“Anna smelled the bay, its oily piers. Clusters of seagulls hopped at the shore like white rabbits.”

manhattanbeachThe Brown Baggers met on May 16 to discuss Jennifer Egan’s award-winning novel Manhattan Beach. The novel follows three intertwined characters- Anna Kerrigan, her father Eddie Kerrigan, and the gangster Dexter Styles. The book spans the end of the Great Depression through World War II. After working as a bagman for Styles, Anna’s father has disappeared and now, at 19, she has a job measuring small metal parts for the navy. However, after seeing a professional diver, she starts to train to become one. Because Anna is female, becoming a diver is very difficult and she faces a lot of discrimination.

On a night out with a friend, Anna meets Styles in one of his nightclubs and eventually through him, tries to find out what happened to her father. Styles has become a crime boss, owns several nightclubs, and married into New York Society. They become attracted to each other, and Anna becomes pregnant with his child. After Styles is murdered, Anna moves to California and with her aunt’s advice pretends to be a war widow. She later is reunited with her father.

The Brown Baggers had mixed reactions to this novel- some loved the book, while others did not care for it. Some mentioned that it was beautifully written, and that Egan really got into the minds of the characters. But others felt that the book was hard to figure out and that time shifting back and forth was disruptive to the story. All agreed that Egan did a lot of research for this novel.

A few people mentioned that the story line with Anna’s disabled sister, Lydia, was beautiful, and it really showed the love that people can have for one another. Others really liked Brianne, Anna’s aunt and thought she was an interesting character. And everyone liked the aspect of Anna working as a diver and women working outside of the home, (most of them) for the first time.

Books Mentioned:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

More Information:
About the author
Review from The Kenyon Review
Women divers of the US Navy

The Brown Baggers will meet again at the Central Library on Thursday, June 20 at noon to discuss Thomas Mellon’s Fellow Travelers.

Library Resource Highlight: State Park Backpacks

blog_nature-backpacks2_hcpl_0816The spring weather has been so nice- and what better way to enjoy it than to visit a Virginia State Park? But first, stop by the library!

JMRL has State Park Backpacks for check-out. Each backpack comes with a parking pass that will enable you to access any Virginia State Park at no cost. The backpacks also include pocket guides to bugs and slugs, animal tracks, Virginia birds, mammals, and Virginia trees and wildflowers; port-a-bug field observation container; Big Foot Leave No Trace Ethics Card; magnifying lens; dip net; and laminated sheets with suggested activities designed by both Virginia State Parks and the Science Museum of Virginia.

The backpacks were given to JMRL thanks to a partnership between the Library of Virginia, Virginia State Parks, and the Science Museum of Virginia and with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Find a map of Virginia State Parks here and let us know which state park is your favorite!

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Mental Health Awareness Month

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. During May, NAMI and other organizations are raising awareness of mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families. Read more about mental health with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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Here are a few titles to check out on the topic:
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang – discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life.

Insane: America’s Treatment of Mental Illness by Alisa Roth – an expose of the mental-health crisis in America’s courts and prisons reveals that nearly half of the nation’s inmates are actually afflicted by a psychiatric problem, examines how inmates are denied treatment, and suggests a more humane approach.

Depression in Later Life: An Essential Guide by Deborah Serani – depression is one of the leading mental disorders in any age group, but among the elderly it is often viewed as a normal part of aging. It is not. Depression at any age requires attention and treatment. For sufferers and their families and caregivers, this go-to guide introduces readers to depression among the aging and elderly.

Local Resources:
Partner for Mental Health provides connections, education, and advocacy for individuals, family members, clinicians, and other stakeholders to promote mental health and support recovery. 434.977.4673

Region Ten is part of a statewide network of 40 Community Service Boards working to provide mental health, intellectual disability and substance use services where they are needed – in the local community. 434.972.1800 or 866.694.1605

The Women’s Initiative has free one-on-one sessions with a counselor during walk-in clinic hours. 434.872.0047