博客: Nonfiction

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” ~ James Baldwin

With the release of the movie If Beale Street Could Talk, interest in the works of James Baldwin is high. If you'd like to take a deeper dive into Baldwin's work, the time is right. The National Book Foundation has declared 2019 the year of James Baldwin through their Author in Focus program. 

Delve into the library's holdings on and about Baldwin. If you'd like to explore his writing futher, Broadway Books will hosting events as part of the year-long celebration. On April 7, the store will host a discussion of incarceration in America and its impact on marriage as seen through the novels An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk. They will also host an open-mic night during which people can read aloud their favorite Baldwin passages. Find more information on Broadway Books' event page.

According to the scholar Therman B. O'Daniel, "Baldwin is a bold and courageous writer who is not afraid to search into the dark corners of our social consciences, and to force out into public view many of the hidden, sordid skeletons of our society." Find out for yourself why Baldwin's work still resonates so strongly long after his death.

In We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the 21st century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often-masked realities of sexual politics, she explores what it means to be a woman. This essay was based on the author's TED talk of the same name. 

Here are some questions to consider when discussing We Should All Be Feminists:

1. Do you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Cover: We Should All Be Feminists

2. What is a feminist? Adichie says,  “My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” Do you agree with this definition?

3.  Adichie says her brother is her favorite feminist. Do you have a favorite feminist?

4.  Does the culture you grew up in have different expectations for boys and girls? At what age do distinctions between the genders start? Do you believe these expectations arise out of biological difference, or socialization?

5.  There are many negative views of feminism. How do you think these evolved? How might co-opting a term work to the advantage of those who want to discredit a movement?

6.  Do you know any boys or men who describe themselves as feminists? If you're male, and don't use the term, what would it feel like to do so?

7.  Adichie describes how disadvantaged women negotiate for power in Nigeria; how might it be easier for women living in privilege to embrace feminism?

8.  Feminism is interpreted differently by different people. Intersectionality is defined as "the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage." (Oxford Dictionary) How does your personal identity shape your values? You might use the University of Michigan's Social Identity Wheel to further this conversation.

9.  Feminists are often described as “angry.” What is the place of anger in advancing or hindering a cause? Can you think of examples, in your own life or in popular culture, where male and female anger is treated differently?

10.  Adichie thinks American women do not want to seem aggressive, that they are more invested in being “liked.” Is it possible to be “liked” and still insist on equal treatment?

11.  Adichie points out that boys also struggle under strict beliefs about what it means to be masculine. Do you believe that boys and men pay a price in a world that devalues feminism or insists on hyper-masculinity? How?

Themes:

Feminism, power, gender, gender expectations, coming-of-age, money, injustice, equality, masculinity, femininity, boys and girls, society, culture, tradition, society, socialization, roles, ambition, shame.

The comedian Steven Wright said, "everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."  

Walking memoirs abound, with a resurrgence tied to Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. But don't miss the earlier A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot details the author's effort to become more intimately acquainted with his country by starting at his home in Cambridge, England and following the old roads and ancient tracks that crisscross his country. For a take on women and walking, try Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London.

If you're hankering for a long walk but have no time, walk vicariously with this list. Happy reading, and happy trails.

 

Irie Page is about to turn 14. Instead of, say, a birthday sleepover, she has planned a gift for her community, a free event featuring Mike Domitrz, the founder of the Date Safe Project and a consent educator for kids, teens and adults.  The funny, interactive presentation that he gives to teens and adults is called "Can I Kiss You?", which is also the title of his book. It focuses on how to have healthy, safe relationships and how to both avoid sexual assault and avoid sexually assaulting someone else. Her family raised money online to pay Domitrz's speaking fee, and after the story was covered on the local news, they got all the funding they needed. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 9th in the Lincoln Recital Hall at Portland State University. PSU has waived the rental fees in support of Irie’s event.


I first met this remarkable young woman at the reference desk at my library when she was just a little kid signing up for our Read to the Dogs program. We book lovers who work at the library always notice the passionate readers, the ones who leave with huge stacks of books they’re obviously eager to dive into, and that was Irie. When she was old enough, I suggested that she volunteer for our Summer Reading program, giving out prizes to kids for reading, and she brought huge enthusiasm to this as well. When she told me last summer about the event she was planning, we decided to put together a book display. Irie chose all the books herself. If you can’t get in to see the display, here’s the list.

“After I saw Malala speak, I was inspired to do something for my community,” Irie told me. She originally wanted actress and feminist Emma Watson. "That's not going to happen," her mom told her, and then suggested Domitrz. When Irie happened upon a book here at the library about philanthropy parties, her idea took off.

“I’ve always seen things in the world and thought, ‘That’s messed up. I want to change that,” said Irie. Like Malala, the Pakistani advocate for girls’ rights to education, she decided she could make a difference. She chose to start here, in her own city. 


***EDITED to update Irie's story. This event was a huge success. There was so much community interest that Portland State University gave them a bigger theater in which to hold it, and it was still standing room only, with more than 500 in attendance. I took my middle school-age son and we both found it interesting and inspiring. I was delighted last week when I ran into Irie in the library and she told me she's one of two state honorees for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. This is a very big deal! She's won $1000, a silver medallion, and a trip to Washington, D.C. At a ceremony in D.C., five national honorees will be chosen from among the state award winners. The staff at my library, who has known Irie for so long, is rooting for her to win the national award, which comes with even more honors and with cash awards for her and for the charity of her choice. We're so proud of her.

 

Do you read Facebook or Twitter for news? Subscribe to a newspaper? Peruse websites? In an era of so many choices for information, how do you make a judgement about what's fact, what's slanted and what's just completely untrue? 

Here are some tips for evaluating what you are reading, listening to or viewing.  

  1. Consider the source. You can learn more about a website by clicking on the "About Us" link  that most provide, but don't stop there. Research the organization or author's credentials. If statistics are cited, see if you can find the source, and double-check that they are represented correctly.  
  2. Read beyond attention-getting headlines to check the whole article. If a statement is made, is a source given? Click through to check the sources, and do your own searching on those citations.
  3. Check the date. Sometimes old news stories resurface, and they might be out of date or inaccurate. If currency is important, limit your search to recent results
  4. Watch for bias, including your own. Check different sources to see how each treats a news item. Consider your own beliefs and perspectives and think about how that might change how you perceive what you are seeing. 
  5. Too weird to be true? If something seems implausible, see what fact-checking sites like Snopes, PolitiFact, and FactCheck have to say. 

For more about being a smart information consumer, check out the infographic, "How to Spot Fake News", provided by The International Federation of Library Associations. If you're more of a visual learner, take a look at the CRAAP test video from librarians at California State University. 

And remember, if you're looking for reliable information, get in touch with us. We're always happy to help.

 

My Librarian Darcee wearing her Esme tunic
If you’re a grown woman who craves a frock with a peacock on the shoulder and a gazelle peeking around the side waist, you’re probably just going to have to go ahead and sew it yourself.

Thanks to a new book by my favorite Swedish print designer, this is totally accomplishable in a single afternoon.  Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style, presents crazy simple patterns for functional clothing and accessories to carry you through the seasons. While the designs are drawn from her own personal style, Jansdotter encourages women to adapt these classic pieces to suit who they are. Straight away I loved the Esme tunic that can be shortened to a modish top or lengthened to a free-spirited kaftan. I’ve been collecting (hoarding) fabric with unusual prints for years and can’t wait to transform my stash into things I can actually wear and use.

If you love textiles, modern design and fuss-free sewing, check out Lotta Jansdotter and be inspired to make your own unique something.

 

The Spitting Image book cover
What images come to mind when you think about the Vietnam War?  Napalm explosions? Monks setting themselves on fire?  Jungle camouflage and booby traps?  Vietnam Vets waving protest signs and shouting?

Wait, what?  Soldiers protesting  the war? That can’t be right, it was the radical college students and long haired hippies that protested the war, right? Not according to  Jerry Lenkcke in his thought-provoking book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam.  

While doing research about the way society viewed the returning Vietnam vets, Lenkcke kept coming across the mention of soldiers getting off the plane on American soil and being spit on by anti-war, anti-draft protesters. Intrigued, he decided to find the source for this image - was it symbolic or did it really happen?  Could he find an example of it?

What he discovered kept me enthralled. I don’t think I will ever look at a picture of a soldier the same way again.                            

The book is well-researched, documented and supplemented by a complete filmography. If you are interested in how the media changes the way that we see the world, read The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam by Jerry Lenkcke.                                                                               

There are some images that stay in our minds forever and the picture of "the Afghan Girl" is one of them. Those sea-green eyes captivated the world when we saw her portrait for the first time on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985.
 
Steve McCurry, a National Geographic photographer, made famous the face of this girl when it appeared on the cover of the magazine, and later on the cover of his book, Portraits. The intention behind the picture was to document the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation. While walking through the camp, the photographer asked for the teacher's permission to take the photo. He never imagined those amazing eyes would become a global symbol of wartime. McCurry didn't ask her name; seventeen years later he decided to search for her as revealed in the documentary, Search for the Afghan Girl.
 
In 2002 he came back to Pakistan searching for the nameless girl. After many challenges and with the help of a team of experts including the FBI, he found her. Her name is Sharbat Gula and surprisingly her identity was revealed through her eyes, with the use of iris recognition technology. Her sea-green eyes matched the characteristics of that first and only picture. Learn more about McCurry's work by exploring this list.
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