Staff Review

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

While reading this novel, I had to keep reminding myself that it was published in 1969 because of the themes that are so pervasive in today’s ongoing dialogue about gender. I haven’t read any of Le Guin’s work prior to this, but I can understand her ascendence to the heights of the sci-fi/fantasy cannon. The one caution I have for the more casual genre fiction reader is that there is a lot of words from Le Guin’s Hanish universe and that can be quite confusing at first. You don’t want to get your kemmer and your shifgrethor mixed up. If you can assimilate these terms and flip back to the glossary to remember the various words that the people of Gethen use to describe their frigid weather, you’ll be okay. Le Guin was also a poet and I think it really shows in what I like to call the thesis of The Left Hand of Darkness:

Light is the left hand of darkness

and darkness the right hand of light.

Two are one, life and death, lying

together like lovers in kemmer,

like hands joined together, 

like the end and the way. 

The humans of the Hanish universe are people that are experimental branches on the evolutionary tree. Genetically they are are all very similar except for one or a few modifications that make them distinct from the others. Genly Ai is a Terran native who has come to the planet Winter as an envoy whose task is to convince the king of Karhide or one of the several other kingdoms of Gethen to join the Ekumen, an alliance of other humanoid planets. As the name Winter would suggest, these humans are adapted to withstand remarkably low temperatures. The other (and much more interesting) fact about the inhabitants of Gethen is that they are ambisexual; in other words, they are completely androgenous for most of their reproductive cycle … until they’re not. This leads to a great deal of tension between Genly and the natives. He wants to classify them and finds the idea of a pregnant king strange while the people of Karhide and abroad call him a pervert (a Gethian term for a human that remains in a fixed gender state outside of mating). 

Part political intrigue and part treatise on gender roles and the way they shape human interactions and society, this novel is remarkable because it manages to sneak in romance element without the reader even really noticing until the very end of the book. Estraven, the prime minister and adviser to King Argaven, attempts to persuade the king into forming an alliance with the Ekumen but by pushing him continuously he only incurs Argaven’s wrath and finds himself exiled and out of a job. Genly too is affected by this shift in power and Estraven does everything in his power to help Genly out of it. The travel on sledges over great distances together to see Genly’s mission through and along the way come to an understanding of each other. Genly’s internal struggle throughout is centered around not thinking in the way he has been conditioned to by his own masculine behaviors. That in this place there is no binary. Hope and despair, light and dark, male and female, beginnings and endings all exist in a grand circle that feeds into itself. 

There’s some pretty significant Taoist influences and Le Guin takes an opportunity to explore spirituality in addition to the other themes that are threaded throughout her work. This story is not driven primarily by a plot and more by concepts except in a few places where it feels very grounded and much more easy to follow. This one is definitely a mind-stretcher, so pick it up if you’re in the mood for philosophical pondering or you’re looking for a unique experience.

-Katie

FAQ!

Question: How long does it take if you order a book?

Answer: If the Bristol library doesn’t have the book you’re looking for (because it’s not in our inventory or currently checked out), but it is available at one of the other Rhode Island public libraries (there are 71(!) member library sites), it should take 3 to 5 days. 

New books and “bestsellers” may take much longer even if many libraries have a copy, so be sure and let us know if you’d like to be put on the waiting list as soon as possible. Things move fast and it’s always great to get that notice in your mailbox: “Your book has arrived”.

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Meet the Staff!

Guten Tag! 

I’m Ann Kathrin (Uhn-ke-treen). I recently relocated to the US from Berlin, Germany. It isn’t a coincidence that my work has been centered on the written word in some form or other, from lettering comics to casting actors to translating and editing screenplays. I am taken by the art of storytelling.  


But just because I’m a bookworm and a film buff, doesn’t mean I’m a couch potato. I’m an avid walker, biker and yogi. I also started playing a on a softball team this past summer and went rowing for the first time the other day on the East Bay (so much fun!). 

I’ve been at the Bristol library for close to three months now and feel like I’ve hit the jackpot: I get to be surrounded by books and films and also be a part of a friendly and vibrant community. Thank you to my colleagues and patrons for the warm welcome. If you need a foreign movie tip, would like to brush up on your German or just feel like sharing a good read, please always feel free to stop by the circulation desk and say hello.

 

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Kyera's Library

Renegades (Renegades, #1)Renegades by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am absolutely in love with the book and wish that I didn’t have to wait another year to find out what happens. Unlike Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, I feel that Renegades is not a series that is as universal a read. The Lunar Chronicles effortlessly blends science fiction with a fairytale retelling and I feel can draw people in even if they don’t normally read either of those two. Renegades on the other hand is definitely a superhero story, with fantastic characters and an intriguing plot – but, if you’re not a fan of superheroes then you’re not as likely to fall in love with this book.

I personally love superheroes, I read comics and can completely see the similarities to the X-Men in this novel. The gifted in this novel are called prodigies and have such amazing…

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Staff Review

Leadership in Turbulent Times
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Goodwin investigates how four presidents who each entered office during a national crisis and how they successfully guided us during that time.   

Abraham Lincoln entered office with as the nation on the verge of civil war.  Teddy Roosevelt assumed office after the assassination of president William McKinley to inherit a Coal Strike. Franklin D. Roosevelt entered office facing a financial crisis. 

Lyndon B. Johnson became president after the the assassination of president John F. Kennedy and he was able to engineer the passage of more civil rights legislation than any other president.  

All four men were brought up in various circumstances in their early life.   And, they each had their own reasons for entering office.  But, all four wanted to work for the greater good.  

Goodwin writes in a format ( I have never been one to pick up a history book.) that made it easy to follow the political machinations of the time periods involved. – JW

Staff Pick

BROADCHURCH TV SERIES
Recommendation by Nina Murphy

When a patron checks out a show I have enjoyed I can’t help but get excited for them, particularly when it’s a well done British murder mystery.   Somehow murders taking place across the pond seem less nefarious to me than those taking place stateside. Broadchurch, a three season TV program extremely popular with streaming services is available through Ocean State Library (Season 1 & 2 are available on the shelves at Rogers Free Library with Season three available for request from other libraries.

Broadchurch takes places in a fictional town near Dorset, England. The dramatic landscape of a massive cliff which looms over a wide empty beach provides a forlorn sadness to a very the sad reality: A 14-year old boy has been found dead below the cliff. As we discover with the twists and turns of each episode there are secret lives behind the townspeople which begs the question did those secrets play a part in the tragedy? To add to the tension is the working relationship between DI Alec Hardy, a seasoned detective who has for reasons we will learn later moved to this remote coastal town, and local DS Ellie Miller who is a product of the community and thinks she knows her residents inside and out.

Christ Chibnall was the creator and executive producer behind the series and more importantly wrote all 24 episodes of the series. He has created characters with complicated intersecting lives. Interesting production note which I did not know when I watched the series is the identity of the killer was kept from actors and crew up until the final three episodes. 

Broadchurch is the perfect antidote for a cool fall night along with a large bowl of popcorn. A word of warning: you don’t want to rush through this well-crafted production. Once it’s over you’ll only be frustrated that there are not more programs as well produced as this one.

Meet the Staff

Jane, a library associate at Rogers Free Library, previously worked for many years alongside related service personnel (OTs, PTs, social workers, job coaches,…) in a large public school system (NOLA). It was during that time while training with her students and job coaches at libraries that Jane gained some transferable job skills to her present job in the Children’s Room of RFL.


More recently, Jane has trained and become certified in the Orton Gillingham Reading Method. She supports the IDA (dyslexiada.org). When not working, Jane enjoys all kinds of reading, music and gardening. She is really glad to be back in the New England area.