Henry David Thoreau once said, “books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.” In a time where most of us are staying at home, books can be a lifeline for the imagination and for learning. One of the great things about them is their power to spark conversations that lead to real change. I am eager to share two upcoming book themed events that celebrate unique stories:
On Saturday, July 25th at 2 PM, local author Frank Santoro will discuss his work Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is the story of a family, and a city. Frank Santoro faces a straightforward yet heart-rending reality: His parents, once high-school sweethearts, now never speak to each other—despite working in the same building. Stuck in the middle, he tries to understand…Using markers, pencils, scissors, and tape, with a variety of papers, drawing in vivid colors and exuberant lines, Santoro constructs a multi-generational retelling of their lives. Framed by his parents’ courtship and marriage, and set amid the vital but fading neighborhood streets, the pages of Pittsburgh are filled with details both quotidian and dramatic—from his childhood mishaps to his father’s trauma in Vietnam—interspersed throughout with the mute witness of the family dog, Pretzel. Santoro, the acclaimed author of Storeyville and Pompeii, has created his masterpiece. Pittsburgh is an extraordinary reimagining of the comics form to depict the processes of memory, and a powerful, searching account of a family taking shape, falling apart, and struggling to reinvent itself, as the city around them does the same. You can register for his event here.
Graphic novels can be a powerful story telling medium for expressing human emotion and experiences, but are sometimes unfairly dismissed as “not literature” because they are driven by illustrations. However, if you keep an open mind, graphic novels can take you on unique journeys that traditional prose cannot. If you’d like to try one out, did you know that Hoopla has an excellent collection of graphic novels and comics? You can read fantastic series like Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Scott Pilgrimby Bryan O’Malley,orSaga by Brian K. Vaughan.
Graphic novels can also tell serious stories based on real world events. Kindred by Octavia Butler features, “a deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day.” They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, “revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II.”
While the last few months have been a solitary and sometimes lonely period, one benefit of more alone time is the chance for self-reflection. For the last few years, the Library has run a Community Reads event during the Summer. Our hope is that we pick a book that feels timely and encourages conversation. When I selected Walden by Henry David Thoreau, I thought it would be a good pick to help us reflect on our lives and maybe find a silver lining in this time. Also, living in a remote cabin in the middle of the woods sounds quite appealing right about now, but I promise there’s more to Walden than that.
I hope you can join us for our discussion on Wednesday, July 29th at 7 PM. You can register here. Walden is part “personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and—to some degree—a manual for self-reliance. First published in 1854, Walden details Thoreau's experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond…He believed people should then focus their efforts on personal growth. By immersing himself in nature, Thoreau hoped to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection.” I hope you can join us for one or both of these programs and in the meantime set aside some time to read and then mediate on your plan for a better future full of personal fulfillment.