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New Books Spotlight: Black Authors (Popular Fiction)

UVM Libraries are celebrating Black History Month with our New Books Spotlight! We’re opening February with a list of popular bestselling fiction by black authors. Checkout this Spotlight and the display in Howe Library Lobby for the latest in our collection.

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

"A dazzling, unforgettable novel about a young Black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system--a debut that announces a blazingly original voice. Kiara Johnson and her brother Marcus are barely scraping by in a squalid East Oakland apartment complex that calls itself, optimistically, the Royal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent--which has now more than doubled--and to keep the 9-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed. What begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger one night soon becomes the job Kiara never wanted but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. And her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland police department. Full of edge, raw beauty, electrifying intensity, and piercing vulnerability, Nightcrawling marks the stunning arrival of a voice unlike any we have heard before."

A House for Alice: A novel by Diana Evans

“In the early hours of June 14, 2017, the world watches as flames leap up the sides of a residential high-rise in West London, consuming Grenfell Tower and many of the lives within it. Across town, an earlier spark has caught fire. A cigarette left burning in an ashtray. A table strewn with post-it reminders and old newspapers. And one Cornelius Winston Pitt--estranged husband, complicated dad, and Pitt family patriarch--takes his final breaths alone. These twin tragedies open Diana Evans's A House for Alice, an aching portrait of a family of women shaken by loss and searching for closure. At the novel's center is Alice herself, the Pitt matriarch who, after fifty years in England, now longs to live out her final years in her homeland of Nigeria. Her three daughters are torn on the issue of whether she stays or goes, and while youngest sibling Melissa also grapples with the embers of her own failed relationship, the Pitt family's foundational pillars--of trust, love, and cultural identity--begin to crack. Intimately drawn and set against a fraught political backdrop, yet equally full of hope, humor, and humanity, A House for Alice traces the scars of grief and betrayal across generations and uncovers the secrets we keep from those closest to us.”

The vanishing half by Brit Bennett

"The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect? Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins. As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise."

Transcendent kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

“Gifty is a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. Even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith, and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised.”

The unsettled by Ayana Mathis

"Set in the 1980s in racially and politically turbulent Philadelphia and in the tiny town of Bonaparte, Alabama--about a mother fighting for her sanity and survival."

Time's undoing : a novel by Cheryl A. Head

"A searing and tender novel about a young Black journalist's search for answers in the unsolved murder of her great-grandfather in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, decades ago-inspired by the author's own family history Birmingham, 1929: Robert Lee Harrington, a master carpenter, has just moved to Alabama to pursue a job opportunity, bringing along his pregnant wife and young daughter. Birmingham is in its heyday, known as the "Magic City" for its booming steel industry, and while Robert and his family find much to enjoy in the city's busy markets and vibrant nightlife, it's also a stronghold for the Klan. And with his beautiful, light-skinned wife and snazzy car, Robert begins to worry that he might be drawing the wrong kind of attention. 2019: Meghan McKenzie, the youngest reporter at the Detroit Free Press, has grown up hearing family lore about her great-grandfather's murder-but no one knows the full story of what really happened back then, and his body was never found. Determined to find answers to her family's long-buried tragedy and spurred by the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement, Meghan travels to Birmingham. But as her investigation begins to uncover dark secrets that spider across both the city and time, her life may be in danger. Inspired by true events, Time's Undoing is both a passionate tale of one woman's quest for the truth behind the racially motivated trauma that has haunted her family for generations and, as newfound friends and supporters in Birmingham rally around Meghan's search, the uplifting story of a community coming together to fight for change."

The fraud by Zadie Smith

“Mrs. Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper--and cousin by marriage--of a once-famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years. Mrs. Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr. Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems. Andrew Bogle, meanwhile, grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. That the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realize. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story. The "Tichborne Trial"--wherein a lower-class butcher from Australia claimed he was in fact the rightful heir of a sizable estate and title--captivates Mrs. Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs. Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr. Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task. . . . Based on real historical events, The Fraud is a dazzling novel about truth and fiction, Jamaica and Britain, fraudulence and authenticity and the mystery of "other people."

The wildest sun : a novel by Asha Lemmie

“Following her New York Times bestselling debut Fifty Words for Rain, Asha Lemmie's next sweeping and evocative novel introduces a determined young woman's search for the larger-than-life literary figure she believes to be her father. When tragedy forces Delphine Auber, an aspiring writer on the cusp of adulthood, from her home in postwar Paris, she seizes the opportunity to embark on the journey she's long dreamed of: finding the father she has never known. But her quest--spanning from Paris to New York's Harlem, to Havana and Key West--is complicated by the fact that she believes him to be famed luminary Ernest Hemingway, a man just as elusive as he is iconic. She desperately yearns for his approval, as both a daughter and a writer, convinced that he holds the key to who she's truly meant to be. But what will happen if she is wrong, or if her real story falls outside of the legend of her parentage that she's revered all her life? The Wildest Sun is a dazzling, unexpected, and transportive story about coming into adulthood--from escaping our pasts, to the stories we tell ourselves, to the ambition that drives us--as we seek to find out who we are.”

The prophets : a novel by Robert Jones, Jr.

"Isaiah was Samuel's and Samuel was Isaiah's. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of sanctuary, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when a older man - a fellow slave - seeks to gain favor by preaching the master's gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel's love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation's harmony. With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr., fiercely summons the voices of slaver and enslaved alike, from Isaiah and Samuel to the calculating slave master to the long line of women that surrounds them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries - of ancestors and future generations to come - culminates in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love."

Lone women : a novel by Victor LaValle

“Adelaide Henry carries an enormous steamer trunk with her wherever she goes. It's locked at all times. Because when the trunk opens, people around Adelaide start to disappear. The year is 1915, and Adelaide is in trouble. Her secret sin killed her parents, forcing her to flee California in a hellfire rush and make her way to Montana as a homesteader. Dragging the trunk with her at every stop, she will become one of the "lone women" taking advantage of the government's offer of free land for those who can tame it--except that Adelaide isn't alone. And the secret she's tried so desperately to lock away might be the only thing that will help her survive the harsh territory. Crafted by a modern master of magical suspense, Lone Women blends shimmering prose, an unforgettable cast of adventurers who find horror and sisterhood in a brutal landscape, and a portrait of early-twentieth-century America like you've never seen. And at its heart is the gripping story of a woman desperate to bury her past--or redeem it.”

Holler, child by Latoya Watkins

“Longlisted for the National Book Award An extraordinary and unforgettable short story collection about community, home, betrayal, and forgiveness--from a writer whose "spellbinding, buoyant"* storytelling will break your heart as it tends to the wounds. *Texas Monthly In Holler, Child's eleven brilliant stories, LaToya Watkins presses at the bruises of guilt, love, and circumstance. Each story introduces us to a character irrevocably shaped by place and reaching toward something--hope, reconciliation, freedom. In "Cutting Horse," the appearance of a horse in a man's suburban backyard places a former horse breeder in trouble with the police. In "Holler, Child," a mother is forced into an impossible position when her son gets in a kind of trouble she knows too well from the other side. And "Time After" shows us the unshakable bonds of family as a sister journeys to find her estranged brother--the one who saved her many times over. Throughout Holler, Child, we see love lost and gained, and grief turned to hope. Much like LaToya Watkins's acclaimed debut novel, Perish, this collection peers deeply into lives of women and men experiencing intimate and magnificent reckonings--exploring how race, power, and inequality map on the individual, and demonstrating the mythic proportions of everyday life.”

Family meal by Bryan Washington

“From the bestselling, award-winning author of Memorial and Lot, an irresistible, intimate novel about two young men, once best friends, whose lives collide again after a loss. Cam is living in Los Angeles and falling apart after the love of his life has died. Kai's ghost won't leave Cam alone; his spectral visits wild, tender, and unexpected. When Cam returns to his hometown of Houston, he crashes back into the orbit of his former best friend, TJ, and TJ's family bakery. TJ's not sure how to navigate this changed Cam, impenetrably cool and self-destructing, or their charged estrangement. Can they find a way past all that has been said - and left unsaid - to save each other? Could they find a way back to being okay again, or maybe for the first time? When secrets and wounds become so insurmountable that they devour us from within, hope and sustenance and friendship can come from the most unlikely source. Spanning Los Angeles, Houston, and Osaka, Family Meal is a story about how the people who know us the longest can hurt us the most, but how they also set the standard for love. With his signature generosity and eye for food, sex, love, and the moments that make us the most human, Bryan Washington returns with a brilliant new novel.”

The heaven & earth grocery store by James McBride

“From James McBride, author of the bestselling Oprah's Book Club pick Deacon King Kong and the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, a novel about small-town secrets and the people who keep them In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe's theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe. As these characters' stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town's white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community--heaven and earth--that sustain us. Bringing his masterly storytelling skills and his deep faith in humanity to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, James McBride has written a novel as compassionate as Deacon King Kong and as inventive as The Good Lord Bird.”

Dances : a novel by Nichole Cuffy

“A ballerina at the height of her powers becomes consumed with finding her missing brother in this "striking debut" (Oprah Daily). At twenty-two years old, Cece Cordell reaches the pinnacle of her career as a ballet dancer when she's promoted to principal at the New York City Ballet. She's instantly catapulted into celebrity, heralded for her "inspirational" role as the first Black ballerina in the famed company's history. Even as she celebrates the achievement of a lifelong dream, Cece remains haunted by the feeling that she doesn't belong. As she waits for some feeling of rightness that doesn't arrive, she begins to unravel the loose threads of her past--an absent father, a pragmatic mother who dismisses Cece's ambitions, and a missing older brother who stoked her childhood love of ballet but disappeared to deal with his own demons. Soon after her promotion, Cece is faced with a choice that has the potential to derail her career and shatter the life she's cultivated for herself, sending her on a pilgrimage to both find her brother and reclaim the parts of herself lost in the grinding machinery of the traditional ballet world. Written with spellbinding beauty and ballet's precise structure, Dances centers around women, art, and power, and how we come to define freedom for ourselves.”

The office of historical corrections : a novella and stories by Danielle Evans

"Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and x-ray insights into the complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters' lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multi-racial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief--all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history - about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight. In 'Boys Go to Jupiter' a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo of her in a confederate flag bikini goes viral. In 'Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain' a photojournalist is forced to confront her own losses while attending an old friend's unexpectedly dramatic wedding. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington DC is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk."