Fun at Foster's blog

Font to Film: “The Help”

When authors write what they know the result can have a certain weight, a sense of authenticity that allows a reader to feel the truth of what’s on the page. Interestingly, though, writers in these situations don’t always produce stories that are in line with what we might expect, such as those writers who find a dark humor in the horrors of war. The thing to remember is that every author is also an individual, and there are often as many points of view on a situation as there are individuals experiencing it. If we are open to it, we may find that each point of view—even those that seem strange to us—has something valuable to offer.

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (2009) is set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s and alternates between three first-person narrators: a young white woman named Eugenia (Skeeter) Phelan and two black maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson. Stockett explores the ways in which black women doing domestic work—hence the novel’s title—were dehumanized and oppressed by their white employers and naturally expands into a commentary on race relations throughout the South. Skeeter provides a window into the experiences of Aibileen and the other maids through her desire to write a book about them. Aibileen and Minny both attempt to impress upon Skeeter the very real danger that telling their stories places them all in, a point reinforced by descriptions of racial violence throughout the novel. For her part, Skeeter contends that the only way the South will change is if people begin talking openly about racism and inequality. In the afterword to The Help Stockett admits that she wrote the novel in part as a way of exorcising some of her own guilt at having been emotionally close to her family’s maid while never truly considering the arrangement from the other woman’s perspective.
There has been some criticism of The Help suggesting that it focuses too much on its white characters, an accusation directed even more strongly toward Tate Taylor’s 2011 film adaptation. Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer, the film in many ways effectively captures the emotional lives of these women as they struggle to make a living in the Jim Crow South, but it does feel like something of a sanitized version of the novel. Many scenes from the book, particularly those featuring Minny, are played for laughs, which feels uncomfortable at times given the context and makes the viewer wonder whose story is ultimately being told. Both black actresses received high praise for their roles, but many commented that this was in spite of their otherwise tangential treatment; the film places heavy focus on Stone’s Skeeter and her interactions with her friends and family. Nonetheless, Taylor’s version proves to be heartwarming—if a bit too much of a “feel good” movie given the subject matter—and can serve as a means for starting a conversation about race even if it neglects to do the heavy lifting itself.

Kathryn Stockett’s novel is available to borrow from E.P. Foster Library’s adult fiction collection, and can also be found in eBook and eAudiobook format through the Ventura County Library’s OverDrive collection. Tate Taylor’s film version can be requested from a number of other branches in the Ventura County Library system; if the film or novel is not on the shelf at your branch, you can request a copy in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

 

Authored by Ronald Martin.

Summer Reading for Adults: Our Grand Prize Winner!

Congratulations to Kate Curtin, winner of the grand prize drawing of our Summer Reading for Adults contest! Her prize was an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite... perfect for borrowing eBooks from the library!

Our staff had a lot of fun running the contest this summer, and we're already looking forward to next year and thinking about how we can go even bigger!

We'd like to thank everyone who entered, and we hope that whether you won a prize or not that you were able to read something great this summer.

The Soldiers Project @ Foster

Next Monday, August 11, E.P. Foster Library will be hosting The Soldiers Project.

This organization offers support for post-9/11 veterans and their loved ones.

Stop by the Topping Room at 6 p.m. to learn more about this organization and what it does for those who have served our country.

We hope to see you there!

New Homework Center and Triple P @ Foster

E.P. Foster Library will be opening a Homework Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m., starting on August 26. Homework Helpers will be available to help students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade with their homework assignments in Language Arts, Math, Reading, Science, or Social Studies.

Homework Centers are comfortable spaces at the library where students of all ages can drop in and work on their homework independently or with the help of volunteers. The centers are equipped with Wi-Fi, computers with internet access, printers, research books, and school supplies for student use.

Homework Centers help students with homework assignments and provide skills-building on any subject. The Ventura County Library provides Homework Centers at the Meiners Oaks Library, Oak View Library, Ojai Library, Avenue Library, the Albert H. Soliz Library in El Rio, and the Ray D. Prueter Library in Port Hueneme. Check our webpage for days and times.

Homework Centers are available following the school calendar. If you are interested in volunteering for the Homework Center at Foster, contact Star Soto at (805) 648-2716.

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Also, returning to the Topping Room at the E.P. Foster Library is Triple P: the Positive Parenting Program. These parenting classes are free to all parents with children 0-18 years of age.

The first class—focusing on children 0-12 years of age—will be on Friday, August 15, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information and to sign up, contact Aby Fernandez at (805) 248-2179.

Novelties: “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr

While the truth of history is often engaging enough on its own, weaving in a fictional narrative can allow us a chance to revisit our shared past in ways that test our imaginations and celebrate our humanity. This month, Novelties looks at three titles set in World War II, a period which still inspires new material some seven decades later. These stories of struggle, sacrifice, and survival set against the backdrop of a war-torn continent are sure to appeal to fans of historical fiction, especially those with an interest in the German occupation of France during the war.

Our main title this month is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr’s novel follows the lives of two young people—Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig—growing up as the war brews around them. Marie-Laure is a young blind woman whose father cares for her so much he painstakingly built her tiny models of Paris so she could travel throughout the city by memory. The two are eventually forced to flee together to the walled city of Saint-Malo, which later comes under German occupation. Werner lacks Marie-Laure’s familial support, and would have faced a life of hard labor if not for his intellect and technical aptitude, which lead him to be groomed by a German war machine that warps his character with cruelty and propaganda. The narrative moves forward and back in time to show the ways in which these two lives influence each other before their ultimate intersection in Saint-Malo, where both must face the reality of where fate has inevitably led them. Touching on themes of science and complex morality and of young lives that seem entirely in control of outside forces, All the Light We Cannot See is an intricately-written novel with a pacing that will keep readers engaged up to the very end.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay also deals with a specific real-world event, in this case the rounding up of French Jews in the Vel’ d’Hiv. Sarah is a young girl who is arrested as part of the relocation orchestrated by German authorities and implemented by the French police. She and her family are moved from one location to the next, until she is separated from them and must find a way to survive on her own. We learn of Sarah’s experiences through a parallel story featuring Julia Jarmond, a journalist doing research on the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup for an American magazine. Julia is struggling in her relationship with her husband, a man with whom she is planning to relocate to Paris, specifically to the apartment that belonged to Sarah and her family. The novel alternates between Julia’s story and Sarah’s, gradually uncovering the grim details of the latter’s persecution and the lengths to which she went to try to protect her younger brother. There is some disagreement on whether the juxtaposition of Julia’s and Sarah’s stories helps or harms the novel, but readers agree that Sarah’s Key is haunting and powerful, and will stay with you for a good long while.
Finally, we have Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, which tells the story of Andras Lévi, a Hungarian Jew who travels to Paris to pursue an education as an architect. The novel details his time there as he finds work in a theater to support himself and develops a complex romantic relationship with another Hungarian immigrant, Klara Hász (currently living under the name Claire Morgenstern). The reader will also hear the stories of Andras’ brothers, Tibor and Matyas, and a host of other close friends and family and see how all of them build their lives and develop into complex characters as war brews around them. Eventually, growing anti-Semitism forces Andras to leave Paris, and Orringer follows him through Budapest and forced-labor camps as he, Klara, and their families struggle to survive amid the chaos. Dark in tone and epic in scope, The Invisible Bridge is a moving love story that pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the horrors faced by those victimized in this terrible conflict and shines a light on a part of the war that isn’t typically in focus.

All the Light We Cannot See, Sarah’s Key, and The Invisible Bridge are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, with additional copies available at other Ventura County Library branches. If you’re interested in checking out other related titles, head to NoveList Plus through our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. And remember, if the title you want isn’t on the shelf at your local branch, you can always request a copy in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.


Scribbled by Ronald Martin.

Storytime with the Mayor @ Foster

Next week on Tuesday, August 5, Foster Library will be hosting a special storytime featuring guest reader Mayor Cheryl Heitmann!

Mayor Heitmann has always supported Foster Library, and we are excited to have her read with us at this early literacy-based storytime.

The reading begins at 10:30 a.m. on the second floor of the library. We hope to see you there!

FOL Book Discussion @ Foster: "Bootlegger's Daughter"

This coming Saturday, the San Buenaventura Friends of the Library will be discussing Margaret Maron’s Bootlegger’s Daughter.

This group meets monthly and reads a variety of fiction and non-fiction titles. The event is free and open to the public.

It all starts at 10 a.m. Saturday August 2, in Foster Library’s Topping Room. New members are always welcome to join the discussion!

David’s Dish: German-Style Potato Salad

Well, it’s summer time and the living is easy. Summer equals social engagements that generally require bringing some sort of edibles. So, I perused the shelves at the library and discovered a tiny gem of a book: German Home Cooking, by Dr. Duane R. Lund.

German-style potato salad was on this Englishman’s mind, and I was chuffed to find no fewer than eight German-style potato salad recipes! This cookbook abounds with other wonderful German fare such as cabbage strudel, steak and wiener stew, and, of course, German dandelion wine!

I augmented German-style potato salad recipe #8 a tad by tossing in a few extras: some homegrown tomatoes and some jalapeno peppers to give the salad a bit of SoCal flavor. I prepared the ingredients, mixed them together, then chilled them for three hours in the refrigerator.

The German-style potato salad was a big hit at the delightful summer party I attended! In the wintertime I fully intend to revisit this book for heartier German fare, possibly that steak and wiener stew! 

 

*****David’s Dish

Check out the book at Foster Library, or put it on hold—we will send it to you. If there are any cookbooks in Foster Library’s collection that you would like me to try out, please leave the title on our Facebook page and I’ll get cooking!

Summertime Travel

We are well into summer and most people are looking for ways to beat the heat. Sometimes this involves going on vacation, heading to the beach, or just taking some time to take a drive in an air-conditioned vehicle. Foster Library has guides for getting away to other parts of California, visiting one of our National Parks, or just exploring our own Ventura County.

 

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez

Beautiful Darkness

If you like your fairy tales with a dark edge, then you might want to read Beautiful Darkness, written by Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated by Kerascoët. At turns sweet and disturbing, this graphic novel tells the tale of young Aurora, her prince, and their friends as they find themselves struggling to survive in a frightening—yet familiar—world.

While on the surface the characters seem as sweet as the illustrations might suggest, as the story progresses a darkness pervades, and their true natures become alarmingly apparent. The princess is sweet and good-intentioned, but naïve and jealous; the prince is charming, but self-absorbed; the loyal servant is helpful, but greedy; the injured waif is deceitful and downright sociopathic.

According to the book jacket, “the sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerascoët’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann’s story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over.” It’s easy to get distracted by the illustrations, which are indeed quite lovely. It’s only when you stop and take a real look that you realize what’s actually going on. The characters’ forms, although pretty to look at, lie in stark contrast to their true natures, which become worse with each page. Many meet unfortunate ends. Even the setting of the story is beautiful and horrible at the same time. I won’t bother spoiling that awful surprise—you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Although it is a fairy tale, this one is best left to adults.

 

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

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