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Have you heard about STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere)?

STRYVE is a national initiative, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that takes a public health approach to preventing youth violence before it starts.

Locally, the Multnomah County Health Department's Community Capacitation Center is leading the STRYVE charge, engaging youth from across the county to create comLittle Free Librarymunity change in a variety of exciting and inspiring ways. They are known as STRYVEPDX.

The Multnomah County Library is proud to be working with STRYVEPDX on one of their summer projects, the building of 150 Little Free Libraries in four neighborhoods around Multnomah County. The hope is that these Little Free Libraries will be a place where a community can create connections with their neighbors, share their favorite books, and strengthen life-long literacy. These small but powerful libraries will be unveiled at four National Night Out* events happening the first full week of August.

The library is thrilled to be at these very special National Night Out events to enthusiastically talk to folks about libraries and books and literacy. We will also be presenting the Little Free Library hosts with some special Multnomah County Library goodies, including coupons to the fabulous Title Wave Used Bookstore. Because what better way to supplement a Little Free Library going forward, but with the 20,000 used books, audiobooks (and more!) found at Title Wave at bargain prices?

The library will be at the following National Night Out events, please drop by and see us:

Albina/Killingsworth Neighborhood National Night Out

Cully Neighborhood National Night Out

New Columbia Neighborhood National Night Out

Rockwood Neighborhood National Night Out

Congratulations to STRYVEPDX for all their amazing work and for seeing the power of libraries, books and literacy in building strong and safe communities!

*Want to know more about National Night Out? Please see Librarian Kate S.’s great post, National Night Out - An annual party across Multnomah County.
 

The Book Thief jacketThere’s a theory I subscribe to that no matter what our chronological age might be, we all feel a different age inside. As in, our bodies grow, we mature in different ways, but mentally, we all feel stuck at some earlier age. For instance, I am mentally a 17-year-old girl who doesn't quite fit in anywhere yet.

I was thinking about this recently after reading an article in Slate Magazine entitled, Against YA by Ruth Graham. The gist of her essay is that teen fiction is written for teens and adults “should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

There are several things I’d like to say to Ms. Graham. Here goes. . .

First of all, it’s sometimes a marketing/publishing decision as to what gets published as a young adult book. Take The Book Thief. Please, please take it. It's a brilliant bookFangirl bookjacket that should be read by everyone! In Australia where Markus Zusak hales from, you’ll find it in the adult section. But here in the U.S., it sits in the young adult section because his previous book was put out as teen fiction in the U.S. Arbitrary? Indeed.

And then I think back to my growing-up years. Once I reached a certain age, definitely when I was still in middle school and high school, I started reading “adult” books. These were books with younger protagonists that certainly were appealing to teens but they also were well-written novels that adults enjoy. Books like My Name is Asher Lev and To Kill a Mockingbird. The chances are that if these books were published today, they would be cataloged as “young adult” fiction and think how many adults would miss out on them?!

That brings me to today and my reading tastes. Sometimes I read young adult books and I enjoy them because I can totally remember what it was like to be that teen (Fangirl, I’m talking to you). I relate to the characters because I’m still a 17-year-old misfit inside. Other times, I enjoy a teen book because it tells a really good story (A Brief History of Montmaray fits the bill).

I hereby proclaim, I am not embarrassed to read young adult literature and you shouldn't be either! Here are a few more titles that you too can be proud to read.

Mayor Charlie Hales at National Night Out - City of Portland photo

In early August for the last 30 years, communities and neighborhoods have been getting together to meet, celebrate, and have fun as part of the National Night Out celebrations. These events were started to promote safe neighborhoods and crime prevention initiatives by solidifying partnerships between law enforcement and communities. These events are generally free and family-friendly. A continuing feature of local celebrations is that groups can request to have police officers and firefighters show up at their party. And who knows, your neighborhood could throw a party and maybe even the Mayor will show up!

I know my neighborhood party will have grills and hot dogs and some games for the kids, but each party is a little bit different. Some are small affairs with a handful of neighbors potlucking, while others occupy the better part of a city park. Thinking of planning your own party? The Office of Neighborhood Involvement in Portland has a variety of National Night Out party planning resources to help you get started that should assist planning for everything from a small potluck picnic with chalk out for the kids to a big bash with a live band that shuts down the street. The message from the experts is to start early--it's not too early to plan for next year! 

The official date of National Night Out is the first Tuesday in August, but there are so many parties happening in Multnomah County, they can't all take place on the same day. The City of Portland compiles a list of parties submitted to them for publicizing. Check out the Find a party link to find events in Portland. In Gresham, call 503-618-2567 to find out where there's a party near you and in Troutdale call 503-665-6129. Learn more about Fairview's party on their National Night Out web page

We've compiled a list of books to get you planning your party, meeting your neighbors and thinking about community. See our picks for National Night Out celebrations. 

You might see your Library at a National Night Out party. We can't hit all the parties (we'd be so tired!), but where you see us, you can guarantee that we'll be talking about all the great books, services, and resources the Library can provide to you.  Here are the neighborhood parties where you'll see us and the libraries sending staff to attend:

Albina/Killingsworth - Tuesday, August 5th, 4:00-8:00PM
N Killingsworth Ct and Borthwick Ave
North Portland and Abina Library staff
 
Cully - Tuesday, August 5, 5:00-8:00PM
Baltazar F. Ortiz Community Center, 6736 NE Killingsworth St
Gregory Heights Library staff
 
Fairview Night Out - Tuesday, August 5, 5:00-8:00PM
Community Park, 21600 NE Park LaneFairview
Fairview Library staff
 
Foster-Powell Night Out - Tuesday, August 5, 6:30 - 8:30PM 
Kern Park, SE 67th Ave & Center St
Holgate Library staff
 
Hollywood - Tuesday, August 5, 4:00-8:00PM
4400 NE Broadway St
Hollywood Library staff
 
New Columbia - Tuesday, August 5, 6:00-8:00PM
McCoy Park, 9298 N Woolsey Ave
St. Johns and Kenton Library staff
 
Stephen's Creek Crossing, Hillsdale - Tuesday, August 5, 4:00-7:00PM
6719 SW 26th Ave
Hillsdale Library staff
 
Peninsula Park, Piedmont  - Wednesday, August 6, 5:30-8:30PM
700 N Rosa Parks Way
North Portland Library staff
 
East County/Rockwood - Thursday, August 7, 6:00-8:00PM
Rosewood Initiative, 162nd and Stark St
Gresham and Rockwood library staff
 
Downtown - Friday, August 8, 6:00-8:00PM
South Park Blocks between SW Harrison St and SW Montgomery St
Central Library staff
 

Tigerman, by Nick Harkaway, is due to be published on July 29th. It’s funny, sweet, surprising and SUPER.

The fictional island of Mancreau is scheduled for UTTER DESTRUCTION. A chemical company has been stuffing its waste products into the empty spaces in the rocks. When magma bubbles into this waste brand new forms of life are created, not intelligent, but perhaps malevolent. The United Nations designates the island as the first official ‘International Sacrifice Zone’ to prevent contamination.

Representing authority in this EXPLOSIVE situation is Lester Ferris, a comically reserved British bobby-type. The only chink in his armor is his paternal love for a brilliant, comic book-loving boy who only gives his name as ‘Robin.’

Before long, the boy is looking to Lester to be a hero, and hence TIGERMAN IS BORN!

For more superheroes in prose, check out my list Cape not pictured.

Even though I haven’t left the Pacific Northwest recently, I’ve spent a good deal of the past few months with my head in Africa.

I’ve always been interested in life in other countries and the immigrant experience, but like most Americans, my knowledge of African countries is narrow at best. However, since reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I've gotten hooked on African writers. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

Book jacket: We Need New Names by NoViolet BulawayoWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo is one of those books that crosses over into poetry. I relished every word in this joyous and harsh story of a girl named Darling who grows up playing games like 'hunting Bin Laden' with her friends in Zimbabwe until moving with her aunt to ‘Destroyedmichygan' (Detroit Michigan). This is a truly modern immigrant story and the sharp contrast between Darling's African childhood and her teenage years in Michigan is startling. Then there are the character names...Bastard, Godknows, Mother of Bones, and who could forget the Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro?

Book jacket: Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela

Set in 1950's Sudan, Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela will break your heart, heal it, and then break it again. But it's the good kind of heartbreak, offset by great beauty. Nur, the son and heir of a prominent family suffers a tragic and debilitating accident. With their future uncertain, the family is caught between the traditional values of Nur's Sudanese mother and the modern leanings of his father's young Egyptian second wife, mirroring the social changes in Sudan itself.

Book jacket: Aya by Marguerite AbouetMarguerite Abouet's Aya is the first in a graphic novel series that takes you to Abidjan, the capital city of the Ivory Coast, as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl, Aya. Set in the prosperous 1970s, the level-headed Aya and her boy crazed friends do what teenagers everywhere do; sneak out to discos and argue with their parents. This is a fantastically fun series that both teenagers and adults will relate to, while also relishing the differences of another culture. Turn to the back pages for bonus extras such as the peanut sauce recipe made famous by Aya's mom and instructions on how to 'roll your tassaba' like Aya's friend Bintou.

You can join my African reading adventure with other titles on this list. Got some favorite titles of your own? I'd love to hear about them. I've got many more countries yet to visit and Nigeria can be so hard to leave.

How I love a good Western -- no, make that a small-w western -- one that rides right down the middle of the road. I'm not into books that stumble too far into Louis L'Amour territory or ones that lean towards romance. All I need is an underdog with a cause and no-good varmint who needs to be brought to justice, or have justice brought to him (yeah, it's usually a him.) Though a lot of Westerns are historical, I also like those that are more contemporary too - after all, people didn't stop writing westerns at the turn of the 20th century.

As I've mentioned before, True Grit is one of my all time favorites, featuring a girl who is not to be messed with. Most recently I enjoyed an twist on that story. Robert Lautner's main character in Road to Reckoning is Thomas, an introspective kid who loves books and has no business being on the road with his father, a salesman preaching the wonders of a new-fangled gun, the Colt revolver. When things go badly wrong, Thomas is reluctantly rescued by Henry Stands, a mercurial bounty hunter who has no desire to be saddled with a kid. Yep, there sure are a lot of parallels with True Grit, and that makes this book all the more enjoyable.

The theme of green-horn intellectual thrown into a wild and dangerous wilderness shows up in another favorite, Leif Enger's So Brave, Young, and Handsome. The story centers on a writer who has made a name for himself in the penny Western craze - think a fictional Louis L'Amour. But now he has writer's block and just when it seems he'll never write again, an elderly stranger comes to town, one whose criminal past is catching up with him. Together they go on an adventure that promises to save them both.

One reviewer calls the West portrayed in these books "regrettably familiar".  And it's true that these stories sometimes rely on stereotypes - a kind of short form that links directly to our imaginations. It's that reliance on the archetype that makes them good. After all, what else is a western than the age-old story of a fall from grace, and an effort to reach a more perfect world? For a few more small-w westerns that range from heart-warming to terrifying, take a look at my list. Happy trails.

I found  Dan Simmons' The Terror  positively ripping, a great big adventure story filled with interesting characters-- men of the sea testing themselves against the many, many things the Arctic throws at them. Then it changed, and it started to remind me of a book I read once about the Donner party. And then it changed again and became something unexpected and unusual, and I don't want to talk about that too much and spoil it for you.

The Terror is based on the real expedition of Sir John Franklin and his two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, which in the 1840s disappeared in the Arctic on a doomed search for the Northwest Passage. There's not much sailing in The Terror, as a the ships get frozen into the ice pretty early on and stay there, the result of several exceptionally cold winters. Things start out pretty bad-- Franklin, the commander of the expedition, is something of a fool who fails to respect the Arctic as he should, the canned food is tainted and spoiling, there are no animals to be found by the hunters, crewmen are coming down with scurvy, and it’s unbelievably cold-- like -50 degrees Fahrenheit cold. The ship is crowded and the darkness is constant. And then things get worse. Something-- an enormous polar bear?-- is stalking the crew. And the ships, frozen in the ice for years, are starting to crack up under the pressure.

This is not for the faint of heart-- it’s almost a thousand pages long (or 22 CDs), and contains vast amounts of research about nineteenth century ships, polar ice, the early days of canned food, Inuit mythology, and more. But while I can’t believe that human beings actually signed up for these expeditions, I  just loved the time I spent in the world of this book. The writing is good,  the plot is thrilling, and it’s so compelling that I couldn’t stop listening. Oh, and if you are considering listening to the audiobook, as I did, you should know that the voice actor is excellent, as well, with a plummy English accent and great ability to express characters of different ages, classes and dispositions.

This list will provide you with even more opportunities to head into the cold during the hot summer days that will be coming back soon.

Freddie and MeMusic fans! FANS with a capital F, you know your own history in relation to your favorite music or band, right?  Wouldn’t you love to look at an illustrated timeline of that relationship? I would. The other day as I was listening to Queen on the way to work and it made me reminisce about my own relationship with the band and the book Freddie and Me: A Coming-of-age (Bohemian) Rhapsody. It tells the story in graphic novel form of Mike Dawson’s love of Queen and how their music intertwined with his life. There is a beautiful timeline of Mike Dawson’s life in connection with the albums of Queen in his comic book memoir! The timeline is a two page spread with family photos and covers of Queen albums. I can remember album covers of my favorite bands with certain snapshots of my life.  Mike Dawson did this in a really thoughtful way.

I love that he made this memoir in a loving tribute to his life and his favorite band. It is such a thoughtful book. I think it is time to pick it up again. And if you haven’t had the chance to read a comic book memoir here’s a list to get you started.

 


 

It’s been a rough few years personally: divorce, grad school, auto theft, dog death, ancient cat pissing indiscriminately throughout the house. I may be tough, but sometimes enough is enough. Give a girl a break already. Times like these make me contemplate running away. Before I chuck it all in and move to an undisclosed location, I thought I’d make a list. Why? Because lists soothe my virgo soul. Also list making is legal. And free. I shall call it my escapist list for hard times. On it will be absorbing things that don’t make me think too much, books that make me laugh out loud on public transport, hilariously ridiculous films, and music that puts a smile on my face and makes me move and groove involuntary of my mood (or talent).

There, you see, that’s better. Things are looking up already.

Can you guess what was the first Western television series to air on Soviet Television?  Here’s a hint:  it was also the first series to air on HBO - still stumped?   Fraggle Rock starring Jim Henson's Muppets. Yes, before The Sopranos, before the Game of Thrones, there was Fraggle Rock.

    

In Jim Henson, a biography, by Brian Jay Jones, we see how Jim was born into a big family  where holidays and birthday gatherings were marked by laughter and stories of growing up.  His creativity and ideas were encouraged by his family- especially by  his Grandma Dear.  But he knew from  the time he was a young man he knew he wanted to work in television.  He  mourned the fact that television’s great potential was  was used to sell products and to dull minds. It  was important to him that television be used 

 to educate and excite people- adults as well as children. Jim had  that  type of single- mindedness that showed him what to do, and the  tireless creativity to do it.

 Hence his creations- muppet and otherwise, reach out  to us like real living breathing people. He also had that rare gift of attracting innovative  and inventive artists like himself and giving them the power and opportunity as well, to be experiment, to dream, to create.

  Jim  saw television as a mighty instrument for change.  And change it did - Sesame Street helped to change the way children were taught- in fun short segments that kept them engaged and attentive.  It was entertaining to adults as well as children, so  it encouraged the whole family to sit and watch together. It mixed sophisticated humor with just plain sillieness that was hard to resist.  Sesame Street was such  a wild success that it led to the prime time program The Muppet Show and then to HBO’s Fraggle Rock. They all shared the  value  of inspiration through entertainment- pure and simple-but again appealing to both adults and children.
 
 

If  Jim Henson were still alive now what would he be doing?  Something tells me that he wouldn’t be putting  the muppets on Survivor unless it was to show how they could all live on a desert island together.  But best of all we would still  be experiencing the fresh  creativity of a  man who was able to achieve what no amount of political  diplomacy has achieved before or since-stimulating our  minds by  touching our hearts with laughter and song and love.  As it is, he left us with a unique legacy.   One that his favorite invention allows us to still enjoy.  As Uncle Matt says in Fraggle Rock:   "The magic is always there."

It cannot be claimed that Lewis and Clark “discovered” the plants and wildlife they encountered on their journey; only the native people along their route can justify such a claim. However, Expedition members were the first to describe them for Euro-Americans. Most naturalists agree Lewis and Clark recorded about 220 species of plants; 140 of them new to scientists. They also identified 122 animals, 50 birds and 31 varieties of fish. Many of the original specimens were lost due to a variety of circumstances. 57 species of animals were from east of the Continental Divide and 65 west. The biological studies of the Corps of Discovery were considered by Thomas Jefferson to be of major scientific importance. Many species are illustrated in their original journal pages. 

Image of Western Meadowlark

If you want to visit 226 of the original plant specimens, they are in the Lewis and Clark Herbarium at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.  To learn about the fish species they encountered, you can plan a Lewis and Clark era fishing expedition using this trip booklet from the Undaunted Anglers. There are many online resources about the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians recorded by the Expedition that include photos, skeletons, and reference to the exact journal entry. There is an especially complete collection at The National Museum of Natural History. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Geographic Society also compiled thorough lists of the wildlife encountered by the expedition.

This is my favorite animal story from the journals…I keep chuckling over Lewis’ ridiculous confidence. However funny this story sounds to us today, we should remember that the incredible data gathered by Lewis and Clark was a scientific sensation in the 1800's.

 

car sick book jacketGoing my way?

Hitchhiking is the blind dating of the highway. Strangers meet based on mutual intrigue and spend a brief period getting to know each other. Much like a date,  chemistry, perceived sanity, and direction each is headed determines how long the relationship will last.  However, stranger danger looms.  Most drivers pass up the chance to court the unknown ride seeker, leaving both parties to wonder what if...

Armed with scraps of cardboard scrawled with fading sharpie, film director John Waters set out from his Baltimore home thumbing his way to San Francisco. Told in three parts, Carsick imagines the best and worst possibilities, and the true tale of his trip. In classic Waters’ fashion the absurd blends with everyday reality. Alien tentacles, serial killers, old friends, and poor hotel lighting become fodder for an engrossing road trip.  Oozing with pop culture references of the cult variety, the trip also serves as a vehicle for memoir-esque moments of clarity amidst the search for a lift.

Carsick is a fun adventure with one of America’s camp treasures.  Take a look inside. You'll be glad you picked him up.

 

Whether or not you’ve ever been to Italy there are inevitable mental images that are sure to manifest. The sumptuous food, the iconic history and architecture, the picturesque landscapes manicured with vineyards and olive groves, the eccentric personalities of each major region, the famous post WWII films and the familiar stars birthed by them, or the operatic display of the tumultuous national calcio team, the Azzurri. These are the usual hallowed foundations conjured by La Bella Figura. Right now I could throw a rock out the window and hit a travel guide to Italy or a remaindered copy of Under the Tuscan Sun, but there are other dubious treasures to be had from the peninsula too...and there may be dragons.

Lesser known perhaps are the numerous fiction contributions to world literature by Italian authors, or at least translated modern works (no disrespect to Dante or Boccaccio, two entirely different blog entries). Older Gothic successes emerged from European authors writing about their dreams or experiences traveling to Italy, such as Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, or Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. This gave way to more poetry, drama, and novels in the first half of the twentieth century from famous scribes like Pirandello, Grazia Deledda, and Carlo Vittorio.

 

Beyond Hellboy

The creative boom came post-WWII with the scattered viewpoints of many authors, resulting from the constant struggle between their fierce nationalist loyalty and Mussolini’s fascist, oppressive policies. Writers such as the husband-wife team of Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante, Italo Calvino, Ignazio Silone, and Curzio Malaparte wrote smoldering novels of their experiences living through such a polarizing period. These important works paralleled the cinematic, neo-realist purge of post-war emotions from directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Rossellini, and Fellini.

More modern contributions have included an explosion of genre fiction including the crime/noir creations of Massimo Carlotto, Andrea Camilleri, and Gianrico Carofiglio, comics from Lorenzo Mattotti and Tiziano Sclavi’s Dylan Dog, plus the unique originality of the fantasy and horror tales of Dino Buzzati, Iginio Tarchetti, and our own Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. If you have ever desired to explore the bountiful fiction created from Italian writers, try this book list featuring an extensive range of styles and voices from the boot of hypnotic magnificence. Buona lettura!

 

We have specific health needs at each stage of our lives. Websites aimed at new parents won’t give you the health information you need as you’re getting ready to retire! As a senior, where can you find quality health information online?

MedlinePlus is full of high quality health information. Try the About Your Health box in the middle of the home screen. Click the Seniors tab for links to health information related to arthritis, exercise for seniors, Medicare, and more.MedlinePlus

NIH Senior Health is another great resource. This site is aimed at people over fifty. You can easily increase the text size and screen contrast to help if you have vision problems.

NIH Senior Health contains health topics, like complementary health approaches. It also has categories, such as healthy aging and memory and mental health.

The site also contains a collection of videos. For example: Surviving Cancer or Participating in Clinical Trials.

The Administration on Aging links a many resources in one place. The site lets you search for resources and information locally. The ElderCare Locator helps you find information in your area on a specific topic, like Alzheimer's, long-term care, or transportation services.   

Locally, the Senior Health Insurance Benefit Assistance Program (SHIBA) helps with any kind of question about Medicare and Medicare benefits. You can call for individual counseling about coverage, eligibility, comparing plans and choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan.

 

It's summer and time for a little light reading!  (At least that's what I told myself when I read the 21st Stephanie Plum book.  Upon hearing me snicker repeatedly while reading, my husband said "You're reading that series with the ditsy bounty hunter and the dueling romances again aren't you?" "Yes! Yes I am!") There's also a bit of fluffy fun to be found in urban fantasy (although with fewer dueling romances), so here are a couple of light suggestions from new series in that subgenre.

Charming book jacketI was considering the second book in a sort of OK series and in the back of the book was a sample chapter for Charming by Elliott James. "Chapter One" it read "A Blonde and a Vampire Walk into a Bar...".  I was sold right there. John Charming is part of a long family line under a geas to keep the Pax Arcana.  Any supernatural being that breaks the peace and risks exposure is slaughtered without mercy.  John isn't fully human: at the end of her pregnancy his mother was bitten by a werewolf so he was never completely trusted and, in the end, he had to flee. I knew it probably wasn't going to be the classiest book ever (and it wasn't) but that the author knew his audience and had a sense of humor (occasionally pretty juvenile). I've got book two, Daring, on hold as I write this.
The Shambling Guide to New York City book jacket
Mur Lafferty has two books out in a series about an out of work travel editor who finds a new position writing travel guides for the supernatural community.  In The Shambling Guide to New York City, Zoe Norris has moved to New York City after things fell apart in her former home.  She finds work with Underground Publishing as the only human employee and in the process of telling the story, the reader sees excerpts of her guidebook for the supernatural. Book two takes the reader on the Ghost Train to New Orleans where  Zoe learns more about her newly supernatural world.

Tama describes the story of a woman who wants to reconcile with her dad, a mountain man who's not that interested in maintaining a relationship. Sound compelling? Find Gone Feral: Tracking my dad through the wild and the author's first book, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer at a library near you.

 

 

2014 is notable for at least two anniversaries:  World War I began 100 years ago and the last of the Baby Boomers turn fifty.  That means there are a whole lotta women going through the change right now.  Sandra Tsing Loh and Annabelle Gurwitch both live in California, both are in the performing arts, both turned 50 about the same time, both went through menopause at the same time their children were going through puberty, and both have at least one aging parent who needs help.  And now, both have written about the whole sad, sorry and sometimes unexpectedly humorous experience in books published in guess what year - 2014!

The Madwoman in the Volvo book jacketThe Madwoman in the Volvo: My year of raging hormones starts with Loh's ill-advised extra-marital affair at 46 that left her living in a dumpy apartment without either her husband or her lover.  Things can only look up, right?  Whoa nelly!  Watch out for year 49!  Failed happiness projects, attempted weight loss, dealing with dad and his decades younger, but more decrepit wife, are just some of the joys Loh experiences in the lead up to 50.  And yet (spoiler alert!), she survives and lives to tell the tale in a very funny fashion.
 
I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, indignities, and survival stories from the edge of fifty is a series of personal essays on Gurwitch'sI See You Made an Effort book jacket mid-life experience.  While she doesn't have an affair, she does dream about men who are decades younger than she is.  Gurwitch also talks about the reality of being fifty in show business (yes, I can play a medieval crone), the challenges of being the menopausal mother of an adolescent son, and the fun of lying awake at 4:00 a.m. with no hope of sleep.
 
So for all you Boomers born in 1964:  Fifty - bring it on!  And good luck.

Raising my son, Elan, has been a truly educational experience (also fun, scary, hard, or easy depending on what stage he and I happened to be in at the time). In some ways, he has qualities that remind me of myself and there are other parts that seem directly attributable to his dad. And then there are other things that are totally and uniquely his. One of those is his love of performing and specifically making hip hop music. I am simply in awe of Elan - he has been able to "work a crowd" since he was in middle school and his live performances have only become more and more inspiring over the years.

I’ve been asked to find books on hip-hop for numerous patrons so I decided to have a list of the best books on this subject ready for the next time I’m asked.  I thought Elan would be my best source for coming up with a definitive list from the MCL catalog and in the course of formulating his list, he also wrote a brief essay on how he developed his love for hip-hop music.

Guest blogger Elan: From casual listener to hip-hop addict

When I first began listening to hip-hop at around eight, my drive may have been to distance myself from my parents’ music: The Beatles, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, etc. My classmates were discovering that the radio contained a station that played exactly what they wanted - the mainstream rap of the late 90s. These were good days.

Blazing Arrow It cannot be understated how much of an effect our peers truly have during adolescence. Three of my friends were making the leap from listener to participant and between rapping, beat making, and DJing, they had half the elements of hip-hop covered by sixth grade. A pivotal album was heard that year, Blazing Arrow, by the duo Blackalicious. We were blown away by the originality, the musicality of Chief Excel's production, Gift of Gab's insane lyrical dexterity, and the cohesiveness of the album itself. After only a single listen, we knew that contributing to this art form would be a life-long love affair.

In high school, making music became our escape from the mundane curriculum we were subjected to. It became my only creative outlet as we began putting on local shows for Can't Stop Won't Stopour peers. Although I was actively seeking out new artists to enjoy and learn from, my hip-hop education came from Vursatyl and Rev. Shines of the Portland hip-hop trio, The Lifesavas. Vursatyl and Shines held an afterschool class at Jefferson High School called You Must Learn. That's when I began studying the rich history of this culture. Books like Jeff Chang’s, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, and the writings of Michael Eric Dyson and Tricia Rose, helped me realize how BIG this thing we call Hip-Hop truly is.

These days I’m still making music, still reading, still putting on local shows, and I’m harnessing hip-hop as a tool for education and empowerment through my work with the non-profit, The Morpheus Youth Project.

If you’d like to do your own exploration of hip-hop culture, check out some of these books.

Salt by Mark Kurlansky is about the history and uses of salt. Today salt is cheap and easy to buy, but it was not always so. The ancient Chinese developed salt production and financed much of their government through salt taxes. If you can control salt, you can control much more. The British had a firm grip on India's salt which is why Gandhi staged a salt march as a protest. If you like history and politics you will enjoy Salt.
 
Salt book jacketSalt can do much more than make food taste good, it also can preserve food. Before the 20th century and refrigeration, salt was widely used as a preservative.  The history of salted food was my favorite part of the book. Read Salt and you may find yourself making sauerkraut.
 
Salt production is fascinating. It was needed, rare and valuable. Its value led to many creative methods of production. Most of the methods involve evaporation. Some salt is mined. Many different ways have been used over time. The end result is many kinds of salt for different uses. There is more to salt than table or sea salt.
 
This is a fun and enjoyable book. It has remained popular for over 10 years. The reason I waited so long to read it was I never thought salt could be interesting.

On July 19, 1984, about 65 years after women were granted the right to vote, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated by a major party to run for Vice President of the United States.  It was just my second opportunity to vote for president, and what I remember most about her speech was the faces of the women listening to her. This was historic, we (women) had arrived and we were not looking back! She lost, of course, in a landslide. It took another 24 years for it to happen again: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ran for Vice President, and – while she garnered over 20-million more votes than Ferraro – she lost too.  In 2008, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won more presidential primaries than any woman before her, but ended up on the losing side as well. Many political observers and pundits believe she will run for president again in 2016. Or maybe there’s someone else. Fourth time’s the charm?

Ferraro, Palin and Clinton are not the only women who have sought the office of president or vice president. Oregon’s own suffragist, Abigail Scott Duniway, was nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1884, but she declined to run. In an earlier version of the Equal Rights Party, suffragist, journalist, and “free love” advocate Victoria Woodhull was the first woman ever to run for president in 1872. There was also the 1940 candidacy of the comedienne Gracie Allen, who ran for the Surprise Party. She earned about 42,000 votes; of the 32 women who ran for the office in the next 72 years, her vote total comes in sixth.

Let’s remember a few other women, whose candidacies we can take a little more seriously. There’s Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, who ran in 1972; Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both the House and Senate, who ran in 1964; Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist, who was Ralph Nader’s Green Party running mate in 1996 and 2000 (in the latter election, she earned nearly 3,000,000 votes); and Cindy Sheehan, who protested the Iraq War following the death of her son, and ran as Roseanne Barr’s vice president for the Peace and Freedom Party in 2012. Then there’s the most recent woman to seek the nomination from a major party, Representative Michele Bachmann, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.

Dig deep into the lives of women who have sought the presidency in these books.

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