New York City
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Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
A rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. A radical young Irish monk struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gathers in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. A 38-year-old grandmother turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth. (catalog summary)
If you enjoyed Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann for the writing, the family story and the setting, you may enjoy these titles:
American Rust by Philipp Meyer
Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever. (catalog summary)
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future. (catalog summary)
Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 2 picks up right where Ed Piskor's first phenomenal graphic novel left off. By 1981, the record industry has started to capitalize on the raw talent of urban youth. The sounds are slicker and the rhymes are tighter, but Piskor manages to find and highlight the raw edges of the musical movement.
When the Beat Was Born, by Laban Carrick Hill, is a stunning example of just how wonderfully diverse the world of children's biographies is getting. This picture book offers a look into the life of DJ Kool Herc, one of the founders and innovators of hip-hop music.
Hill's words, when combined with Theodore Taylor III's crisp, colorful illustrations, depict how a boy named Clive left Kingston, Jamaica, for the Bronx. Clive wanted to be a DJ, slinging an arsenal of records and getting crowds amped up at parties.
"Stepping in a rhythm to a Kurtis Blow.
Who needs to think when your feet just go?"
Tom Tom Club - The Genius of Love
Ed Piskor cannot rap or dance. He is no good with turntables or sampling. What Piskor can do is draw, which is why Hip Hop Family Tree is such an important testament to honoring the innovators and pioneers of the culture.
Modern Vampires of the City is perhaps the catchiest, most joyous-sounding album to explore death that I have ever heard. The third release from collegiate prep rockers Vampire Weekend shows emotional and musical growth as lead singer Ezra Koening struggles with his own mortality.
Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine follows the history of New York City's Bowery music scene with actual reprints of the homemade zine's existence from 1976 to 1980. What's captured on these black and white pages is an anti-movement—a reaction against the well-intentioned but ultimately toothless peace and love ethos of the late 60's.
New York was a dump, seemingly destined for ruin. Rock music was gasping for air, trying to find sustenance from the softly vacant likes of Toto, Bread, or Seals and Crofts.
John Holstom and Legs McNeil did not expect things to improve. But when they heard a new band called the Dictators, a change started to manifest. The Dictators wrote songs about hanging out at burger joints, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast, and being "Teengenerates." It was stupid enough to also be absolutely brilliant, and it encapsulated Holstrom's and McNeil's lives like no other music they were hearing at the time.
Faith Ringgold is an artist who uses different materials to tell the stories that are important to her family and her people. Whether working with quilting squares, African masks, paint and brush, or her own words, Faith gives the rich colors and textures a life of their own. There's motion in her work, a striving upward and pushing at the edges of her world.
I picked up I Never Promised you a Goodie Bag, by Jennifer Gilbert, thinking that it would be full of hilarious mishaps that occurred at weddings and events that the Save the Date’s CEO had experienced. However, I soon found that it was something more. It is the memoir of a young woman who started out life being fiercely independent, the daughter of wealthy parents who had an import business and were frequently overseas. Jennifer traveled all over without a care in the world until at 22 years old she was attacked in the hallway of her best friends’ apartment. Her friends were too frightened or too selfish to come out, even though Jennifer was screaming for help. The girls in the apartment did call some boyfriends and they came over with baseball bats and drove the attacker away.
Some of my fondest memories from holidays in my childhood are of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television. The magic of the parade with its wonderful balloons signaled the beginning of one of my favorite times of year. But I never gave much thought to the history of the parade and its famous balloons. When I saw the book Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, I couldn’t resist the chance to meet the man behind the magic.
"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."
August Pullman has a face that only a mother could love, only his mother to be exact. The main character of R.J. Palacio's book Wonder has an extra large forehead. His eyes are much lower than they should be. His mouth always hangs open and his ears are underdeveloped and cauliflower-shaped. What people do not know when they look at August is that they are seeing a very smart, funny, and capable young man.