Celebrate Italian-American Heritage Month this October with titles from Overdrive/Libby, Hoopla, and Kanopy!

20 Oct

My husband’s maternal great grandparents emigrated from Italy so my household is proud to celebrate in October all the many accomplishments and rich cultural heritage Italians have brought to this country, so I couldn’t resist this month sharing some books and more you can check out about Italian-Americans.

Voices of Italian America: A History of Early Italian American Literature with a Critical Anthology
by Martino Marazzi
Voices of Italian America includes an authoritative study and collection of the Italian-language literature written and published in the United States from the Great Migration (1880–1920) to shortly after World War II.  This time reflects the rise of Little Italy’s in cities where Italian-Americans were in largely insular communities in which Italian continued to be the main language.

Italian Immigrants: In their Shoes
by Tyler Omoth
The Juvenile Nonfiction title, Italian Immigrants part of the Immigrants Experience series, provides children with information about the lives and challenges Italian-Americans including a timeline, quotes, and “fast facts.”

Cake Boss: The Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia
by Buddy Valastro
With his show Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro put Hoboken and Carlos’s Bakery on the map as the destination for Italian-American pastries and baked goods like Lobster Tails and cannoli.  Besides Cake Boss, also available by Valastro in print from BCCLS Libraries: Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss: Family Favorites as only Buddy can Serve Them Up and Baking with the Cake Boss: 100 of Buddy’s Best Recipes and Decorating Secrets.

Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power
by Susan Page
Featuring interviews with Pelosi and those who know her best Madam Speaker takes a look at the life of the First Female Speaker of the House.  Want to learn more also available are Molly Ball’s Pelosi and Queens of the Resistance: Nancy Pelosi by Brenda Jones and Krishan Trotman.

Sinatra: The Chairman and Frank: The Voice
by James Kaplan
Check out James Kaplan’s biographies on Hoboken born classic Italian-American crooner Frank Sinatra!  Also available are Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank by Barbara Sinatra and His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra by Kitty Kelley.

The Italian Americans
The 2015 PBS Documentary Series, The Italian Americans, explores the immigrant experience of Italian Americans and their impact on American history and Culture.  Also available from Kanopy: Da Feast! about the Italian American celebration of San Paulino di Nola in Brooklyn.

During the early parts of Hoboken’s history Italians specifically those from Southern Italy such as Molfetta have been one of the largest group that settled here in Hoboken.  Although some returned to Italy or their descendants moved elsewhere in America, there are still plenty of reminders of Hoboken’s proud Italian Heritage with businesses like Fiore’s (providing their delicious Mozzarella since 1913), Leo’s Grandevous (open since 1939 and just steps away from the Municipal Building where our Grand Street Branch is located), and Dom’s Bakery nearby our Main Branch since 1979.  Plus every summer residents of all backgrounds enjoy St. Ann’s Feast and the Hoboken Italian Festival celebrating the Feast of Madonna Dei Martiri.  Want to learn more about Hoboken History or get help with genealogical research; reach out to our history librarian (and proud Italian American) by emailing Stephanie.Diorio@hobken.bccls.org!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

Two Terrific Reads for Coming Out Day with Strong LGBTQ Representation by TJ Klune: The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door

11 Oct

October 11 is Coming Out Day; a day that celebrates the ability for LGBTQ people to be open about their identities.  I wanted to pick an author who was not only proudly part of the community, but also one whose work had strong LGBTQ representation, and Lambda Literary Award Winner, TJ Klune, seemed the perfect choice.

The House in the Cerulean Sea
I picked up The House in the Cerulean Sea after it was recommended during a webinar about gentle reads, stories that lack graphic sex and violence and often have a theme of finding ones place in life.  Like a lot of us after 2020, I was in need of a book that was the equivalent of a friendly hug for my heart and the whimsical plot of the novel also sounded very much in my wheel house.  The book, however, was even better than I expected; probably one of my favorites of last year. 

The House in the Cerulean Sea tells the story of a very by the book middle aged case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth who is sent to an orphanage on an island in the middle of the sea where magical youths like a gnome and a wyvern live and flourish under the care of Arthur Parnassus, but Arthur is hiding secrets and as they unravel Linus questions his own views and choices. 

In a Nerd Daily Interview, Klune stated, “The found family trope is important to me, not just as a writer, but as a queer person. Queer people sometimes have to make families of their own because their real families don’t appreciate them as they should.” Love blossoms between Arthur and Linus, but the resonating messages about friendship, compassion, open-mindedness, belonging, and acceptance give it further resonance; though for those looking for a sweet m/m romance story, it is also a resounding success.

There is a satisfying ending, but I hope that Klune revisits some of the world he created in the future.

Under the Whispering Door
Under the Whispering Door came out this past month.  I was eagerly looking forward to it after my enjoyment of Klune’s previous work.  Under the Whispering Door bears several similarities to The House in the Cerulean Sea, the main character, a work obsessed lawyer, Wallace is similar to Linus in that he seems an unlikely protagonist for a novel, more likely in another work to be a small side character for comic relief or to be pushed aside for someone more dashing or heroic.   For me that is part of the charm of both stories, that Linus and Wallace journey shows their inner strengths and compassion, and it gives hope for all of us out there who feel on most days that we are decidedly average. 

The cast of the supporting characters in this one as well as quirky setting of a charming tea house, and the tender romance are also equally delightful.  As a tea fanatic myself, I’d love to be able to visit a tea shop like the one described in the novel with such a knowledgeable staff and tender scones. 

It is also always wonderful to see strong representation of not only gay, but also bisexual characters handled in such a nuanced manner with Wallace and Hugo.  In an interview with Syfi Wire when asked about having Wallace be confident in his bisexual identity, Klune stated “”I try to be as inclusive as possible.  So if I’m going to have a character be bisexual, it’s going to be damn well on-page that they’re bisexual.  It is going to be said out loud because that kind of representation it’s still not where it needs to be.  And it just feels like a lot of times when you read queer romance novels that instead of being on-page bisexual, [it’s that] they’re straight and now they’re gay. Bisexual people exist.”

Wallace’s tale is a bit darker in that it involves death and discussions of murder and suicide, however, these are handled in a thoughtful and reflective way rather than pure shock value.  This is another novel that will leave you wanting to check out more of Klune’s work.  

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Resources

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