A Few Drops of Red: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield

Dive into Chicago’s past with relevance to the racial issues still facing Chicago and other communities today with this nonfiction read. A Few Drops of Red, sets the stage of all of the different events that led up to the race riots;  from immigrants from Europe and  southern Blacks coming to Chicago, to the meat packing industry changing and booming.  Hartfield introduces a variety of interesting figures like Ida B. Wells – Barnett, a trailblazing Black journalist and advocate or Gustavus Swift who became a giant in the meatpacking industry.  The story is laid out well making it a gripping and tense read complete with pictures from the time period.


Never Caught; the Washingtons’ relentless pursuit of their runaway slave, Ona Judge

After reading In the Hurricane’s Eye (2018) by Nathaniel Philbrick the story of George Washington and the battle of Yorktown, I wanted to learn more about Washington and his position on slavery, which is only touched on briefly in that book. Never Caught brings us a heroine from history, Ona Marie Judge, Martha Washington’s lady’s maid. Ona’s mother is a slave and her father is a white indentured servant who worked for Washington. Since the Washingtons preferred their house slaves to be light skinned, and because her mother was a brilliant seamstress, Ona was selected by Martha Washington to be trained to dress her and accompany her on her day’s activities. Erica Armstrong Dunbar follows Ona’s story with empathy and insight. This book is a compelling and convicting read, giving us a window into the American republic as it was making decisions aided by Washington that would set a tragic pattern for our own lives. Never Caught was nominated for the National Book Award in nonfiction in 2017. Ms Dunbar has just published a children’s book of the same name, Never Caught,  about Ona Judge.(2019)

Wanna short read written by Ms. Dunbar that introduces the book? 

 


Buried Lives, The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Deeply moving, this book intended for older children and teens will be an education for adults as well. Carla Killough McClafferty presents the stories of William Lee, Christopher Sheels, Caroline (Branham), Peter Hardiman, Ona Marie Judge, and Hercules, six of the best known slaves owned by our first president. The author also presents detailed information about the archaeological dig uncovering the location of the graves in the previously forgotten slave cemetery at Mount Vernon. Documented in the book is the history of George Washington’s contradictory positions on slavery and how his awakening conscience affected his business.

Buried Lives fills in the picture of George Washington to include the people who unwillingly made his place in history possible. Hamilton fans will be glad to know that he and Lafayette and John Laurens had a strong effect on the first president — and, through him, on some of his slaves .

Good to read before a trip to Mount Vernon or before reading another study of George Washington that leaves out his slaves. Forward by a decedent of Caroline (Branham).


Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Cornwell is the author of many historical books including the bestselling Saxon Tales which serve as the basis for the hit television series, The Last Kingdom. He’s very good with tales of the sword and the sea,  but can we trust him with Shakespeare?

Yes! This is a fast paced, well written, gorgeously researched book that entertains while also sharing the strange circumstances that led to the birth of professional theater. Cornwell’s main character is Shakespeare’s teen-aged brother Richard.  The time period during which Shakespeare wrote both Midsummer’s Night Dream and Romeo and Juliet is our setting. You will feel yourself a young player in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and experience the unique market and religious pressures on actors and theater owners at that seminal time as well as the normal teenager needs of finding a profession and a partner.

As you race through the plot to find out what happens, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy it; you will miss Richard and Silvia and all their friends (and enemies)  as soon as the last page is read!

 

 


The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Is it possible that Kimberly Brubaker Bradley could write a sequel to the The War that Saved My Life that would live up to the beloved Newbery Honor book?

A resounding YES! The author concludes this story beautifully, resolving the issues of the first book in the first few chapters before entering into the terrible challenges the war presents to Ada, her family, and friends. She grows to be a strong girl, one who can not only nurture herself, but lead others to healing and hope. Every step is hard won. Watching Ada learn to trust, like a fist slowly uncurling, is achingly beautiful. If you haven’t read The War that Saved My Life, run and get the book now — and know that you are in very good hands. Ms. Bradley is a master artist and I can’t wait to see what else she will create for us.


Emily Grayson’s Best Reads of 2016

January 3, 2017

My name is Emily Grayson, and I live in Evanston with my daughter and husband in a very cool six-unit building with some of my dearest friends. I hold a variety of great jobs around Evanston and Chicago: I work professionally as an actor and singer, I’m a standardized patient at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and I’ve been a massage therapist for the past 16 years and currently see clients at the Evanston Athletic Club. In my spare time, I can often be found knitting, sewing, singing or drinking coffee at various Evanston locales.

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1) The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)

This was the first in a series of books I read for a Black Lives Matter reading group I started last January. It began a year-long discussion about race in America and the conversation has never been dull and has often been humbling. Wilkerson’s book and its first-person accounts of the three migrants at the center helped to give us context for our subsequent reads, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Laurence Gonzales’s Best Reads of 2016

December 29, 2016

laurence gonzales
Photo by John German

My name is Laurence Gonzales. I was born in St. Louis, grew up in Houston and San Antonio, and live today in Evanston. I am the author of numerous books including Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and it’s sequel, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. This past year I was appointed a Miller Scholar at the Santa Fe Institute, and my book Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival was adapted by the House Theatre of Chicago into a play that ran for a two months at the Chopin Theatre.

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1) Annals of the Former World by John McPhee (1998)

It’s hard to believe that this book about geology is a page-turner, but it is.

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Patricio Rizzo-Vast’s Best Reads of 2016

December 15, 2016

patricio RizzoMy name is Patricio Rizzo-Vast. I love using the libraries, doing yoga and working out in the gym. I also write poetry and paint. I teach Spanish and Latino/Latin American Studies.

1) The Pursuit of Ruins: Archaeology, History, and the Making of Modern Mexico by Christina Bueno (2016)

A local Evanston author who spent more than 15 years doing research on Mexican anthropology and the creation of the Mexican Museum of Anthropology, one of the best in the world. The book is very interesting and informative about the complexities of Mexico.

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Emilie Hogan’s Best Reads of 2016

December 12, 2016

emilie hogan photoMy name is Emilie Hogan, and I have lived in Evanston since 2005. I am very happily married to my wonderful spouse, Bill Hogan, and the mother of four terrific daughters ages 15, 12, 10 and 8. I am the Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement for the Frances Willard Historical Association, a Board member of Books & Breakfast, and a community organizer, activist and volunteer. My hobbies are reading and CrossFit and my passion is learning new things. I am an endlessly curious person! I absolutely love the Evanston Public Library, and it is one of my very favorite places in town along with Bennisons, Boltwood and the Frances Willard House.

1) Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)

This is the story of a woman who travels back in time to help her ancestors on a slave plantation. The story will challenge your thoughts about family loyalty and keep you on the edge of your seat from the first sentence.

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On This Date: John Keats Publishes His First Poem

May 5, 2016

John_Keats_by_William_HiltonAnother National Poetry Month might be in the books, but here at EPL we’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more poetry!  So if you’re like us and April was merely an appetizer for your poetry hunger, you might enjoy feasting on this historic tidbit:  on May 5th exactly 200 years ago, the revered Romantic poet John Keats published his very first poem in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner.  Titled “O Solitude!,” the sonnet began a remarkable and tragically brief career that saw Keats publish three celebrated books of poetry before his death from tuberculosis on February 23, 1821 at the age of 25.  You can read “O Solitude!” below, and then drop by EPL to check out the rest of Keat’s work.  You won’t be disappointed.

O Solitude! (Sonnet VII)

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,–
Nature’s observatory–whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

Want more John Keats?  Try the following: