Thursday, 2 November 2017

Books Unlocked November 2017 - Gothic Novels

Gothic Fiction
The Gothic genre has been around since the 18th Century although it has been resurrected in the 21st Century with books such as Twilight.  Gothic Fiction delves into the depths of humanity, where the presence of the horrible and the macabre represent ‘the dark side’ of human nature which is portrayed with novels such as Frankenstein and Dracula.  The supernatural monsters are often what people think of when they consider gothic texts.

Please enjoy our Gothic displays in the Libraries this month and feel free to take out anything that interests you.

Bedford Library
Bedford Library

Bedford Library

Bedford Library - Not quite Gothic!
Aylesbury Library

Aylesbury Library

Aylesbury Library
Luton Library

Luton Library

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

Who is Zadie Smith?

Novelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother.  She studied English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997.  Her celebrated first novel, White Teeth (2000), published when Smith was only 24, examines amongst many other topics, cultural identity, history, faith, and future.  Her novel won several awards and prizes, has been translated into over twenty languages and adapted for television broadcast.  The same for my personal favourite, Smith’s novel NW (2012) which was also adapted for broadcast in 2016. The setting for Smith’s novels are the suburbs of North-West London: Harlesden, Neasden, Kilburn, Wembley and in particular, Willesden.  Her books resonate with me not only because this is where I grew up, but because she reflects both sides of “my” London in her literature. A pulsing, effervescent city, full of life and opportunity against the tension between the have and have nots.
Among a plethora of accolades, Smith was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002 and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013.
An essayist, and short story writer, Zadie Smith’s novels are definitely worth reading! A sample of her work include White Teeth (2000), The Autograph Man (2002), On Beauty (2005), NW (2012) and Swing Time (2016).  We eagerly await The Fraud set to be published in 2019!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month Mary Prince

Who was 

Mary Prince – the first Black woman to write an autobiography, entitled “The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave”.  Prince also became the first woman to present an Anti-Slavery petition to parliament!

Her book, published during the Abolition movement in February 1831, brought to the attention of otherwise unknowing British readers, the horrors and misery of slave life on a plantation.  Her story echoed that of hundreds of thousands of slaves who had been subject to incomprehensible abuse and hardship at the hands of cruel slave masters.  At the time, readers found Prince’s account of the relentless violence too extreme to be believable.
Her harrowing description contributed to the emancipation of British slaves after the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.
Prince chillingly recalls one of the many beatings she received from a brutal and sadistic Mr Wood - this time for marrying without permission: “She [Mrs Woods] could not forgive me for getting married, but stirred up Mr. Wood to flog me dreadfully with the horsewhip.  I thought it very hard to be whipped at my time of life for getting a husband…
Prince explains how she suffered with rheumatism, and when unable to work, was subject to the most unimaginable torture, locked in a cage and left to die.  On several occasions, Prince begged for another to buy her freedom, but Wood would not grant her this wish, as he knew, when healthy, Prince worked tirelessly.    
Around 1828, Prince was taken to London but continued to suffer ill-health - unfortunately, the belief that British air would appease her aching limbs proved only to be a myth!  However, London would eventually enable liberty as the British legal system ceased to support slavery.  Prince was able to escape ownership and persistent persecution!
She absconded to a church in Hatton Garden, finally taking refuge at the Anti-Slave Society, based in East London.
Prince ensured her freedom and used it to campaign against slavery.
Her narrative is truly distressing but a must-read to encourage appreciation of the struggle faced by Black people during the slave trade.

In October 2007 a commemorative plaque was mounted near Bloomsbury in London.

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

Black History Month at Bedford Library

Friday, 6 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

There is also a display at Aylesbury to celebrate Black History Month

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month



“Poems come from your more secret mind. A poem will want to ask deeper questions, higher questions, more puzzling questions, and often too, more satisfying questions than the
everyday obvious questions...” James Berry (1924-2017)

James Berry, OBE was one of the best loved and most taught poets in Britain.  Not only one of the first Black poets to achieve wider recognition for his work, Mr Berry was winner of the 1981 National Poetry Competition with his entry ‘Fantasy of an African Boy’.  His collections of poetry and stories are notorious for the use of both West-Indian dialect and standard English language.  This was significant in relating the crossing of cultures to a wide range of readers and synonymous with the experiences of his West-Indian counterparts.
In his teenage years, Mr Berry saw no future in Jamaica, so left for the US where he worked for four years as a contract labourer on farms and in factories.  In June 1948 a friend decided to travel to the UK to seek work and it was then Berry articulated “The next ship, I’ll be on it”.  In June 1948, he was among the first in a post-war wave of West-Indian emigration arriving at Tilbury Dock aboard the SS Empire Windrush after an 8000-mile journey from the Caribbean to London.  Mr Berry relates his experience aboard the SS Empire Windrush in his poem To Travel This Ship.

To Travel this Ship

To travel this ship, man
I gladly strip mi name
of a one-cow, two-goat an a boar pig
an sell the land piece mi father lef
to be on this ship and to be a debtor.
Man, jus fa diffrun days
I woulda sell, borrow or thief
jus fa diffrun sunrise an sundown
in annodda place wid odda ways.
To travel this ship, man
I woulda hurt, I woulda cheat or lie,
I strip mi yard, mi friend and cousin-them To get this yah ship ride.
Man – I woulda sell mi modda Jus hopin to buy her back.
Down in dat hole I was
I see this lickle luck, man,
I see this lickle light.
Man, Jamaica is a place
Where generations them start out Havin notn, earnin notn,
And – dead – leavin notn.
I did wake up every mornin and find notn change.
Children them shame to go to school barefoot.
Only a penny to buy lunch.
Man, I have follow this lickle light for change.
I a-follow it, man!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

In celebration of Black History month we hope you enjoy the displays at Bedford and Luton Libraries.