April 13, 2017

Welcome to Ms. Wunder's Book Corner...

...in which I try to persuade you to take a closer look at some of the library's newest titles...

This month we're featuring memoirs by two women from the Middle East trying to forge and solidify their identities against all odds.

Imagine living in a place where being a tomboy was a death sentence. In A Different Kind of Daughter, Maria Toorpakai recounts how her liberal father honored her request at age five to burn her clothes and dress as a boy in Pakistan's violently oppressive northwest tribal region. Consequently, she began playing squash with her brothers and rose to become the number one female squash player in Pakistan. When the Taliban found out, they issued death threats against her family and hunted her down. She was rescued by an elite Canadian squash coach, who smuggled her away from Pakistan and into Canada, where she is now among the top fifty players in the world. Toorpakai's is different kind of courageous sports memoir that reveals some dark truths of global politics and the oppression of women around the world.

In The Home That Was Our Country, Alia Malek also takes a humanistic approach to the complicated political and cultural history of the Middle East. Malek relates the hopeful story of moving to Syria during the Arab Spring to restore her grandmother’s abandoned Damascus apartment. She describes the peaceful microcosm of Middle Easterners who live in the building together (Muslims, Christians, Jews, Armenians and Kurds) while contrasting this with drastic the political shifts that threaten to tear the country apart. By weaving together the story of her family with the history of a country, Malek provides a sympathetic glimpse at the devastation of the Syrian War. For anyone seeking a closer look into Syria’s history and future.

Check back in May for more blurbs from Ms. Wunder's Book Corner!

October 31, 2016

Getting to Know Ms. Wunder!

We hope you've all had a chance to drop by the library desk to meet our wonderful new member of the library team, Ms. Wunder, who joined us this year! We're so happy to have her with us.

Our library intern extraordinaire, Rose Meier, took it upon herself to interview Ms. Wunder, so we can all get to know her better. Below is their conversation! Come say hi to Ms. Wunder (and Ms. Duncan and Ms. Dow!) next time you're in the library!

R: What drew you to working in libraries?

W: I've worked in books my whole life. My first job out of college was at a book distributor, where I wrote for their catalogue. So I wrote forty-word blurbs for their books for their marketing catalogues and it got me to write really quickly and concisely, and I loved that job and I lived being around books and people who loved books. I also had a job at the Emerson College Library where I was their circulation manager. Getting back to work, I decided to start at a high school.

R: Of all the libraries you've visited in your life, which has been your favorite, and why?

W: I love the BPL in Copley, I write in their quiet reading room often, and I think it's gorgeous and it was the first free public library in the United States and I feel really lucky to be able to use it. And the renovation is pretty awesome too.

R: They have quiet reading rooms?

W: Mhm, yeah, but it's kept quiet by some really ornery security guards that kick you when you fall asleep and stuff... I think they were fired in the renovation but I have this ongoing war with the security guards there. They would always give me dirty looks, and I would give them dirty looks back. Aside from that, I love that library (laughs).

R: What is your favorite book that takes place in the future?

W: I like Station 11, that was pretty amazing. I also liked The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Those are two of my more recent favorites. David Mitchell is one of my favorite authors; he's a speculative kind of guy, really has a unique mind.

R: What books are currently on your nightstand?

W: I'm reading La Rose by Louis Erdrich, and my book club is reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. The new E. Annie Proulx book, which is called Barking..? Something? [Editor's note: the title is Barkskins] Those are the big ones.

R: Is Louise Erdrich..?

W: She's a Native American writer, I have a thing for Native American fiction.

R: Oooh! That's going in the blog post.

R: Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?

W: I have to think about that for a second. A long time ago, I really loved the book Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and the protagonist was a sort of soul who traveled through time. So Orlando was a different gender like every century or something, and it was a really cool idea for a book, I thought, and I love the soul, the character, Orlando. I have to revisit it, because I'm not sure I still love it... But I also read, when I was your age, I loved The Mists of Avalon, and it was Morgan Le Fay, and they did a feminist revision of the King Arthur tales and I remember really loving that book and having that book blow my mind for some reason.

R: What kind of reader were you as a child?

W: I wasn't the most avid reader, I have to say. I loved the Judy Bloom stuff, I loved the realistic fiction that related to my life, and devoured all that stuff. But I wasn't a reader of the classics, I wasn't a Jane Austen fan or a Little House on the Prairie fan-- I hate that book... But I liked contemporary fiction as a kid.

R: Who would you want to write your life story?

W: Oh, nobody! (laughs)

R: Would you want to write it yourself?

W: Um... I guess I would want to write it myself, yeah.

R: Or, not have it published at all?

W: Or not have it published at all. (laughs)

R: Remain in the shadows.

W: Yeah, I don't really need to have my life story out there. I'm pretty open, I'm an open book anyway. So I feel like everyone who knows me knows my whole life story. I don't think it has to be out there.

R: How are you liking BB&N? (these questions are redundant so I'm going to wing it a little)

W: I'm liking it a lot! I haven't been working full-time in like 13 years, so the hours are exhausting, (laughs) but I think I'm getting more and more used to it. And I do a little bit of time at the middle school, and I love the change of environments, and the students are really fun. I'm excited to get to know the students a little bit more. I think that's going to make the job even better.

R: And you haven't worked with middle schoolers or high schoolers before?

W: No, I taught writing at Emerson, and at Northeastern, so I've worked with college freshmen.

R: So you taught writing?

W: Yeah, I taught writing and worked in the library after that.

R: And you've written several novels.

W: Two. They're YA books, so I don't know if you'd call them novels, but yeah. And then I have a third that's in the drafting process. It's not YA, it's a sort of an adult crime novel that's linked to a television series. So it's sort of a collaborative project with a TV writer.

R: So you're also screenwriting?

W: He wrote the screen stuff, but I'm writing the novel portion.

R: That's awesome! Are we going to see it someday soon on TV?

W: I don't know, they're still in negotiations about whether the TV will be sold. But the book has been sold, so the book will exist and the TV show may exist.

R: And what do you like to write about?

W: Families. Sad stuff with a sense of humor. The laughing through tears kind of stuff. I try to get to that somehow. Girls, families, emotions.

R: And you go with the realistic stuff?

W: Yeah, there is a bit of magic realism in my first book, a little bit of fantasy. I don't know if I did it well, but it was fun to try that. Quasi-magic realism.

R: What do you feel like you put into the writing process?

W: You can't avoid putting in your own life. That's what makes YA interesting, because I'm not writing about a forty-whatever year old woman, I'm writing about this teenager, so I can put myself into some other character and easily write a beginning middle and end because my teenager years are over; I can shape it better. That's why I'm attracted to YA, because I can remove myself from it. When I first started writing there was a little bit too much of myself in it, like I couldn't finish the story because the story..

R: Wasn't over?

W: Wasn't over! So I enjoy writing YA books because I can figure out an ending for the story, and a shape for the story. I do put a little bit of myself in it, but it's measured, which is good. And it's sort of interesting, I feel like the second book I wrote was sort of the two-sided, two characters were the different sides of myself. Like the Itt side [It side?] and the super-ego side battling it out in this friendship. So yeah, it's unavoidable to put yourself in there.

R: How would you describe your writing style?

W: I definitely enjoy writers who enjoy the act of writing, so there has to be some joy in the process. And some sense of humor. So I would describe it as dramedy. (laughs)

R: Is that how you describe your lifestyle? Your life is a dramedy?

W: (laughing) My life is a dramedy, yes.

May 9, 2016

All Hail the King!

The BB&N Community has elected its new King of Quiet: Jack T., Class of 2016! 

King Jack, in repose

Innumerable votes were cast, and though the competition was stupendously sleepy in its own right, Jack won the crown.  Although he'll be ruling from afar at college next year, we're thrilled to have named the Dozing Denizen, the Restful Ruler, the Sleeping Superior of 2016! May Jack enjoy many long naps at college, and may all of you catch up on your sleep this summer.

Keep one eye open for our camera next year; you may be the next King or Queen of Quiet!!

April 12, 2016

Good Bye, Dear Al. Welcome, Atticus!

We all miss Al Aptop, but are comforted to know that he is now swimming in a better place. The tributes to Al were many and all were heartfelt. Perhaps the most moving tribute was the poem Lucas Fried and Jacob Licht wrote (poem below).

However, the time has come to welcome the Almy Library's new fish! Our wonderful BB&N community has taken this little blue guy to our communal heart. Students and faculty alike submitted many great names for our new FOTAL (Fish of the Almy Library), but only one name could be voted the best for our little aquatic friend.  Please come by the Library soon and say hello to ATTICUS FISH!

text of Lucas & Jacob's poem:
In Memoriam

Our dear friend Albert,
With whom we shared much joy.
We cannot begin to express our hurt,
But we are glad we had a betta and not a koi.

Even though by our standards your lifespan was scant,
In fish years you lived to seventy.
You loved to dwell under the plant,
And your floating will now be heavenly.

You may be called a fighting fish,
But you brought peace and joy to the school.
You fulfilled our every wish,
And your fight against injustice was your only duel.

They said we had bigger fish to fry,
But from the beginning you caught our eye.
Even though your battery is now drained,
Your memory will always keep us entertained.

                                             Lucas Fried & Jacob Licht

March 7, 2016

Interns, interns! Read all about them!

You know them well. Their library swagger is unprecedented. Their Dewey Decimal skills can't be beat. They're the interns of Almy Library, and they're heroes to us all.  
Now, we offer you a chance to satiate your curiosity about these enigmatic interns. Read on to uncover never-before-heard* details about the Fab 4 and their literary preferences!

Sophie S.! 

  • What books are currently on your nightstand? The Uncollected David Rakoff
  • Who is your favorite author and/or what is your all-time favorite book? Just Kids by Patti Smith
  • What genre(s) do you especially enjoy reading? Autobiography 
  • Who’s your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Atticus Finch 
  • If you wrote a book, what would you write about? A collection of interviews with all the important people in my life
  • What book do you think is overrated? Catch 22
  • What's a random/interesting fact about you? I have officially been a vegetarian since I was 8, but have never had steak or a hamburger in all my life.

Julie P.!
  • What books are currently on your nightstand? IQ84Buddha in the AtticBehind the Beautiful ForeversMiddlesexThe Beautiful and Damned.
  • Who is your favorite author and/or what is your all-time favorite book? John Irving is my favorite author, and one of my favorite books/go-to rec is The World According to Garp. Please read it and talk to me about it, I will literally love you forever, even if we've never talked. Just do it.
  • What genre(s) do you especially enjoy reading? Sad, heart-wrenching books. Historical or super emotional sci-fi books, mainly. Mainly just really sad, poetic, and mildly funny books :)
  • Who’s your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Rudy from The Book Thief.
  • If you wrote a book, what would you write about? A first person realistic fiction about some girl witnessing a tragic event about a friend or something, and she would be the equivalent of Horatio/Nick Carraway character. And it would be absolutely tragic and beautiful and poetic and kind of humorous, aka just the kind of stuff I like to read.
  • What book do you think is overrated? The Kite Runner. Ew.
  • What's a random/interesting fact about you?  Panic! At the Disco is my favorite band, but people generally think I only listen to KPOP. I only got into KPOP in sophomore year :)

Tali S.!
  • What books are currently on your nightstand? A Thousand Splendid Suns1984Flowers for AlgernonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Mountains Echoed
  • Who is your favorite author and/or what is your all-time favorite book? Khaled Hosseini is my favorite author and my favorite book (by him) is A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • What genre(s) do you especially enjoy reading? I LOVE scientific fiction and well as books about race, gender, and defying social norms. 
  • Who’s your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson Series. I am in love with this series and his adventures when I was younger made me want to be a half-blood and meet greek gods. 
  • If you wrote a book, what would you write about? I would definitely write about something with science fiction and relating to greek gods. The characters would be teenagers, and some romance involved too. 
  • What book do you think is overrated? Great Expectations
  • What's a random/interesting fact about you? I have flown a mini plane :)

Rose M.!
  • What books are currently on your nightstand? Dante's InfernoPoems to Learn by Heart, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Who is your favorite author and/or what is your all-time favorite book? Choosing favorites is absolutely impossible... 
  • What genre(s) do you especially enjoy reading? Gotta love fantasy fiction, although all fiction in general is just bae
  • Who’s your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Does Mark Watney from The Martian count? He was hilarious 
  • If you wrote a book, what would you write about? If I wrote a book it would probably be about some sort of tragedy
  • What book do you think is overrated? Divergent was so overrated, I'm sorry, just ugh
  • What's a random/interesting fact about you? I set the BB&N Health and Fitness flexibility record (I'm a pretty big deal)

*Probably not true.

November 20, 2015

Hand Turkeys Run Free!

It's been a year since the last Hand Turkey Gallery.  We wondered, "Could the hand turkey artists' new work possibly live up to their 2014 masterpieces?"  We waited with bated breath, watching, worrying, as the artists labored over their new hand turkeys.  With furrowed brows and mouths full of candy, they worked tirelessly, using markers, colored pencils, and crayons to bring their designs to life - only the very best materials for these talented artists.

In preparation for the event, interns worked day and night to publicize the big day.
Flyer, made by Rose M.
Chalk Turkeys, made by Rose M. & Friends.
Then, the artists arrived....

Some lost their minds as they toiled over their turkeys...

The results?  A feast for the eyes.  A panoply of turkeys.  A marvel of masterpieces.  "Yes," we said to ourselves, "the hand turkey artists have done it again!"

Visit the Gallery (aka library) in person to see even more masterpieces!


November 12, 2015

The Biv-liography

By Bethany Taylor, Library Assistant

There are experiences so intense that they seem to rebel against all efforts to put into words. Bivouac certainly seems to be in the running for that honor.

For better or worse, it is extremely hard to put down in black and white letters, organized in familiar patterns and linear, grammatically approved sentences what it means to encounter the chaotic rainbow roller-coaster of emotion that is living outside of normal with other people. Words are—often—insufficient.

When I was in middle and high school, I spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, the Next Generation. While much of my Trekki-ness has worn off with the years, there is one episode that I think of frequently when trying to communicate the bits of life that feel both inexplicable and vitally important to share. Basically, two warring groups of aliens—one of which I remember looking like Space-Pig-Vikings—sat down with the best negotiator-translator in all the galaxies to work towards peace on their planet. 

Unfortunately, this master negotiator had suffered some terrible accident and had lost some crucial part of his talents. This meant that the Pig-Vikings and their foes were going to have to do more of the work themselves, and the trouble was that the Piggies communicated exclusively in an emotional metaphorical language based on the epics of their history and the other group had no understanding of the Piggy epics and so the groups had to learn each other’s stories, histories, and find a common language to make peace.

Star Trek is quiet hokey at times, but unfortunately, the overly earnest nature of common sense does tend to stick.

Searching for the time and patience and stories to translate the unspeakable feels familiar in trying to unpack and share the highs and lows of Biv. I’ve had multiple people say that they don’t have the words to describe or explain what they think of Biv, yet. It’s just too…and they we all trail off, searching for words.

When I think of the annual odyssey of ninth-graders streaming off the bus and trying to explain Biv to their families, to their friends, I like to imagine what stories come out first and how, even in telling about this or that funny or terrifying or beautiful or miserable part, the storyteller feels like something isn’t being quite communicated, that whoever they are talking to will never fully get it.
But, while you wait for your own words to come, sometimes you can find a story somewhere that evokes exactly what you are trying to communicate.

Hence the Biv-liography presently on display in the library. I firmly believe that Bivouac is one of the most impressive things that BBN offers its students, both in terms of a personal experience of being pushed to discover capabilities and talents far beyond the ordinary and as a way to bind and glue this community together. Regardless of how you found Biv—beautiful, miserable, or otherwise—it is impressive to understand what you are capable of surviving. You may have loved it, you may have hated it, but you survived and even thrived. That alone takes a more impressive stock of grit and character than many people are ever in a situation to discover they possess. There is a cohesion of knowing that everyone in this building can—in a pinch—wield an ax, start a fire, and have the empathetic maturity to get along in close quarters with varied personalities. But, even among ourselves—the only people on earth who might truly understand the stories we each try to tell about our time in the woods—our own words can falter.

And so we have the books and stories that evoke our own memories, in the hope of sharing what is both so personal and universal to this utterly unique experience.