Staff Blogs

Booktalking Know Your Power by Nancy Pelosi

cover of Know Your Power by Nancy PelosiBraids or pigtails. This was the big morning drama while raising four young daughters and a son. Nancy Pelosi was happy to put her little kids in a stroller while leafletting local venues to support her candidates whose ideals she believed in. Pelosi loved raising kids, and she was happy enough doing housework, but she did not want that to be her reality forever. She wanted more... Eventually she became more involved with the Democratic National Convention, but it was not until her youngest child was in high school that she contemplated running for office. She consulted Alexandra, who told her to get a life, and she did.
Nancy Pelosi had her sights set on Washington.
Pelosi ran for a congressional seat to represent San Fransisco, her beloved city, in the United States House of Representatives, and she won. Growing up in a political family helped prepare her for this eventuality. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, was also a US rep and the former mayor of Baltimore, Maryland. The lady was familiar with what it took to run a campaign, win, and do a splendid job of representing the people in governmental bodies. Being a woman, of course, made her path all the more challenging. Since policy is a male-dominated field, Pelosi was often the only woman or one of few in meetings. Pelosi was so excited to be working in Washington and fighting for her district. Healthcare for all, including children and those with painful diseases, was and is a top priority for her. In fact, in 1987 when she was sworn in she mentioned the eradication or cure of HIV and AIDS as one of the issues that she would fight for.
Nancy Pelosi was not interested in running for speaker in 1994 when members initially approached her. Her plan was to simply serve five terms (a decade) in office and call it a day. She thought that 10 years was plenty long. However, she decided to run for Whip, and she loved securing the Democratic votes that were necessary to help whichever bill was on the floor to pass. Of course, she has now been a congresswoman for 33 years, and she is still going strong. It is not so surprising that she is championing work on the second federal covid relief bill, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.
This lady is an inspiration to girls and women everywhere.

Booktalking Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts

Everybody's Got Something cover imageRobin Roberts: the happy-go-lucky host of Good Morning America (GMA). After beating breast cancer, it seemed like a double blow when she discovered that she now suffered from bone marrow cancer. Miraculously, one of her sisters, Sally Ann, was a perfect match. Of course, she agreed to be a donor. Complicating everyone's lives and worrying the sisters was their mother's illness. She had recently suffered a stroke, and her life was on the decline. Their other sister, Dorothy, was caring for her at home in hospice. Lucimarian Roberts died a few days before Robin's transplant.
Being a donor and a recipient of a transplant are both excruciatingly painful experiences. Robin rallied as best she could to get through this life hurdle. She was extremely grateful to the staff of GMA for being understanding and assuring her that her job would wait for her. They held a wonderful send-off for her. Fans gifted her blankets, get well cards and medical equipment. Robin also appreciated her medical team for caring for her, and her friends and family, especially her life partner, Amber, who was always present. She sacrificed so much to ensure that Robin was as well as possible under the circumstances. Oprah Winfrey sent thoughtful texts, and the Obamas sent flowers to the family for the loss of their mother.
Robin was so excited to leave the hospital, see the sunshine and breathe fresh air. Though she was required to quarantine in her apartment for 100 days due to her weakened immune system, she was delighted to be home. She missed her Jack Russell terrier, but she was soon to be reunited with him. After 100 days, she got her dog, KJ, back, and her chances of survival were greatly improved. KJ was so happy to be back in the house that he scampered throughout the apartment with joy. In time, Robin was able to return to work at GMA on a part-time basis. Her energy flowed in fits and starts. Sometimes, she wanted to be back at work, and at others, she did not. She also needed to grieve for her mother, since chemotherapy stole her focus from that while she was in the hospital. Robin Roberts was on the mend; look out, world!
Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts, 2014
I love the tenacity and upbeat nature of this indefatigable woman. Not only a TV icon, she is an inspiration to women everywhere, especially women of color.

Booktalking Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway

Summer of a Thousand Pies cover12-year-old Cady Bennett finally gets to see her mother's sister. The meeting does not occur in exactly the manner that she had hoped. Instead of having a wonderful family event, Shell arrives to remove her from foster care after her father ends up in jail... again. She takes the girl to Julian, a small rural community, to live with her and her partner, Suzanne. Michelle has dogs, chickens who lay eggs, a nice house, land, and best of all... a pie shop, Shell's Pies. There is plenty of food there for Cady to eat and a place for her to stay, unlike the food and housing insecurity that she experienced with her father. However, the teen is unsure how long all of this will last. No one can tell her when her father will get out of prison.
Cady is a foodie: she loves food and baking. She cannot wait to perfect her pie-making and cake-baking skills. Shell encourages the girl to make a thousand crusts in order to perfect the craft of pie making, and the first dozen or so have to be completed by hand. In the girl's cooking adventures, she has a few foibles. One pie lands on the floor, pitched there by Cady in her frustration of not achieving a perfect crust. Her attempt at baking a cake and then forgetting it while it is baking results in a scorched mess... but she and Shell manage to salvage a few of the remains. Most troubling... this misadventure almost burned down the house.
Cady likes Maria and her kids, Claudia and Jay, all of whom work in the pie shop. Jay becomes her buddy, and she hangs around town with him. It is distressing to the girl to learn of the family's limited opportunities since they are undocumented immigrants. Jay and family live in constant fear of deportation, and they do not trust law enforcement officials. Cady's family situation has different problems: her parents were addicted to drugs, and her father has not been stable. The two of them lived as vagabonds and homeless persons.
By contrast, Shell and Suzanne are loving and sweet. There is only one glaring problem with this storybook scenario: the pie shop is in real financial trouble. Shell has had difficulty paying the bills, and the pie shop is alarmingly empty much of the time. Similar restaurant businesses in the area seem to be booming. Shell's and Maria's families depend of the shop for their livelihood. Can Cady imagine up any ideas to keep Shell's Pies open for business? She better dream up a brilliant plan fast since bankruptcy is swiftly approaching.
Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway, 2019
I loved the stark, honest look into the lives of an undocumented family.

Booktalking Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson

Love is a Revolution coverNala's life revolves around Imani, the cousin that she lives with, Tye, the boy she is crushing on, and her Grandma, whom she visits at her senior residential complex with Grandma's friends. Imani is completely engulfed in her activist work at Imagine Harlem, and she is very enthusiastic about recycling. Tye has recently joined Imagine Harlem, and he wants Nala to be an activist, as well. Nala is a bit overwhelmed by their passion for the environment and zeal for social justice.
But she has a solution. She will become whoever it is that she thinks Tye wants.
Nala lies left and right to impress Tye. She professes to be a tree-hugging vegetarian. She falsely claims that she volunteers at a senior residential center. She even makes a faltering speech about doing the right thing at an Imagine Harlem event. But her heart is not in the social change movement. She wants to stop the dishonesty and be who she was meant to be. She is not ultra-prepared and she does not have her life figured out yet. She simply wants to enjoy a leisurely teenage summer with her friends, the food carts of Harlem, the festival, and the local creamery. Family and friends lie at the very heart of this teen's existence. 
Sugar Hill, Harlem, is Nala's universe. The girl loves spending time with her grandmother and the other older folks who reside in the senior living complex. During her frequently lengthy visits, the group discusses young people today, the lives of other residents, and the decor in the apartment complex. One day, one of the older women commented on the need for a redesign of the lounge space. Visual art on the walls would definitely spruce the place up. With that, Nala was up and running with grand plans for a photo legacy project to adorn the walls of the home. She even dragged Tye along with her to help.
I am a big fan of Renée Watson. This novel is fun.
by Miranda McDermott

Booktalking The Girls by Abigail Pesta

The Girls coverThe lights, the glory... Olympic stars dances in these young girls' eyes. It was especially dazzling and awe-inspiring when a doctor named Larry Nassar brought them souvenirs from the Olympic Games - pins or T-shirts. They loved all of it... the glitz and glamour were intoxicating. Larry was the nice guy to tough coach, John Geddert. The girls could complain to Larry about how hard John was on them. Injuries were not allowed. Gymnasts were ridiculed daily and worked beyond the point of exhaustion and light-headedness. Geddert brought athletes to the Olympics, but at what price?
One girl stated that John let her fall when he was supposed to be spotting her as punishment for not performing a move correctly. Another claimed that he threw a springboard at her in anger. It was well known in the gym that injuries infuriated the well-known coach. It was better to pretend that mistakes did not happen than to be treated like trash. Young athletes practiced through broken bones and dislocated ribs. Sometimes, blood flowed freely while John screamed at them. Parents were not allowed in the gym, but they could observe practice through a sound-proof window. Few objected to what they saw and it was impossible to witness all of the mistreatment. For example, parents were not allowed at the infamous Karolyi Ranch, which has since closed.
Olympic doctor Larry Nassar groomed his young victims with sweet words and gifts. He was distinctly fixated on a particular part of anatomy. In fact, the girls knew him around the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing, MI as the "crotch doc." He would touch the gymnasts' private parts while claiming to treat back and spine pain. Oftentimes, parents were in the room during these "medical examinations," but the doctor obscured their view by wrapping a towel around the girls' waists. Some girls complained to their parents and gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, to no avail. They were told that they were misinterpreting the "medical treatment." Nassar's reign of terror lasted from the 1990s until he was indicted in 2016. Fear of him ran through Twistars, where he volunteered, and Holt High School and Michigan State University, where he worked. He also abused many more athletes, such as dancers and volleyball players. They were in awe of his Olympic status, and he blithely took advantage of them and took from them what they were not willing to give. The repercussions of such pain, abuse and violations will run rivers through some of the victims' relationships with loved ones, co-workers and the public for life.
An investigation into Larry Nassar's harmful actions commenced around 2014 as a result of women becoming older and more vocal about the maltreatment that they suffered at the hands of the doctor. In 2017, Nassar, who had been stripped of his medical license, pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual misconduct. Kathie Klages was convicted of lying to police. At the sentencing hearing of Nassar in 2018, 200 young women spent seven full days in court giving moving victim impact statements at a length of their own choosing. Michigan State University paid $500 million to Nassar's victims, while USA Gymnastics, which has filed for bankruptcy, has offered $215 million to victims of Nassar. No more will Larry Nassar be allowed to terrorize young women by gratifying his sexual proclivities. These girls and women are stronger than him and Nassar will spend 40 to 125 years in prison for his horrific crimes.
I was aware of the gargantuan sacrifice that Olympic hopefuls make in terms of giving up social lives outside of the gym, family vacations and the pain of injuries. The physical, psychological and sexual abuse that these gymnasts suffered is terrible. The fact that the abuse was allowed to continue for so many years is nothing but deplorable. I wish these women peace and happiness in their lives.