Desperate Hausfrau and the Domino Effect


At the recommendation of one of my stellar coworkers, I recently read Hausfrau (DB 81071)by Jill Alexander Essbaum.

And now I want everyone to read it.

I can’t stop talking about it; I can’t help but force its relevance into every conversation I have.

And now, worst of all, I’m afraid to read another book for fear that it simply won’t stack up.

Called a “contemporary Madame Bovary,” Hausfrau (“Housewife” in German) combines themes of commitment, independence, infidelity, identity, family, feminism, freedom, friendship, love, morality, motherhood, psychoanalysis, shadow, shame, secrets, and surrender, all wrapped up in a spellbinding package of poetic wordplay (“Grief that finds no relief in tears makes other organs weep”).

The brilliance of Anna—the book’s main character—lies in her oft-relatable, isolated, unfulfilling life as a thirty-something wife and mother in Switzerland, the unfamiliar home country of her husband. She compartmentalizes the many secret lives she leads in order to cope with her situation. Meanwhile, we readers stand by helplessly as these lives slowly begin to intersect, disintegrate, and ultimately, collapse.

More than anything, Hausfrau is a novel about heartbreak and the decisions that can lead to it:

“Think of your life as a long line of dominos,” Anna is advised.

“Every domino is a choice. Our lives are cause and effect. Even the smallest choices matter.”

Hausfrau: A Novel
Anna Benz, an American expatriate married to a Swiss banker, passes her days in near isolation, caring for her children and having affairs. She begins therapy with Doktor Messerli, who recommends she finally take classes in Swiss German. She uses the classes as a hunting ground for new lovers. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.

 – Ashlee

Tech Training: Email and Messaging Apps

Person using tablet technology to perform a task

Tuesday, February 9, 2016  

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Need assistance with your iOS device? Join us for a hands-on tech training focusing on Apple products (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and their accessibility options. Please bring your own device if you have one, if not, feel free to use one of ours! For this session, we’ll work with email and iMessage apps.
Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Leonard C. Staisey Building
4724 Baum Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

High on the (Ground)hog


“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.”
–English poem with an early reference to Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day has its roots in a Pennsylvania German tradition and several old European holidays with both a groundhog as the weather prognosticator as well as other animals including a badger and sacred bear. The largest Groundhog Day celebration has always been held in Punxsutawney, PA with a crowd of over 40,000 attendants who gather to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow for six more weeks of winter.

Image of Punxsutawney Phil waiting to be hoisted up to see whether or not his shadow is apparent

Punxsutawney is not the only city, however, that celebrates the holiday. Other groundhogs enlisted to participate on this day include Stormy Marmot of Colorado, French Creek Freddie of West Virginia, and Nibbles of North Carolina. There are also lady groundhogs including Dundas Donna of Toronto and Mount Joy Minnie of Lancaster County. Other groundhogs are even granted with special qualifications such as General Beauregard Lee who has been presented with honorary doctorates from Georgia State University including the title Doctor of Weather Prognostication and Doctor of Southern Groundology.

Whether you place your beliefs in the power of the groundhog or not this time of year, you may still enjoy the theme of an animal character vested with so much responsibility. The following is a selection that certainly carries through with this theme and includes some adult satire as well:

Holy Cow
By David Duchovny
DB 81352
In his debut novel, actor Duchovny tells the story of Elsie, a cow who inadvertently learns about the meat industry and sets off on a globe-spanning adventure with her friends: Jerry, a Torah-reading pig, and Tom, a sophisticated turkey.

– Gabrielle


New Locally Produced Title!

LBPH is proud to share a new locally produced digital title available for loan or download from BARD. But Remember Their Names: A Cynthia Jakubek Legal Thriller was produced by LBPH and narrated by volunteer Melissa Dodge:

But Remember Their Names: But Remember Their Names by Locke
A Cynthia Jakubek Legal Thriller
Hillary Bell Locke
DBC 8111

The body of philanthropist and art connoisseur T. Colfax Bradshaw is found in a Pittsburgh museum’s life-size diorama of the 1775 Battle of Lexington.  When his daughter Caitlin seeks legal advice, newly minted lawyer Cynthia Jakubec finds herself representing the teen.  Some strong language, some descriptions of descriptions of sex. 2011.

This title is available for download through BARD or you can request it through our online catalog.

30th Anniversary of the Challenger Explosion


by Kerry Hanahan,
LBPH Reader Advisor1986 Challenger crew

January 28th is the thirtieth anniversary of the Challenger explosion. Did you know that Challenger was named after a British Royal Navy warship? Or that the Challenger space shuttle successfully launched and returned nine times prior to the 1986 accident?

Since the Challenger explosion, NASA has helped to build and sustain an International Space Station, landed the Curiosity rover on Mars, and launched the Hubble Space Telescope.

To learn more about the Challenger tragedy, check out these books:

The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology; Culture; and Deviance at NASA
Diane Vaughan
DB 42430
Examines the 1986 space shuttle “Challenger” explosion that shocked the nation. Sociologist Vaughan’s interpretation of the event focuses on the NASA environment, organizational culture, and decision-making process that resulted in incremental descent into poor judgment. 1996.

Challenger: The Final Voyage
Richard S. Lewis
DB 29863
From the prelaunch banter among the crew to the explosion over the Atlantic, the final moments of the space shuttle Challenger are chronicled by Lewis. He also discusses the salvage efforts, the investigation and findings of the Rogers Commission, and the organization of NASA and the shuttle program. 1988.

Heroes of the Challenger
Daniel Choen
DB 25430
Starting with an account of the January 28, 1986, explosion of the space shuttle “Challenger,” this book includes short, interesting profiles of each of the seven astronauts killed in the tragedy, as well as a brief history of the U.S. space program. For grades 5-8.

Accessible Movie Afternoon @ LBPH

Image of movie theater popcorn, a DVD, and a director's movie slateMonday, February 1, 2016  

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

DVD, 115 minutes

LBPH will be showing a true-life dramatic bio-pic chronicling the solo 1,100 mile hike taken by the main character Cheryl Strayed in the wake of personal tragedy. Rated R. Starring Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon. 2014.

This movie will be played with a described audio track and with captions–all are invited! Refreshments will be provided.

Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Leonard C. Staisey Building
4724 Baum Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

A Poet in Pittsburgh

by Anna Samuels,
LBPH Reader Advisor

Terrance Hayes was born in South Carolina, but found his true calling farther north. “I became a poet in Pittsburgh,” Hayes explained in a 2014 All Things Considered interview, citing his experiences living in Pennsylvania as inspiration for much of his work. Hayes is the author of five collections, one of which, 2010’s Lighthead, was awarded the National Book Award. Just last year, Hayes was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, alongside other accomplished scientists, writers, social justice leaders, and playwrights. All this while working as a professor in the English departments of first Carnegie Mellon University and now the University of Pittsburgh.

Poet Terrance HayesHayes’s poetry is exciting. His word choice and sentence structure are fresh and startling and different. “It was the night I embraced Ron’s wife a bit too long because he’d refused to kiss me good-bye that I realized the essential nature of sound,” he begins in A House is Not a Home. If you’re anything like me, a line like this hooks you instantly. Where will we go from here? What does this mean? In the page and a half that follows, Hayes manages to amass meditations on Luther Vandross, the difference between hearing and listening, and “the ardour of…anger”.

Cover of Lighthead
Though we don’t currently have any Terrance Hayes books available, we’re in the process of producing a number of them here in our recording studio at the library. Our first release will be Lighthead (DBC6541), which will be available as a requestable cartridge or downloadable file via BARD in February. After that, we’ll add some of his other works to our collection. In the mean time, why not check out one of our poetry collections, such as the many editions of The Best American Poetry or Billy Collins’ highly accessible compilation, Poetry 180?