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Machu Picchu is what dreams are made of, at least one of mine anyway. Long had I wanted to visit this magical place, immerse myself in the colorful textiles and culture. I went expecting much, and I returned not disappointed. The food, people, landscape, Incan ruins—all of it was incredible. 

Things I knew how to say in Spanish before I left:  *hiking haunya pichu*Hello my name is Heather. Where are the toilets? Thank you.
Things I learned in Spanish while there: Una mas pisco sour por favor.                                                                                                                     
Things I thought I knew but actually didn't: Paddington Bear is not an English Bear. He is from deepest darkest Peru.                                             

I can't explain this long held fascination I have with Peru anymore than I can my proclivity for Hercule Poirot, or travelling with a stuffed panda.    I just do.                                                                                              

If you are curious about Peru or Machu Picchu specifically, I've put together a little reading list that should transport you, without actually having to wait around in an airport for fourteen hours only to have your flight canceled and then be air sick. Ah, the joys of travel.

 

 

*By the way, that mountain in the background, that's Huayna Picchu. And that is me climbing it!*  
**Also the sneakers in photo of the weaver belong to mi hermano y hermana.**

Author Gene Luen Yang Last month I had the occasion to experience two extraordinary firsts: My first visit to San Francisco and my very first American Library Association conference. I could write a whole long-winded blog post about the explosion of amazingness that was San Francisco (I got to witness the first 3 hours of the SF Gay Pride Parade two days after the Supreme Court rule to legalize same-sex marriage) and another about everything that I experienced at the conference, but instead I will try to focus on what I love the most...books.

Let me back up and briefly explain my journey as a reader. At some point in high school I stopped reading. I lost interest in reading for pleasure and I found little joy in the books that most school districts insisted students should read, preferring instead to just read the CliffsNotes so that I knew enough to pass whatever test would be given. It wasn't until my 20s that I realized that the books that I had been reading, the stories that I had been told were important and worthy of reading were not books that involved anyone like me. There were no people of color and very few strong central female characters. With that in mind, it is understandable that I had lost interest in reading.

Back to June 2015, and here I was at the ALA conference attending workshops and author panels that were focused on discussing the very thing that had kept me from reading for so many years: the need for diverse representations in books. The first panel that I attended was hosted by representatives from the We Need Diverse Books campaign and focused on the need for diversity in graphic novels. This panel involved writers like Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes and Nimona), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), Jeremy Whitley (Princeless) and one of my favorite graphic novel creators, Gene Luen Yang (Boxers, Shadow Hero, American Born Chinese). I was in fan girl heaven!

Author Erika AlexanderAnother amazing panel that I attended was moderated by Marie Lu (author of the Legend series) and involved a group of authors including Renee Ahdieh (Wrath of Dawn), I.W. Gregorio (None of the Above), Dhonielle Clayton (Tiny Pretty Things), Stacey Lee (Under a Painted Sky), and Sabaa Tahir (Ember in the Ashes). This panel highlighted debut authors who not only represent diversity, but who are also invested in creating stories that represent a broad array of experiences.

So what did I learn from sitting in on these panels? Human beings need to experience stories that are representative of their own story. That's pretty obvious. But we also learn and grow from stories that are outside of our experience. What to read more? Check out the We Need Diverse Books Tumblr page and the lists of books below.

 

I've been a beneficiary of the great library we have here in Portland, Oregon, since 1987, when I first moved to town.  Since then, Multnomah County Library has inspired and educated me in all the directions my curiosity has chosen to take — from the American Civil War to jazz history to fly fishing to the 17th-century tulip craze in the Netherlands. It's always my first stop when something about life and/or the world we live in triggers the questions that only books can answer.

If I were stranded on a desert island, here are the books I'd want with me:

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was also one of my favorite books as a kid. Annotated, arcane lore from Victorian England mixed with the most compelling of characters.

Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People by Woody Guthrie, Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger. Songs from the Great Depression sung with courage, resilience and humor.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Again, one of my favorite books as a kid. The story and the characters populated my mind while I was growing up in a small town in California. I was, and still am, firmly convinced that orcs exist.

Swing To Bop by Ira Gitler. Great oral history of the seismic shift that occurred in jazz in the mid-1940s.

Mindfulness In Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana. Hard to choose my favorite book on spirituality, but this is such an easy, compassionate reminder of the larger picture. 

My favorite book as a kid was Go Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman. I loved the giant dog party on top of the tree at the end of the book!

My favorite thing about the library: It is the door to the true richness of life.

A few years ago I made a new friend named Melanie at work. I had no idea that we would connect on topics as varied as intersectional feminism and kitties. This past month, I talked to Melanie Fey and her best friend since middle school, Amber McCrary, about their Indigenous feminist zine. Together (and 1200 miles apart), they produced Empower Yoself Before You Wreck Yoself, which I interviewed them about.

​​Empower Yoself zine coverAZALEA: Hi Melanie and Amber! I've been a big fan of your zine ever since I saw the prototype a year ago. Why did you create Empower Yoself Before You Wreck Yoself?

MELANIE: Thanks for asking to interview us, Azalea! One day Amber texted me and said let’s make a zine. I said “Okay!” but on a deep-seated level, I think creating a zine like this was a long time in the making. We’ve always idolized anti-status quo female musicians such as Brody Dalle, Kathleen Hanna and Wendy O. Williams. But there’s an obvious lack of diversity in the counterculture scenes these women were affiliated with. So as Native women, we wanted to create a space for ourselves in these environments and continue on the legacy of disrupting the status quo on everything from music, politics, patriarchy, etc. Making these zines was really rather inevitable.

AMBER:  First of all, thank for you the kind words. As for how we created our first zine, I forgot that I randomly texted Melanie a couple of years ago and said we should make a zine. But yes, I think I said something like "Hey! Let's make a zine about Native girls telling their stories." And she said "Okay" or probably "Yes!"

AZALEA: Amber, I really liked your pieces, “Urban Indian Guilt” and “Indigenous Girl in a not so Indigenous World. Pt. 1,” which talk about the dual identity of being both “assimilated” and from the “rez.” For me, it seemed like you were touching on one kind of modern Native American experience. What does it mean to be (or what should people know about being) a contemporary Native American woman? (This is a broad question, apologies!)

AMBER: Thank you! It feels so long ago that I wrote and created those pieces. I can’t necessarily speak on behalf of all modern Native American women as we all have had different journeys.  But speaking from my journey/experiences, I have learned what it means to be a modern contemporary Native American women from the Native women in my life: my mother, grandmother (Grandma Cowboy) and mentors from various jobs. They all contain a quality that Navajos call "hózhó", which means living in a way that focuses on creating and maintaining balance, harmony, beauty and order. As for my mother and grandmother, I am thankful they have been part of every awkward phase of my life and never judged me (especially as a Native Girl growing up in a subculture world) which taught me a lot about self-expression and not to be scared of sharing how I really feel about something.

For me, being a modern contemporary Native American woman is similar to being the Native elder women I look up to, which is finding that balance, which seems universal despite the era. I try to find a balance between living in two worlds (Native and Non-Native, Navajo and mainstream America, past and present). Although I do enjoy things that modern women/people enjoy: I like dresses, French food, traveling, reading weird comic books by Daniel Clowes, laughing at Will Ferrell movies, watching boring artsy movies, learning about different cultures and listening to music from different countries. However, at the end of the day I always remember who I am, where I come from, the struggles my ancestors went through for me to be here and how I as a Native women fit into this world.

AZALEA: Melanie, once, when I talked to you in passing you said you tried to write about difficult concepts such as decolonization in an accessible way. Why is it important to write in easy to understand language?

MELANIE: This is a good question because it’s something I really struggle with every time I’m attempting to write a new piece! I believe it’s really important that our zines to be accessible to everyone from all educational levels and cultural backgrounds. We’re trying to open up discourse between Native women and the general population about serious issues in the Native community such as colonialism, boarding school trauma, substance abuse issues, Native American mascot issues, two-spirit gender identity, etc. Not everyone is going to want to read about this stuff if it sounds like it’s coming out of a college course textbook or if they have to look up every other word in the dictionary. In my opinion, that’s not entirely conducive to creating community. Decolonization (the undoing of colonialism) is already a mouth-full of a word, and I want it to sound more like I’m having an honest conversation than spewing off elitist jargon.

zine authors' photoFinally, I want to congratulate Melanie and Amber on their latest effort, The Nizhoni Beat: Native American Feminist Musings Vol. 1. This zine explores topics such as decolonization, LGBTQ issues, and more.

If you would like to meet Melanie and Amber, they'll be tabling at the Portland Zine Symposium on Saturday, July 18th, and Sunday, July 19th.  You can also check out Melanie’s work in Native American Writings.

Summer Exploding Sun Image

Multnomah County Library offers a wide array of music via streaming services and old-fashioned CDs that can be checked out.  MCL's My Librarians focus a lot of our energy and effort creating reading lists and recommending titles and read-alikes - but since I often write posts on popular music genres and artists, I thought I'd toss out a solicitation to those of you potentially interested in a customized music playlist.  Below you'll find a playlist I created for myself with a loose summer heat feel to it (even if the content of some of the songs has nothing to do with summer, they sound like summer).

I'm attaching the songs as stand-alone videos but you can also check out the playlist as a continuous loop here or, if you're a Spotify user - here.  And if you feel like rolling the dice and requesting a customized playlist, get in touch with me and let me know what kind of music/artists turn you on.

 

Summer 2015: Temperature's Rising

1) Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Jim On The Move:



2) Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Beyond Belief:


3) The Grateful Dead - Franklin's Tower:


4) Lee "Scratch" Perry - City Too Hot:


5) The Style Council - Long Hot Summer:


6) Gregory Isaacs - My Number One:


7) OutKast - Hey Ya!:


8) Pere Ubu - Heaven:


9) Tinashe - 2 On (ft. Schoolboy Q):


10) Fleetwood Mac - Over and Over:


11) Marianne Faithfull - Broken English:


12) Kid Creole & The Coconuts - Endicott:


13) Azealia Banks - 212 (ft. Lazy Jay):


14) War - Me And Baby Brother:


15) Dennis Brown - Money In My Pocket:


16) Warren Zevon - Desperados Under The Eaves (Early):


17) Scritti Politti - The Boom Boom Bap:


18) XTC - Summer's Cauldron/Grass:
 

19) John Cale - You Know More Than I Know:

 

The Elephant House, EdinburghThis summer, I got to see the birthplace of Harry Potter!  I’d been in Edinburgh before but had managed to miss the café in which J.K. Rowling first began writing about Harry, Ron and Hermione.  I also had a pint in Inspector Rebus’s pub, The Oxford Bar, and revisited the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.  Visiting literary sites and libraries is something I try to do on every trip, and I had a bookish bonanza this year in Scotland.  In past years, I’ve wandered the Portobello Road antiques market in London where Paddington Bear’s friend, Mr. Gruber, has his shop, have made a pilgrimage to James Herriot’s veterinary clinic in Thirsk, England, and ridden the rails in Yorkshire close to Thomas the Tank Engine’s home.

When I was a child, we did a lot of traveling around the Pacific Northwest as well as Pennsylvania and KentuckyThe Oxford Bar, Edinburgh where my family’s relatives lived.  All of those trips were fun, but I can only imagine how excited I would have been had I gotten to commune with Peter Rabbit in England’s Lake District or been lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler takes place.  If you or your children have a hankering to visit places you’ve come to love in favorite books, there are several guides to help you get there.

Storybook TStorybook Travels book jacketravels covers thirty literary landmarks around the world.  The guide gives you information about the books covered, suggested itineraries, and addresses, phone numbers  and websites of the places to visit.  Portland gets a mention for Beverly Cleary's books!

Once Upon a Time in Great Britain covers literary sites in England, Scotland and Wales and also notes sites where you can see original artwork and manuscripts.

I don’t know where I’ll travel next, but I’m sure it will include places important in my reading life.

From Summer Reading Assistant to Film Star

by Donna ChildsVolunteer Ryder Dopp

Summer Reading Leader, Teen Council member, Branch Assistant, Storytime Assistant, TechnoHost and video star, Ryder Dopp does it all. He is at the Holgate Library at least 2-3 hours a week, more when the Teen Council meets and even more when Summer Reading begins.

Ryder, who would otherwise be moving from middle to high school this fall, is homeschooled, which gives him freedom to learn in different ways. For example, he and his family lived in a 40-foot school bus for several years, traveling to Mexico and parts of the US. More recently, they have taken some 2-month long “big trips,” to Nicaragua, where they helped build a house, and to Thailand.

Here in Portland, Ryder’s responsibilities at Holgate give him opportunities to interact with other young people and to serve his community. As a Summer Reading Leader, Ryder’s tasks include supervising Summer Reading volunteers, entering data on readers, making sure prizes are available, and finding substitutes for Summer Reading volunteers.

As a Teen Council member, he meets twice monthly with other teens and library staff to discuss youth and library issues, undertakes projects (such as making ugly dolls or 1000 paper cranes), plans activities and creates games for kids.

His Storytime Assistant role, like Summer Reading, involves data entry (sign-ups, keeping track of attendees) and helping with details like name tags, for example. As a Branch Assistant, he pulls holds, reads shelves, and, sometimes acts as a TechnoHost, helping with computers, printers, and iPads.  


A Few Facts About Ryder

 
Home library: Holgate Library
 
Currently reading: Hunger (in the Gone series)
 
Favorite book from childhood: Falcon Quinn
 
A book that made you laugh or cry: Time Riders
 
Favorite section of the library: Young Adult books
 
E-reader or paper? Paper
 
Favorite place to read: My bed
 

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

I'm a sucker for stories that feature librarians. When I was a little kid, I turned my bookshelves into a library and made my sister and my stuffed animals check out books.The Book of Speculation bookjacket

Right now, I'm in the middle of Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation. The narrator, Simon Watson, is a librarian living alone in his deteriorating family house on a cliff on the Long Island Sound. One day, a mysterious book is delivered to his doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller. The ancient tome is a log written by the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700’s. Oddly enough, Simon’s grandmother’s name is written in it but more disturbingly, Simon learns that the women in his family tend to drown young on the same date in July. As he has a younger sister who might be in danger of succumbing to the same drowning fate, Simon needs to use his librarianly research skills to figure out what the story is before that July date rolls around again.

The narrative switches between the present and the past. In the present, Simon deals with the messiness and drama of his life and works towards solving the mysteries of his family's past. In the past, the mysterious book reveals its secrets.

Oh, and there are circus mermaids too.

Getting ready for college is a state of mind

 

Florida State 1904Every year, hundreds of high school juniors and seniors in the Portland area are faced with the decision of whether to go to college, which colleges to apply to, what to study, how to get accepted, and how to pay for it. The library can help! 

If you’re wondering if you’re ready or not, ask the advice of a trusted high school counselor, teacher, or librarian. They can help you find resources to decide whether you have learned to set clear, achievable goals, can manage your time well, and have the skills you’ll need for college-level courses.

Compare your options

College Blue BookThe library has several different resources to help you evaluate your options. One of the best available is the six-volume College Blue Book. You can look at it online or come in to Central Library to browse.

The first volume has the most narrative information about different options. Find the number of students and faculty, entrance requirements, costs per year, and lots more. You could use this volume, for example, to compare the campus at George Fox University to Lewis & Clark College.  

Looking for which degrees are offered by college and subject? Volume 3 is where you can find, for example, that Portland State University and University of Oregon both offer degrees in architecture. Volume 5 has an up-to-date list of scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans. And if you're interested in distance learning programs, look at Volume 6. Almost every course, certificate, and degree program that you can take on campus is also available in a distance learning format.

Deciding what to study

Occupational Outlook HandbookDuring high school, students typically begin forming some idea of what they want to study or do for work. The Occupational Outlook Handbook can help with up-to-date vocational guidance, employment forecasting, and information about different occupations. You can also use their electronic resources online for career information about hundreds of occupations.

For each job, the book discusses work tasks, job outlook for the next few years, training and education needed, pay, work environment, similar occupations, and additional information sources.

The library also has the Oregon Career Information System (CIS) database which provides information about occupations in Oregon that relate to your interests, aptitudes, and abilities. After you create a portfolio, you can use CIS to take college admissions practice tests, upload your career search, and build a résumé. Deciding whether to return to school? CIS has career assessment tools to help you out.

Considering whether to use a college consultant

College consultants can help you develop strategies about planning for college. Look for someone who is knowledgeable about a wide range of colleges and their admissions processes. They can help identify your strengths and weaknesses, and help find schools that are a good fit. They can also advise on what you need to do to prepare for applying to college, such as choosing college prep classes, participating in school activities, and volunteering in the community.

There are many college consultants in the Portland area. The following sites have tools for finding phone numbers and addresses of local consultants.

Independent Educational Consultants Association

Higher Education Consultants Association
 

Book Jacket: The City of Palaces by Michael NavaA handsome doctor, tortured by his dark past, returns home from exile in Europe to perform house calls for bored, rich housewives.

Robbed of her beauty by smallpox, a spinster countess in a crumbling palace, swallows her own pain by devoting her life to God and caring for the downtrodden in the city’s worst neighborhoods.

An upper class gentleman, shunned from the city as a “sodomite” returns as an openly gay revolutionary who refuses to apologize for his politics nor for whom he loves.

It’s the end of the 19th century and the setting is Mexico City under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. The Eurocentric old guard are losing their hold on the city, but who or what will replace it remains uncertain.

The book is The City of Palaces by Michael Nava; A finalist for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards. As a devout chilangophile, I’ll read anything set in Mexico City, but this particular book took my breath away. The surprising cast of characters sucked me in right from the start and Nava's talent for storytelling carried me straight to the heart of a country on the brink of revolution.

If you need a page-turner to read this Summer with amazing characters that breathe life into history, check out The City of Palaces

Japan's World Heritage Sites book jacketFrom Miyazaki to manga, ramen to robot restaurants…Japan is a varied country indeed. I just returned from a trip there, and my head is still spinning with visions of cherry blossoms, moss-covered gardens, golden temples, doll-like lolita fashions, a mountain full of fox spirits, Tokyo's neon cacophony… the list goes on.  And then there are the things I wish I could have experienced: misty cryptomeria forests, hot springs, cat islands, rabbit islands, fox villages… hmm, I think I may be going back!Bye Bye Kitty book jacket

So how best to prepare for such a trip? Check out loads of stuff from the library, that’s how, and not just travel guides - why not immerse yourself in everything from classics to cult films? As the date of our departure drew closer, my traveling companion (who’d been there before) and I did just that. I read The Kangaroo Notebook by Kobo Abe, about a man who discovers radish sprouts growing from his legs, and my friend said with a straight face, “You might see that in Japan.” On the plane we saw Parasyte, a manga-based movie about an alien who takes up residence in a student's hand, and he said "You've got to watch out for those in Japan." Of course he was joking, and I saw neither of these (if only!).

As for things you might actually see in Japan, Bye Bye Kitty!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art introduced me to the windswept grotesques of photographer Miwa Yanagi, the detailed microcosms of illustrator Manabu Ikeda, and sculptor Motohiko Odani's macabre Noh masks. And there is nothing more magnificent than Japan's World Heritage Sites, a lavish book full of large-scale photos of temples, gardens, castles, and more that I pored over for hours. And of course there's more... just see this list.

Link to whatslegaloregon.comIn November 2014 Oregon voters approved Measure 91, allowing the possession and sale of cannabis by adults 21 and older for recreational use (here is the full text of Measure 91.) Deciphering the details of the law can be tricky, especially if you are considering starting a marijuana-related business.

The most reliable source of information about the laws surrounding recreational marijuana is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). Their What’s Legal? Educate Before You Recreate site lays out what you can and cannot do starting July 1, 2015.

The OLCC Rules Advisory Committee & Subcommittees on Recreational Marijuana recently had a series of public meetings at their main office at 9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd. in Portland. You can look up agendas and listen to audio of past meetings online.

If you are considering starting a marijuana-related business, start with the OLCC’s frequently asked questions on marijuana licensing. The OLCC will not be accepting applications for recreational marijuana licenses until January 4, 2016, and the rules are still being written; to stay up-to-date, subscribe to receive email alerts from the OLCC.

Measure 91 has no impact on Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act. You can apply for a Medical Marijuana card through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), or apply to be a medical marijuana dispensary through the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program.

To stay informed, you can find the OLCC's updates on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to receive OLCC updates by email.

Link to Legalization of Marijuana booklistIf you’re interested in looking at the broader issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana, check out this blog post on legalizing marijuana that my colleague Cathy wrote before the election. And here are some books that go more in depth into the pros and cons of marijuana legalization and medical use.

Always use caution when searching for information and make sure your sources of information are credible; the Southern Illinois University Law Library has a great guide to Evaluating Websites and Other Information Resources. And remember, you can always ask a librarian for help; we love questions!

As I write this, my coworkers and I are all a little excited. Our boss, who we really like, will any minute now become a father for the first time. The parents who work here are especially delighted because we’ll be reminded of our own experiences of becoming parents, and maybe we'll get to share some hard-won wisdom with the new dad.

One thing I’ll definitely share, when the time comes, is Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.

Feeding babies and children can be really fun. I remember the summer that my first child was able to eat real food; the parade of summer fruits she got to experience for the first time--strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches. We got marionberries that were as big as her fists, and she ate them with concentration and joy, purple juice dripping down her chin.

But feeding small children can also be hugely frustrating. One day they love scrambled eggs. The next, they are affronted that you would even suggest they eat such a thing. Many parents react by feeding their children only the tried and true favorites, which can lead to a pretty limited diet, and there’s frequently a lot of stress and discord around feeding issues. Child of Mine can really help. The main thing I got from this book was a firm grasp on what should be my responsibility and what should be my children’s. My job is to provide a variety of healthy foods at regular intervals -- so I decide “what” and “when”. My kids decide if they’re going to eat and how much. I haven’t followed this perfectly, but it kind of set us on our course, and my kids definitely eat their fruits and veggies. So if you have a small child and feeding is an issue -- which it is for just about everyone at one time or another -- check out Child of Mine.

The Unforgiving Coast book jacketSummer is here and as usual we are inundated with reading lists of the best summer beach reads. They are everywhere. Locally, The Oregonian has a list of 19 Must Read Beach Books and the Portland Mercury tells you How to Pick the Perfect Summer Book.  Nationally, Good Housekeeping has their Best Summer Beach Reads, Entertainment Weekly recommends 10 Big Fat Beach Reads, the New York Times offers Cool Books for Hot Summer Days and the Huffington Post offers a list of “titles to get you started whether you are at the beach or just wish you were.”Jaws book jacket

Well, I for one feel it is time to revolt against the tyranny of summer beach reading. Maybe you don’t like the beach or don’t live near the ocean. What’s wrong with staying inside and enjoying the comfort of your own home? Also, lots of bad things can happen at the beach.  Bad things like tsunamis, sharks, venomous jellyfish, shipwrecks, pollution, and crowds to just name a few. So I say let’s celebrate staying away from the beach with our reading this summer!  Try something from this list of books and enjoy reading in the comfort of your own safe and cozy home.

Summer is here and that means one thing.

What? You don't know? Why it's time to put on Out of Africa of course and indulge in Robert Redford, excuse me, I mean the glory days of the British Empire. Surely I cannot be the only one who opens all the doors and windows on the first properly hot day, puts in the dvd, and sits back with a G&T, fan circling overhead.

Or possibly I am.  

No matter. I'm in the mood for a little British East Africa kind of love. Anyone care to join me?



 

Hold Still book jacketWhen Sally Mann’s new memoir opens, she is sitting in the attic sorting though boxes of photographs. Deciding what to keep and what to throw out is difficult. After a lifetime spent documenting the lives of her children, the landscapes surrounding her Virginia farm and her own and her husband’s aging bodies, Mann recognizes the challenge inherent in relying on photographs to keep and preserve the truth.  For Mann, photographs should never be mistaken for reality. It is this philosophy that infuses Hold Still, a way of thinking that allows readers to get to know her beyond the controversy that has followed her professional career.

It’s hard to think about Sally Mann and not think about that controversy.  In the mid 1980’s, Mann began photographing her children. In many of the photographs the children are nude or partially nude. In the early 1990’s, a show of Mann’s work at a New York gallery resulted in a scathing critique of her work and officially placed her in the category of the controversial.   

Hold Still proves that Mann is also a wonderful storyteller.  Her writing is exquisite – the perfect balance of forward motion prose and past reflection.  The book is also a satisfying visual journey.  Mann has included well-known photographs as well as letters, drawings and other memorabilia. Chapters denote the major relationships in her life. She tells the story of her own youth and early years and her marriage to Larry Mann which endures today despite her mother-in-law’s attempts to sabotage it.  She talks about the brutal murder of her in-laws, a Capote-like story if ever there was one. And she talks about her farm, which she credits with providing her a place from which her work and her life could thrive.  

Mann’s works today sell for thousands of dollars and her photographs are collected by major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. But the days of criticism have dogged her career and, if nothing else, this memoir makes a valiant attempt to set things right –to show Mann the person and the philosophy behind her work.  For Sally Mann, photographs do not preserve the past. Instead they “supplant and corrupt the past, all the while creating their own memories.” With honesty and a clear eye, Hold Still introduces readers to a Sally Mann who is more than the controversy.

Subversive Cross Stitch book coverAhhh...summer is finally here. For some (lucky) folks that means time to relax, enjoy the sun, read, binge watch Netflix, and maybe take up a new craft. But what new craft should I get into, you ask? This is where Subversive Cross Stitch comes to the rescue. Of course cross stitching isn’t a “new” craft, and maybe you have already dabbled in stitchery, but hear me out on this. When I saw this book sitting on our new book shelf, opened it up and saw beautiful cross stitch patterns with sayings like “Cheer Up, Loser”, “Too Bad So Sad” and “Kiss My Grits” (and these are just some of the more rated-PG patterns), I knew that I had found my new summer craft. That night I found myself in the craft store loading up a basket with embroidery thread, wooden embroidery hoops, needles, canvas and cute little scissors. Over a weekend, while binge watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black, I proudly finished my first cross stitch. I would post a picture for you, but that might get me fired, so instead you can feast your eyes on the censored piece that I started a few days ago. Half done cross stitch
 
The patterns in this book are fantastically snarky, fun and easy to follow. Plus the author starts the book out with basic cross stitch instructions and techniques. Perfect for the novice cross stitcher, like myself, and the experienced needleworker who wants to explore their “sassy side”.
 

sun shining through trees on forest pathWhen I was a girl of maybe 14, back when e.e. cummings was my favorite poet, I would sometimes think, “Right now, I’m just sitting here on a humdrum day, but somewhere in the world, it’s nighttime and a person is ill and possibly dying with family sitting near; somewhere a baby is being born; somewhere people are dancing at a wedding.  I’m just sitting here, but somewhere this moment is important and big or certainly very different from what I’m experiencing.”

Do you ever think about other somewheres?

With a nod to my young self, I’m sharing with you some books and music that explore many kinds of somewhere, starting with e.e. cummings’ poem “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond.”

Do you get lonely for friends? I do. Some of my closest friends live hundreds of miles away. Sometimes I start to need the balm of sharing and feeling safe. I like knowing they will laugh with me or have the tissues ready. And I do the same for them. When I start to long to hang out with some friends, that’s where books or movies come in. I have been reading novels with female friendships as the main topic for a while.

Get cozy and have the tissues ready, these ladies will be there for you.

Like most of the global south, Jamaica's history is framed and compelled by imperialist violence and expropriation.  For much of the 17th-18th centuries, the island was accessed for sugar crops and a base for the African slave trade.  First under Spanish - and then British rule - Jamaica eventually acheived national independence in 1962.  Often advertised as a tropical paradise in mainstream US culture industry representations and via an aggressive tourist industry, the truth has been and continues to be anything but luxurious (at least once one departs the protected areas of Kingston and Montego Bay).  Jamaica has struggled post-independence and much of the pain, frustration and hope generated is channeled via Jamaica's home-grown musical export - reggae and its multiple variants and offshoots.

Reggae emerged as an identifiable form in the late 1960s though its roots lie in earlier Afro-caribbean genres like calypso and mento, cross-pollinated by US (especially southern) rhythm & blues - and later incorporating US black pop like Motown and soul. Like so much pop, reggae is both mode of resistance, documenting the axes of loss/rage, and  means for making money - and for many young Jamaican men, a means of escaping the crime-ridden ghettos of Jamaica's cities.  Of course, imperialism continues to frame the realities of Jamaican music and musicians.  By the mid-late 70s, with Bob Marley's meteoric rise to global popstar (really only peaking after his death in 1981 and bankrolled and scripted in many ways by Island Records' mogul Chris Blackwell), reggae and its various offshoots was identified as a potential market/cashcow for an industry still under the dizzying spell of what at the time appeared to be endless expansion/profit.  Reggae never became the global phenomenon many record execs dreamed of  - though later incarnations like dancehall and ragga have definitely claimed space in markets and dance clubs across the hemisphere.

But it is reggae's essential mode as resistance - both socially and musically - that I want this post to hang on.  There's not enough space to go into the role Rastafarianism plays in reggae and it seems critical that the music (and the material realities of its production) be situated in the very violent and turbulent history of Jamaica in the 1970s (see Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings for a superb fictional account of this era) and much of the best roots reggae can't really make sense without a knowledge of Marcus Garvey and the  Black Nationalism/Pan-Africanism movements.  But what seems most compelling to these white US ears is the beautiful confluence of spirituality, sadness, dread, and rage embedded in so much of the best reggae and dub. With that being said, here's a video playlist of some of my favorite reggae/dub tunes:

1) Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey



2) Gregory Isaacs - Mr. Cop


3) Althea & Donna - Uptown Top Ranking


4) Winston Hussey - Where Fat Lies Ant Follow


5) The Mighty Diamonds - Right Time


6) The Congos - Fisherman


7) King Tubby - Dub From The Roots (full album)


8) Bob Marley & The Wailers - Slave Driver


9) Sly & Robbie - Unmetered Taxi


10) Gregory Isaacs - No Speech No Language


11) Big Youth - House Of Dreadlocks

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