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Ilka Iwanczuk

Five More Questions with Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas

Lawrence Public Library has been a steadfast supporter of our local writing talent, so much so that we’re curating a local author section. Given this, and April being National Poetry Month, it felt synergistic to check in with Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas. In 2015, we asked McHenry five questions, and with the release of his new collection,Odd Evening, it felt time to ask him five more. Read More..

Stronger Together in the Company of Women

For anyone who was an avid reader of DIY design magazines Ready Made or Domino during the early to mid-2000’s, or even their digital equivalent, Apartment Therapy, the name Design*Sponge will be as familiar as household words. In 2004, author Grace Bonney founded the daily website, which is dedicated to the creative community. Swiftly, it proved to be popular, and more than a decade later it is still thriving, unlike the defunct magazine counterparts mentioned.

Since launching Design*Sponge, Bonney has created a meetup series titled Biz Ladies that serves as a community resource for women entrepreneurs and maintains a digital presence as a column on the Design*Sponge website. It was during Biz Ladies events that Bonney realized there was a need to communicate a holistic and diverse representation for professional women. “Visibility is one of the most powerful tools we have in inspiring people to pursue their dreams and educating them about all the amazing options that exist,” says Bonney, and this is where the touchstone lies in the heart of her new book, In the Company of Women. Read More..

Yuri!!! On Ice and the Wide World of Sports Anime

This October, the anime Yuri On Ice!!!, made its debut and has since taken the internet by storm. It begins with “a dime-a-dozen Japanese figure skater,” Katsuki Yuri, who struggles with  anxiety and self-confidence issues. Following a defeat at the Grand Prix Final and the eventual loss of his coach, he returns to his hometown of Hasetsu in Kyushu, Japan. Shortly thereafter, Yuri’s figure skating idol Viktor Nikiforov appears in Hasetsu to take Yuri on as his student.

One of the immediate appeal factors of Yuri On Ice!!!, without a doubt, is Yuri’s relatability as a person, such as with his family and his friends. Another factor is the realness and quality of the writing. To be honest, I have not been this entranced by a television show in some time; since they’ve wrapped their first season, here are some titles that share similar qualities to that of the history-making Yuri On Ice!!!   Read More..

The Best Books from the Worst Year

Let’s be honest, 2016 has been kind of a hot mess. Between so many celebrity deaths (David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Prince, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel… holy cow, SO MANY) and some, uh, general upheaval, most people are ready to write this one off as a loss.

But! As much as we’d like to say goodbye and good riddance to the year as a whole, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the very good things that came from 2016; this year has offered readers a wealth of fabulous new books. Debut authors and big-hitters alike have released incredible works in 2016, and the staff of LPL would like to share a few of our favorites. If you’re looking for great gifts for bibliophiles in your life, try one of these librarian-approved reads: Read More..

Temporal Turn, Turn, Turn

The Spencer Museum of Art recently underwent a transformative renovation that lasted eighteen months and celebrated with a grand re-opening weekend in October. This reinvigoration was more than cosmetic; it was necessary. The museum upgraded nearly 30,000 square feet —further details can be found on their website.

After dedicating great energy to time and space, the Spencer is prepared for their new exhibition, Temporal Turn: Art & Speculation in Contemporary Asia. The museum offers an eloquent summary: “Temporal Turn explores a rich mosaic of ideas about time and history from a generation of contemporary artists grounded in what has been dubbed the ‘Asian Century.’” It incorporates an impressive cohesion of works of 26 different artists from Asia, four of whom were in residence at the Spencer: Rohini Devasher (India), Jaeyoung Park (South Korea), Sahej Rahal (India), and Tomoko Konoike (Japan).

There are five themes to the exhibit—Pulse, The Edge of Infinity, Mythopoeia, Human/Posthuman/Inhuman, and Anthropocene—that unify this collective effort and its multiple literary references. The Spencer’s expansive catalog for Temporal Turn also contains two contributions from KU: short story “The Empress Jingū Fishes” by Kij Johnson, Assistant Professor of Fiction Writing, along with the piece “Time, Space, and Physics” by Philip Baringer, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy. Read More..

All Things Possible and Nothing Safe in Cooper & Vanderbilt Family Memoir

An enjoyable aspect of reading memoirs is the potential life lessons that can be gleaned from another person’s example. There are times this knowledge doesn’t come directly from the author themselves, yet it can be found in the manner they lived their life. Also within memoirs, there exists the potential of surprise in learning new information about the author, the opportunity to hear their innermost thoughts, and, possibly, to connect with them on a universal level. Read More..

Knisley Does It

As a reader, I usually don’t know where my next read is going to come from. It could be found in a magazine article, by listening to NPR, or from a person convincing me that I need to drop everything and read this book that will apparently change my life. This is the tale of my journey with author and artist Lucy Knisley (pronounced Nicely), who I discovered while researching food memoirs via the NoveList feature on the library website. Read More..

Mourning Has Broken

I sit here and find myself feeling a similar apprehension to what author Matt Haig felt upon sending his book, Reasons to Stay Alive, to his publisher. My concern stems not from the subject of mental health, but rather the associated stigmas, because I am a suicide survivor— a label not outwardly worn, not due to shame or penance, but because it doesn’t define my life. It is a designation others use to describe an experience of part of my life.

I will admit, the stigma and other people’s discomfort keeps me discreet about sharing my experience, as well as keeping the person I lost close to my chest. This is in itself saddening, because that’s where the cycle of depression begins. The silence brought on by fear of stigma propagates the loneliness attributed with depression, when, in truth, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports, “6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.”

Reasons to Stay Alive reads part memoir, part self-help, but untraditionally so, as it lacks any interspersed clinical perspectives. Matt Haig pens an account of his personal experience with depression, suicidal thoughts, and his ability to overcome. Haig is forthcoming about his life at the time of the onset of depression, when he was residing with his girlfriend amongst a seemingly idyllic and party atmosphere on the island of Ibiza, Spain. However, despite these trappings, he became unknowingly immersed with nearly paralyzing depression.

Haig recounts, “Depression is an illness.Yet it doesn’t come with a rash or a cough. It is hard to see, as it is generally invisible. Even though it is a serious illness it is also surprisingly hard for many sufferers to recognize it at first. Not because it doesn’t feel bad—it does—but because that bad feeling seems unrecognizable, or can be confused with other things.”

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You Are Not Yourself by Barbara Kruger

Accompanying Haig’s depression were intense panic attacks, expressed in intricate detail, that involved going to the shops for errands or groceries. These tasks seemed banal to those not suffering, yet would send him into a downward spiral of anxiety. It was during the reading of these testaments I became concerned. Haig’s eloquence left me teetering, having suffered similar panic attacks following my loved one’s passing. However, it was all for naught, which was a surprise to me, but also confirmation that I am truly recovered.

It’s a popular misconception that depressive episodes can be brief; however, it’s not uncommon for them to last several months, or possibly years. In Haig’s experience, his illness was lengthy. Choosing to abstain from antidepressants, Haig instead found solace in running and reading: “I read and read and read with an intensity I’d never really known before. I mean, I’d always considered myself to be a person who liked books. But there is a difference between liking books and needing them. I needed books.” He continues, “Every time I read a great book I felt I was reading a kind of map, a treasure map, and the treasure I was being directed to was in actual fact myself. But each map was incomplete, and I would only locate the treasure if I read all the books, and so the process of finding my best self was an endless quest.”

Haig cleverly frames his thoughts as a temporal conversation between his recovered self: Now Me, and the pained version: Then Me. This brilliantly demonstrates his shift in perspective and articulates the change in language as he moves toward recovery.

To this, he states: “You know, before the age of twenty-four I hadn’t known how bad things could feel, but I hadn’t realized how good they could feel either. That shell might be protecting you, but it’s also stopping you feeling the full force of that good stuff. Depression might be a hell of a price to pay for waking up to life, and while it is on top of you it is one that could never seem worth paying. Clouds with silver linings are still clouds. But it is therapeutic to know that pleasure doesn’t just help compensate for pain, it can actually grow out of it.”

I personally encourage those untouched by depression, suicide, or the myriad of mental health issues to read this book, because within its pages you may learn ways to help someone who is suffering, or you might find a new perspective to enrich your life. And, for those coping or still recovering, perhaps one man’s story may be a treasure map on your own quest for new reasons to stay alive.

ilkastars From The Humans by Matt Haig; image created by Ilka Iwanczuk

-Ilka Iwanczuk is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library

Ode of Time

“April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

                                                                       Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

                                                                         A little life with dried tubers.”

           These are the heralded opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” and words I oft revisit as Mother Nature makes the shift from the dreck of Winter into Spring awakening. At the very least, Eliot is frighteningly accurate about April being the cruelest month in regard to the weather conditions in Kansas. Or, perhaps, he would have altered his word choice if he had been privy to the information that April is National Poetry Month. The world will never know. Read More..

Trust No One

Trust No One, an anthology curated by Jonathan Maberry, is a love letter for fans, new and not so new, of the realm of The X-Files. The fifteen stories are, in essence, episodes themselves expanding on storylines and involving notable characters. This unabridged collection with a running time of just over fifteen hours is adeptly read by Bronson Pinchot and Hillary Huber, and it flows so seamlessly that you may just experience lost time. As Maberry voices in its introduction, “Every author here has been hand picked for their love of the show, their understanding of how The X-Files ticks and for the quality of their storytelling.” The title may suggest to trust no one, however, trust that Maberry has placed you in capable hands. Read More..