Current Issues

The Library plays an important role in assuring a sense of community among citizens and its materials provide opportunities for citizens to understand complex public policy issues. ​ The materials linked below are offered as good starting points for discussions.  We will keep these topics updated as much as possible.  Most of the recources below can be found within our catalog or through the links provided. 

 Gender Issues


  • Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay. A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay. Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better, coming from one of our most interesting and important cultural critics.
  • The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. Landmark, groundbreaking, classic--these adjectives barely do justice to the pioneering vision and lasting impact of The Feminine Mystique . Published in 1963, it gave a pitch-perfect description of "the problem that has no name": the insidious beliefs and institutions that undermined women's confidence in their intellectual capabilities and kept them in the home. Writing in a time when the average woman first married in her teens and 60 percent of women students dropped out of college to marry, Betty Friedan captured the frustrations and thwarted ambitions of a generation and showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled with fascinating anecdotes and interviews as well as insights that continue to inspire. This 50th-anniversary edition features an afterword by best-selling author Anna Quindlen as well as a new introduction by Gail Collins.
  • Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. In her comic, scathing essay "Men Explain Things to Me," Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don't, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.She ends on a serious note-- because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, "He's trying to kill me!" This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf 's embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.
  • Women, Race & Classby Angela Y. DavisA powerful study of the women's liberation movement in the U.S., from abolitionist days to the present, that demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders. From the widely revered and legendary political activist and scholar Angela Davis.
  • Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, by Bell Hooks. A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain't I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood. Examining the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism among feminists, and the black woman's involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking, giving this book a critical place on every feminist scholar's bookshelf.

 Elections/Voting

  • Give us the Vote!: Over 200 years ​of Fight for the Ballot, by Susan Goldman Rubin.  For over 200 years, people have marched, gone to jail, risked their lives, and even died trying to get the right to vote in the United States. Others, hungry to acquire or hold onto power, have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent people from casting ballets or outright stolen votes and sometimes entire elections. Perfect for students who want to know more about voting rights, this nonfiction book contains an extensive view of suffrage from the Founding Fathers to the 19th Amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to today's voter suppression controversies, and explains the barriers people of color, Indigenous people, and immigrants face. Back matter includes a bibliography, source notes, texts of the Constitution and amendments, a timeline, and an index.
  • The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory, by Jesse Walker. Jesse Walker's The United States of Paranoia presents a comprehensive history of conspiracy theories in American culture and politics, from the colonial era to the War on Terror. The fear of intrigue and subversion doesn't exist only on the fringes of society, but has always been part of our national identity. When such tales takes hold, Walker argues, they reflect the anxieties and experiences of the people who believe them, even if they say nothing true about the objects of the theories themselves.
    With intensive research and a deadpan sense of humor, Jesse Walker's The United States of Paranoia combines the rigor of real history with the punch of pulp fiction.
  • Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild. In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country - a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets, people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.
  • What You Should Know about Politics...But Don't, by Jessamyn Conrad. (E-book download) In a world of sound bites, deliberate misinformation, and a political scene colored by the blue versus red partisan divide, how does the average educated American find a reliable source that's free of political spin? What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don't breaks it all down, issue by issue, explaining who stands for what, and why--whether it's the economy, income inequality, Obamacare, foreign policy, education, immigration, or climate change. If you're a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between, it's the perfect book to brush up on a single topic or read through to get a deeper understanding of the often murky world of American politics. This is an essential volume for understanding the background to the 2020 presidential election. But it is also a book that transcends the season. It's truly for anyone who wants to know more about the perennial issues that will continue to affect our everyday lives. The fourth edition includes an introduction by Martin Garbus discussing the themes and issues that have come to the fore during the present presidential cycle



 LGBTQ+

​Redefining Realness : My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, by Janet Mock. In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she publicly stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Since then, Mock has gone from covering the red carpet for People.com to advocating for all those who live within the shadows of society. Redefining Realness offers a bold new perspective on being young, multiracial, economically challenged and transgender in America

Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGTBTQ Rights Uprising that Changed America, by Martin B. Duberman.  The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. At a little after one a.m. on the morning of June 28, 1969, the police carried out a routine raid on the bar. But it turned out not to be routine at all. Instead of cowering-- the usual reaction to a police raid-- the patrons inside Stonewall and the crowd that gathered outside the bar fought back against the police. The five days of rioting that followed changed forever the face of lesbian and gay life. In the years since 1969, the Stonewall riots have become the central symbolic event of the modern gay movement. Renowned historian and activist Martin Duberman tells the full story of what happened at Stonewall, focusing on the lives of six people involved in the struggle for LGBTQ rights, and recreating in vivid detail those heady, sweltering nights in June 1969, revealing a wealth of previously unknown material.

 Mental Health

​More to be added soon...

 COVID in Context

Influenza: The Hundred-year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History. (2020)   By Jeremy Brown. Dr. Brown digs into the discovery and resurrection of the flu virus in the frozen victims of the 1918 epidemic, as well as the bizarre remedies that once treated the disease, such as whiskey and blood-letting. Influenza also breaks down the current dialogue surrounding the disease, explaining the controversy over vaccinations, antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, and the federal government's role in preparing for pandemic outbreaks. Though 100 years of advancement in medical research and technology have passed since the 1918 disaster, Dr. Brown warns that many of the most vital questions about the flu virus continue to confound even the leading experts.

 A history of the great influenza pandemics: death, panic, and hysteria 1830 -1920 (2014)​, by Mark Honigsbaum. Influenza was the great killer of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the so-called 'Russian flu' killed around 1 million people across Europe in 1889-93 - including the second-in-line to the British throne, the Duke of Clarence. The Spanish flu of 1918, meanwhile, would kill 50 million people - nearly 3% of the world's population. Here, Mark Honigsbaum outlines the history of influenza in the period, and describes how the fear of disease permeated Victorian culture. These fears were amplified by the invention of the telegraph and the ability of the new mass-market press to whip up public hysteria. The flu was therefore a barometer of wider fin de siecle social and cultural anxieties - playing on fears engendered by economic decline, technology, urbanisation and degeneration.

American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic (2012), by Nancy Bristow. Bristow examines the social and cultural history of Americans during the 1918 pandemic, uncovering both the causes of the nation's public amnesia and the depth of the quiet remembering that endured. This work focuses on the primary players in this drama–patients and their families, friends, and community, public health experts, and health care professionals.

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think, and Do (2018), by Jennifer Eberhart.This will be an excellent text for students whose school years were upended by COVID-19 and who will/should be aware of the role that race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status played in determining who received care, who died, who recovered, and who was blamed for the outbreak.

 Racism

​Kids and Family Reading


Recommended Books for Adults

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists motivated by Michelle Alexander's unforgettable argument that 'we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.'

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of "race," a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men--bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates's attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son--and readers--the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children's lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

Stamped from the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi. The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. Some Americans insist that we're living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America -- it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial inequities.In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Both a deeply compelling bestselling novel and an epic milestone of American literature. The book's nameless narrator describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", before retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land , Joyce, and Dostoevsky.

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. Published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is the first novel written by Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature.
It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove -- a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others -- who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.

Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminismby Bell Hooks. A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain't I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood. Examining the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism among feminists, and the black woman's involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking, giving this book a critical place on every feminist scholar's bookshelf.

Women, Race & Class, by Angela Y. Davis. A powerful study of the women's liberation movement in the U.S., from abolitionist days to the present, that demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders. From the widely revered and legendary political activist and scholar Angela Davis.

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin. A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of our literature.

The Condemnation Of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, by Khalil Gibran Muhammad. (Streaming Audio Book). Lynch mobs, chain gangs, and popular views of black southern criminals that defined the Jim Crow South are well known. We know less about the role of the urban North in shaping views of race and crime in American society.Following the 1890 census-the first to measure the generation of African Americans born after slavery-crime statistics, new migration and immigration trends, and symbolic references to America as the promised land of opportunity were woven into a cautionary tale about the exceptional threat black people posed to modern urban society. Excessive arrest rates and overrepresentation in northern prisons were seen by many whites-liberals and conservatives, northerners and southerners-as indisputable proof of blacks' inferiority. In the heyday of "separate but equal," what else but pathology could explain black failure in the "land of opportunity?"The idea of black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America, as were African Americans' own ideas about race and crime. Chronicling the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, this fascinating book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies.

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