Monthly Archives: July 2011

FRIDAY (triple) FEATURE: SCL Boredom-Busters #18-20

Friday (triple) Feature is back with not one, not two, but THREE picks to wrap up our Anti-Boredom Month series of recommended summer reads. Today’s featured author is Nigeria’s Chimananda Adichie – check out:

The Thing Around Your Neck [available at the UL]
  • “In her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, award-winning author Adichie turns her penetrating eye not only on Nigeria but on America as well, in 12 dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the U.S.”
Half of a Yellow Sun [available here @the SCL]
  • “From the award-winning author of “Purple Hibiscus” comes this masterly, haunting new novel, in which Adichie recreates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria during the 1960s.”
Purple Hibiscus [available here @the SCL]
  • “A promising new voice from Nigeria delivers an exquisite and powerful first novel about a 15-year-old Nigerian woman who is awakening at a time when both her country and family are on the cusp of change.”

Missed any of our earlier selections? Never fear, check them out HERE. Have a recommendation that didn’t make our list? Want to see more series like these? Leave us a comment and let us know! 

SCL Boredom-Buster #17: “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett

Readers, you are in for a treat today! SCL Boredom-Buster #17 features a review by none other than Stone Center Librarian Shauna Collier, with a personal and lively discussion of best-selling novel The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. This book may be requested from UNC’s Davis Library or Undergraduate Library. Check out the review below:

At first, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read the novel The Help.  It was one of my book club’s selections and although I admit I was a little intrigued when I saw it was set in my home state of Mississippi, I also noted that the setting was the 1960s;  a period when racism, hatred and extreme violence were sadly prevalent.  So when I first picked it up and read the premise I couldn’t help but groan and think, “here we go again.”  Don’t get me wrong, I am quite familiar with the events that unfortunately did happen during that time in the state and across the South (I remember some of them from my childhood), but I’m reluctant to read fiction that will downright depress me.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!  Author Kathryn Stockett does an excellent job of balancing the severity of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with a surprisingly uplifting tone that doesn’t distract from the seriousness of the time period.

The Help is about the complex relationships that existed at the time between White housewives and their African-American maids and just how complicated and silly the relationships and rules could be.  The novel does include some of the major events of the time, such as the death of Medgar Evers, and Stockett gives these real-life events a respectful treatment, while at the same time knowing when and where to adeptly inject humor. As a result I often found myself literally laughing out loud on several occasions, often before I could dry away tears.  In other words, I simply couldn’t put it down.

Part of the uplifting tone comes from the three main characters who take turns narrating the novel. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a 22 year old recent graduate of Ole Miss who aspires to be a writer, at a time when women were expected to marry well and have babies. In my opinion she is the “co-hero” of the story, along with Abileen, one of the African American maids who finds the courage to help “Miss Skeeter” tell the story of the maids. Last but not least is Minny, one of the maids who is best described as “mouthy” but also quite hilarious.  Together these three women help start a movement of their own.

There are also a host of other characters who range from compassionate to ridiculous who help to tell this multilayered story that touched me in so many ways, and compelled me to write this very personal review of the novel.

However, there’s also another reason I wanted to put a personal stamp on this review. You may be aware that a film version of The Help is coming out on August 10th, but I learned of the movie being in production long before many others. How? Last year my mom called to tell me about a movie being filmed in my hometown near her job, where she had met a “nice gentleman.” This gentleman turned out to be Steven Spielberg himself, and the movie turned out to be… well, you guessed it. 🙂

SCL Boredom-Buster #16: “A life in full and other stories”

Today’s SCL anti-boredom-month pick is a collection of new short stories hailing from top African writers.A nightmare vision of life inside a security fence. . . A group of priests facing their faith amid civil war. . . A white girl discovering the secrets of the African world around her. . . Desperate romance against the backdrop of a tyrannous forced marriage. . . Warrior ethics among boys who live on a rubbish dump.” For these riveting stories and more, be sure to check out:

A life in full and other stories: the Caine Prize for African writing

“The best in new short story fiction from Africa’s leading literary award.” First awarded in 2000, the Caine Prize for African Writing honors the late Sir Michael Caine, fulfilling his wish to reward and recognize excellence in African writing in English. As such, “Its focus is on the short story, as reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition.” A life in full and other stories is a collection of the best submissions of 2010: the five stories short-listed, as well as those selected for the Prize’s Writer’s Workshop, including “Stickfighting Days” by Oluferni Terry from Sierra Leone, who would go on to win that year’s prize.

Happy reading! 🙂

Two-for-one-Tuesday! SCL Boredom-Buster(s) #15.1 & 15.2: “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears” & “How to Read the Air”

Good morning, faithful readers! Seems hard to believe it’s already the last week of July – where did the summer go? Today also marks the last week of our SCL Boredom-Busters series and we’re wrapping up much as we began, with hot picks in FICTION.

Kicking off the beginning of the end, check out this double feature by Ethiopian author Dinaw Mengestu:

The beautiful things that heaven bears

  • “Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents’ jewelry to pay for passage to the United States. Now he finds himself running a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. . . Told in a haunting and powerful first-person narration that casts the streets of Washington, D.C., and Addis Ababa through Sepha’s eyes, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a deeply affecting and unforgettable debut novel about what it means to lose a family and a country-and what it takes to create a new home.”


How to read the air

  • “One early September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopian immigrants who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a new identity as an American couple. Soon, their son, Jonas, will be born in Illinois. Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and Jonas needs to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his mother and father’s trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents’ youth to his life in the America of today, a story-real or invented – that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.”

Both titles are available here at the Library, so come on by and take a look!

(Excerpts are from summaries provided by Syndetic Solutions.)

SCL Boredom-Buster #14: “Homeland: an extraordinary story of hope and survival,” by George Hussein Obama

Last week’s poetry recommendations included an anthology inspired by President Obama’s first 100 days in office. Today’s Boredom-Buster was likewise motivated by the Commander-in-Chief, but this time the connection is familial. Check out:

Homeland: an extraordinary story of hope and survival, by George Hussein Obama with Damien Lewis.

  • Homeland is the remarkable memoir of George Obama, President Obama’s Kenyan half brother, who found the inspiration to strive for his goal–to better the lives of his own people–in his elder brother’s example . . . The father they shared was as elusive a figure for George as he had been for Barack; he died when George was six months old. . . When he was twenty, he and three fellow gangsters were arrested for a crime they did not commit and imprisoned for nine months in the hell of a Nairobi jail. In an extraordinary turn of events, George went on to represent himself and the other three at trial. The judge threw out the case, and George walked out of jail a changed man. . . George was inspired by his older brother’s example to try to change the lives of his people, the ghetto-dwellers, for the better. . . ‘My brother has risen to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. Here in Kenya, my aim is to be a leader amongst the poorest people on earth–those who live in the slums.’ George Obama’s story describes the seminal influence Barack had on his future and reveals his own unique struggles with family, tribe, inheritance, and redemption.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions)

We hope you’re enjoying our Boredom-Busters series, and that it’s inspired you to make some additions to your summer reading list. A quick recap of this week’s highlights is listed below, and you can check out the whole series-in-progress by clicking here.


Next week, our July Boredom-Busters concludes with a return to recommendations in fiction. Happy reading and have a great weekend! 🙂

SCL Boredom-Buster #13: “Nobody Called Me Charlie,” by Charles Preston

Good morning, y’all! Today’s Boredom-Buster is:

Nobody called me Charlie: the story of a radical white journalist writing for a Black newspaper in the Civil Rights era, by Charles Preston.

  • In the 1940s, at the height of segregation, Charles Preston became the unlikely newest worker at a black owned-and-operated newspaper. Preston, a white man and, unbeknownst to most of his colleagues, a member of the Communist Party, quickly came face to face with issues of race and injustice that would profoundly impact his life and change the way he understood United States society. This fictionalized account . . . takes on the central question of this nation’s history: can a truly human and humane society be built on a foundation of profound and pervasive racial inequality? Of course, the answer is no. Yet how do we make such a society? Or put another way, how must white people try to live their lives and how must they connect with their black brothers and sisters, personally and politically, to make a world in which the horrible scars of racism are healed once and for all? The answer that shines through Preston’s book–whether he is writing (and reporting) about work, local politics, the civil rights struggle, housing, education, entertainment,travel, sports, business, child-rearing, friendship, or intimate relationships–is that whites must do what he did: give up their whiteness. This is a book you will not forget.” (Source Syndetic Solutions)

Enjoy! And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for our next pick! 🙂

SCL Boredom-Buster #12: “Stereotyping Africa: surprising answers to surprising questions”

Here’s some Boredom-Busting food for thought! Check out today’s non-fiction SCL Pick, featuring a FAQs section on many common myths and stereotypes about Africa and Africans:

Stereotyping Africa: surprising answers to surprising questions, by Emmanuel Fru Doh

  • “Characteristically, Africans in any Western country are asked so many different questions about ‘Africa,’ as Westerners love to refer to the many countries that make up that huge continent, as if Africa were a single nation state. So one begins wondering why it is that Africans, on the other hand, do not refer to individual European countries as “Europe” simply, then the trends and consequences of stereotyping begin setting in just as one is getting used to being asked if Africa has a president, or if one can say something in African. It is some of these questions that Emmanuel Fru Doh has collected over the years and has attempted answering them in an effort to shed some light on a continent that is in many ways like the rest of the world, when not better, but which so many love to paint as dark, backward, chaotic, and pathetic.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions)

Happy reading!

SCL Boredom-Buster #11: “The pecan orchard: journey of a sharecropper’s daughter,” by Peggy Vonsherie Allen

This week the SCL Boredom-Busters series continues with summer reading recommendations in non-fiction, as a complement to the fiction and poetry titles we’ve highlighted thus far. Today’s pick is:

The pecan orchard: journey of a sharecropper’s daughter, by Peggy Vonsherie Allen.

  • “This is a true story of the struggle, survival, and ultimate success of a large black family in south Alabama who, in the middle decades of the 20th century, lifted themselves out of poverty to achieve the American dream of property ownership. Descended from slaves and sharecroppers in the Black Belt region, this family of hard-working parents and their thirteen children is mentored by its matriarch, Moa, the author’s beloved great grandmother, who passes on to the family, along with other cultural wealth, her recipe for moonshine. . . Told in clean, straightforward prose, the story radiates the suffocating midday heat of summertime cotton fields and the biting winter wind sifting through porous shanty walls. It conveys the implicit shame in “Colored Only” restrooms, drinking fountains, and eating areas; the beaming satisfaction of a job well done recognized by others; the “yessum” manners required of southern society; and the joyful moments, shared memories, and loving bonds that sustain-and even raise-a proud family.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions)

Happy reading! 🙂

SCL Boredom-Buster #10: “Hard Times Require Furious Dancing,” by Alice Walker

A very happy Friday to you all! We conclude our week of summer reading recommendations in poetry with the following new title:

Hard times require furious dancing, by Alice Walker, and available here at the SCL.

  • “Pulitzer Prize-winning author Walker (‘The Color Purple’) confronts personal and collective challenges in words that dance, sing, and heal, in this new collection of poems.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions)

Missed any of our previous Boredom-Busters posts? Not to worry, here’s a quick recap of this week’s picks:

Enjoy! Next week our Anti-Boredom Month series continues with recommendations in non-fiction…. Until then, we hope you all have a fabulous weekend! 🙂

SCL Boredom-Buster #9: “Starting today : 100 poems for Obama’s first 100 days”

Today’s boredom-busting SCL pick features yet another innovative poetry project, first published online as a collective artistic response to Barack Obama’s first one hundred days as U.S. President:

Starting today: 100 poems for Obama’s first 100 days, edited by Rachel Zucker & Arielle Greenberg, and available here at the SCL. You can also check out the blog that started it all here.

  • “Starting Today contains 100 poems written during-and responding to-Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office. The poems included in this anthology, except for Elizabeth Alexander’s inauguration poem, were all written no more than a day before they appeared on the popular blog “Starting Today: Poems for the First 100 Days” . The result is a work that documents the political and personal events of those crucial days through a variety of contemporary poetic voices, from the ebullient to the admiring, from the pithy to the loquacious. . . Difficult to categorize but easy to enjoy, the poems in Starting Today offer something for every type of poetry reader, from the novice to the seasoned. This smart, timely collection offers a swirling portrait of the American Zeitgeist-a poetic reportage that demonstrates spontaneity, collaboration, immediacy, and accessibility.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions)

Happy reading! We hope you’ll tune back in tomorrow for our final poetry recommendation of the month. 🙂