Month: March 2017

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

The Modern Face of Feminism

The Modern Face of Feminism

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

According to author Rebecca Solnit, women have a long way to go before they are treated as equals to men.

In her book Men Explain Things to MeSolnit cites alarming statistics about violence against women that back up her claim. One such fact, confirmed by the Center for Disease Control, Women’s Health USA, WebMD, and other reliable sources, is that murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States today. This information shocked me and prompted me to investigate the topic of modern feminism.

Solnit’s book begins with a funny but frustratingly familiar anecdote about her experience at a social gathering in Aspen, Colorado. The male host of the party pulls Rebecca aside, asks her what she does for a living, then proceeds to educate her about a fascinating book he recently discovered. The book happens to be her own work, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. But so convinced is he that a woman could not possibly have been the author that Rebecca’s friend has to interrupt him saying “That’s her book” five times before he will believe it.

The host is embarrassed when he learns he has been explaining something to the person who literally “wrote the book” on it. Rebecca leaves the party ready to dismiss the mistake, but instead she decides to delve a little deeper into the circumstances which created the all-too-familiar situation. Why was it so easy for the host to assume he knew more than she did? Why did she initially take the bait, reacting in a “typical female way” by failing to stand up for herself?

Solnit’s initial essay exploring those questions went viral in 2008, and is credited with inspiring the term “mansplaining.” She compiled several more essays about gender equality and released the collection as Men Explain Things to Me in 2014.

To continue my quest, I checked out How to Be a Woman by humorist Caitlin Moran. This was a lighter read and provided a bit of a break. Moran’s book is full of relatable stories and personal anecdotes which highlight some of the struggles women experience. She shared her memories honestly and with wit, and because of her openness, her book is likely to make you feel less alone in the world. I would not recommend it as a particularly “feminist text,” but it was insightful and personal, and I enjoyed the book.

Searching for another work which would embody feminist ideals, I picked up the classic Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and my socks were knocked off.

Friedan wrote this groundbreaking work in 1963 and is credited for igniting a revolution. She called the typical expectations and roles assigned to women “soft prisons (which) destroyed the human identity.” She advocated for women to stand up, fight for their own sense of humanity and importance, and not be silenced.

Friedan went on to found the National Organization for Women. She was adamant that women should find their own voice through self-actualization and empowerment. She wrote “Men are not the enemy, but fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It explores underlying issues still facing women and men today, such as personal fulfillment, career vs. family responsibilities, and identity.

If you have a young person in your life who may not be ready to take on the challenge of Feminine Mystique, a new book for young adult audiences has been flying off the shelves. Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen is a compilation of works by forty-four different artists; each contributor shares ideas and stories in a scrapbook format. The works encourage teens to explore identity and cultural norms by challenging perspectives. I appreciated that the book offered many different views, even some which contradicted each other, thus further encouraging readers to think critically.

One important point I want to stress about feminism and Women’s History Month is that stories by and about women are not relevant only to women. Each work I read has relevance for humans trying to live on the planet together, and I encourage people of all backgrounds to read them.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Good Reads for Young Naturalists and Outdoor Lovers

Good Reads for Young Naturalists and Outdoor Lovers

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

Early spring days of tree buds and hungry birds make me look for books that include the outdoors.  Here are some great new children’s books for nature lovers.

Applesauce Weather by award-winning poet Helen Frost is a gentle story made of poems that surround the reader like a soft fall breeze. Faith knows her Uncle Arthur will arrive when the first apple falls from the apple tree, but this year is different because Aunt Lucy is not there with him. Uncle Arthur seems to have lost his stories and his twinkle, but Faith is determined to help him find them both again.  Frost delicately shares this short story of family love and grief, of weather and trees and grass beneath your feet.  Applesauce Weather would be a perfect family read-aloud under a shady tree this spring.

For a page-turning adventure, try Linda Coggin’s The Dog, Ray.  When 12-year-old Daisy meets an unfortunate end, her soul is returned to earth for unfinished business. What makes things tricky is that she returns as a dog. As she makes new friends, she is adopted by a loving homeless boy who names her Ray and sticks with her through danger and uncertainty.  They travel many miles together, both searching for what they need, until Ray remembers less and less what she came for but fulfills her duty as a dog—to protect her family.

In Otherwise Known as Possum by Maria D. Laso, Possum Porter is a rough and tumble tomboy who soaks up country life with her best dog friend, Traveler, and her best human friend, Tully, by her side. But this story begins just after Momma has passed away, along with the new baby, leaving Possum at the mercy of the nosy Town Ladies who are apt to convince Daddy that “LizBetty” needs a proper education.  Shooting pecans from her slingshot while sitting under Momma’s tree, Possum notices, “The Town Ladies were back: It was them Traveler’d heard. They’d swooped onto the porch, all black wings and beady eyes like giant crows, beaks fixing to stick into our business. I considered taking a shot. After all, a crow is a crow, and I have dead-keen aim, on account of I am naturally gifted for such things.” Possum’s honest, rebellious voice is sure to strike a chord with many kids, as she navigates the social hierarchy of the one-room school house, loses friends, makes friends, and saves her daddy from a romance…with the teacher, no less!

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King is sort of a “boy and his dog” book, except that the critter Obe Devlin has found is not a dog. It is not a cat, possum, pig, or anything Obe has ever seen before. In fact, as Obe reached out to touch it for the first time, he felt it “was totally, unquestionably, certainly, worryingly not a dog.”  Obe is bullied by the kids in his neighborhood so he avoids them and instead spends time at Devlin Creek, pulling out the trash other people have dropped in. When he befriends the plastic-eating animal he names Marvin Gardens, Obe has even more reason to protect the Devlin land, and all of nature, from the pollution and urbanization threatening to take over.  Kids will find an unlikely heroic pair in Obe and Marvin.

Young scientists may also enjoy checking out the library’s Nature Discovery Pack, one of 20 backpacks kids can check out on various themes. The Nature pack includes books such as How Does a Seed SproutNature Ranger, and Crinkleroot’s Guide to Giving Back to Nature. Each pack has media and activities, and this one comes with a Magic School Bus DVD, children’s binoculars and textured rubbing plates to create a nature art project.

Kids can join us during spring break this week for a Nature Storytime at 11:00 on Thursday, and ZooFari Tails Storytime at 10:00 on Friday.  Other events include kids’ yoga, CanTEEN, Chess Club and a free kids’ movie.  Check the library calendar for details.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Judging Books by Their Covers

Judging Books by Their Covers

By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian

The cover is bright blue and neon yellow with a bright pink spine. That is how Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal caught my eye. On the back she describes the cover of a book as being extra credit. The contents of a book are really what matter, but a cool cover can help.

You should never judge a book by its cover, as the old adage goes. I believe this is a good rule of thumb when it comes to not judging or underestimating people based on their appearance, but I find that judging literal books by their covers is a perfectly acceptable practice. According to the International Publishers Association’s annual report for 2015-2016, there were 338,986 new titles published in the United States in 2015. If you were to read a book a week, it would take you over 6,500 years to read all of those books, and more than 900 years even if you read a book each day. When faced with those sorts of numbers, you need strategies for finding a good book. If anyone wants to judge you for judging covers, just let them know that designing covers is a legitimate career that would not exist if people didn’t care about book covers. So let’s take a look at some extra credit.

The De-Textbook from the writers of Cracked.com is a book that gives you the truth about the things you learned in school that were often wrong. The cover shows an illustrated profile of a human head broken into compartments, occupied by various things like: King Tut, Shakespeare, and giant birds. A cleaning crew is spread throughout compartments cleaning out the myths, which are being piped from the back of the head via a spigot. It gets the point of the book across quite well.

There are twenty-nine small figures in red tank-tops and black shorts, most with a basketball, aligned in five rows on the cover of Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson. There is also a lone gorilla, a reference to the now famous experiment on inattentional blindness by Daniel Simons. The experiment involved a video in which participants were asked to focus on one specific thing, causing half of them to miss the gorilla walking through the middle of the scene. Davidson’s book is about rethinking education and business in the age of modern technology with a focus on attention studies and anecdotal evidence – an interesting idea with an intriguing cover.

Few covers have lived up to the title of a book more completely than the cover of Incredibly Decadent Dessertsby Deb Wise. Imagine a single piece of the best chocolate pie you have ever had, piled high with whipped topping, and accompanied by a gold fork because it’s decadent. This cover sets the stage perfectly and whets the reader’s appetite for the rest of the book, which is filled with mouthwatering food photography and recipes, each tastier than the last.

The cover of The Butterflies of North American: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript shows one half of a butterfly. The other half is on the back of the book, which is bound in such a way that it can be opened completely, allowing the front and back covers to touch, creating a whole butterfly. This little touch shows the attention to detail put into this book, which collects the full color plates of notes and numerous butterflies and caterpillars illustrated by Peale, an artist and naturalist from the 1800s.

A woman in a red coat and ruby high heels, holding a red umbrella in the rain, and seeming to defy gravity as she hangs in mid-air doing the splits on a city street. That is on the cover of Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter, a book inspired by watching his young son create an imaginary play world. It captures photographs of dancers in regular clothes, engaged in often mundane tasks, but expressing the joy and fantastical nature of a child’s imagination, through feats of athleticism.

This article has come to an end, but a picture is worth a thousand words, so come on down to the Manhattan Public Library and judge these covers for yourselves. As an added bonus, if you happen to judge covers based on their color, you’re in luck. This month we have a display devoted to books with green covers. A famous frog once said “It’s not easy being green,” but it is easy finding green books at the library.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Irish Heritage Month

Irish Heritage Month

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

If your ancestry is Irish, you share that fact with 39.6 million other Americans. Irish Americans make up about 12% of the population of the United States.  In Boston, they account for over 20% of the city’s population, and if you live in the Breezy Point section of Queens, New York, you share Irish ancestry with a whopping 54.3% of the population. Irish is the second largest ancestry group in the United States. German is number one.

So with such a large part of the U.S. population having Irish ancestry, it is proper to celebrate this shared heritage. In additional to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, the entire month of March is Irish American Heritage Month.

You can read up on the Irish American experience at the public library. For example, let’s start with the basics, “1,001 Things Everyone Should Know about Irish American History,” by Edward O’Donnell. O’Donnell organizes his book around broad subjects such as culture, politics, religion, and sports. The list of things everyone should know tells the story of how Irish immigrants have played a central role in defining American character and identity.

The Irish in America,” edited by Michael Coffey, with text by Terry Golway is a magnificently illustrated book. Setting the stage by describing the misery of the potato famine, Golway presents stories about rogues, priests, politicians, poets, gangsters, nuns, ballplayers, union organizers, writers, and common working-stiffs that celebrate Irish achievement and success.

Maureen Dezell explores the unifying myths of what it is to be Irish American in her book, “Irish America: Coming into Clover, the Evolution of a People and a Culture.” More than an examination of a stereotype, Dezell’s book is a tribute to a people that was one of the building blocks of America.

In “The Irish Americans: a History,” author Jay Dolan highlights four dominant themes in the history of Irish Americans: politics, religion, labor, and nationalism. The author highlights the significance of the Church in the history of Irish Americans, and also examines the enormous influence that extreme poverty had on the lives of Irish immigrants.

The Famine Ships: the Irish Exodus to America,” by Edward Laxton, explores the agricultural disaster that sent over a million emigrants escaping the potato famine by sailing to America. Using family histories, the author tells the story of the courageous and determined people who crossed the Atlantic in leaky, overcrowded sailing ships to make new lives for themselves.

Frank McCourt was born in Brooklyn to Irish immigrant parents. The family moved back to Ireland during the Great depression. McCourt returned to the United States in 1949 at the age of 19. McCourt’s two biographies, “Angela’s Ashes,” and “Tis” tell the story of his impoverished upbringing in Brooklyn and Limerick, and his eventual return to America. “Angela’s Ashes,” won McCourt the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

The most famous Irish American family is undoubtedly, the Kennedys. In his book, “The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings,” Thomas Maier examines the family as exemplars of the Irish Catholic experience. Beginning with Patrick Kennedy’s 1848 arrival in Boston, Maier delves into the deeper currents of the Kennedy saga, and the ways in which their immigrant background shaped their values.

Food is an integral part of culture and heritage. David Bowers provides an introduction to Irish cuisine in “Real Irish Food: 150 Classic Recipes from the Old Country.” No corned beef and cabbage here, Bowers gives readers a taste of real Irish food, such as moist brown soda bread, apple tarts, and rich stews. Included are recipes for Homemade Irish Sausages, Whiskey Chicken and Roast Goose with Applesauce, and a trinity of variations on mashed potatoes Boxty, Champ, and Colcannon.

For the literary-minded, there are an abundance of Irish American authors to choose from with titles available in paper or digital format. To name just a few in no particular order: Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Eugene O’Neill, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Mitchell, Alice McDermott, William Faulkner, and Ken Kesey.

You don’t have to be Irish American to celebrate Irish American Heritage Month, but there’s about a 1 in 8 chance that you are. Erin go Bragh!

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