Archive for the ‘History’ Category

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s page on the history of Labor Day, we’ve been celebrating workers on the first Monday of September since 1894.  If you’re interested in taking a look at some of your fellow workers’ experiences, you might want to check out these titles.

NPR refers to Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Turkel as the quintessential book about Labor Day.  First published in 1974, this book is a collection of interviews of more than 130 people around the country about their jobs.  Men and women from every walk of life talked to the Chicago radio broadcaster about their likes & dislikes, fears, problems and happinesses on the job.
Harlan County, U.S.A. is a documentary film about the Kentucky coal miners’ strike against the operators of the Brookside mine and the Duke Power Company in 1973.  The dvd focuses on the hostile conditions that the miners dealt with — the threats and bullying — as well as their everyday struggles with poverty and black lung disease.
In Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line by Ben Hamper, the author recounts his experiences as riveter for General Motors during the ’70s and ’80s.
Waiter Rant:  Thanks for the Tip — Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica.  Based on the award-winning blog, “Waiter Rant,” this book tells the story from the server’s point of view.
Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams edited by M.L. Liebler.  From the folk anthems of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie to the poems of Walt Whitman and Amiri Baraka, from the stories of Willa Cather and Bret Lott to the rabble-rousing work of Michael Moore, this transcendent volume touches upon all aspects of working-class life.

If you’re interested in more titles, we have plenty!  Search our catalog using the keywords “working class United States” or “labor unions” and take your pick!

While I’m grateful to have a full-time job that I love, I’m also grateful for Labor Day.  Weather permitting, I plan to spend the day with family.  Maybe I’ll ask my dad to tell me stories about his time working for the railroad.  What are your plans?

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simon-said1Book Review:  Simon Said by Sarah Shaber

An archaeological dig uncovers the body of a woman shot in the head  70 years ago and buried with care under the old kitchen of Bloodworth House.  Historian Simon Shaw is an expert on the history of the site and he identifies the victim as Anne Bloodworth, an heiress who disappeared in 1926.  Why would someone want her dead?  And why did they bury her with reverence?  When discovered, her arms were crossed demurely over her chest and she was neatly shrouded in a quilt.

Puzzling as those questions are, Professor Shaw has more immediate concerns.  Just as he’s pulling himself out of an emotional nosedive following his divorce, a colleague tries to discredit him.  Is the colleague also behind the recent attempts on Shaw’s life?  Attempts which are staged to appear like suicide?  Who else would have motive to want this popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning professor out of the way — permanently?

Simon Said is the first entry in the Simon Shaw series.  Described by his love interest as “small, bookish, and unambitious,” Shaw has a certain charm.  A 30-something unexpectedly finding himself single and quite uncertain about dating the second time around, Shaw’s personal situation is easy to relate to — as is his apparent caffeine addiction (do not read this book if you are trying to kick the soda habit).  I like the fact that he teaches where he feels at home rather than seeking a position at a more prestigious university.  I like that he surrounds himself with heirlooms from his family.  I like that he has a cat and for a first date, he took his love interest to a baseball game.  Yes, he has a certain charm.  🙂

I also liked both mysteries, past and present.  My only quibbles would be that Shaber has a tendency to spell everything out and yet somehow allow our characters to miss the obvious.  While most of the story is told from Shaw’s viewpoint, we are given glimpses of other characters’ viewpoints as well, particularly regarding their feelings toward Shaw.  So, there’s not much excitement there, because we know that no one who counts believes he’s suicidal.  There were too many obvious clues that intelligent characters should not have missed — and, as good as Shaber’s characterization of Shaw was, some details seemed to suddenly emerge when needed.  Still, it’s a cozy read with a strong atmosphere of small-town life in the South and I will definitely give the next book in the series a go.  Looking forward to Snipe Hunt!

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In honor of Black History Month, I selected two books by African-American authors to read during the month of February: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler and Jubilee by Margaret Walker.

parableofthesowerFrom the mid-1970s until her death in 2006, the award-winning Octavia Butler stood out as an African-American woman in a genre nominated by white males. Her science fiction unapologetically addresses issues of race, class, gender, and religion. Parable of the Sower is the first book in an unfinished trilogy. (Butler died while writing the third book.)

Parable’s protagonist is teenaged Lauren, who lives in a futuristic Los Angeles in which the government has all but collapsed. The walls of her gated community and the leadership of her pastor/professor father serve as her only protection against the lawless, violent society in which she and her family live. Adding further difficulties to her already challenging reality, Lauren suffers from a condition that allows her to experience the physical pain of those around her. In the midst of her struggle to survive (spoiler alert: that struggle will greatly intensify when Lauren’s community is overrun and she and two other survivors hit the road in an attempt to find somewhere safer to live), Lauren is waxing poetic about religion. She has dismissed her Baptist father’s God, and instead believes that “God is change” and is determined to found a new religion called Earthseed.

Butler’s world-building (always a challenge in sci-fi) is solid and her characters are interesting and engaging. I was less interested in Lauren’s budding religion and more interested in what was necessary to survive the endless string of tragedies that are commonplace in Lauren’s world. Parable of the Sower held my attention, and I continually wanted to know what would happen next, but the final third of the book was a bit of a let-down for me, as I felt it mostly served to set up the sequel, rather than telling its own story. Nevertheless, I would recommend Parable of the Sower to fans of dystopian sci-fi.

jubileeJubilee, by Margaret Walker, was published in 1966 and was atypical for its time, as it tells the story of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the eyes of an African-American woman. Walker, who started Jubilee as part of her dissertation while earning her doctorate at the University of Iowa, based Jubilee on the true story of her great-grandmother, a slave who was fathered by her owner. I admit to currently being only about 300 pages into the 500 page book, but have every intention of finishing it. While I am still unable to critique the book as a whole, I admire Walker’s ability to create realistic characters with both strengths and weaknesses. In a novel about slavery, it’s easy to demonize some characters and canonize others into saints, or paint characters with a broad brush based on what “category” they belong to (black or white, slave or free, Southerner or Northerner) but Walker’s characters are multi-faceted, flawed, and sympathetic, rendering them believable. While the subject matter is tough and the book is lengthy, it’s written at a level accessible to teenagers, making this an “easy” read and one I would recommend.

What about you? What have you been reading for Black History Month? I’d love to hear!

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Black History Month

brown girl dreaming

Several of our library locations are inviting patrons to investigate Black History Month with a good read.  We have items for kids, teens, and adults; fiction and non-fiction; historical to contemporary. Check it out!

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discoverysettlem00fils_0010Book Review:  The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke by John Filson.

~Contributed by Jeff, Internet Archive

Written in 1784, this book’s an oldie but a goodie!  While not part of ACPL’s print collection, we digitized it, and it can be read online by clicking the title or the cover image.

The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke  came to us from the University of Pittsburgh’s Darlington Collection.  One of the many fascinating things about this book is that a previously unknown letter written by Daniel Boone was discovered inside this volume when we digitized it!

This book is a fascinating account of Daniel Boone’s adventures, his dealings with the Indians including his capture and his escape, and his impressions of their lifestyle and culture.  Click here to skip ahead to a brief mention of the “Mawmee” Indians.

If you like regional history, this book’s definitely worth a read!  And if you’re interested in an overview of the Internet Archive itself, click here.

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World OrderBook Review:  World Order by Henry Kissinger

~ Contributed by Cathy, Art Music & Media

World Order by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is a remarkably well-presented explanation about the histories of the pertinent parts of the world involved in today’s crises in the Middle East, including Europe, the United States, Asia, India, the Middle East and Russia.  Kissinger explains how each of these areas evolved to their current state and why the problems we see today are so complicated, far more so than one would suspect.  

It is extremely well organized and easy to grasp.  It is written clearly and precisely.  I wish I had had that kind of overarching understanding of how the political cultures of the world inter-related (or did not relate) when taking required history in college.  I may have enjoyed it more!  I hope our political leaders will read this book.

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The Wunderkind of Salzburg


Image courtesy of PictureQuotes.com


One of my favorite things about being a librarian is that I’m paid to be curious.  People often apologize for asking questions, especially if they think the information will be difficult to find.  The tough questions are often my favorites because they allow me to learn something new — and I love learning something new!

Writing for the library’s blogs also provides an outlet for my curiosity.  I like to flip through Chase’s Calendar of Events when I’m planning what to write next; because it’s such an extensive list of what’s happening and why we should care, it’s a wonderful introduction to a wide range of topics.  I noted that January 27 marked the birthday of a famous composer and I also noted that while I enjoy listening to classical music, I don’t really know that much about it.  So, I decided to do a little research.  Just for fun — and for this blog post, of course 🙂

  • At four years-old, he could learn a piece of music in 30 minutes.
  • At eight years-old, he began writing symphonies.
  • He was one of the first musicians in history to go freelance, without the backing of a church, court or rich patron.
  • To date, he is probably the only composer to write masterworks in every musical genre during his time period.

Who am I referring to? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His father, Leopold Mozart, was a violinist, minor composer, and vice-kapellmeister at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Young Mozart accompanied his father on tour, absorbing various European musical styles along the way. His greatest works are noted for their melodic beauty, formal elegance, and richness of harmony and texture. A sampling is listed below:

Despite being a successful composer and a renowned piano virtuoso, Mozart struggled financially for most of his life. He was just beginning to achieve financial stability when he died in Vienna at the age of 35. He was buried in a common grave, the exact location of which remains unknown.

Intrigued?  ACPL has a variety of ways you can enjoy his work.  Click here to browse a list of music cds in the collection, here to browse a list of dvds, and click here to see what’s available for download through Freegal.

Further Reading: Wolfgang Mozart, Early Life; Mozart; Mozart Project.




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