Archive | Historical RSS feed for this section

Looking for a Book with Great Dialogue and Memorable Characters?: Check Out Deacon King Kong!

12 Aug

Deacon King Kong is set in Red Hook Brooklyn in 1969. It concerns a 71-year-old church deacon with two nicknames: King Kong (a local home brew which the deacon consumes in quantity) and Sportcoat (for his loud sartorial choices). One day, Sportcoat goes out to the plaza of the Cause Houses housing project, pulls out a gun, and in front of numerous bystanders shoots the project’s notorious young drug dealer at point-blank range.

What’s up with that? The residents in the area all have their own takes on why, and much of the book is given to the theories, the backstories, and the history of the community that lead up to the act that the book is centered on. The final chapters of the book bring it all into focus, but the lead up to that fateful shooting is the gist of the tale.

The residents of the area are keenly drawn personalities that get introduced after the shooting at a bewildering clip. You may find yourself wondering how you will keep them all straight. No worries – James McBride is a master at describing their characteristics and making them all feel like real people (so flawed and human). And they all have colorful nicknames that make them memorable.

The story is peopled with the residents of the housing project, the congregants of the Five Ends Baptist Church, neighboring rivals from the other neighborhood housing project, the drug dealers, the remaining Italian mobsters who never really left the neighborhood, and the police who patrol the area. McBride gives them voices that sound alive and real to the setting and era. Actually, the dialog is one of the main reasons I enjoyed the book.

As far as verisimilitude goes, although the setting is clearly evident for folks familiar with this part of Brooklyn, the street names used in the story sound like actual streets. Is Van Marl really a poorly disguised Van Brunt? None of the street names I googled checked out as actual streets in that part of Brooklyn. That didn’t bother me so much. However, a plot point concerning a lost item (no spoilers!) that certain characters are trying to locate, is a real item that as far as I can discern has no connection whatsoever to Brooklyn, and could not have been placed as it was in the story due to the history of that item.

Don’t let that stop you from enjoying this book. If you need other reasons to read this, I should tell you that it is also quite humorous. You may be interested in the book’s selection as an Oprah’s Book Club selection for 2020.

Our library has hard cover copies of the book. eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS both have copies of the ebook and audiobook. Reserve yours now – this book is going to be a hot item!

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Information and Digital Services Librarian

Historical YA Fiction Dealing with Pandemics

10 Jun

Events like COVID-19 have happened in the United States before! They just had a different name like the Yellow Fever Epidemic or the Spanish Flu. Regardless of its name, sicknesses like this have many of the same devastating effects on the people exposed to them. Here are two historical fiction YA books that can give you a new perspective on how people in the past fought their version of COVID-19. 

A Death-Struck Year
by Makiia Lucier
Death Struck Year

World War I is happening overseas, and the Spanish Flu is in town. Walk with Cleo on her journey of survival and coming of age in A Death Struck Year. She was stranded in her Oregon town with no one; her parents died years before, and her brother is in another city. A quarantine is enacted in her village. She learns of her mortality through her volunteer work with the Red Cross. Cleo goes door-to-door knowing that she’s putting herself In harm’s way, but can’t help but help others. 

Fever, 1793
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Fever 1793

 The Yellow Fever of 1793 is seen through the eyes of a teenage Matilda Cook in Fever, 1793. It was not enough that America had just gained its independence from Britain only ten years before. An epidemic runs rampant in what was then the capital of the United States, Philadelphia. People were getting sick, and no one knew how it was spreading or how to fight it. Matilda’s mother sends her to live with family outside of town but is turned away because of quarantine orders. When Matilda gets sick, she learns through the experience, how much this disease impacts the city. Just as she recovers, her widowed mother gets sick. The reader gets to see Matilda learn to grow up fast and even risk helping others in a time of chaos. A great nonfiction book to pair with this fiction book choice is An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy that is also available on eBook through Hoopla and eLibrary NJ.  Both eLibraryNJ and eBCCLS also offer Fever, 1793 as a digital audiobook.

Interested in sharing your own story during pandemic; click here to learn more.

Written by:
Elbie Love
YA Library Associate

%d bloggers like this: