One of the hallmarks of African-American literature in the “slave narrative.” These are true biographical accounts of slaves who lived in the American South. Mostly they are written by the slaves themselves (such as NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS or INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL) giving a personal touch to each story. This, along with their experiences, make the storytelling distinctive and recognizable. Following the abolition of slavery, many African Americans have continued to write in this genre, calling it the “neo-slave narrative.” Mostly these new stories are fictional novels, but they take inspiration from real slave accounts, exploring the racial tensions and anxieties of this time period. Here are a few of the best in the genre:
A black woman spontaneously travels back in forth in time: from her apartment in 1970’s Los Angeles to a slave-holding plantation in the early 1800’s. Things do not go well. Despite its fantastic premise, Butler did extensive research to prepare for this novel. From reading personal accounts, to actually visiting the plantations, her writing is based as much as possible on the historical experience of slaves.
This story was initially inspired by an article printed in a 1865, titled "A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child.” Half-poem, half ghost-story, Morrison’s novel includes the hardest-hitting parts of slavery. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was even made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey.
One of the oddest takes on “historical fiction” that I’ve ever read. In this story, the “Underground Railroad” is just that, literally an underground train riding through the Antebellum South. Another Pulitzer Prize winner, this novel purposefully drifts away from reality, mixing facts with fantastical reimagings. Despite the intentional inaccuracies, the work still rings true, highlighting the terrible atrocities that did occur.
Bedtime can be a challenge. There are baths to take, teeth to brush, and pajamas to get on. Add to that the fact that kids are often bouncing off the walls because they are too wound up or are too tired to understand that they should want to sleep. I totally get it! I have had my fair share of times I couldn’t get a small kiddo to go to sleep. So here are my five favorite books to help with those bedtime blues.
The idea behind this book is that every time you blink, you have to turn a page. But if you don’t blink, you won’t get to the end of the book—and thus you won’t have to go to bed! This is a hilarious bedtime book that just dares kids to not blink and to try to stay awake. As the adult reader, I have to watch to see when the child blinks (and thus to turn the page). And if the kid stares for a while, we just sit on that page for a bit. It is totally a good way to try to get kiddos to close their eyes and keep them shut until morning—or at least to get them to try!
This is a great picture book. Owl wakes up and is excited to play—only it is nighttime and all his friends are sleeping (or trying to sleep). This is a good book to read to help little ones realize that sleep is important for all sorts of animals (and people) and they shouldn’t keep others awake. This is also a good book to start a discussion about day or night.
Jane Yolen is a master at helping kids understand the right and wrong ways to act at certain times—such as bedtime. By showing dinosaurs doing the wrong (and then the right) ways to go to bed, kids can learn how good little dinosaurs (and children) should approach bedtime. And if a youngster loves dinosaurs, then bonus! Teague shows a plethora of dinosaurs and has names for the little aspiring paleontologists.
This is one of my all-time favorite bedtime books. It is a classic! This book was first published in 1996, and it is still one of the best! In this story a mother keeps telling all sorts of animals to be quiet since baby is sleeping—only she doesn’t see that baby is actually awake and moving around. Kids will like seeing where baby goes and will potentially be lulled to a calmer state due to the soothing cadence of the rhythms and rhymes.
In this book jaguar is very hot and tired in the jungle—so he decides that he wants to take a nap, a siesta. Only he wants to wake up in 10 minutes so that he can get up and go about his day. So he asks coati to wake him up. Coati agrees, then gets tired and wants to take a nap as well so he asks cockatiel to wake him up (and so on and so on down the animal alarm-clock chain). This is a fun book that shows kids how naps (which are often similar to bedtimes) are a happy thing that animals (and people) should be excited about.
In my last post I wrote about some hidden gems on Provo Center Street. If you enjoyed that and want other fun places to explore in Provo, here are some other hidden gems that I found on University Avenue.
My friend and I meandered in not really knowing what to expect other than comic books. As it turns out, they have a lot more to offer! The store is set up in two rooms. The first room has board games, dice, trading cards, role playing games, and miniatures (primed and ready to paint). Tables are also set up that the store uses for game tournaments. You can check their calendar for more details.
The second room has an impressive collection of comics, graphic novels, and manga. There are old school products (I found Archie and Peanuts) and newer ones (think current movies and TV shows). Whether you’re a novice in the comic book world or you’re a well-seasoned pro, there’s something for you here.
As an added bonus, they occasionally have free comic book days (usually around the time a new superhero movie comes out). The next giveaway will be the first Saturday in March. Mark it on your calendar and pay them a visit!
You know those teen novels that describe the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship as the one thing that keeps them going? Well, that’s what these street tacos are for me. They are delicious, perfect portion sizes, and come in a variety of flavors. I like their Korean Barbeque, Old Skool Steak Asada, and the different specials they offer. There’s always a flavor to satisfy any craving.
What’s entertaining about my visits to this place is that my life really becomes a teen romance. The rivalry between my love of their tacos and adoration of their tater tots can only be described as one thing: the love triangle of the century. Try both of these items and let us know if you are #teamtaco or #teamtater.
Yes, this is technically located at the library. But I worked here for almost two years and plenty of people said, “I had no idea this was up here!” So, I’m claiming it as a hidden gem of the library and (by extension) University Avenue.
The Attic is the beautiful museum space located on the fourth floor of the Academy Wing in the library. Here we have art shows, programs, events, history exhibits, and much more. The Attic makes for a good date night location or proposal spot (yes, I witnessed one there. It was magical). The nice thing about the exhibits is that they rotate every few months. Even if you’ve gone in the past, you are guaranteed a new experience when you visit again.If you want more information about current exhibits, here is The Attic’s website.
For me, one of the best things about living in Utah is appreciating a dramatic change in seasons. I love bundling up to see the Midway Ice Castles in Winter and cooling off at the Provo Rec Center poolside with a Diet Coke in the summer. The downside of seasons, though, is that even though I mostly love the winter – it’s cold, it’s snowing, and my cabin fever is bad enough that I might be willing to sell my most prized books in exchange for a 90 degree day at the pool.
What I’m trying to say here is – I wore a cardigan over a sweater to work today and I am dreaming of summer vacation. Here are some choices for beach reads to help us all escape the snow if only in our dreams.
For the first time in their life, Alix and her sister Jools are going on a real-life vacation. One where they aren’t just going to visit cousins and stay with family – and they even get to go to the real ocean for the first time. This is an episodic novel that focuses on the extraordinary ordinary things that happen over a summer vacation and the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of the beach are perfectly described in this quick read.
***A quick round of applause for the master of YA Romance Ms. Jenny Han.***
Fans of TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE will love this summer-centric trilogy about Belly and the boys she loves at the beach – Jeremiah and Conrad. If you take the time to look up “YA Beach Reads” this book will often show up on the list because it is so synonymous with summer. Each book in this series focuses on summers at the beach house owned by Belly’s mother’s best friend Susannah because as Belly reminds us – everything important happens from June to August. This book has some emotional depth (divorce, parents with cancer, etc.) but it is filled with the kind of warm, poignant writing that makes a beach read satisfying.
Listen, Sophie Kinsella is the Queen of Chick-Literature and whenever I want a nice romantic-comedy to make me think of warmer times she is the first lady I turn to. This book is the story of Katie Brenner who quickly learns that a “perfect” life might not actually exist after she is fired from her London advertising job and forced to return to her family farm – where her parents are attempting to create a luxury “glampground.” Then of course Katie’s former boss Demeter shows up at the family farm causing Katie’s two worlds to crash and collide with hilarious results. It we want to get technical, this book is more of a spring-farm than summer-beach read, but I’ll allow it.
Sometimes you just want to read a dark, pulpy, page-turning thriller and this is the book for you. Four best friends form a secret society to call out misbehaving adults in their small sea-side community and solidify their bond as a group. The group of four soon learn that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and something good can easily turn catastrophic. This is a jet-black mystery thriller with an ocean setting that makes for a perfect dark beach read.
As is my advice with all celebrity memoirs, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who isn’t at least a casual fan of Busy Philipps. But if you are a fan of Busy – from DAWSON’S CREEK, FREAKS AND GEEKS, or her remarkably relatable Instagram – her autobiography is filled with the best (and at times worst) of Busy. She is well-known to her internet fans for her impressive candor and this book is lacking none of that – she shares her personal experiences with betrayal, body shaming, and bullying in a voice that is totally and undeniably her own.