Like many fathers, mine could occasionally be prevailed on for a spot of “airplane.” As he launched me, my full weight would fall on the pivot point between his feet and my stomach.
Alison Bechdel subtitled Fun Home “A Family Tragicomic” and those words describe it perfectly. Part coming-of-age story and part dysfunctional family memoir, I was captivated. The story is both bleak and funny which is a tough trick to pull off. Surely it is dark with mental illness, isolation, and death as prominent themes. But Bechdel allows room for more than simply darkness, both through her compassion for her younger self and family and through her lovely art. The beautiful drawings are more than a mere complement to the words. They are worth examining for their own beauty as well as the clues they provide to the story. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a family drama or likes their stories a bit dark, and especially for graphic novel beginners who want to see how well pictures and words can fit together.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Fun Home
You have never been so hungry. You have never been so cold.
Lev Beniov is a 17-year-old just trying to survive the siege of Leningrad by doing some petty thieving, when he is caught by the Soviet army and sentenced to death. Unless… he agrees to help a crazy colonel who wants a dozen fresh eggs. Not the easiest thing to find in a blockaded city full of starving people. On his quest he is joined by a another man convicted of desertion, and it is the relationship between the two as they face perils terrifying and ridiculous that form the heart of the story. This book is just begging to be made into a movie, and a more appealing mix of buddy picture and touching coming of age story would be hard to find. Full of humor amid the horrors of war, it is the immensely appealing characters that carry this vivid WWII story.
Check the BPL Catalog for this title: City of Thieves
You may be tempted to call it a work of art; as if something that began with civil engineering ended somewhat in the neighborhood of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
This surprisingly wide-ranging history of the creation of the most famous hydroelectric dam in the US opens with the night-time rail journey made by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the dedication ceremonies of the “colossus” then known as Boulder Dam (later renamed for FDR’s predecessor in a bit of semi-comic back-and-forth intrigue only possible after FDR’s death). That ceremony marked the start of FDR’s reframing of the dam’s creation as emblematic of the great public works and jobs-creation projects that marked his first two terms in office, even though it had been in the works since the first decade of the century. Hiltzik amplifies this: “Hoover Dam was the first manifestation of the clamorous, ascendant West’s expanding influence in Washington…It’s water and hydroelectricity turned California into the most politically weighty state in the union, it fueled the development of the isolated cities of the Southwest into bustling Sunbelt metropolises, which continue today to drain Eastern cities of money, population, and talent.” In re-examining this massive project today, Hiltzik asks “other, darker questions” such as whether it was right to build the dam in the first place, and in the course of his investigation, describes historical connections and personages of a dazzling variety: the Wobblies last stand, LA Water and Power’s William Mulholland, Teddy Roosevelt, and CA’s Progressive Senator Hiram Johnson. Perhaps no other man-made object carries such symbolic weight and evokes so many tentacles of history.
A great read from many angles: labor and environmental history, political drama, social migrations, and gloriously recondite Californiana .
Check the BPL Catalog for this title: Colossus : Hoover Dam and the making of the American century