Since its inception in summer 2016, the Civic Lab has offered information and thought-provoking activities to support dialogue and engagement on issues that affect our community. At its heart, the Civic Lab—a team of library staff members from a variety of departments, working in a variety of positions—is about connecting community members of all ages with the information and resources they need to first understand issues that they care about and that are impacting the community, and then, with that foundation of understanding based on reputable information, make up their own minds about how they feel about an issue, and whether and how they want to act as a result.
Brendan Dowling Author Archive
The Hillsboro (OR) Public Library (HPL) has spent the past five years rebranding itself as a community center, a welcoming place for all. As inspired by HPL’s new mission statement (For Everyone, Para Todos), the staff have embraced and implemented a service model in which the library is a place where the entire community gathers, connects, and explores. As part of this new service model, we strive to create relationships with, and within, our community, as well as to provide an environment where our patrons may have significant interactions and experiences with HPL staff and with each other. And what better way to have a significant experience in one’s life than to take the new citizen’s oath of allegiance at the public library!
“You Don’t Know How Unique Your Own Mother is Until You’re Out in the World” — Bridgett M. Davis on Her Heartwarming Memoir
In The World According to Frannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, Bridgett M. Davis traces the extraordinary life of her mother, a glamorous businesswoman who ran a thriving Numbers enterprise in Detroit for over thirty years. Frannie Davis arrived in Detroit in 1958 as a young mother with little prospects to support a growing family. She quickly transformed a $100 loan from her brother into a prosperous Numbers venture, serving as a de facto banker, bookie, and counselor for her neighborhood. With luminous prose, Davis delves into her mother’s life, providing an insider’s look at the Numbers world and a sweeping look at Detroit’s evolving landscape in the sixties and seventies.
Maureen Stanton probes her dark teenage years with compassion and insight in her new memoir, Body Leaping Backwards: Memoir of A Delinquent Girlhood. Stanton grew up in a boisterous family in 1970s Walpole, Massachusetts, a working-class community where the local prison loomed large in each citizen’s life. Yet when her parents divorce, Maureen and her family find themselves reeling not only from the seismic shifts in their personal lives, but from the political and cultural changes in the country as well. Maureen’s mother, a devout woman who puts herself through college as a single mother, soon finds herself resorting to shoplifting in order to put food on the table. Maureen, meanwhile, experiments with angel dust and dabbles in delinquency, skipping school and breaking into nearby homes. Stanton combines rigorous historical research with acute perception, crafting a memoir that takes a clear-eyed look at adolescence.
Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue spins an irresistible premise— what if the son of the U.S. President fell in love with the Prince of Wales— into one of the summer’s most pleasurable reads. Alex Claremont-Davis breezes through life as the son of the United States’ first female President, but he’s brought up short by a contentious relationship with the straight-laced Prince Henry. After a disastrous run-in involving a Royal wedding cake, both men must pose as friends in order to rehabilitate their images. This false friendship soon uncovers very real feelings, and the two men unexpectedly find themselves falling in love. What follows is equal parts swoony romance and adept political comedy that has delighted critics and readers alike.
Heidi Diehl’s Lifelines tells the story of the brilliant Louise, bouncing between her life as a burgeoning art student fresh out of college to 2008, when she is in her late fifties with two grown children. In 1971, Louise moved to Germany to pursue her career as an artist. In short order, she fell in love with Dieter, a brooding musician, and had a baby with him. In 2008, Louise lives in Oregon, married to an unassuming professor of urban design, and has been unexpectedly retired from her job as an art teacher. When Dieter’s mother dies, Louise’s now-grown daughter, Elke, asks her to return to Germany for the funeral. Louise reluctantly agrees, reasoning that it will give her a chance to see her other daughter, Elke’s half-sister Margot, who’s touring Europe with her band. From there, Diehl orchestrates a marvelous family comedy as the different members are forced to confront long-buried secrets and unexamined facets of their relationships.
Gordon H. Chang’s Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad is a phenomenal work of historical research, giving readers an unprecedented look at the daily lives of the Chinese workers whose ingenuity and perseverance led to the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Chang dives into the workers’ lives both in China and in the U.S., providing insight into what motivated the workers to move across the ocean as well as the unimaginable working conditions they faced once in the States. Critics have heaped praise on Chang, with The Wall Street Journal stating that “he has written a remarkably rich, human and compelling story of the railroad Chinese” and Publisher’s Weekly calling his work “vibrating and passionate.”
By BRENDAN DOWLING, Assistant Editor of PublicLibraries Online. Contact Brendan at email@example.com.Brendan is currently reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas made headlines when he came out as an undocumented U.S. citizen in 2011. In his recent memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (HarperCollins, 2018), he details […]
By BRENDAN DOWLING, freelance writer living in LosAngeles. Contact Brendan at firstname.lastname@example.org.Brendan is currently reading Middlemarch byGeorge Eliot. Sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s Palaces for The People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (2018) persuasively and forcefully argues that the strength ofcommunities is in direct proportion to the strength […]
Jason Barron combined entrepreneurial skills with artistic panache to create The Visual MBA: Two Years of Business School Packed into One Priceless Book of Pure Awesomeness. Barron used sketchnotes, a visual note-taking process, to retain information in his MBA program at Brigham Young University. The result turned to be so popular with professors and students alike that Barron turned the notes into a book, first through an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign and then through a publisher. The book is designed for anyone with a passing interest in the business world, and Barron’s lively illustrations make the most complex principle accessible to the lay person.
In How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results, Esther Wojcicki distills the techniques she’s developed for over fifty years as an educator and parent to help readers raise self-reliant children. Combining research and reflection, Wojcicki’s outlines how her method, TRICK (for Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness), empowers children to develop skills to be resilient members of society. Wojcicki is the founder of the Media Arts programs at Palo Alto High School as well as the CEO of Global Moonshots in Education, a non-profit which aims to instruct teachers and business leaders in the TRICK methodology.
Perhaps you know Lori Gottlieb from her popular “Ask a Therapist” column in The Atlantic, or her previous bestsellers Marry Him and Stick Figure. In her compassionate and emotionally generous new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Gottlieb reveals a new side of herself when she pulls back the curtain of a therapist’s world. Part memoir and part case study, the book shifts between Gottlieb’s sessions with five different patients as well as her own work with her therapist, prompted by an unexpected crisis that upended her life. The result is a humane and empathetic exploration of six disparate characters struggling to take control of their lives as they journey back to happiness.
Alex Kotlowitz on Underestimating the Effects of Violence and the Stories that Knocked Him Off Balance
Alex Kotlowitz’s An American Summer focuses on the effects of gun violence on the lives of different Chicago residents in the summer of 2013. Kotlowitz spent four years following various inhabitants of the city’s South Side, using his prodigious research skills to examine the insidious and long-lasting reach that violence has on these people’s lives. The result is an unblinking look at the trauma enacted by gun violence, as well as a testament to the tenacity and courage of the Chicago’s most vulnerable citizens. An American Summer adds to Kotlowitz’s already impressive roster of works of journalism, including The Other Side of the River and There Are No Children Here, which was listed by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important books of the twentieth century. The New York Times Book Review called An American Summer “a powerful indictment of a city and a nation that have failed to protect their most vulnerable residents,” while NPR.org hailed it as “a painful chronicle about an extremely violent city based on the narratives of those who managed to survive its streets.”
Doris, the vibrant nonagenarian at the heart of Sofia Lundberg’s The Red Address Book, lives by herself in her Stockholm apartment, sustained by the weekly Skype sessions with her beloved grand-niece Jenny. Her thick address book stands as a testament to her rollercoaster life, which include stints as a housekeeper for a famous artist in Sweden and a fashion model in 1930’s Paris. Filled with the names of people long passed away, the address book soon becomes a vehicle for Doris to tell Jenny not only the stories of her daring past but also to fill in the gaps of their family’s painful history. What follows is a beautifully rendered love story between great aunt and grand-niece that stretches across continents. The Red Address Book was a hit in its native Sweden, and now readers in the States can fall in love with the book that The New York Times calls “the sort of easy-reading tale that will inspire readers to pull up a comfy chair to the fire, grab a mug of cocoa and a box of tissues and get hygge with it.”
In Cherokee America, Margaret Verble crafts a thrilling saga of threatened familial bonds, all centered around an unforgettable character, Cherokee America Singer, also known as “Check.” Ten years after the Civil War has wrecked havoc on the Cherokee Nation West, Check struggles to care for a dying husband while running her family farm. Tensions in her community escalate when a fabled stash of gold goes missing, and Check soon finds herself forced to make nearly impossible decisions to keep her splintering family together. Margaret Verble’s first novel, Maud’s Line, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and Cherokee America seems poised to reap similar acclaim, with Publisher’s Weekly hailing it as a “rich, propulsive novel.”