler (1997)
Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz (1997)
It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr (2001)
Emma's Yucky Brother by Jean Little, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (2002)
Felicia's Favorite Story by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Adriana Romo (2002)
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole (2005)
Kids Need to Be Safe: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Julie Nelson, PH.D.; illustrated by Mary Gallagher (2005)
Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship told by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig M. Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu; photographs by Peter Greste (2006)
Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib (2006)
Motherbridge of Love by Xinran Xue, illustrated by Josee Masse (2007)
We Belong Together: A Book about Adoption and Families by Todd Parr (2007)
Murphy's Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman, illustrated by Kathy O'Malley (2008)
In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco (2009)
[Note: This author's books are generally more appropriate for an older audience than usual for picture books.]
Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles by Darlene Friedman, illustrated by Roger Roth (2009)
Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark, illustrated by Patrice Barton (2010)
Bad Kitty Meets the Baby by Nick Bruel (2011)
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora (2015)
Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (2016)
My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo (2016)
Quackers by Liz Wong (2016)
Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (2016)
Home at Last by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka (2016)

Picture books about reproduction and families:
All Families Are Special by Norma Simon, illustrated by Teresa Flavin (2003)
The Family Book by Todd Parr (2003)
The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith (2010)
What Makes a Baby? by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth (2012) [This book separates the genetic/biological components from the emotional component of making a baby, thus allowing for nontraditional families.]
Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang & Max Lang (2015)

Links to more lists and resources
Chicago Now: Top Adoption Books For Kids: A Reading List for Children and Teens in Adoptive and Foster Families
Children’s Home Society of Minnesota (CH) and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS): Favorite Adoption-Themed Children’s Books
MetroKids: Children's Books About Adoption
Parents.com: Children's Books About Adoption
Mothers' Bridge of Love: Who We Are
AdoptUSKids: Pennsylvania Foster Care and Adoption Guidelines

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Young Adult Book Club Post-Book-Club Newsletters

Up until the book club ended in May, I kept a list of all the books we'd read on the book clubs page of the website. Now that I'm using a different format for the newsletters, with multiple book recommendations each time, and themes tying them together, that list seems unwieldy for the purpose of archiving. So I'm posting here the links to the newsletters themselves, starting from April, 2016. And I'll plan to keep updating!

If you aren't on our newsletter list, you can sign up here, and if you want to change which newsletters you get from us, you can click on the Update Profile link in any newsletter we send you!

May 2017:
Big Blue YA News -- KLF Author Extravaganza, News of Our Neighbors, and Readings of Resistance

April 2017:
Big Blue YA News -- Parks and Indie Bookstores, Love and Hate, and Authors Coming!

March 2017:
Big Blue YA News -- Dragons, Dragons, Peeps...and also Dragons!

February 2017:
Big Blue YA News -- Awards, Immigration, Peeps, and Dragons!

January 2017:
Big Blue YA News -- Series to Read and Reread, Store Bestsellers, and Activism!

December 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- No Name-Calling: Standing Up, and Fighting Back!

Note: There's a link in this newsletter to an interview that disappeared from the Girls Who Code website (and then reappeared later), and so the link in the newsletter is broken. Here's the correct link to the interview with Andrea Gonzales.

November 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Independence, Slavery, and Standing Rock. VOTE!

October 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Dystopias, Speculative and Real...or Coming Soon

September 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Village Fair, Combating Xenophobia, and still more Harry Potter!

August 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Reality in Fantasy, Writers and Their Writing, and More Harry Potter Events

July 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Rise of Fascism and WWII**, Pretzels and Soda, and Pokémon GO!

June 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Steampunk, Harry Potter, and Homemade Cookies!

May 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Final Gathering (a Party!), Social Action, and Recommendations!*

April 2016:
Big Blue YA News -- Kids' Lit Fest, Final Meetings, and Verse Novels!

* The recommendations for May are two books about trans students already presenting as their truer selves and dealing with whether/how to come out to people in their schools, with questions of trust and of the perceptual differences between secrecy and privacy.***
** Themes for July and for September through December chosen with current political events in mind.
*** FYI, in the April-June newsletters, the link to our QUILTBAG books blog post (particularly relevant for May) is broken, though it was corrected starting in July. And then it was misdirected from December to February! Better since March, though.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Author Interview: Lorrie Kim

by Jennifer Sheffield

Hi, Lorrie! Congratulations on the release of Snape: A Definitive Reading -- Looking forward to seeing you at the release party tonight (more details below)! Here is my synopsis:

The first line of Snape: a Definitive Reading tells us, “The Harry Potter series may be named after the Boy Who Lived, but if you want to know the story, keep your eyes fixed on Snape.” As readers already know by the end of Deathly Hallows, Severus Snape, with his hidden stories and intense emotions and ever-ambiguous actions, holds the keys to Harry’s hidden stories, and to many of the events of the series, from beginning to end, and beyond. What may not have occurred to us is how the series looks, from beginning to end, when seen through Snape’s eyes. Lorrie Kim has woven together a picture of Snape’s motives and internal processes that both rounds out the story and gives new, even comforting, perspectives to what are, for me, some of the hardest moments of Rowling’s series. It’s a beautifully consistent and thorough picture of a powerful and complex person.

How did this book come about? I know you’ve presented papers at academic Harry Potter conventions. Did you draw on that work in putting together your definitive reading?

Story Spring Publishing approached me about a nonfiction book on Snape. The original plan was to draw on my conference presentations and adapt them into a book. But I found that those shorter papers tended to be topical and to skip around the timeline of the series in making focused arguments, whereas for a sustained book, it made more sense to go chronologically through the series and look at how Rowling developed characters and revelations. I also found that many of my readings had changed. I ended up including many of the ideas from those papers, but not much of the wording.

What kinds of insights have you gained about the series from other people’s presentations?

I have such clear memories of moments when other people’s arguments inspired me. I mention a couple of them in the book. For example, in 2009, I heard psychologist Mara Tesler Stein explain that a Patronus is a mirror of one’s most loving self, and that when Harry first attempts to cast one, he can’t because he’s using the wrong kind of memories. When he uses memories of loving connection between people, the spell works. That stunned me – there are right and wrong kinds of memories for happiness spells? It opened my eyes to the way Rowling uses magical imagery to express psychological truths. It made so many readings possible to me. It helped me understand that when Rowling shows people emanating silvery magical light, it has to do with their individual selves – she might say “souls” – but when she shows golden light, it’s about the glow that comes of love between people. Which helped me understand why the dome of light between Voldemort and Harry is golden, and how that threatens Voldemort. Which made me think about wand cores connected through golden light, and how Harry and Voldemort are similar at the core. Which made me think about Hufflepuff colors of yellow and black, which gave me the notion that one trait of Hufflepuffs is that they believe we are all the same at the core.

This cascading effect of mental connections happens to me so frequently when I listen to other people’s presentations based on a text we have in common. I know I’ve had similar reactions listening to Hilary K. Justice or Mark Oshiro. It doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with that person’s readings, just that their way of seeing illuminates something for me and brings more and more understanding.

Does JKR pay attention to analyses of this sort? Have you ever interacted with her yourself?

My understanding is that Rowling knows better than to delve into the ever-growing pile of words that people write about her glorious fiction. She’s been so influential that there’s too much of it for a single author to process, anyway. I cannot begin to envision how much feedback is directed toward her, how many entreaties, whether from literary critics, politicians, non-government organizations that crave her support, teachers, the publishing industry, or individual readers. I approve fiercely of anything she does to safeguard her creative energy and sanity. It floors me that she was even able to publish the seventh Harry Potter book, considering the pressure surrounding her, the multiple international businesses that were financially dependent upon her delivering a finished manuscript, the din of the fans and detractors debating what they thought she ought to achieve with that final installment. That she has gone on to create more fiction to please herself is something that both uplifts me and gives me a growling laugh of pleasure. I have never met her and don’t expect to. She gives so much, through continued publishing in revolutionary formats, through Twitter, and through her fascinating charity work. I appreciate that abundance.

I find that a reference quote from a book I’ve read can bring the original scene powerfully to mind. In this way, reading your book has left me feeling as though I’ve just crammed the entire Harry Potter series into my head in a few days, on fast-forward! Have you had times during the process where you feel you’re living the series?

Not the series, no. But the psychological realities depicted in the stories, yes. For example, a few years ago, I had a terrible argument with someone in which I was greatly at fault, and I was so ashamed of myself that I couldn’t stand the sight of this person. I was also conscious of the things this person had done to create the fight and contribute to it. Eventually, I approached them to give a full apology, mentioning only my own part in it and my regret, but it was never easy to see that person’s face again after that. I was surprised when they apologized for their own part – I didn’t expect or require that – but it was gratifying to take that as evidence that they believed I was sincere. That whole episode helped me understand Slughorn, in his shame, altering his memory and running away from Harry. It was the only thing that helped me understand how Snape could possibly convince himself of such whole-cloth lies as Harry enjoying his fame – I couldn’t forget how ashamed and guilty I felt when I behaved badly toward someone, and how hard it was to stop thinking angry thoughts about them. I never enjoyed glimpsing this person again, even after the mutual apology. This made me understand why Rowling shows that Harry and Draco never become friends, why Rowling has said in interview that Harry gets Snape a portrait in the headmaster’s office but never feels the urge to go visit it. Not every conflict has to end in forgiveness and friendship. And if I want stories of enmity that turns into closeness, I feel as though I can find those stories more easily. I appreciate that the series gives stories of resolution without friendship.

After a discussion about Gryffindors and Slytherins generalizing and demonizing each other’s entire House, you say of Chamber of Secrets that “This entire volume is about the danger of dormant resentments that can be awakened in an atmosphere of suspicion.” Later on, you mention that “The Inquisitorial Squad may be hand-picked by Umbridge, but as individuals, they are just as expendable to her as the other students. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix provides young readers with extraordinarily precise insight into the thinking of tyrants.” Do you feel these issues have particular relevance with current events?

I’ve thought about these elements of Harry Potter so often during the ghastly news of shootings, bombings, and other large-scale crimes of hate. Rowling repeatedly poses the question in her series: What kind of monster would kill a baby? This is a war crime. How does a person become that? How do we allow it to happen? It resonates with me particularly when we hear that a mass murderer has very recently declared allegiance to a larger terrorist group. This is how Voldemort attained followers. Rowling showed, through that character, a tyrant who had his own agenda, internally inconsistent and mad, which he shared with no one. He identified the agendas and weaknesses of others and appealed to them, giving people whatever would feed their own unhealthy appetites, which would distract them from looking at him too clearly. Teen Snape fell for this, like many others who became Death Eaters while young. He was an unstable, vengeful person who was hungry for the grandiosity promised by Voldemort. Voldemort’s actual aims weren’t even compatible with Snape’s desires, but it didn’t matter. We see this in the news when we investigate claims of ties to terrorist groups. Those ties don’t always go deep.

As for current events such as the xenophobia driving Brexit or the chilling spectacle of this year’s U.S. presidential campaign…yes. When I read quotes from British citizens about what they thought it would accomplish to leave the European Union, I could only picture Uncle Vernon. When I see politicians egging on angry, resentful voters to commit acts of violence and other crimes, it’s agonizing to see how the voters are being duped – as though these politicians have any empathy at all for these people whose votes they want, as though they won’t betray these voters in an instant for their own convenience. I think the Potter series is brilliant in showing us the feelings behind such conflicts. The difference between someone using people without caring, like Umbridge using Draco but distrusting him, and someone willing to give actual help, like Dumbledore offering to put Draco’s entire family into hiding. Those things feel different. Stories reach us and help us know that.

The gift of the Harry Potter series, to me, is that it’s so widely read, such a shared text, that episodes from the series can be used to communicate about complex issues. If you sense that a politician is an Umbridge, know that nothing good can come of allying with her. If you read demonstrably false negative press about a public figure, know that it might reflect an agenda that has nothing to do with that person – that Stan Shunpike might not be a Death Eater, that Hagrid never opened the Chamber of Secrets and Fudge sent him to Azkaban anyway, for his own political gain.

In this book, you get inside more characters’ heads than just Snape. One of the things that most surprised me in reading it was your insight into Hermione, including both her thoughts about and her connections to her potions professor, throughout the series. Were you noticing this in your original reads of the books, or did it come out through working on the analysis?

The dynamic between Hermione and Snape always drew my notice. It puzzled me. I found her disavowal of “books and cleverness” at the end of the first book to be problematic; I sensed something unresolved in the author because I don’t feel satisfied that we are shown why Hermione would believe this enough to blurt it out at such a pressured moment. I found her patience with Snape, while he alternately ignored and insulted her, to be curious. I had to remind myself, a few times, to write less about their dynamic for this book. The dynamic between Snape and Harry should be the central one for writing about Snape’s story, whether or not I personally find Hermione to be a more intriguingly written character than the titular hero.

I was pleased to see the attention you gave to bullying and discrimination, and to the importance of protection and de-escalation. It’s important to recognize the ways that some teachers, even the nice ones, can be complicit in encouraging these kinds of harmful behaviors, and that some teachers, even the bullying ones, can work to limit the damage such behaviors cause.

Chapter 3, “Severus Snape and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” was by far the hardest for me to write. I thought I knew the series pretty well, but on my re-read for writing this book, I kept finding surprise after surprise when I started to delve into what Lupin and Snape were really thinking throughout that year. I think many readers resist seeing that Lupin, as well as Snape, inflicted damage in his teaching, because Snape’s harmful classroom behavior is so outrageous. It can feel as though acknowledging Lupin’s wrongdoings might mean letting go of the reader’s enjoyment of his retorts to Snape. I may be proudest of that chapter because I think perhaps, when you read it, you can sense the energy I felt from making new connections rather than writing about things I’d been considering for some time.

This continual experience of new connections, more than anything, captures why I love the Harry Potter series so much. I’m well above the target age group for the writing and I’ve written about the series for years, but every single time I re-read the books, I find new things. Rowling has created something extraordinarily complex. When the series was not yet finished and some critics argued that it was not, and would never be, good enough to become a classic, I remember the scholar Hilary K. Justice saying at a conference, “Does it reward re-reading?” For me, at least, it’s a resounding yes.

What was the writing process like for you? Did you have everything pieced out and then stitch it together like a quilt? Did you find that new connections came to you while you were writing? Did anything surprise you in creating this book?

The writing process involved thanking my husband and children repeatedly for managing without me while I wrote frantically. I created a painstaking outline that hit all the themes I wanted to cover and then ended up ditching the whole thing and just going chronologically through the series, as is, I think, appropriate for analyzing the writing of a mystery story. New connections came to me as I re-read in preparation for writing, and then I had to be disciplined about writing only what I had in my notes and not rambling further.

Probably the thing that surprised me the most this time was the realization that Snape truly believed, based on evidence, that Lupin was deliberately grooming Harry to trust him because he was planning to bite Harry while in werewolf form. I never understood that before and it’s shockingly dark. Rowling is so good at resisting the temptation to spell things out; she keeps some things subtextual or completely unspoken, granting so much respect to her young readers and their ability to read deeply. Turns out that her subtlety is often wasted on some of us middle-aged readers, too. Every re-read leaves me wondering what else I’ll find the next time I go back.

Do you have other projects that you’d like to tell us about?

I’ve been thinking about the reading of Harry Potter from the point of view of parents, transmitting this story to the next generation, reading it together as a family, participating in the transformation of the series from a publishing phenomenon into a children’s classic, embedding it into the popular culture. So my next project will be to put together a proposal and find an agent for that!

Excellent. We'll look forward to reading it!

And now for our "3 for 3" book questions:

1. What were 3 of your favorite books from childhood/teen years?

I just had fun answering this in my interview with Book Jawn Podcast!
For them, I said Jane Eyre, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Let me think of different answers for you…

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
I was obsessed with this book when I was 6 and 7.

A Bargain for Frances, Russell Hoban
One of the most brilliant books I think I’ve read for any age group. So complex, and rewards dozens – hundreds – of re-reads, just as the Harry Potter series does.

The Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I nearly had it memorized. To this day, deep down, I probably still believe (incorrectly) that I know how to make cheese or plane a shingle because of those books. Their romantic depictions of cooking, sewing, knitting, and quilting definitely inspired me to learn those skills.

2. What are 3 books that you've read recently that surprised you?

I have read almost no books this year, since I was busy writing this one!

One of them, though, has been Immanence, a short story collection edited by J.L. Aldis. Full disclosure: some of the stories were written by people I’ve come to know because I’ve read and admired their fiction online, for free. What surprised me is that these profoundly well-edited short stories are even higher in quality than the stories that made me want to seek out these authors and leave them glowing reviews. That kind of stunned me, actually. And made me appreciate anew that no matter how much we enjoy the explosion of different platforms for writing these days, the fact of knowing that something will be published between physical book covers can elevate even the best writers to achieve more.

I’ve read the Hamiltome, of course. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. I bought it from Big Blue Marble, in fact. It was another experience of being surprised at what we can give ourselves permission to achieve, how much ambition we’re allowed to indulge. The wit of the Revolutionary-era typefaces and phrasing kept delighting me. The matching of different songs to different behind-the-scenes stories about the musical or the cast felt so deep, so satisfying. Such a good matching game.

And honestly, those are the only two books I’ve read recently that surprised me. So many of my friends are writers who work in different media, such as serialized web fiction or online cultural critique, that I read almost no actual books while I was writing Snape. I did enjoy a web comic called Check, Please (omgcheckplease.tumblr.com) that surprised me with a whole new world of collegiate slang that was fun to learn. The characters play hockey, about which I know less than nothing, but I was lured into reading it because it also contains figure skating, pastry, gay love stories, and feminist food studies, all of which are very much my areas.

3. What are 3 books that influence/d your work?

I have never thought of this question in reference to my own nonfiction writing! It’s a question I associate more with novelists. Hmm.

I mentioned this to Book Jawn Podcast, too. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed taught me so much about how to construct arguments using common sense. This book was published before DNA evidence vindicated those who maintained, despite racist denial, that Jefferson did have a slave wife and children. The author’s meticulous scholarship won my respect and awe, but it was her extremely dry humor that won my heart.

The Power of Beauty by Nancy Friday. I think that book had a very mixed critical reception, and I don’t love all of it. I do, however, love the risks she takes with her leaps of intuition, delving into powerful emotions and using those as her starting points. That strategy means she will sometimes miss the mark, but when she hits, she hits deep. As a reader, those hits make her book worth it to me, and I probably learned something from her about including intuition when writing critical nonfiction.

The Bones of the Others by Hilary K. Justice. I encountered this writer through her Harry Potter work, and that led me to her work on Hemingway. I experienced so much meditative bliss when reading along with some of her analyses. Like the Hamiltome, I felt that her work gave permission to indulge in ambition, not to hold back. This writer likes to analyze word by word, and then to analyze the spaces between the words, some of which are silences and some not. I think Snape would appreciate the beauty in this approach.

Thank you so much for joining us, Lorrie!

Lorrie Kim lives in Philadelphia, PA with her clever, grumpy, magical spouse and their Harry Potter-reading offspring, one born between Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince and one in gestation during the publication of Deathly Hallows.

Thanks for reading!!! If you're local to the area, please let the bookstore know if you would like to order a copy of Snape: A Definitive Reading. You can also come to Lorrie's Book Launch Party, TONIGHT, Saturday, July 30, 8:30pm, In the midst of our Harry Potter and the Cursed Child series of events! If you can't make the party, you can email orders to orders [at] bigbluemarblebooks [dot] com, call (215) 844-1870, or come see us at 551 Carpenter Lane, in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Weekly Events Counting Down to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Midnight Release!

Happy birthday to (or perhaps from) Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling! The newest work in the Harry Potter world, the script for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will be released at midnight between Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31. This play, opening in London July 30 (with previews beginning June 7), takes place 19 years after Harry, Ron, and Hermione defeat Voldemort, and is a study of how family stories echo through generations.

Any new Harry Potter release is a good enough reason for book lovers to party, but this summer we have EVEN MORE: local author Lorrie Kim, who is by her own description obsessed with Severus Snape, will also be releasing her character study of the Half-Blood Prince that same night. Called Snape: A Definitive Reading, the book is the perfect present for anyone who has ever melted at the single word "Always."

Beginning Saturday, June 18th, we're launching seven weekends of Harry Potter events! We’ll be showing all eight movies, with different crafts and associated games each week. All events are free and appropriate for Harry Potter fans of all ages. Popcorn, snacks, trivia, and fun!

You can pre-order either book (or both) from us starting NOW by emailing orders@bigbluemarblebooks.com. See the calendar below, and check back for updates.

Countdown Schedule:        

Saturday, June 18 - Countdown week 1
  • 6 pm - Harry Potter Warm Up – Make a wand of your own, and decorate your own Harry-Potter-style glasses!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Sorcerer’s Stone

Saturday, June 25 - Countdown week 2
  • 6 pm - Dobby Sock Contest – Wear your most outrageous mismatched socks! Take your picture in our Harry Potter Photo Booth!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Saturday, July 2 - Countdown week 3
  • 6 pm - Animagus/Patronus Costume Contest – What animal will you be? Make your own Azkaban Wanted Poster!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Saturday, July 9 - Countdown week 4
  • 6 pm - Contest – Can you get your name into the Goblet of Fire?
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Saturday, July 16 - Countdown week 5
  • 6 pm - Activities – Create your own prophecy and orb! AND Create your own Educational Decrees!
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Saturday, July 23 - Countdown week 6
  • 6 pm - Activities – POTION MAKING! Mix your own magic - but you'll have to taste test it! AND Invent your own magic spells
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Friday, July 29 - Countdown week 7
  • 6 pm - Harry Potter Character Guessing Game – In Book 7, our heroes keep changing identities - are you fan enough to keep track?
  • 6:45 pm - Reading of "The Tale of the Three Brothers".
  • 7 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Saturday, July 30 - Release party! Costumes encouraged for all!
  • 6 pm - Screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
  • 8:30 pm - Starring Severus Snape! Celebration of Snape: A Definitive Reading, Lorrie Kim’s hot-off-the-press definitive study of the potions master. Readings, trivia, and passionate discussion.
    Reserve your copy of Snape by emailing: orders@bigbluemarblebooks.com
    Check out the new interview with Lorrie Kim, just posted on the blog!
  • 11 pm – Screening of Tom Felton Meets the Superfans, a special documentary on the world of Harry Potter
  • 12:01 am – Get your copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
    Reserve your copy by emailing: orders@bigbluemarblebooks.com.
    The first 40 people to buy the book will receive a special certificate sealed with a Hogwarts Crest!