8 Books for Stonewall’s 50th

On June 28, 1969, a group of LGBTQ+ people, led by transgender women of color, fought back against an anti-LGBTQ+ police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City . The ensuing riots are called the Stonewall Riots or Stonewall Uprising. This year, we commemorate 50 years since the riots that most people agree launched the modern LGBTQ+ Rights Movement. Since 1971, the American Library Association has honored books portraying the LGBTQ+ experience with the Stonewall Book Awards. Here are a few Stonewall Book Award winners to check out as Pride Month draws to a close.

Cover of the book Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis NuttBecoming Nicole introduces us to Wayne and Kelly Maines, who adopted twin baby boys. As the twins grew up, one of them, Nicole, came out as transgender and began presenting as a woman. Becoming Nicole relates the transformations Nicole, her family, and their community underwent and the prejudices they overcame.

Cover the graphic novel Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – Alison Bechdel is a lesbian cartoonist and author known for various graphic novels. In Fun Home, Bechdel explores her childhood living in a funeral home, her growing self-realization and acceptance of being gay, and her relationship with her late father, who kept his sexuality closeted for most of his life.

Cover of book How to Survive a Plague by David France

How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France – During the 1980s and 1990s, hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ people contracted HIV, and hundreds of thousands died of AIDS complications. In How to Survive a Plague, David France relates the stories of activists who created, funded, smuggled, and distributed life-saving medications to LGBTQ+ people nationwide. This book was adapted from the documentary film of the same name.

A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski – In A Queer History of the United States, Michael Bronski shows us how lesser-known LGBTQ+ activists have been fighting for rights in America decades and centuries before the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager – Numerous LGBTQ+ people have left their mark on world history. In Queer, There, and Everywhere, Sarah Prager introduces us to some of these people–including gender-defying holy warrior Joan of Arc, American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, and transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, who was present at the Stonewall Riots and became a founder of the Gay Liberation Front.

Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron – In Raising My Rainbow, blogger Lori Duron tells us about C.J., her gender-creative son, who loves playing with Disney princesses, wearing tutus, and singing Lady Gaga’s catchy songs. Duron takes us through the difficulties and joys of raising a child who goes against traditional gender norms.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock – Janet Mock is a transgender activist, writer, and television producer. She worked as an editor for the magazines Marie Claire and People and currently is a producer, director, and writer on the FX series Pose. In this frank memoir, Mock takes us through her turbulent childhood and her journey for self-determination as a transgender woman of color.

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum – The uprising at the Stonewall Inn was complex and had roots in sexual, gender, racial, and class oppression. To learn more about this pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history, try Stonewall by Ann Bausum.

Summer is short – read a story!

Today the sun reaches both its highest and northernmost points in the sky, marking the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere – the summer solstice.  Here are 5 great short story collections to celebrate the longest day of the year with a story short enough to read in one day.

look how happyLook How Happy I’m Making You by Polly Rosenwaike. A remarkable debut collection of stories that considers the inner lives of women who have just become, will soon be, decline to be, or long to be mothers. In “Grow Your Eyelashes,” a web developer admires a baby on a bus while recalling her own fruitless efforts to get pregnant. Freelance editor Cora, of “Period, Ellipsis, Full Stop,” has a miscarriage. In “Field Notes,” a 30-year-old biologist connects with the inquisitive 9-year-old daughter of the receptionist at a research facility in which she works even as the biologist decides to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.  Longing and anxiety pervade “White Carnations” as four motherless, childless friends celebrate Mother’s Day together. Self-aware humor helps baby Alice’s parents through her first Christmas/Hanukkah gathering in “Welcome to Your Family.” While all of the stories are connected by motherhood, each one explores additional themes such as changing friendships, aging, defying family and building a life.  This collection is candid, compassionate and emotionally complex.  Completely relatable, whether you are a parent or not.

someone who will love Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bo-Waksberg. Creator and executive producer of the Netflix series BoJack Horseman, Bob-Waksberg’s first book is a collection of zany offbeat romances that may make you laugh, weep or shiver in uncomfortable recognition.  In “A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion,” a young couple planning a wedding is forced to deal with interfering relatives dictating the appropriate number of ritual goat sacrifices. “Missed Connection–m4w” is the tragicomic tale of a pair of lonely commuters eternally failing to make that longed-for contact. The members of a rock band in “Up-and-Comers” discover they suddenly have superpowers–but only when they’re drunk.  These darkly comic surreal tales of love gone awry are ideal for fans of George Saunders and David Sedaris.

exhalationExhalation by Ted Chiang. Chiang’s long-awaited second collection (after Stories of Your Life, the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival) explores how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey  Standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who struggles over the course of a decade to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children; and the profound title story “Exhalation”, a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe.  A stellar collection of visionary speculative stories not to be missed.

Time I lovedThe Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung. Set in Scarborough, Ontario, this sweet, sad and sympathetic collection of linked stories looks behind the veiled curtain of late 1970s suburbia to reveal that suburban comfort does not ensure happiness. In the first story, “Grass,” 11-year-olds June and Josie ponder two suicides. The girls cannot ask their parents for explanations, because death is one of many subjects parents prefer not to discuss with children. In “Treasure,” a woman named Marilyn who is admired by her neighbors turns out to be a thief. In “Things,” comic book enthusiast Darren confronts a racist schoolteacher. Linked by recurring characters such as Darren’s Jamaican mother and June’s grandmother from Hong Kong, together the stories track June’s deepening understanding of the place she calls home. Leung’s sharp storytelling, and pitch-perfect narration offers a bittersweet depiction of how cruelty undermines and kindness fortifies people’s sense of community. 

7 books if you like The Handmaid’s Tale

by Deborah Hersh

Blessed be the fruit.  Hulu streams the next three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale tomorrow (June 5, 2019). The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s long awaited sequel will answer questions that have tantalized readers for decades is scheduled to publish on September 10, 2019.

Here are 7 more dystopian novels with strong female protagonists to help you fill the void this summer between Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 and Atwood’s novel.

book of the unnamed midwifeThe Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison. A midwife struggles to find her place in a dystopian world in which a plague has wiped out most of humankind and healthy birth is nearly impossible for its survivors. Award-winning author Elison takes readers on an exciting and thought-provoking  journey, navigating issues of gender and sex in a scorched, disease-ridden world.  This novel is the first book in the Road to Nowhere series.

future home of the living godFuture Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich. Set in a dystopian near future Minnesota with a growing police state and a biological calamity which appears to be reversing evolution, Cedar Hawk Songmaker, twenty-six and pregnant,  is seeking her biological family while awaiting the birth of a child who may emerge as a member of a primitive human species.  Much of Songmaker’s harrowing journey is told in journal entries to her unborn child. Compelling, and at times darkly humorous,  this is a cautionary tale for our time.

into the forestInto the Forest by Jean Hegland. Teen-aged sisters, Nell and Eva are eking out a life in a remote forested area of Northern California in the wake of societal collapse.  Beautifully told, this haunting and heart-wrenching novel of survival and family love will stay with you long after the final page.  BONUS: Into the Forest was released as a film in 2015 starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood.

parable of the sowerParable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. In a near future California, global warming, pollution, rampant joblessness, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. 18-year-old Lauren Olamina discovers a new way of looking at a hopeless world. When circumstances cut her adrift from the only community she knows, Olamina takes to the road, attempting to put her ideals into practice. A simple and direct allegorical story that is part meditation and part warning.

the powerThe Power by Naomi Alderman. What if women suddenly manifested an electrical charge that they could control and use as a weapon? Attributed to a WWII chemical experiment, this “power” first becomes evident in teenage girls around the world in the present day and is then awakened in older women.  Structured as a historical novel written in the far future, long after rule by women has been established as normal, Alderman explores this provocative idea of what happens when the balance of power shifts in this fast-paced thrilling novel.

voxVox by Christina Dalcher. In the not-too-distant future, American women and girls are allowed a quota of 100 spoken words per day, after which each syllable triggers a painful shock via wrist band.  Dr. Jean McClellan, wife and mother of four, was a cognitive linguist, until the government was hijacked by fundamentalists ushering in the Pure Woman Movement.  Now her son’s superior attitude only emphasizes that her daughter is speaking less and less. What happens to society when 50 percent of the population’s voices, along with their ability to even learn language, are taken away?  This chilling and suspenseful novel is a wake up call against apathy in current politics.

when she wokeWhen She Woke by Hillary Jordan. A young woman’s life goes from heavenly to hellish is this dystopian vision of The Scarlet Letter. Hannah Payne, sentenced to being dyed a stigmatizing red for the crime of having an abortion, must learn to adjust to her new circumstances in a society that is becoming increasingly dangerous for women. Jordan blends hot-button issues such as separation of Church and State, abortion, and criminal justice into an utterly engrossing story.

Game of Thrones in Real Life

by Spencer Stevens

This coming Sunday, the TV series and cultural phenomenon Game of Thrones, based on the incomplete book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, comes to an end. Martin drew inspiration from real world history (mainly English history) to create his characters, places, and events. Here are a few books available at our library that reveal the reality behind the fantasy.

Cover for The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir

The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir – One of the show’s main plotlines, the tension and ultimate war between the Lannisters and the Starks, is inspired directly by the 30-year series of English civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. Two rival Houses, the Lancasters (represented by a red rose) and the Yorks (represented by a white rose), vied for control over the English throne. The events of this War influenced the power struggle between the Starks and Lannisters and the War of the Five Kings.

Cover for Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn – You’ve probably heard of Genghis Khan and the Mongols, the nomadic horse-riding people of the Eurasian Steppe who created the largest land empire in world history while instilling fear in anyone who fought against them. These fierce horse warriors likely inspired the Dothraki, the nomadic horse lords of the eastern continent of Essos. Khal Drogo’s character and personality draw from the exploits of Genghis Khan and his descendants.

Cover for the Norman Conquest by Marc Morris

The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England by Marc Morris – Aegon the Conqueror is never shown onscreen, but everyone in Westeros knows his story. Three hundred years before the start of the show, Aegon, his Targeryen army, and his dragons came to Westeros from his homeland of Valyria and forced the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms to bend the knee. This conquest of multiple kingdoms by a foreigner is not unlike the invasion of William the Conqueror and the installation of Norman French rule over England in the 11th century.

Cover of Northmen by John Haywood

Northmen: The Viking Saga, 793-1241 by John Haywood – The people of the Iron Islands, like Theon Greyjoy and his sister Yara (Asha in the books), are reminiscent of the seafaring Norsemen (Vikings) of Northern Europe. For centuries, the Viking fleets raided villages and eventually established settlements in modern-day England. The Ironborn in Game of Thrones are similar in their fierce, stubborn personalities and coastal raids.

Cover for Venice by Joanne Marie Ferraro

Venice: A History of the Floating City by Joanne Marie Ferraro – The city of Braavos resembles the city of Venice in Italy at the height of its power as an independent maritime republic in the 7th-18th centuries. Braavos was built on a lagoon and has canals and bridges, like Venice. Braavos’ other features include a colossus, a large treasury, a dominant trade network, and mercenary armies, which further its similarities to a Mediterranean city-state like Venice.

Disaster in the Bay State!

The cover of the book Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo showing a crumpled building in the aftermath of the Great Molasses Flood.

One hundred years ago today, a tank of molasses in Boston’s North End burst. An eight-foot wave of molasses rushed through the streets, destroying buildings and killing 21 people and several horses. 150 people were injured. Today, we know this event as the Great Molasses Flood and consider it one of Massachusetts’ most horrible disasters.

Massachusetts is no stranger to disasters, from tragic accidents like the Great Molasses Flood to natural disasters such as blizzards, tornadoes, Nor’easters, and hurricanes. Here are 5 books about disasters in the Bay State.

The cover of the book Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo showing a crumpled building in the aftermath of the Great Molasses Flood.

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo
Massachusetts resident Stephen Puleo covers the events of January 15, 1919 in detail in this book, explaining how the Flood occurred and what happened in its aftermath.

Tornado!: 84 Minutes, 94 Lives by John M. O’TooleCover of the book
The 1953 Worcester Tornado lifted houses from foundations, destroyed Assumption College, and left thousands of people homeless. O’Toole’s book follows the event from start to finish and shares personal stories of those affected.

Cover of book The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger
In October 1991, a nor’easter swallowed a hurricane and created a “perfect storm.” Junger’s book details the daily lives of fishermen from Gloucester and covers the final hours of the Andrea Gail, which sank during the storm with its entire crew.Cover of book

The Blizzard of ’78 by Michael Tougias
Record-breaking amounts of snow shut down New England in the winter of 1978. This massive blizzard caused millions of dollars in damage and left nearly 100 people dead.

Cover of book Thirty-Eight: The Hurricane that Transformed New England by Stephen Long – One of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history swept through New England in September 1938. Hundreds of people died and homes and infrastructure were destroyed. Stephen Long’s book explores the impact and aftermath of this terrible storm.


A photograph of the Northborough Free Library with a downed tree in front of it. Aftermath of 1938 Hurricane.
Northborough, Fall 1938 – The New England Hurricane claimed the tree in front of the Gale Library Building, as shown in the photograph above. Based on photographs in our library’s collection, the tree was at least forty years old. Taken from the Library’s Local History Collection.



Staff Picks Best of 2018

If you find yourself with a bit of leisure time after the holiday rush, consider one of the following suggestions.  At the end of every year, the Library staff presents their most memorable read, listened or viewed experiences to share with all of you.  Here’s what we came up with for 2018:

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/4131005The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens Set in suburban Florida, this thriller exposes the secrets of three generations of neighbors whose lives intersect in the aftermath of a murder. The characters are likable and relatable, and the story line is engaging and suspenseful. Complete with a satisfying ending, this one is a real winner! — suggested by Deborah

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/medium/r/4230277Christopher Robin (2018) does a masterful job of recreating the tone of the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  Christopher Robin is all grown up but he has lost his way in the world. Pooh and his friends travel from the Hundred Acre Wood to London to rescue their childhood friend from dreaded corporate world of lies and greed. This is not an animated feature, it is the Disney combo of live actors and a computer generated Pooh and company. All of the joy and magic of the original Pooh stories is here for the taking – if you will only believe.– suggested by Jackie. 

Join us for a screening and discussion of the film Christopher Robin https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRYVC4jNyC_VPtb5ap8w5hbtNdF76RPnsOTsNzesadsWScMFmhfon Saturday, January 5th from 2 – 5 in the Library Meeting Room.

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/4151913Circe by Madeline Miller is an engaging, emotional, enjoyable read! The Greek goddess Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, is least loved by her parents until she disfigures her rival Scylla and becomes something the world has never seen–a witch. The Gods exile Circe to an island, where she crosses paths with the ruthless Minotaur, the infamous Medea, and the greatest hero of them all, Odysseus.  A brilliant, beautifully written imagination of Greek mythology. — suggested by Spencer

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/807313A Wrinkle in Time written and performed by Madeline L’Engle. This book has been a classic since it was first published in the early 60s, but clearly it was a story way ahead of its time. Meg, the heroine, is a teenage girl and her mom is a PhD working for NASA. The three characters who help Meg travel through time and space to rescue her dad, who is also a scientist at NASA, are the very mysterious, magical and delightfully eccentric Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. Madeline L’Engle’s voice adds so much atmosphere to an already engaging story. This is a Young Adult novel, but like Harry Potter, it is meant for all ages. — suggested by Jackie.

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3806960A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towley. This novel follows the 30 year saga of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov a Russian noble who is placed under house arrest inside the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922 by the Bolsheviks. Although imprisoned in the servent’s quarters in the attic of the hotel, the Count maintains his aristocratic ways.  Over the decades, we share the Count’s adventures with Nina, his beloved “adopted” daughter who is also in residence, and hotel staff and guests as they confront the societal changes of communism. Two features to recommend this read: the many opportunities for “casting” the characters in books in your mind’s eye for future movie roles, and a terrific ending. —  suggested by Rick

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/4214697Virgil Wander by Leif Enger A new novel by Leif Enger is a welcomed treat and his latest is one to savor.  Set in a small town on the shores of Lake Superior we follow Virgil, the main character of the book’s title, as he recovers from an accident that left him with an unreliable memory, and visions of a black figure no one else can see.  At the same time, a visitor named Rune arrives in town to learn about the son he never knew he had who had mysteriously disappeared in a small plane years before.  Beautifully written and enchanting, this heart-warming tale of family and community is a perfect companion for a cold winter’s night. — suggested by Deborah

Donna suggests a Helen Mirren double feature:

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3788798Eye In the Sky (2015) has lingered in my thoughts since I watched it earlier this year. The film’s premise focuses on geographically separate officials (UK and US military leaders, a British foreign secretary, US Secretary of State, and Kenyan undercover agents), linked by phone calls and video conferencing as they argue the pros and cons of launching a drone on a branch of the al-Shabaab terrorist group that is hiding out in Nairobi. Through airborne surveillance, the military leaders witness members of this terrorist group preparing for a suicide attack. The story unfolds in what feels like real time, keeping you on the edge of your seat and features a stellar cast with Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Barkhad Abdi playing major roles. This film’s portrayal of modern drone warfare and collateral damage is thought provoking. I’m sure Eye in the Sky will linger a long time with you too!

https://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3551810Woman in Gold (2015) is based on the true story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) and her lawyer, Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) and their attempt to reclaim ownership of an extremely valuable Gustav Klimt painting from the Austrian government nearly fifty years after it was stolen by the Nazis.  The film moves back and forth in history, going from young Maria’s life in pre-war Vienna, to her flight from the Nazis to the US, to her legal actions in the early 2000’s.  A captivating movie that nicely blends art history, drama, and justice. 

8 Graphic Novels We Recommend for Adults

By Spencer Stevens

Graphic novels bridge the gap between comics and novels. Cartoonist Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel” in the 1970s, but the true heyday of graphic novels began in the 1980s with books like Maus, Watchmen, and darker, lengthier Batman comics. Today, the graphic novel genre is diverse: authors still write fictional stories, but rising in popularity are graphic memoirs, biographies, and general nonfiction reads. Here are eight graphic novels from the Northborough Free Library’s Adult Collection that we recommend (click the pictures for links to the catalog!):

by Art SpiegelmanMaus recounts the experiences of Spiegelman’s father, who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Maus depicts the Nazis as cats and Holocaust victims as mice. Spiegelman’s graphic novel is a haunting reimagination of one of history’s darkest periods. Maus remains the only graphic novel to receive the Pulitzer Prize. Maus, alongside earlier graphic novels by Will Eisner, marked graphic novels as a legitimate, respectable form of adult literature.


Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father is central to the plot in this “tragicomic.” We explore this complex relationship from Alison’s point of view as a child, as a young adult, and as an older adult. Bechdel reminisces about discovering her homosexuality, discovering her father’s concealed sexuality, and her father’s early death. Fun Home is a moving, heartbreaking exploration of the relationship between father and daughter.


Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge – Zora Neale Hurston is best known for her book Their Eyes Were Watching God and the recent posthumous publication Barracoon. In this colorful, cartoonishly illustrated graphic biography, Peter Bagge shows us Zora’s vibrant personality and the tragedies that she overcame before becoming one of America’s most well-known authors of the Harlem Renaissance.



Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green – In this hand-drawn graphic memoir, Katie Green relives her experience of suffering and recovering from an eating disorder. Her memoir combines text and simple yet striking illustrations to show her battle with her body image and the rising threat of the “shadow” within her.


MarchBookOneMarch, Volumes 1-3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell – In this trilogy, Congressman John Lewis recounts his days in the Civil Rights Movement. March covers Lewis’ participation in various sit-ins, the Selma to Montgomery march, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Lewis also covers the influence of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama on Black people in America. With illustrations based on historic photographs, March is a modern, accessible look at Civil Rights in the 1960s.


My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris – Set in 1960s Chicago, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a gripping murder mystery told in illustrated form. Ten-year-old Karen attempts to solve the murder of her neighbor, and we follow her story and those of people around her. With illustrations inspired by 1950s-1960s B-movies, My Favorite Thing is Monsters was nominated for several awards and has become a modern classic.

SabrinaSabrina by Nick DrnasoSabrina came out earlier in 2018 and is the only book ever to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. A Chicago woman named Sabrina goes missing, only for a video of her murder to surface and become viral on the internet and the news. Conspiracy theories about her murder erupt: people claim the video is fake and that Sabrina’s grieving family members are crisis actors. This important and timely graphic novel questions the influence of fake news on our society and the power of the internet to amplify conspiracies.

GraphicCanonThe Graphic Canon, Volumes 1-3 edited by Russ Kick – If you don’t have the patience to read Homer’s Odyssey or can’t find the time to work through the complete works of Shakespeare, this graphic novel trilogy is perfect for you! The Graphic Canon is a three-volume set of the world’s most beloved novels, poems, epics, and plays in graphic novel form. Each entry has a different author and illustrator. From Gilgamesh to Homer to Voltaire to Emily Dickinson to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Graphic Canon offers a little bit of world literature in an updated, artistic form.