Introducing Barbara J. Taylor

by Anna Samuels,
LBPH Reader Advisor

Pennsylvanians have a lot to be proud of. We’ve got killer sports teams across the state, scores of breathtaking vistas and countless outdoor adventure options, our very own dialect n’at, and some darn good food, too (pierogis and cheese steaks, anyone?). But perhaps my favorite thing about the Keystone State is the diverse cast of writers who call, or have called it, home. We’ve got Michael Chabon, Lois Lowry, and Annie Dillard, not to mention Dean Koontz and the late, great Gertrude Stein.  Just last summer we were introduced to another literary talent, Barbara J. Taylor of Scranton, Pennsylvania.Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Taylor

Taylor’s debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night (DBC1834) was published in July 2014 and is now available for loan on cartridge or for download on BARD. We’re extremely excited about this title because it was recorded and produced right here in our studio in Pittsburgh. Our dedicated volunteers put in a ton of hard work narrating, monitoring, and editing Sing in the Morning, and we’re pleased to be able to share it with you:

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night

by Barbara J Taylor
DBC 1834
After her nine-year-old sister Daisy dies, Violet is forced to cope with a mother who begins talking to Grief as if he is a person and a father who leaves the family to drink away his sorrow.  Set in the coal mining town of Scranton, Pennsylvania during the early 1900s, it is a tale about survival and the true meaning of family. Some descriptions of sex. 2014.


by Ashlee Green,
LBPH Reader Advisor

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky

Image of burning book

This week is Banned Book Week and here at the library, we are celebrating our Library Bill of Rights and our first amendment rights—to access and read what we want!

Before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1450, books were handmade, one-of-a-kind, and easy for enemies or adversaries to destroy, oftentimes by setting aflame. In an attempt to control the information fed to his citizens, England’s King Henry VIII mandated that the Church of England approve all books before they were published.

Throughout history, religious institutions, royalty, governments, dictators, and school boards have wiped out entire collections of books on the basis of encouraging racism, sexism, or homophobia; including sexual content or profane language; presenting unpopular religious or occult themes; or rebutting specific religious or political beliefs.

To this day, we experience censorship of television, newspapers, and other media sources. Oftentimes, books are deemed “controversial” and challenged or banned due to a misunderstanding of the books content.

Despite our own biases, the job of library staff members is to help provide patrons the materials they are looking for. During Banned Books Week, we celebrate access to all books and encourage readers to analyze and craft their own opinions on book content.

According to the American Library Association, libraries “promote the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stress the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

Here is a short list of some frequently challenged books available in our collection. Now get down with your bad self: Happy Reading!

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
DB 65403
Spokane Indian Reservation. Fourteen-year-old Junior–beset with physical problems caused by brain damage–transfers to an all-white town school. Called a traitor by his best friend and Tonto by his new classmates, Junior uses humor and wit to bridge the cultural divide. Some strong language. For junior and senior high readers. 2007.

The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
DB 49914 / LP 17278
1941. Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove–poor, ugly, and black–desperately wants blue eyes, which she thinks would solve all her problems. But instead she is subjected to rejection, violence, and an unwanted pregnancy. Slowly, she begins to descend into madness. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1970.

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
DB 57457 / CL 12274
An Afghan in California recalls a fateful 1975 day in Kabul that seared his soul at age twelve–the day he won a kite tournament and abandoned a younger companion to rape. That cowardice keeps haunting him during exile in America until the opportunity for atonement arises–back in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Violence and some strong language. 2003.

A Stolen Life: A Memoir
by Jaycee Dugard
DB 73692
The author describes her 1991 abduction at age eleven by parolee Phillip Garrido and his wife. Recounts her eighteen years of captivity, during which she endured sexual abuse and raised two daughters, and her 2009 discovery and rescue. Strong language, explicit descriptions of sex, and some violence. Bestseller. 2011.

Related Links:

Banned Books That Shaped America

Infographic: A Visual History of Banned Books



by Kerry Hanahan,
LBPH Reader Advisor

The 2015 ReelAbilities Film Festival and Art Show will be held this year on October 22-29 at Rodef Shalom Congregation, located at 4905 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. This event is “Celebrating the Lives, Stories and Artistic Expressions of People with Disabilities through Film” and is hosted by JFilm: The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum and the FISA Foundation. Tickets go on sale on October 1, 2015, and you can view the full film schedule here.

All of the films are intriguing, but one that sticks out is “The Case of the Three Sided Dream,” which will play on October 24 at 7pm. This compelling documentary is about jazz mulit-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who was blind since infancy. Kirk mainly played the tenor saxophone while simultaneously playing other saxophones and flutes so that he harmonized with himself, often using modified instruments and switching up mouthpieces. He counted Jimi Hendrix among his fans. Kirk also was an outspoken civil rights activist in the 60s and 70s, often mixing music with politics. He died of a stroke in 1977. Following this film screening, there will be a reception and concert with Pittsburgh jazz legend Roger Humphries.

Interested in learning more about jazz or making independent films?

Why Jazz Happened
Marc Myers
DB 76178
Journalist chronicles the development of jazz music from the early 1900s to the twenty-first century. Discusses the art and social environment that led to the rise of jazz. Details its influences on later genres and the movements it affected, including labor and civil rights. Profiles notable personalities. 2013.

How Not to Make a Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmer
Roberta M. Munroe
DB 80499
Author uses her experience as a director and Sundance Film Festival selection panelist to offer advice to aspiring filmmakers on how to create successful short films. Interviews practicing writers, directors, and producers about ways they work. Provides anecdotes from the trade and pointers on what to avoid. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2009.


by Eric Meisberger,
LBPH Reader Advisor

Dune, by Frank Herbert is seen as a Sci-Fi classic, and well it should be! I think that Dune offers more than just a different world of space fiction, however. It is exciting, and weird, and thought provoking, and contains enough commentary on the human condition to satisfy not only my wish for a “cool space story,” but to ignite a lot more for me. I’ve not gotten into the multiple books in the series, or the books written by Frank Herbert’s son, but I can say that Dune is worth reading. Even if space and sci fi aren’t your thing, the deep plots and rich textured exposition of the political machinations are fascinating. Some friends of mine have compared it to the Game of Thrones stuff by George R.R. Martin in that respect.Dune by Frank Herbert

In the spirit of full disclosure, it took me two times to read Dune. The first time, nothing clicked for me. I just didn’t get into it and after about 100 pages (give or take), I just bailed on it. About two years later I picked it up again, and started fresh, and this time, I got it, and I got it in a pretty big way.

Give this modern classic a try. Even if it doesn’t work for you the first time around, it might, like happened with me, stick with you, and warrant a further investigation. I highly recommend this book.

by Frank Herbert
DB 44126 / CL 15698
In this science fiction novel with sociological and religious overtones, an exile with psychic powers becomes the prophet of the savage people on the planet Dune. 1965.

Meet Our New Poet Laureate: Juan Felipe Herrera

by Briana Albright,
Juan Felipe Herrera LBPH Reader Advisor

Each morning as I commute to work, I listen to Pittsburgh’s NPR member station, 90.5 WESA. Tuesday morning last was no different. As I sat in my car in a long line of traffic waiting to cross the Birmingham Bridge, sipping coffee and luxuriating in a moment of stillness before the bustle of the day, I turned to my preferred news source and learned that Juan Felipe Herrera was appointed the nation’s 21st poet laureate – the first Latino to be named to the position.

The discovery of a new author or poet (or in the case of Herrera, a new-to-me author or poet) usually prompts me to scour the Internet for information – Wikipedia pages, author websites, news articles, bibliographies, reviews – but not this time. With Herrera, I wanted my thoughts to be shaped by the work itself, not others’ opinions of the work. I downloaded Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (DBE 00018) by Herrera from BARD as soon as I got to work that Tuesday morning and listened to it without preamble. I wasn’t disappointed, and I don’t think you will be, either.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this recording of Half of the World is read by Herrera himself. Hearing an author or poet read their work is such a pleasure, and Half of the World is no exception. Herrera situates each poem in its context, offering tidbits of information like where the title came from, for whom the poem was written, or what experience inspired its creation. How unique to be made privy to what are usually unshared accounts! But wait, there’s more: Herrera also reads a few of his poems in English and Spanish, fluidly transitioning from one language to the other.

In case you need just a bit more to become fully enticed by Herrera, I leave you with my personal favorite from Half of the World in Light:

Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings

Before you go further,
let me tell you what a poem brings,
first, you must know the secret, there is no poem
to speak of, it is a way to attain a life without boundaries,
yes, it is that easy, a poem, imagine me telling you this,
instead of going day by day against the razors, well,
the judgments, all the tick-tock bronze, a leather jacket
sizing you up, the fashion mall, for example, from
the outside you think you are being entertained,
when you enter, things change, you get caught by surprise,
your mouth goes sour, you get thirsty, your legs grow cold
standing still in the middle of a storm, a poem, of course,
is always open for business too, except, as you can see,
it isn’t exactly business that pulls your spirit into
the alarming waters, there you can bathe, you can play,
you can even join in on the gossip—the mist, that is,
the mist becomes central to your existence.

If you’d like to listen to the NPR interview with Juan Felipe Herrera that inspired this post, click here.

Best of BARD: July 2015

by Tony Mareino,
LBPH Reader Advisor

July is hot and long – we can’t keep up this torrid pace of action, foul language and gunslingers for long. Sometimes, we need to kick off the shoes, enjoy a slower pace and a slow burn. Luckily, you and I, we can have it all. And this month’s Top Five is a nice representative of that. Sometimes, we like to rip it up, Robert B Parker style – and others, we just like to think and sleuth along with the real stuff from Hart and Beaton. Check it out below, and go your own way.

Robert B. Parker’s Kickback
by Ace Atkins
DB 81741
Although he never dreamed he would be brought up on criminal charges, seventeen-year-old Dillon Yates lands in a lockdown juvenile facility in Boston Harbor after setting up a prank Twitter account for his vice principal. Dillon’s mother hires Spenser to find the truth behind the draconian sentencing. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.

The President’s Shadow
by Brad Meltzer
DB 81721
National Archives staffer Beecher White is also a member of a 200-year-old secret society founded by George Washington and charged with protecting the presidency. The discovery of a buried arm in the Rose Garden reveals a puzzle whose intended recipient isn’t the president. It’s Beecher himself. Unrated. Commercial audiobook.  Bestseller.  2015.

Obsession in Death
by J.D. Robb
DB 80942 / CL 15719
An attorney whom detective Eve Dallas has had problems with is murdered. A note at the scene from someone claiming to be Eve’s friend explains that it was done as a favor to Eve. And that’s just the first killing. Violence, strong language, and some explicit descriptions of sex. Bestseller.  2015.

Don’t Go Home
by Carolyn G. Hart
DB 81720
Mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling plans a party to celebrate successful southern literary icon–and former Broward’s Rock resident–Alex Griffith and his new novel. But after Annie’s friend Marian Kenyon gets in a heated argument with Griffith, he turns up dead, and Marian is the suspect. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.

Death of a Policeman
by M.C. Beaton
DB 81692
Detective Chief Inspector Blair–who would love to get rid of Sergeant Hamish Macbeth–suggests that keen young police officer Cyril Sessions visit Lochdubh to monitor exactly what Hamish does every day. Cyril is soon found dead, and Hamish quickly becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2014.


by Eric Meisberger,
LBPH Reader Advisor

Another great summer read is the aptly named Summer by Edith Wharton. I’ve been a fan of Wharton for years and years, and her skill and ability is brilliant. Most folks know Wharton as an author of novels of manners. She wrote such American classics as Age of Innocence, and House of Mirth. This book differs in some notable ways, but it still holds true to Wharton’s style, and allows us to explore one of the author’s favorite themes, which is characters navigating the areas in between social constructs.

Engage in some classics in your summer reading! Get into Summer by Edith Wharton.

Summer by Wharton

DB 18851

This novelette about poor country people in New England, first published in 1917, deals with a young girl’s rebellion against the petty conventions of the cheerless town in which she lives.