The SWIC Library book club, Bea's Book! was created to celebrate diversity!
Bea’s Book! is named in memory of longtime Southwestern Illinois College librarian, Bea Fries. Bea held the position of librarian at SWIC for forty-five years from July 1967 until May 2012. Her generous bequest to the SWIC Library established the Bea Fries Memorial Library Fund. Through this fund, a great deal of library materials are acquired each year for all to enjoy!
The Taste of Sugar by Marisel Vera
An unforgettable novel of love and endurance and a timeless portrait of the reasons we leave home, The Taste of Sugar “is a real contribution to the literature about the immigrant experience of yesterday—and today” (María Amparo Escandón). With her lush prose and stylistic verve, Marisel Vera emerges as a critical voice for a history too long overlooked. more info… Published 2020.
Recognized as one of 12 best Latino books of 2020 by NBC News and named the Chicago Reader’s 2020 Best New Novel by a Chicagoan.
SWIC Students, Faculty and Staff can request a FREE copy of the book.
A NOTE FROM AUTHOR
M a r i s e l V e r a
My sisters appreciated “The Taste of Sugar,” and I said that one of the reasons I really wanted to write it was for people like us, and also my kids. But my generation, we were the first teenagers in Chicago who were Puerto Rican; in the newspapers and TV they would call us thugs, you know, things like that. And it was really hard growing up in Chicago as Puerto Ricans. Sometimes your relatives said your Spanish wasn’t great, they would say you’re not really Puerto Rican. They would call you American, but you go out in the world, you’re not called American — you’re Puerto Rican. You don’t know where you are, you’re kind of like in quicksand. Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. (Although Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they don’t have voting rights and the island is classified as unincorporated territory more than 120 years since it was annexed during the Spanish-American War.) When you know your heritage, when you know where you came from, that gives you something, a connection to your ancestors. My parents made sacrifices and their parents made sacrifices and they suffered things that were out of their control and why? This is why, this is why we came here. I think that when you know Puerto Rican history, you also learn American history and you learn the truth about your country. And I think we have to know the truth about our past.
This novel is the first exodus of Puerto Ricans who left Puerto Rico for work; it was kind of government sanctioned. When my parents came in Operation Bootstrap, that was the second exodus. (Operation Bootstrap was a series of federal programs during the mid-20th century to industrialize Puerto Rico’s economy.) The Puerto Ricans who left because of Hurricane Maria, that’s the third exodus. It changes throughout the years, but fundamentally, the reasons are the same.
For Puerto Ricans, I just want “The Taste of Sugar” to be a celebration of our culture and our history, our ancestors, and for people who aren’t Puerto Rican, I hope that they will come through with an open mind and a willingness to learn the history of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and the basic history of why Puerto Ricans left the island, because this has to do with now. more from this interview.. more news..
A CONVERSATION WITH
M a r i s e l V e r a
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1 | Locate Puerto Rico and Hawaii on Google maps and locate places mentioned in the book including Utuado and the mountain of Cerro Morales, Ponce, Oahu and Honolulu.
2 | Learn more about the Hurricane of San Ciriaco
3 | Visit the author’s website at MariselVera.com to learn more about Marisel Vera’s work and the book.
1 | According to Vera, many Puerto Ricans living at the turn of the twentieth century were “analfabetos,” people who “couldn’t read or write or do simple arithmetic, and were easily swindled by ladrones, the merchants and government officials who could” (p. 19). Were there moments in your journey with this book when you came across words you did not already know? How did you navigate those moments? What similarities and differences do you see between the way you engaged with words unfamiliar to you and the ways Vera’s characters made sense of words unfamiliar to them?
2 | Eusemia, young and starving, imagines that inside her belly lives an always grumbling monster. “The monster,” Vera writes, “became a steady companion” throughout Eusemia’s life (p. 25). In addition to hunger, what other monsters accompany the lives of Vera’s characters? What feeds these monsters? What tames them?
3 | In chapter two, “French Mademoiselles Circa 1889,” Vera writes, “Valentina was determined that she would be the romantic heroine of her own adventure” (p. 30). Does her dream come true? In what ways?
4 | How do characters cope with being separated from people and places they adore? Are there moments when characters resist separation? What are those characters willing to risk to reach their desired destinations?
5 | “Vicente never shared with others his conversations with the coffee trees,” writes Vera, “but it wasn’t because he thought his brother Luisito would laugh at him, or that his father might question his sanity; it was because it was between him and the trees” (p. 41). Drawing from this novel or from your own experience, what does intimacy look like? Feel like? Sound like? Taste like? Do intimate relationships grow organically, or do they require tending? With whom or what in your life can you share intimacies?
6 | Vera writes that Vicente, sharing a bed with Valentina for the first time, “was discovering how much he cared about her, and it scared him a little” (p. 66). Over the course of their marriage, what do Valentina and Vicente discover about their affections toward one another? What do they find out about themselves by being together and by being apart?
7 | When Valentina comments on the beauty of the tablecloth Inés is sewing, Inés replies, “It’s a pattern of my own invention” (p. 81). Where in the novel do you see characters practice creativity? What flowers in these moments?
8 | “I don’t think the subject of multiple lovers is appropriate for the wife of my son,” Angelina tells Valentina in Chapter Seven, Luna de Miel (p84). In Valentina’s world, which expressions of sexuality are too taboo to discuss and which are socially accepted? Why is this so? How do Angelina and Valentina uphold or challenge these norms in their own relationships? What about other characters?
9 | As Raulito boards the boat to Hawaii, an agent for the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association stops Raulito and says, “They don’t want black men in Hawaii” (p. 235). How do characters who align with whiteness try to exclude Raulito from spaces they run? What are these characters’ means of enforcing their will? With whom does Raulito find community and how do those people include Raulito in their spaces?
10 | On their voyage to Hawaii, Valentina tells Lourdes, “Ay Lulu, I wish you could have been a silly girl like me” (p. 256). Consider Lourdes or any other young person in this story. How are this character’s curiosities in conversation with the lives of the adults in this story? What can you learn from this particular young imagination?
11 | How do credit systems compel the Vegas, their ancestors, and other laborers the Vegas come to know to live by the rules of those Vicente considers “Inside Men”? How do these systems shape the ways Vera’s characters relate to one another in their day-to-day lives? In what ways do they resist these systems? How do these systems live on today and in what ways do you see others, or you yourself, resisting them?
12 | There are many pairs in The Taste of Sugar that seemingly contrast: Spain and the United States, Mikioki and Valentina, ron caña and okolehao, to name a few. Discuss one of these pairs, or another you notice from your reading. How are they in conversation with one another? Taken together, what story do they tell?
13 | When Valentina comments on the beauty of the tablecloth Inés is sewing, Inés replies, “It’s a pattern of my own invention” (p. 81). Where in the novel do you see characters practice creativity? What flowers in these moments?
Puerto Rican Recipes!
Authentic Puerto Rican Arroz Con Pollo
Allow me to introduce you to my mom's classic Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo; a flavorful one pot dish made with rice, veggies, and chicken.
Ingredients: chicken drumsticks, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, oil, sofrito, yellow onion, bell pepper, garlic, pimento olives, tomato sauce, cilantro, peas, rice, chicken broth.
Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder)
Learn how to make Pernil, a traditional Puerto Rican pork shoulder marinated with adobo seasoning, garlic, and lots of fresh oregano.
Ingredients: oil, garlic, oregano, adobo, salt, pork shoulder, orange juice.
Asopao de Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken Stew)
Asopao de Pollo is a deliciously hearty Puerto Rican chicken stew made with sofrito, adobo seasoning, and rice. It's the perfect meal for a cold winter night, or whenever you're feeling under the weather.
Ingredients: oil, chicken thighs, adobo, sazon, sofrito, bell pepper, carrot, celery, bay leaf, tomato sauce, chicken stock, rice, peas, pimento olives, lime.
Empanadillas (fried Puerto Rican turnovers)
These Puerto Rican Empanadillas are made with fried buttery pie dough stuffed with seasoned ground beef, peppers and olives.
Ingredients: flour, butter, sofrito, tomato sauce, ground beef, pimento olives, sazon, adobo, cumin, oregano, oil.
Learn how to make these perfectly crispy plantain fries at home in a matter of minutes! They're a fun spin on French fries, made with a classic Puerto Rican ingredient.
Ingredients: green plantains, oil.
Authentic Puerto Rican Quesitos (in 30 minutes!)
Today we're making a popular Puerto Rican dessert called Quesitos that are made with puff pastry and cream cheese. Quesitos come together in under 30 minutes and are perfect served hot with a cup of café con leche or tea as a treat for breakfast or dessert.
Ingredients: cream cheese, puff pastry, egg, sugar, water, confectioners sugar.
Arroz con Leche
This Puerto Rican style Arroz con Leche is a comforting dessert made with long grain rice, whole milk, butter, brown sugar and spices. It's surprisingly easy to make at home and comes together in under an hour!
Ingredients: white rice, cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, whole milk, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon.
SET THE SCENE WITH
A Puerto Rican Playlist
WINNER: Canada Reads 2022 WINNER: Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction WINNER: Amazon First Novel Award WINNER: Kobo Emerging Author Prize & Finalist: Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalist: Atwood Gibson Writers Trust Prize Finalist: BC & Yukon Book Prize Shortlist: Indigenous Voices Awards National Bestseller; A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year; A CBC Best Book of the Year; An Apple Best Book of the Year; A Kobo Best Book of the Year; An Indigo Best Book of the Year
SWIC Students, Faculty and Staff can request a FREE copy of the book.
A NOTE FROM AUTHOR
M i c h e l l e G o o d
“I think this is the story I was intended to write,” says Good, a Canadian author, lawyer and member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. “I’ve been thinking about residential schools and their impacts in many ways since I was a child.” Both her mother and grandmother were residential school survivors, so Good says she grew up hearing stories of their time in the schools. “It really is something that possessed me, if you will,” says Good. “[Residential schools] were a key component in the destruction of a culture. It’s something that has captured my psyche since childhood.”
Good says that although she did not attend residential school herself, the experience was “imprinted” in her DNA, and that the effects of residential schools are intergenerational. “Even though I didn’t go to residential school, I know I’m impacted by my mother’s experiences,” says Good. “Our communities are suffering because of the harm inflicted in these schools. People need to understand that.” While she doesn’t look at the writing of the book as a form of healing, she does look at the novel as something unique: a love letter to everyone who suffered and survived in residential schools. Good hopes the novel will help everyone who thinks reconciliation has been achieved in Canada understand that there’s still a long way to go. more ...
B i o g r a p h y
Michelle Good is of Cree ancestry, a descendent of the Battle River Cree and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation. She has worked with indigenous organizations since she was a teenager and at forty decided to approach that work in a different way obtaining her law degree from UBC at 43. She has practiced law in the public and private sector since then, primarily advocating for Residential School Survivors.
She graduated from UBC with a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing MFA in 2014 where her novel Five Little Indians first started taking shape. Her poetry, and short stories have appeared in a number of publications. Her first novel, Five Little Indians won the HarperCollins/UBC Best New Fiction Prize and her poetry has been included in Best Canadian Poetry in Canada 2016 and Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in Canada 2017. Michelle is currently working on her second novel.
Michelle Good and Christian Allaire discuss the novel Five Little Indians
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1 | Learn about The Survivors’ Flag, an expression of remembrance, meant to honor residential school Survivors and all the lives and communities impacted by the residential school system in Canada. Each element depicted on the flag was carefully selected by Survivors from across Canada, who were consulted in the flag’s creation.
2 | Learn more about the history of the Residential Schools from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
3 | Read the statement and watch the video - apology to former residents of Indian Residential schools.
Statement of apology to former residents of Indian Residential Schools - On Wednesday June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, made a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools, on behalf of the Government of Canada.
The Day of the Apology (video) - Highlights from June 11, 2008, the day the Prime Minister of Canada issued an apology for the Indian Residential Schools system.
1 | What do you know of the author’s connection to the Residential School system in Canada? How has their life experience impacted the writing?
2 | What was your previous knowledge of the Residential School system before reading the book? Had you watched survivors’ testimonies, or read The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report?
3 | Why do think Good chose to depict the character’s life after they had left the school, and not during their experience there?
4 | Each character in the book shows us a different method of coping, healing, and living with the trauma inflicted by the Church and the Canadian government. Which character's story impacted you the most?
5 | How can the effects of the schools be felt throughout the victims’ lives and generations after?
6 | The precipice of the novel centers around showing the true effect of intergenerational trauma. As Michelle Good has said herself, “Trauma is almost like osmosis. When you’re living with people that have trauma responses, you learn those.” Despite being a common and important thread to each character, this is especially seen between Clara and Kenny as they grow up, begin to have kids and try to rebuild a life after the school. How did their trauma manifest and effect their development as they moved through adulthood?
7 | The novel highlights this further through the trauma within families. Maisie highlights this when she says, “the rest of us ran too, right into that crowd of grown-ups who were supposed to be our parents.” Why was this phrased this way? What does it mean? Discuss the stories of parents throughout the book and the trauma that they too experienced.
8 | In keeping with this concept, Kenny is reunited with another child from the school, whilst working as a picker on an orchard. There is an exchange prior to picking up their paychecks;
“Yeah, well, we’re back in the same place again, aren’t we?” Kenny motioned toward the foreman, his khakis still spotless, blowing on a whistle and yelling for everyone to hurry up.
What is the symbolism of this scene? What does it represent about the structures at play for Indigenous Peoples?
9 | Five Little Indians highlights the systemic racism that lives within the foundational structures of society. This is shown through each character’s interactions with the police and judicial systems, as well as health and medical services, in post Residential School system life. Some examples include when Maisie is in the hospital or when Howie is moving through the prison system. Discuss these interactions with your group and how systemic racism and oppression are prevalent both in other elements of the book and in North America today.
10 | Maisie is a particularly tough exterior character, explained in the book description as having, “internalized her pain and continually placing herself in dangerous situations.” Finally, Maisie has a vulnerable moment with a healer within her community and states, “We were children, me and Lily, and neither of us survived, even though I’m still walking.” What does this mean? How does this manifest in her actions and the ways she interprets the world?
11 | Discuss with your group the symbolism of the pinching, not only its act but when it came up in the book. Why do you think this was included? What did this add to the story?
12 | a) The impact of the residential school system is continuously whitewashed and portrayed as something of the past, despite the last school closing in 1996. Many call into question the failure of the education system as having a role in this. Discuss your experience, if any, in learning about the Residential School system prior to reading this book. Was this topic ever discussed within your family, your school, your friend groups, your workplace? b) Did you learn something new in reading Five Little Indians, if so, what?
13 | What is something that you can take from reading this book, that be applied in your everyday?
14 | Who would you recommend Five Little Indians to? Why?
SET THE SCENE WITH
An Inspired Playlist
The song is about the experience my Aunt and Uncles went through in the Shubenacadie Residential School. Wolastoqey Language is sung “Apatapasiq Wasisok” Children come home. Dedicated to my family and all the Residential School Survivors.
“All the children that were misplaced can never get back what was stolen from them. Survivors try their best. My dad and I are lucky because we were able to find our way back home to our blood family, to our community, to each other even,” says Jayli Wolf, “But that’s not the story for everyone. Some kids were sold to the USA, or even as far as Australia. Some survivors have since learned that their biological families have passed – those ties are broken forever. I am lucky that I found my way back home, but now the work starts. Now the reclamation begins for me.” – Jayli Wolf
Like many of our pieces, when we began recording this piece, we didn’t know what it was about. Many times, we don’t know what our pieces are actually about until we’ve finished recording them and the piece shows us what it is. It wasn’t until we recorded the basic track and were listening to the playback in the studio in 2016 and hearing the pain and fear in the music that we understood this piece was about what kids experienced in the Residential School/Boarding School system and how the fallout from this effected our families and communities in massive ways.
“The Stranger” is the first full chapter and song of The Secret Path. Adapted from Gord Downie’s album and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel, The Secret Path chronicles the heartbreaking story of Chanie Wenjack’s residential school experience and subsequent death as he escapes and attempts to walk 600 km home to his family.
A Two-Spirit Mohawk musician and winner of CBC’s 2020 Searchlight Award for “Canada’s best undiscovered talent” has long shed light on the struggles faced by Indigenous communities. Last year, she performed her 2017 song “Warrior Heart” at Parliament Hill’s Canada Day event to bring awareness to the nationwide suicide crisis in Indigenous communities.
Song written and sung by Gary Fjellgaard at the St Joseph’s Mission Residential School Reunion held May 17 to 19 2013. Inspired by the apology of Prime Minister Harper to Residential School Survivors. One of a number of videos created during the Truth and Reconciliation testimony gathering May 2013 in Williams Lake.
This song was inspired by reading Edmund Metatawabin’s book titled, “Up Ghost River”. All us non-indigenous people should read it. It studied the Residential School system at university but Edmund’s book brought it to life in his book. Edmund’s story is horrific and oddly hopeful, but ultimately triumphant.
Cindy Paul’s rich vocals and rhythms combine for a melodic and insightful journey through your imagination and into your heart. On a small ranch near Fort Vermilion, Alberta, a young girl of Metis/Cree decent discovered the power of combining her voice with a guitar. By fifteen, she was composing her own songs, and at twenty one, walked into a studio, paid for an hour session and walked out with her first demo. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Barry Allen at Homestead Recorders and Cindy Paul’s dream of recording her own songs. This song was written in 1990 and was inspired by a Residential School survivor. In the spring of 2015, a video of “He Can Fancy Dance” had been shared over a million times on social media which propelled the official release of This Northern Girl for international sale.
These videos contain both parts of a special presentation called
“Every Child Matters: Truth and Reconciliation”
courtesy of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
In his latest work, Atta flawlessly captures the pain, rage, and resilience of a boy growing to manhood while feeling like an outsider in his own life. Michael, a British boy of Greek Cypriot and Jamaican descent, feels caught between worlds: Black and White, masculine and feminine, straight and gay. more info… Published 2020.
Winner of the Stonewall Book Award; Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal; Shortlisted for the Jhalak Book Prize.
SWIC Students, Faculty and Staff can request a FREE copy of the book.
A CONVERSATION WITH
Poetry from The Black Flamingo | Dean Atta Live Performance
1 | Michael has different names at different points in his life—some he is given, some he chooses for himself. How do the different names relate to Michael and his relationships? What different names or nicknames do you have for different parts of your life?
2 | Identity impacts Michael is so many ways—his mixed heritage, his sexual identity, his family roles (son, brother, grandson, etc.). Which identities impact your life the most and how so? Despite his mother insisting that he isn’t “half anything” (pg. 35), Michael often feels he doesn’t neatly fit into his identities. When does he feel this way? When have you?
3 | When Daisy asks Michael to protect her from the lesbians (pg. 176) at the club, Michael angrily calls out her homophobia; yet he is far less decisive about calling out her racism. What do you make of this difference in response? Later when Daisy apologizes and comes out to Michael (pg. 247), she admits to internalized homophobia. How else does internalized oppression impact Michael’s relationships and identity?
4 | Look at ways that Michael uses flamingos in his story and his poems, including his stage name. What makes this an effective metaphor in his story? What other metaphors and similes does Michael use to write about his experiences?
5 | In “Men Are Sandcastles” on pg. 240, Michael compares men to pebbles and the patriarchy to the bucket that gives them rigid but unstable form. Have you heard of the patriarchy? Describe it. How does it shape Michael and the other men in the book? Why do you think this poem appears between Michael losing his virginity (pg. 225-227) and buying his first pair of heels (pg. 243)?
6 | When Michael cuts his locs (pg. 268), he says “I’m shedding / something other / people use to define / me, falling to my feet.” How do people in the book use Michael’s locs to define him? What parts of you (how you present, activities you do, places you’re from) do people use to define you positively or negatively?
7 | In the poem “How to Do Drag” (pg. 330-331), Michael writes in one stanza “Don’t punch / or kick downward at groups in society / with less power or privilege than you” (pg. 331). What does he mean by this? Where have you seen Michael or other characters “punch down” in the book? Why is it important not to “punch down,” specifically for a drag performance?
8 | Performance is a major theme in Michael’s story. What different kinds of performance are happening and how do they impact Michael’s life? In his two poems “How to Do Drag” (pg. 330) and “What It’s Like to Be a Black Drag Artist” (pg. 334), Michael writes about how performance can be more authentic than reality. Do you agree? What kind of performance is a part of your life?
Celebratory Pride Recipes!
Taken from, Today Show's, 36 celebratory Pride recipes from LGBTQ chefs and cooks
SET THE SCENE WITH
A Pride Playlist
Featuring 30 Upbeat Songs by LGBTQ Pop Stars and Allies, created by TODAY, 2022.
Who can participate?
Bea's Book! is self-guided. You can participate individually, pair up with a friend, or form a group. It is open to Southwestern Illinois College students, faculty and staff as well as the community. Everyone is invited!
You can read as many as you like. One to three award-winning books are selected each semester. Descriptions of each book are found on this page.
How to participate?
Review the book descriptions and determine which book(s) you'd like to read! You can request a free copy through the library's loan system (see the 'How to Get Book' TAB on this page). Book Club TABS contain discussion questions, author information and much more to enhance your experience! Participate individually, with a friend, or better yet - gather a group and discuss your thoughts together!
Want more information?
Talk to a friendly librarian. We're excited to meet you! Stop by anytime the library is open. Can't make it to the library? Contact us via email with your questions - we'll be in touch soon!