Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #519 - “When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss

Man at the Helm * by Nina Stibbe (Love, Nina : a nanny writes home), an impressive first novel, has been compared to P. G. Wodehouse in its pacing; and Gerald Durrell's memoir My Family and Other Animals (1956), about an eccentric family's relocation to the Greek isle of Corfu, and a BBC Masterpiece Theater adaptation.

The narrator, 9-year old Lizzie Vogel has lived a charmed life. But when his homosexual affair is discovered, Lizzie's father packs his off to the tiny village of Flatstone, where life for the Vogels takes a drastic turn. The new neighbors are hostile and disapproving (of divorcees and fatherless children), and Lizzie's theatrical mother slips ever more into drinks, pills, and obsessive playwriting. Lizzie and her ever-knowing older sister fear that the infamous Crescent Homes for Children is in their future, unless they could find a new husband for their mother, and a new "man at the helm" for the household. As one unsuitable suitor follows another, chaos ensues. Lizzie confronts the downright craziness of grown-up love and learns that sometimes a family needs to veer catastrophically off-course in order to find true happiness.

"An extraordinarily well-written, deeply satisfying read about an unusual, highly entertaining group of people." "Charming and bittersweet, with a very English flavor, this social comedy is distinguished by Stibbe's light touch and bright eye." Check out the New York Times Review.

Everlasting Lane * by Andrew Lovett is "(a) captivating, absorbing, and suspenseful evocation of the spells of childhood in a timeless coming-of-age tale."

After the death of his father, 9-year old Peter Lambert moves with his mother to the village of Amberley, and a cottage on Everlasting Lane. As the new kid, he is befriended only by the other two outcasts in his class - chubby Tommie and the neighborhood bossy Anna-Marie. Escaping the bullies, they find pleasure and solace in the countryside and soon meet up with local eccentrics who prefer solitude.

At home, Peter is disturbed by the growing awareness that his own aggrieved mother might be falling apart - first by changing her name, and then expressly forbidding him from entering a locked room in the attic.

Written in beautiful prose, "as charming and haunting as the movie Stand By Me... (w)ith nods to such children's classics as Alice in Wonderland, Lovett's first novel, inspired by events from his own childhood, contemplates the often very fine line between imagination and reality."

* = starred review

Home: a work of art for children and adults

The concept of “home” has meant a lot of different things to people over the ages and is still unique for each one of us today. Artist Carson Ellis makes her solo debut with a beautiful picture book, titled simply Home, that explores the meaning and concept of home. A snail shell, a covered wagon, an igloo, a castle surrounded by a moat… all are or have been home to something or someone at a given point in time. Ellis even weaves in fantastical homes: fairy houses, boots, and more are included in this wonderful book. In some of the mythical houses, Ellis does not include a description of who lives there, but instead asks readers to imagine what sort of creature they think would be suited to the structure. The clever combination of traditional, non-traditional, and fanciful homes will inspire children (and adults!) to think of “home” in a new way.

You may recognize Ellis’ work: she is the illustrator of the Wildwood series and the artist for the band The Decemberists. You can visit her website to see more of her awesome talent!

Washtenaw Community College Earth Day 2015 Celebration

Student Center Building, 1st Floor and North Plaza
Thursday, April 9 - 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Live Raptor Presentation by the Leslie Science and Nature Center (11 a.m. - Noon)

The Activities Are Free and Open to the Public

In celebration of Earth Day, information about a diverse array of solutions to today’s environmental problems will be presented by local non-profit, business, and government organizations and WCC departments:

Recycling & Waste – Discover a secret stash of inexpensive books, kitchenware, sporting goods and building materials – how to put worms to work for you – why WCC has one of the best recycling records in the U.S.
Getting Around – Learn how to cut your expenses and your commuting carbon with, bicycles, electric cars, hybrid cars, busing and walking. Friends & Neighbors – Build a resilient community, make friends and influence congressmen, grow a community garden, support your local economy with farmers markets.
Healthy Choices – Learn many ways to keep yourself, your family and your community healthy by growing your own food, choosing a healthy diet, exercising, and quitting your fossil fuel addiction.
Mother Earth –Prevent nature deficit disorder, enjoy the outdoors, protect the Great Lakes, help green our campus, find a green career.

Participating Organizations: AAATA/The Ride • Ann Arbor District Library • Ban Fracking Michigan • Clean Water Action • Cobblestone Farm Market • Growing Hope • Hudson Mills Metropark • Huron Valley Group, Sierra Club • Iris Waste Diversion Specialists • Recycle Ann Arbor • Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy • WCC Bookstore/B&N Council • WCC Environmental Science Program • Trader Joe’s • VegMichigan • Wake Up Washtenaw! • WCC Biology Dept. • WCC CORE Garden Project • WCC Environmental Science Dept • WCC Recycling Operations • WCC Student Nurses • WCC Sustainability Council • Wheels in Motion • Ypsilanti Food Coop and more!

For more information contact WCC faculty member Dale Petty at petty@wccnet.edu.

Award Winning Audiobook - The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer 2010. 20 hrs. 30 mins.

Awards: The Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 2011. TIME Magazine’s All- TIME 100 Non-Fiction books.

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee

Narrator: Stephen Hoye

As a hematology/oncology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, Siddhartha Mukherjee was challenged by one of his patients to explain cancer. This biography of the disease, which takes on the enormous task of describing cancer and it’s treatment from ancient Egypt through modern day, is the result. Although the breadth of the story is intimidating, The Emperor of All Maladies is a great listening experience. The narrator did an excellent job with the personal stories of Mukherjee and his patients and I found the book informative but easy to comprehend.

On March 30th, inspired by Mukherjee’s book and with the support of Stand Up to Cancer, PBS and the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will air the first episode of a 3-part, 6-hour television event. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is hailed as the most comprehensive documentary on a single disease ever made. As Ken Burns explains, “the series matches the epic scale of the disease, reshaping the way the public sees cancer and stripping away some of the fear and misunderstanding that has long surrounded it. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience and perseverance but also of hubris, paternalism and misperception.”

Part one of the film airs on Monday March 30, 2015 from 9-11pm e.s.t. For a schedule of upcoming episodes and interviews with executive producer Ken Burns, visit the PBS website.

AADL is an Ann Arbor Film Festival Community Partner

Ann Arbor Film Fest LogoAnn Arbor Film Fest LogoThe Ann Arbor Film Festival is here again, and with it comes another year of films, events, and community partnership. AADL will once again be an official AAFF community partner for Films in Competition 4, on Saturday March 28 at 11 am at the Michigan Theater, which features films especially for viewers and filmmakers age 6 and up.

You can check out the list of films playing and buy tickets on the Ann Arbor Film Fest’s website. Make sure to enter the code AAFF53_AADL for half off your advance ticket – normally $6!

When you come to the screening, you’ll even have a chance to hear the premieres of the film scores participants created in our Making Movie Music workshop, held in conjunction with the AAFF.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. The 53rd AAFF takes place March 24-29, 2015 and presents over 200 films from across the world with dozens of world premieres. For more information, please visit the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s website.

Can't Wait for our 3/23 Laura Ingalls Wilder Event? Try Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen!

In advance of AADL's upcoming event, Laura Ingalls Wilder & Her Place in the World on Monday, 3/23, here is a review of Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen, a beautiful work of fiction that ties into loving Laura Ingalls Wilder, and shares themes that appear in the Little House books and in Laura's own life

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen is the story of Lee Lien, a first-generation American daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, who spent her childhood reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series in the backseat as her family crisscrossed the Midwest, running one tacky Asian buffet after another. Lee is now grown and in possession of a English Literature Ph.D, but no job offers. In returning to live with her short-tempered mother and goodnatured grandfather, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may prove a connection to Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Lee’s beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder. As she chases down clues to prove her theory, she struggles with the everyday realities of her own family.

Nguyen draws some striking parallels between her story and that of the real life and fictionalized versions of the Ingalls Wilder characters. There’s the “missing pieces” of the Ingalls’ family’s real life that are not depicted in the books, such as the birth and death of a son and a stint as innkeepers in Iowa, which relates to the unknowable things in Lee’s own family history, such as the impact of her grandfather’s Saigon cafe on a traveling American writer, the circumstances of her father’s death, or the true state of her mother’s relationship with a family friend. The fraught relationship between the real life mother and daughter Laura and Rose is mirrored in Lee’s interactions with her own mother. Even Laura’s “itchy foot” desire to move ever westward appears as Lee follows her investigation from Illinois to the California coast.

This is the story of a young woman who must go back in order to go forward and how you never know what you might find between the covers of a book.It’s an excellent read whether you are a Little House lover or not, but readers of the Little House series will be especially appreciative of hints of Nguyen’s own obvious adoration.

Looking for more Laura Ingalls Wilder? Try this list of titles that includes biographies, writers chasing their own Laura obsessions, or books that just capture that young girl/big frontier feel.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #518 - “Why aren’t midwives the heroines of society that they should be? Why do they have such a low profile? They ought to be lauded to the skies, by everyone.” ~ Jennifer Worth

I have been unashamedly hand-selling The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth in the past weeks and so far, great reports from everyone who've read it.

Former Australian (Melbourne) Event Planner Sally Hepworth sets her US debut in Providence/Conanicut Island (RI) where three generations of midwives called home. This is a lovely story about family, and at the heart of the matter - "biology was only part of it".

In the 7th month of her pregnancy, Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is still determined to keep the identity of the baby's father hidden from her family and co-workers. Though her mother Grace has a hard time accepting Neva's request for privacy, her grandmother Floss, a retired midwife herself, is handling the news with great understanding, having kept a bombshell-of-a-secret in the front pocket of her handbag for five decades.

As Neva's due date approaches, her decision to raise her child as a single parent turns complicated when her best friend, Patrick Johnson, a McDreamy pediatrician offers to be the baby's father while two other likely candidates (Neva is never quite sure) actually have claims on the title. When a difficult birth threatens Grace's license, and Floss suffers a heart attack, secrets are revealed; and the family rallies to usher in Neva's baby, born during a horrific winter storm.

"This intelligent, well-plotted debut will draw readers in from the very first word and keep them engaged until the end." Readers interested in further exploring the topic of midwifery would delight in Midwives by Christopher Bohjalian; the Hope River series by Patricia Harman; and let's not forget Call the Midwife, a BBC series adaptation of Jennifer Worth's memoir.

Waiting (not so) patiently for A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

Anne Tyler's 20th (and rumored to be final) novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, continues her trademark talent for finding beauty and complexity in the mundane details of average family life. The story follows the Whitshaw family, whose long-married, but mismatched parents, Red and Abby, are aging and beginning to struggle with the upkeep on the big house in which they raised their four children. As Abby's memory begins to fail, their grown children circle home to help, to make decisions, and to open old wounds and resentments. Fans of Tyler's previous novels may find some familiar ground here, but all readers will appreciate the Tyler's ability to hone in on universalities in family dynamics.

Here are a few titles to tide you over while you wait or to recommend to your book club after they devour A Spool of Blue Thread:

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy - The 13 Turner children, nearly all of them born and raised in the family's 3 bedroom house on the east side of Detroit, face the realities of their pasts and their futures as they come together to decide the fate of their family home in a disentigrating city.

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver - The house at Ashaunt Point has long anchored the Porter family through the upheaval of war, personal tragedies, changing fortunes, in this powerful examination of the ties that bind families together.

Someone by Alice McDermott - This gem of a domestic fiction novel follows Brooklyn-born Marie Commeford as she navigates changing social norms and expectations from her pre-Depression birthdate throughout her humble yet fascinating life.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley - This first part of a planned trilogy tells the story of Iowa farming family the Langdons, starting in 1920 and moving through the decades as their family grows and changes against the backdrop of the 20th century.

Life-Changing Magic…

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is an international best-selling book by Marie Kondo that is apparently magically changing lives. Kondo is a cleaning consultant that has created the KonMari Method, and with this she challenges you to ponder the significance of everything you own, and to keep only those items that spark joy. This includes everything – clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff, and items with sentimental value. She instructs on how to sift through these items, how to purge what is not needed, and how to feel wonderful after doing so.

The book is full of wisdom and insight on how to make what you own fit into the space you live in. She states that no one should claim they have no space for storage. Her idea is that if you tidy a little bit every day you will be tidying up for the rest of your life. If you follow the KonMari method and follow through, tidying every day will not be necessary. This is not simply buying some bins and storing your stuff. This delves much deeper into analyzing every item you own and in a particular order.

People across the country have been devouring this book, including me, and I wonder how others are doing with the process! Will you Kondo your house?!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #517 - "Excuse me, but I absolutely cannot understand how after eating my fill here I could go past a bakery and steal a roll.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

One of The Huffington Post's most anticipated debut of 2015, Hausfrau* * a novel by award-winning poet Jill Alexander Essbaum (faculty, University of California, Riverside) is an exquisite tale of an expatriate American wife living in Switzerland and her sexual and psychic unraveling, "(written) with an elegance, precision, and surehandedness that recalls Marguerite Duras's The Lover and Anita Brookner's (Booker Prize) Hotel du Lac." ~ Janet Fitch

38 year-old Anna Benz, "is a good wife, mostly." Mother of three, married to a Swiss banker, they live in a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. But Anna is falling apart inside. At the suggestion of her analyst Doktor Messerli, Anna enrolls in German language classes "to become more connected to the world", but continues to slip into a string of extramarital affairs that eventually exact a price far more than she could ever imagine.

Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz's story reveals how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves, and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves. "Isolated and tormented, Anna shares more than her name with that classic adulteress, Anna Karenina."

Literary fiction readers might want to further explore the subject with Adultery by Paulo Coelho; A Week in October by Elizabeth Subercaseaux; and I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Syndicate content