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Celebrate Family Story Month in November

6 Nov

November is Family Stories Month, so I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight one of my all-time favorite types of stories: the generational saga. A generational saga is a story that unfolds through several generations. We not only learn about certain characters, but we also follow the stories of their children and their children’s children. It’s fascinating to see how both interwoven each family member’s stories are and at the same time, unique. Each generation may face similar struggles, but the world around them evolves and that affects how their lives evolve, too. When I read books like these, I can’t help but think about my mother’s life and her mother’s life and how little I really know about them.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
one hundred years of solitude
This is usually the first book that comes to people’s mind when they hear the words “generational saga”. It is also renowned as an example of magical realism, a literary genre that combines the real world with magical elements. It tells the tale of the Buendía family and begins with the character José Arcadio Buendía who founded the fictitious town of Macondo in the country of Colombia. The story follows José Arcadio’s life and subsequently, six more generations of his family’s life in Macondo. It is an enthralling read, though I will warn the reader: most copies of this book contain a family tree and you will absolutely keep returning to it throughout your read. Not only are seven generations of characters a lot to keep track of, but this is a family that likes to repeat names…a lot. It’s one of those books that are on many must-read lists, and I can say that it rightfully belongs on those lists. You can borrow it as a digital audiobook from eLibraryNJ or eBCCLS.

The House of Spirits
by Isabel Allende
House of Spirits
This is another classic Latin American generational saga with a healthy dose of magical realism as well. This story follows four generations of the Trueba family in what is implied to be Chile. What really moved me the first time I read this book years ago was that in contrast to books like One Hundred Years of Solitude which mostly focuses on the men of the family and leaves the women as background characters or just as objects of desire, The House of Spirits captures the lives, desires and troubles of women. Women have never had it easy throughout history, and most of their stories have been erased or forgotten. It is stories like these that honor the bravery and resilience of women.  You can also stream the movie adaptation on Hoopla or borrow it from BCCLS libraries on DVD.

by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing is a remarkable novel that follows the descendants of an Asante woman in West Africa named Maame. Maame has two daughters who are half sisters and end up leading completely different lives, never meeting each other. One is married to the British governor in charge of Cape Coast Castle (a slave castle) while the other is a slave held captive in the aforementioned castle. The story then follows the descendants of each of these women, leading to stories in modern-day Ghana and the United States. What marks this book a little different from other generational sagas is that it does not focus too long on each character. Rather, we get only a chapter in each person’s life, making it seem more like a collection of short stories woven together. While that does not let the reader know each character in depth, it does successfully illustrate how the trauma experienced in a generation can resonate for years and years in a family and how difficult it is to break that chain. The story takes us through several parts of history including the slave trade, slavery in the US, and segregation. It is an excellent illustration of how racism leaves marks that may not always be visible in the present time.  It is available in ebook and digital audibook format from eBCCLS and eLibraryNJ.

by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko is another excellent generational saga that I devoured in a short time. It tells the story of a Korean family that eventually moved to Japan. In this story, there is a lot of focus on Sunja, the daughter of the first character introduced to us. Though the story goes through two more generations, she is still very present in the story. Pachinko details a history that is not very familiar to many in the Western World—that of Koreans in Japan and the racial discrimination that they faced. The story takes us from the early 20th century to the late 1980s and therefore includes the Japanese occupation of Korea and World War II. It is interesting to see the war through a different lens than we usually do in history class, and like The House of Spirits, I was once again moved by how women, despite being oppressed, and shamed, find the strength to carry on and raise entire families.  You can borrow it as an ebook or digital audiobook from eBCCLS or eLibraryNJ.

Generational sagas, or family sagas, are great reads. Not only are they great insights into family relationships, they are also interesting ways of learning about history through fiction.

If you are a fan of family stories, than you might also enjoy our special presentation of the play Motherhood Out Loud starring Florence Pape on Thursday, November 14 at 7 PM at the main branch of the Hoboken Public Library, 500 Park Ave.  The play connects stories of motherhood by 14 different authors.

Written by:
Samantha Evaristo
Adult Programming and Outreach Assistant





Halloween Horror Reads for Teens

30 Oct

There is no better way to get into the Halloween spirit then to borrow some Horror-themed YA reads for FREE at the Hoboken Public Library. Below are four suggested reads that are great for Halloween, Day of the Dead, and even all year round. If you like to feel the anxiety and adrenaline that comes with being a little scared and comfortable at home, CHECK OUT these awesome reads!

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds
by Gwenda Bond
Stranger Things Suspicious Minds
The hit thriller Netflix series has a prequel!!! In the series, we are familiar with curious characters like Eleven. Like most things in the series, Eleven’s past is still a mystery. This book investigates Eleven’s mother’s past and the moments that set things in motion for the original series. The author, Gwenda Bond, makes the story her own with respect to the show by introducing new characters and following along with the original story. If you are a fan of Stranger Things, this is the book for you.

For Grades: Middle and High School

Theme: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror

by Neil Gaiman
Leaving your friends and moving away is tough, and there are no siblings to bother in Caroline’s case. She is not afraid to tell her parents that it was not fair that they had to move. But her parents do not care to acknowledge it or her for that matter. She is the only kid in the building of weird neighbors like Mr. Bobo, the mouse trainer, and Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, the building’s fortune-tellers. Even they could not keep boredom away. She counted the windows and the doors to fill in time but stumbles on a small door in the wall. This door happens to open to another dimension where the “other mother” lived. The other mother was the replica of her birth mother, except she gave her the attention she craved, and she had the TWO BLACK BUTTONS for eyes. The reader can get a virtual taste of the story’s setting through the black and white illustrations sporadically throughout the book. Coraline could not wait to go through the door and hang out with her “other mother and father.” But the day came when the “other mother” asked her to stay with her at the price of letting her sew buttons into Coraline’s eyes. Coraline escapes, the other mother is not happy, and kidnaps her birth parents. What can Coraline do now?  You can also borrow the movie adaptation.  You can also check out a previous post about Neil Gaiman here.

Grades: Middle and High School

Theme: Paranormal, Horror, Graphic Novels

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenJacob grew up listening to his grandfather, Abraham’s, stories. He told stories of surviving monsters of human and mystical forms during World War II. Jacob always looked up to him, but as he grew into a teenager, he started to doubt his grandfather’s stories where true. When his grandfather is found brutally murdered, he ventures out to the island setting of his grandfather’s stories to find out more about him and his death. He stumbles upon to an orphanage of children with peculiar abilities. There is a boy with bees in of him and a floating girl which are displayed in old fashioned style pictures throughout the book. Little did he know was that his presence made the children valuable to the murderous monster’s that lark in the shadows.  A movie adaptation is also available.

Grades: Middle and High School

Theme: Orphanages, Mystery, Supernatural, Monsters

by Pam Smy
The Thornhill orphanage intertwines the lives of two girls. Mary was a mistreated orphan of Thornhill 35 years before Ella moved into the neighborhood. How do they connect all those years apart? The secret is a diary and dolls! In this book of traditional text and haunting grayscale illustrations, the reader cannot help but wonder what became of Mary and if she wants Ella to join her.

Grades: Middle and High School

Theme: Bullying, Orphanages, Ghosts, Supernatural

By Elbie A. Love
Young Adult Library Associate

Want more Halloween suggestions?  Check out our Halloween Urban Fantasy post and favorite Horror movies.


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