Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park


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Daughters of a Nation, by Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, Piper Huguley, and Kianna Alexander

daughters-of-a-nationA feast for the mind as well as the heart, each of the four stories in this romance anthology are set in the turbulent decades surrounding the dawn of the 20th century in the United States; a time when legal slavery had recently been abolished but women and blacks had yet to obtain the right to vote. The stories feature four spirited African American females who are determined to make positive changes through political activism. Readers will find a mix of timely themes including racism, women’s rights, and immigration, each with a light dusting of romance which does nothing to distract from the subject matter.

All four of these stories are fantastic, but I want to highlight my two favorites. “In the Morning Sun” by Lena Hart is about Civil War widow Madeline Asher who moves to Nebraska to teach reading and writing to African Americans as well as inspire them to fight for suffrage. Meanwhile, she must fight against the passion she feels for a white Union veteran with whom there’s no future, due to the strict ban on interracial marriage. “Let Us Dream” by Alyssa Cole is set in 1917 Harlem. With women’s suffrage on the ballot, cabaret owner and natural born entertainer Bertha Hines is determined to convince her patrons to vote in her favor. She finds an unlikely ally in a disenfranchised Muslim immigrant, and their uneasy friendship soon blossoms into something much more.

Stimulating on multiple levels, this is a great read for anyone who values love and freedom.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Daughters of a Nation.


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The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

house of mirthIf you’re a Jane Austen fan but haven’t read anything by Edith Wharton, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of The House of Mirth. Although Austen and Wharton lived nearly a century apart, Wharton’s The House of Mirth touches on many of the same themes as Austen’s work, exchanging English high society for American. Just one caveat: Wharton’s stories tend to be much more tragic than Austen’s.

Lily Bart, a 29-year-old beauty born into high society in New York City, has fallen on hard times since the dissolution of her father’s business and the subsequent deaths of both her parents. She now lives off the good graces of her pitiless aunt. As Lily struggles to maintain social standing, she must bury her feelings for the handsome Lawrence Selden, because his status wouldn’t elevate Lily high enough to recover what she has lost since her parents’ deaths.

My coworker describes Wharton as the Anti-Austen, because their stories have very different outcomes even though their writing styles and subjects are similar. Writing around the time of the publication of Darwin’s famous theory of evolution, Wharton was possessed with the idea of “social determinism,” meaning that people who are born into a social circle are unable to function outside it. So much for the American Dream, huh? Regardless of how you feel about that, Wharton’s ingenious writing is food for thought and still relevant 100 years later.

As a work in the United States public domain, The House of Mirth is available as a free ebook download from Project Gutenberg.

The library also has physical copies available. Check the PPLC Catalog for The House of Mirth.