What Have We Here? New Biographies in the Collection

There is something magical about delving into the life of a person who is so different to yourself, and finding out that despite their extraordinary lives, we all have much in common.  This month’s new crop of biographies in the collection showcases many amazing lives while also highlighting the shared humanity of us all.  Try these titles to get you started.

What have we here? : portraits of a life / Williams, Billy Dee
“Billy Dee Williams was born in Harlem in 1937 and grew up in a household of love and sophistication. He studied painting, before setting out to pursue acting with Herbert Berghoff, Stella Adler, and Sidney Poitier. He became a true pop culture icon when, as the first Black character in the Star Wars universe, he played Lando Calrissian in George Lucas’s The Empire Strikes Back.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Beyond hope : from an Auckland prison to changing lives in Afghanistan / Shah, Bariz
“At age 18, Bariz Shah ended up in an Auckland prison. As an Afghan migrant who was deeply affected by 9/11, Bariz spiralled from schoolyard fights into crime and drugs – until prison made him rethink the story of his life. Years later, in Christchurch, Bariz had turned everything around when a terrorist walked into the local mosque and took the lives of 51 people in his community. Driven by a new purpose, Bariz and his wife Saba raised money to return to Afghanistan and establish 51 small businesses in honour of those they lost. In this memoir about finding self-belief, belonging and positive change, Bariz’s story reminds us that we always have the power to change ourselves for the better.” (Catalogue)

Molly / Butler, Blake
“Blake Butler and Molly Brodak instantly connected, fell in love, married and built a life together. Nearly three years into their marriage, grappling with mental illness and a lifetime of trauma, Molly took her own life. In the days and weeks after Molly’s death, Blake discovered shocking secrets she had held back from the world, fundamentally altering his view of their relationship and who she was.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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Transgender Day of Visibility 2024

This Sunday March 31st we celebrate the International Transgender Day of Visibility.  A day in which we celebrate the lives and stories of transgender people, their contributions to society and highlight the discrimination faced by trans people worldwide.  Here are a selection of books by and about transgender people from all over the world.

Black boy out of time : a memoir / Ziyad, Hari
“One of nineteen children in a blended family, Hari Ziyad was raised by a Hindu Hare Krishna mother and a Muslim father. Through reframing their own coming-of-age story, Ziyad takes readers on a powerful journey of growing up queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio, and of navigating the equally complex path toward finding their true self in New York City. Exploring childhood, gender, race, and the trust that is built, broken, and repaired through generations, Ziyad investigates what it means to live beyond the limited narratives Black children are given and challenges the irreconcilable binaries that restrict them. Heartwarming and heart-wrenching, radical and reflective, Hari Ziyad’s vital memoir is for the outcast, the unheard, the unborn, and the dead. It offers us a new way to think about survival and the necessary disruption of social norms.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Detransition, baby : a novel / Peters, Torrey
“Reese had what previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child. Then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Ames thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese, and losing her meant losing his only family. Then Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she is pregnant with his baby– and is not sure whether she wants to keep it. Ames wonders: Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family, and raise the baby together?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available in eBook format

Our work is everywhere : an illustrated oral history of queer & trans resistance / Rose, Syan
“Over the past ten years, we have witnessed the rise of queer and trans communities that have defied and challenged those who have historically opposed them. Through bold, symbolic imagery and surrealist, overlapping landscapes, queer illustrator and curator Syan Rose shines a light on the faces and voices of these diverse, amorphous, messy, real, and imagined queer and trans communities. The many themes include Black femme mental health, Pacific Islander authorship, fat queer performance art, disability and health care practice, sex worker activism, and much more.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available in eBook format

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March’s New Music for Te Awe…


Statler: Well, it was good.
Waldorf: Ah, it was very bad.
Statler: Well, it was average.
Waldorf: Ah, it was in the middle there.
Statler: Ah, it wasn’t that great.
Waldorf: I kind of liked it.”
-‘The Muppet Show’.

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries. I buy music for the CD & Vinyl collections, and also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). My Music Specialist colleague Sam, and Fiction Specialist (and avid music fan) Neil, join me every month to cast an eye over the new material we have been buying for the music collection at our CBD Te Awe library. We pick out some interesting titles across a range of music genres, and try to limit our reviews to a few lines only. Can we encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? [Ed. This is probably unlikely at this point]. Do we actually know anything about new music? Or, are we just too old to understand what most of this is banging on about? [Ed. This is more than likely]. Read on to find out…

Purge / Godflesh
Sam Says: Godflesh established themselves as a major pioneer of the industrial and post metal genres back in the late ‘80s into the ‘90s and went on to become influential to many artists across a variety of metal genres, including such major names as Metallica, Fear Factory, Korn and Mike Patton. They disbanded in the early-2000s, before forging a successful comeback a few years later. Purge is their third album since then and finds them in a comfortable and familiar place, infusing musical features from various stages within their eclectic career. Particularly of note is the inclusion of trip-hop and breakbeat elements, which came to the forefront in their mid ‘90s output on albums such as Songs of Love and Hate and Us and Them. This is slathered with noisy and punishingly discordant heavy guitar riffs recalling their earlier work, albeit with much slicker production values, which in turn makes it firmly feel like a Godflesh album in the present day. Purge carries a real sense of catharsis, with the title being a reference to Godflesh’s music providing a temporary relief from frontman Justin Broadrick’s diagnosed autism and PTSD. Overall, this is an impressively potent collection of songs for a band now several decades into their career.

Madra / NewDad
Mark Says: A pandemic success story, this Irish rock band put out a series of singles & videos over the lockdown, building an online audience and millions of streams. Their debut full-length throws up a strong entry into the shoegaze revival, very much reminiscent of the 90s Trip-hop/shoegaze sound, channelling elements of Curve, Garbage, early Sneaker Pimps, and also Robin Guthrie’s post Cocteau’s band Violet Indiana (with vocalist Siobhan de Maré). There’s nothing really new here, but it’s done really well. A nice slice of spiky, angsty pop from a young band who are sure to rise above their influences with further releases.
Neil Says: The debut album from London Via Galway pop shoegaze band NewDad clearly shows their influences, but also shows their desire to move beyond them. It is clear that the dulcet tones of bands like Garbage, The Pixies, The Breeders and The Cure frequently grace their turntables. The lyrics are more personal, and are focused around themes of self-doubt and the emotional turmoil of being a young adult. It’s a fizzing dream pop outing with heavy fuzzy guitars and solid bass lines; the sound of a band who know where their roots lie, but who also want to stamp their own musical identity on them.

Dangerous day to be a cold one / Dartz
Sam Says: Over the past five years, Dartz have rapidly become one of the most exciting and prolific acts within the local Wellington punk scene, with several EPs and singles put out since 2019. Released on the famed Flying Nun records, the aptly (and humorously) titled Dangerous Day to be a Cold One is their sophomore full-length effort, and finds them sounding more confident and polished than ever before. Packed full of infectiously catchy and highly energetic pub-rock party anthems over the space of 30 minutes, it is a fiercely immediate and decisive album from a band firing on all cylinders, a notion made all the more apparent by the quick turnover since the release of their debut little over a year ago. With Dangerous Day to be a Cold One, Dartz have clearly established themselves as a major up-and-coming force within the local scene.
Neil Says: The second album from the New Zealand slash and burn punk rock outfit Dartz sees them capitalising on their reputation for high octane explosive live gigs. They’ve been playing to packed audiences of ecstatic heavily involved fans, and this resulting new album doubles down on their brand of raucous, anthemic, fast and furious punk sing along tracks, all with a unique local bite to their lyrics.

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Animals who help humans: Books from Te Pātaka

Have you heard the interesting, true story about the cow that saved its owner during a flood in the Manawatū? If you’d like more stories along the same theme, below we have books on remarkable dogs, pigeons, and horses helping and saving their human friends during war and peace times – and vice versa.

Animal heroes / Long, David
“The first recipients of the Dickin Medal in December 1943 were three pigeons serving with the Royal Air Force, all of whom contributed to the recovery of aircrew from ditched aircraft. And Treo, a black Labrador, was awarded for his ‘heroic actions as an arms and explosives search dog in Afghanistan’. Olga the courageous police horse, who bolted from the path of a flying bomb in World War II only to return to duty. These true tales of heartrending devotion and duty are told from first-hand accounts.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Alfie & me : what owls know, what humans believe / Safina, Carl
“A moving account of raising, then freeing, an orphaned screech owl, whose lasting friendship with the author illuminates humanity’s relationship with the world. When ecologist Carl Safina and his wife, Patricia, took in a near-death baby owl. Alfie’s feathers were not growing correctly, requiring prolonged care. As Alfie grew and gained strength, she became a part of the family, joining a menagerie of dogs and chickens and also braided Carl and Patricia into her world.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

The diggers’ menagerie : mates, mascots and marvels : true stories of animals who went to war / Stone, Barry
“From the Boer War to the conflict in Vietnam, from the Somme to Afghanistan, from beasts of burden and bomb detectors, animals have played a vital role and provided companionship in Australian military history. Dogs, cats, pigeons, camels and horses are documented by Barry Stone, through letters, journals, photographs and first-hand accounts. The stories of the myriad creatures added a poignant layer to Australia’s military history.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

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Graphic Classics

Among the graphic novels held at Wellington City Libraries are several adaptions of classic literary works. If you’re looking for a first step into these works, or simply want to experience them in a different way, here is a selection of what’s available!

Dracula / Bess, Georges
“Bram Stoker’s original novel about the world-renowned vampire, Dracula, is adapted into a beautiful graphic novel by the renowned artist Georges Bess. This volume includes an epilogue adapting Stoker’s short story “Dracula’s Guest” (believed to be the original novel’s first draft chapter before later revived for publication two years after the author’s passing).” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Watership down : the graphic novel / Sturm, James
” Watership Down is a classic tale of survival, hope, courage, and friendship that has delighted and inspired readers around the world for more than fifty years. Masterfully adapted by award-winning author James Sturm and gorgeously illustrated by bestselling artist Joe Sutphin, this spectacular graphic novel will delight old fans and inspire new ones, bringing the joy of Watership Down to a new generation of readers.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Macbeth : a tale of horror / Ascari, Stefano
“Deep within the walls of Castle Dunsinane, a seed of madness begins to bloom. Spurred on by the prophesies of witches, and the whispers of his scheming wife, Lord Macbeth plots the death of his friend, King Duncan. This one cruel act soon spirals out of control, and murder after murder erupt into a wave of chaos and violence that threatens to consume all of Scotland.” (Catalogue)

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Astronomer’s Stories- Books from Te Pataka

The sky is no longer the limit, with people’s endless exploration. This blog collects books about the lives of astronomers and scientists, whose imagination and research lead to space. Some of these books are witty and funny, while some records the challenge they had to face, whether personally or academically.

An astronomer’s tale : a life under the stars / Fildes, Gary
“Gary Fildes left school at sixteen, got a trade like most of his mates and was soon married with four kids. He practised a secret with a few like-minded friends. Then one day, middle age approaching alarmingly, he acted on his lifelong passion, to be an astronomer. Today, Gary is the founder and lead astronomer of Kielder Observatory, world’s top ten stargazing sites. Situated within Europe’s largest protected dark sky park, it offers some of the UK’s most spectacular views of stars, planets and galaxies.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

Star-craving mad : tales from a travelling astronomer / Watson, F.
“Most people world harbor the romantic notion that astronomers spend every night with their eyes clapped to giant telescopes. Members of the public normally ask astronomer Fred Watson whether he’s recently found anything? Sadly, astronomers normally spend huge amount of time investigating things they already know about. Fred Watson takes us on a witty, funny, and knowledgeable ride through space, ruminating on Pluto’s demotion from planetary status and Peru’s ancient sky watchers.” (Adapted from Amazon.com)

Celestial geometry : understanding the astronomical meanings of ancient sites / Taylor, Ken
“Since the dawn of civilization, humans have sought inspiration and guidance in the night sky. “Celestial Geometry” explores the remarkable achievements of ancient astronomers at over 60 archaeological sites, from European stone circles like Stonehenge to the pyramids of Egypt and Central America, the medicine wheels of North America, the carved monoliths of Easter Island, and the sun clock of Goseck.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)

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