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Kermit Oliver

Kermit Oliver

This is the type of story books are made of. A quiet Texas postal worker designs for a well known fashion house and until recent years, this was unknown. Now, Kermit Oliver is retired. At one time he was a postal worker minding his business, providing for his family and painting on the side; a form of relaxation, a way to take the load off after a hard day of work. He’s a recluse, almost agoraphobic, actually. As a shy child raised on a ranch near Rufugio, TX and the son of a vaquero, he took comfort in art as a means to communicate without words. His artwork is colorful and calls on nature, children and his experience growing up on a ranch for inspiration. Oliver has a natural need for privacy and aversion to attention. He’s the only American artist to have his paintings printed on the famous and costly Hermes scarves. A former student and teacher of art, Oliver’s work can be found in galleries, museums and on the wall of high art collectors. While Oliver’s work commands five figures, his so called success didn’t come without heartbreak. If you think Oliver’s art is amazing, discover Kehinde Wiley.

Further Exploration:  http://www.npr.org/2012/10/21/163273742/how-a-texas-postman-became-an-herm-s-designer

Available at Multnomah County Library: Wake Up Our Souls. A Celebration of African American Artists by Bolden, Tonya and The History of African American Women Artists by Farington, Lisa E

Donyale Luna

 

Donyal Luna Photo: NYmag

On March 1st, 1966, this image appeared on the cover of British Vogue. Can you guess why her hand covers her face (particularly her nose and lips)? Before Beverly Johnson (yes, Beverly Johnson), Ya-Ya Dacosta, Naomi Campbell, Damaris Lewis, Iman and Tyra Banks; there was Donyale Luna. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Luna rose to fashion fame at a young age. In 1965, she was sketched on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, dubbed the reincarnated Nefertiti and worked with the top photographers and designers of the time. Luna even had mannequins made in her likeness! She transformed the fashion world and buffed accepted images of beauty. Donyale struggled with her racial identity. Eventually, her life came to a tragic end at a young age. If you think Donyale transformed fashion and images of beauty, wait until you discover, Diandra Forrest

Further Exploration: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/first-black-supermodel-whom-history-forgot.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Commander in Chic by Taylor, Mikki

Introduction: This week we focus on fashion! From big earrings and mixed prints to fabrics and style, the influence of African American culture on fashion is undeniable. Join us this week as we highlight the contributions of 7 African Americans and their impact on fashion.

Anne Lowe

Photo of Anne Lowe and the wedding dress she designed for Jacqueline Kennedy. Source Women's World

 

She designed the most photographed wedding dress in history, Yet, you probably never heard of her. Anne Lowe is the creative genius behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. In fact, she designed dresses for the Duponts, Rockefellers, Roosevelts and many more of New York’s high society. But due to race relations at the time, Lowe did not always receive credit . In fact, it was not uncommon for a white designer to receive credit for her work. In 1946, it was Lowe who designed Olivia de Havilland’s dress for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. However, Sonia Rosenberg received recognition, not Lowe. Despite being New York society’s best kept secret, Lowe did receive due acknowledgement in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Town and Country. Lowe led the way for contemporary designers Tracy Reese, Samantha Black of Project Runway, Azede Jean-Pierre, Laura Smalls and a host of others. If you think Anne Lowe’s story is incredible, discover Elizabeth Keckly.

Further Exploration: http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p=11922

Available at Multnomah County Library: Threads of Time: The Fabric of History, Profiles of African American Dressmakers and Designers 1850-2002 by Reed-Miller, Rosemary

 

Come on, admit the title at least piqued your interest.

cover image of the dud avocadoElaine Dundy’s first novel was The Dud Avocado. It is very loosely, a memoir of her time in Paris as a young woman in the 1950s. Her follow up was The Old Man and Me, cover image of the old man and mewith a slightly older narrator, this time based in 1960s London. These have been quietly forgotten while other similar novels of the same period have gone on to fame—Breakfast at Tiffany’s anyone? They are witty and for their time, possibly a little shocking. A very young, very American woman alone in a foreign city, taking strange men indiscriminately to bed with her, drinking, smoking...you get the picture.

Sally Jay and Betsy Lou are our two characters. The first suffers from vague nymphomania and costume dilemmas—Tyrolean peasant or dreaded librarian? And the second sets out to seduce and possibly kill for her rightful inheritance. Poor little rich girls. Thankfully New York Review Books has reprinted these two classics for another generation to discover.

Valentine’s Day: It’s a big day for some people, sometimes, but it can change for each of us through the years.

For a school kid delivering a carefully printed card to each classmate, it can be a sign of friendship.

It could mean special candy or passion and red roses and a romantic French restaurant...maybe a massage… maybe singing karaoke love songs to your sweetheart. 

Maybe it means feeling grumpy and alone and wanting to wallow in Anti-Valentine feelings after a bad break-up. Maybe seeing Fifty Shades of Grey

Or hoping that tonight you’ll dream of your lover because you cannot be together. Texting love notes so fast your fingers are a blur.

Will you hand make a valentine? Send an e-card? Drive miles to surprise someone? Meet the person you will decide to spend your life with after only three days or three weeks?

Whatever you end up doing this Valentine’s Day, you might find something that appeals to you on these lists. I asked other people I work with at the library for their personal favorites, so I could share this list of books or this one of movies and music with you. Most of the suggestions are romantic, but not all are happy. Would you share one of your favorites, too? Thanks! 

Sarah E. Goode

 

Sarah E. Goode Photo:thewright

These days, tiny homes are all the rave. But, actually, this trend is a little old. In 1884, Sarah E. Goode (a Chicago furniture store owner) invented a folding cabinet bed to fit in what is known  today as tiny homes. Goode wanted to make it possible for people living in small homes to have furniture that fit in restricted space. When folded, the cabinet bed looks like a desk. Goode is known as the first African American woman to receive a patent, on July 14, 1885. Today, there’s a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education (STEM) school in Chicago named after Sarah E. Goode.

Further Exploration: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/goode-sarah-e-c-1855-1905

Available at Multnomah County Library: Women Designers in the U.S.A 1900-2000. Diversity and Difference by Multiple Contributors

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson Photo: uspto\.gov

There is no way to list all the accomplishments of Lonnie Johnson, here. In short, he has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. He was a systems engineer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He worked on the Strategic Air Command helping to develop the Stealth Bomber program. He’s owner of Johnson Research and Development. In all, he has more than 100 patents. But, his most popular invention is the SUPER SOAKER!That’s right; Lonnie Johnson invented the summer time mega watergun enjoyed by millions all over the world!

Further Exploration:  http://www.biography.com/people/lonnie-g-johnson-17112946

Available at Multnomah County Library:  What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem

Percy L. Julian

 

Percy L. Julian Photo:Nytimes

He’s one of the most influential chemists this country has ever known. He’s a self made millionaire and humanitarian.  Yet, many people have never heard of him. Percy Lavon Julian is THE MAN when it comes to the chemical synthesis of plant-based drugs. He was the first to synthesis Physostigmine. He synthesized the human hormones progesterone and testosterone from plant sterols. His work led to the creation of cortisone, even birth control pills! These are just a few of his contributions to the world of medicine. What he does with a yam is incredible! But don’t take our word for it, find out for yourself.

Further Exploration:  http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/julian.html

Available at Multnomah County Library:  Forgotten Genius (DVD)

Patricia Bath

Patrica Bath Photo:Blackliberalboomer

She’s amazing. She attends Howard University School of Medicine, New York and Columbia universities. She believes everyone has a “Right to Sight.” She invents the Laserphaco Probe and procedure to improve cataract surgery results. She’s the first African American woman doctor to patent a medical invention. She’s the first African American woman surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. She’s the first woman on faculty at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. Again, she’s amazing!

Further Exploration: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_26.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Firsts, 4,000 Groundbreaking and Pioneering Historical Events by Jessie Carney Smith

Gerald A. Lawson

Gerald A Lawson Photo: museumofplay

If you play Playstation or Xbox or any other gaming console and enjoy video games, you have Gerald A. Lawson to thank. A self-taught engineer who never graduates from college, Lawson is the founding father of the modern-day video game. He creates the first home gaming system with interchangeable game cartridges.  Lawson met Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak pre-Apple. In fact, regarding Jobs and Wozniak, Lawson is quoted as saying, “I was not impressed with them—either one of them, actually.” This is one amazing story. Discover more.

Further Exploration: www.aaffmuseum.org

Available at Multnomah County Library: African American Firsts in Science & Technology by Webster, Raymond B.

 

Calling all artists in grades 6-12 and their parents, caregivers & educators! 

2014 Teen Summer Reading Art Contest WinnerTeen Summer Reading Art Contest Winner 2013Teen Summer Reading Art Contest Winner 2012

If you've played the Summer Reading game or been a volunteer for the program, you know that a LOT of people participate. So if your art is chosen to illustrate the teen gameboard, a LOT of people will see it! (Above are the winning entries from 2014, 2013, and 2012.) And if you submit the winning artwork, you'll also win a $100 gift certificate to Collage: mixed media art supplies and creative classes!

Download the entry form in PDF and submit your artwork by March 29th. The theme is superheroes. Good luck!

 

Summer Reading is made possible, in part, by The Library Foundation.

Molly Williams

Molly Williams Photo: the44diaries

Molly Williams is the first recorded woman firefighter. Her story goes a little something like this. The year is 1815. A slave for a New York merchant, Molly works as a cook in the Oceanus Engine Company in New York City. At the Oceanus firehouse, she is known as volunteer 11. Molly works with as much dedication and strength as any of the men firefighters. Her dedication and strength are put to the test during a horrible blizzard. Want to know more? Get the book at Multnomah County Library! And if you like this story, read about Dinae Mines.

Further Exploration: www.aaffmuseum.org

Available at Multnomah County Library: Molly, by Golly: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Fire Fighter by Ochiltree, Diane 

Her bookjacketThe 2015 books are starting to arrive and I zipped through my first psychological thriller of the new year. Harriet Lane’s Her sucked me right in with a deceptively ordinary story of two mothers (though if you prefer to read about parents who dote on their children, you'd best skip this book). What a fabulously entertaining, suspenseful, well-written book. The story centers on the build-up of revenge plotted by one of the characters towards the completely oblivious other.

Told in alternating chapters by the two main characters, the interplay of reality and perception is pretty chilling. It’s sort of The Bad Seed with middle aged women. Her is a story that builds from the misunderstandings and disappointments in our lives and the twist lies in the overlooking of those matters.

I’m ready to be pulled into more psychological suspense novels in the coming year; here are a few that I'm eagerly anticipating. I hope they turn out to be as unpredictable and surprising as Her.

Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan Photo: Atlantafreespeech

He had a knack for fixing things. He improved the function of sewing machines and owned a sewing machine store, a tailoring shop and a country club. He invented and patented the three-position traffic light (still in use today) and the safety hood, later known as the gas mask. He and his brother used the safety hood to save the lives of city workers from a poison-filled tunnel. The U.S. Army saved the lives of many soldiers using Morgan’s safety hood. It doesn’t end there. He started a newspaper called the Cleveland Call to address racial injustice. Oh, his formal education didn’t extend beyond elementary school. That’s right, Morgan didn’t attend school beyond 6th grade!

Further Exploration: http://blackinventor.com/garrett-morgan/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Scientists, Healers and Inventors by Hudson, Wade

 


 

 

"My sadness, my story, my wantoness, my skipping
My wish and my despair, my erasure, my plantation, my chocolate
My thoughtlessness, my gracelessness, my courage and my crying
My pockets, my homework
Like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number
Oh yeah."

"Oh how your flesh and blood became the word"

Cupid Psyche 85 album cover image

By 1985, Scritti Politti's Green Gartside had fully emerged from the peripheries of the UK's indie post-punk sleeper cells into quasi-global pop brilliance.  But appearances are often deceiving and although Cupid & Psyche '85 was a top 50 LP in the States, "Perfect Way" a number 11 US single, and Green a bonafide pop pin-up for 8 months or so, it's also well-known to many of Gartside's avid disciples that Cupid & Psyche '85 was meant to operate on multiple frequencies.

Cupid & Psyche '85 is celebrated as one of the UK's most successful manifestations of pop entryism and for a couple of months that year, it seemed as though Green's cherubic smirk was on the cover of every other teen/pop music magazine.  But long-time Scritti fans knew that Green's origins came out of the late 1970s UK student/squat scene - bravely committed to a radical and austere project of DIY collectives, demystification and music that rigorously confronted its own reasons for existing (see Scritti's Early collection).  Early song titles like "Hegemony," "Messthetics," and "Doubt Beat" presumably speak for themselves. After a (now mythic and perhaps exaggeratedly apocryphal) nervous breakdown, illness, and extended convalesence, Green turned his back on "the ghetto of the Independent scene" and focused his intelligence and acumen on doing music "properly" - which (hopefully) meant hits.  Cue "The 'Sweetest Girl'" - a mellifluous, almost vertiginous, incantation to the ghostly subject of millions of pop songs.  It was a major step forward and, while not the hit Green hoped for, it was a brilliant first shot into the pop citadel.

By 1983, Green/Scritti had signed with Virgin Records and relocated to NYC - where he began to construct the individual elements that would eventually constitute Cupid & Psyche '85.  First single "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" rolled out in February 1984 and "Absolute,""Hypnotize," and "The Word Girl" followed - each single a carefully crafted, expensive, subtle dislocation of the norm.  Green never fully abandoned his commitment to rupture, to tracking the voids that fuel everyday emotions, the endless loops of logic that underpin our notions of "how things are."  His project attempted to embed deconstructive petroleum jelly in the dark recesses of "hyper-saccharine sweetness" with a strange bounce to the ounce.  He worked with some of the best, biggest, and priciest hit-makers in the industry and it all finally paid off in late 1985 when "Perfect Way" (only a moderate hit in the UK) nearly broke the US Top 10.

Of course this begged a major question for anyone invested in Green's purported project - when does pop entryism become tautology?  When a song - no matter how potentially subversive - transcends its origins of production to become, first and foremost, a glittering object - is
there still a project beyond entry into a value-commodity stream?  Reading interviews with Green circa 1983-85, it's clear that, despite his intial sense of excited purpose, he regularly wrestled with this contradiction.  And one might even argue that it ultimately did him in (as a pop star, at least).  Cupid & Psyche '85  was followed in 1988 by Provision - a modest commercial success, but tracked by many as an enervated doppelganger of C&P  85  (though "Boom! There She Was" is a classic Scritti hypno-pop white star). 

Green eventually "retired" from the music business, only to return in 1999 with Anomie & Bonhomie, a strange though compelling fission of guitar pop, airtight gloss and hip-hop, and then again in 2006 with the understated but gorgeous White Bread, Black Beer.
 

Scritti Politti - "Doubt Beat" (1979)

 

Scritti Politti - "The 'Sweetest Girl'" (1981)


 

Scritti Politti - "Lions After Slumber" (1982)

 

Scritti Politti - "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" (1984)

 

Scritti Politti - "Perfect Way" (1985)



Scritti Politti - "Boom! There She Was" (1988)


Scritti Politti - "Umm" (1999)


Scritti Politti - "Boom Boom Bap" (2006)

 

When I had a college radio show, I often played spoken word pieces by William Burroughs.  His odd cadence and bizarre subject matter made the strangeness of 3 a.m. that much more strange.  I’d broadcast the pieces into the dark quiet of the night, ghostly fog in the evergreens and the occasional glowing possum eyes outside the studio window.  After the heady description of a heroin high or alien sex, I’d follow up with something loud, dissonant and experimental.  That’s what student loans are made of.

A black and white picture of William Burroughs.  In the backgroud is a hat on a hook and an exit sign.William Burroughs instigated the Beat Generation and embodied the movement’s proclivity for drugs.  His book Junky basically made drug use glamorous.  When he lived in New York, his house (The Bunker) was like a supermarket for narcotics.  Burroughs was incredibly prolific and kept writing and speaking until his death in 1997.  His work influenced Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Kurt Cobain and more.  Punk and heavy metal owe him a debt.  He was open about sex and his own homosexuality in an age of repression.

For his 100th birthday, the BBC made a documentary about his work, life, and legacy.  For his 101st, This American Life rebroadcasted it.  It’s an unsentimental and fascinating hour of radio.  Take a listen.

 

I know it’s February 2015 already, but I have one last “best of” list to share.  These titles might not have made the more famous year-end lists, but they are some of my favorite books published in 2014 from across the pond.

Elizabeth is Missing book jacketElizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey was billed as a psychological suspense novel, but it definitely wasn’t an edge of the seat thriller. It was an interesting exploration of aging and how disconcerting and frightening memory loss can be.  I was completely engrossed in Maud’s story and felt like I had a better sense of what the elderly go through when their minds begin to fail them.

Why didn’t anyone tell me about Jonathan Coe??? Apparently, he’s been writing novels for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I read Expo 58 book jacketone.  Expo 58 is a funny, yet serious book about a minor civil servant’s experience overseeing Britain’s pub, The Britannia, at the 1958 World’s Fair in Belgium.  Brussels is full of beautiful Expo hostesses, visiting dignitaries and Russians who may or may not be who they say they are.  Thomas Foley has no idea what he’s getting himself into when he leaves his wife and baby behind in England for six months in Belgium.

And speaking of Belgians, there’s a new Poirot! Agatha Christie died years ago and her detective supposedly had his last case in Curtain, but suddenly Hercule Poirot is back to solve another mystery in The Monogram Murders.  Sophie Hannah has done a bang-up job recreating one of the world’s most famous literary detectives.  And the plot is pretty good too.

These are just three of my favorite British books of 2014.  See my list for six more.

Portland, Oregon

February 7th, 2015

Historical Black Debutante

Photo: Oregon Historical Society

Source: www.portlandmonthlymag.com

This theme wouldn't be complete without focusing on Portland's Black Community. Despite living under the harsh burden of discrimination, racism, exclusionary laws etc. Portland's Black community continued to grow and thrive. In 1883, The Northern Pacific Railways brings jobs and more African Americans to the region leading the way for a burgeoning Black, middle class. At this time, most of Portland's Black community reside in NW Portland. The community has four churches, The Rutherford Haberdashery and many Black owned Businesses. Some years later, the community has grown to include three Black newspapers, a hotel, postal clerk, shoe clerk, attorneys, stenographers, a dentist and a doctor! it's an amazing history! Check it out here, here, and here!

Further Exploration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWC-8hvP7aY

Available at Multnomah County Library: African Americans of Portland by Oregon Black Pioneers and The Ebony Princesses of the Portland Rose Festival 1967-1982 by Morris, Lenora C.

Septima Poinsette Clark

 

Septima Poinsette Clark

Photo Credit: www.brothermalcolm.cnet

Source:  www.blackpast.org

Septima Poinsette Clark was an advocate and educator of civics education long before it became popular.  As a teacher and member of the NAACP, she pushed issues of education and equal rights. When the State of South Carolina placed a ban on NAACP membership, Septima refused to obey and lost her job and pension as a result. She, along with her cousin, started the first citizenship school to educate Black citizens in reading and writing, election procedures and government. Her name may not be so familiar, but those in the fight for Civil Rights knew exactly who she was! In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged her when receiving his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize award.

 

Further Exploration: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/clark-septima-poinsette-1898-1987

Available at Multnomah County: Lighting the Way by Schiff, Karenna Gore

Abominable Snowman Movie AdYetis sounded so much scarier when I was a kid. There was only one yeti, The Abominable Snowman, (the terror of the Himalayas!) His malicious smile was complemented by nails long enough to pierce a person’s heart.  These days, Bigfoot, Sasquatch and yetis are still popular, but they’ve been rehabilitated. Two recent books for children show the loveable side of yetis. In fact, I found I found them to be yeti-sized funny!Yeti Files cover

Kevin Sherry’s The Yeti Files overflows with illustrations of yeti Blizz Richard’s home in the big trees, complete with an “epic tire swing,”a “zippy zip line,” and a “highly polished fireman’s pole.” Blizz is a happy-go-lucky guy, except for his need to keep hidden. And keeping hidden when you’re that big is hard work! Especially when your cousins are careless...and your friend, Bigfoot, is missing. The Yeti files is a great choice for kids who are moving up from easy readers into chapter books.The Abominables cover

Eva Ibbotson’s yetis in The Abominables are also happy-go-lucky creatures. A little girl named Agatha gets lost in the Himalyas and discovers a small group of yetis living peacefully together. They shelter and feed her and adopt her as one of their own. In turn she teaches them all she knows about civilization and lives with them into her old age. But when the yetis’ lives are threatened, Agatha comes up with a plan to ship them to England. This dangerous plan that involves keeping yetis quiet, calm and hidden in a refrigerator truck and soon becomes a series of near misses and misunderstandings.

For more laugh-out loud funny reads for kids reading chapters, try the attached lists.

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