Staff Picks: 1984

Reviewed by Bill K., Materials Handler

1984 is also available on Hoopla.

Intellectual Freedom

George Orwell’s 1984 is one of those books most people read at some point and everyone knows. “Big Brother,” “War is Peace,” even the term “Orwellian” are regular phrases in our political vernacular.

It’s a shame people don’t seem as familiar with the film adaptation from the year 1984, directed by Michael Radford. Without hyperbole, it is as great a motion picture adapted from a book as The Godfather or Lord of the Rings (albeit quite different in look and tone from those pictures).

Orwell’s novel sometimes skirts the line between a work of fiction and one of political theory. Long sections of the prose are devoted to the author’s ideas on propaganda, cult of personality, language, state power, and other things (fictional only because they hadn't happened yet, perhaps). Arguably, it breaks that old rule of writing by telling instead of showing (not that it’s any worse for that).

The film incorporates some of that prose into the dialogue, but more often, it shows instead of tells. From the opening sequence—depicting the novel’s “Two Minutes Hate” in a scene both frightening and devastating—the depiction of the totalitarian state of Oceania is magnificently realized. The set design presents a decay and an all-encompassing oppressive regime that stands outside of time, still effective and scarily plausible even though we’re nearly 40 years past the year that gives the work its title. It’s so suffocating that to watch is almost to be under Big Brother’s iron fist.

Like the novel, the movie follows the lowly Ministry of Truth worker Winston Smith (John Hurt) as he pursues a forbidden love affair with fellow Party member Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) and seeks to join the rumored Brotherhood resisting Big Brother (the unseen supposed leader of The Party). In the novel, the protagonist is a principled believer, as much of an idealist as can exist in such an oppressive regime. Hurt’s Winston is melancholy, then heartbreaking. From the start, it is clear there is no hope in his story, and to see him beaten down into (practically, and eventually literally) nothing is soul-crushing tragedy.

One of MCPL’s values is intellectual freedom. Orwell’s work explores how the state can suppress intellectual freedom, by crushing dissent and through a propaganda machine so pervasive that reality itself is what he powers that be say it is. Radford’s film lets the viewer experience the Party-line reality. Surreal sequences from Winston’s viewpoint play almost like intangible dreams, as The Party and the villainous Party official O’Brien (Richard Burton, chillingly sinister in his final film role) remake his mind. Not only does the viewer see Winston utterly broken by the state, but they’re right there with him, unsure at times whether what’s onscreen is real or what The Party wants him to believe is real.

Comparing political or public figures to Big Brother is almost a cliché at this point. But in this age of conflicting or partisan media overload, biased “unbiased” search engine algorithms, fake news and propaganda, and even disagreement on basic facts, Orwell’s 1984 seems to be in no danger of becoming irrelevant. Radford’s film is a worthy companion to the book, and a heartbreaking vision of the future that never seems to become outdated.

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: Rick

Reviewed by Ginny H., Community Engagement Librarian

Inclusiveness

Rick is nervous to start middle school with his best friend, Jeff, because there are so many unknowns! The weird scheduling of middle school, getting to know new people, the way Jeff is always talking about girls and being mean to other kids, and starting weekly bonding visits with his grandpa. While not all of it is bad, dealing with so many unknowns has Rick questioning his own identity. Rick meets some great potential friends in the LGBTQ+ alliance club and begins questioning if he's asexual, but when Jeff begins vandalizing their posters, everything begins to fall apart. 

The story of Rick tackles important themes such as bullying, relationships, kindness, and standing up for yourself, all while giving voice and representation to asexuality, a part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum which is generally still shrouded in misconceptions and bias. In addition to providing a great story, author Alex Gino provides great history on LGBTQ+ rights and opportunity for learning how language, such as pronouns, can have an important weight in identity and respect towards others. 

Fans of the author's debut book, George, will be delighted by Melissa's appearance and fall in love with all the additional characters who are brought to life on the page. This title is perfect for grades 4-6, but equally important for anyone wanting to learn more about asexuality or language as it relates to LGBTQ+ issues.

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: Buddies

Buddies movie art

Reviewed by Craig C., Senior Materials Handler

Buddies is available to stream on Kanopy.

Service

The first dramatic feature to tackle the AIDS crisis – 1985’s Buddies – is also one of the most heartbreaking. Written, produced, directed, and edited by Arthur J. Bressan, Jr., a pioneer of independent gay cinema whose career was tragically cut short in 1987, Buddies charts the political awakening of a gay man in his mid-20s (and a committed relationship) who volunteers to be a “Buddy” for a hospitalized AIDS patient who has no one else in his life.

Over the three months that they get to know each other, David struggles to understand Robert, who’s only seven years his senior, but having come out at the dawn of the gay liberation movement, his experiences as a gay man are vastly different. Robert is also putting on as brave a face as possible in the face of certain death, which is why the support he receives is so crucial. By being willing to step outside his comfort zone, David grows as a person, impacting both of their lives in the process.

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: 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. 

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