Salome Moreno, Holyoke High School student
“Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move” by Reece Jones
The book was a gift from a professor of an ethnic studies and social justice course whose class I had sat
in for a demonstration. The book starts with a narrative, later progresses into discussing statics and
facts about the issues about strict borders and the despair of refugees. Violent Borders: Refugees and
the Right to Move is a brutally honest telling of the struggles of avoiding conflict and I love that there is
no sugar coating of it. As a child of immigrants, the book gives you a realization about the brutal struggles of moving to
another country as an immigrant. Violent Borders shows the corruptness of a system that is meant to
keep the wealth in regulated sectors. Knowing this motivates me to keep going in my venture for social
justice and bring justice to the various people like my parents who have sacrificed everything to make a
better life for themselves.
Willie L. Spradley, Jr, Manage Your Health and Wealth, LLC
Book: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Reading was a passion in my youth. Life happened and priorities shifted. Reading has now taken the highest priority as I’m focused on taking control of my future. The paradigm shift has been slow but consistent. I’ve come to realize that “success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal”. My roadmap is the book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill sponsored by Multi-Billionaire Andrew Carnegie. What I love about this book is that each time I revisit a chapter I always get a deeper level of awareness. Why? Simply because each reading leads to a time of contemplation. The ability to improve myself required several shifts in my thinking about success. I realized that my current perspective worked well as long as I was content with being content. This book shares lessons from the greatest achievers in the country who were willing to share their roadmap to success. This book is a priority in my everyday life because I’ve accepted the challenge of getting better, feeling better and helping other people feel the same. The principles of this book when consistently applied
have proven to be a roadmap for conquering my challenge.
Patricia A. Spradley, Manage Your Health and Wealth LLC
Book: THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz
I absolutely love reading and had a very hard time choosing jus one book! However, I landed on The Four Agreements because I especially like reading books that help me to be a better person. I’ve read the book multiple times and carry the agreements around with me. I love that the book is a practical guide that encourages you to constantly and consistently check your “self-limiting beliefs”, in a very simplistic way. The four agreements are: ‘be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make
assumptions and always do your best. These agreements apply to each of us regardless of the different ways we may have been raised, the places we live, or the color of our skin. And what I really like is, we all have an opportunity to undo what we don’t like, keep what we like, and endlessly open the possibilities for what we can be and what we can do! All the agreements influence me regularly. But “be impeccable with your word” is the one that is most important and the most difficult for me to honor. And for that reason, I devote the most attention because others receive the benefit when I am doing this well! Over the past several years, I have realized just how powerful my words really are; both bad and good. It has caused me to be very conscious about exactly what I speak, especially for my own life. “It’s through the word that you manifest everything”. It’s been amazing creating events in my life!
News Director at Holyoke Media
“Puerto Rico: An Oral History: 1898-2008” edited by Barbara Tasch Ezratty.
She compiled the stories of dozens of Puerto Ricans.The experiences of the Puerto Ricans featured in this book are told in their own words. I love that their stories are completely theirs, unadorned by a writer’s need to set up quotes and put events in context. The people themselves explain their own context. And I love that it is book that answered the author’s question: What is the history of Puerto Rico, in the words of its people? She is a Jewish American who with her husband worked for decades in Puerto Rico, and she wanted to know more about its people. So she put an ad in the newspapers asking for people who wanted to share their stories to get in touch with her. It was that simple. And the result is a powerful history lesson. Here are the stories of my compatriots. We know so little of our own history; we know so little about who we are as a people. We come from everywhere — there are Puerto Ricans with Irish ancestries, Chinese ancestries, American and from everywhere else in the world. This book is a history lesson, told by Puerto Ricans of all walks of life, in which they share their struggles and achievements, their concerns, doubts, frustrations — everything. It is a snapshot of their lives and Puerto Rico.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle”
I chose this illustrated children’s book because it seemed like a good choice because of my work
at Homework House and because the caterpillar and I both turn 50 this year.
The vividly illustrated book features a small caterpillar who emerges from an egg and begins
eating everything in sight including apples, salami and lollipops. It eats a variety of foods until it
is no longer hungry and no longer small. The big, fat caterpillar builds a cocoon around himself
and transforms as a beautiful butterfly. The butterfly ultimately covers two pages with primary
colors creating his textured wings. The book teaches children colors, the days of the week and counting. It introduces a wide
variety of food and the life stages of a butterfly. The caterpillar’s stomach ache is also a
reminder that there are consequences to eating too much junk food. In life we too sample new
things that transform us into who we are. The book brings back many sweet memories for me. My aunt, who spend here entire teaching career teaching in Holyoke, had a copy autographed for me when I was a child. I remember
having it read to me. I read it to my younger brothers over and over again and then read it to my
own children over and over again. Homework House’s Summer Readers and Leaders is a free summer literacy focused summer
camp for children entering grades 2-4. Please call (413) 265-1017 for registration information.
Barry Feingold President of Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce
“Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien”
I first read Lord of the Rings when I was in middle school, after having already read The Hobbit by Tolkien. As folks know, The Hobbit introduces you to the world of Middle Earth, and the Lord of the Rings takes place some years after it. I have always been a hungry reader, fascinated especially with fantasy and science fiction novels. There is just something about “falling into” a book that brings you to another world and introduces you to so many wonderful and complex characters and stories. After reading The Hobbit, I wanted to read more about Middle Earth, and Lord of the Rings brings so much more complexity with 3 parts to it, I just never wanted it to end. It is the classic and timeless tale of good vs evil, with all kinds of people from different races coming together despite their differences to triumph and protect all they love. Lord of the Rings has it all, bravery, treachery, magic, love, friendship and with so many heroes and villains, there’s plenty of action! I definitely think Tolkien used a lot of his “real world” experiences as a basis for much of what happens in Lord of the Rings. While it may be a bit simplistic to hope that a book could provide all kinds of insight into many of the challenges one may face and the victories one may achieve in life, I can definitely connect to the story and feel uplifted by just how positive it is. We all want to be heroes and help folks, and reading Lord of the Rings just makes you want to “do good” a bit more!
Kate Preissler, Director of Wistariahurst Museum
“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie
I chose The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because I love it as a reminder that books written primarily for entertainment can also be of literary significance. My personal story is that in the summer between 7th and 8th grade my family moved. I found myself in an unfamiliar quiet suburban town, not knowing anyone, missing my old home, and with no school or activities to occupy my time; I was really bored. I ended up tagging along with my mom to the town library which had a whole tiny room devoted entirely to mysteries. For whatever reason I decided that my project that summer of boredom would be to read every Agatha Christie book they had. To this day, if I’m feeling down, in a rut, or just plain bored, I’ll pick up a couple of good mysteries to sit with and binge read to get through it. I think everyone has a genre of fiction like this that is their go-to comfort reading. Mysteries just happen to be mine. For their time, Christie and her detective novel peers were able to be critical of society under the guise of salacious entertainment. Christie’s characters, while famously and purposefully underdeveloped, showcase a range of people who would have been outside the mainstream, or openly vilified, in the post-World War I era in which she was primarily writing. Her two most famous detectives, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, are both outsiders. Poirot is a foreigner navigating a sometimes overtly xenophobic England, and Miss Marple’s success is largely dependent on the way society ignored and infantilized unmarried and older women. In the dizzying array of characters who appear in her sixty-six books are figures who were rarely represented in that era’s fiction including queer and gender-fluid characters, happily unmarried women, non-white characters, people with disabilities, and individuals with mental illnesses. The books’ plots are sometimes driven by the prevalence of (at-that-point- unlabeled) PTSD after World War I, the harm caused by imperialism, and the ubiquity of greed and other dark impulses across identities.
Israel Rivera Area Studies Program Manager CLACLS
“When the Prisoners Ran Walpole: A True Story in the Movement for Prison Abolition”
by Jamie Bissonette
Honestly, I stumbled upon this book while doing research on Social Movements for a
Race and Policing class while completing my undergrad at the University of Massachusetts.
This book is about how the prisoners at Walpole’s Massachusetts Correctional Institute
organized and formed a workers union; this union was a recognized chapter of a much larger
network named the National Prisoners Reform Association (NPRA). Forming a Union allowed
prisoners to conduct collective bargaining with prison administration, as well as address their
living and working conditions. Prisoners began running their own educational programming
partnering with a variety of outside advocates (Churches, College students, Non-profits),
resulting in more prisoners going home for good.
This newfound power challenged and threatened the authority of the prison guards; the
guards union protested prison reform and many of the changes. The guards union organized a
union strike on behalf of the guards protesting the new reforms, guards walked off the job
leaving prisons to be “unguarded”. This began on March 9th 1973, and on that day the prisoners
were ready; they ran the prison without any instances of violence, rape, or murder until it got
over ran by the prison guards that walked of the job on May 18 (almost 3 months).
Prisoners are people, whether society likes it or not, and people run society. Everyone is
needed and room must be made for all.
Programs & Services Coordinator
Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce
“I Looked Over Jordan, and Other Stories” by Ernie Brill
It’s my favorite book anyone has ever given me, a present from my creative writing teacher on my last day of high school. One of my favorite teachers, he helped me tap into my skills as a writer. In high school, I was always carrying a blank note pad because I wrote poetry all the time. I am not really a story teller, but I like to tell stories through short poems.
My creative writing teacher enjoyed my work and he always let me know that. He was a teacher who really saw my potential and taught me how to be vulnerable in my writing, really express emotions. Being vulnerable is important as a writer, it allows the reader to tap into hidden emotions and really feel a connection with the characters you are reading about. I think that you know that you found a good story when you feel enlightened, or you feel like a new person by the end.
“I Looked Over Jordan” is a collection of short stories, published in 1980. It is Ernie Brill’s first published book. Many of the stories center the patients or co-workers that he encountered in the 1970’s, working various jobs within hospitals and institutions. The stories are often very raw situations, but he turns them around to show the light in some dark scenarios. The stories are cleverly written, so you can really picture everything that’s going on. What I really like about not only this book, but all well written books, is that you can really know all of the stories’ characters. I think that’s what’s powerful about reading.”
“The Last Republicans” by Mark K. Updegrove
What brought me to this book is the respect that I have for former president George H.W. Bush, and his lifetime dedication and service to others. This book is focused on former presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – the second father and son Presidents in American history. It is the story of their lives, family, legacy, and service. Although it’s a political book, it also talks about their relationship as father and son, and I was deeply drawn to that as well. The basic idea of this book is “What kind of mark do you want to leave on your community and neighborhood”. The goal should always be to leave our community better that how we found it.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this book is the decision-making process of former president George H.W. Bush, and how he held to his political beliefs. The Bushes have the ability to agree to disagree. Sadly, politics and public discourse have changed, and nowadays politicians do not disagree with civility, compassion, or respect. The idea of respectful dissent or disagreement have turned into a cult of personality where winning is the only acceptable outcome.
The title, “The Last Republicans”, comes from the political change towards how Republican affiliation is portrayed in its current stereotype. “The Last Republicans”, the Bushes are two gentleman that let the values of their leadership within their party determine their lifetimes of public service, their values as a family and their beliefs that we can make our neighborhoods better places for all of us.
Walking In The Shadow Of The Veteran: The Heart Of The Veteran by Linda Leary
It is a Veteran’s caregiver memoir. The book spans Ms. Leary’s dedicated 34-year career, putting a human face on those who served us by serving their country. It captures veterans in real life situations as they try to put their lives back together. Ms. Leary brings insight into some of the inherent issues that are stumbling blocks for our vets while at the same time highlighting some of the wonderful people who help them. It’s especially pertinent at a time when our VA system is often in the news. Getting to know who our vets are is so important. My brother, Jorge A. Pagan, was an Operation Desert Storm Veteran and passed away on February 1, 2019, at age 53. A few days later, this book came into the Library. Written by a Veteran Care-giver and a Holyoke resident, it automatically attracted my attention. First, because it was written by a local resident, so it is a perfect fit for the Holyoke Public Library’s “Conversations with Author” series. Second, with Memorial Day approaching, hearing personal experiences from one who dealt day after day with veterans and saw first-hand what they go through is important. Third, because of losing my youngest sibling and only brother, I thought it could help me understand what my brother was going through and learn why he protected us from knowing too much of what he was dealing with.
Ms. Leary will be speaking at Holyoke Public Library Monday April 22nd at 6pm.
Lora McNeece Barrett
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
I made a goal for myself that I would read one book each week. I share with some old high school friends what we are reading, and one of the people whose reading taste I really respect had suggested this book. I think I read it maybe three or four years ago. The boys in the boat just got stuck with me because it’s the classic story of the underdog. I’m drawn to books that have a storyline that is grounded in reality. My book preference are biographies, documentaries and autobiographies. The book presents what these young men went through to get to the 1936 Olympics. The story is a testament to the strength and the resilience of people who have almost nothing. All nine team members were young college students from the University of Washington who did not come from wealthy households; they needed to work during the summer and find time to practice. These men were all rowing when it was considered to be the main sport in the U.S. These young men were competing against universities such as Yale, Harvard and other elite colleges. They did fundraisers to get to the Olympics, they stayed in nasty hotels, they didn’t travel in luxury, they were assigned to row in the worst lane in the race, and yet they beat everybody against the odds. I am in love with this book because it speaks to the joy in resilience.
Book: “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl
“I first came across the book during my graduate program, where it was a required reading. I believe that a positive attitude/mindset can help you get through hard times as well as positively affect your mental and physical health. During his three years of extreme suffering in a concentration camp, Viktor Frankl discovered that the desire to find meaning is essential to the human experience. One quote from the book that stood out to me was, “he who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW”. This book is very powerful and I recommend it to anyone who find themselves stuck in life or anyone who wants to be inspired to keep on fighting the good fight.”
– Richard Rodriguez
Best Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban
This is one of many books in a series about Frances. Part of the reason why I like it so much is because my parents would read it to me and my little brother. Frances has a little sister and they go on all these adventures, and they’re always either eating or planning on what they’re going to eat next. And we could never figure out what kind of animal they are. They look like raccoons, bears, or like a skunk. They have such big appetites. All the books are related because they’re all about Frances, her family, and her friends. She always learns something in the end, kind of like a “moral of the story”.
Even if they’re categorized as kid’s books, I still enjoy reading them. I still find myself talking about the book with my parents or brother. My parents are from Brazil, so they also read a bunch of books to us in Portuguese, so I guess reading was a big part for us in learning both languages.
2017 Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Parade Grand Marshal Sister Jane Morrissey on a favorite book:
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
It was one of the first two movies that I ever saw, I think with my dad. In the theater, the girl who played the lead character, Margaret O’Brien, was just really good. She was a lovely actress and I could identify with her. The book starts in Colonized India, a country that I love, when there is sickness, death, devastation and grief. All she had was in this new manor house and a head housekeeper is the only one taking care of her. She is just seeing the world that she knew disappearing. She could sympathize with everyone. This new world is enchanting but strange for her. She finds out gradually that there is a boy in the manor house who’s crippled. When she starts to empathize with this boy in the movie, then I became emphatic too. They find this secret garden, which like the boy’s own story life has been closed up and become all brambles. They bring it back to life. In the movie it’s very beautiful because it’s in black and white but when the garden comes to life it turns to color. Several movies have been made of the Secret Garden but this one, clearly, won my heart and drew me to the book.- Sister Jane
Topdog Underdog by Suzan Lori-Parks
I studied African American culture in college. It has always been a part of my frame of reference, literature especially. The play tells a story about two African American brothers who live in a rundown part of town. One’s named Lincoln and the other named Booth. They constantly play on American violence and the legacy of violence. Going back to the civil war, how President Lincoln is supposed to be the emancipator yet died tragically in a theater booth. The play depicts themes of masculinity shedding light on its inherent violence. In a single room setting the two men hash it up, they argue, they fight, they hate each other, love each other, they’re family, they’re not family. It’s pretty fascinating and sad. The time set for the audience and the reader is the present. In 2002 it won the Pultitzer Prize for Drama. Yet it feels that it never stops being relevant. This is an issue that never stops happening and that’s the implication. I taught this book a lot and it causes students to question themselves and society. – Benjamin Hersey
From Bomba to Hip Hop Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity by Juan Flores
“Juan was a professor in sociology in NYU. “From Bomba to Hip Hop Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity” is a very synthetic book, bringing together different aspects of Latino culture and identity. Honing in on the question “What does Puerto Rican identity mean?” Also exploring how Puerto Rican culture has been played out in a diasporic context. It talks about the migration of Puerto Ricans from the island to the mainland. How that back and forth-ness gives certain qualities and characteristics that define Puerto Ricans. This book holds a special place in my life, mainly because growing up in a Puerto Rican and Polish household in the middle of Brooklyn, my identity has always been confusing. On one hand it’s a scholarly book but also a very accessible one. Anyone can and should read it. When I first came across this book I was beginning to look at the work that I was doing in Holyoke and thinking about my identity as a Puerto Rican. It was this kind of framework that he talked about, this nature of being in between, that drew me to the book, both personally, professionally and academically. “- Joseph Krupczynski
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
The book itself I guess has two components to it, first my story and then the author’s story. I was always a reluctant reader, I hated reading. It always seemed like a chore to me, like something you did “in school”. As a growing adult the notion continued. Until a buddy of mine said to me “Hey I have this book that might jump start your interest in reading, “A Confederacy of Dunces”. You are really going to love this book because it’s so out of the ordinary, you know.”
The title itself is a play on words by Jonathan Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him.” The title is a spin on that concept. I read this book in 1991 and people are still reading it, it’s still just as relevant today”- Luis Soria
OneHolyoke CDC Executive Director announces Holyoke – City That Reads with a book he loved:
The most important book I read in 2018 was The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Harris Burke. She is a pediatrician who discovered how much trauma harms the children she treats. Her research and persistence changed the way she practices medicine, and improved the lives of her patients and their families.
And she doesn’t just tell a personal story or a medical memoir. She points the way in meaningful and practical terms for all kinds of practitioners that serve the housing, educational, economic and health needs of children and families.
It’s not just about poor communities, but matters a lot in places of concentrated poverty that are the most severely affected.
It has so much potential for the work we do as a community development corporation that I have given copies to over a dozen community leaders who I hope will help me bring Dr. Burke Harris’s ideas to Holyoke.