Barbara Ballinger Lecture 2022: ‘The Billboard’ readalikes

By Collection Management Librarian Dontaná

Each fall we gather to celebrate and recognize former head librarian Barbara Ballinger and her many years of dedicated service to the library and to Oak Park.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library, this year’s Barbara Ballinger Lecture features a lecture and Q&A with author and WBEZ Journalist Natalie Moore. Join us on Sunday, October 9 from 2 to 3 pm at the Main Library or virtually on Zoom.

Want more like The Billboard? Check out these titles!

Meridian by Alice Walker

Why you should try it: Both novel and play explore the ways in which the personal is political, especially for Black women.

Description: A black woman who grew up amid prejudice and poverty in the South finds comfort and strength in the civil-rights movement.

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Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh

Why you should try it: Like The Billboard, this novel centers a women's health clinic and the people who work and receive care there.

Description: For almost a decade, Claudia has counseled patients at Mercy Street, a clinic in the heart of the city. The work is consuming, the unending dramas of women in crisis. But outside the clinic, the reality is different. A small, determined group of anti-abortion demonstrators appears each morning at its door.

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The Kindest Lie by Nancy E. Johnson

Why you should try it: For Black women, the place where personal autonomy and social impact meet is a fraught crossroads. This novel, like The Billboard, sits firmly in that space.

Description: Needing to reconnect with the baby she gave up for adoption years earlier, an Ivy League-educated Black engineer uncovers devastating family secrets before her bond with a young white misfit scandalizes her racially torn community.

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The Long Answer by Anna Hogeland

Why you should try it: Motherhood is a constellation of moments, choices, and decisions, and this novel explores many of them.

Description: How do women directly impact one another with the personal secrets they share? Anna, a writer who is pregnant with her first child, explores this question when she finds that she is a magnet for the private, tender stories of the women around her—strangers and family alike. In some cases, these stories take the place of more difficult conversations. And when Anna’s own pursuit of motherhood upends her life, the stories become a guiding light to help her tell her own.

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The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Why you should try it: If you've read The Vanishing Half, you'll love Bennett's debut novel.

Description: In a contemporary black community, 17-year-old Nadia Turner mourns the suicide of her mother, leading her to take up with the local's pastor's son; but when she gets pregnant, the pregnancy and the subsequent cover-up will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.

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A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself by Peter Ho Davies

Why you should try it: Tinged with heartbreak, this reflective novel explores the aftermath of a difficult decision.

Description: A family grapples with the decision to terminate a pregnancy after receiving catastrophic test results and must deal with questions that reverberate down the years.

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From the Moon I Watched Her by Emily English Medley

Why you should try it: Reproductive rights are the main subject of The Billboard, and this small town historical novel explores the intersection with mental health.

Description: It’s hot, Texas, and the year 1977. The Walters are a good, churchgoing family who stand for holiness, purity, grace, and Christian love. Except when they don't. Family patriarch and fanatic preacher Victor Black knows many things for sure, including the fact that abortion is murder and should be punishable by death—a position he defends live in a televised debate. One day, Lily, Victor's daughter, begins telling unsettling stories about having a baby who died, and her story keeps changing. This family secret burns more than the lies.

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Contemporary Plays by African American Women

Why you should try it: If you enjoy the format of The Billboard as a dramatic work, you'll find more Black women playwrights in this collection of complete works.

Description: African American women have increasingly begun to see their plays performed from regional stages to Broadway. Yet many of these artists still struggle to gain attention. In this volume, Sandra Adell draws from the vital wellspring of works created by African American women in the twenty-first century to present ten plays by both prominent and up-and-coming writers.

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About Dontaná

Dontaná is a Collection Management Librarian who was born with an unending reading list. She is almost always reading two books simultaneously and is easily distracted by cool covers.