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The Reading Room

The Reading Room

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FINDING AMERICA'S FARMWORKERS
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FINDING AMERICA'S FARMWORKERS

At its inception in 1987, the H-2A visa program certified just over 40 positions for temporary nonimmigrant workers to enter the United States. Today, the number of so-called guest workers, most of whom are Mexican men who leave their families for seasonal crop work, has soared to more than 300,000. This look into the lives of seasonal agricultural workers in eastern North Carolina begins in Mexico as men like 60-year-old Domingo Álvarez begin a multiday transnational bus trip from their home to the Tar Heel State. While the contributions of guest workers to the American economy receive ample coverage (“We need them. They need us,” Durbin writes), what makes this book stand out is its deeply personal narrative. Readers learn about the rompecabezas de enredo (handmade entanglement puzzles made from wires and cords) that one older migrant makes for the journey; social dynamics that exist inside worker communities (where the mayordomo is “the most-senior member of a grower’s crew…who can speak enough English to receive instructions from the grower, or patrón”); and how workers communicate with family via Facebook and WhatsApp messages. While many note how work in the United States has provided them with “a better economic situation,” the workers’ living conditions and tenuous employment, exacerbated by abusive growers, have also bred a culture of “fear of retaliation” among many who declined to have their names published. (Although he uses pseudonyms, Durbin assures readers that the workers referenced are not composites, but real people he interviewed or witnessed firsthand.) He observes that, as sincere as nonprofit organizations (particularly the Episcopalian ministry that the author tagged along with while researching the book) may be in their desire to assist workers, their needs far outweigh the available charity. One worker, for example, was given a bag of ground coffee from a local church, but it sat unused on his shelf, since he had no way to brew it. Using interviews with more than 80 farmworkers, in addition to the “few growers willing to speak with me,” Durbin has assembled a revealing look into the lived experiences of guest workers. The author is nonpartisan in his analysis of the complexities of U.S. immigration policy; while emphasizing the “extraordinary sacrifices” made by farmworkers with H-2A visas, Durbin makes a compelling case that “we as a nation can honor that sacrifice” by improving guest workers’ working and living conditions. The author of multiple books on financial derivatives who has taught at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and spent a career in software engineering for the banking industry, Durbin presents poignant anecdotes accompanied by impressive quantitative analyses backed by more than 20 pages of citations and bibliographic entries. Graphs, charts, and other visual aids accompany each chapter, making the more analytical passages accessible for nonacademic readers.

THINK TO NEW WORLDS
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THINK TO NEW WORLDS

Charles Fort (1874-1932) is not a household name today, but his influence reaches deep into American life. In the early years of the 20th century, Fort began to collect newspaper articles about odd things or “anomalous reports”—e.g., rains of fish or stones, strange lights in the sky, contact with the dead, etc. Buhs, author of Bigfoot and The Fire Ant Wars, examines how Fort knitted these into a series of books about inexplicable occurrences and their possible meanings. Fort believed that they could explain the real nature of the universe, and he eventually expanded the theory into investigations of how power was really wielded in society. Things are never as they seem, he wrote, and there are worlds behind the world. His work and theories attracted a variety of followers; after his death, an organization called the Fortean Society sought to spread his ideas. For decades, sci-fi writers have drawn on Fortean thinking, and Buhs tracks the many paths of influence, especially involving groups obsessed with UFOs and vanished civilizations. Much of this was harmless quackery, but the rise of malevolent conspiracy theories was more pernicious. The result has been the infiltration of the bizarre and the extreme into civil discourse at every level (see: QAnon.) “Fort and Forteans played their part in the creation of this world,” says Buhs. “They eroded the distinctions between truth and falsity. They launched a thousand conspiracies into the national consciousness.” Unfortunately, the author often breaks the primary narrative with unnecessary detours, making it difficult to follow. Some will enjoy the arcane material, but many will find it too eccentric to keep the pages turning.

The News Book Riot Covered This Week
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The News Book Riot Covered This Week

Here Come The Public School ClosuresTargeting books in public schools and libraries is purposeful. Create a frenzy over lies and disinformation about the content in libraries and classrooms, then profit by claiming students are being indoctrinated, then utilize those lies to push for voucher programs because your student shouldn’t have to be around that kind of stuff. See also: demand a book be banned, claim that books like those are proof the schools are incapable of doing their job, take time and money away from schools to put the book through the review process, complain about the time and money wasted on such a review process, and repeat the cycle until the money, time, and people are all gone.The 2024 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Presented annually since 1967, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards are among the most prestigious given to books for young readers. They are given every year in June in three categories: picture book, fiction, and nonfiction. These awards are limited to books published in the United States, though the creators of those books can be from any country. Winners are selected by three judges selected by Horn Book’s editor in chief. The 2024 awards were announced June 20. Here are the finalists and honors in each category. The Most Read Books on Goodreads This WeekThis week, the most read books on Goodreads list has been shaken up a little bit. After weeks of the same books being only slightly reordered week to week, this time a new release has jumped two books by the same author into the top five.Libro.fm’s Bestselling Audiobooks of All TimeLibro.fm, the independently owned audiobook service that lets you choose which indie bookstores receive a portion of your audiobook sales, has released a list of top 10 bestselling audiobooks of all time to commemorate their 10th anniversary. The list is based on sales reported to Libro.fm from over 3,000 indie bookstores and includes thought-provoking nonfiction, celebrity memoirs, fantasy, and more.Midwest Tape/hoopla “Clarifies” Their New Ratings SystemThe filters will not be patron facing but for use with librarians in states where ratings are necessary for purchase. Again, as of writing, only one state requires this and those materials are already rated via the publishers. These filters will also not override the ratings already provided by publishers. That further begs the question of why if there is already a noted system in place. With Print Sales Up, These Were The Bestselling Books in May 2024Book sales in May 2024 were up over the same time in May 2023, thanks in part to a large increase in the adult fiction print market. Unit sales increased by 3 million, thanks to demand for books by authors like Stephen King and Kristin Hannah. Despite a bump in sales for Julia Quinn books, thanks to Netflix’s release of the next season of Bridgerton, her books did not make the top ten in sales for May.Barnes & Noble Just Bought a Beloved Indie Bookstore. Now What?A Tattered Cover owned by Barnes & Noble but otherwise just being Tattered Cover will be the biggest challenge yet to the indie v. everyone else dichotomy that has been in place for the last 30 years. I don’t think anybody can guess how it will play out–or what to hope for.JAMES by Percival Everett Will Be Adapted for FilmPercival Everett’s novel James, which reimagines The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of Jim, the enslaved man who runs away with Huck to seek freedom and reunite with his family, is set to be adapted for the big screen by Steven Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Entertainment. Everett will write the screenplay, and Taika Waititi is in early talks to direct.Two Vague and Dangerous Book Ban Bills in South Carolina Target Public and School LibrariesSouth Carolina has positioned itself among several other states nationwide putting restrictions on access to funding for libraries that do not comply with censorship demands. There are currently two pieces of legislation directly targeting the work of public libraries and school libraries in different ways–and through completely different means. The Bestselling Books of the Week, According to All the ListsFor once, this bestseller list is fairly different from last week’s. Some of the reigning champs, like Funny Story by Emily Henry, have fallen to only being on three of the five biggest lists. Just for the Summer by Abby Jimenez went from being on all five lists last week to not making this round up at all. We also have a few new releases, including Eruption, which is based on notes by Michael Crichton and written by James Patterson — put those two powerhouse author names together and you have an easy win. The movie rights are already in a bidding war.

10 Excellent Black Historical Audiobooks
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10 Excellent Black Historical Audiobooks

There’s nothing better than a beautifully written, well-narrated audiobook. Whether I’m trying to learn about a moment in history or simply relax, audiobooks have become one of my go-to methods of reading. And when it comes to Black historical audiobooks, there is a wide and wonderful world to choose from. I’m looking for two things when I pick out audiobooks: an interesting, well-written book and a narrator who can do it justice. In fact, good audiobook narrators do much more than that. They can bring a story to life. Their accents and intonation, the emotion they add to the telling — all these things create an experience that is unique to audiobooks. Books have existed for a long time, but audiobooks are a uniquely modern medium. They bring traditions of oral storytelling to life in our homes, making stories and great storytelling accessible for so many. Which is why you’re never gonna hear me say that reading audiobooks isn’t real reading. Haven’t we learned better than that by now? These Black historical audiobooks, set in the U.S., Canada, France, Uganda, and Nigeria, feature stories both incredible and heartbreaking, and oftentimes both. Courageous characters, wronged men, willful women, and communities fighting back against injustice fill these stories to the brim. They are hard and hopeful and honest, even when reality is not always as it seems. So sit back, and let these stories be told. The American Daughters by Maurice Carlos RuffinNarrator: Lynnette R. FreemanA sharp-witted girl named Ady joins up with a secret society of Black women working together to undermine the Confederacy in this Civil War-era novel about slavery, sisterhood, and the fight to be free. When Ady and her beloved mother are separated, Ady is left adrift. But when she meets a free Black woman at the Mockingbird Inn, she is introduced to a clandestine group called The Daughters. For the first time in a long time, Ady can imagine a future for herself again, one involving freedom and her new sisters by her side. Kintu by Jennifer MakumbiNarrator: Kalungi SsebandekeFollowing generations of Kintu Kidda’s clan from the 1750s onward, Kintu explores a family’s “cursed bloodline.” On his way to swear loyalty to the new leader of the Buganda Kingdom in what is now Uganda, Kintu Kidda accidentally unleashes a curse that will plague his family for centuries. He and four of his descendants will have to learn how to live life with this curse even as they try to carve out a better future. The Rib King by Ladee HubbardNarrator: Korey Jackson and Adenrele OjoWhen the Barclays, a once wealthy white family, fall on hard times, they decide to sell their talented Black cook’s rib sauce as their own alongside a caricature of August, who works as their groundskeeper. Neither August nor Miss Mamie will be paid for their part, even as the Barclays profit. August feels a rage growing inside him, and soon, his feelings over this injustice explode outward with terrible consequences for all those involved. At Night All Blood Is Black by David DiopNarrator: Dion GrahamA Senegalese man fighting with the French in WWI earns a reputation for his brutality on the battlefield, but what his comrades don’t understand is he’s reliving the horrific death of his childhood friend on the battlefield, enacting horrors before giving them the mercy he was unable to give Mademba. It’s grief — and maybe a touch of madness — driving Alfa, not rage. Narrated by Dion Graham, who brings Alfa and Mademba to life through Diop’s visceral prose, the audiobook is a masterpiece of surreal historical fiction. The Last Gift of the Master Artists by Ben OkriNarrator: Ashley ZhangazhaBefore the arrival of the Transatlantic slave trade in Africa, two young lovers meet by chance. One is a prince, the other a gifted daughter from a secretive tribe. Their feelings are almost instant, and the two vow to meet again. But when their reunion never takes place, the prince sets out on a quest to find his love no matter the cost. Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe SivakNarrator: Imani Jade PowersAfter escaping the Haitian Revolution, the daughter of a white plantation owner and an enslaved woman finds herself in the midst of another revolution taking shape in France. Sylvie is only beginning to understand her complicity in what took place back in Haiti as she falls in with the revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre and his equally brilliant mistress, Cornélie Duplay. Robespierre sees her as a symbol of a more egalitarian world, while Cornélie offers her a chance to open up her mind and worldview. But as her affections are torn and violence comes to Paris, Sylvie will once again have to decide where she stands. In the Upper Country by Kai ThomasNarrator: Milton Barnes, Tymika Tafari, and Wesley French1800s Dunmore, Canada, is a town where those fleeing enslavement in the United States can settle down. But when a slave hunter is shot dead by an old woman who’s only recently arrived, a journalist named Lensinda is summoned to take down her story before she can be condemned for her crime. The woman doesn’t want to confess, though. Instead, she proposes a trade: a story for a story. As their tales unravel, Lensinda is forced to face the past she’s tried to bury if she wants to learn the truth about the woman before her. Tempest by Beverly JenkinsNarrator: Kim StauntonA mail-order bride inadvertently shoots her new husband, Dr. Colton Lee, upon their first meeting. It’s not exactly the meeting either one of them expected. But Reagan is the type of woman who would leave everything behind to brave the Wyoming Territory and marry a widower sight unseen. Neither expects to find love in this relationship, but soon, it begins to seek them out all the same. The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBrideNarrator: Dominic HoffmanA community of Black and Jewish people in 1970s Pennsylvania are rocked when a skeleton is recovered from the bottom of a well. They all know who that skeleton belonged to and how it got there. The residents of Chicken Hill have done what they needed to do in order to protect themselves and each other. But now the truth is coming out, and they’ll all have to reckon with it. Carolina Built by Kianna AlexanderNarrator: Shayna Small and Leon NixonThis historical fiction novel celebrates the story of real-life pioneering real-estate magnate Josephine N. Leary. Josephine has always dreamed of creating a better life for herself and her family. A self-taught businesswoman, she is determined to build a legacy. But it’s hard to balance life as a mother, daughter, wife, and granddaughter with her ambitions. That isn’t going to stop her, though. If you want even more excellent black historical audiobooks to read, check out these recommendations: Black Historical Fiction To Read in Your Book Club #OwnVoices Black Historical YA Books Black Girls of YA Historical Fiction

The Best Book Deals of the Day for June 23, 2024
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The Best Book Deals of the Day for June 23, 2024

Today’s Featured Book Deal $2.99The Lost Ticket by Freya SampsonGet This Deal $3.99Inciting Joy by Ross GayGet This Deal $2.99Into the Sunken City by Dinesh ThiruGet This Deal $.99The Remaking by Clay McLeod ChapmanGet This Deal $2.49Death in Heels by Kitty MurphyGet This Deal $2.99Let’s Get Quizzical by Kelly OhlertGet This Deal $1.99Everything’s Fine by Cecilia RabessGet This Deal $2.99In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet, translated by Sophie R. LewisGet This Deal In Case You Missed Yesterday’s Most Popular Book Deals $5.99Martyr! by Kevah AkbarGet This Deal $2.99Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemoreGet This Deal $4.99How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady HendrixGet This Deal $1.99Girls and Their Horses by Eliza Jane BrazierGet This Deal Previous Daily Deals $1.99Magic City by Jewell Parker RhodesGet This Deal $1.99The Stranger Behind You by Carol GoodmanGet This Deal $1.99Midnight at the Houdini by Delilah S. DawsonGet This Deal $0.99The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by KJ CharlesGet This Deal