Category Archives: 1990-1999

Year 103

1990: Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Author: Dr. Seuss

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Theodor Seuss Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, wrote and illustrated 44 children’s books over the span of his career, and may well be the best-known, and best-loved, children’s author of all time.  This title was picked to represent the body of his work as it was his last title published before his death.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go is about the ups and downs we all face along life’s path, but concludes ultimately that we’re all “off to Great Places!” if we’re not afraid to venture out and take part in the journey.  The book has become very popular with college students as they transition into the post-graduation world, and contains a message that resonates with anyone facing life’s inevitable transitions.

Year 104

1991: The Working Longshoreman

Author: Ronald E. Magden

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This book is by Ron Magden, a Tacoma labor historian, who has focused most of his career on the Longshore history of the Pacific Coast.  The book is a history of the Tacoma waterfront, as well as of the people and events that shaped and formed the Tacoma Longshore Union.  The book encompasses primary source documents, oral histories, and secondary sources, complied over a 40 year career.  Many of these resources now reside at the University of Washington, and make up part of their ‘Waterfront Workers History Project.’  Included here is an online version of this book, many primary source documents, an interview with the author, and a film about the 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike.

Year 105

1992: The Diversity of Life

Author/Editor: Edward O. Wilson

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Known as the “father of biodiversity,” Wilson has written and spoken extensively on the adverse effects of human activity on the natural world. This book sounds a poignant and powerful alarm over species loss and how we must fight for the preservation for each and every one of them.

Year 106

1993: The Hidden Life of Dogs

Author: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

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In this beautiful account, based on thirty years of living with and observing dogs, wolves and dingoes novelist and anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas brings us a completely new understanding of dogs. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has observed not only dogs, but also cats and elephants during her career. The Hidden Life of Dogs was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year. From an article that appeared in Publisher’s Weekly, Thomas shares her thoughts about the relationship she has with her own dogs:

“The books I have written about dogs evoked thousands of letters from readers whose dogs are as essential to them as mine are to me. Some readers described the loss through death of beloved dogs. Perhaps they wanted to share their loss with someone who understands it, because the loss itself has no societal recognition—no formal funeral, no acknowledged mourning—even though, for some of us, the tragedy is as serious as the loss of a person. And this, I think, is due to the intimacy of the relationship.

We display this through our sense of privacy and also of solitude. Imagine yourself about to take a bath. Your dog is with you, but you feel no embarrassment—you take off your bathrobe and get in the tub. If your audience were human, you might not take off the bathrobe, or if you did, you might wonder how you looked. None of this happens with your dog because the dog is somehow part of you. To be with him is like being alone, but better. For the same reason you might say you were alone even if your dog were right beside you. Again, it’s because the dog is part of you, in a way that no person can be.

As far as I’m concerned, I own my dogs as I own my body. My legs are with me when I take a shower and I feel no shame. If I were to lose one, I’d grieve, and people would send sympathy cards, but it would be my condition that evoked the sympathy, not the fate of the leg. That’s like losing a dog.”

Photo of the author courtesy of the New York Times

Year 107

1994: In the Time of the Butterflies

Author/Editor: Julia Alvarez

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In the Time of the Butterflies was Julia Alvarez’s second novel, and it was one that came very much out of the connection between her personal history and the history of the Dominican Republic. Alvarez was born in New York, but moved as an infant to the Dominican Republic, where her father was active active in a resistance cell against Trujillo. In 1960, her father was found out by the police, and the family fled back to New York, where Alvarez had been born.

Also in 1960, Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal, three sisters active in the resistance, were murdered by Trujillo’s forces.  In the Time of the Butterflies tells their story through their surviving sister, Dedé. A year later, Trujillo was assassinated.

Alvarez’s book was published in 1994, and in 1999 November 25th was designated as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by the United Nations.

Year 108

1995: Reservation Blues

Author/Editor: Sherman Alexie

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We picked Reservation Blues of course for it’s sharp story and prose, but also because it’s Alexie’s first novel and because of Alexie’s ties to the Northwest. Among many other honors, this book won a Murray Morgan Prize—an award given by the Tacoma Public Library  in order to recognize work that is of “high literary quality and wide interest and embodies the principles of narrative excellence and high standards of research …”

Reservation Blues follows some of the chargers who debuted in The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Having happened on to Robert Johnson’s guitar, Thomas Builds-the-Fire forms a band with Victor Joseph and Junior Polatkin. Initially meeting with success, ultimately the band comes apart at the seams and each must return home and find a life path as best they can.

Year 109

1996: Slam!

Author/Editor: Walter Dean Myers

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Slam! is a classic coming-of-age story about a boy nicknamed “Slam” from Harlem who is great at sports, but not so great at school. When he finds out that he has to get his grades up or else risk not being able to play basketball, he challenges himself to do better, even though it means breaking away from his comfort zone and risking friendships. The book culminates in a basketball game between Slam’s team and his former friend’s team, which can be seen as Slam’s triumph over his past.

This book contains some intense basketball games that are so well depicted that even someone who knows nothing about basketball can follow the action! Winner of several accolades including the Coretta Scott King Award and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Year 110

1997:  哈利・波特与魔法石 / Hali Bote yu mo fa shi Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Author/Editor: 罗琳, J.K. J.K. 罗琳著 ; 苏农译. 苏农. ; J K Rowling; Nong Su

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as it was published in the U.S., is the first of the seven Harry Potter novels. The Harry Potter series has been praised for getting children excited about reading at a time when television and video games dominated the entertainment industry. The depiction of a magical world that exists alongside the “Muggle”, or non-magical, world stimulated the imaginations of both children and adults alike and has created an global community of Harry Potter fans.  This copy is a Chinese translation!

The influence of the Harry Potter series on literature, and the fantasy genre in particular, is incalculable. It brought fantasy fiction into the mainstream and the genre has been a growing literary field ever since.

Year 111

1998: The Vagina Monologues

Author/Editor: Eve Ensler

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The Vagina Monologues was drafted in 1996, and in 1998 published as a book. On February 14, 1998, the first V-Day was held. Since then, V-Day and celebratory performances have been happening yearly around the word, raising awareness of  and sometimes funds to stop violence against women.

Vagina Monologues, too, was a first step in our slow cultural movement to be able to (somewhat) more easily talk accurately about women’s  bodies today. When the book was under development, one publisher actually told Ensler to keep the advance and find a new publisher—they weren’t sure they could do the v-word. Now, while a double standard about naming men’s and women’s bodies remains (see, for example the Michigan state representative who was censured for saying vagina on the floor), we are somewhat closer to being able to use plain, accurate language than we were in 1998.

Year 112

1999: Interpreter of Maladies

Author/Editor: Jhumpa Lahiri

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Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is her first book, a collection of nine stories about Indians and Indian Americans. Interpreter of Maladies won many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and launched Lahiri’s career with a bang.

None of the stories connect to each other in an obvious way; each story is unique in its characters and focus, but each connects in its theme and exploration of how people navigate tradition, change, and distance.