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Summer Reads at Roesch

By Jillian Sandy

The Leisure Reading Collection, found on the first floor of Roesch Library, is a great place to find your next summer read in your favorite genre, whether that’s popular fiction, young adult, non-fiction, or a cookbook.  I’ve been taking advantage of walking by these shelves every day to check out new releases and contemporary classics.  Here are a few of my picks from the collection that you might enjoy during summer vacation (especially if you like history, fantasy, or Shakespeare).

New Boy is Tracy Chevalier’s take on Othello, set over the course of a single day in a 1970s middle school.  O is a new student at a predominantly white school in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.  The son of a diplomat, O has grown accustomed to moving around--and to the series of stereotypes, assumptions, and questions about his African-American heritage from students and teachers alike.  His new school feels much the same until he finds a kindred spirit in Dee, one of the most popular girls in 6th grade.  When Ian, the school’s chief schemer and troublemaker sees an opportunity to socially destroy O, Dee, and several other fellow students in the process, issues of race and privilege threaten to upend the school.  A fast-paced, tense read that is worth a look, especially for the Shakespeare fan.  Also in Roesch is Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name, a retelling of The Merchant of Venice.

March tells the story of John Lewis’ role in the Civil Rights movement in 3 graphic novels.  This series is well worth reading, as it explores the strategies he employed as a key leader of the  Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), his interactions with and impressions of other Civil Rights figures, and insight into the physical and emotional toll on Civil Rights organizers.  The black and white illustrations are powerful, drawing readers into the experiences of African-American activists and the brutality they endured registering to vote, staging sit-ins and other acts of civil disobediences, and infamously during the 1965 Bloody Sunday march in Selma.  Lewis’ convictions and sense of humor are clearly present throughout this work, giving readers an insight into history as well as a biographical portrait of an iconic figure.

Trigger Warning is one of several works by Neil Gaiman found in Roesch Library and Fitz Hall (including one of my favorites, Good Omens).  I haven’t gotten my hands on Neil Gaiman’s latest, Norse Mythology, but Trigger Warning is a good plan b.  In this short story collection, Gaiman covers everything from alien invasions to the writing process to fan fiction about Doctor Who.  Of particular interest is a dark fairy tale with the striking title “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains...”, as well as a longer story, “Black Dog,” centering around characters from American Gods.  Fans of sci-fi and fantasy should enjoy this collection, as Gaiman takes lively stories in unexpected and occasionally dark directions with humor peppered throughout.

The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia is a collaboration between scholar Mary Talbot (writer) and cartoonist Bryan Talbot (artist).  This historical graphic novel tells the story of the little-known Louise Michel, 19th-century revolutionary, feminist, and anarchist.  Ahead of her time, Michel was committed to social justice and known as a crusader for the education of girls and care of the poor.  Banished to New Caledonia after her involvement in the Paris Commune, she was soon sent back to France when she allied with the rebellion of the indigenous Kanak people against their colonizers.  The story provides an interesting look at a forgotten but fascinating character in history, with beautiful, detailed scenes of 19th-century Paris.

You can browse the Leisure Reading Collection stacks on the 1st floor of Roesch Library to find these and other books - or ask library staff about their own recent reads and recommendations!

- Jillian Sandy, Research Services Assistant

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