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A Librarian Takes on the Read Harder Challenge: Crazy Rich Asians for Task 6, and Drama for Task 7

12 May

A week’s vacation and a seasonal-allergies-induced sinus infection have given me a lot of recent downtime to read. As a result I’ve made more progress on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge! I have completed FOUR tasks since my last post. I will write about two tasks here, and the next two in another post.

(Click here to read more about my Read Harder journey.)

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Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan

For my sixth task (Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color) I chose to read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, which was long on my to-read list. This novel starts with Nick Young inviting his girlfriend Rachel Chu to accompany him to Singapore for a wedding and to meet his family. What Nick fails to tell Rachel is that the wedding is the hottest social event in Asia, and that his family is crazy-super-mega-wealthy, making him the most eligible bachelor among Singapore’s elite. Poor Rachel is the lamb brought to the slaughter on what she thinks will be a fun vacation with her boyfriend.

Each chapter alternates between the points of view of Nick and Rachel, Nick’s cousin Astrid Leong (one of the few relatives in Rachel’s corner but experiencing her own struggle in the b-plot), and Nick’s tenacious mother Eleanor. Be prepared to armchair-travel when the novel moves between London, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai, Macau, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sydney, and other exotic locations.

The story was super dishy–the characters like to gossip. The descriptions of the palatial homes and the luxe places the rich live and gather will make your jaw drop. What spoke to me was the food talk that may make you hungry. Singapore is known for its markets with street food stalls that I want to explore. In particular, I want to try goreng pisang (deep-fried banana fritters). I am by no means wealthy enough to hang with real crazy rich Asians, so the street markets are most likely within my budget.

Crazy Rich Asians will shock you, make you laugh, and make you hungry. If you don’t read the book, definitely see the film adaptation (shooting now) when it hits theaters. I look forward to reading China Rich Girlfriend and the upcoming Rich People Problems, all part of the Crazy Rich Asian series.

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Drama by Raina Telgemeier

In the seventh task I completed (A book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country) I read Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Drama follows Callie, who is part of her middle school’s drama club stage crew, as she and the cast and crew prepare for an upcoming musical production. She has a couple romances, including one with a boy who realizes he is gay. The inclusion of gay characters resulted in challenges (which are formal, written complaints submitted to a library about a book’s content) and bans (removal of a challenged book from a library’s shelf) of this book. For more on the case of Drama, click here to read an analysis by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. At this link is a roundtable discussion including librarians about challenges against Drama.

I was familiar with Telgemeier’s work, having read her graphic novel adaptations of The Baby-Sitters Club (my favorite books to read as a kid!) and Ghosts, which is set during a Dia de los Muertos festival (a celebration I am fond of) and is an emotionally devastating story.

As a musical theater geek, I enjoyed how the book was set up with an overture and acts like an actual musical. I love the diverse characters Telgemeier incorporates into her stories and the sensitive way she addresses tough topics in her work. Also, I got a kick out of Callie’s annoying little brother Richard, as an annoying little sister myself. I plan to read Smile and Sisters, also by Telgemeier.

Stay tuned for my next post, about Tasks 7 and 8!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

The Graphic Treatment: Non-Fiction Graphic Novels for You to Check Out

15 Feb

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed since becoming a fan of sequential art books (aka graphic novels; aka comics) is the discovery of non-fiction stories told in comic form. Just as with typical non-fiction books, there are non-fiction graphic novels on every topic imaginable.  From the history of beer (The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey) to the American Civil War (Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War by Ari Kelman) no topic is too big or small for the graphic treatment.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

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The first non-fiction graphic novel I recall reading and enjoying was Cece Bell’s El Deafo. This book is for children but I think anyone would enjoy it. Bell recalls what it was like growing up hearing impaired. She imagines herself as a superhero who, with the help of her hearing aids, can hear people speaking in other rooms. But it can be lonely being different and Cece’s story will resonate with many.

For more graphic biographies try:

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani

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Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee

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Michael Jordan: Bull on Parade by Wilfred Santiago

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Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (a classic!)

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The March series (Book One, Book Two, Book Three) has won numerous awards since its debut including the 2016 National Book Award.  It depicts Congressman John Lewis’ first-hand account of the Civil Rights Movement. Although I’ve read several books on the subject, this series helped me to truly understand how astonishing the movement was.

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Although it’s short, and cannot possibly cover everything about Hurricane Katrina, Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown still revealed some facts that I did not know, or that I had forgotten about the devastating event. The brief, stark narration and dialog convey the confusion, anger, and sadness in the storm’s aftermath.

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But maybe you’re looking for something a little more fun? Check out Human Body Theater: A Non-Fiction Review by Maris Wicks. Described as “The all-singing, all dancing anatomy extravaganza”, this book presents scientific information about human anatomy with easy to understand and humorous illustrations and dialog.

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The library also has books on The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation and The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, both by Jonathan Hennessey, and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation by Michael Kelly.

And if none of these topics interests you, but you’d like to read something else in graphic novel format you can drop by the library to browse our non-fiction graphic novel section to see everything that we have!

-Written by Kim Iacucci, Young Adult Librarian

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