Wednesday, October 24, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series, Finale

Leaf by Richard Ricciardi,
used under CC license

2018 Summer Library Series

Somehow summer closed and autumn has opened, and we reached the end of the 2018 Summer Library Series. I must have been in denial about it. But here we are after a wonderful summer of writers sharing memories of their childhood libraries. Thanks to all who contributed this year. Please enjoy another trek down their library aisles of memory, and look to their bios for more of their writing.


My First Library by Richard Paolinelli
Richard Paolineli, novelist

The 2019 Summer Libraries will begin in June with a new lineup of writers. The second annual Book Your Stocking series will return in December with reading wish-lists by writers. Until then, I hope you find time to visit your local library, read many books, and have a lovely winter and spring. 
Library Loading Dock by LibraryGroover, flickr, used under CC license

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Monster: 2018 Pivot Storytelling Series

Pivot is a live storytelling series in Spokane.
And I have a story to tell you.

October 18, 2018
7 PM
Washington Cracker Building
304 W. Pacific
$10 donation suggested

Storytellers: Julie Humphries, Erin Pringle, Raymond Reyes, Juan Mas, Ann Porter, Cleve Penberthy, Sam Schneider

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Quick Review: Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne


That's what I did.

It's brilliant.

Link to book on publisher's website:

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: My First Library by Richard Paolinelli

We have reached the middle of September and nearly the end of summer, and though the doors to summer are closing, the library doors will remain propped open when the weather's right, and autumn leaves will hopefully follow you to the circulation desk and book return.

Please welcome this week's writer, Richard Paolinelli, and his beginning of many visits to the library shelves.

My First Library
Richard Paolinelli

Richard Paolinelli as a child
My first library was located at the corner of Minaret Avenue and Cooper Avenue in Turlock, California. It was across the street from Crane Elementary School, which I attended in 1972. A lot has changed in my hometown. But the library is still there.

It was a magical place. A place of so many different worlds and universes, filled with people and things and creatures beyond imagination. A place I would go to if I needed to wait to be picked up well after school got out. I didn’t mind waiting there. I met many friends there: Wells, Blish, Poe, Verne, Doyle, Burroughs, Foster and so many, many others.

It was there, in the audio room, where I listened for the first time to the recording of Orson Welles’ infamous radio play of War of the Worlds that created a nationwide panic back in 1938.

I walked along the many shelves, looking at random for the next adventure I wanted to immerse myself into. Sometimes I would have a title or subject in mind even before I walked through the doors and would head to the cabinet where the index cards were. Flipping through them until I found the book I sought, getting the Dewey number and then hunting the shelf, hoping someone hadn’t checked it out already.

That library was a haven, a source of familiarity that I took with me as we moved from town to town (my father’s business kept us fairly mobile). No matter what new town we landed in, I sought the nearest library and felt right at home everywhere we went.

To this day, I credit that love of reading, those hours spent within the walls of that first library, with planting the seed to my becoming the writer I am today. Anytime we venture back to Turlock, I stop by and peek in.

It hasn’t changed all that much in 46 years. Oh, there are books in there that weren’t there in 1972 of course. And there is a small area for computers and a terminal to search for books instead of the old card cabinet. But if I stand in just the right spot, it is 1972 all over again, and a new adventure waits somewhere among those shelves.

Turlock Library
(image from Google Earth)

About this library author:

Richard Paolinelli began his writing career as a freelance writer in 1984 and gained his first fiction credit serving as the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics sci-fi/fantasy series, Seadragon. His 20-year sports writing career was highlighted by the 2001 California Newspaper Publishers Association award for Best Sports Story.

In 2010, Richard retired as a sportswriter and returned to his fiction writing roots. Since then he has written six novels, including the recently released, When The Gods Fell, three Sherlock Holmes pastiches, two non-fiction sports books, three novelettes, and shorter works in several anthologies.

He plans on releasing The Timeless series, a middle-grade YA Steampunk series, this fall and another novel, Firstborn’s Curse, around Christmas. Learn more at his website:


Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series:

Monday, September 10, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: A Chinese Laborer, a Mural, Carlos Santana, and My Hometown Library by Donna Miscolta

Autumn may be reaching into these last weeks of Summer, but this year's Summer Library Series continues. Please enjoy this reflection by Donna Miscolta.


A Chinese Laborer, a Mural, Carlos Santana, and My Hometown Library

Donna Miscolta

Library turned Arts Center, National City, CA

Each Saturday after catechism class, our minds numb with doctrine, my siblings and I crossed the street to the public library. It seemed not a coincidence that our weekly visit to a place of books would follow something religious and utterly rote. True, there was something holy about the library, its orderly rows of books, the expectation of silence, the rules of checking out books like a liturgy, the fines for late returns like a penance. But liberation was what the library offered – from the memorized answers to questions about God and creation, which opened up space for stories and imagination and dreams.

We moved to National City the summer before I started fourth grade. Library visits soon became a ritual. It gave our parents an extra hour without us in the house. It made us feel grown up to be someplace unsupervised except by the shushing librarians. In all those years, while we read story after story, I never gave a thought to how that library came to be, how it had its own story.

The library was on 12th Street and sat on the northwest edge of Kimball Park, named after Frank Kimball, who, according to a local historian, purchased the Rancho de la Naciรณn, a “barren” Mexican land grant. Nice to see that “barren” is in quotation marks, an acknowledgement that it was not actually empty or unproductive, just absent its indigenous inhabitants who had been driven inland onto reservations. Also, the name reflects the long history of Mexico’s claim to the land.

The library had its start in 1884 when Frank Kimball moved his personal book collection into his National City real estate office. His Chinese workman Ah Lem lent a hand. Kimball’s diary contains entries such as these:
“Ah Lem at work on library and on bookcases.”
“At work on 2nd bookcase for Public Library.”
“Ah Lem hauled 3 loads of books to the Library rooms in my real estate office.”
Um, it seems that Ah Lem was doing an awful lot of the work. I’d like to offer my personal gratitude to Ah Lem for his labor in creating the first National City public library.
After various permutations in terms of location and architectural styles, the National City Library of my youth was established in the early 1950s. The style was the ranch house design, ironically reflecting the original name of the land upon which its sat. The style was popular for suburban homes – long, low-slung, rectangular, with deep overhanging eaves. The library had two wings: one for the children’s section and one for the adult section.

In that children’s library, I read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. Another title that I remember was a book called Three Wishes for Sarah, which I checked out multiple times. Recently, I searched for and found the Kirkus review, which summed up the book as “A somewhat saccharine flavor for a story with no particular significance.” It was a book about a girl who saves a small child from drowning. A girl hero, which I must’ve found to be of particular significance.

When I turned twelve, on the cusp of junior high school, I was allowed to borrow from the adult section of the library. I remember checking out Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native, William Faulkner’s Light in August, and Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady. I checked them out multiple times. Because of the language. Because of the story. Because I don’t remember women writers or writers of color being terribly visible on those shelves.

As we got older and reached confirmation, we ceased going to catechism classes. And so ceased our regular trips to the public library, our devotion over.

In the 80s, several years after I had moved to the Pacific Northwest, the flat, bland design of the library was improved with the addition of a mural, one that I never saw, since in all my return visits to National City I never had reason to visit the library. I had not yet achieved the age of nostalgia.
Journalist Daniel Hernandez wrote about his memory of the mural:
“I remember a huge mural loomed from behind the library’s reception desk, depicting scenes of Mexican American life in the San Diego area in the late 1970s and early 1980s: a quinceaรฑera celebration, students lifting up their diplomas, a backyard carne asada, a news reporter interviewing a vintage car enthusiast before the painted pillars of Chicano Park. The colors were rich, the images drawn with an appealing cleanliness, the lines easy to follow.” 

The library mural by David Avalos
When a new library was built in 2005 on the southwest corner of Kimball Park and the contents transferred from the old library, the mural was lost. Eventually David Avalos, the painter of the mural and Juan Parrino who helped lead the mural project in 1981, located the lost painting and found it a home in the new library at the renovated high school.

The old public library I had grown up in was converted into an arts center. Its original ranch style is still recognizable even with a multistory addition that serves as its entrance. A couple of murals decorate the faรงade. One depicts a pair of birds dancing a jarabe. The other is of a young Carlos Santana, a psychedelic peace sign with hearts and doves emanating from it, and these Carlos Santana words: "The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. Welcome is spelled out in metal-sculpted letters.

The faรงade of the new, state-of-the-art library is graced in multiple languages with these words by Jorge Luis Borges: "I always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of Library."

The new library is where my books When the de la Cruz Family Danced and Hola and Goodbye, both set in a fictional town called Kimball Park, reside. It’s where Paradise and the imagination meet.


This week's library author:

Donna Miscolta
(photo by Meryl Schenker)
Donna Miscolta’s story collection Hola and Goodbye won the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman and was published by Carolina Wren Press (2016). It also won an Independent Publishers award for Best Regional Fiction and an International Latino Book Award for Best Latino Focused Fiction. She’s also the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). Recent work has appeared in The Fourth River, Cascadia Magazine, Moss, Blood Orange Review, and The Seattle Review of Books. She writes a monthly blog at

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: 

Monday, September 3, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: That Texas Library by Julia Drescher

Welcome to September and this week's edition of the 2018 Summer Library Series. Poet Julia Drescher shares reflections of her wry childhood in the library, and the thoughts one might have read from her mind had it been a book back then.


That Texas Library

Julia Drescher

Julia Drescher, Father, Sister
Where one is is in a temple that sometimes makes us forget that we are in it. Where we are is in a sentence.    – Jack Spicer, “Textbook of Poetry” #13

As a kid, I absolutely hated Texas in a generalizing way – the way everyone seemed to have (and be proud of) a get-mean-or-die kind of attitude, the weather (the oppressive humidity combined with the relentless way the sun shines feels like a perpetual punishment most of the year), and the landscape of the suburban town we eventually settled down in (every living thing seemingly cut down for concrete, wretched-looking brush residing in what was left of the natural areas). Places of seeming-refuge were somewhat hard to find.

The small public library in that town has two floors. The first floor contains the card catalog (now on computers), adult fiction & non-fiction collections, and, between this and a newspaper/magazine wall, a weird construction best described as a series of movable particle board curtains with various (mostly pastoral or portrait) paintings in the traditional style hanging from them. Though I never saw anyone do this, theoretically you could check one out like a book and hang it on your wall for two weeks.

The second floor contains the children/juvenile fiction & non-fiction collections, a small room that often held children’s music recitals, a huge dollhouse display, and a librarian who sits at a desk in the most advantageous location for monitoring who is on the floor.

After moving to Bryan, Texas when I was ten, I would often be dropped off at the library and left to roam the stacks (mostly unseen) for hours. When my mom came to pick me up, I would have quite a heavy load of books, reading my way through what of the collection interested me. 

At around the same time as being forced to attend a small private Catholic school, I began to almost exclusively check out any books having to do with magic and witches (led here, of course, by what I would now say are the correspondences between prepubescence, the growing imposition of traditional femininity, and the learning about saints' lives). 

My mom probably held her tongue for awhile, but seeing so many spines with ‘witch’ on them finally disturbed her enough to say something like, Why are you reading so many books about witches? 
(and I probably answered moodily, “I don’t know”– if I answered at all) You better be careful – you might get into trouble. If the former clearly reflected to me an uneasiness with my interest, the latter seemed to reflect some sort of fear for me – a vague paranoia that the librarians would report such dark interests to some government authority (or something).

Pretty early on (because the library is actually very small), I grew bored with the offerings of the second floor. But it took me awhile to confidently peruse the first – I would arrive at the library, go up the stairs to the second floor, pretend to look at the juvenile books in the most obvious way that I could, then try to sneak back down the stairs without any adults seeing me do so. These were maneuvers based on an assumption that categories were untrespassable – that any adult could see that I didn’t belong on this floor. I knew generally, too, that I should be seen and not heard (from), so my biggest fear was drawing attention to myself, causing a scene.

At some point, I got over it. At some point, I went from the interest in witches to a vague interest in various outlaws that had some Texas connection and checked out as many books as the adult section had on Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde etc.

When I came out to the car with these stacks of books, my mom glanced over and, as we drove out of the parking lot, said under her breath with a sigh of relief, Thank God that witch phase is over.


Julia Drescher,
photo used with permission

Today's library writer:

Julia Drescher lives in Colorado where she co-edits the press Further Other Book Works with the poet C.J. Martin. Her work has appeared most recently in ‘PiderEntropyLikestarlingsAspasiology, and Hotel. Her book of poems, Open Epic, is available from Delete Press. She works at a library.

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: 

Monday, August 27, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: The Missing Library by Rajia Hassib

Please welcome novelist Rajia Hassib to the 2018 Summer Library Series. In this week's reflection on childhood and the library, Rajia takes us to Egypt and the library she missed by several hundred centuries.


The Missing Library

Rajia Hassib

Rajia Hassib as a child
I grew up with an aching absence: two blocks away from where the great Library of Alexandria once stood. On the car ride to school every day, I would pass by the empty lot of land overlooking the sea and glance at the brick wall surrounding it. Occasionally, the land was used to temporarily house a traveling exhibit or circus, and the poles of large red tents would jut above the wall’s edge. Always, the land seemed to be waiting, patiently tolerating its current occupants while mourning its original use.

Like all avid readers, I, too, mourned the great library that I grew up believing Caesar had burned to ashes in 48 B.C., though I would later learn that the library suffered several devastating fires and that its destruction happened over several centuries: a slow, painful death rather than extinction in one glorious flame. Still, the end result was the same: my home city of Alexandria, Egypt, once housed the greatest library in the world, and now that library was gone.

Even more painful than this knowledge was the absence of any other lending libraries that served a child reader. Alexandria in the 1980s, back when I was discovering the joy of reading, did not boast a single free-standing lending library that I knew of; and its many smaller libraries, located in various cultural centers, including the one where my mother worked, catered mainly to adults. I saw them as musty, foreboding places where ten-year-old me was not allowed. I distinctly remember one day when I accompanied my mother to work and, in the middle of her work day, walked the long corridor of the cultural center and all the way to the double doors opening up to the library. I remember standing at its doors, taking in its rows of shelves laden with books, then turning around and walking away. This was not a place I felt I was welcome.

Rajia as a teenager (age 16)
My school’s library, on the other hand, welcomed me, as did the various book sellers and book stores that I routinely visited during my childhood years. The main bookseller of the bookstore that boasted the largest collection of English novels knew me by name by the time I was a teenager, and even the visiting book fair, setting camp in two locations in Alexandria every February, became such a regular visiting spot that the returning worker smiled and nodded in my direction whenever they saw me come back day after day, year after year.

My love of reading flourished thanks to my parents, who, despite falling solidly in Egypt’s middle class and rarely having money to spare, never once denied me the purchase of a book, and thanks to family friends who learned, early on, that the best gift they could give me was a trip to the bookstore. I had to buy almost every book I read as a child and teenager, and I was—and still am—keenly aware of how privileged I was, how lucky to be able to afford so many books.

Still, I never ceased to wonder what would have happened if that library never burned. The notion of a large, free-standing structure full of books fascinated me, and I longed for such a place with such force that, when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast first came out in 1991 and I watched the Beast open up the library doors and usher Belle in, I cried—a rare reaction coming from the surprisingly rational teenager that I was. Not until I moved to the U.S. in 1998 did I get to experience the pleasure of visiting a public library. The first ever card bearing my name in the U.S. was, in fact, my membership card to the Brooklyn Public Library.

Brooklyn Public Library
Almost two decades after I acquired that card, I took my kids back to Egypt for a visit. In my home city of Alexandria, I showed them the street where I grew up, and, two blocks away, I walked with them into the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new Library of Alexandria that opened in 2002 and that now stands in that exact location I passed every day going to school, the site of its famed ancestor.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina
The new library occupies a fascinating, disc-shaped structure that symbolizes the rising sun of knowledge and that now houses a vast collection of books in addition to, among other things, museum areas, an internet archive, a library for the visually impaired, and a reading room built on eleven levels that add up to over 200,000 square feet, all illuminated by the circular glass ceiling facing the Mediterranean Sea. The library holds books in Arabic, English, and French, and, fifteen years after its grand opening, is still in the process of expanding its collection, which now boasts over a million books but which is still far below the eight million mark the library was built to hold. But just as the ancient library was destroyed over years, not in a single blazing fire, this new library’s collection is steadily increasing, slowly but surely rising up to the example set by it predecessor.

Inside the Bibliotheca Alexandria, photo by Rajia Hassib
used with permission
Standing with my children in the middle of the vast reading room, I watched the smiles on their faces and, for the first time since my childhood, felt the wound left in my heart by the burning of the ancient library start to heal. I know that the manuscripts lost forever in that fire two thousand years ago will never be replaced, but I do find solace in knowing that my home city of Alexandria, which once was a beacon of knowledge radiating throughout the entire ancient world, now has a grand library again. The lot of land is no longer vacant; it now holds the same kind of structure it held two thousand years ago, the only structure it was meant to hold: a library.


Rajia Hassib,
photograph used with permission
Today's library writer:

Rajia Hassib was born and raised in Egypt and moved to the United States when she was twenty-three. She holds an MA in creative writing from Marshall University, and her writing has appeared in The New Yorker online, The New York Times Book ReviewUpstreetSteam Ticket, and Border Crossing magazines. Her debut novel, In the Language of Miracles, was published by Viking (Penguin) in 2015, and her second novel, Hearts as Light as Feathers, is forthcoming from Viking (August 2019). She lives in West Virginia.

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series:

Monday, August 20, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: The Bartholomew County Library by Melissa Stephenson

Welcome back to the 2018 Summer Library Series. All summer writers share childhood memories of the library. This week, writer Melissa Stephenson takes us into the Indiana library she and her brother grew up in, and found herself in again, in memory. Please enjoy this week's library reflection.


The Bartholomew County Library

Melissa Stephenson

Melissa, Mother, and Brother
When I think of my childhood library in Columbus, Indiana, I think about the building more than the books. Our county library was built in the late 60s, in a town known for its mid-century architecture, not long before my brother and I were born in the 70s.

Our young mother took my brother and me to the library at least once a week. I had a habit of knocking on the hollow metal sculpture in front of the library when we arrived. I’d listen to the sound reverberate through what I thought was a cast of a giant dinosaur bone. As an adult, I learned the twenty-foot piece was made of copper, created by Henry Moore (a well-known English artist), and installed in ’71—the year my brother was born.

The Bartholomew County Library
I can’t imagine how many bricks they used making that library, but I did wonder. It was solid brick, from the walls to the driveway and sidewalks and stairs, which gave it a feeling of security and strength. In his teen years, my brother skateboarded up and down its many brick ramps, curbs, and ledges. Nothing bad would happen at the library. A tornado could not rustle the pages of a single book. 

The inside had concrete ceilings, which, as I write this, sounds impossible. The concrete was poured in a grid, like a gray checkerboard suspended two stories high, with lights in the recessed spaces. I loved the feeling of weight and light above me. It’s a feeling that has marked my life—how we are all delicately suspended, flying, until we’re not. 

The children’s section had a play area, and skylights over the short book stacks. Though I didn’t realize it then, when I returned as a mother with my own children, the toilets and sinks were child-sized as well—the same ones I’d used as a kid. 

The Stephenson Family in the 1970s
I could tell you about all the picture books I took home, brought back, and checked out again, my name filling up the card in the front. I could tell you how I worked my way through every Judy Blume, or how Watership Down so frightened me that I avoided the shelf where it lived once I’d returned it.

But what I want to tell you about is the Red Room. That’s where story time happened, an event we went to together—my mother, brother, and me—from the time I was an infant. The Red Room had solid brick walls, no windows, a low-hung version of that concrete ceiling, and deep red carpet rolling over the stairs where we sat as a librarian read to us. I crawled on those stairs. I sat on those stairs. That room calmed me. I did not look forward or backward but hung on the librarian’s words and rested in the still spots in between. 

Years later, when I was twenty-five and my brother twenty-nine, I visited a funeral parlor near Athens, Georgia to say goodbye to his body, which sat, unprepared, on a stretcher at the far end of a large, windowless room. Unable to look up at first, I stared at the ground, trying to remember how to breathe. What caught my attention was the carpet: the same scarlet hue as the floor of the Red Room. It’s a detail that held the potential to be salt in a wound but to me, in that moment, felt like reprieve. Grace. Like the Universe reminding me of the sanctuary inside me where I could hunker down with a stack of books and wait out the storm.


Melissa Stephenson
Today's library writer:

Melissa Stephenson is currently on tour for her new book, Driven, a memoir of cars, childhood, and loss. Her writing has appeared in publications such as BlackbirdThe Rumpus, The Washington Post, ZYZZYVA, and Fourth Genre. Stephenson grew up in Indiana and lives in Missoula, Montana with her two kids. Learn more at her website

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: 

Monday, August 13, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: Library Time by Rachel King

Welcome back to the 2018 Summer Library Series in which writers remember their childhood libraries. This week's writer hails from Portland and shares the kind of magic that only you, dear reader, would know of. Please enjoy this week's reflection.


Hillsdale Branch Library,
an earlier version of itself

Library Time

Rachel King

I grew up near the Hillsdale branch of the Multnomah County Library system in Portland, Oregon. Based on the fact that my parents were readers, and that Multnomah County Library items are checked out at four times the rate of the national average, it’s not surprising that I received a library card as soon as I could write my name.

I remember the tire swing in the park across the street from the library where my siblings and I pushed each other until we felt like vomiting; the kind and reserved children’s librarian who for some reason let us show our rabbits as an extension of the summer reading program; the day at age eight that I walked toward the children’s section on the back wall of the library, saw a book on the second-to-bottom shelf, and my life changed. The book was Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

I don’t remember where I read it: maybe in a clearing between bushes at the back of the library park, maybe in the magnolia tree in my parents’ side yard, maybe on my bed on the top bunk, probably in the blue recliner in the living room where I tuned out family noise to focus on the written word.

Rachel King reading as a younger version of herself
I do remember I cried while reading the final paragraphs. As Cassie says, “I cried for things which had happened in the night and would not pass. I cried for T.J. For T.J. and the land.” It was the first book over which I cried, and I don’t cry over much. If a book could get me to see these characters and this place so clearly, then books were magic. And I’ve never stopped thinking that.

After childhood came the Knight Library at the University of Oregon, where I practiced conjugating Russian verbs on a study room blackboard; the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where I checked out dozens of books at a time, which I read in between working various jobs and trying, for the first time, to write seriously; the Wise Library at West Virginia University, where I found amazing poets while shelving books in an empty, elegant Robinson Reading Room at midnight or one a.m.; the Louisville Public Library, where I used the free internet once a week to talk to my friend on Skype; my current local library, the Midland branch, where I go to check out New York Review of Books Classics and browse Russian books and DVDs; the Oregon City Public Library—my mom’s childhood library—where now, as an on-call library assistant, I help patrons.

When I moved back to Portland, I went to the Hillsdale library. The old library building had been demolished, and replaced with a larger one on the same site. But inside was the same children’s librarian from my childhood, and to me, she looked no differently. And most importantly, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry was still on the shelf, for another generation to discover.

Hillsdale Branch Library as its newer self


Rachel King,
photo used with permission
Today's library writer:

Rachel King is a writer and editor who lives in her hometown, Portland, Oregon. Her stories have most recently appeared in One Story and Flyway; her poetry chapbook Between Work and Light is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Learn more about her work at


Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series:

Monday, August 6, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: Two Libraries by Lane Falcon

How fast the summer flies once its wings catch wind! Flowers bloomed, grass died, sprinklers worked or broke, and hopefully, you have read books in your window, by the lake, or from various lawn chairs. Amidst all of this, the 2018 Summer Library Series got lost in July--but, thankfully, August has rediscovered it, and the series will resume and run through September.  

Every week, writers will share library memories from their childhoods. This week, poet Lane Falcon remembers two times, twenty years apart, in which she found herself in the library. I hope you'll find yourself in your own library very soon.


Two Libraries 


Lane Falcon

Lane Falcon, high-school era
I admit, the library didn’t figure largely into my life until I was pregnant with my daughter Cecilia, and alone, in New York City. As a child, my fondest memory of the library happened in high school, in Palos Park, Illinois, when I earned a detention for performing a back walkover behind the shelves, egged on by a daring friend, whom I later lost touch with.

The principal couldn’t help but crack a smile when he listed the offense. I’d been reported by my English teacher, Ms. Such and Such, who I didn’t realize had a view of my acrobatics behind the shelves from the table where she sat.

This teacher never did like me, or so it seemed— complimenting my poinsettia tights and writing me up for wearing too-short shorts once in the same class—but in retrospect she was probably not too far off from where I am today: Thirty-Something and Frustrated.

The principal said he had never given a detention for doing back flips in the library, but he gave it to me anyways. I was no longer afraid of being yelled at by that point, but felt relieved that he hadn’t scorned me for being a show-off or a jackass--the edge of delinquency excusable in a young girl in too short a skirt with big orange flowers splashed across her legs.

Lane Falcon
Some twenty years later, I was living in New York City, and the library appeared with pregnancy. Though I was making nearly six figures at the time, didn’t own a car and had minimal bills, I was still convinced that I'd go broke with a child, would no longer enjoy the luxury of regular manicures and pedicures, and would resort to dyeing my own hair (which, I swear, stress was sucking the color from). I had been living in a state of three-new-books-a-month-delivered-from-Amazon-to-my-office cush that, along with cabs to work and daily excursions for mocha chip soy Frappuccinos with an extra shot of espresso, I could no longer take for granted. So I turned to my local library for answers.

The library is located across from the Dykeman subway stop, and up until the week I was due, I’d visit at least once a week after work, pee in the soiled-smelling bathroom, pick out a few books, pee again and then rush the five blocks home so I could pee again. I remember a few of the books I checked out during that time. The Stand by Stephen King, some book about rich yuppie parents having sleazy hook-ups in Prospect Heights, good ole’ Harlan Cobens, Kristin Hannahs probably…most embarrassingly of all, I even remember reading The Lucky One by Nicolas Sparks. In my third trimester, I hit some kind of stride, accepting the platforms— the public library, the subway— where pregnancy grounded me. That was one of the happiest times of my life.


Lane Falcon and her daughter Ceci,
photo used with permission
Today's library writer:

Lane Falcon lives in Alexandria, VA with her two young children. She has an MFA in Poetry from Smith. Her poems have been published in The American Poetry JournalThe Cortland Review, OmniversePankSixfold, and more. She is at work finishing a collection. She works in communications and fundraising.


Enjoy more library reflections from writers who have contributed to this summer and summers past: