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Staff Pick: The Movies of Damien Chazelle

Picture of DianeDamien Chazelle, the talented director and screenwriter of only three feature films to date, has amassed an astonishing number of awards and nominations, including Best Picture Academy Award nominations for both Whiplash and La La Land.  At age 32 Chazelle is the youngest person in history to win a Best Director Oscar for La La Land.

Check out his 2009 directing and screenwriting debut, the musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.

Taylor Swift References in Songs

With the announcement of Taylor Swift’s latest album coming out November 10th and a new single out, Taylor Swift is intentionally back in the public eye. As a celebrity and singer that writes about her own experiences with people, it is not surprising that there would be songs written about her.

Compiled below are a few songs in which it’s surmised by a significant amount of people that the songs contain a reference to Taylor Swift in some manner, whether it’s as overt as saying her name (Kanye West’s “Famous”) or as subtle as a line that seems to mimic the nature of one of her relationships (One Direction’s “History”).

pentatonix album cover

Pentatonix by Pentatonix
Song: “Rose Gold”

One Direction Made in the A.M. album coverMade in the A.M. by One Direction
Song: Perfect”

John Mayer Paradise Valley album coverParadise Valley by John Mayer
Song: “Paper Doll”

 

Sources:

4 Songs That Were Written About Taylor Swift” published by people.com (2016)
“8 Songs That Were Definitely Written with Taylor Swift in Mind” published by teen.com (2016)

Book Discussion Questions: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl book cvoerTitle: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
Page Count: 322 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, Reflective

Summary:
Recounting the story of her life to her granddaughter, octogenarian Addie describes how she was raised in early-twentieth-century America by Jewish immigrant parents in a teeming multicultural neighborhood.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1) When Aaron courts Addie, he says he’s going to turn her into a real Boston girl by taking her to the symphony, Red Sox game, and Harvard Yard. Where would you take someone to turn them into a real Chicago girl?

2) One definition of historical fiction says that the goal of historical fiction is to bring history to life in novel form. Did Diamant succeed?

3)Did you learn something from The Boston Girl?

4) What impression do you think would you get of the United States if you were from another country and reading this book?

5) Where the characters beliefs and mannerisms appropriate for the time?

6) Diamant titled the book The Boston Girl. With what you know about Boston, do you think her life would have played out the same way in another city? How important is location to the story line?

7) How would you describe it the tone and style of The Boston Girl? Did that work for you as a reader?

8) Addie’s granddaughter asks her what made her the woman she is today. Addie’s answer is a monologue. Would The Boston Girl have been as effective told in a different way?

Diamant says that she was concerned that Addie’s story leading to a happy marriage might be too small and mundane to keep readers turning the pages. From Diamant: “But once I made Addie the narrator, I realized- or remembered- that we don’t experience history in the abstract; we live inside of it. Addie experiences the momentous events of the early 20th century at eye level. A girl bobs her hair. A veteran of the Great War collapses on the beach. A friend dies because she ignores the warnings about the flu epimic and goes dancing. In Addie’s life, the geopolitical is personal, the immigrant success sage is hantued by loss and despair: war and disease are tests of reliance, even for those on the sidelines. Even for those who survive.”

9) What national or global events happened during Addie’s lifetime?

10) Which ones does she mention? Do you feel she was deeply affected by them?

11) If you were retelling your life story, what weight would you give large scale events?

12) Some critics unfavorably compared this to The Red Tent, which has a more serious mood and is told in the third person. Do you think literary fiction is as effective when the tone is cheerful? Why or why not?

13) Describe Addie’s mom. Are Addie and her sisters equally affected by her?

14) Celia was the most loved by Mameh and had her whole family’s love. She married Levine, a kind man. Why do you think Celia found life so very difficult?

15) Her other sister, Betty, is described by Addie as the most like her mom. What made Addie say that? Do you agree? Did your feelings for Betty change as the story progressed?

16) How would you describe Addie? What do you think made her able to stand up to her mom?

17) This is how Addie describes her father: “I didn’t know my father very well. It wasn’t like today, where fathers change diapers and read books to their children. When I was growing up, men worked all day, and when they came home we were supposed to be quiet and leave them alone.” It seems as if Addie absolves her father of responsibility to his family because of the times. Do you agree? Was he at all to blame for the home dynamic?

18) How does Addie’s world begin to expand beyond her home?

19) Who were some of the people who gave her a chance? Do you have a favorite, or one character that you think made the biggest difference in her life?

20) She had a lot of good fortune with the people she met- people willing to give her friendship, learning opportunities, vacation destinations, and jobs. Was this a realistic portrayal of life for a young female, Jewish daughter of immigrants? Is it within the realm of possibility?

21) Some people Addie mentions were definitely not friends, but she included them in her answer to Ava about how she became the woman she is today. One of them was her first romantic interest, Harold, “the wolf.” Why do you think she told her granddaughter about him? Why do you think she continued to see Harold?

22)Addie says, “I’m still embarrassed and mad at myself. But after seventy years, I also feel sorry for the girl I used to be. She was awfully hard on herself.” What does she mean?

23) It’s actually Harold who calls her, “My favorite Boston girl.” (p 82) If you were going to call yourself _______boy/girl, how would you fill in the blank?

24) Addie’s next boyfriend is Ernie. She doesn’t seem too emotional about him, and decided to let him go, so why do you think he is included in her story about what shaped her? What did she learn from him?

25) Addie says that many young women were focused on getting married. What do you believe she was focused on?

26) The chapter where Addie meets her future husband, Aaron Metsky, is entitled “Never apologize for being smart.” What connections do you make between the title and Addie and Aaron’s relationship?

27) Addie spends more time talking about her jobs along the way: cleaning for the summer, working for her brother in law, the newspaper office than she does about her current job. How were these experiences important enough to relay to her granddaughter?

28) Addie tries on pants for the first time (p.108) when she and Filomena visit Leslie and Morelli. Addie says, “It makes me want to try riding a bicycle and ice skating and all kinds of things.” Leslie asks what other kinds of things and Addie answers, “I’d go to college.” Do you believe that clothes so powerfully affect what a person feels capable of doing?

29) Would you say Addie had a blessed life, or a difficult one?

30) Based on Ava’s question at the beginning of the book, “What made you the woman you are today?”, how would you speculate Ava saw her grandmother?

31) Addie answers through a book’s worth of stories. If you were to sum it up, what made Addie the woman she is today?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

Other Resources:

Reading Group Guide from publisher
Washington Post book review
Q&A with Anita Diamant
Anita Diamant interview with Jewish Book Council
Biography of Anita Diamant

Readalikes:

Someone book coverSomeone
by Alice McDermott

Florence Gordon book coverFlorence Gordon
by Brian Morton

Triangle book coverTriangle
by Katharine Weber

Staff Pick: The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Jenny from Fiction/AV/Teen suggests The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

The Hopefuls book coverBeth’s husband Matt accepts a job with President Barack Obama’s staff, relocating the couple from Wisconsin to Washington D.C. While this head-first plunge into politics has ignited a new dream and passion for Matt, Beth is left adrift and skeptical of this move. She has no job ambition, no friends, and despises the political scene. Plus, now they live close to her in-laws who she does not get along with. However, there is hope as Matt and Beth get close to another White House staffer, Jimmy Dillon, and his wife Ashleigh. The couples hit it off and become inseparable. But as Jimmy progressively moves up in his career, their friendship must start weathering new tensions of jealousy, competitiveness, and resentment.

If you have in-laws you’re less than happy about, if you have interest in the social side of politics, if the tension of compromising to pursue dreams in relationships draws you, and/or you just want to read a solid contemporary piece of fiction where the characters are very much human with all of their error and grace, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close is for you! Try it in audio! The audiobook, narrated by Jorjeana Marie, makes for an incredible reading experience.

For more books of new beginnings and the drama of political social life, try…

Eighteen Acres book coverEighteen Acres by Nicolle Wallace
Three women–White House chief of staff Melanie Kingston, White House correspondent Dale Smith, and president Charlotte Kramer–struggle through a year filled with lies, tragedies, and difficult decisions.
Trudy Hopedale book coverTrudy Hopedale by Jeffrey Frank
The follies and foibles of the nation’s capital are seen from the perspective of quintessential Washington hostess Trudy Hopedale and her social-climbing friend, Donald Frizzâe, during the summer and fall of 2000.

 

Piece of Mind book coverPiece of Mind by Michelle Adelman
Unable to relate to people or hold a job after suffering a head injury in early childhood, talented artist Lucy is forced out of her protective Jewish home and into a New York City studio apartment with her college-age brother, where she struggles to adapt to life without a safety net.
American Wife book coverAmerican Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
When her husband is elected president of the United States, Alice Blackwell finds her new life as first lady increasingly tumultuous as she reflects on the privileges and difficulties of her position as her private beliefs conflict with her public responsibilities.
The Senator's Wife book coverThe Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller
Two unconventional women, neighbors in adjacent New England townhouses–Meri Fowler, pregnant, newly married, and discovering the gap between reality and expectation, and Delia Naughton, wife of a notoriously unfaithful liberal senator–confront the costs and challenges of love.

 

School Days…

School is back in session, and there’s no better way to remember your own high school hi-jinks than by watching a movie. Check out these high school classics set in Chicagoland.

Cooley Vocational High School (in a 1964 version of Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood) is the setting for Cooley High, the fictional story of best friends Preach and Cochise. Preach is studious and has his sights set on a writing career; Cochise is the star of the basketball team, and both are ready for a fun adventure whenever the opportunity arises. Sometimes that opportunity presents itself as a chance to skip school and hang out at the zoo, or crash a party, or pursue a girl. But when a group of troublemakers begin to target them, adult realities start to collide with teenage innocence.

 

 

 

Director John Hughes’ name is synonymous with teen drama films, and 1985’s The Breakfast Club is a big reason why. Students at New Trier High School in suburban Winnetka dubbed early morning detention “breakfast club,” and this movie, (filmed in Des Plaines at the former Maine North high school) perhaps more than any other, gave a closeup look at five teen stereotypes of the 1980s – the popular girl, the jock, the geek, the punk and the loner. They find themselves awkwardly thrust together on a Saturday morning, but come to learn some deep things about each other and realize they may all be more multidimensional than their stereotypes would suggest.

 

Teen ballerina Sara Johnson’s life is struck by tragedy, and she decides to give up dance and return to high school in Chicago in 2001’s Save the Last Dance. She soon finds herself learning hip hop, and pairs up with a hip hop dancer named Derek. Romantic feelings develop between them, and Sara confides in Derek about her tragedy and her dream of attending Julliard, while Derek confides that his dream is to attend med school at Georgetown. Their interracial relationship causes backlash from others, and they ultimately must decide whether to follow their dreams or settle for a lesser path that seems predestined.

 

 

It’s the senior year of high school for North Shore student Joel Goodson, and with his exceptional grades and bright path ahead, he feels he deserves to let loose a little while his parents are out of town. Things quickly spin out of control, and Joel must find a way to cover his tracks after a weekend of partying, call girls and criminals results in thousands of dollars in damages to his parents’ Porsche and lavish home (an actual residence located in Highland Park.) Senoritis definitely takes a unique spin in the movie classic, Risky Business.

 

 

Hoop Dreams is the true story of two high school basketball players, William Gates and Arthur Agee, trying to make it to the NBA. Both teens make more than hour-long commutes from their homes in Chicago housing projects to the same high school in Westchester, Illinois that Isaiah Thomas attended. Both teens must find their places within the social structure of the school, which is predominantly white and very different from their own community, and find ways to remain athletically elite while surviving in abject poverty.

 

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is another John Hughes’ classic teen drama. Ferris’ idyllic suburb (based on Hughes’ hometown of Northbrook) provides the launching off point for an epic decision to ditch high school (Glenbrook North, circa 1986) and tour around downtown Chicago. To the chagrin of his sister Jeannie, Ferris’ faux sick day garners him the sympathy and support of not only their parents, but almost everyone in their high school, and by the end of the day a full-fledged Save Ferris campaign has engulfed the school. His whirlwind tour takes him and his friends to the Art Institute, The Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and even the German-American parade marching down Dearborn.

2017 Hugo Awards for Fantasy and Science Fiction

The 2017 winners of the Hugo Awards were announced August 11th. This annual fantasy and science fiction award has been steeped in controversy over the last few years, in part due to its unique voting system. Take a look and check out some of the heavy hitters this year!

Best Novel
The Obelisk Gate book coverThe Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
Book two in The Broken Earth series continues with strong character development and world building, ultimating into an immersive and gripping tale.
Best Novella
Every Heart a Doorway book coverEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Lyrical writing, a dash of murder, and fantastical worlds fill these 173 pages up, leaving a lasting and unforgettable impact.

 

Best Short Story
The Starlit Wood book cover“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar
Female empowerment and friendship ring strong in this melding of two fairy tales, The Black Bull of Norroway and The Glass Mountain.
Best Related Work
Words Are My Matter Writings About Life and Books book coverWords Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin
Who better to write about books and their impact than the prolific Ursula Le Guin?
Best Graphic Story
Monstress book coverMonstress Vol. 1, Awakening by Marjorie Liu
Art by Sana Takeda enhances a gripping and grim tale following 17-year-old Maika who is on a quest for revenge.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Arrival book coverArrival
This alien invasion focuses on the logistics of trying to communicate with extraterrestrial visitors before it’s too late.
Best Series
Barrayar book coverThe Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
First published in 1986, this long-running series mixes elements of humor, romance, political thrillers, and more through the course of the sweeping narrative.

List: Solar Eclipses in Fiction

While you wait down the days to August 21, check out a novel that counts a solar eclipse as a major plot point. Choose from classic, thriller, science fiction, general fiction, historical mystery, or a whole lot of horror. Maybe it’s the dark? 

Strength of the Sun book coverThe Strength of the Sun
Catherine Chidgey
Dolores Claiborne book cover

Dolores Claiborne
Stephen King

He Said_She Said book coverHe Said / She Said
Erin Kelly

 
 

Geralds Game book coverGerald’s Game
Stephen King

Eclipse book coverEclipse
John Banville

Nightfall book cover

Nightfall
Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg

Book Discussion Questions: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I'm Home book coverTitle: Tell the Wolves I’m Home
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
Page Count: 360 pages
Genre: Coming-of-age
Tone: Moving, Atmospheric

Summary:
Her world upended by the death of a beloved artist uncle who was the only person who understood her, fourteen-year-old June is mailed a teapot by her uncle’s grieving friend, with whom June forges a poignant relationship.

 

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1) June is sensitive, self-aware, and imaginative. How do these qualities affect her skills as a narrator? How does first-person narration in this book help you feel connected to June?

2) How do you feel about books told from the perspective of a child or teen? Does this perspective work well in Tell the Wolves I’m Home? (Is a story limited or enhanced when told from child’s p.o.v.?)

3) How do the characters’ actions reflect the attitudes toward HIV/AIDS in the mid-1980s? Has this element of fear and stigma changed with increased public knowledge?

4) This book won an ALA Alex Award in 2013, which is an award for adult books with special appeal to teens, and was given Adult Book for Teen/YA distinction from at least two major book reviews (Booklist and School Library Journal). What is it about this book that would be of interest to teens?

5) Why is Finn so special to June? How does he understand her in ways that others don’t?

6) What do you think of June’s feelings for Finn? Do you think it is unusual for a teenager to develop a strong attachment to a relative?

7) What are June’s initial motives for meeting with Toby? How does she move beyond her initial feelings of hate and distrust? As their friendship develops, how would you describe their connection?

8) As June gets to know Toby, she discovers things she hadn’t known about Finn before and questions how well she actually knew him. What do you think — Should she doubt her closeness to Finn? How much information do you believe is necessary to fully know a person?

9) Do you find it believable that Finn would hide his partner Toby from the family? Why did he do this? If this book was set in 2017, do you think this would have been different?

10) Do you think Toby was a good friend for June? Did their relationship end up being what Finn had hoped would occur after his passing?

11) How did you respond to the portrayal of June’s relationship with Greta? Do you believe one was more to blame than the other for their drifting apart? Beyond their sibling rivalry, what are their similarities and differences? What is the outlook for their relationship at the end of the book?

12) Think about the title of the book, and painting; what does the wolf symbolize for June? For Finn? And other characters?

13) What is it about the medieval era that appeals to June? What other types of escapism does she pursue? Think about the other characters – are they also in their own little world one way or another?

14) In an interview with BookTalk podcast (10/7/15), Brunt said she’s not a fan of villains being in a story. Do you believe there are any villains in Tell the Wolves I’m Home?

15) How did the 1980s references contribute to the book’s setting? (news stories, popular culture, consumer goods)

16) June writes of her self-doubt many times. She is afraid of appearing stupid and is highly aware of the limitations of her knowledge. She struggles with identifying what it is that people see in her (what she means to others). How has June changed by the end of the book? Is she a stronger person? Is she more sure of her place in the world?

17) In her interview with BookPage, Brunt said “the gift of the novel lies in the emotional connection it can provide” (vs. nonfiction). “A novel has the ability to put the reader right inside a character, to let the reader understand the way another person thinks and feels. So, that’s my mission as a novelist—to use the novel to emotionally connect with readers.” Did she succeed? Did you connect with June and perhaps with other characters too? Who did you connect with the most and why?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

Other Resources:

Reader’s Guide for Tell the Wolves I’m Home
Author website, includes an inspiration gallery
Bookpage interview with Carol Rifka Brunt
NY Daily News interview with Carol Rifka Brunt
Carol Rifka Brunt discusses her work (video)

Readalikes:

Cruel Beautiful World book coverCruel Beautiful World
by Caroline Leavitt

The Sea of Tranquility book coverThe Sea of Tranquility
by Katja Millay

faithful book coverFaithful
by Alice Hoffman

Fiction: Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins

Picture ofNancyKathleen Collins was an African-American playwright, filmmaker, educator, and civil rights activist who died at the age of 46 in 1988. Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? is a newly published collection of short stories she wrote in the 1970s. There are breathtaking as well as quieter stories, many with a focus on race and gender that feel just as relevant today.