New to Graphic Novels and wondering where to start? Here are 10 to try!

Comics and graphic novels (long-form comics) aren’t just about superheroes, and they aren’t just for teenagers. They are published in as many genres as traditional print books – you’ll find humor, horror, science fiction, history, classics, and memoirs, to name but a few. With so many movies and television shows using graphic novels as their source material, you may be curious about graphic novels, but unsure about where to start when it comes to reading them. It can be intimidating, so here’s a list of 10 terrific graphic novels for adults, a good way to get your feet wet!

The March series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. This 3-part series is the first-hand account of the late Congressman John Lewis’s lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. It spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1963 March on Washington.

Y, the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. The saga of Yorick Brown—the only human survivor of a planet-wide plague that instantly kills every mammal possessing a Y chromosome. Accompanied by his pet monkey, a mysterious government agent, and a brilliant young geneticist, Yorick travels the world in search of his lost love and the answer to why he’s the last man on earth.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris. Told in the form of a ten-year-old’s diary entries in the 1960s, this gripping story has a B-horror-movie feel to it. Karen tries to solve the murder of her upstairs neighbor, a survivor of the holocaust, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. An unusual memoir done in the form of a graphic novel by a cult favorite comic artist offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father, a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family’s Victorian home, funeral home director, high-school English teacher, and closeted homosexual.

The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy, The Sandman follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence. The Sandman was one of the first few graphic novels ever to be on The New York Times Best Seller list (along with Maus, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns).

Kindred : a graphic novel adaptation  by Damian Duffy and John Jennings. This searing graphic-novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction classic is a powerfully moving, unflinching look at the violent, disturbing effects of slavery on the people it chained together, both black and white – and made kindred in the deepest sense of the word. 

Alice’s Story : based on the novel The Magicians by Lev Grossman ; by Lilah Sturges and Pius Bak. An all new chapter set in the world of The Magicians trilogy of novels by Lev Grossman that retells the events of the first novel through fan-favorite character Alice Quinn.

The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. An epic graphic novel of Hollywood in the early days of the Blacklist. The story goes from the murder of an up-and-coming starlet from studio backlots to the gutters of downtown Los Angeles. Contains behind-the-scenes art and stories, sketches and layouts, and several historical essays.

Here by Richard McGuire. This innovative graphic novel presents the story of a corner of a room and of the events that have occurred in that space over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. The book experiments with formal properties of comics, moving forward and backward in time, using multiple panels to convey the different moments in time.

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. A collection of comedic, autobiographical and deceptively illustrated essays on topics ranging from childhood and very bad pets to grief, loneliness and powerlessness in modern life.

Book Review: Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer

Sandy, our Head of Technical Services, shares this review of a recent read.

I love history. I studied it in college and in graduate school. It is the only thing I read, along with the occasional dark Scandinavian mystery.  That said, I have avoided reading any histories of Cuba. As the child of Cuban immigrants, the subject has always been too personal for me and I relied instead on the history given to me by my parents and grandparents. It was biased and it was raw and until recently, it was all that I had. I reluctantly decided to pick up Ada Ferrer’s book Cuba: An American History at the beginning of the year to see if I could rectify those gaps in my knowledge.

Ferrer was born in Cuba in June of 1962 and left the island as a baby with her mother, 10 months later. The prologue felt familiar to me. She talks about families left behind, meeting new family in “exilío” (exile), the pervasive feelings of loss, and the stories told by family members.  Stories about Cuba before the revolution, speculation about family and friends who stayed, and stories about an end to the Castro regime. She starts the history of the island in the 15th century with Columbus’ “discovery” of the region. Her discussion of this early period is thorough, outlining why Cuba became such a crucial part of trade in the region. She dives deeply into Cuba’s relationship with Spain as one of its most valuable colonies as well as Cuba’s early relationship with the United States. I think one of the most interesting things in how Ferrer tackles the history of Cuba in her work is that she puts it in the context of its relationship to the United States. The two nations have always been tightly bound to one another from their very early days, be it through trade, war, investments, and amendments that gave the US the power to intervene in the island.

Her discussion of the tumultuous period after the Cuban War of Independence in 1898 illustrates both how the US was able to further consolidate power in the island as well as how the stage was ultimately set for the revolution of 1959 and Fidel Castro’s rise to power. She takes the reader through Cuba’s resistance to the US via the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the relationship between the island and the Soviet Union in the 70s, and the fall of the Soviet Union and Cuba’s subsequent special period in the 90s; a time marked by extreme austerity measures and the mass exodus of citizens to the United States.  She talks about the hope the Cuban population felt with the thawing of relations under Barack Obama’s presidency and the despair brought on by the renewed efforts by the US government to tighten travel restrictions and the sending of remittances in 2016. The book ends in 2020 with a discussion of the effects of Covid-19 and the growing protest movements in the summer of that year.

The book is beautifully written.  Perhaps because she has spent so much of her life researching and working on this project or maybe because she is the child of Cuban immigrants, Ferrer is able to capture the essence of the Cuban people, their humor, and their ability to adapt and persevere both on and off the island. I think one of the things I appreciate most about the book is the way in which she chose to tell the history. She sums it up best when she writes, “as we ponder the sweep of centuries, it is important to pause at those lives, not just to invoke them, but to endeavor to grasp history through their eyes… It is an impossible endeavor in many ways… but the attempt itself is essential.” This book felt personal to me because of my relationship to my family and the island more broadly but I think that Ferrer’s approach to history will allow any reader without any personal stake to feel for the place as well as the people, both those that left and those that stayed behind.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in April

We’re diving back into in-person programs, with tons of offerings this month for kids, teens, and adults. We even have 2 concerts on the calendar this month! Of course, the library will be following the latest masking and social distancing policies set by the Town of Cheshire for all in-person programs. Reserve your seats!

Open Art Studio

Fridays from 1-3pm, April 1, 8, 22, and 29

Bring your works in progress and supplies to this weekly drop-in art program. This is an opportunity to create in a collaborative environment with other artists. No formal instruction will be provided, but informal critiquing for those who want it is encouraged. Table covers will be provided. There is a sink in the room for basic cleanup (please do not bring turpentine). Registration is required for each session.

Food Explorers – cooking for kids

Wednesdays from 4:00-5:00pm

Kids will create their own delicious after school snack each week, while learning all about food and nutrition with a Registered Dietitian. Recipes may contain gluten, dairy, and/or eggs. For children in grades 2-6. Please register for each event in the series.

Cheshire Art League: Jim Laurino

Wednesday, April 6, 2022, 6:30 – 8:00pm

The Cheshire Art League is hosting Jim Laurino as this month’s guest artist. Through workshops and self-study, Jim has cultivated a bold representational painting style that balances the impressionists’ influence with contemporary subject matter. Registration is required.

New World Trio concert

Saturday, April 9, 2022, 2:00 – 3:30pm

“East Meets West” is the theme of this afternoon’s performance, which will feature three beautiful trios by Mozart, Chen Yi, and Brahms. New World Trio, founded in 1985 by violinist Anhared Stowe, presents wide-ranging concerts of both classical and contemporary chamber music works, performed with consummate artistry. 

Toadstool Lanterns

Monday, April 11, 2022, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Create your own toadstool lantern to brighten up your room. We’ll use recycled materials, paint and some tea lights to create this one of a kind lantern. For kids in grades K-3. Space is limited, registration is required.

Save the Mill River

Monday, April 11, 2022, 7:00 – 8:00pm

Author, documentarian and environmental activist Stephen Hamm will host an in-person showing of his film about the Mill River, A River Speaks. The Mill River, which originates in Cheshire, was once a flourishing, healthy water body. Today the Mill River is impaired and generally unsuitable for use by fishermen and other recreational activities for much of its 12.6-mile length. Registration is required.

Cheshire Anime Club

Tuesday, April 12, 2022, 3:00 – 4:30pm

Can’t get enough Anime and Manga? Be an “Otaku” and join the Cheshire Anime Club! We’ll meet monthly, read and talk about what’s hot in the world of Manga, and watch some of the latest Anime releases on the big screen! We’ll have a door prize- and possibly Japanese snacks to take home! For teens in grades 7-12. Registration is required.

Loft Knitters

Wednesday, April 13, 2022, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Our monthly knitting group. Come socialize, learn, share your techniques with other knitters.  All levels of adult knitters’ welcome, please bring your own yarn and knitting needles. Registration is required.

Mini Golf

Thursday, April 14, 2022, 1:15pm – 3:30pm

Play mini golf in the library! Sign up for a time slot to begin playing. All ages are welcome to play, but please note the size of the putters is limited. Spaces are limited, so please register starting April 1. Please register each player individually.

Cat Tales Writers Group

Thursday, April 14, 2022, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us for a monthly open writing group that can help answer your questions on writing, editing, grammar, and publishing. Read a selection of your work to the group for general constructive feedback, or discuss a book you’ve read that might help someone else. Registration is required.

Trivia Night

Thursday, April 14, 2022, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Come by yourself or bring your friends. Test your knowledge from general categories, including pop culture, current events, history, music, and of course literature! It’s all For Pride, Not Prize. Registration is required.

Joyce Saltman: What is Your Yes

Thursday, April 21, 2022, 3:30 – 4:30pm

This interactive workshop will help you pinpoint the things that add joy and humor to your life. Discover your joyful and authentic self and identify the gifts that allow you to reach for your highest potential. Please have on hand a pen or pencil and piece of paper for the presentation. Registration is required.

Teen Advisory Board (Grades 6-12)

Friday, April 22, 2022, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Teens – share your ideas and thoughts about upcoming programs, materials, and general improvements to help make the Cheshire Library an even better place for you and your friends. You will earn 1 hour of community service credit for attending. If you want to make a difference in the library and your community, then TAB is for you! Registration is required for this in-person program – click here to see the latest mask policies in town buildings.

The Power of Journaling

Monday, April 25, 2022, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Is journaling on your list of things to do in 2022?  Have you been thinking about journaling but don’t know where to start? Join journaling educator Amanda Stern to explore the benefits of journaling, different ways to journal, and tips for creating a journaling experience that is just right for you! Bring your curiosity, creativity, and an open mind! Registration is required.

Author Talk: Libby Copeland, The Lost Family

Thursday, April 28, 2022, 7:00 – 8:00pm

In this ONLINE program, author Libby Copeland will draw on her many years of research for her new book The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are (Abrams, 2020), which The Wall Street Journal calls “a fascinating account of lives dramatically affected by genetic sleuthing.” Registration is required, registered participants will receive a Zoom link an hour before the program.

Introduction to the 1950 Census

Friday, April 29, 2022, 3:00 – 4:30pm

Calling all genealogy and history fans! The 1950 census will be coming out for the first time this April 2022.   Join us, as we learn what treasure trove of information you can find in the census and especially the new 1950 census. Registration is required.

Paul Bisaccia Piano Concert “Rousing American Ragtime”

Saturday, April 30, 2022, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Long-time Cheshire favorite Paul Bisaccia returns to present the inaugural concert on the library’s beautiful new piano. Paul will present a concert of exciting American ragtime featuring works by Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime (The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag), as well as ragtime by George Gershwin.

April Book Clubs

Many Stories Book Club: The White Tiger

Monday, April 18, 2022, 7:00 – 8:00pm (in-person, registration required)

Book Buzz Teen Book Club (Grades 6-12): Firekeeper’s Daughter

Tuesday, April 19 2022, 3:30 – 4:30pm (in-person, registration required)

Murder by the Book Mystery Book Club: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Thursday, April 21, 2022, 1:00 – 2:30pm (online, registration required)

Art League Book Club: The Girl With A Pearl Earring

Friday, April 22, 2022, 11:00am – 12:30pm (online, registration required)

Natural Selections Book Club: Silent Spring 

Monday, April 22, 2022, 7:00 – 8:00pm (in-person, registration required)

Books Over Coffee Book Club: The Wedding

Wednesday, April 27 2022, 12:00 – 1:30pm (in-person, registration required)

The Nobel Dylan

If you’re under thirty, you might ask, “Who’s Bob Dylan?”

If you’re over thirty, you might ask, “Bob Dylan’s still alive?”

Yes, Dylan’s still alive, though he’s 80 now, and a lot wealthier for having sold his entire recorded catalog to Sony music, a deal worth between $150 and $200 million

That’s a lot of social security.

Dylan, most widely known for folk and folk-rock music, has a career spanning more than 60 years. With more than 500 songs under his belt – many of them covers sung by other artists and movie soundtracks – he ranks in the top 30 most successful musicians of all time (The Beatles being number one, and Michael Jackson being number two). You may recognize not only Blowin’ in the Wind (a top hit for Peter, Paul, and Mary as well), but Quinn the Eskimo (made a hit by Manfred Mann), Too Much of Nothing (another Peter, Paul, and Mary hit), and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, which became a major hit for Eric Clapton – all written by Dylan.  In addition, he was a founding member of the Traveling Wilburys, a short-lived group (1988-91) composed of the royal powerhouse of Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. 

Dylan with Rubin Carter, a free man

Dylan, following in the social justice footsteps of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, wrote the ballad Hurricane in 1975, based on the arrest of boxer Rubin Carter for a 1966 murder he didn’t commit and who was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Dylan played several concerts to raise money for his defense. Carter was found to have been unfairly tried in 1985, and released. In 1999, a movie version of his story was released, with Denzel Washington playing Carter.

If that’s not enough of a resume, Dylan is the only American songwriter to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 – yeah, that Nobel Prize – for “creating new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”  He’s only the second songwriter to ever be awarded the prize, the first going to the prolific Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote more than 2000 songs – back in 1913.

Dylan on his own can be hard on the uninitiated. His voice is nasally and sometimes whiny, and the socially conscious ballad style of the 1930’s and 40’s isn’t in a resurgence as it was in the 60’s, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. Dylan has a wide variety of songs and styles, and if you don’t like him singing it, look for someone else performing the song (Joan Baez does several, but she can also be nasally and whiny. Her song Diamonds and Rust is allegedly about Dylan.). With a resume like that, there’s a lot to like.

Try these biographies on Dylan, too!

The Double Life of Bob Dylan
Down the Highway
Bob Dylan in America

Looking Back…Moving Forward

by Beth Crowley, Library Director

If you have lived through a number of decades as I have you can respond to the perennial question “Where were you when (insert significant event) happened?” For me it has been the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, 9/11, and the Sandy Hook school shooting. We note these tragedies over other moments not just because they were horrible but because their impact left clear boundary marks dividing time into “before” and “after” the event. Often the “after” time has resulted in a reduction of our sense of peace, security and belief that life is good and things will go as planned. Two years ago this month, on March 13, 2020, I experienced another of these defining moments when we shut the Library doors to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We found out on March 13 that we would be closing that same day.

Covid-19 didn’t strike in a single, sudden devastating event like the others I have mentioned but it clearly left a divider between pre- and post-pandemic life. Earlier in the week of March 13, 2020, I along with my fellow Town department heads attended a meeting with the Chesprocott Health Director, Maura Esposito and her staff. There we asked questions about precautions we should take to mitigate the spread of the virus among our employees and residents. I asked if the Library should put away the toys and craft materials in the Children’s Room. I was told there was no need and that the goal was to keep things as normal as possible for our patrons. By the end of the week, the Cheshire Public Schools sent all students home early and I got the call from the Town Manager to close the Library. Despite the sudden change in tone and urgency, we looked at the closing as a temporary measure perhaps lasting two weeks at most. None of us could have predicted the path we were about to take or where it would lead. Face masks, plexiglass barriers, social distancing, hand sanitizing stations, virtual programs, and mass vaccine clinics were still only shadows of things yet to be.

Leading an organization during the pandemic has been the biggest challenge of my 24 year career. Before Covid-19, I would try to calm stressed nerves by reminding staff that while library services are important to our customers nothing we did was in the “life or death” category. Now I was faced with making policy and procedural decisions that if wrong could result in serious illness or worse. For library employees, whose entire profession is based on access to accurate and trust-worthy information, the constantly changing messages and lack of clear guidance from national health and government leaders was frustrating. As library directors often do when struggling to solve a problem, I turned to my colleagues to compare notes. However, it soon became clear that based on varying rates of infection in different towns, conflicting guidance from health districts and that library buildings come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes it made sense to focus on what would work best for the Cheshire Public Library. I reached out again to Maura Esposito. She patiently walked me through every step I needed to consider and gave excellent and sound advice. Her guidance cut through the national noise allowing me to narrow my focus and plan for the immediate safety concerns with an eye to the future.

Providing library services during the pandemic was challenging but there were silver linings. Despite the disruption to my employee’s daily lives and work place, I soon discovered how resilient and innovative they could be. Faced with a closed library and working remotely, I was amazed at how my librarians quickly planned and delivered programs virtually. Until Covid-19, I thought Zoom was a TV program I watched as a kid! Our library clerks assisted with calling hundreds of Cheshire senior citizens to check on them and refer them for help if needed. To provide reading and entertainment materials for residents during the lockdown, we reallocated funds meant for buying physical items and added more digital content that users could freely access through our website. A number of patrons have told me this was the first time they tried our eBook collection and they were surprised by how much they enjoyed it. Since 2019, use of these resources has increased by 42%.

When we returned to a still closed building, staff coordinated and launched our first ever curbside “Grab and Go” service. At the program’s height we were filling an average of 60 bags with library materials every day! In order to help library users discover new materials while we were closed and browsing was impossible, we launched our Matchbook reader’s advisory program. We created an online form where patrons could tell us their reading interests and librarians would “match” them with books they may enjoy. The feedback from this program was so positive we have continued it and plan to keep it in place post-pandemic.

Now, almost two years to the day we shut down, we are finally able to relax most of our safety protocols and hopefully begin a permanent return to pre-pandemic times. But as with other life changing events, we can never truly go back to how life was before Covid-19 struck. For one the immense loss of life, at one point the equivalent of a 9/11 tragedy every day, has forever changed the lives of thousands of families. For students who graduated and began college during the pandemic, their experience of these milestone events was far from typical. How long will it be before we truly feel comfortable standing close to a stranger or giving a friend a hug?

Despite the difficulties and tragedies of the past two years, we must go forward. This month at the Library masks are now optional, we are resuming in-person programing including children’s storytimes, we’ve added back more public computers, increased capacities of our study rooms and reopened our Teen Space featuring new furniture purchased with American Rescue Plan grant funds.

No matter what life-changing events occur, the one thing I know about the role of the public library in a community is we can help our residents recover from hard times. Providing a peaceful place to read, work or relax can be a salve in scary times. Books, music and movies can be a welcome escape from the more difficult news we are bombarded with. Connecting with others to learn or discover through a program is an uplifting and renewing experience that can help buoy us after a hard day. It has been my honor to work with the amazing staff at the Cheshire Public Library during this challenging time as we tried to support and meet the needs of our residents. Since reopening our doors to the public in September of 2020 we are almost back to our pre-pandemic borrowing numbers and our library visits are continuing to increase. We hope with the return of more of our regular services and the addition of some exciting new ones (stayed tuned!) that we will be welcoming even more library users of all ages and we particularly look forward to seeing everyone’s smiles!