large elephant with tusks and two white birds on its head

 Books That are Relephant

Happy Book Birthday to Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd! Today, we are learning about, celebrating, and loving elephants. There are several ways you can celebrate elephants—going to the zoo, donating, and reading a book featuring elephants are some examples. Below are a few books that feature elephants in a way that acknowledges how thoughtful, sweet, and loyal elephants are.

In 2020, Ooligan Press published Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd by Melissa Crandall. The reader follows Roger Henneous through his career as an elephant keeper at the Oregon Zoo. Roger befriends the elephants—Belle, Packy, Me-Tu, Rosy, and the others—by learning their language and speaking up for them when his coworkers would not. This biography highlights the friendships that can be formed between humans and elephants, as well as the intelligence and loyalty of elephants.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was published in 2006 by Algonquin Books. This novel follows Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student in the Great Depression, and his career as a circus menagerie veterinarian. While working for the circus, Jacob meets Marlena, the equestrian star, and her husband August, the brutal animal trainer. Jacob also meets Rosie, the untrainable elephant that was meant to save the circus. During his time with the circus Jacob befriends Rosie, but he also finds the circus to be a treacherous place. Jacob and Rosie’s friendship is built on his kindness toward her and his understanding that she is an intelligent and kind animal that is being mistreated. While Rosie is not the main character in this novel, the story would not be the same without her.

Square Fish published An Elephant in the Garden: Inspired by a True Story by Michael Morpurgo in 2010. This novel is about Lizzie and her family’s experience in World War II. Lizzie’s mother worked at a zoo and formed an attachment with Marlene, an orphaned elephant that she brought home in an effort to protect from the bombings. Lizzie, Karl (her little brother), their mother, and Marlene must flee for safety after their home is destroyed. They have to make their own path to safety due to Marlene’s presence, but it quickly becomes evident that without Marlene they would not have survived. Morpurgo manages to show the bond between an elephant and humans, as well as the love and respect that develops between them.

The books listed above are only a few of many, many books that explore the relationships between humans and elephants. Elephants appear across genres from children’s books to nonfiction to historical fiction. There is an elephant book for everyone to read and enjoy!.

forest full of green leaves

Asian American Authors of the Pacific Northwest

Exclusionary policies and widespread discrimination have historically made the Pacific Northwest unwelcoming for immigrants of every generation, often creating spaces where Asian Americans are unwelcome and unsupported. Recently, an uptick of hate and xenophobic violence has called attention to charities such as Stop AAPI Hate and #HATEISAVIRUS, which work to end systemic violence and protect Asian communities in America. A list of charities to support, including the ones above, can be found here. In the meantime, you can help uplift Asian American voices by supporting the works of Asian American authors who create and contribute to the richness, diversity, and culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Nicole ChungAll You Can Ever Know

Born in Seattle and raised in Oregon, Nicole Chung writes on adoption, identity, and her experiences growing up in a predominantly white town as an adoptee from Korea. According to Time magazine, “Nicole Chung delved into her own cross-cultural adoption to unpack our collective strengths and weaknesses when it comes to responding to our differences . . . opening readers’ eyes to the complexities of cross-cultural adoption, Chung makes a resounding case for empathy.”

Michelle ZaunerCrying in H Mart

Not only an acclaimed writer but also a musical performer under the moniker Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner’s debut novel, Crying in H Mart, is a memoir about grief and connection through the lens of food and culture. The Seattle Times called the novel a “warm and wholehearted work of literature, an honest and detailed account of grief over time, studded with moments of hope, humor, beauty, and clear-eyed observation.”

Jamie FordThe Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author of Songs of Willow Frost and Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford delivers a “tender and satisfying” story of the parts of Seattle history that “we would rather not face,” according to Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. The New York Times best seller, The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, follows Henry Lee, the Chinese American narrator, as he navigates his past through the streets of Seattle. Ford himself grew up in Ashland as well as Seattle.

Linda TamuraNisei Soldiers Break Their Silence

Raised in Hood River, Oregon, Japanese American author Linda Tamura’s sophomore novel, Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence, explores the history of Japanese American soldiers in World War II who returned to Hood River after the war and were imprisoned in camps despite being American citizens. Tamura, author of Hood River Issai: An Oral History of Japanese Settlers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley, is a professor at Willamette University and works to “[celebrate] the history of Japanese Americans and inclusion in Oregon,” according to her website.

E. J. KohA Lesser Love

Poet, translator, and winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award for her memoir, The Magical Language of Others, E. J. Koh lives in Seattle and was raised in and around diasporic Korean communities, according to LSU Press. The poetry collection A Lesser Love touches on romantic, platonic, and familial love, as well as the parent-child relationship.

Ruth OzekiA Tale for the Time Being

Described by the author as a “particularly Pacific Northwest kind of book,” A Tale for the Time Being follows teenagers Nao in Tokyo and Ruth in British Columbia as they piece together mysteries of the past, unraveling family history and the conflicts of Japanese culture. Ozeki, the author of All Over Creation and My Year of Meats, is a Japanese American filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. According to The New York Times, A Tale for the Time Being is a “delightful yet sometimes harrowing novel . . . many many of the elements of Nao’s story—schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal ‘salarymen,’ kamikaze pilots—are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful,” with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calling it “beautifully written” and “intensely readable.”

Shawn WongHomebase

Homebase, a coming-of-age story set in California during the 1950s, follows Chinese American teenager Rainsford Chan as he comes to terms with the truth of the Chinese American experience after the death of his parents. Shawn Wong, a Chinese American author and professor at the University of Washington, also wrote American Knees and has co-edited several anthologies.