Blogs:

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.

Depiction of Minerva by Elihu Vedder (1836-1923)Maybe there is a story you learned from your parents, or your teachers, that explains the world to you. Maybe they learned it from their parents, from their teachers. We don’t always think about these stories as stories, but we don’t always think about them as facts, either - they’re bigger than that. They just are.

We certainly don’t think of these stories/facts/truths as myths, but the ancient cultures whose mythologies we study and amuse ourselves with - the Greeks, the Norse, and all the many other cultures who may have been less dominant but who were no less creative and human - probably didn’t think of their foundational stories as myths, either. Mythology is a name we give to something of the past, but maybe right now we are creating, and recreating, new stories that will be the mythologies of the future.

I thought it would be interesting to see what books, music and movies came to mind for the Multnomah County My Librarians when they heard the word “mythology.” The results, gathered in a reading list called Multcolib My Librarian: Myth picks, are wildly varied. There are traditional Southwest and Northwest folktales (La Llorona and Paul Bunyan, respectively), reimaginings of ancient stories (The Song of Achilles), ballet scores and a comic book with golems in World War II (Breath of Bones). There are mythologies of the distant past (Homer’s Iliad) and nascent American mythologies of the 20th century (Chandler’s Continental Op).

What does mythology mean to you? What books (or movies, music, poetry) would you add to our list?

Black Wall Street

February 5, 2015

Black Wall Street Memorial

Photo Credit: www.cicinnati.com

Source: http://www.daveyd.com/blackwallpolitic.html

The year is 1921 and Tulsa, Oklahoma is booming!  As one of the most affluent Black communities in the country, Tulsa boasts of 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, jewelry stores, 2 movie theaters and 2 newspapers. There’s a postal substation, a branch of the Y.M.C.A, a hospital, bank, post office, libraries, schools, law offices, private airplanes and bus systems.

 

Further Exploration: http://www.okhistory.org/research/forms/freport.pdf

Available at Multnomah County: Reconstructing the Dreamland by Brophy, Alfred L.

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

Hiram Rhodes Revels

Congressman Hiram Rhodes Revel 1827-1901

Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first Black American to serve in the U.S. Congress. Revels served from 1869 to 1871. A Republican from Mississippi, Revels was born free to free parents and attended school during a time when educating Black children was illegal. During the Civil War he recruited Black regiments. He was a preacher, educator and civil rights advocate.

Further exploration: http://history.house.gov/People/Listing/R/REVELS,-Hiram-Rhodes-%28R000166%29/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress by Swain, Carol M.

Chester A. Arthur photoYou remember Chester A. Arthur, right? Twenty-first president of the United States. Served from 1881 until 1885 following the assassination of James Garfield. Not really? Don’t feel too bad -- you’re in good company.

Several years ago, I set out to memorize all 43 (now 44) presidents in order, along with the years they served. I thought it would be an interesting brain exercise and a great alternative to counting sheep when I couldn’t sleep. However, I soon found that if I neglected reviewing the list from time-to-time, I would forget some of the lesser known figures like Arthur, Taft and Pierce.

Now, this phenomenon of forgetting the presidents has actually been documented in two studies on cultural memory published in the journal Science and reported in the New York Times! The long and short of the studies is that most people can identify five or six recent presidents; the founding father presidents like Washington, Adams and Jefferson; and a small number who were at the helm during huge events in our nation’s history such as Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.Image of Presidential Seal

Maybe committing the list to memory isn’t important to you, but maybe you are interested in learning more about some of our chief executives through time. Here here are some great resources

 

Siqueiros Mural

I came back from my yearly trip to Mexico recently: it’s always refreshing to walk around the city of Cuernavaca where I’m from, visiting historical sites as I do year after year. This city is privileged to host the work of two great Mexican muralists. Diego Rivera painted the history of the city at El Palacio de Cortés or the Palace of Cortés and David Alfaro Siqueiros’ mural ”The March of Humanity” is found at La Tallera cultural center. If you want to know more about this kind art, follow me!

Muralism was practiced long ago when indigenous groups painted their ideas and important events in big displays on the sides of ceremonial and burial buildings. The splendid Maya murals of Bonampak are a simple example of this kind of art.

This artistic manifestation gained more importance in Mexico during the 20th century. The first murals were created in 1921 and the last were created in 1955, when murals lost the essence of an articulated artistic movement. There were several artists who brought a diversity of aesthetics and political influences; at times the artists' were severely criticized and censured, and even destroyed, as happened with one Diego Revera's murals at the Rockefeller Center in New York.

The movement is characterized by the artists' great need to express the social and political events of their times using huge platforms. In the murals, Mexicans have the opportunity to appreciate the content of their own reality and identity. The Mexican Revolution, political radicalism as an international proposal, agrarian reform, and oil expropriation inspired nationalistic artists who presented the reality of a Mexican society so devastated by these events. A group of muralist artists created the movement using the walls of important public buildings as canvases, to exalt the art and rescue indigenous and popular traditions. The three great figures of this artistic era were Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Would you like to learn more about this great art movement? Take a look at the video lecture on Maya murals below, or explore my list for further reading.

 

Rivera's mural

 

 

 

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