SJPL Picks Recommendation News: April 2023

Welcome, or welcome back, to SJPL's Rec News, an occasional publication featuring recreational and recommended reading from our SJPL Librarians. In March we had plenty of lists for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Women's History Month. This month we also have some themed reads in line with national celebrations, as well as a couple interesting lists that may be off many's typical 'beaten path'.

If you thought March had plenty of month-long themes, well, April is in a whole other class when it comes to national months. And believe you me, some of them get pretty specific. Soft Pretzel Month? Why not. Straw Hat Month? You bet! Fresh Celery Month? If you insist. There are also plenty of other world holidays and celebrations happening, too. Easter, of course, as well a day this little Aussie will commemorate, Anzac Day (with Anzac Biscuits, of course; try this Australian Women's Weekly recipe for maximum authenticity). And I simply can't NOT mention that National Library Workers' Week is in April, too. You can take a look at this expansive list of monthly themes and celebrations, but we are going to focus on reads for Arab American Heritage Month as well books with ties to nature for Earth Day for our combined themed reads.

Arab American Heritage Month Reads

Salma the Syrian Chef, book cover
Halal Hot Dogs, book cover
Arab Arab All Year Long!, book cover
The Secret Diary of Mona Hasan, book cover
Other Words for Home, book cover
All-American Muslim Girl, book cover
We Hunt the Flame, book cover
Beirut Hellfire Society, book cover
Fencing With the King, book cover

Suggested Arab American Heritage reads...

Arab American Heritage Month has been celebrated sporadically in the USA since the 1990s, but the celebrations only occurred in select states and often at different times of year. In 2017 the Arab American Foundation pushed to coordinate these celebrations, and many of the organization's volunteers are still working to have this month officially recognized in more states, and their work is showing. President Joe Biden is the first sitting president to commemorate the month, which he did with a letter to the Arab American Foundation, and 45 state governors have commemorated the initiative as well. However, as of April 2023, only Oregon, Illinois, Virginia, and Indiana (senate) have passed permanent legislation to designate April as Arab American Heritage Month.

Arab heritage refers to those that speak Arabic as their first language, or people who had a parent or other direct ancestor (such as a grandparent or great-grandparent) that spoke Arabic. There has been some discussion among groups to expand this heritage month to Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) heritage month, a broader title that would include regional heritage not tied to the Arabic language under its umbrella.

Arab American Heritage Month is a time to focus on the contributions and successes of Arab Americans to US history, society, and innovation. It's an excellent time to learn more about art, science, culture, cuisine, and performing arts from this region.

Green Reads for Earth Day...

Music for Tigers, book cover
The First Rule of Climate Club, book cover
The Last Beekeeper, book cover
Jamilah at the End of the World, book cover
A Snake Falls to Earth, book cover
Poison Ivy Thorns, book cover
That Dangerous Energy, book cover
Venomous Lumpsucker, book cover
Kraken Calling, book cover

Suggested Green Reads...

April 22 is Earth Day, and is said to mark the beginning of the modern environmental movement in 1970. This is a day to not only show appreciation to the beautiful blue marble we call home, but it's a time to reflect on what's happening to our home, as well as who is responsible. As I sing to the kids in Storytime on Earth Day, "we've got the whole world in our hands." The stories on the above linked lists explore a theme that is coming up more often in literature as the news of climate change becomes more pressing, Green Reads. This theme, and indeed a burgeoning genre, explores the relationship between humankind and the natural world. From adventure and survival stories to reflective reads on the myths we tell ourselves about who the world belongs to, there is a lot to explore within this relationship. Here we have books with Green themes for elementary readers through adults.

Just Because Reads...Magical Realism

The Cartographers, book cover
When We Were Birds, book cover
Chouette, book cover
All That it Ever Meant, book cover
The Ghosts of Rose Hill, book cover
Summer in the City of Roses, book cover
The Year I Flew Away, book cover
Asha and the Spirit Bird, book cover
What If a Fish, book cover

What is Magical Realism?

Magical Realism, despite its fantastical elements, is actually a subgenre of Realism, and despite the prevalence of birds in the titles and covers above it is not a prerequisite of the genre! The stories will have their plots and settings firmly grounded in the real world, but there will be some or multiple magical elements that everyone just accepts as normal. There will be limited world-building in regards to the magic as a device to normalize the magic for the reader. The story usually offers some sort of social commentary as an undertone to its story, or the magic plays an important role as characters grapple with heavy and challenging life events. Magical Realism reads tend to be on the more emotional side and are often issue-oriented. The plot of these works won't necessarily unfold the way we've come to expect a story to, leaving readers guessing when the plot will suddenly advance.

Even before Magical Realism was defined as a genre authors were writing Realism with fantastical elements, such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. In the mid-20th century, a literary critic wrote about a collection of shorts stories by Jorge Luis Borges, the first reference to an established Magical Realist author, and Gabriel García Márquez is arguably the most well-known classic author in this genre, with 100 Years of Solitude (original: Cien años de soledad) being a popular example. Yet this genre isn't only prevalent in the classics- plenty of authors continue to write Magical Realism stories today, with many of my recommendations this month falling into the Children's Fiction sections of our libraries. I am captivated by this genre, and I'd love to share some Magical Realism reads with you.

SJPL Picks: Quick Links

If this month's featured reads aren't quite what you're in the mood for, or you're looking to expand your browsing further, try checking out any and all of the lists from our librarians on our SJPL Picks team. All our lists will be labeled "SJPL Picks" or "SJPL Recommends".

SJPL 5forU

If you're looking for further recommendations and aren't in the mood to browse, let us do the browsing for you! San José Public Library's 5forU team offers personalized recommendations via email. You can also fill in the profile on someone else's behalf and we can find just the right titles - perfect for caregivers looking to recommend books to their children, for book clubs stumped on what to discuss next meeting, or if you're hoping to give the gift of literature. Just fill in the profile and we'll do the rest - and remember, the more information you give us in the profile, the better and more tailored your recommendations will be! Hearing exactly why you love or hate a book gives us more clues to find your new favorite- it just so happens to be what we love to talk about, too, so don't hold back. Requests will be answered within 5 business days. Ready to begin your 5forU journey? Start your 5forU request!