Transgender Women of Color

This month, we are exploring transgender issues and themes in support of the 2017 Arlington Reads Together selection, “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family.” Recent news stories have explored the lives of transgender women of color. Using library resources, learn more about the challenges of these women who live at the intersection of race and gender.

Here is a selection from our library resources:
Transgender Women Fear Mistreatment and Abuse in Immigration Detention
The New York Times, January 11, 2017

Bell Hooks: a conversation with Laverne Cox
Appalachian Heritage Fall 2015

Elle Hearns: Transforming transgender in America
UWIRE Text., Mar. 11, 2017

Read Janet Mock’s Empowering Speech on Trans Women of Color and Sex Workers
The Cut, Jan. 22, 2017

Memoirs, Books, Movies and more:






Online Resources:

TransWomen of Color Collective

Trans Student Educational Resources


click to enlarge

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Gender Spectrum Panel: an Arlington Reads Together event on 3/28

We can hardly believe that March is coming to a close, and with it, Arlington Reads Together. We’ve had an incredible month thus far and are excited about the culminating program. Join us for a Gender Spectrum panel on Tuesday March 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the Robbins Library Community Room. This event is part of Arlington Reads Together 2017 which has explored issues inspired by “Becoming Nicole.

The gender spectrum panel brings together three individuals who who have a variety of gender identities that fall under the trans umbrella: transgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, or otherwise gender variant. What does gender spectrum mean? It can be defined as “rather than a rigid, binary concept grounded in biology, it presents a model for understanding gender that incorporates a spectrum of characteristics, including an individual’s sex, gender expression and gender identity. In the process, a more nuanced understanding of this core aspect of self emerges, accounting for each person’s unique gender experiences”. (Source: Dimensions of the Gender Spectrum from

Meet the panelists who will share their professional experience working with trans people and personal experiences being part of the trans community.

  • AJ Brown is gender fluid/androgynous and works as a therapist at a non-profit psychiatric hospital.
  • Taj Smith is black, transgender, and Christian. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 2016 and currently works there as an Academic Coordinator.  
  • Bobbi Taylor identifies as genderqueer and serves as Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and as an LGBTQIA+ representative on the State Commission for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.

The 2017 Arlington Reads Together selection is “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family” by Amy Ellis Nutt. “Becoming Nicole,” published in 2015, is the story of a rural American family who are middle-class and politically conservative. Ms. Maines and her brother were assigned male at birth. Around age two, Ms. Maines started to express her gender identity as a girl. 


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Quick (nonfiction) books

To help those who want to make reading a part of their lives but find “big” books daunting, we’ve compiled a list of short nonfiction books. These books may be small in terms of page count, but they contain big ideas. Try one now!

Looking for short novels? Check out this list.


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (52 pgs)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (152 pgs)

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (159 pages)

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken (184 pages)

Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado (195 pages)

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (205 pages)

Learning to Drive: and other life stories by Katha Pollitt (207 pages)

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (208 pages)

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham (209 pages)

We Learn Nothing: essays and cartoons by Tim Kreider (221 pages)

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (223 pages)

Love Is A Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield (224 pages)

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris (228 pages)

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (228 pages)

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (242 pages)

Truth & Beauty: a friendship by Ann Patchett (257 pages)

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (260 pgs)

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (276 pages)

Just Kids by Patti Smith (278 pages)

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (299 pages)

Looking for even more suggestions? Try these related posts about short stories, funny books, books with great “hooks,” and how to make time for reading in your life:

“No time? No problem” (November 2016)

“How do you read so much?” (May 2014)

“If you’ve never read a book before…” (July 2013)

“Make me laugh” (March 2013)

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Quick, a book!

Do you read less now than you did during another time in your life? Do you miss it? Would you like to read more, but can’t commit to one of those 500+ page Serious Works of Literature?

Fortunately for us readers, length and quality have no correlation! Here are some excellent shorter novels to try if you’re pressed for time but want to pick up a book again. These are all novels, and a few short story collections, written for adults – we have, with regret, left many excellent teen novels, graphic novels, and poetry collections off the list.


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (90 pages)

Animal Farm by George Orwell (113 pages)

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin (123 pages)

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (129 pages)

Shopgirl by Steve Martin (130 pages)

Roller Girl by Vanessa North (130 pages)

The Bed Moved: Stories by Rebecca Schiff (139 pages)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (146 pages)

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan (146 pages)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (150 pages)

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss (163 pages)

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (163 pages)

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens (165 pages)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (170 pages)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (176 pages)

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill (179 pages)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (181 pages)

The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima (182 pages)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (184 pages)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (195 pages)

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (203 pages)

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow (208 pages)

The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert (210 pages)

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy (211 pages)

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (218 pages)

A Separation by Katie Kitamura (229 pages)

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey (232 pages)

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (232 pages)

Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (233 pages)

Twixt by Sarah Diemer (238 pages)

Ghost by Alan Lightman (243 pages)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (244 pages)

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (248 pages)

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (249 pages)

Carrie by Stephen King (253 pages)

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (254 pages)

Perfume: the story of a murderer by Patrick Suskind (255 pages)

The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken (259 pages)

Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (266 pages)

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (272 pages)

The Lifeboat, Charlotte Rogan (278 pages)

Looking for even more suggestions? Try these related posts about short stories, funny books, books with great “hooks,” and how to make time for reading in your life:

“No time? No problem” (November 2016)

“How do you read so much?” (May 2014)

“If you’ve never read a book before…” (July 2013)

“Make me laugh” (March 2013)

Next up: quick nonfiction books. Stay tuned!

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Next NSYA Book Group

Thanks to everyone who came to last night’s Not-So-Young Adult Book Group discussion!

Next month we’ll be meeting on April 19 at 7pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room to discuss Nation by Terry Pratchett. Here’s a descriptoin:

The sea has taken everything. Mau is the only one left after a giant wave sweeps his island village away. But when much is taken, something is returned, and somewhere in the jungle Daphne–a girl from the other side of the globe–is the sole survivor of a ship destroyed by the same wave. Together the two confront the aftermath of catastrophe. Drawn by the smoke of Mau and Daphne’s sheltering fire, other refugees slowly arrive: children without parents, mothers without babies, husbands without wives–all of them hungry and all of them frightened. As Mau and Daphne struggle to keep the small band safe and fed, they defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself, and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside down.

Copies are available now at the front desk.

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group is a book discussion group for adults in which we read and discuss books written for teens. It’s a casual friendly group and newcomers are always welcome!

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Overdrive Big Library Read

Cover image of Art of the Pie
Every so often, Overdrive has a “Big Library Read,” offering one e-book that everyone can read at once (no wait list!). The next book is a cookbook by Kate McDermott called Art of the Pie: a practical guide to homemade crusts, filling, and life. And who doesn’t enjoy reading about pie?

The Big Library Read is from March 16 – March 30. Use your library card number and PIN/password to check out Art of the Pie from Overdrive. If you’d prefer to read the book in print, request it here.

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Computer Basics: Social Media

This month, our computer basics class focuses on social media. Some of the most popular social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

  • Are you curious about social media, but nervous about joining a network, or not sure which one to choose?
  • Do you have a social media account, but don’t feel confident using all its functions?
  • Do you want to share photos with friends and family?

Then this class is for you!

All are welcome, no registration required. We’ll meet on Thursday, March 23, from 3-4pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room. Bring your own laptop or check out one of ours before the class starts.

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True Story Theater: “Becoming Nicole” stories on Wed 3/15

becomingnicolecoverWe are pleased to partner with True Story Theater for an Arlington Reads Together event. You are invited to an exploration that honors the experience of people who have often been stigmatized for simply claiming their own true identities.

True Story Theater will invite participants to share their thoughts and feelings about “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family”, the 2017 Arlington Reads Together selection, and about their relationship to the experience of trans* and different gender identities.

True Story Theater will use improvisational drama, music, and movement to enact and honor what is shared by audience volunteers.  All are welcome at this event. It’s fine to come and simply watch and learn from what others share.

This event will be held in the Robbins Library Conference Room, and will begin at 7:00 pm. This event is open and free to the public.

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March’s readalike: A Gentleman in Moscow

Readalike graphic,

This month’s read-alike focus is the novel A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Towles has written one previous novel, Rules of Civility, centered around the marvelous Katy Kontent, an independent young working woman in 1930s New York.

Cover image of A Gentleman in Moscow

Novels are a bit like people: it can be hard to explain why you like one so much, and it can be downright impossible to find one that’s “just the same,” because they are all unique. This is when librarians start to ask about appeal factors: what did you like about the book? Was it the strong characters, the ingenious plot, the lush description, the humor, the imagination, the particular writing style or voice?

Towles’ novels are certainly character-driven, though setting is also powerfully important. A Gentleman in Moscow is set in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, where Count Alexander Rostov is under house arrest. Though his movements are circumscribed, he has his memories, as well as what news of the outside world filters in through newspapers, friends, and acquaintances; Russia changes while Rostov stays in the Metropol.

Here are some other character-driven novels set in interesting times and/or places.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017): This novel is even more recent than A Gentleman in Moscow and there may be a bit of a wait for it too – but it is well worth the wait. A sweeping epic of a Korean family living in Japan from about 1910-1989, Pachinko is full of characters with great integrity, suffering and surviving historical circumstances out of their control.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (2013): “A big, old-fashioned story that spans continents and a century” (Publishers Weekly), it begins with Henry Whittaker but is largely the story of his daughter Alma, from her childhood through her adolescence and into adulthood. Disappointed in love, Alma focuses her attention on the natural world, and comes up with a theory very close to Darwin’s – before his was published.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane (2013): Everyone has heard of Typhoid Mary – but who was she really? An Irish immigrant to New York with a passion for cooking and a need to survive on those skills. Keane humanizes “Typhoid” Mary Mallon and brings New York in the early 1900s to life vividly. This is top-notch historical fiction with a great character at its heart.

The Third Son by Julie Wu (2013): Saburo is the third son of a Taiwanese family in Japan-occupied Taiwan. Mistreated by his family, yet loyal to them, he struggles to become educated and go to a university in the United States. Once there, he must decide whether to follow his own desires, or do what his family wants.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (2012): Past and present collide when an old Italian man shows up on a movie studio lot in the present day. He’s looking for an actress who visited his hotel in the 1960s, and he draws others into his search. The story alternates between past and present, with lush descriptions of the Italian coast.

Cover image of Commonwealth

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2011): Patchett’s most recent novel, Commonwealth, was published last fall and is still in high demand. But she has published several other novels, as well as a memoir, a collection of personal essays, and a graduation speech. Her 2011 novel, State of Wonder, sends pharmaceutical researcher Marina Singh into the Amazon jungle to retrieve a colleague’s body and finish his work there. This isn’t a straightforward task to begin with, and it becomes even more complicated when Marina discovers the nature of her colleague’s work.

Tip for finding “readalikes”: Try using our database NoveList, which you can access from home with your library card number.

Are you choosing a book for your book club to read? If everyone in your group plans on getting a library copy, make sure there isn’t a long wait. Check out our “What makes a good book club book?” blog post for more tips.

Want a readalike recommendation? Leave a comment below (e.g. “I just finished Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning and I’m looking for another mystery series to dig into”).




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Not-So-Young Adult Book Group Meets on 3/15

The NSYA Book Group will meet next Wednesday, March 15, at 7pm in the 4th floor conference room.

We’ll be discussing The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.

This is a popular one so it’s been tough to get copies! But there are still a couple left at the front desk.

Copies of our next book, Nation by Terry Pratchett, should be available for pickup by next week’s meeting.

Hope to see lots of you next week!

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group is a book discussion for adults, but we read books written for teens. Newcomers are always welcome!

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