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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ 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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peacnsthestoryinanutshellIn case you weren’t already aware, April is National Pecan Month, which automatically begs the question: how do you say “pecan”? Some people pronounce the name of this nut as pee-kan, while others say pi-kahn. I consulted several different dictionaries and they all verified that each of those pronunciations is acceptable. Personally, I like to combine the two to say pee-kahn. I didn’t find this listed anywhere as a correct pronunciation. Evidently, I’ve been saying it wrong.

Npecansasavorthesouthcookbookow that you know how to say pecan correctly (not like me!), and that we’re in the midst of National Pecan Month, it seems like a great time to explore this delicious nut. If you’d like to learn about the pecan’s uses, cultivation, life cycles, predators, diseases, and species development check out Pecans: The Story in a Nutshell by Jane thepecanahistoryofamericasnativenutManaster. If you’re more interested in the commercialization of the pecan try The Pecan: A History of America’s Native Nut by James E. McWilliams. Or if you just want to cook with pecans, a pecan cookbook like Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook or In Praise of Pecans: Recipes and Collections might be right for you.

inpraiseofpecansBut most importantly, we want to know, how do you say “pecan”?

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This clip has been around for a couple of years but I just discovered it — and I’m glad I did! Today, because it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, many of us will don the green, toast our friends, and be on the lookout for leprechauns.  As the world pretends to be Irish for the day, I thought I’d share one of my favorite things Irish — Irish Dance.  Warning:  if you’ve never done this type of dancing before, you might not want to attempt it for the first time at your local pub on St. Patty’s Day.  Just sayin’.

 

 

Old Irish Blessing

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

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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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Calendar bookYou may wonder what New Year’s Day has to do with the goofy American measuring system, but then you do read a library blog in order to learn things. Well, according to The Calendar: History, Lore, and Legend, 500 years ago the definition of New Year’s Day varied hugely around the world, even across Europe. When your ancestor was already in 1515, over on the other side of the river somebody else was going to stay in 1514 for months to come.

For religious and scientific reasons, Pope Gregory XIII got the great push to a uniform calendar started in 1582. The big decision was taking 10 days out of that year, but a lesser one was that new year’s days would be observed on January 1, the traditional date of Jesus’s circumcision. (For those of us with some pagan genes, January 1 is still 11 days after the winter solstice that ought to mark the new year, but what the heck.) Several Catholic nations quickly followed Gregory’s lead, but Protestants dragged their feet for decades, with the British and Americans not going along until 1752. Orthodox nations took even longer, well into the 20th century. Yet, by the time New Year’s Day 2000 arrived, pretty much the whole world, Christian and otherwise, was in sync with the millennial celebration. Various traditional calendars are still observed within cultures, but, in an important way, Gregory’s project eventually united the whole world.

So, maybe there is hope that the metric system, which is only about 220 years old, will some day be used by Americans as readily — and rationally — as it already is in most of the world. And maybe the British will agree to drive on the right side of the road.

Just not in your lifetime.

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Grandpa Haines

My great grandpa — George Leslie Haines

I was privileged enough to grow up with my mom’s maternal grandparents. They were in their 70s by the time I came to be and lived on a farm in the Ohio countryside. They lived in an old farm house with a wood-burning stove, curtain doorways, creaky floors, and an outhouse. They had a pot-bellied pig, peacocks, horses, a dog named Dopey and drew water from a spring out back. My great grandpa was a retired coal miner who picked ginseng to sell for extra money. Great grandma made homemade noodles for funny money and crocheted better than anyone I knew or have known. Even after going blind due to macular degeneration in her 80s, she continued turning out colorfully patterned washcloths and pot holders.

Grandma Haines

My great grandma — Mildred May Haines

When I was 8 years old they struck oil on their land and bought a brand new mobile home with an indoor bathroom (which my grandpa refused to use until he became very ill). They got an air conditioner for the window and used a furnace. It was the only luxury they purchased with the oil money; they banked the rest. You see, they were not people of means, they never had been. For them entertainment was attending auctions in Amish country. After they moved across the road to the new place they entertained themselves with Wheel of Fortune (I was entertained by my geriatric grandfather making “comments” about Vanna White), westerns, and the news. They were simple people living a simple life and they were happy. They understood the value of a dollar, that things were not important, and how to work hard. I have been thinking of them as the holidays approach. I remember going to their house and sitting on grandma’s lap eating candied orange slices, smelling noodles cooking on the stove, and enjoying their company while we celebrated Christmas. As they were simple people, the gifts they gave reflected that. Often they were homemade, or practical. If we got money it was a $5 bill, which we cherished and that amount never changed through the years.

Haines Property

One of the barns on my great-grandparents’ property

If I could pass one thing along to my children it is the importance of living life the way my great grandparents did … simply. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. I am still learning it, but I have my grandparents to thank for planting the seed in me. I feel like this world can be full of senseless stuff, immediate gratification, and “me!” perspectives. In this world of Kim Kardashian and her followers, it has become even more important for me to help my children unplug from the holiday season our culture has created. One day I hope my kids choose experiences rather than gifts. I hope they see the beauty of discovering a new place, a new person, and opt to leave the surplus of things behind. I hope they choose to visit a nursing home, or help serve the needy a meal, or sing carols to shut-ins. More than anything I want them to give something back; to realize it is about more than a stack of gifts.

My great grandpa passed away when I was 17 and my great grandma died when I was 23. I think of them and their little slice of heaven often. I think of them tending the garden, feeding the chickens, and mowing the lawn. I see my grandpa smiling without his teeth [he often bragged he never visited the dentist; that might be a little too simple], hear my grandma’s raspy voice, and feel her soft cheek beneath my lips. I miss them and I miss their presence. And isn’t that a much better present than anything wrapped up with a bow.

A few titles from our collection that offer tips on a simple lifestyle:

Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Your Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet by Elizabeth Rogers

The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life by Wanda Urbanska

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel

Less Is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy and Lasting Happiness by Cecile Andrews

Lists to Live by for Simple Living by Alice Gray

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By Nancy

Holiday DVDs are flying off our shelves at all of our library locations.  This holiday season is our first since we started offering streaming movies via Hoopla.  So in case you can’t make it in to the library because of your busy holiday schedule or just want to stay in out of the cold, don’t forget that ACPL resident library cardholders can borrow up to six movies each month via the library’s free streaming move service, Hoopla.  You can borrow each title for 72 hours.  Those under 18 may borrow those movies rated G through PG-13.

holidayhooplamoviesSo scope out the selections (consider scrolling through the lists of “Festive Family Flicks” and “Holidays with Heart”) and plan your six checkouts for November and six checkouts for December.    You can do all of your searching now, adding titles to your Favorites so you don’t have to remember which titles you wanted to view at a later date.  Once you’ve added the titles as Favorites, when you are ready to watch a movie, just Sign In, go to My Titles and then Favorites to pull up the list of movies you added to your Favorites list.  Click on the cover for the detailed information and then click borrow to start your 72-hour loan period.

If you need any assistance using Hoopla, please call us at 421-1210.  Hoopla requires you to sign up or register for an account using your email address, a password you create for Hoopla, and your library card number.  Once you have created your Hoopla account, you will Sign In with your email address and the password you created.

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