What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in October

This October, we’re thrilled to welcome Joyce Saltman back to CPL for two programs about how to maintain our sense of humor as we age. We also have local authors coming to discuss their books and local artists sharing their processes and artwork. There’s always something interesting happening at CPL, take a look:

QPR Suicide Prevention Training

Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 1:00 – 2:30pm

Wednesday, October 9, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) is a nationally recognized emergency mental health intervention for suicidal persons. This 90-minue training session is designed for anyone in the community who might be in a position to recognize a crisis and the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. This class will be taught by Michelle Piccerillo, Director of Human Services for Cheshire, and Kate Glendon, Public Health Specialist for the Chesprocott Health District. Registration is required. For more information on QPR, go to https://qprinstitute.com/about-qpr.

Creating Abstract Art Using Oils and Cold Wax

Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Artist Diane Brown produces abstract works by mixing oils and cold wax. She will discuss the process of layering color on top of color and working to create textures as well as the new and exciting directions this technique can take the artist. Sponsored by the Cheshire Art league, no registration required.

Drop-In Loft Knitters

Saturday, October 5, 2019, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Come socialize, learn, share your techniques with other knitters. All levels of adult knitters are welcome. (Please be advised that instruction on knitting will not be given for this adult program.) This event will meet the first Saturday of the month through April 2020. No registration required.

Joyce Saltman Returns to Cheshire Library!

A Humorous Look at Aging and Sex:

  • Monday, October 7, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Laughter: Rx for Survival:

  • Saturday, October 26, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Joyce Saltman, Professor Emeritus of Special Education at CCSU, international lecturer and ‘laughter consultant”,  brings two uniquely enlightening and entertaining talks to CPL this month. The October 7 program will deal (with a minimum of scientific data and a maximum of humor) with the trials and tribulations of being a Senior! Combining research about this important topic for the “senior citizen” set (those of us who are old but not dead!). The October 26 program will deal with the physiological benefits of laughter, studies on the mind-body connection, and practical (plus some not-so-practical!) suggestions on ways to bring more laughter into your life.  Seating is limited for this popular speaker, early registration is recommended for each program.

Care for Caregivers of the Aging

Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Please join us as the Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging discusses support services for caregivers.  Caregivers often find the task of caring for another person to be overwhelming. They often develop stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, or ulcers. An occasional break from caregiving enables an exhausted caregiver to regroup both physically and emotionally, and find the strength to carry on. Registration is required.

Crafting Street Organs

Saturday, October 12, 2019, 2:00 – 3:00pm

Local resident Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo makes beautiful street organs, automatons and mechanical dolls.  During this presentation he will discuss the process he uses when crafting street organs. Mr Zaya-Ruzo’s workshop in Cheshire is the only place in the U.S. where street organs are fabricated. He will bring several organs, explain how they work, and talk about their history. Registration is required.

Greenwave – 3D Ocean Farming

Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

As seen on “60 Minutes” come learn about 3D ocean farming: growing and harvesting kelp, seaweed, and shellfish in Long Island Sound and beyond. Can we restore our seas through ocean farming? Members of the non-profit organization GreenWave -right here in New Haven County – will explain what it’s like to be ocean farmers. Registration is required.

Author Talk –  Stephen King : American Master

Thursday, October 17, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us for Stephen Spignesi’s, presentation on Stephen King: American Master illustrated lecture based on Spignesi’s new book. The program includes unique photographs Spignesi acquired from King’s family, and excerpts from little-known writings are read to the audience.  All attendees receive free a tri-fold, color, signed limited edition brochure commemorating the event, as well as other handouts. Registration is required.

Tony Falcone: Creating the Art for the United States Coast Guard Historical Murals Project

Saturday, October 19, 2019, 2:00 – 4:00pm

Connecticut Artist Tony Falcone will share his artistic process in the creation of the oversized, detailed and historically accurate oil paintings (each approximately 9’ x 11’) that comprise the Historical Murals Project commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association, Class of ’62. Registration is required.

Tales from the Grave

Monday, October 21, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Did you miss the Spirits Alive Lantern Tour? Or did you attend and want to know more about the featured Spirits? This is your chance to Meet the Spirits and find out how their stories were unearthed and “fleshed out”! Registration is required.

The Mill River: Past and Present

Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Cheshire Historical Society President Diane Calabro will provide background on Cheshire’s connections with the Mill River, while the New Haven historical aspect will be presented by Mill River Watershed Association’s Malinda Hennes. Nicole Davis, Watershed Coordinator for Save the Sound will discuss the work done to improve the water quality of the Mill River in the past year. Registration is required.

Genealogy DNA

You did a DNA test and have a match list and some predicted relationships. How did the company do that, what does it mean, and what do you do next? Genealogist Nora Galvin will present this advanced lecture, which explains what the results mean, shows how we get “segments” and what to do with them. Registration is required.

Author Talk – One of Windsor: the Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging

Thursday, October 24, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Join us for a captivating lecture by Connecticut author Beth M. Caruso as she discusses the overwhelming factors that led to the beginning of the witch trials in colonial New England. Her well-researched novel, One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging, is based on the life of Alice “Alse” Young, the first colonial hanging victim, and explores certain events in Windsor, Connecticut that were precursors to Alice’s indictment and death. Copies of Beth’s book will be available for purchase and signing. Registration is required.

Books Over Coffee: The Death Instinct

Wednesday, October 30, 2019, 12:00 – 1:30pm

On the last Wednesday of every month we’ll meet from 12-1:30 in The Loft to discuss the selected title, “Death Instinct” by Jed Rubenfeld is our October selection. Books are available each month ahead of time, and will be available in audio & ebook format. You bring your lunch, we’ll provide the coffee and tea. Registration is required.

 

Three Outstanding Women of Science Fiction

Our sci-fi-guy, Harold Kramer, has some authors to recommend:

Ursula K. Le Guin

The world of science fiction and fantasy lost two of its best writers in recent years: Ursula K. Le Guin and Vonda McIntyre. Ursula K. Le Guin, who I consider one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th century, died in 2018. She published over twenty-two novels, children’s books, and volumes of poetry and essays. Her works received many awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and National Book Award.

Her novels centered around two main themes: gender and political systems. Her 1969 novel, The Left Hand of Darkness is about the effect of gender on culture and society,  It won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel.  An example of novel based on political themes is The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, also a winner of both a Hugo and a Nebula Award.  It is about two planets orbiting next to each other – that have almost no contact between them and that have totally different economic and political systems – and the scientist who tries to unite the two worlds. I recently re-read The Dispossessed and it is still relevant today, particularly in our current political environment.

The Dispossessed is the first of six books in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. These novels are loosely connected by a people called the Hainish, who colonized earth and other planets hundreds of thousands of years ago. The Left Hand of Darkness is a Hainish novel along with Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile.

Le Guin also wrote The Books of Earthsea, a series that is decidedly more fantasy than science fiction. It full of magical events and it is the story of a young wizard – a sort of precursor to Harry Potter. The first book in the series, A Wizard of Earthsea, is still a great read. The Earthsea collection of novels and short stories won the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, the Nebula Award, and many other honors.

Vonda McIntyre

Vonda McIntyre passed away in 2019. She was a prolific writer of science fiction novels, novelizations, screenplays and short stories and she was an acclaimed teacher of writing.  

She was well known for her Star Trek novels that include The Entropy Effect and Enterprise: The First Adventure. She also wrote the novelizations of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Most readers agree that Dreamsnake is McIntyre’s greatest novel and it is based on her earlier novelette, Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand. It is about Snake, a female healer who possesses miraculous powers and a magical Dreamsnake.

Octavia Butler

My final recommendation is Kindred by Octavia Butler. Kindred has been acknowledged as the first widely known novel by a black, woman science fiction writer. It is a time travel story about Dana, a black woman, who in 1976 is abruptly transported back and forth, from her home in California to antebellum Maryland, where she encounters her ancestors and becomes enslaved. At its core, Kindred is about white supremacy, slavery, and, ultimately, survival. Butler is also the author of Lilith’s Brood, a collection of three works: DawnAdulthood Rites, and Imago. These dystopian novels were previously published in one volume called Xenogenesis. The New York Times said thatThe complete series is about an alien species that could save humanity after nuclear apocalypse—or destroy it”—from “one of science fiction’s finest writers.

Science Fiction and the Red Planet

Today’s post is by our sci-fi-guy, Harold Kramer.

Mars, our nearest planetary neighbor, has always fascinated science fiction writers here on planet earth.  Science fiction about Mars began with Jules Verne and his 1865 novel From Earth to the Moon.  This novel, like many others by Verne, was accurate in concept, although technology in his day made many of his ideas impossible to execute.

During the first half of the 20th century, science fiction writers were obsessed with Martians. Belligerent Martians invaded earth in H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds even caused a nationwide panic.  Written in 1950, The Martian Chronicles, a collection of strange and haunting short stories by Ray Bradbury were about an expedition to the red planet. Another early Mars novel was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs who was a master of fast-moving adventure stories, whether in the jungle with Tarzan or on the moon with the Princess.  I have recently re-read some of these early science fiction novels and, while definitely not scientifically accurate, they still are good reads.

Beginning in the 1970s, the first NASA and Russian probes and rovers obtained real scientific data about Mars. Once sci fi writers realized that there were no little green men on Mars, science fiction tackled more realistic Martian topics and focused on the challenges of human colonization on the red planet.  A major sci fi theme was terraforming Mars to make it into a self-sustaining environment that was fit for life that developed on earth. Another major theme was what type of society and governmental structure might exist in a Mars colony.

One of the first works that explored these ideas was The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. This series consists of three books:  Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Red Mars won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1993.  Blue Mars won the 1997 Hugo Award. The trilogy begins with Red Mars when the first colonists arrive on Mars and simply try to survive. Green Mars and Blue Mars and continue the story one hundred years in the future when Mars has been terraformed into a green and politically independent world. My favorite of the three is the first book, Red Mars.

Ben Bova has written four related novels about Mars: Mars, Return to Mars, Mars Inc. and Mars Life. The planet Mars is the fourth  stop on his Grand Tour – a series of related novels that take place in the 21st Century and that focus on exploration and colonization of every planet in our solar system.  I enjoy reading Ben Bova’s books because of his clear writing, scientific imagination, and expansive ideas.

The Martian by Andy Weir, written in 2011, is my favorite book about Mars.  I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.   It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction in 2014 and the Audie Award in 2015 for best science fiction audio book. The Martian is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe story about an American astronaut who is presumed dead but who is actually alive and stranded on Mars. What makes it so interesting is that the technology is highly credible, and the writing is taut. It was made into a movie in 2015 that was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Matt Damon.

​Many other great science fiction novelists have written about Mars.  These include Greg Bear’s Moving Mars and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars. Also notable are Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars and Robert Heinlein’s classic, Stranger in a Strange Land.

Although this is a science-fiction blog post, I would like to mention a non-fiction book about Mars and planetary exploration and colonization. It is called The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and our Destiny Beyond Earth, by physicist Michio Kaku.  This scientifically based work is an extraordinary projection of the future of humanity as it moves from earth to the stars.

Leading Ladies in Literature – Strong Female Reads for International Women’s Day (March 8)

When asked to write a post about strong female protagonists, it took me longer than I’d like to admit to think of my favorites. Even if I’ve read hundreds of books over the course of my life, only a handful stand out in their portrayal of a female lead. Most often, the most interesting characters I’ve come across are varied, flawed, and human, filled with errors and quirks that I find easy to relate to in my day to day life. These are the women I find myself relating to (even if I do wish I could be as perfect as Hermione Granger) and rooting for. I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorites, which barely scratch the surface of the wonderful and wide world of women in books, but hey, we all have to start somewhere.

If I’ve missed your favorites, please feel free to leave a comment down below, I’m always looking to add books to my reading list.                                                    

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. First off, this is a book I swore to never read again, ironically,  just because of how much it hurts to read. Wally Lamb is a master of creating a character you physically hurt for after getting to know them, and Dolores Price is no different. At once a fragile girl and a hard-edged cynic, so tough to love yet so inimitably lovable, Dolores is as poignantly real as our own imperfections. Through rough edges and rougher trials, including assault, mental institutions, absentee parents and lonely adulthood, Lamb shapes a character you find yourself cursing at, wincing for, and holding close.

519bogs1ivl._sx330_bo1,204,203,200_How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. After she shames herself on local TV, 14-year-old Johanna Morgan reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde–a fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. Watching Johanna stumble through her rebirth into a plucky more confident version of herself made me look back fondly (and lets be honest, not that fondly) on my high school years. Trying to re-brand yourself, whether it be with new fish net stockings, a streak of pink in your hair, or a new favorite band, is a rough process. How to Build A Girl highlights how surface level all of these additions are, and asks the question, how far will one really go to re-imagine themselves? I found myself wanting to hug the pivotal character Johanna, and tell her it gets better, if not by action, then by time. It seems like even if she’s struggling, Johanna is a character you find yourself egging on, and even being somewhat jealous of at times.

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein.  I brought this book on vacation thinking I’d enjoy a pulpy novel about crime scene clean up. I’m a true crime fan myself, and my interest in forensic science has led me down an interesting path in terms of books in the past year. This book turned out to be the opposite of pulp, and had very little to do with crime scene clean up after all. Sandra Pankhurst is a titan in the industry of Specialized Trauma Cleaning, she does her job and she does it well. Before she began professionally cleaning up their traumas, she experienced her own. First, as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home. Then as a husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, and trophy wife. The true life story of Sandra left me wounded in ways I didn’t expect. In a world that profits of making jokes of hoarders and death, this book, and Sandra, treat these people with dignity. She bags up their postcards, their books, their recipe cards tucked into binders, and saves them from the despair of dirt and mold. She returns them to their family, and gives the people effected by it hope to start their life over. She never once jokes at their expense, or teases them for their situation behind closed doors. After going through such a violent and unforgiving life, Sandra shows grace and humility, mixed in with grit and sarcasm I find comforting.

51cbsqw0cbl._sx331_bo1,204,203,200_Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.  If you’re looking for a strange, otherworldly novel, that expands into two more books, then the Southern Reach trilogy is for you.  A group of female scientists, ignoring the high mortality rate of the previous missions, travels into an area only known as “Area X” to research a strange phenomenon.  Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.  The narrator, the biologist of the group,  is a strange and difficult character to get a hold on. You don’t know her motives until they uncover themselves, slowly and methodically throughout the text. She seems driven by knowledge and the unknown alone, until it’s revealed that she had a husband who also went into the reach, but who came back strange and unrecognizable. I think one of my favorite parts of this character is that she’s not a broken record throughout the story. She doesn’t repeat over and over her need to find her husband in the Reach, if anything, she loses that goal almost immediately. Her goals become more abstract, her position as a narrator is unreliable at best, which makes her all the more interesting.

Some other books with strong female protagonists worth checking out: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell, Little Women by Louise May Alcott, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

More Than Oprah

Many people are aware that Oprah Winfrey is the richest black woman in America, with a net worth of more than 2.8 billion dollars (which still doesn’t put her in the top 10 richest American women). She is, however, in the top 10 richest self-made billionaire American woman – and the only African-American woman to make the cut. But long before Oprah, there was Sarah Breedlove.

Success Started Early

Breedlove was America’s first self-made female millionaire. Born in 1867, she was an orphan by the age of 7, a domestic by the age of ten, and married her way out at 14. After several marriages that ended in widowhood or divorce, in 1905 Breedlove began her own line of beauty and hair care products for African American women (under the name Madame C.J. Walker), many of whom were going bald because of the harsh lye soaps of the era. The need was great, her products worked, and she went on to become an American philanthropist.

To a degree. Marjorie Joyner was one of her employees. Marjorie became the first African American woman to be issued a patent – for the first machine to permanently wave hair (no Toni kits back then!). However, she never saw a dime for her creation – the royalties and rights went to Madame C.J. Walker! Next time you go to a salon or use a home perm kit, remember to think of Marjorie Joyner.

When we think of African-American women in history, we seem to get stuck on Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, and Coretta Scott King, but they are just the very tip of the iceberg.

The Long Hard Climb for Recognition

It’s been a slow, hard climb for African-American women. While Hattie McDaniel won a Best-Supporting Actress Oscar for Gone With the Wind in 1939 (the first African American to do so), a Best Actress award didn’t come until Halle Berry won in 2001 for Monster’s Ball. That’s a long wait. While the first white woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was in 1909, the first African-American woman wasn’t until the great Toni Morrison won in 1993. Although actress Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame showed African-American women as educated members of space crews in 1966 (and gave television’s first interracial kiss), Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman astronaut, didn’t make it to space until 1992. To this day, African American women are disproportionately victims of more violent crimes than any other group of women – by more than double. While more African-American women are enrolled in college than any other group (9.7%), they make up only 8% of the workforce, and earn only 64¢ on the dollar compared to 78¢ for white women; 21% of African-American women live in poverty, compared to just 9% of white women. Only now, decades later, are we beginning to appreciate the remarkable contributions of African-American women in the fields of science and math, such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who helped launch NASA’s space program by doing the math in their heads.

Making Strides

While there is still so far to go in equalizing opportunities for minority women, the 21st century has shown remarkable gains, with not only Condoleeza Rice becoming National Security Advisor and then Secretary General under President Bush, but with Michelle Obama becoming the First Lady of the United States.  African-American women continue to enter politics, with record wins in 2018, including the first African-American women elected to Congress from Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. So grab a novel, a biography, a great DVD on the lives and achievements of African American women, and catch up on some of the great history you never learned about in school.