People Kill People

An Outlook Into Gun Control

An elderly man purchases a gun. His mental health is not called into question. He takes excellent care of his gun until the day he shoots an intruder. When he sells the gun, no questions are asked about the buyer’s history. No questions are asked about their knowledge of weapons use. In Arizona, you don’t have to be a licensed dealer to sell a gun. And there are no laws requiring a background check for the buyer.

Since 2014, gun related deaths have increased significantly in the United States and mass shootings are becoming more widespread. In her author’s note, Ellen Hopkins explains that she wrote her novel People Kill People as a way to understand why someone would resort to pulling the trigger. Why do people hate? Why do people fear? Why do human beings go out and kill each other?

Using inspirations from the news, Hopkins developed six young characters that all have different life experiences and different points of view. Each of them has a reason to be angry. Anyone of them could be capable of gun violence.

Camilla is a young mother married to Rand. She is a stay at home mom to her three-year-old son but dreams of returning to the nightlife with other girls her age. She prefers to live in the moment rather than be saddled down with responsibly. Her rash actions often complicate her marriage.

Rand is married to Camilla. He works long hours and is studying to enter into the police force. In contrast to his wife, he doesn’t like to party. In childhood he suffered a trauma that he keeps hidden from his family. Despite his best efforts to keep it buried deep down, the memories rise up in unexpected ways.

Ashlynn grew up in a house full of violence. Her mother tried her best to shield her from it but the memories of her father’s brutality haunt her all the same.

Noelle was once an honour student with a world of opportunities ahead of her. She was the good girl, the responsible teen. A random act of gun violence left her injured and prone to seizures, taking away her promising future.

Silas wears steel-toed shoes just in case he’s in a fight. As his mother puts it – some people are just born angry. His temperament only worsened with his parent’s divorce.

Daniel is the product of an affair between a successful, married corporate attorney and a young Honduran housekeeper. His mother was deported when he was young and Daniel was sent to live with his father and step-mother. After his father passes, his step-mother raises him but with great resentment.

Author Ellen Hopkins brilliantly develops these characters as their stories start to intertwine. The decisions made by one character can affect all of the others, even if they don’t realize it. The story becomes so intermixed it’s easy to see how one action can cause a cascading effect until there is a powder keg just waiting to explode.

People Kill People is not without controversy. It contains violent actions and some very racist points of view. It is never gratuitous; however, it is always done to illustrate a point. It fits with the unstable upbringing of certain characters. Gun control is a widely debated subject in North America and People Kill People will make for very lively discussions in book clubs.

— Lesley L.

The Hate U Give

When I discovered The Hate U Give during its release last year, I thought to myself, “This book is going to resonate with readers and become very popular.” After 85 weeks on the NYT Bestseller List, millions of copies sold, and a movie adaptation released in theatres this week, it has become more than popular; it’s mainstream. Why? Because there are so many people around the world (and not just teens) who, like the book’s narrator, are experiencing varying forms of a political awakening.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a story of many stories. It’s a story about 16-year old Starr Carter struggling to exist between two worlds: her predominantly black neighbourhood of Garden Heights and the predominantly white suburban prep school she attends. It’s a story of her childhood best friend Khalil being brutally shot by a police officer unarmed. It’s a story of grief. It’s a story about systemic injustice. It’s a story about the realities of racism in America that persists today. It’s a story about finding your voice. And it’s a story about a community that struggles to come together against these injustices while trying to restrain their fury towards each other.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Its subject is timely, complex, and rendering. I loved how much the book focused on Starr and her family. Unlike many YA books where parents are either dead or absentee, Starr’s parents and extended family were not only consistently present but fleshed out. We not only know Momma and Daddy, but Starr’s older half-brother Seven, Uncle Carlos, Nana, and her younger brother Sekani. All of these relationships are dynamic and create a fully imagined community. Sure, Starr has a boyfriend and friends from school, but they stand on the periphery in the story. In the darkest and most tragic of circumstances, Starr’s loving family not only supported her, but empowered her too.

While this book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement it unapologetically tackles the question of what racism looks like in America today. Many may suggest that racism is a term of the past but this book argues otherwise. Racism may not have public lynchings or signs that segregate white Americans from African Americans like it was under the laws of Jim Crow, but the segregation that separates Starr’s communities allows the persistence of endemic oppression of African Americans to continue. Racism can look like Starr’s dad being ordered to lay down with his hands behind his back for having a loud conversation with his next-door neighbour Mr. Lewis. Or it can be more invisible such as Hailey unfollowing Starr’s Tumblr account because she didn’t want to see “gross images” of Emmett Till on her dashboard. While this book doesn’t attempt to solve the problem of racism (that’s way too big a task) it does paint a complex picture of what racism looks like in America in 2017. Its picture has heavy strokes of blatant racism, tones of invisible racism, white privilege, systemic oppression, and even reverse-racism in the background.

While this book has a tragic beginning, it ends on an impassioned and empowering note. As Starr is politically awakened, she is empowered to use her voice to stand up for her community. In these perilous times we live in, Starr sets a great example of becoming an advocate even when the system always fails you. And that’s why in the Parthenon of young adult literature, Starr will continue to shine on and off the page.

— Eleni Z.

Boil, Boil, Toil, and Trouble

Preserving the Harvest Without all the Hassle

I grew up on a farm and by this time of year the shelves in our cellar were filled with colourful rows of canning jars while bushel baskets brimmed with apples, pears, potatoes, turnip and squash. Upstairs, our freezer was filled with family-sized bags of beans, peas, carrots and corn from the garden. My parents (and kids once we were old enough) worked together to make our harvest last longer. I loved hearing the “pop” of mason jars as they came out of the canning kettles and cooled on the counter, and watching cucumbers change into the pickles seemed like magic. However, preserving all these fruits and vegetables also seemed like a lot of work! Thankfully, WPL has a large selection of books that make canning, preserving, freezing, fermenting, and storing fruits and vegetables manageable and foolproof.

The canning books at WPL explain everything involved in food preservation, such as pectin, acidity levels, the equipment you need, and the steps to follow to prevent bacteria from ruining your efforts. Each of these books have different tips and recipes. Here are my favourites:

  • Ball is a huge brand name in canning supplies. Their book Ball Canning: back to basics: a foolproof guide to canning jams, jellies, pickles & more explains the whole canning process in simple terms. The book also includes chapters on fruit, fruit butters and sauces, and tomatoes. Each chapter begins with a list of what you will need, tips, and the steps to follow. There is also a “problem solver” and a chart for metric equivalents.
  • Preserving: the canning and freezing guide for All Seasons by Pat Crocker is a beautiful book containing over 500 pages of recipes and information. I especially like that this book is divided by season. You might think the season for many fruits and vegetables is over but there are more than 200 pages for fall and winter produce!
  • The Canning Kitchen: 101 simple small batch recipes by Amy Bronee has a colourful picture for every recipe. I really liked how the author explains the whole canning process in the first few introductory chapters.
  • Foolproof Preserving: a guide to small batch jams, jellies, pickles, condiments & more by America’s Test Kitchen is full of colourful pictures showing you exactly how the food should look at different points throughout the process.
  • Canning & Preserving: 80+ simple, small-batch recipes by Good Housekeeping also includes some recipes to use with their preserved items, such as “Sour Cream-Vanilla Pound Cake with Rhubarb Compote” or “Reuben Macaroni and Cheese.”
  • For those who prefer to watch someone else does canning before trying it themselves, check out the DVD Homestead Blessing: the art of canning. The West Ladies teach the basics of canning equipment and storage, offering advice, tips and tricks.

Freezing is another way to preserve your harvest. The Best Freezer Cookbook by Jan Main provides general tips for freezing, as well as what types of packaging to use, how long items keep, and how to better organize your freezer. It also teaches you how to freeze fresh fruits and specific types of vegetables. This book includes a chart for a whole month of meals, and all the recipes are included.

Fermented vegetables are not only another great way to preserve food but they are full of probiotics and nutrients, help digestion, and support our immune system. Fermented Vegetables: creative recipes for fermenting 64 vegetables & herbs in  krauts, kimchis, brined pickles, chutneys, relishes & pastes by Christopher and Kirsten K. Shockey teaches the science behind fermentation and the tools needed. The Shockeys also wrote Fiery Ferments: 70 stimulating recipes for hot sauces, spicy chutneys, kimchis with kick, and other blazing fermented condiments.

Karen Solomon’s Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It : and other kitchen projects goes beyond preserving just fruits and vegetables. Solomon’s chapter entitled “Spoon It” includes recipes for cornflakes and puffed rice. The “Stock It” chapter has recipes for vanilla extract and Worcestershire sauce.  And another chapter, called “Bake It”, has recipes for bagels, pizza dough, and cakes in a jar with “Stalk It” chapter shows you how to make corn tortillas and chips.

WPL also has books for keeping your harvest in cold storage. Root Cellaring: natural cold storage of fruits & vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel explains what types of fruits and vegetables keep well and at what temperature and humidity levels. The authors describe the different types of storage that are possible, how to plan your own root cellar, and how to prepare the items to help prevent spoilage. Recipes at the back of the book will help you use the inventory you’ve stored. The Everything Root Cellaring Book: learn to store, cook, and preserve fresh produce all year round by Catherine Abbott covers the same topics as Root Cellaring and also has lots of recipes. However, this book also includes information on how to dry foods and herbs, as well as chapters on canning, preserving, and freezing.

If you didn’t have time or space for an edible garden this year, don’t despair!  St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market always has plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables plus visiting the market is a great way to support our local farmers. I encourage you to take your favourites from the garden, market or store, and browse our collection to find the preservation recipes you will enjoy in the cold months to come.

— Sandy W.

 

Why NANOWRIMO?

Have you ever had a story idea that’s been floating around in your head but you didn’t have the time to write it? Well look no further. November is just around the corner, which means you are just in time to finally get that novel out from your head and onto the page. How? NANOWRIMO.

NANOWRIMO stands for National Novel Writing Month. On July 21st 1999, NANOWRIMO was launched by a group of freelance writers in the San Francisco Bay area who sought to find a solution for finishing the first draft of their novels. Their solution? Write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. In the following years, NANOWRIMO has become a global writing event where thousands of writers from around the world use this month to write the stories they’ve wanted to tell. No experience required.

Now, I signed up for NANOWRIMO for the first-time last November and I didn’t “win”. Reaching 50,000 words for the projects I was working on was very unlikely since I was attempting to write short stories. For most, winning NANOWRIMO isn’t about reaching that word count. Winning NANOWRIMO means dedicating yourself to write a story no matter how many words you end of producing. Whether you finish or not does not determine if you win. Daring to commit and try to write for the month is a win in itself.

So why NANOWRIMO? You may argue that you don’t have the time. You may be overwhelmed with the prospect of writing 50,000 words. You may have never written a creative piece in your life and don’t know where to start. But I’ll tell you where to start. Create your account and declare your writing project. You not only can track your progress with your account throughout and beyond the month of November, but you will be joining a community of writers from near and far that you can lean on and learn from. The Kitchener-Waterloo region has its own chapter with liaisons that plan events throughout the month. You can access the Google calendar by joining the chapter with your account. In fact, WPL has a series of writing programs this October and November that writers can look to during NANOWRIMO.

NANOWRIMO is a challenge. There will be days where you’re flying high and days where you will get stuck. Its stern deadline will help you put words on a page for a story you otherwise wouldn’t have written. Yet it’s a challenge that helps us learn about who we are and what we care about through the storyteller in all of us.

Dare to try? Check out nanowrimo.org and the WPL’s programs for writers and aspiring writers to explore the writer in all of us.

— Eleni Z.

Get the Night Light Ready

At Halloween do you like to settle down and watch a spooky movie to get you in the mood for handing out candy to the ghosts and ghouls on your doorstep? Perhaps you have more of a taste for the macabre. Reflecting on Halloween makes me think of how I would rank my favourite fright-filled films.

Now, I’m not really a horror fan. I have been known to watch a movie with a blanket pulled up, covering my face, with one eye peeking over the top while I ask my husband to tell me when the scary part is over. Still, there a few films that I’ve watched and enjoyed which do fit the bill.

One of the most recent horror films I’ve watched is Winchester. It was Helen Mirren playing Sarah Winchester, the widow of the Winchester Firearms company magnate, that first intrigued me. This partly fact-based film (with some creative license of course) wasn’t one of those blood-gushing, over-the-top violent films. However, it does make you jump at the right times and the underlying theme of ‘why’ resonated with me. Although only a few parts of the movie were filmed at the actual Winchester mansion it made me want to visit and see just what made Sarah frantically build this mysterious house in San Jose, California. If you’re as intrigued as I was, watch the film and then check out the mansion’s website.

Another of my favourite horror films is Sleepy Hollow, based on the Washington Irving legend that we’re all familiar with. A headless horseman haunts a town. People are scared. A gruesome death occurs.

What makes the Johnny Depp version of Sleepy Hollow a favourite of mine is the romantic twist on this piece of European folklore that’s been popular since at least the Middles Ages. In this version a personally troubled police constable from the city, Ichabod Crane (Depp), is asked to help the village. Arriving in Sleepy Hollow, he meets Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Ichabod falls in love with Katrina while trying to help rid the town of its monster. This “battle” is highlighted by some CSI-like techniques which have been adapted to fit in with the time period. As dark as the cinematography of this film is, the light in the outcome of the story makes it one to watch.

This brings me to my two favourite films based on Stephen King novels: The Shining and Misery. In The Shining Stanley Kubrick adapts the story of a boy whose psychic powers brings out the evil in an old hotel. Being isolated in a large hotel during a snowy winter creates cabin fever for one of the main characters with murderous outcomes. The historic setting of the hotel and the film’s score of music from the past gives the film a nostalgic feeling which is partly what attracted me at first. The scary scenes will make you jump out of your seat and although the film is slightly different from the book it’s a great movie to watch!

In Misery it’s the spectacular performances of Kathy Bates (who won the Academy Award for this role) and James Caan that originally caught my attention. Rob Reiner directs and one of the best scenes happens as Caan’s character slowly, painfully hobbles across the screen towards freedom and then … BANG … our excitement is squashed and we cringe as Bates’ character ends his attempt to free himself of this ‘misery.’

The final films on my Halloween “must watch” list are:

I’m sure there are much scarier movies out there with blood and guts that would give me nightmares forever but I digress. Whether it’s the spinning head of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, the mysterious woman’s appearance in the Woman in Black, the question of is he dead or alive in The Sixth Sense, the satanic plot of the people in Rosemary’s Baby, the classic shower scene in Psycho or the static on the television in Poltergeist these frightening, suspenseful moments always draw me in. I get the shivers just thinking about these films. For now though, I think I’ll just wrap my blanket around me tightly and make a run for the candy bowl!

— Teresa N-P

Stepping Out of My Reading Comfort Zone

I have to come clean right off the bat and admit that I almost didn’t keep The Saturday Night Ghost Club on my reading pile. Looking at the blurb, it didn’t seem to be the kind of subject matter that would normally catch my attention. I am thrilled to say that I stepped out of my comfort zone and into a gorgeously written coming of age story set against the backdrop of a derelict city called Cataract, a.k.a. Niagara Falls.

The narrator, Jake Breaker, is a neurosurgeon whose career has offered him the opportunity to delve deeply into people’s brains, knowing full well that the slightest error could cause irreparable damage to the patient. The technical details that are interwoven into Jake’s adult narrative are interesting and told with a simplicity that allows those of us uneducated in the anatomy of the brain to understand the concepts and to visualize what it must be like to be at the either end of the scalpel.

The 12 year old Jake takes us on a poignant journey of self-discovery through his membership in the Saturday Night Ghost Club, a group formed by his eccentric Uncle Calvin. With fellow club members, new kid-in-town Billy Yellowbird and his sister Rose and Calvin’s equally quirky friend Lex, who owns a video store that only sells Betamax, Jake begins a journey that ostensibly is meant to satisfy his curiosity about some of the town’s macabre urban myths but ends up stirring up the pot in a variety of life-changing ways. The summer of Jake’s twelfth year ends up being the one that introduces him to love and to the heartbreaking sadness that loss of love can bring.

At times hilarious and yet devastatingly sad, the story told from the perspective of a nerdy outsider feels poignantly real and emotionally charged. While the reader knows from the beginning that Jake has matured into a successful surgeon, one can’t help but be caught up in the dramatic pre-teen angst that culminates in the adventures of the Saturday Night Ghost Club.

Craig Davidson is establishing himself as one of Canada’s most successful and hard-working authors. Cataract City, published in 2013 was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a shortlisted finalist for the 2018 Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize.

— Nancy C.