Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

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From the Vaults: Around the World

So far in our From the Vaults series, highlighting the niftiest of nifty collections held primarily in the Central collection in Johnsonville, we’ve heard about LGBTQ+ manga and had a delicious expose on some of our favourite Māori authors. Did you know that the library also holds a huge collection of books in different world languages?

That’s right: we have everything from the usual suspects (français, español, Deutsch, 汉语) to the slightly more niche (Tiếng Việt, русский, Türkçe, Tagalog) to the even nichier still (αρχαία ελληνικά, Cymraeg, српски, עִבְרִית‎). All up, there are about 40 languages (other than English and te reo Māori) with significant chunks of shelf-space represented in our collection: a polyglot’s dream. Check out our World Languages master list to find out what we have and where.

Whether you speak a different language at home, are learning one for school, or are just a general language and linguistics nerd (we know you’re out there!), let us know what you want and the finest librarians in the land will scurry to the shelves, squint at the spines of the book, figure out whether what they’re looking at is Sinhalese, Tamil or Gujarati, and send the book of your desires to whichever of our 14 locations is most convenient to you. Sound sweet? Oh yeah, it is.

While you’re at it, why not check out our selection of language-learning databases? Duolingo is great, but your library card gives you access to a huge range of options — dive in now! You can also check out publications, newspapers and magazines in over 60 languages over on PressReader, and there are also heaps of resources available on OverDrive, both for foreign language study and, if you’re learning Chinese, a large amount of Chinese fiction and nonfiction for your delectation.

Now, this wouldn’t be a From the Vaults post without some recommendations. You’ll have to forgive me for selecting only from the languages I speak (Greek and Latin, really — I think you see where this is going) — let us know what languages you speak below, and we’ll see what we can find for you!

Collected poems / Cavafy, Constantine
As far as Greek poets from the modern era go, you can’t go past the extraordinary Egyptian-Greek poet C. P. Cavafy (Κ. Π. Καβάφης). This book is a collection of his complete works in Greek and English on facing pages, spanning several decades from the 1880s to the early 1930s. His work is almost indescribably sublime — by turns nihilistic and sparking with a manic energy; dreamily, hazily introspective and bursting from the page to club you around the head with its intensity. His explorations of queer love and romance are also to die for, and very much ahead of his time. Even if you don’t speak Greek, y’all should read this, like, yesterday. Here’s a sample to whet your poetic appetite; a ghostly evocation of a city and a mind in sympathetic ruin:

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,

you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

Καινούργιους τόπους δέν θά βρείς, δέν θάβρεις άλλες θάλασσες.
‘Η πόλις θά σέ ακολουθεί. Στούς δρόμους θά γυρνάς
τούς ίδιους. Καί στές γειτονιές τές ίδιες θά γερνάς
καί μές στά ίδια σπίτια αυτά θ’ ασπρίζεις.
Πάντα στήν πόλι αυτή θά φθάνεις. Γιά τά αλλού – μή ελπίζεις –
δέν έχει πλοίο γιά σέ, δέν έχει οδό.
Έτσι πού τή ζωή σου ρήμαξες εδώ

στήν κώχη τούτη τήν μικρή, σ’ όλην τήν γή τήν χάλασες.

— From C. P. Cavafy, “The City.” (1894)

Three classical poets : Sappho, Catullus and Juvenal. / Jenkyns, Richard
Okay, you knew from the general nerdy tone of this post that we’d end up in classical territory eventually. And this book bears the distinction of preventing three of the coolest classical poets in their original languages with some pretty dazzling English translations alongside. Sappho, of course, wrote in Greek and was one of the earliest known female poets whose work has survived to the present day. And oh boy, has it survived — her work is vital, breathless, exciting and alluring. Catullus and Juvenal both wrote in Latin — the former is probably the sassiest poet ever to have lived (and also one of the most soul-bendingly gorgeous lyrical poets as well), while the latter delighted in satire — his subject was The Human Experience. There’s plenty to enjoy with these three poets — scoop them up now for your reading pleasure!

From the Vaults: Discovering Māori Authors

Kia ora, e hoa mā! For the next post in our ongoing series exploring the riches of the Central collection at Te Pātaka, our Collection Distribution Centre in Johnsonville, we thought it appropriate to celebrate some of the books by Māori authors that are held there. Kia kaha te reo Māori!

The drill is just the same as last time — find the book you want in the catalogue, click ‘Place Reserve,’ and choose the branch you want to pick it up from. For extra credit, if you want to find only books held at Te Pātaka, you can either:

  • Filter your search results by location and select “Off-Site Storage,” or,
  • Filter your search results by collection and choose the collection type you think best describes the book you’re looking for, for example, “Store – Adult Fiction” or “Store – Young Adult Fiction.”

For now, though, here are some of our favourites. Many of these books are out of print and only held at Te Pātaka or in our New Zealand collection at He Matapihi Molesworth Library. Check out our handy booklist to find more literary gems from Māori authors past and present.

Bloom / Morey, Kelly Ana
“Summoned home by her grandmother to the Maori settlement where she grew up, Constance Spry returns to her mother and sister and the country pub where they live. Slowly, but surely, she gathers the myriad threads that are the lives and loves of the four murderous Women Spry.” (Catalogue)

 

Kissing shadows / Renée
“Do we ever really know or understand the motives of the ones we love? When Vivvie Caird is faced by the sight of her beautiful, strong-willed mother lying limp and speechless in a hospital bed, she feels empowered to begin unlocking the mystery that is her fathers legacy. Vivvies nave undertaking soon finds a parallel in her mothers own account of what happened when her husband left home one day, never to return. A family, and a court must confront a devastating event that occurred in the midst of the hard times of last century. This fast-paced, page-turning novel takes the reader into an absorbing and moving world of shadowy relationships and intrigue.” (Catalogue)

Wooden horses / George, James
“This novel focuses on former UN peacekeeper Tom Solomon and the mysterious old Maori woman, Phoenix, who seeks him out on a remote Northland beach to recount the story of her life. She tells of her foster parents, Jessye and Will, and of her intense love affair with a runaway boy, Luka.” (Catalogue)

 

Ngā waituhi o Rēhua / Mataira, Katarina
“This science fantasy novel in te reo Maori follows four teenagers living on Rehua, a planet settled after Earth is destroyed by ecological disasters and global war. The four raise hokio, giant mystical birds, which take them on flights to explore their new world. On one flight, they discover an island with another colony of people, and here, they are given a quest to interpret hieroglyphic message drawn on cave walls. Deciphering these symbols leads them to appease the feared tipua wheke, a gargantuan octopus, and help the Turehu, fair-skinned sea fairies, who have discovered a way to return to Earth.” (Catalogue)

One night out stealing. / Duff, Alan
“The second gripping, powerful novel by the author of Once Were Warriors. Boys’ homes, borstal, jail, stealing, then jail again – and again. That’s been life for Jube and Sonny. One Pakeha, the other Maori, only vaguely aware of life beyond pubs and their hopeless cronies . . . Reviewers found it compulsive and unforgettable, one saying: ‘Brutal, foul-mouthed, violent, despairing and real . . . it can’t be ignored’. In this novel Alan Duff confirms his skills as a gripping story-teller and a masterful creator of characters and situations. As one reviewer noted, it is ‘original and important’.” (Catalogue)

Festival of miracles / Tawhai, Alice
“An electrifying debut. This is a collection of short stories by a gifted writer. Alice Tawhai is bilingual and is a keen observer of the luminous, the unusual, the different and the beautiful both in her writing and through her photography. In Festival of Miracles Alice Tawhai has created a bittersweet New Zealand wonderland that is at once luminous and sensual, tragic and fated. The stories in this debut collection are set from the Hokianga to Bluff, and they are populated by a stunning range of characters – circus workers, tattoo artists, bikies, mail-order brides, beautiful victims, wild children, immigrants, tangata whenua – who never cease to believe that they will find perfect things amidst the human imperfection of their lives: miracles, not misfortune.” (Catalogue)

From the Vaults: Manga

The vast collections of the Wellington Central Library have finally found a home in the Te Pātaka Collection Distribution Centre in Johnsonville, and the extensive YA collection is now available to borrow. The process is simple — just locate the item in our online catalogue, click “Reserve Item,” enter your card number and PIN, and select which library you’d like it to be sent to.

But some things are a little more difficult now that you can’t go and browse the shelves yourself. Even if you know what you’re looking for, and even though our catalogue does a pretty good job of telling you what we have and where it is, sometimes stuff is just hard to find. So we thought we’d start a blog series — From The Vaults — highlighting some of the cool stuff you can reserve.

 'I could find all the books I need on the catalogue myself, if only there weren't so many cats in the way!'

Let’s start with manga. Manga (漫画 or マンガ or まんが) are pocket-sized comics normally originating from Japan. That’s not to say that manga can only come from Japan — many countries have their own independent industries now, from Korean manhwa (만화) and Chinese mànhuà (漫画) to manfra in France. They are usually printed in black-and-white, and read right-to-left, a feature which some say dates back to manga’s origins in 12th-century scrolls. Regardless of when it all started, manga are extremely popular today in Japan, and increasingly outside of Japan as well.

Wellington City Libraries has an extensive collection of manga series and stand-alone titles, from popular series like Naruto, Death Note, and Cardcaptor Sakura to alternative and underground works like Anomal and Iceland. As most of the books in this collection were held at Central, and are now in the closed stacks at Te Pātaka, we have produced a master list of all of the manga we hold — over 160 series and stand-alone titles, along with quick descriptions of the genres, themes, and target audiences of each manga. Sometimes, due to items being damaged or lost, you might notice that a series is incomplete. Never fear! Just get in touch with us using the Suggestion To Buy form, and we’ll move heaven and earth to locate that pesky missing volume and give you the satisfying and complete reading experience you deserve and need.

Go forth and explore! In the meantime, as it’s currently the Out On The Shelves campaign week, we thought we’d pick out some of our favourite manga featuring LGBTQ+ characters and themes.

Wandering son. Volume one / Shimura, Takako
{reps: trans*, lesbian}
Set in that period between the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence, this gorgeous manga from arguably Japan’s greatest master of LGBTQ+ stories, Takako Shimura, Wandering Son follows friends Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki as they navigate school, life, and their relationships along with their growing understanding of their own gender identities. This is one of the few manga series to feature trans* characters as protagonists — and trust us when we say it’s not to be missed.

My lesbian experience with loneliness / Nagata, Kabi
{reps: lesbian}
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is an honest and heartfelt look at one young woman’s exploration of her sexuality, mental well-being, and growing up in our modern age. Told using expressive artwork that invokes both laughter and tears, this moving and highly entertaining single volume depicts not only the artist’s burgeoning sexuality, but many other personal aspects of her life that will resonate with readers.

My brother’s husband. Volume 1 / Tagame, Gengoroh
{reps: gay}
Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo; formerly married to Natsuki and father to their young daughter, Kana. Their lives suddenly change with the arrival at their doorstep of a hulking, affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan, who declares himself the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji. Mike is on a quest to explore Ryoji’s past, and the family reluctantly but dutifully takes him in. What follows is an unprecedented and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation can change the preconceptions about it and prejudices against it.

Pretty guardian Sailor Moon. 1 / Takeuchi, Naoko
{reps: lesbian}
Usagi Tsukino is a normal girl until she meets up with Luna, a talking cat, who tells her that she is Sailor Moon. As Sailor Moon, Usagi must fight evils and enforce justice, in the name of the Moon and the mysterious Moon Princess. Anyone familiar with the history of manga and anime will have at least passing familiarity with Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon — and the same-sex relationship between Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus is legendary among fans of the series.

Overdrive cover Bloom Into You, Volume 1, Nakatani Nio (ebook)
{reps: lesbian}
Yuu has always adored shoujo manga and yearns for the day when someone might give her a love confession that would send her heart aflutter. Yet when a junior high school classmate confesses his feelings to her–she feels nothing. Disappointed and confused, Yuu enters high school, where she sees the confident and beautiful student council member Nanami. When the next person to confess to Yuu is Nanami herself, has her romantic dream finally come true?

Ouran High School Host Club. Vol. 1 / Hatori, Bisco
{reps: genderfluid/genderqueer, queer}
Ouran High School Host Club is a great shōjo manga from the early 2000s that almost single-handedly deconstructs many of society’s most carefully-constructed preconceptions about gender roles, sexuality, and gender identity. Main character Haruhi is biologically female, but presents androgynously and has no hang-ups about adopting a very fluid approach to their gender. In the original Japanese, they refer to themselves almost exclusively using gender-neutral pronouns (a feature that is sadly lost in the English translation — see a nuanced discussion of gender in OHSHC here), and their parent, Ryoji, is openly queer and presents in drag most times we meet him. Read and enjoy, friends!

Cardcaptor Sakura. Book 1 / CLAMP (Mangaka group)
{reps: lesbian, bisexual, gay, pansexual, genderqueer}
When Sakura Kinomoto finds a strange book in her father’s library, the only thing left inside is Kero-chan, the book’s cute little guardian beast, who informs Sakura that since the Clow cards escaped while he was asleep, it’s now her job to capture them. Cardcaptor Sakura is revolutionary among mainstream manga for its easy and natural portrayal of a wide range of LGBTQ+ characters, including Sakura herself (pan), her best friend Tomoyo (lesbian), and a steady, loving gay couple (Toya and Yukito). Plus there’s plenty of epic fantasy elements and a great story to boot.

Out On The Shelves: Rainbow Stories at Your Library

It is now officially the 2020 Out On The Shelves campaign week! All around the country, libraries, bookstores, schools and other organisations are putting on displays and events to celebrate LGBTQIA+ stories, and to help connect rainbow people to those stories and to each other.

Rejoice, for this year Campaign Week is not one week, but two, from 17 — 30 August. And there’s all kinds of things you can do! You can participate in the Rainbow Writing Competition — your writing could be featured in the Rainbow Zine, and you could be in to win some sweet book voucher prizes, courtesy of the Women’s Book Shop! You could head into one of our libraries, enjoy one of our Out On The Shelves displays, and pick yourself up some excellent reading material from our collection. If you’re more e-inclined, or not super keen on leaving the house, you could visit our LGBTQIA+ Reading Room on OverDrive, or learn about your rainbow history in the Archives of Sexuality and Gender, which WCL was the first public library in the world to provide full access to. Once you’ve done all that, don’t forget to tell us what you think of what you’ve read by writing a review and submitting it to the good folks at Out On The Shelves.

Keep an eye out for more Out On The Shelves content hitting this blog and your local library. Soon we’ll be posting some gorgeous photos of our libraries getting dressed up all fancy and colourful to celebrate Out On The Shelves along with you — sometimes our shelves can be quite bashful; not so during Campaign Week! For now, though, here are some of our favourite rainbow titles from our collections to whet your appetite:

Sometimes we tell the truth : a novel / Zarins, Kim
{reps: intersex}
{content warnings: sexual assault, ptsd}

Look, we’re suckers for contemporary re-imaginings of classic literature. Some might say it’s the reason we got into this business. So this re-telling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is as fun as it is compelling and moving. It’s the kind of book that gets you to think about the stories we tell, not just to others, but even to ourselves, and the ways in which those stories themselves can sometimes assume the structure of a fiction. At the moment, we only hold this book in our vast Central collection at the Te Pātaka Collection Distribution Warehouse, so reserve it now to get sent to the branch of your choosing!

Every day / Levithan, David
{reps: non-binary}
{content warnings: violence, substance abuse, dysmorphia}

Surely every queer person remembers what it was like the first time they read a David Levithan novel. His works (including Two Boys Kissing, Boy Meets Boy, Will Grayson, Will Grayson) are now so central to the LGBTQIA+ canon that it’s hard to imagine the landscape of contemporary fiction without him. Every Day is one of his most interesting stories. You’ll meet A, a mysterious being that each day inhabits a new body, a new life. Every day they need to become accustomed to a new way of living, a new set of relationships, learning and re-learning over and over again how to be. A’s conception of their own gender identity, sexuality, and indeed personhood is mutable, changeable, flexible as it needs to be. Strong though they are, it is truly their inner voice that is most compelling and relatable as they play through all of the narratives of confusion, defiance, frustration, love, dysmorphia, terror, and acceptance that will be so familiar to so many in our rainbow community. Trust us, and give this a read — you won’t regret it.

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe / Sáenz, Benjamin Alire
{reps: gay}
{content warnings: discrimination, violence}

We know, we know, this isn’t the first time we’ve highlighted this gem of a novel on this very platform. We’re sorry, but we can’t help but trumpet the importance of this book every time we have the opportunity! Sáenz’s extremely spare, almost poetic, prose sets out in pointillistic detail the agony and anticipation of leaving childhood behind and moving on to somewhere new. At times surreal, but always searing straight through to the heart (yours, mine, the characters’), this story picks you up and never lets you go until what we would class as one of the most perfect endings to a YA novel in recent memory. Even then, it doesn’t truly let you go. Ever. He has a way of setting out the most expansive ideas in the most devastatingly simple of words. Read a segment below to get a sense of what we mean:

There was a tear running down his cheek. It seemed like a river in the light of the setting sun.

I wondered what it was like, to be the kind of guy that cried over the death of a bird.

I waved bye. He waved bye back.

As I walked home, I thought about birds and the meaning of their existence. Dante had an answer. I didn’t. I didn’t have any idea as to why birds existed. I’d never even asked myself the question.

Dante’s answer made sense to me. If we studied birds, maybe we could learn to be free. I think that’s what he was saying. I had a philosopher’s name. What was my answer? Why didn’t I have an answer?

And why was it that some guys had tears in them and some had no tears at all? Different boys lived by different rules.

When I got home, I sat on my front porch.

I watched the sun set.

— Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon and Schuster (2012).

All out: the no-longer-secret stories of queer teens throughout the ages / Mitchell, Saundra (ed.)
{reps: lesbian, trans*, asexual, gay}
content warnings: violence, discrimination}

This gorgeous collection of historical short stories is like the perfect fiction companion to Sarah Prager’s biography collection Queer, there, and everywhere: 23 people who changed the world. Oftentimes historical fiction containing LGBTQIA+ representations focusses on the difficulties of life for queer people ‘back in the day,’ or worse, just contains tokenistic references to queer people. This collection is not that. The stories, while they are mostly* accurate portrayals of their respective eras, feel more authentic, the depictions of the characters and their surroundings crystallised through the patented queer lens. The characters are without exception deftly sketched, their circumstances relatable, their relationships real, and their experiences — adventures, first loves, heartbreaks, self-discoveries — speak to a broad universality in queer experience while acknowledging the singularity of each individual’s lived reality. The stories collectively stand and say “Hey, we were here too! We were real, and we lived and loved and ate and cried and went to work and participated in history, just as everyone else did!” And that, friends, is exactly what good fiction should do.

Books Alive: Damien Wilkins and the Subtle Art of Surprise

The announcement of the winners of the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults draws nigh! To celebrate, we’ve invited YA Fiction Award nominee Damien Wilkins (Aspiring, 2019) to run an awesome creative writing workshop for teens called ‘The Subtle Art of Surprise.’ How does language do its tricks? How do we harness its power to pull our readers in? And once we’ve pulled them in, how do we keep them guessing as to what will happen next?

The answers to these questions and more will be yours, should you attend the workshop! Deets below:

What: The Subtle Art of Surprise with Damien Wilkins
Where: Johnsonville Library at Waitohi Community Hub
When: Friday 7 August, 4.00pm

Sadly, we cannot guarantee pizza for this event, but we can guarantee intellectual enlightenment and snacks. Oh, how the snacks will flow. What more could you possibly need?

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s an excerpt from our blog post about the NZ Book Awards where we talk about Damien’s book, Aspiring, and its general awesomeness:

Aspiring / Wilkins, Damien
Our thoughts: We loved the verbosity and relatability of 15-year-old Ricky’s near-constant internal monologue throughout this book — it’s full of the kinds of observations about life in a small town that we recognise and empathise with. It’s exciting to see the author’s bold and unpretentious voice applied to young adult themes and characters for the first time in this book, and we’re hoping there’s more to come in this space in the future!

Pete’s was where I had an after-school job. There was no one at the restaurant called Pete. The owner’s name was Garth but he hadn’t got around to changing the name. He didn’t want to climb on a ladder and paint it up. ‘Besides,’ Garth said, ‘who’d want to come to a place called Garth’s? Sounds like someone clearing his throat.’

I wouldn’t have needed a ladder.

— Damien Wilkins, Aspiring, Massey University Press, 2020.

Waitohi Youth Nights Return!

Now that we’re all done with that business of emerging, blinking, into the sunlight following the national lockdown, a lot of our regular events and programmes are getting back underway. Happily, this includes our regular Youth Nights at Johnsonville Library at Waitohi Community Hub!

‘What is Youth Night?’ I hear you plaintively ask. ‘Why would I spend my Saturday night in a library of all places?’ Well, friends. Perhaps a more apt question is ‘what isn’t Youth Night?’ We play games, we make music, we watch movies, we debate the ins and outs of LGBTQ+ representation in contemporary media (this one is optional), we try to beat each other’s high scores in Beat Saber, we laugh, we cry, we rank the characters of the classic 1990s cartoon Gargoyles in order of hotness (Goliath and Demona come in at joint first place, obviously, with everyone else trailing a distant second), and most importantly, we eat pizza.

Our Youth Nights are totally free (pizza included!), but you do need to be 14+ in order to come, so please bring your student ID. Once you’re in, our spaces are all yours. Youth Nights are on the first Saturday of every month, from 5.00-8.00pm. The first one since lockdown is this Saturday, the 1st of August. See you there!

New Simultaneous Collections on OverDrive!

We heard a rumour that you guys might quite like books. We also like books. So, we’ve created a new collection of always-available eBooks and audiobooks for you to enjoy any time, anywhere. Check out the Teen Book Club Reads section on OverDrive or Libby for the full list, but for now, here are some of our faves:

Overdrive cover Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan (ebook)
{LGBTQ+, romance, slice-of-life}
Two Boys Kissing is a cornerstone work of queer YA literature. Told from the perspectives of four boys “under the watchful eyes of a Greek chorus of a generation of men lost to AIDS,” this book explores questions of identity and emotion, and the often intimate connections between history and the personal. While you’re drying your eyes and restoring your breathing patterns to normal following this essential book, check out our LGBTQIA+ Fiction booklist for your next literary fix.

Overdrive cover Aspiring, Damien Wilkins (ebook)
{NZ author, small town, coming-of-age}
We’ve already talked about our enduring love for this book, which is a finalist in the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, on a previous post on this very blog. Trust us when we say that you will not regret immersing yourself in the unforgettably wry and observational voice of 15-year-old Ricky, crafted and shaped by Damien Wilkins’ bold and beguiling prose.

Overdrive cover Monster, Michael Grant (ebook)
{dystopian, science fiction, action}
From the author of the crazily popular Gone series comes this new trilogy, available for the first time on OverDrive as a Book Club read. In the aftermath of the Perdido Beach meteorite and the deadly wave of mutations that followed, Earth is once again being struck by meteorites bearing an even more deadly virus. This time, the whole world is exposed, and humans are beginning to change, again, some gaining unfathomable power. Sound like your kind of thing? We have the follow-ups Hero and Villain available for your delectation as well.

Overdrive cover You Can Do a Graphic Novel, Barbara Slate (ebook)
{non fiction, art, creative writing, comics}
If you’ve ever been interested in the art of creating graphic novels and comics, this nifty guide is meant for you! It starts at the start — with the story — and shows you the ropes as you move through the whole creative process, from drawing techniques and layout/structure tips, to how to deal with creative block and building strong and recognisable characters. Who knows, we may just see your work on our shelves in the zine collections at Arapaki, He Matapihi, and Newtown Libraries!

Overdrive cover Feminism, Nadia Abushanab Higgins (ebook)
{non fiction, feminism, social sciences, women}
This book is a concise and well-written introduction to the concepts and movements embodied by the word ‘feminism,’ which author Nadia Abushanab Higgins describes as “America’s new F-word.” Although it does have an undeniable focus on the history and contemporary definitions of feminism in the United States, it still provides a useful international perspective on the movement through really interesting profiles of pioneers including Gloria Steinem, Rebecca Walker, Elizabeth Stanton, and more. If you’re interested in the intersectionality between feminism and the Black Lives Matter and #GiveNothingToRacism movements, we have a great introduction for you here.

NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: YA Finalists!

Behold — the shortlist for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults has been announced and it is great. If you want to find out about the books that have been nominated for the children’s lit categories, check out our blog post on the matter, but on this blog we’re all about the YA, baby! Read on for our thoughts on this year’s Young Adult Fiction Award finalists, a slice of the book itself (where we can share it!), and for handy-dandy catalogue links so you can reserve them if you haven’t already read them!

Afakasi woman / Young, Lani Wendt
Our thoughts: Lani Wendt Young’s prose, as always, is searing, insightful, and thought-provoking. This collection of short stories puts a laser focus on the experiences and voices of Pasifika women, always sketched with the deftest of hands that combines a powerful evocation of place and voice with a keen sense for moral relativity throughout. Ultimately, the collection is a really freaking awesomely written exploration and discovery of the joys, trials, and day-to-day lives of women in the Pacific. Read it and discuss!

Aspiring / Wilkins, Damien
Our thoughts: We loved the verbosity and relatability of 15-year-old Ricky’s near-constant internal monologue throughout this book — it’s full of the kinds of observations about life in a small town that we recognise and empathise with. It’s exciting to see the author’s bold and unpretentious voice applied to young adult themes and characters for the first time in this book, and we’re hoping there’s more to come in this space in the future!

Pete’s was where I had an after-school job. There was no one at the restaurant called Pete. The owner’s name was Garth but he hadn’t got around to changing the name. He didn’t want to climb on a ladder and paint it up. ‘Besides,’ Garth said, ‘who’d want to come to a place called Garth’s? Sounds like someone clearing his throat.’

I wouldn’t have needed a ladder.

— Damien Wilkins, Aspiring, Massey University Press, 2020.

The History Speech / Sweet, Mark (coming soon to our libraries!)
Our thoughts: In this book Mark Sweet refuses to shy away from some pretty heavy themes — child abuse, drug use, suicide, sexuality, the works. It’s an engrossing tale set in 1960s New Zealand, only the cheery Kiwiana facade is starting to crumble, revealing the universal (and existential) angst beneath. Callum’s voice and unique perspective kept us turning the pages with alacrity, and his tale of self-discovery is not one we think you should miss.

Posh tea is kept in a tin and had with a slice of lemon and no milk. Regular is from the yellow Bell paper box and had with milk, poured before the tea, although his mother does it the other way round. She says people who pour their milk first don’t know any better. That way the milk is scalded, she says. His mother and his grandfather agree about heating the teapot first with hot water, but not about the milk. He doesn’t take sides when the subject comes up,although he was more impressed by his grandfather’s knowledge of the boiling point of milk than his mother’s explanation that that’s the way the do it in Scotland.

— Mark Sweet, The History Speech, Huia Press, 2019.

Ursa / Shaw, Tina
Our thoughts: It’s always exciting when a new dystopian novel comes out of New Zealand — especially from an author of the calibre of Tina Shaw. She brings her trademark attention to place — the granite cobblestones of the streets, the expressions of the statues on the building-tops — to bear on a compelling and convincing world where the iron fist of those with wealth and power is starting to be tested by those without. The intensely personal story of Leho and Emee, and their trials in seeking change, will resonate with you long after you put the book down.

Wynter’s thief / Jordan, Sherryl
Our thoughts: I have to admit to some bias here — Sherryl Jordan has long been one of my favourite New Zealand authors. Wynter’s Thief is another example of her rich use of language, both to conjure up accurate and engrossing historical referents, and to patiently build in elements of fantasy and magic. The pacing of this story is what really grabbed me — it grows in speed and import as you read. Definitely check this out, and while you’re at it, check out Jordan’s substantial back catalogue — you won’t regret it.

There is a wild danger, a dancing on the knife-edge between sacredness and devilry, when a witch works magic. It is like that today, with the maid. Around her, the burning air shimmers, prickly with suspense. She strides ahead, wand outstretched, bare feet swift on the scorched earth. We follow, feverish with excitement, and musicians march alongside, banging drums and playing pipes. Dust rises about us, bright like a holy cloud, leaving us breathless, dazzled in her wake.

— Sherryl Jordan, Wynter’s Thief, OneTree House, 2019.

New Books on a Shelf Near You!

Now that some of our libraries are back open to the world, the new books are flowing back onto the shelves as our cataloguers, hidden away in the deepest recesses of the library, work their way through their backlog. Here are some of my favourite highlights among the recent additions to our YA collections:

19 love songs / Levithan, David
{LGBTQ+, romance, short stories, verse}
A collection of funny, warm and heartfelt stories exploring queer love and identity from award-winning YA author David Levithan. A resentful member of a high school Quiz Bowl team with an unrequited crush. A Valentine’s Day in the life of Every Day‘s protagonist “A.” A return to the characters of Two Boys Kissing. Born from Levithan’s tradition of writing a story for his friends each Valentine’s Day, this collection brings all of them to his readers for the first time. With fiction, nonfiction, and a story in verse, there’s something for every reader here. Witty, romantic, and honest, teens (and adults) will come to this collection not only on Valentine’s Day, but all year round. (Catalogue)

Beware the night / Fleck, Jessika
{dystopian, religion, politics, science fiction}
On the island of Bellona, they worship the sun. Seventeen-year-old Veda understands that keeping the sun content ensures plentiful crops, peace and harmony, and a thriving economy. But as a member of the Basso class, she never reaps those benefits. Life as a Basso is one fraught with back-breaking work and imposing rules. Her close friendship with Nico is Veda’s one saving grace in a cruel world where the division between her people and the ruling Dogio is as wide and winding as the canals that snake through their island. But when Veda’s grandfather is chosen as the next sacrificial offering to keep the sun’s favor, Veda is forced to see the injustice of her world. Turning away from the sun means she must join the night–and an underground revolution she’s been taught to fear all her life. (Catalogue)

The deceivers / Simmons, Kristen
{drama, intrigue, politics, school}
Welcome to Vale Hall, the school for aspiring con artists. When Brynn Hilder is recruited to Vale, it seems like the elite academy is her chance to start over, away from her mom’s loser boyfriend and her rundown neighborhood. But she soon learns that Vale chooses students not so much for their scholastic talent as for their extracurricular activities, such as her time spent conning rich North Shore kids out of their extravagant allowances. At first, Brynn jumps at the chance to help the school in its mission to rid the city of corrupt officials–because what could be better than giving entitled jerks what they deserve? But that’s before she meets her mark–a senator’s son–and before she discovers the school’s headmaster has secrets he’ll stop at nothing to protect. As the lines between right and wrong blur, Brynn begins to realize she’s in way over head. (Catalogue)

The electric heir / Lee, Victoria
{dystopian, LGBTQ+, pandemics, science fiction}
Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget — that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia. Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control — and that Noam is plotting against him — Noam’s dead. Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life. (Catalogue)

Every other weekend / Johnson, Abigail
{grief, realistic fiction, romance}
Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most. Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves–not the happy ones anyway. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for. Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed (Catalogue)

Harley in the sky / Bowman, Akemi Dawn
{coming-of-age, drama, family}
Harley Milano has dreamed of becoming a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her heart and soul that she would be up there herself one day. After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family, and joins the rival traveling circus Maison du Myst re. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion, and collaboration. At the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past–and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams. (Catalogue)

Infinity son / Silvera, Adam
{brothers, fantasy, LGBTQ+, superheroes}
Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures. Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day. Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be. Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed. (Author Summary)

The midnight lie / Rutkoski, Marie
{fantasy, LGBTQ+, romance}
Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences. Nirrim keeps her head down, and a dangerous secret close to her chest. But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away, who whispers rumors that the High Kith possess magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted. (Catalogue)

A Very Special Message for our Teen Writers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently sent a very kind message of encouragement for our WCL Teen Writers, following their huge success participating in the Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020 Challenge, in which they collectively wrote well over 100,000 words in their bid to write a whole novel over a month of isolation. Here’s what the Prime Minister had to say:

I want to pass on a quick message to everyone involved in the WCL Teen Writers group — and I want to start by saying thanks.

Right now, we’re living through really challenging and uncertain times, and for many people, it’s been tough. I know young people are facing their own unique challenges, from adjusting to distance learning, giving up special occasions like school balls, and not being able to meet up with your friends, but so many of you have put in an amazing effort and played your part to help keep this virus under control. Thanks for this — it’s so important.

I was interested to hear about your online writing group, the work you’re doing, and the support you provide each other. This is a really good example of the positives that have come out of the COVID-19 response. You’ve all come together online to support each other, share your work and ideas, and embark on some pretty impressive projects. I hope you’re enjoying the group and will continue to keep in touch when life returns to something a bit more normal.

All the best with your writing — I’m sure I’ll be seeing your work in bookstores soon! For now, though, stay safe and look out for each other.

— Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern

As you can imagine, the Prime Minister’s message generated considerable interest on our WCL Teen Writers Discord server, from the joyous but mostly coherent:

…to the joyous but not so coherent:

…to the reflective and compassionate:

…and right back around to the disbelieving:

Thank you, Prime Minister, for your words of encouragement, motivation, and solidarity. Rest assured, we’re still writing and keeping connected (and of course the banter is still top-quality), and hopefully will be for a while yet! Here’s what one of our talented writers had to say about the group:

If you’re a keen writer, or even just really like reading, we’d love for you to join our vibrant community on Discord! Just email us or message us on Facebook with your name and school year level, and we can send you a link to join!

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