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Updated by Valley Libraries Radio Reference on Jun 24, 2021
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May 2021 Radio Reference Selections

All the titles highlighted on the weekly Valley Libraries Radio Reference spots during May 2021:

  • May 5 - 8: Mother's Day
  • May 12 - 14: Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
  • May 19 - 21: Mental Health Memoirs
  • Mary 26 - 28: Random Round-Up
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Jamie's Selections: Mother's Day spot

Jamie's Selections: Mother's Day spot

My mom recommended A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib, which I can already tell from the description is going to break my heart. Set in the aftermath of Egypt's revolution, the story follows two sisters -- Rose, who married an American journalist and moved to New York City, and Gameela, who stayed behind in Cairo with their parents and ultimately died there, a victim of a suicide bombing. Rose returns to Egypt to go through the things her sister left behind, working through her grief by trying to piece together Gameela's life and come to a better understanding of her. It's an exploration of family, faith, identity, and the complicated bond between sisters even when they don't truly understand each other.

For a recommendation that's slightly less heartbreaking, although it'll still make you feel things, my grandma has been loving the BBC adaptation of Call the Midwife. Beginning in the 1950's, it follows a team of midwives at an Anglican convent, working alongside the nuns to provide care to East London's poorest residents. It doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the gritty realities of poverty and childbirth, but it's also sweet, funny, and an inspiring tribute to the real women the story is based on. If you finish all nine seasons on DVD and still want more, check out the memoir it's based on, also titled Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth.

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Ali's selections: Mother's Day spot

Ali's selections: Mother's Day spot

My mom has been screaming about Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang for months. His newer book, Nothing to See Here was one of my favorites from last year. Caleb and Camille Fang are world famous performance artists who rope their kids Buster and Annie into their organized chaos pieces. Think Annie and Buster playing very sad, bad rock music to get donations to help their dog (which doesn’t exist) and Camille and Caleb heckling them mercilessly from the audience and recording it all. The kids grow up and experience both success and failure, and somehow find themselves yet again living with their parents and involuntarily a part of their wildest performance to date. Ultimately, the parents and the siblings have to decide what’s more important - art or family? Like a Wes Anderson movie in book form, The Family Fang is both bizarre and touching, and everyone can relate to some part of the kookiness.

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Ginny's Selection: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Ginny's Selection: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Chinese-Americans — both native-born and immigrant — played a huge part in the settling of the American West, a fact too rarely the subject of fiction. In How Much of These Hills is Gold, author C Pam Zhang addresses that lapse. Set amidst the gold rush, which has drawn the family to California, the novel opens with Ma gone and Ba dead overnight. Siblings, Lucy and Sam set out to bury him in a land that refutes them. This intricate and inventive novel follows Lucy and Sam into their past and into their future. Using both Chinese symbolism and reimagined history Zhang explores race in an expanding country and the question of where immigrants are allowed to belong. Page by page, it's also about the memories that bind and divide families, and the yearning for home.

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Sarah's selection: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Sarah's selection: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Andrew Fukuda tackles the Japanese American experience This Light Between Us. Teenager Alex Maki begins a penpal friendship with Charlie, a Jewish girl in Paris in the ‘30s. As Pearl Harbor is attacked and war breaks out, author Fukuda draws parallels between the two as each character begins to be labeled enemies of the state. Japanese American Alex and his family face discrimination and ultimately internment, and Alex wonders what has happened to Charlie as the Nazis occupy France. He jumps at the chance to enlist in the Army as a way to escape the camp. Fukuda takes true-to-life events -- the forced relocation of Japanese American families, the formation of an all Japanese-American Combat Team -- and brings them to life on the page, addressing the racism they faced and the horrors of WWII. Throughout, Alex and Charlie’s friendship is lovingly detailed through letters and an unusual connection. this is a teen novel, but it has a lot of appeal for adult readers as well.

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Jamie's selection: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Jamie's selection: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Minh Le puts a new spin on the classic Green Lantern comic with Green Lantern: Legacy. Thirteen-year-old Tai Pham's grandmother is a beloved figure in the local Vietnamese-American community, but it isn't until after her death that he learns she was an actual superhero, a member of the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps. And her jade ring, the source of her phenomenal powers, has chosen Tai as its new bearer. Like any kid, he's thrilled by the idea of being a superhero, but he quickly learns there's more to upholding his grandmother's legacy than a cool costume and some flashy powers. This is a story about the importance of family and community, about knowing who you are and standing up for what's right -- and it's also a really fun adventure. It's aimed at younger readers, but graphic novel fans of all ages will love it.

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Ali's selection: Mental Health Memoirs

Ali's selection: Mental Health Memoirs

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado is an unusual memoir about the author’s devastating relationship with a charismatic, psychologically abusive woman. Machado is extremely expressive, and she writes her chapters in a variety of literary tropes and narrative traditions, such as Choose Your Own Adventure and self-help best seller, as a way of breaking up the stories as, as Machado describes it, she was herself breaking down. Shining a light on the abuse that occurs in same sex relationships has not often been tackled in such an inventive way. The Dream House is both the actual house and the relationship, but as Machado describes her girlfriend’s narcissistic, cruel behavior, she also navigates through her own subsequent spiral downwards. The author often writes in second-person narrative, giving the reader the feeling that Machado is speaking to her past self, warning her in some way. Candid, heartbreaking, and evocative, this book will stick with you.

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Sarah's selection: Mental Health Memoirs

Sarah's selection: Mental Health Memoirs

Monkey Mind is a term rooted in Buddhism that conveys the jumble of thoughts that bounce around a person’s head, and it is also the title of Daniel B. Smith’s memoir of anxiety. Told at a clippy pace, he recounts his parents’ anxiety and how his own anxiety began in his late teens. He details how his thoughts spiral out of control to make him scared that a single action may result in unintended and disastrous consequences. Smith delivers his story with some dry humor and this is an emotionally honest and insightful look into living -- and trying to cope -- with an anxiety disorder. Print copies are available at local libraries, but you can also download the audiobook from Libby.

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Jamie's selection: Mental Health Memoirs

Jamie's selection: Mental Health Memoirs

A frank, funny look at struggles with mental health in Broken (in the Best Possible Way). From experimental treatments to frustrated letters to her insurance company, she covers all the unglamorous details -- and finds the humor in them, with bursts of absurdist comedy that'll take you from sympathetic head-shaking to hysterical laughter.

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Ginny's selection: Random Round-Up

Ginny's selection: Random Round-Up

Prate Marshbanks is busy caring for Irene his wife of 50 years, who has recently and reluctantly moved into a dementia facility. His son, Newell, a recent widower, asks Prate to keep his young grandson, Jackson, for the summer. Throughout this tale of grief, The Pleasure Was Mine, author Tommy Hays weaves humor and hope.

Sarah's selection: Random Round-Up

The Great, a show about Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. The show only occasional accuracy, but that only makes it more fun. The Great presents this period from a contemporary lens, complete with modern soundtrack and humor. While thoroughly entertaining, be forewarned, listeners: this is a raunchy and violent romp through history!

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Jamie's selection: Random Round-Up

Jamie's selection: Random Round-Up

Wonderlandis an atmospheric tale of a big city family out of their depth in the deep woods. It seems like paradise but there's something in the woods. Wonderland is chilling & beautifully written, perfect for a long evening when you won’t need to put it down.