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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





Haunting NY City History Mysteries: Murder on Millionaires’ Row & Gin and Panic

13 Mar

I always enjoy a good mystery series, but I find historical mysteries have the added charm of an interesting setting.  Since Hoboken is right across the river from New York City these especially caught my fancy since they depicted familiar haunts as they might have been years ago. These two books also have added some added spookiness with possible ghosts.  I hope you’ll check them out and enjoy them as well!

Murder on Millionaires’ Row
by Erin Lindsey
Millionaires' Row
Set in the end of the 1880’s this new historical mystery series includes a dash of gaslight fantasy.  In Murder on Millionaires’ Row, Rose Gallagher is a housemaid of Irish descent who yearns for bigger things than the small tenement apartment she grew up in Five Point.  Then her boss – who she has a crush on – disappears. It’s in searching for him that she finds she might just have the adventure and life she always dreamed of.  With ghosts and other supernatural elements giving a gothic feel, this novel should appeal to fans of Leanna Renee Hieber’s Eterna Files series which I had written about in a previous blog post.  Some elements of romance and other plot points setup a way in for other books in the series, which I look forward to reading when they are published in the future.  Lindsey’s clear love of her adopted home shines through in the interesting historical details she sprinkles throughout the work.

Gin and Panic
by Maia Chance
I enjoyed Gin and Panic so much that I immediately went back and checked out Come Hell or High Ball, the first in this flapper era Discreet Retrieval Agency Mystery series.  Lola Woodby is a former socialite who manages to scrape by in Prohibition Era NY with the help of her former Swedish Cook, and now PI partner.  In Gin and Panic Lola and Berta head to a Connecticut estate to try to retrieve a rhinoceros head hunting trophy to its “rightful” owner, but soon their services are being retained to solve a possible murder.  Lola isn’t sure if she is being menaced by someone living or dead when she is attacked in the course of her investigation.  The light hearted humor of the novel will have you at the very least smiling, if not laughing out loud. If you enjoy the period setting of the series and feisty female detectives make sure to check out my favorite Phryne Fisher series set in 1920’s Australia which had previously been written about.

Looking for more novels with historical settings check out my post about mysteries set in the 1930’s.  Have a favorite historical mystery of your own?  Share it with us in the comments!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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