Staff Picks: What We Do In the Shadows

Reviewed by Cassie R., Materials Handler

What We Do In the Shadows is also available to stream on Kanopy.

Lifelong Learning

As the world is slow to open around us, or at least as I am slow to rejoin it, I have been consuming much more media at much larger quantities than I normally would–I’m assuming you all are too. That being said, I didn’t hesitate to dive head-first into Hulu’s two new seasons of What We Do In the Shadow. I finished the 20-or-so-episodes in less than a weekend and fell in love with the eccentric vampire home of Lazlo, Nadja, Nandor, his familiar Guillermo, and oddly enough even Colin Robinson. It wasn’t until I was up-to-date with the new TV-series and went into work to dish about the hilarious almost situational satire with my co-workers that they enlightened me that the tv-series was inspired by the original 2014 movie. Working from home for some weeks, and still taking in any new movie recommendations, I checked Kanopy to see if I could rent the movie for free instead of paying $3.99 on Amazon. Sure enough, it is, free to anyone with a library card!

I was nervous before watching the movie that I was going to be let down in comparison to the adaptation and the characters I had grown to love– but it was like being immersed in a parallel universe with them, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I love how directors and media in general have the capability to tell stories and characters so closely intertwined, almost calling on the other, but somehow still managing to make them so distinct and unique that they can and do stand alone. The catchy theme song transcends through both (which I appreciate). The main vampire characters in the movie go by Vladislav, Viago, Deacon, his familiar Jackie, and Petyr. The way the characters interact makes you feel like you’re watching a modernized period-piece mockery of Full House or FRIENDS. Petyr, the vampire who lives in the basement, is so shockingly funny – half the movie was spent with my jaw hung open in disbelief because of his character, and he never even speaks. Everything from the clothing, to the thick accents, to the everyday roommate arguments over chore-chart responsibilities is perfect and combines just enough reality to grasp at when slapped in the face with other absurdities.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship. 

Staff Picks: Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?

Reviewed by Anna M., Materials Handler

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins is also available as an ebook and audiobook.

Inclusiveness

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? written by Kathleen Collins is a posthumous collection of elegantly written contemporary short stories that follow the lives of  Black women. Collins was a filmmaker, director, poet, playwright, and civil rights activist. After Collins’ untimely death due to breast cancer at the age of 46, Nina Collins—Kathleen’s daughter—found multiple unpublished short stories in Kathleen’s attic. Delighted by her mother’s raw, passionate yet delicate stories, Nina felt moved to publish the short stories in a collection that would commemorate Kathleen Collins’ life and gift for writing prose. 

I first read Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? during my freshman year of college for my Experimental Blackness class. It was the first time I heard about Kathleen Collins, but it would not be the last. Although reading the novel was a part of an assignment, reading Collins’ collection of short stories was a breath of fresh air. Collins’ work was a mix of the abstract, experimental, traditional narration, and poetry, and was unlike anything I had ever read before. A few years later, during my junior year, it was a part of my English class’s curriculum to attend a reading. By a stroke of luck, Nina Collins lead a reading of Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? in her mother’s honor. Listening to Nina talk about her mother and her mother’s work brought a new appreciation for the text, which I have loved more and more over the years.

The collection explores and provides insight into gender and racial disparities, creating a platform for a much needed conversation about inclusivity. Although Collins filled many shoes, her experience with filmmaking, directing, and writing plays heavily influenced her work, as seen in stories like “Exteriors”, “Conference: Parts I and II”, “Treatment for a Story”, and “When Love Withers All of Life Cries”. “Exteriors”, the frontrunner of the collection, is a three-paged story that delicately follows the buildup of heartbreak. Collins describes the scene like a director, signaling for light, focusing on props, and other tactics used by directors and filmmakers. Although the piece is short, Collins succeeds in creating relatable characters and exposes the hard truth about the end of relationships.

Stories like “How Does One Say,” and “The Happy Family” illuminate the strengths and struggles of a Black woman in modern America. “Documentary Style” cleverly delves into racial and gender issues that have plagued America for centuries. Themes of race, gender, family, and sexuality are aptly woven together to create Collins’ masterpiece. Although her collection was written before the 1980s, her work continues to be relevant and leaves a lasting impression on readers, making it a must-read. 

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship. 

Quaranzine, Vol. 2

Quaran-Zine, Vol. 2

The second issue of the Library's new community Quaranzine has arrived!

There are two different versions––one is for reading on a screen, and the other has been imposed so it can be printed at home, folded, stapled, and read in that fashion. Select short-side binding on most printers to print correctly.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this zine. Please consider contributing to the next issue, coming August 1!

This zine continues to be created as a collaboration between people who express their creativity in different ways, be that through poetry, drawing or painting, digital art, or by cutting up old books and magazines and pasting them back together. 

There are a bunch of other people making amazing zines during this time––be sure to explore the web for quaranzines to see the amazing outpouring of creativity from all over the world being shared digitally at this time when it’s often been difficult or impossible for us to exchange physical copies of things we make. 

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Want to contribute to the next volume?

Send your art and thoughts in the form of an 8.5” x 5.5” page of words or images, a photograph or an image, or about 250 words about something. Recipes, pictures, fun projects, and more––all ideas that highlight the community and uplift voices are encouraged and welcome!

Please reach out to quaranzine [at] mcpl.info with any questions or entries. Submissions for the third volume will be accepted through July 27. Submissions will be compiled and posted to this site by August 1.

New Summer Reading Goal: 1 Million Minutes

Staff Filling Little Free Library Box with Books

You did it! The community-wide reading goal of 200,000 minutes was met on Saturday, June 13, just 13 days into the summer reading games! Congrats to Hoosier Hills Food Bank, who will receive a $2,000 check from the Friends of the Library.

Since then, you’ve far surpassed this goal and have made it all the way to 539,745 minutes, as of Monday morning, June 29! In fact, the Library now has a new goal for summer reading––1 million minutes! 

Should this goal be met, some staff members have pledged personal donations totaling $1,525 to various community organizations of their choice. The organizations these staff members have selected include:

  • Shalom Community Center
  • Hotels 4 Homeless
  • Middle Way House
  • Banneker Community Center
  • Stages Bloomington
  • Friends of the Library

Other monetary donations continue to serve as benchmark prizes within the games themselves, benefiting Shalom Community CenterYouth Services Bureau, and Stepping Stones. Additionally, many books and/or games have already been donated to Little Free Libraries, and to area daycares and camp groups, including The Nest, the daycare at New Hope for Families.

Keep tracking your minutes through August 1 to continue to support our community and earn tickets towards prize drawings. You can still register to play too!

Virtual Lego Club - Join The Fun!

Library events aren't happening in person yet, but LEGO Club still lives! Watch a new video each month for a building challenge you can do at home. You can also submit your build to pduszyns [at] mcpl.info (subject: LEGO%20Club)  so other kids can see it!

This month, we challenged you to build a monster or an alien. Watch the video, and take a look at the awesome Pincer monster Callum built!

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Feel free to suggest a theme for next month's challenge!

Staff Picks: The Man in a Case

Reviewed by Dean M., Materials Handler

The Main in a Case by Anton Chekhov is also available in a short story collection on Hoopla.

Civil Discourse

The setting for the story “The Man in a Case” aka “About Truth” or "The Man in a Box" is a barn on the outskirts of a Russian village. A schoolmaster named Burkin and a veterinary surgeon named Ivan Ivanych discuss the topic of solitary people. The story is part of a short-story trilogy titled “The Little Trilogy” where men tell stories in three different settings, and there is always a profoundness from what they discuss in their short time together.

“The Man in a Case” is the 2nd story of this trilogy and in it Burkin tells Ivan the story of a schoolmaster, Burkin's neighbor, who lived a solitary and fearful life and caused fear in the lives around him. This man was named Byelikov. Byelikov is described as being “afraid to speak aloud, afraid to send letters, afraid to make acquaintances, afraid to read books, afraid to help the poor, to teach people to read and write…”. Byelikov is so solitary that his peers are perpetuated to help him get a wife. 

The story is no longer about the two men sitting in a barn telling stories, but somehow the reader is never ignorant of that fact. As readers discover the hardships that happened to Byelikov, they also discover the similarities between Byelikov’s life and overly precautious ways to the lives of most people and their seemingly normalized precautions. People work to stay comfortable and often take the safe approach to controversial problems to stay politically correct. The value of civil discourse relates because the telling of good and interesting stories will never be “politically correct”, instead it will be discourse into the lives of other people which can be helpful. Meeting people that cause fear are often the victims of another type of fear and, without the ability to tell stories, readers wouldn’t be able to self-reflect with others fears. Civil discourse allows this to happen. 

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship. 

Staff Picks: On A Sunbeam

Reviewed by Sarah B., Materials Handler

Inclusiveness

Tillie Walden’s graphic novel On A Sunbeam is a stunningly colorful and heartwarming space opera. Walden describes her art as being influenced by Studio Ghibli artist Hayao Miyazaki, and this novel reflects his influence not only in her art style, but also her fascinating, strange, and beautiful world-building. The story alternates between different points in time and Walden utilizes alternation between different stunning color palettes corresponding to each setting. Each setting is fascinating visually and conceptually: stunningly vast visuals of a spaceship restoration crew traveling from planet to planet, restoring abandoned sites, and an innocent and youthful depiction of one member’s high school experience in a futuristic version of the world.  

With all women and non-binary characters, the novel strongly features tender queer love. Frequently, representation of queer love in fiction depicts it as a rebellion against the norm. This is an important and real aspect of the experience of being LGBTQ, but this graphic novel provides a contrasting and comforting depiction of queer love (specifically between women, in this case) simply as love, as the average experience. This graphic novel displays queer love completely separately from any lens of outside observance, it simply exists. The romance in this book is a large aspect of the plot, but in the way that straight couples commonly see themselves depicted in literature: as a grand and beautiful thing but not one that has to be inherently subversive. 

The novel does still challenge the microaggressions that trans individuals in particular face through a non-binary character Elliot and a minor character who “forgets” to use their pronouns or gender neutral language around them. Every other character uses language respectfully and naturally, so this bigoted character’s disrespectful, chosen ignorance stands out. Characters that are respectful of Elliot try to remind her to use the right language at first, and then over time become less tolerant or “polite” with her ignorance. These interactions are an example of how kindness and respect do not always mean being nice and polite to every individual no matter what—if someone taking hateful and harmful action does not respond to gentle nudging in the right direction, sometimes the kindest action is to be more blunt and make it known that their harmful opinions and choices are not always acceptable, and that someone’s identity and existence are not up for debate. 

This novel sweeps you up into its black, cosmic backgrounds in contrast with beautiful, symbolic colors, its fascinating interplanetary world-building, and the tender, grandeur love between women it depicts. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly, especially to queer women and binary people hoping to see themselves represented, fans of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, or to anyone who enjoys clever, strange, and beautiful world-building. 

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship. 

Pioneer Grants Fund Adventure Backpacks and Dyslexia-Friendly Library Projects

Adventure Backpacks

Each year the Friends of the Library invites Library employees to submit their enterprising ideas for consideration of a Pioneer Grant. Projects must be innovative and beneficial to the community and lead the way to a knowledgeable, inclusive, and engaged community empowered by the Library. This year two projects were awarded grants.

Adventure Backpacks

Community Engagement Librarians Jen Hoffman and Morning Wilder, and Edwin Fallwell, a Senior Information Assistant, proposed a collection of Adventure Backpacks. In their proposal, the team noted that the backpacks would “facilitate an interactive exploration of nature, the outdoors, and local park and trail systems.”

Adventures Backpacks contain several useful items for your outdoor adventure including identification guides (flowers, trees, birds), and outdoor tools (binoculars, compass, multi-tool, flashlight).

Additionally, the team worked with the Department of Natural Resources and Indiana State Parks to provide a voucher allowing for free admission to any Indiana State Park. Backpacks check out for seven days and are now available!

Dyslexia-Friendly Library

A second Pioneer Grant was awarded to Community Engagement Librarian Kim Baker to make the Library dyslexia-friendly. The purpose of the project is to kickstart development of a new service offering for dyslexic individuals, their caretakers, or people looking to learn more about dyslexia.

Kim’s proposal requested funds for staff training to serve as a foundation for a system-wide turn towards developing a dyslexic-friendly library. Kim was motivated by Indiana’s Senate Enrolled Act 217 which dictates that all kindergarteners through second-graders must be pre-screened for dyslexia.

“The Library is in a unique position to offer individuals in our community much-needed resources and support in an inclusive environment which they may not otherwise have access to furthering our ability to foster lifelong learning opportunities for members of our community,” Baker wrote.

As part of the dyslexia-friendly library project, all children’s signage at Main and Ellettsville has been updated. While the Library is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff are developing their understanding of dyslexia through online training and expanding their knowledge of accessible resources. More updates coming soon!

History

Curious about past Pioneer Grant winners? In 2019, Creating Access for Violence Survivors (CAVS) was proposed by Information Assistant Shannon Bowman-Sarkisian. The project created Library protocol for Monroe County residents in hiding or transitional housing due to escaping domestic violence. It also provided training for Library staff on domestic violence and related issues, and gave Middle Way House residents access to eLibrary and digital learning tools on Library-curated iPads and Playaway tablets.

 

Staff Picks: Such a Fun Age

Reviewed by Sarah K., Materials Handler

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is also available as an ebook and audiobook.

Civil Discourse

Late one night, Alix Chamberlin, a white woman, calls Emira, her child’s Black babysitter to take her toddler out of the house. While browsing at a nearby high-end grocery store to pass the time, Emira is stopped by security after a customer expressed her concern that the child might have been kidnapped.

As the consequences of that night unfold, Reid masterfully shows how good intentions from white people are not enough. In fact, the actions that come from those intentions too often have the opposite effect. Alix does her best to right the wrongs that occurred that night, but lacks an understanding of Emira’s life and a respect for her choices. Even white characters well-versed in racial issues stumble when they can’t see the ways in which they center themselves.

Since the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of the police, the country is rightfully focused on the racial injustices and oppression that have plagued it for more than four centuries. Reid’s novel provides a platform to engage with issues of race, white saviorism, and privilege--as individuals and as a collective. It is a perfect example of how fiction can offer an entry point into difficult conversations. Such a Fun Age is an engrossing, powerful novel that meets the moment.

This is the first review in the new Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship. 

"Finding Value" Review Series

Accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.

These values are all central to the Library’s mission to strengthen the Monroe County community and enrich lives by providing equitable access to information and opportunities to read, learn, connect, and create. From new programs and collections to new branches, these core values guide the way.

The Library reaffirms its commitment to these core values in a new ongoing blog series, Finding Value. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight Library values here on the blog.

The local and national challenges of 2020 have only emphasized the importance of these values. As the Library adapts to new ways of service during a pandemic, its focus is on safety, accessibility, and stewardship. As the Library provides resources and information to address systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, inclusiveness, civil discourse, and respect are front and center.

The Library hopes you enjoy the opportunity to connect with the new books and movies featured in Finding Value. May they enrich your world and open windows to the experiences of others.

Read Finding Value Reviews

 

Additionally, the Library invites you to take a brief survey to inform its strategic roadmap for 2021–23. Your input has always been a vital part of this process, informing that the Library is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive place for the community to read, learn, connect, and create. Your response will guide the Library’s decisions on a variety of topics, including values, technology, programs, partnerships, and materials.

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