Who Needs a Box of Chocolates for Valentine’s Day: Sample These Library Books Instead

13 Feb

If you or your loved ones are chocoholics, then we have three sweet recommendations to check out this Valentine’s Day!

The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes
by Maricel E. Presilla.
Maricel Presilla has two Latin American Restaurants in Hoboken.  She did a chocolate presentation here at the library when her book on chocolate first came out and it is definitely worth checking out if you have not already.  The New Taste of Chocolate looks at everything from the early chocolate rituals of the Aztecs to the new discoveries and innovations surrounding many people’s favorite treat.  You’ll want to try out of some of the recipes with your sweet this Valentine’s Day.

The Sweet Story of Hot Chocolate!
by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Rob McClurkan

Of course Valentine’s Day isn’t just for adults.  It is fun to help my son get his Valentine’s ready for his class at school.  I remember how excited I was was each year as a kid to pick out the special card that was meant for all of my BFFs in my class.  My son enjoyed this look at the history of hot chocolate that covers the history of winter’s perfect beverage including facts like chocolate being part of the rations for Revolutionary soldiers. The Sweet Story of Hot Chocolate! is best shared with a cup of warm cocoa with a sprinkling of marshmallows.  On Valentine’s Day the library is holding cookie decorating for kids; click here to learn more.  For healthy foodie fun for kids you also can check out our Cooks & Books Program.

The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg with Ann Krueger Spivack and Susie Heller
If – like me – you have enjoyed Scharffen Berger chocolates, then you will want to check out this cookbook, the first from the duo behind the gourmet treats. The Essence of Chocolate includes sweet desserts like White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache, but also savory dishes like vegetarian chili and a cocoa rub (perfect for a Valentine’s Day dinner). The book has three sections “Intensely Chocolate”, “Essentially Chocolate” and “A Hint of Chocolate”.  You will also learn useful tips and get a behind the scenes look at how chocolate is created.

If you are looking for some chocolatey fiction check out our previous blog post where I discuss a trio of novels where chocolate helps magic and romance happen.  You can also get some Valentine’s Day song recommendations from us!

Have a favorite book about chocolate or one with great Valentine’s Day recipes?  Share it with us in the comments!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

6 Feb

warmth of other suns

The Great Migration, the time between 1915 and 1970 when over six million African Americans moved out of the Jim Crow South to dozens of large cities across the country, was one of the biggest demographic shifts in American history. Cities like New York, Baltimore, Detroit, and Los Angeles would develop thriving black neighborhoods that continue to shape the culture and politics of the United States. From Harlem to Watts, these newly changing neighborhoods would experience an explosion in art and culture during the Great Migration, with African Americans from the South bringing their musical, artistic, religious, culinary, and folk traditions with them.

My neighborhood, the Central Ward in Newark, was a major point of settlement for African American migrants and the city would shift from a majority European immigrant population to a majority black population over the course of just a few decades. Local legend always held that the reason Newark became a hub for these arrivals from the South was that people would mishear train conductors calling for “Newark Penn Station” with “New York Penn Station” and get off at the wrong stop. Whether this piece of lore is true or not, I was curious to learn more about how the Great Migration affected my city and so many others across the country. I could not have picked a book more epic in scale than The Warmth of Other Suns to explore this topic.

Wilkerson alternates between the narratives of three different migrants, each of whom settles in a different part of the United States during a different phase of the Great Migration. Their stories all start in the segregated South and their reasons for migrating North were common to millions of others. Fleeing racist violence, leaving behind the abusive sharecropping system that replicated some of the conditions of slavery, and desiring to live in a place where one could have a more liberated existence were all reasons why millions left for northern and western cities. Similar to the immigrant experience, many African Americans were eager to travel thousands of miles to what they hoped would be a better life.

Following Wilkerson’s three migrants is exhilarating and the reader experiences the ups and downs of the journey with each character. Crowded cities with public transportation and industrial jobs would have been foreign experiences to those leaving small, segregated towns in the rural South, but despite the sense of community northern cities provided to African Americans, the Great Migration is not a simple story of upward mobility. While less systematized than the South, racism was still prominent in northern cities. Many migrants were forced into poor quality housing in segregated neighborhoods and worked dangerous industrial jobs for poverty level wages. Some felt that they had simply traded rural poverty for urban poverty. By the end of the 1960’s Newark, Harlem, Watts, and many other northern cities would experience urban great unrest caused by these conditions.

Wilkerson’s book still has many uplifting moments. Lots of African American migrants did experience newfound freedoms and success. Robert Foster, one of the three figures whose narratives Wilkerson highlights, left Louisiana to pursue a medical career. He became one of California’s most respected surgeons and the personal physician to Ray Charles. History is never black and white and The Warmth of Other Suns treats this epic story with the depth and nuance that it requires.

We are celebrating African-American History Month this February at the Hoboken Library and hope you can join us!  You can see all the great events on our calendar page including Black Comedy: No Tears, Just Politics on February 19 at 6 pm and  Thinking In Full Color Empowering Women of Color Through Education & The Arts on February 21 at 7 PM.  All the Maker Mondays in February will have special activities for kids so they can learn about important African American Inventors.

Written by:
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

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