“It takes a whole lot longer to dispose of a body than to dispose of a soul, especially if you don’t want to leave any evidence of foul play.”

Books on Tap met virtually to discuss My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite on the strength of the suggestion of a former JMRL librarian who enjoyed the audiobook. This fast-paced, darkly humorous thriller is not our usual book club choice but we all enjoyed it. As readers we are thrown in medias res into the action, watching Korede answering her sister’s Ayoola’s call to clean up yet another of her murders. Korede is a nurse in Lagos, Nigeria and takes her caretaking role as the elder sister very seriously. Her younger, prettier sister attracts too much male attention and uses her knife when enough is enough. Their mother favors Ayoola so Korede resorts to confessing their crimes to her comatose patient, who inconveniently wakes up. 

We started by discussing the limit of our obligation to family. Korede clearly sees her sister’s flaws and the box society puts both of them in. She doesn’t see helping her sister dispose of body after body as a choice, it’s just something she has to do, even when she likes the victim. The sisters are tightly bonded by the violence they suffered at their father’s hand. This reminded one reader of a recent book club memoir, Educated by Tara Westover, who also describes how her father’s abuse bonded her to some siblings and alienated her from others. It also led us to debate how many men Ayoola has killed. Both sisters start counting with Ayoola’s first boyfriend, but the novel leaves room for us to think that both sisters killed their father years ago when the sexual danger to Ayoola is first made explicit in her own home. 

This ambiguity was part of the fairytale nature of the story. The characters’ motivation and personalities are all well drawn, as are the glimpses we see of Lagos and Nigerian culture, but there is an otherworldly sense. Both sisters are absolutely certain about past and present murders and there’s no sign that the  murders will end. The author, a poet, uses economical prose and precise pacing to draw us in to this improbable story and keep us enchanted to the end. 

And that’s what we responded most to. In a month when the news didn’t stop for a second, this quick read offered a refuge. It took us out of our present circumstances and gave us a movie-like escape that was easy to focus on for a few hours. We highly recommend both the print and audio if you’re struggling to concentrate enough to read  your usual favorites. 

Books on Tap will meet again on December 3 via Zoom. For the link, please contact Krista Farrell (kfarrell at jmrl dot org).  We’ll be reading Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, which the library owns in multiple formats. Email Sarah Hamfeldt (shamfeldt at jmrl dot org) for help accessing these titles for curbside pickup or by download. 

More Information:
About the author
About the novel
Interview with the author 

Other TItles Discussed
Dexter mystery series (the author has family in Charlottesville)
Educated by Tara Westover

Upcoming Meetings:
December 3: Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
January 7: In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
February 4: Elevation by Stephen King

Guide for Job Seekers

JMRL’s partner, Virginia Career Works, has compiled a fantastic new guide for job seekers. Covering everything from resumes and cover letters, to veterans services, to social networking and social media, this document will walk you through the steps of landing your next job or advancing your career. With incredible free resources and professional advice, this handy document compiles everything in one convenient place. 

Topics Covered Include:

  • Strategies to Help Job Seekers
  • Setting Goals
  • Retraining
  • Veteran Services
  • Job Seeker Resources
  • Social Media is Effective
  • Value of Networking
  • Job Seeker Do’s and Don’ts
  • Developing Your Resume
  • Developing Your Cover Letters
  • Preparing for the Interview
  • Interview Follow-up

Looking for more job seeking resources? Check out our previous post.

Looking for a Job? Don’t Be Discouraged!

If you, or someone you know, is looking for a job – don’t be discouraged. Despite the COVID pandemic local employers are in fact hiring. We interviewed Tom Gillette, Manager of Virginia Career Works—Charlottesville, and asked him about resources and services worth checking out for job seekers, or anyone for that matter looking to advance their career. The opportunities are out there!

JMRL: With COVID, and the challenges it’s presented, have you observed a dramatic decrease in local employment opportunities?

Tom: Not significantly. While some employers have cut back, there are many who are hiring. The environment is different, but there are opportunities. 

JMRL: What are some of the industries doing a lot of hiring during these times?

Tom: Actually, manufacturing is staying level. While hospitality in general seems to be staying low, we have more restaurants hiring back or new employees. And, some retail operations are hiring additional employees. In general, these are probably the bigger operations like Walmart and Lowe’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods. And, of course,  grocery stores. But others as well. And, the healthcare sector is still trying to pick up CNA’s and PCA’s and others of advanced skills.

JMRL: What advice would you offer to someone who doesn’t know where to begin looking for a job? Sometimes it can be totally overwhelming and you don’t know where to start.

Tom: They can come see us for help (address below). That’s what we do. Or access the Virginia Workforce Connection. Indeed and other sites have a lot of job listings, but these in my opinion are almost “too easy” to apply for jobs. The result is that employers posting there get a lot of people applying that aren’t really interested or qualified. We’d prefer to give people the personal touch of helping them. Also, the Downtown Job Center and Albemarle County Career Center are available to help folks with some similar functions.

Virginia Career Works—Charlottesville Center
944 Glenwood Station Lane, Suite 103
434-529-6791

Additional resources (click for information):

Greene County Employment Services

Louisa County Workforce Center

Nelson County Career Employment Services

JMRL: Are job fairs still happening? And if so, what does a COVID-era job fair look like?

Tom: We’ve been holding mostly virtual job fairs on Zoom. So, jobseekers and employers can still “see” each other and talk about job opportunities. Not our preference of ways to make these connections, but much better than nothing. Works better for some folks; worse for others. We had our Open Air Job Fair at Albemarle Square last week, and that went well. Thirty two employers divided into two sessions to meet the county ordinance requirements. My disappointment that not as many jobseekers as I thought should have taken advantage of the opportunity.     

JMRL: Could you tell us about the Virginia Workforce Connection website? It seems like hundreds of jobs are regularly posted on there.

Tom: I send that out weekly to our Interagency Partnership group, as well as our Business Services Team. And to individuals on request. Over 500 job orders that the system determines as “local.” Glad to give folks guidance on how to use it. Best to come see us. 

JMRL: JMRL is slowly entering Tier 3 of its COVID Response Plan, allowing the public to schedule 45-minute appointments to browse materials or utilize computers. Are computers available to use at CareerWorks? If so, how does one go about doing this?

Tom: Yes, our resource room is open Tuesday thru Friday from 10-4:30pm for the public. And, we’re not usually full, so there isn’t a wait to come in. We have computers for people to use, primarily for job purposes. We do require that people have no Covid symptoms. In fact, they should be healthy before coming in at all. 

Virginia Career Works—Charlottesville Center
944 Glenwood Station Lane, Suite 103
434-529-6791

Free WiFi is available to access in the parking lots at all JMRL branches. If your device doesn’t establish a connection automatically, look for available networks and select JMRL-Ting or a JMRL Public WiFi network. If you are not prompted immediately to accept JMRL’s Computer and Internet Access Policy, open a web browser and direct it to http://www.jmrl.org. Once you have accepted JMRL’s policy, you are granted access to JMRL’s guest wireless. Additionally, Wi-Fi Hotsopts are available to check-out from JMRL branches. To place a hold, call your local JMRL branch.

JMRL: While in-between jobs, what are some things a job-seeker can be doing to boost their resume? Are their certain skills you’d recommend learning or improving on?

Tom: Always good for people to be looking ahead. Ask themselves where they’d like their careers to go. What skills do they need to get there? Certifications, etc. We’re connected to various programs where people can get training at minimal (or zero) cost.  WIOA is a big one. Additional training now could be worth a lot to them in the future.   And, improve their chances of getting another job. 

JMRL:  Can you tell us about the Goodwill Learning Academy?

Tom: It’s just one of the places that have sprung up, particularly during the Covid era,  to help people learn new skills or brush up on old ones. It’s a good one put together by our training team in Roanoke. Free and easy to use.  I highly recommend it. 

JMRL: Could you offer any final bit of advice to job seekers?

Tom: 

  • Keep trying. 
  • Don’t bank on the unemployment benefits. Those are just supposed to help you while you’re looking for your next job.  
  • Don’t necessarily bank on returning to your old job. While some industries are very likely to return to previous staffing levels, some may never recover. 
  • Consider what else you might want to do to survive. Even if just a short-term position. Many employers understand that the people they get to work for them now may return to a previous employer or industry once this comes under better control. When you try something new, you might be pleasantly surprised. You might like it better than what you were doing before. 
  • Keep networking to find out what other opportunities are out there. 
  • Don’t give up. That never works…

A very special thank you to Tom Gillette and CareerWorks on behalf of JMRL for their tireless work in our communities and for taking the time to share their job-seeking wisdom with us. For additional career-building resources available through the Library, please see below:

JMRL Library Resources Worth Checking Out

Peterson’s Career Prep: Learn about careers, receive personalized career recommendations, create resumes and cover letters, search for jobs, explore schools and training programs, and get advice to help find a job or advance your career.

Universal Classes:  Provides access to online courses in over 30 subject areas, many of which offer continuing education units (CEUs). More than 500 courses are available, and all are designed and led by professional instructors to build deeper understanding and mastery of subject matter. Universal Class includes videos, assignments, quizzes, tests, and options for social media interaction with other learners.

Need a Library Card?: Sign up online for a temporary card and instant access to ebooks, audiobooks, databases, and more. Just click here to get started.