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Omar El Akkad is an award-winning journalist who has reported on stories as varied as the NATO-led war in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. His debut novel, American War, has been described by book reviewer Michiko Kakutani as "an unlikely mash-up of unsparing war reporting and plot elements familiar to readers of the recent young-adult dystopian series The Hunger Games and Divergent.”
 
My taste in art leans heavily in the direction of misery. I’m a sucker for bleak books, dispiriting movies and, above all else, sad songs. In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite downbeat albums. Some of these records cater in loneliness, others 
in self-loathing, others in general existential gloom. But all are fairly likely to ruin your day.
 
Suede – Dog Man Star
Certain albums should never find their way into the hands of a lovesick teenage boy, and this hour-long piece of gothic outsider Britpop is one of them. A meandering mass of dirges and not-quite- ballads that’s unlike anything this band, or any other, has ever done. I discovered this album at the age of 13 and I’m not sure I listened to anything else for the next year.
 
Jeff Buckley – Grace
The entirety of Buckley’s only studio album – he died far too young, drowned while swimming in an offshoot of the Mississippi river – is excellent. But the absolute high point comes about two-thirds of the way through, when the listener reaches Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah," followed by "Lover, You Should Come Over" – a combined 13 minutes of utter perfection.
 
Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N2 It
Almost every song on this album sounds like a funereal hymn in which the subject of the funeral has been allowed to posthumously participate. Mike Hadreas sings in an amalgam of sighs and whispers, at once immediate and very far away. The whole album is sad and beautiful but it’s the second track, "Normal Song," that gets me every time.
 
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
There’s a song on this album called Jim Wise. It’s about a man who killed his terminally ill wife and then tried to kill himself, but the gun jammed on the second shot. Jim Wise isn’t even the most depressing song on this record. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
 
The Be Good Tanyas – Chinatown
Whether you like sad songs or not, Chinatown is a terrific record, one of the best pieces of folk Americana of the last 15 years (ironically, the work of a Canadian trio). But if you do like sad songs, there are a couple of world-class numbers here – "The Junkie Song" and the ethereal rendition of "I Wish My Baby Was Born" are both gorgeous.
 
The Antlers – Hospice
Even if the thought of a concept album about a terminally ill cancer patient and her hospice worker strikes you as a terrible idea, you should give the Antlers’ best album a listen. It’s a truly great record, anchored by the standout track, "Kettering." Will the lyrics make you miserable? Of course they will.
 
Holly Williams – The Highway
Like a lot of my favorite country albums, this one is populated with all manner of mean drunks, dying towns and folks so down on their luck they couldn’t possibly get any downer. But The Highway’s crown jewel is its closing track, "Waiting on June." It tells the story of Williams’ grandparents, who were together for 56 years and died shortly before this album came out. It’s a life story told in a single song, and a hell of a song at that.
 
The opening lyrics of the opening song on this album go like this: “When they found your body / Giant Xs on your eyes.” What follows is an hour of sad, melodic music that, given the depths of misery the band plummets to on songs such as "Embrace," is still incredibly controlled, incredibly… pretty. This is road trip music, assuming you’re driving exclusively at night through the backroads of North Dakota in the dead of winter.
 
Ruby Amanfu – Standing Still
Ruby Amanfu’s stripped-down version of Cathedrals, originally recorded by the band Jump Little Children, is one of the most stunning covers I’ve heard in years. It anchors an album full of reimagined takes on other artists’ songs, from Bob Dylan to Kanye West. The only constant is Amanfu’s perfect, crystalline voice. This isn’t a particularly sad or depressing album, just perfectly, wonderfully bittersweet.
 
London Grammar – If You Wait
There are only two reasons this album is on the list. 1) I love Hannah Reid’s voice; 2) when I was writing the final scenes of American War, the song that never left my head was from this album, a track called Interlude. I think of my protagonist’s final moments and this song begins to play, every single time.

When it seems like the rain is never going to stop, don’t despair! Whether your tastes run more towards Portland puppets or Troutdale trains, Multnomah County has no shortage of fascinating and quirky museums that won’t cost you anything. (Check the links for updated hours and contact information.)

Whimsy. Revisit the toys of your (or your grandparents') childhood at Kidd's Toy Museum. And if your pipsqueaks are pleading to ponder a plethora of puppets, perhaps Ping Pong's Pint Size Puppet Museum is your pleasure.

Safety. Witness the evolution of fire fighting at the Historic Belmont Firehouse. You also might find the Portland Police Museum rather arresting.

History. We love that the Gresham Historical Society museum is housed in an original Carnegie library! Not to be outdone, the Troutdale Historical Society has three museums: The Barn Exhibit Hall, and The Harlow House. And don’t forget, the expansive and amazing Oregon Historical Society is free to all Multnomah County residents; just be sure to bring a proof of residency that includes photo identification.

Miscellany. Check up on medical history with the fascinating exhibits in the Main Library of Oregon Health & Science University or the Dr. Ernest E. Starr Memorial Museum of Dental Anomalies in the OHSU School of Dentistry. If you're interested in "the art and industry of the cast letterform," then the Museum of Metal Typography is definitely your type. Then float on over to the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum to learn more about indigenous small watercraft and suck up some cleaning history at the Vacuum Museum at Stark's Vacuums.

Free Museum Day Portland and Portland on the Cheap both have information about when paid admission museums might cut you a break!

P.S. More in the mood for an art gallery ? Check out Rainy Days, Part 1: Free Art.

When it seems like the rain is never (ever) going to stop, don’t despair!

Multnomah County has a lot of hidden art to see that will get you out of the house and won’t cost you anything.

The area’s colleges and universities are a treasure trove of free art galleries! Here are links to some all over town:

Government buildings are a great place to see rotating exhibits, usually by local artists. Experience interactive and experimental media installations in the Portland Building Installation Space; visit the art gallery in the Gresham City Council Chamber Foyer; and check out the current exhibition at Central Library’s Collins Gallery.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has a searchable database of public art around the county. (Tip: Click on Advanced Options to search by Collection and Discipline.)

View work by local photographers at Blue Sky Gallery, originally founded as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts.

Learn more about contemporary art in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Resource Room. It is both an archive and library, housing over 3,500 artist publications, magazines, and audio and video recordings, as well as a video archive of performances and lectures presented by PICA over the span of the organization's history.

But wait, there's more! Check out Rainy Days, Part 2: Free Museums!

At Multnomah County Library, our mission is “empowering our community to learn and create.” This can take many forms. For teenagers like Maria, Blanca, Mariah and Alex, it means taking ideas from imagination to reality, while gaining knowledge and confidence at the Rockwood Library makerspace. This video shows that happening.

Rockwood Library Makerspace

 

A year ago, the library opened its first makerspace at Rockwood Library, which was made possible by funds from the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission and The Library Foundation. The makerspace is a special place, designed just for teenagers. Young people there can learn to create video games, build robots, design jewelry or make a movie. More importantly, they learn to take risks and adapt when things don’t go as planned. They build confidence.

To me, this represents the essence of a public library. A place to seek new ideas and skills with support and resources provided by people who care. We’re all learners with infinite paths for growth. Find yours today at the library.

Vailey Oehlke
Director of libraries

Solve One Problem, Solve Them All
Volunteer Willow Kelleigh

 

by Sarah Binns

 

Willow Kelleigh is one of those people who gives you hope about the state of the world. Although she is a freshman at Franklin High School, she's been volunteering at the Belmont Library for four years. It all started with a middle school service learning requirement. After Willow's class learned about volunteering from Jane Corry at the Belmont Library, Willow recognized a great opportunity. “I've always been a bookish person, so after the class visit I begged my dad to take me back to the library after school that same day.” Thus, a volunteer all-star was born!

Willow's weekly tasks at Belmont vary, but she does everything from clean the toddler toys to emptying the book bin, from withdrawing old or weather-beaten books to tidying staff desks. When I express surprise at her workload, Willow laughs. “I don't do all of those things in one day!” 

The staff at the Belmont Library have clearly made an impression on Willow. “They're all very kind people. Anyone can come to the library, so we see people who need a lot of help, but the staff are so nice and are still kind to the next person in line. They have a lot of patience and I really admire that.”

In her spare time, Willow does homework and participates in Key Club, an international service organization. While it's too early to think about college, don't worry, she's definitely considering librarianship in the future. “For a school assignment I had to pick two careers I was interested in,” she says. “I chose a librarian and an actuary,” a mathematician who works in statistical analysis, often for insurance companies. As much as she loves her library work, Willow also excels at and enjoys math: “I like the simplicity of math and the formulas. Once you know how to solve one problem, you know how to solve all of them,” she says. Here's to Willow's intrepid problem-solving, at the Belmont Library and beyond!

 


A Few Facts About Willow

 
Home library: Belmont Library
 
Currently reading: A book for class I just finished is called Bronx Masquerade, and the book that I want to start next is called An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, which I've heard really, really good things about.
 
Most influential book: Esperanza Rising is one that really opened my eyes to the hardships of immigrants, and I still think about it today even though I read it four years ago.
 
A book that made you laugh or cry: Hyperbole and a Half is one of the best books that has ever been written (in my opinion). I can't go a page into it without laughing so hard I can't speak.
 
Favorite guilty pleasure book: I'm not sure there are any that are really guilty for me, but my mom did get a little surprised when I told her what Looking for Alaska was about.
 
Favorite book from childhood: My favorite was Mouse Soup because that mouse was just so sneaky!

Favorite browsing selection: Fiction, realistic fiction, historical fiction, and young adult genres are all great!

E-reader or paper books: I'm not sure, I like reading in books better, but I also feel kinda guilty about the trees.
 
Favorite place to read: Curled up on the couch with my black lab, Lucy. 

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

Finding affordable housing is hard. How do you search for rentals? What do you do if you get an eviction notice? How can you get along with your landlord while knowing your rights? Get started here:

Looking for housing

Here are a few places to start your search. While you search, be aware of scams! Be careful of ads that ask for advance payment for housing.  If a listing looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you have limited income or other special needs for housing:

If you've received an eviction notice or a big rent increase:

  • 211info can help with renter resources including deposit fee assistance, eviction prevention, housing search assistance, neighbor and landlord mediation, renters rights, and renting classes.

  • Oregon CAT - Community Alliance of Tenants is an organization made up of low-wage workers, families with children, people living with disabilities, seniors, and people of color.  They offer advice about rent increases and no-cause evictions. You can call their Renters’ Rights Hotline (503) 288-0130. They provide information on finding emergency shelter, how to research a prospective landlord, and what to do if your landlord refuses to make repairs.

Contact us if  you'd like help getting connected to the right housing resource.

 

David Naimon is a writer and host of the radio broadcast and podcast, Between the Covers, honored by The Guardian as one of the best book podcasts today. He has interviewed such authors as Anthony Doerr, Colson

 Whitehead, Ursula K. Le Guin, George Saunders, Claudia Rankine, and Maggie Nelson. His own writing can be found in AGNI, Tin House and Boulevard among others and has been cited in The Best American Essays, The Best American Travel Writing, The Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize anthology.

There’s a lot of talk these days about building walls, but little discussion about one already built, a long-standing high-security literary wall. As the host of a book podcast, I’m often thinking about how to curate a roster of writers who reflect the multiplicity that is the literary world, guests writing from a wide array of backgrounds as well as writers writing in different or harder to classify literary forms. As a nation that historically has regarded itself as a welcoming place to immigrants, we love narratives — from Saul Bellow to Viet Thanh Nguyen, from Maxine Hong Kingston to Junot Diaz — written by or about immigrants becoming American. But, oddly, at the same time, we seem incurious when it comes to literature not originally written in English.

There is an oft-cited statistic that translated works make up a paltry 3-5 percent of the books published in the U.S. in any given year. But Eliot Weinberger, translator of Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges and Bei Dao among others, says this statistic is entirely false. Only 300 to 400 literary translations are published each year — an incredible .3 to .5 percent of the annual books published, Weinberger argues. Fortunately, one of the unexpected silver linings of the collapse of the big six publishing houses is not only the rise of small presses, presses that take more risks (and which have been coming away with some of the biggest literary awards as a result), but also the rise of small presses devoted to translation. We seem to be in the beginnings of a translation renaissance. The origin of the phrase “to translate” comes from the Latin translatus, which means “to carry across.” My list of recommended titles is written in the spirit of this new interest in carrying works of literature across the literary wall, this new desire to be inspired and renewed by the writing of other cultures. And if you find yourself taken by one or more of these books, you can follow up your reading of it with a listen to my conversation with the author.
 
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
 
Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli has an unusual relationship with her translator. Before Christina McSweeney translates one of Luiselli’s books, McSweeney asks to know the songs Luiselli was listening to, the images she was looking at, and how the room looked where she wrote the book. Luiselli herself explicitly plays with the role of translation in her work and with the role of the translator in a book’s creation, even going so far as to include a chapter in one of her novels written by her translator. It is hard to pick which of Valeria Luiselli’s three utterly enchanting books to recommend here but the one closest to my heart is Faces in the Crowd. It follows a a Mexican translator in New York charged with finding “the next Bolaño.” She discovers the work of an obscure poet, falls in love with it, finds herself possibly haunted by his ghost, their identities becoming more and more porous as the novel (and her translation of him) progresses.
 
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
 
Ways to Disappear is the first novel by poet and translator Idra Novey. Perhaps best known for her translation of Clarice Lispector’s classic The Passion According to G.H., Novey plays with the ways translators really aren’t “best known” for anything, the ways in which they are delegated to the shadows and their work never considered a truly creative act in its own right. Novey flips the narrative in this novel, making the translator, Emma, super visible as the hero-protagonist at the center of an international thriller/mystery. When Emma’s author, Beatriz Yagoda, the one she has been translating for years, goes missing, Emma abandons her boyfriend and her life in Pittsburgh to go to Brazil to find her. ‘Who could know an author better, her mind and intentions more thoroughly, than the author’s own translator?’ Emma thinks. But Beatriz’s Brazilian family, the ones that see her daily unwritten moments, beg to differ. Ways to Disappear is a page-turning philosophical book, one that functions both as a witty suspense novel and a meditation on the mysteries of language.
 
 
Paris Review editor Lorin Stein calls Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei “the best primer on translation I’ve ever read, also the funniest and most impatient,” and that is the marvel of this little book. If you are already interested in poetry and come to this book with a curiosity about the mysteries of translation, you will surely love Weinberger’s classic. But if you are intimidated by poetry and don’t think you have any particular interest in translation, this book may yet provide an unexpected entryway into both. The project is deceptively simple, with Weinberger examining 19 different translations of a classic four-line poem by the eighth-century poet Wang Wei, but the result is a newfound wonder about language and cross-cultural communication. You will finish this book marveling at the creative feat of any act of translation, running to your favorite dog-eared copy of Anna Karenina or Remembrances of Things Past to see which translator gifted you access to these works written now once again in your own tongue.
 
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane
 
It’s rare that a writer tours for their book in its translated form, and even rarer that such a writer comes through Portland. So I felt fortunate to get the chance to interview Chilean writer Lina Meruane, an author already well-known in the Spanish-speaking world. She has just now had one of her books translated into English for the first time, thanks to Deep Vellum, one of the newer presses dedicated solely to works in translation. Deep Vellum joins the likes of publishers old and new (for example, And Other Stories, Coffeehouse Press, New Directions, Tilted Axis, Wakefield Press) that are making this a particularly exciting time for American readers (and book podcast hosts). Seeing Red opens with the narrator losing her vision and somehow creates a text that is more visual, not less, as a result. Intertwining fiction and autobiography, the novel explores and interrogates the tropes of illness narratives in relation to gender and gender stereotypes. As a result, Seeing Red defies your expectations at every turn.
 
Part of the reason it felt like literary luminaries W.G. Sebald and Roberto Bolaño exploded on the American literary scene in one big boom is because it took us so long to take notice and begin translating their work. Once one book caught on, the rest came in one big rush. Hopefully, with this renewed interest in translation, we won’t have to wait quite as long for an onrush of translation of Lina Meruane’s work. I’ll be first in line to read the next one.
 
Listen to audio of my conversations with Luiselli, Novey, Weinberger and Meruane.

--By the Hollywood Teen Book Council

There have always been conflicts in the world that leave innocent populations vulnerable. Currently, there has been a lot of recent news around refugees from various parts of the world. We are always curious to learn more either through fiction or from true accounts. Here are some of the resources that we have found particularly meaningful in understanding our world better, and what others are facing.

Podcasts

99% Invisible Icon
99% Invisible

Church (Sanctuary Part 1):

While exploring conflicts in Central America in the 1980, this podcast explores the “social movement based on the ancient religious concept of ‘sanctuary,’ the idea that churches have a duty to shelter people fleeing persecution.”

State (Sanctuary Part 2):

This podcast looks at the government response to churches’ response as being sanctuaries by launching a full-scale investigation into the sanctuary movement.

This American Life icon
This American Life

Are We There Yet? Episode 592:

Staff members of This American Life explore a refugee camp in Greece. They discuss how the Greek government is handling the refugee crisis; explore an abandoned baseball stadium in Athens where about a thousand Afghans are living; talk to a mother about what it is like to be a parent in a refugee camp; and what it is like for a refuge to call the asylum office via Skype.

Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee. Episode 593:

The second part of the staff's visit to Greece explores what it is like to build a life living in a refugee camp.

Short Films

Many of this year's Oscar nominated documentary shorts were about current refugee experiences. Look for these:

 

Short documentary about the first responders who rescue victims from the daily airstrikes in Syria.

White Helmets | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

 
Short documentary that was filmed over three years, telling the story of one family's escape from war-torn Syria, and their attempt to make a new life in Germany.

Watani - My Homeland (Trailer)

 

4.1 Miles:

Short documentary that follows a coast guard captain on a small Greek island who  is suddenly charged with saving thousands of refugees from drowning at sea.

4.1 Miles Trailer

 

Film

Hotel Rwanda:

Tells the story of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, who kept more than 1000 people safe during the 1994 Rwandan massacre.

HOTEL RWANDA (2004) - Official Movie Trailer

 

Comics

By New York Times Comic by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan
 
Follows the true story of a Syrian family's journey to America.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Video Clips

Ted Talk Playlist: Refugees Welcome

Ten different TedTalks about that explore the refugee crisis and refugees' experiences. 

Ted Ed: What Does It Mean to be a Refugee?

What does it mean to be a refugee? - Benedetta Berti and Evelien Borgman

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Migrants and Refugees Sept. 28, 2015

Migrants and Refugees: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Article

The Atlantic log

Refugees and the Limits of Economic Logic

By Derek Thompson in The Atlantic

Explores how taking in people who have no safe home isn't about GDP growth; it's about basic decency.

Close-up image of microfilm in a microfilm reader.
Microfilm & microfilm readers

Microfilm is photographic film used to record miniaturized images on sheets or reels. Often these are images of pages from newspapers and magazines. The reels of film use less space than the original items (for example, 50 years of Sports Illustrated on film takes up the same space as 1 year of the paper magazine, and the boxes of microfilm can fit in one small drawer). To read the microscopic images on film, you use a microfilm reader which enlarges them for you.

Two digital microfilm readers are located at Central Library. These readers offer many new options for editing and saving images from microfilm, including the ability to crop, enhance images and add notes.

Digital microfilm machines at Central Library.
So, what kinds of magazines and newspapers does the library have on microfilm?

All sorts! Here is a selection of historic gems that are available at Central Library for your micro-perusing:

  • The Black Panther, 1968 to 1980
  • Harper’s, 1963-2013
  • Macworld, 1984 to 2005
  • Reader’s Digest, 1922 to 2013
  • TV Guide, 1953 to 1994
  • and many, many more!

In addition to national publications like the ones listed above, Central Library also has a large collection of local newspapers on microfilm, including the Oregon Journal, The Oregonian, The Portland Telegram and the Willamette Week. For more information about searching in local newspapers, take a look at the blog post “Research with historical Portland newspapers, beyond the Oregonian.”

Microfilm readers are also located at the Gresham and Sellwood libraries. These locations have smaller collections of microfilm materials which are specific to their communities like The Gresham Outlook and The Sellwood Bee.

Newspaper article about the Grateful Dead
A couple of notes before you begin your micro-searching:

  1. When you use microfilm, it is like browsing through a big stack of newspapers or magazines arranged by date. If you don’t know the exact date for the article that you are seeking, you might need to use an index (usually this index is a book or an online resource) to look it up.
  2. Some magazines and newspapers are only available on microfilm at the library, but many are also available through the library’s online databases. These databases can sometimes be a better choice for your searching.

Remember, you can always Ask a Librarian and we will be happy to help you find the information or articles that you need!

It's said that history is written by the winners but many stories go untold, especially when they concern women. For instance, have you ever heard of Nellie Bly?

I had a vague notion about her buried somewhere in my brain - 'a reporter, wasn't she?' - but I knew nothing more. As it turns out, she entered journalism at a time when the only role for female reporters was to contribute to the society pages. In a bold move to show her editor that women could do hard-hitting journalism, she volunteered to go undercover, and committed herself to the notorious women's asylum on Blackwell's Island. Bly reported that if one wasn't insane when committed, one would most certainly lose one's sanity in the horrendous conditions on the island. Her work resulted in improvements to the facility and better care for inmates.

A good reporter can never rest on her laurels though, and so in 1889, Bly set out to race around the world in 80 days or fewer to see if the journey that Jules Verne imagined in Around the World in 80 Days could be accomplished. What she didn't realize was that a rival paper decided to make it a race by sending the young Elizabeth Bisland around the world in the opposite direction.

You can follow this riveting story by reading Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-making Race around the World, by Matthew Goodman, which describes a great chase by ship and train across many countries. The excitement of the race is nicely balanced by the historical detail, and satisfies the curiosity while reading like a novel. You can also join fans of Nellie at an upcoming event that will give you an inside perspective on this remarkable woman.

For more inside stories about surprising women in history take a look at the accompanying reading list.

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