Spies, Lovers, WW II | What We’re Reading

As Valentine’s Day nears, School Library Journal and Library Journal staffers are reading about love and secrets, and secret loves. Even Rosemary’s baby boards the love train this week!

Mahnaz Dar Associate Editor, Reviews, School Library Journal
This week finds me rereading Son of Rosemary (Onyx: Penguin) Ira Levin’s (sort of infamous) sequel to his hit Rosemary’s Baby. Rosemary’s awake in 1999 after about 27 years of being in a coma (thanks to the coven of the first book). Awake, it turns out that the son of Satan has grown to become a charismatic leader, advocating peace and love. Total guilty pleasure, I have to admit—lots of fun!

epKate DiGirolomo, Editorial Assistant, Library Journal
You know when you’re on the brink of finishing a book, and you become overwhelmingly sad at the idea of it being over and you want to slow down, but you can’t possibly because it’s all too perfect and you absolutely have to know how it ends right now? Yeah, that’s Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (Griffin: St. Martin’s). The plot should feel bland (a boy and a girl sharing a bus seat) and the characters should feel pretentious (music snobbery abounds), but this book sparks with the intensity of young love and the desperate search for stability. Plus you get this awesome discussion about the sexism in comics:

“But.” Eleanor insisted, “the girls are all so stereotypically girly and passive. Half of them just think really hard. Like that’s their superpower, thinking. And Shadowcat’s power is even worse–she disappears.”
“She becomes intangible,” Park said. “That’s different.”
“It’s still something you could do in the middle of a tea party,” Eleanor said.
“Not if you were holding hot tea. Plus, you’re forgetting Storm.”
“I’m not forgetting Storm. She controls the weather with her head; it’s still just thinking. Which is about all she could do in those boots.”
“She has a cool Mohawk…” Park said.
“Irrelevant.” Eleanor answered.

On a related note, Rainbow Rowell favorited my congratulatory tweet to her on her much-deserved Printz honor for this book. I MAY have freaked out about it. A lot. So I think that basically makes us best friends now.

manLiz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
After a lovely interlude with Amy Rowland’s debut, The Transcriptionist (Algonquin), about which I raved last week, I’m back to reading about one of my favorite rockers, the semi-inscrutable, definitely talented, and very self-destructive Alex Chilton, in Holly George-Warren’s biography, A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man (Viking). In this segment of hard-living Chilton’s life story, it’s the late 70s, punk has broken, and he is living in New York City, hanging out at CBGB’s and seeing all the groups you’d expect (Blondie, the Ramones, Dead Boys, Richard Hell and his various bands, Talking Heads) and playing in a band with Chris Stamey (who would later go on to form the influential band The dB’s). When he wasn’t crashing at his producer Terry Ork’s pad, Chilton would spend time with Stamey and his girlfriend at the time, Jamie K. Sims (herself a musician and founding member of The Cosmopolitans).
George-Warren sketches a quick picture:

“He had a drinking problem and was very depressed,” Ork said of Alex. “He would made humorous, sardonic comments about my homosexuality. I had suspicions that he’d had a broken romance.”
Around fellow Southerners Chris and Jamie, though, Alex was charming and friendly. “He was kind of beguiling and guileless at the same time,” Jamie remembers. “It was very general, but it was almost a coquettish quality. I watched a lot of people get infatuated with Alex. He had that effect on everybody. He really was one of the truly charismatic people. He just had a very gentle demeanor—it was partly a Southern manners thing and partly a personal thing, where he’d make people feel that he’s not discounting them. He seemed very open.”

pinkBarbara Genco, Manager, Special Projects, LJ
I truly loved being on the 2014 Sibert Award Committee and I adored our winners! But it is great to finally have the time to read books that are out of the award’s scope of consideration. I immediately sought out a new kid’s book by librarian Ken Setterington, Toronto Public Library’s very first official Children and Youth Advocate. His Branded by the Pink Triangle (Second Story) was named a Stonewall Award Honor Book at last week’s #ALAMW14 (check out the School Library Journal review here). This powerful, approachable paperback focuses on Nazi-era targeting and persecution of homosexuals. Set apart and stigmatized, these men were forced to wear a pink triangle* just as Jews were forced to wear a yellow star. And they, along with Jews and other marginalized groups, were systematically captured, imprisoned in concentration camps, and often murdered. I find this tween/YA book to be a powerful mix of well-documented facts, first-person accounts, and deeply affecting individual stories. It also was named to the American Library Association’s GLBT Roundtable’s Top Ten 2014 Rainbow List. Strong stuff.
* The book focuses on the experiences of homosexual men, not lesbians. It also references Paragraph 175: “The pink triangle was used exclusively with male prisoners—lesbians were not included under Paragraph 175, a statute which made homosexual acts between males a crime. However, women were arrested and imprisoned for “antisocial behavior,” which included feminism, lesbianism, and prostitution, and was applied to women who did not conform to the ideal Nazi image of a woman: cooking, cleaning, kitchen work, child raising, and passivity. These women were labeled with a black triangle. Lesbians reclaimed this symbol for themselves as gay men reclaimed the pink triangle.”
Read more about LGBT symbols at Wikipedia.

garboKent Turner, Assistant Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I just finished Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day (Mariner). No, it’s not about the Hollywood actress’s foray into espionage, but about a failed chicken farmer/hotelier who became “the greatest spy of World War II,” according to author Stephan Talty. As a double agent, the Spanish-born Juan Pujol was so good at fooling the Germans about when and where D-Day would take place that he was given the moniker Garbo, in honor of his acting abilities. Even Eisenhower credited Pujol for saving thousands of lives. The book also gives a solid big-picture look at the various operations of deception spearheaded by the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6.

Ashleigh Williams, Bookroom Assistant, LJ
My current obsession is The History & Arts of the Dominatrix, self-published by elusive author Anne O. Nomis. Rife with facts, statistics, and exclusive images, this book has kept me enthralled from start to (almost) finish. The accompanying photos of the classic “dom” as she evolves over time are just one of the many highlights. I’m having far too much fun making people uncomfortable on subways and in coffee shops once again!


Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench