Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood

The “Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys” book discussions series begins Wednesday, January 29 at 1:00 p.m. in the library’s Shiras Room.  

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi is the third book scheduled for discussion on Wednesday, March 26. Mernissi grew up in Fez, Morocco in the 1940s. In this memoir, she writes about her large, extended family in which the women and children were confined to their shared home and restricted in their behavior. Mernissi focuses on her strong, colorful female relatives and their conflicting attitudes about traditional harem life and the political and social changes facing Morocco including the waning of the French occupation, World War II, the Westernization of Morocco and the challenges faced as educational opportunities opened up. The author took advantage of these opportunities. She studied at the Sorbonne and earned her doctorate at Brandeis University. She is a sociologist and teaches at Mohammed V University in Rabat. You can find this biography on the top floor of Peter White Public Library under call number: 921 Mernissi.

~C.S. Reference Desk

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jamrach's Menagerie

I think one of the reason’s Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch is such a compelling story is that it is so close to being a true story.  All the components are at once fantastic and based on fact.  The opening scene, in which a small boy is almost consumed by a tiger, but lives to tell the tale, is based on a recorded incident.  The story that follows of a group of adventurers out in search of real live dragon, could just as easily be true if you allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to live in a time when no one in your part of the part of the world had ever seen a Komodo dragon and all you knew were the stories.  
Terrible things happen in the course of this novel, but what I was left with was a sense of wonder and possibility.  

~EM, Reference desk

Monday, January 20, 2014

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

It takes a certain amount of pluck to be both a first person and an omniscient narrator.  Kate Atkinson’s novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum starts with Ruby Lennox describing the moment of her conception in 1950’s England. In the rest of book she moves both forward and backwards in time to describe not only her own story but that of her parents, grandparents, and extended family.   Her family is not privileged and many die prematurely either by accident or warfare.  But the wit and spunk expressed through the telling keeps the story engaging.   
Winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year for 1997. 

~EM, Reference Desk.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Death's Door

The centennial of the Copper Miners’ Strike of 1913 has been observed this past year in the Keweenaw Peninsula. This labor strike lasted from July 1913 to April 1914, and to a large extent shut down or drastically curtailed copper mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. One of the most notable events of the strike was the Italian Hall Tragedy where 73 people, the majority of them children, lost their lives on Christmas Eve.
        The events of that fateful day are chronicled in an expanded edition of Death’s Door by Steve Lehto. No stranger to Copper Country, Lehto first explored this disaster in the original version of the book which was named a Michigan Notable Book in 2006. Since that time, he has collected new material and photos and doubled the size of the book. He has also served as an expert for two film documentaries about the strike and Italian Hall Tragedy.
        Lehto has also written Shortcut-the Seeberville Murders and the Dark Side of the American Dream. This book details the tragic events surrounding mine security harassment of immigrant miners near Seeberville. When the harassment escalates, two innocent people are left dead.
        Film makers Louis Galdieri and Ken Ross were introduced to the Copper Miners’ Strike by the Woody Guthrie ballad "1913 Massacre." The two spent almost ten years filming and researching background for the film by the same name. What was created is a film that looks at the impact of the Italian Hall tragedy on Calumet and the Keweenaw Peninsula using personal interviews of several of the event’s survivors and local residents. The song, sung by Arlo Guthrie, provides a haunting backdrop to the film.

~Pam Christensen

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Michigan has a rich cache of poets, many from the Upper Peninsula. Read your way into these two collections of contemporary poems by local favorites.

Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry is a beautiful new release from Western Michigan University’s New Issues Poetry & Prose. Edited by William Olsen and Jack Ridl, this book anthologizes about 90 contemporary Michigan poets and 30 artists. The subjects of their poems concern Michigan’s landscapes, waterways, cities, and the emotions and experiences of its people. The settings range from the U.P. to Detroit. U.P. poets include Elinor Benedict (Rapid River); Matthew Gavin Frank and Austin Hummell (NMU); Ander Monson (originally from Houghton); Ron Riekki (originally from Marquette) and Russ Thorburn, the U.P.’s Poet Laureate (Marquette). The stunning art work is worthy of its own show.

The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works, edited by Ron Riekki, was published this past spring by Wayne State University Press. The poems and stories offered here present an intimate look at life in the U.P. They capture its humor and sorrow, fear and joy, people and topography. I have sometimes wondered how pastors are able to endure so much death and grief and discovered an answer in Emily Van Kley’s poem “My Father’s Datebook” in which she writes, “First in are … days of canoes & cranberry bogs & forest service cabins—by which he means to endure … the church members dying….” The poems and stories collected in this anthology help, too. ~Cathy

Monday, January 6, 2014

Detroit: An American Autopsy

Many Best or Notable Books of the Year lists are made available to enthusiastic readers in December. It is always fun to find out which titles are chosen and which appear on more than one list.

One of my favorite books this year is Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy. After a twenty year absence, LeDuff, a New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, returns home to report for the Detroit News. He chronicles the abandoned homes, neighborhoods and factories of his broken city. He demonstrates the incompetence and corruption of City Hall and describes the outrageous actions of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Council Woman Monica Conyers. He follows the trail of the auto industry from manufacturing and labor leadership to bailouts and incompetent, clueless executives. LeDuff also portrays the courage and dedication of the Fire Fighters who respond to Detroit’s systemic arson driving wrecks of fire trucks and wearing protective clothing so coated with chemicals they are a fire hazard themselves. Even the brass poles of the firehouses have been sold for scrap! LeDuff parallels the story of Detroit with that of his family, writing of their hard work, failures, tragedies and endurance. LeDuff’s fierce passion for his city and his family give readers hope for Detroit’s salvation.