Category Archives: Humanities

What to Read this Month: July

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!


The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley. It’s the opening night of The Manor, the newest and hottest luxury resort, and no expense, small or large, has been spared. The infinity pool sparkles; the “Manor Mule” cocktail (grapefruit, ginger, vodka, and a dash of CBD oil) is being poured with a heavy hand. Everyone is wearing linen. But under the burning midsummer sun, darkness stirs. Old friends and enemies circulate among the guests. Just outside the Manor’s immaculately kept grounds, an ancient forest bristles with secrets. And it’s not too long before the local police are called. Turns out the past has crashed the party, with deadly results. The audiobook is narrated by Joe Eyre. To learn more you can read this review or watch an interview with the author.


Alexandria: The City that Changed the World by Islam Issa. An original, authoritative, and lively cultural history of the first modern city, from pre-Homeric times to the present day. Islam Issa’s father had always told him about their city’s magnificence, and as he looked at the new library in Alexandria it finally hit home. This is no ordinary library. And Alexandria is no ordinary city. Combining rigorous research with myth and folklore, Alexandria is an authoritative history of a city that has shaped our modern world. Soon after being founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria became the crucible of cultural exchange between East and West for millennia and the undisputed global capital of knowledge. It was at the forefront of human progress, but it also witnessed brutal natural disasters, plagues, crusades and violence. Major empires fought over Alexandria, from the Greeks and Romans to the Arabs, Ottomans, French, and British. Key figures shaped the city from its eponymous founder to Aristotle, Cleopatra, Saint Mark the Evangelist, Napoleon Bonaparte and many others, each putting their own stamp on its identity and its fortunes. And millions of people have lived in this bustling seaport on the Mediterranean.  To learn more read this World Literature Today review or listen to this podcast with Dan Snow.


Annie Bot by Sierra Greer. Annie Bot was created to be the perfect girlfriend for her human owner Doug. Designed to satisfy his emotional and physical needs, she has dinner ready for him every night, wears the pert outfits he orders for her, and adjusts her libido to suit his moods. True, she’s not the greatest at keeping Doug’s place spotless, but she’s trying to please him. She’s trying hard. She’s learning, too. Doug says he loves that Annie’s AI makes her seem more like a real woman, so Annie explores human traits such as curiosity, secrecy, and longing. But becoming more human also means becoming less perfect, and as Annie’s relationship with Doug grows more intricate and difficult, she starts to wonder: Does Doug really desire what he says he wants? And in such an impossible paradox, what does Annie owe herself? Check out reviews in the NYT and the New Yorker.


This American Ex-Wife: How I Ended My Marriage and Started My Life by Lyz Lenz.   Studies show that nearly 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women–women who are tired, fed up, exhausted, and unhappy. We’ve all seen how the media portrays divorcées: sad, lonely, drowning their sorrows in a bottle of wine. Lyz Lenz is one such woman whose life fell apart after she reached a breaking point in her twelve-year marriage. But she refused to take part in that tired narrative and decided to flip the script on divorce. In this exuberant and unapologetic book, Lenz makes an argument for the advantages of getting divorced, framing it as a practical and effective solution for women to take back the power they are owed. Weaving reportage with sociological research and literature with popular culture along with personal stories of coming together and breaking up, Lenz creates a kaleidoscopic and poignant portrait of American marriage today. She argues that the mechanisms of American power, justice, love, and gender equality remain deeply flawed, and that marriage, like any other cultural institution, is due for a reckoning.  You can read reviews in The Atlantic and NYT.


There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, in the 1990s, Hanif Abdurraqib witnessed a golden era of basketball, one in which legends like LeBron James were forged and countless others weren’t. His lifelong love of the game leads Abdurraqib into a lyrical, historical, and emotionally rich exploration of what it means to make it, who we think deserves success, the tension between excellence and expectation, and the very notion of role models, all of which he expertly weaves together with intimate, personal storytelling. “Here is where I would like to tell you about the form on my father’s jump shot,” Abdurraqib writes. “The truth, though, is that I saw my father shoot a basketball only one time.” There’s Always This Year is a triumph, brimming with joy, pain, solidarity, comfort, outrage, and hope. The book is narrated by the author. To learn more you can read this NYT review or read this NPR interview.

LMBC Big Books Edition: Don Quixote

It’s almost summer, and that means it’s time for the Low Maintenance Book Club Big Books Edition! This year, we’ll be reading Don Quixote, sometimes described as a founding novel of Western Literature and/or the greatest work ever written. Do you agree? Let’s discuss!

Since this work is especially epic, we’ll cover it over four meetings. The third will take place on Thursday,  July 18th at noon over Zoom and will cover the second part from the dedication through chapter XXXVI . Although you’re welcome to read any translation, we recommend works by Grossman, Raffel or Jarvis.

Our first discussion took place on Wednesday, May 22nd and covered Part I & II.

Our second discussion took place on Thursday, June 20th and covered Part III & IV

Although the readings are longer, the low maintenance attitude is the same. Join as you like, discuss as much as you want–or just hang out and enjoy the company. Everyone is welcome. Just RSVP so we know how many to expect, and we’ll send out a Zoom link the morning of the meeting.

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

What to Read this Month: June

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!


The Allure of the Multiverse: Extra Dimensions, Other Worlds, and Parallel Universes by Paul Halpern. Our books, our movies–our imaginations–are obsessed with extra dimensions, alternate timelines, and the sense that all we see might not be all there is. In short, we can’t stop thinking about the multiverse. As it turns out, physicists are similarly captivated. In The Allure of the Multiverse, physicist Paul Halpern tells the epic story of how science became besotted with the multiverse, and the controversies that ensued. The questions that brought scientists to this point are big and deep: Is reality such that anything can happen, must happen? How does quantum mechanics “choose” the outcomes of its apparently random processes? And why is the universe habitable? Each question quickly leads to the multiverse. Drawing on centuries of disputation and deep vision, from luminaries like Nietzsche, Einstein, and the creators of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Halpern reveals the multiplicity of multiverses that scientists have imagined to make sense of our reality. To learn more check out this Wall Street Journal review or watch an interview with the author.


Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett. When mysterious faeries from other realms appear at her university, curmudgeonly professor Emily Wilde must uncover their secrets before it’s too late, in this heartwarming, enchanting second installment of the Emily Wilde series. Emily Wilde is a genius scholar of faerie folklore who just wrote the world’s first comprehensive encyclopaedia of faeries. She’s learned many of the secrets of the Hidden Ones on her adventures . . . and also from her fellow scholar and former rival Wendell Bambleby. Because Bambleby is more than infuriatingly charming. He’s an exiled faerie king on the run from his murderous mother and in search of a door back to his realm. And despite Emily’s feelings for Bambleby, she’s not ready to accept his proposal of marriage: Loving one of the Fair Folk comes with secrets and dangers. With new relationships for the prickly Emily to navigate and dangerous Folk lurking in every forest and hollow, Emily must unravel the mysterious workings of faerie doors and of her own heart. To learn more about this book and the series, you can read several reviews.


Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure by Maggie Jackson. In an era of terrifying unpredictability, we race to address complex crises with quick, sure algorithms, bullet points, and tweets. How could we find the clarity and vision so urgently needed today by being unsure? Uncertain is about the triumph of doing just that. A scientific adventure tale set on the front lines of a volatile era, this epiphany of a book by award-winning author Maggie Jackson shows us how to skillfully confront the unexpected and the unknown, and how to harness not-knowing in the service of wisdom, invention, mutual understanding, and resilience. In laboratories, political campaigns, and on the frontiers of artificial intelligence, Jackson meets the pioneers decoding the surprising gifts of being unsure. Each chapter examines a mode of uncertainty-in-action, from creative reverie to the dissent that spurs team success. Step by step, the art and science of uncertainty reveal being unsure as a skill set for incisive thinking and day-to-day flourishing. You might enjoy this NPR interview.


Your Absence is Darkness by Jón Kalman Stefánsson ; translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton. A spellbinding saga about the inhabitants and inheritors of one rural community, by one of Iceland’s most beloved novelists. A man comes to awareness in a cold church in the Icelandic countryside, not knowing who he is, why he’s there or how he arrived, with a stranger staring mockingly from a few pews back. Startled by the man’s cryptic questions, he leaves–and plunges into a history spanning centuries, a past pressed into his genes that sinks him closer to some knowledge of himself. A city girl is drawn to the fjords by the memory of a blue-eyed gaze, and a generation earlier, a farmer’s wife writes an essay about earthworms that changes the course of lives. A pastor who writes letters to dead poets falls in love with a faraway stranger, and a rock musician, plagued by cosmic loneliness, discovers that his past has been a lie. Faced with the violence of fate and the effects of choices, made and avoided, that cascade between them, each discovers the cost of following the magnetic needle of the heart. Check out this NYT review or this Washington Post review.


I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition by Lucy Sante. An iconic writer’s lapidary memoir of a life spent pursuing a dream of artistic truth while evading the truth of her own gender identity, until, finally, she turned to face who she really was. For a long time, Lucy Sante felt unsure of her place. Born in Belgium, the only child of conservative working-class Catholic parents who transplanted their little family to the United States, she felt at home only when she moved to New York City in the early 1970s and found her people among a band of fellow bohemians. Some would die young, to drugs and AIDS, and some would become jarringly famous. Sante flirted with both fates, on her way to building an estimable career as a writer. But she still felt like her life a performance. She was presenting a façade, even to herself. Sante’s memoir braids together two threads of personal narrative: the arc of her life, and her recent step-by-step transition to a place of inner and outer alignment. To find out more, see this NYT review or this NPR interview.

Collection Spotlight: Read Like A Celebrity

Want to read like a celebrity? Check out our collection spotlight this month on the first floor of Perkins Library near the Perkins Service Desk. We’re highlighting books that celebrities have noted as favorites or current reads on social media and in interviews. Here are some examples of what you will find:

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid ( Jonathan Van Ness)

Slouching towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (Emma Roberts)

What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? by Marianne Schnall (Beyonce)

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq (Elliot Page)

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng (Ken Follett)

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King (Constance Wu)

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan (Kelly Rowland)

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Nigella Lawson)

Stray: A Memoir by Stephanie Danler (Troian Bellisario)

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Jamie Chung)

Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn (Brie Larson)

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (Jennette McCurdy)

What to Read this Month: May

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Since many people will soon be taking their summer vacations, I’m focusing on some audiobook examples this month!


Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her by Robin Gerber. Barbie and Ruth is the remarkable true story of the world’s most famous toy and the woman who created her. It is a fascinating account of how one visionary woman and her product changed an industry and sparked a lasting debate about women’s roles. At once a business book, a colorful portrait of an extraordinary female entrepreneur, and a breathtaking look at a cultural phenomenon, Barbie and Ruth is a must read for anyone who ever owned a Barbie doll. This is the entwined tale of two exceptional women. One was a voluptuous eleven-inch-tall beauty who debuted at the 1959 Toy Fair in New York City and quickly became the treasure of 9 out of 10 American girls and their counterparts in 150 countries. She went on to compete as an Olympic athlete, serve as an air force pilot, work as a boutique owner, run as a presidential candidate, and ignite a cultural firestorm. The other was Ruth Handler, the tenth child of Polish Jewish immigrants. A brilliant, creative, ruthless, and passionately competitive visionary, Ruth was a mother and wife who wanted it all—a masterful entrepreneur who, together with her curvaceous plastic creation, changed American business and culture forever. Narrated by Karen Gundersen.


A House With Good Bones by T. Kingfisher. “Mom seems off.” Her brother’s words echo in Sam Montgomery’s ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone. She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam’s excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out. But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above. To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried. Author Mary Robinette Kowal narrates!


Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout. With her trademark spare, crystalline prose—a voice infused with “intimate, fragile, desperate humanness” (The Washington Post)—Elizabeth Strout turns her exquisitely tuned eye to the inner workings of the human heart, following the indomitable heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton through the early days of the pandemic. As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it’s just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea. Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we’re apart—the pain of a beloved daughter’s suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love. Narrated by Kimberly Farr.


The World’s Worst Assistant by Sona Movsesian. From Conan O’Brien’s longtime assistant and cohost of his podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, a completely hilarious and irreverent how-to guide for becoming a terrible, yet unfireable employee, spilling her trade secrets for minimizing effort while maximizing the rewards. Sona Movsesian didn’t wake up one day and decide to become the World’s Worst Assistant. Achieving such greatness is a gradual process—one that starts with long hours and hard work before it eventually descends into sneaking low-dosage edibles into your lunch and napping on your boss’s couch. With a forward from Conan O’Brien, The World’s Worst Assistant is a mixture of how-tos (like How to Nap at Work and How to Watch TV at Your Desk), tips for becoming untouchable (like memorizing social security and credit card numbers and endearing yourself to friends and family), and incredible personal stories from Sona’s twelve years spent working for Conan that put their adorable closeness and professional dysfunction on display. In this audiobook, Sona will explain her descent from eager, hard-working, ambitious, detail-orientated assistant to self-awarded title-holder for the worst in history.


Erasure by Percival Everett. Percival Everett’s blistering satire about race and publishing, now as the Oscar-nominated film, American Fiction, directed by Cord Jefferson and starring Jeffrey Wright and Tracee Ellis Ross. Thelonious “Monk” Ellison’s writing career has bottomed out: his latest manuscript has been rejected by seventeen publishers, which stings all the more because his previous novels have been “critically acclaimed.” He seethes on the sidelines of the literary establishment as he watches the meteoric success of We’s Lives in Da Ghetto, a first novel by a woman who once visited “some relatives in Harlem for a couple of days.” Meanwhile, Monk struggles with real family tragedies-his aged mother is fast succumbing to Alzheimer’s, and he still grapples with the reverberations of his father’s suicide seven years before. In his rage and despair, Monk dashes off a novel meant to be an indictment of Juanita Mae Jenkins’s bestseller. He doesn’t intend for My Pafology to be published, let alone taken seriously, but it is-under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh-and soon it becomes the Next Big Thing. How Monk deals with the personal and professional fallout galvanizes this audacious, hysterical, and quietly devastating novel. Narrated by Sean Crisden.

What to Read This Month: April

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!

The Ascent by Adam Plantinga. When a high security prison fails, a down-on-his luck cop and the governor’s daughter are going to have to team up if they’re going to escape in this “jaw-dropping, authentic, and absolutely gripping” (Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author) thriller. Kurt Argento, an ex-Detroit street cop, can’t let injustice go–and he has the fighting skills to back up his idealism. If he sees a young girl being dragged into an alley, he’s going to rescue her and cause some damage. When he does just that in a small corrupt Missouri town, he’s brutally beaten and thrown into a maximum-security prison. Julie Wakefield, a grad student who happens to be the governor’s daughter, is about to take a tour of the prison. But when a malfunction in the security system releases a horde of prisoners, a fierce struggle for survival ensues. Argento must help a small band of staff and civilians, including Julie and her two state trooper handlers, make their way from the bottom floor to the roof to safety. All that stands in their way are six floors of the most dangerous convicts in Missouri. Watch this interview with the author on YouTube.

Company: Stories by Shannon Sanders. A brilliantly woven collection of stories about the lives and lore of one Black family. Named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2023, Shannon Sanders brings us into the company of the Collins family and their acquaintances. Moving from Atlantic City to New York to DC, from the 1960s to the 2000s, from law students to drag performers to violinists to matriarchs, Company tells a multifaceted, multigenerational saga in thirteen stories. Each piece includes a moment when a guest arrives at someone’s home. In “The Good, Good Men,” two brothers reunite to oust a “deadbeat” boyfriend from their mother’s house. In “The Everest Society,” the brothers’ sister anxiously prepares for a home visit from a social worker before adopting a child. In “Birds of Paradise,” their aunt, newly promoted to university provost, navigates a minefield of microaggressions at her own welcome party. And in the haunting title story, the provost’s sister finds her solitary life disrupted when her late sister’s daughter comes calling.  Buoyant, somber, and sharp, this collection announces a remarkable new voice in fiction. See what The Washington Post has to say about this richly detailed debut.

End Times by Rebecca Priestley. In the late 1980s, two teenage girls found refuge from a world of cozy conformity, sexism and the nuclear arms race in protest and punk. Then, drawn in by a promise of meaning and purpose, they cast off their punk outfits and became born-again Christians. Unsure which fate would come first – nuclear annihilation or the Second Coming of Jesus – they sought answers from end-times evangelists, scrutinizing friends and family for signs of demon possession and identifying EFTPOS and barcodes as signs of a looming apocalypse. Fast forward to 2021, and Rebecca and Maz – now a science historian and an engineer – are on a road trip to the West Coast. Their journey, though full of laughter and conversation and hot pies, is haunted by the threats of climate change, conspiracy theories, and a massive overdue earthquake. Read an excerpt from the book.

How To Hug a Porcupine: Easy Ways to Love the Difficult People in Your Life by Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis. Most of us know someone who, for whatever reason, always seems to cause problems, irritate others, or incite conflict. Often, these people are a part of our daily lives. The truth is that these troublemakers haven’t necessarily asked to be this way. Sometimes we need to learn new approaches to deal with people who are harder to get along with or love. How to Hug a Porcupine explains that making peace with others isn’t as tough or terrible as we think it is—especially when you can use an adorable animal analogy and apply it to real-life problems. Whether you want to calm the quills of parents, children, siblings, coworkers, friends, or strangers, How to Hug a Porcupine provides valuable strategies for your encounters with “prickly” people, such as three easy ways to end an argument, how to spot the porcupine in others, and how to spot the porcupine in ourselves. Be sure to check out this Apple Books review.

The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan. A National Bestseller and Good Morning America Book Club Pic! Vanessa Chan weaves the spellbinding story of an ordinary housewife who becomes an unlikely spy.  Malaya, 1945. Cecily Alcantara’s family is in terrible danger: her fifteen-year-old son, Abel, has disappeared, and her youngest daughter, Jasmin, is confined in a basement to prevent being pressed into service at the comfort stations. Her eldest daughter Jujube, who works at a tea house frequented by drunk Japanese soldiers, becomes angrier by the day. Cecily knows two things: this is all her fault and her family must never learn her dark secret. A decade prior, Cecily was desperate to be more than a housewife to a low-level bureaucrat in British-colonized Malaya. A chance meeting with the charismatic General Fujiwara lured her into a life of espionage, pursuing dreams of an “Asia for Asians.” Instead, Cecily helped usher in an even more brutal occupation by the Japanese. Ten years later as the war reaches its apex, her actions have caught up with her. Now her family is on the brink of destruction–and she will do anything to save them. Told from the perspectives of four unforgettable characters, The Storm We Made is “a searing historical novel.”–The Washington Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t-Miss Database: Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry

Screenshot of Columbia Granger's World of Poetry homepagePost contributed by Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Head, Humanities and Social Sciences and Librarian for Literature

The Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry was originally a print index (first edited by Edith Granger in 1904) with thirteen editions. Though the online resource has many enhanced features, you can still search by poet, title, and first line. The word “world” in the title is apt because the poets represented span many countries.

Why Should You Use This?

This database is a reliable resource for locating a specific poem. Though there are great online resources like the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets that you can also use, some of what you will find online isn’t accurate or is incomplete. There are over 300,000 poems in full text and 450,000 citations in Granger’s. These numbers mean that frequently you can read the poem right there.

Screenshot of Ada Limon's poem, "Almost Forty an Old Story," in Columbia Granger's World of Poetry

If the full text of the poem isn’t available, you can learn where it was published. You can then locate that publication in Duke Libraries. As shown in the example below, the poem “America I Do Not Call Your Name Without Hope” is available in the book Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness in our collection.

Screenshot of information about the poem "America I Do Not Call Your Name Without Hope" in Granger's World of Poetry Database

Cool Features

Since I firmly believe that hearing a poem read out loud enhances the experience, one of my favorite features is the Listening Room. Most of the poems included are classics, but you can listen to contemporary poets or actors. For example, you can listen to Rita Dove read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43. I also like the Compare Poems feature where you can look at two poems side-by-side.

Database Tips

In many cases the quick search box for “poet” and “poem” is sufficient, but the advanced search options are useful if you don’t already have a specific poem in mind.

Screenshot of advanced search in Granger's World of Poetry

Similar Resources

Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry is one of the best tools for locating a specific poem, but we do have full text poetry collections such as African American Poetry, American Poetry, and English Poetry!

Questions?

Contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Head, Humanities and Social Sciences and Librarian for Literature.

Professor of Latin, William Francis Gill (T 1894)

Portrait of W. F. Gill
William Francis Gill

Latin Professor William “Billy” Francis Gill graduated from Trinity College in 1894, and completed his graduate work at Johns Hopkins  University in 1898. He returned to Trinity to teach Latin from 1898 until his death from pneumonia on October 18th,  1917 at Watts Hospital, now the North Carolina School of Math and Science.  He established Duke’s Classical Club in 1910, and collective with other faculty, the 9019 Honor Society.  The only endowment for collections in Classical Studies was established in honor of Professor Gill by his friends and family in 1917.

9019 Honor Society Group Photograph
9019 Honor Society- W. F. Gill standing far right

Professor Gill emerges from archival sources at Duke and Johns Hopkins as a studious scholar, an inspiring teacher, a kind friend, and a reflective, observant, and a witty writer.  The following offer glimpses of his personality and character.

Billy  Gill was born in Henderson, North Carolina, on October 5th, 1874, to Dr.  Robert Jones Gill and Anne Mary Fuller.  He was highly regarded as a student at Trinity College, and even more highly respected as a professor and scholar after he returned in 1898.

Duke President John F. Crowell wrote the following recommendation for his  application to Johns Hopkins University in 1894:

In general, it may be said that few of our students have ever had better groundwork for university study than he has.  His four years here have all been years of solid growth and detailed attention to the regular courses in which he ranks among the first.  In general culture he is advanced beyond his years. 

Crowell, John F. Letter. Office of the Registrar records.  Box 78, Special Collections, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.

Application to Johns Hopkins
Application to Johns Hopkins

Billy enjoyed writing home.  In the 1898 Trinity Archive, an enthusiastic article describes his studies at Johns Hopkins, analyzing the transformation of higher level education over the 19th century, and emphasizing his excitement about independent study as the “great revolution in American colleges”.  He describes the demanding study schedule, the richness of the libraries in Baltimore, but his clever wit is also evident when, as a classical scholar, he defines civilization, “if the spring is specially beautiful and his landlady’s daughter very attractive, he may consent …(to) remember earlier days before he abandoned civilization, as to take his lady friend.”

One quote from that article is gratifying to anyone who loves libraries:

Another most commendable feature in Hopkins University life, is its library.  Unlike the other university whose library system I have investigated, the Hopkins library is thrown open to students without reserve…. This room is the student’s workshop.  This is the Socratean basket in which he is lifted from the business world.

Student Life at Hopkins. Trinity Archive. Vol 12, p. 70. November 1898

Professor Gill’s fresh approach to his subject of Latin is evident in two articles he wrote for his hometown newspaper describing his summer trip to Rome and to Athens in 1902.  In them he writes of his love for the Classics with a delight in its modern context.

This first trip was undertaken with no desire to advance new theories on the location of this temple or that street, but on the contrary it had the very modest purpose of re-reading my Catullus, Horace or Virgil amid the city that knew them. … But, greater wonder still, there is no sign of the Rome of the times of Caesar and Cicero.  Everything speaks of today.  Is it for this that I have come thousands of miles, to see the same city that might be visited at any time at the cost of a few hours ride? No, Rome differs from all other cities at just this point.  She unites the old with the new, builds upon her past in a way that no other city can. 

Letter from Rome: Professor W. F. Gill Writes Interestingly from the “Eternal City”.  Greenleaf. August 7, 1902

His progressive approach to teaching the Classics is evident in his response to changes in the curriculum, which relinquished Latin as a requirement, and must have generated his own mixed feelings. Trinity’s  original entrance exams and curriculum had been traditional, as with most colleges and universities before 1900, requiring students to master both Greek and Latin.   Both Latin and Greek became optional with the new century, and a student could study either French or German instead.

He lived through that transition in educational ideals which reduced the requirements of Latin both in the curriculum and for entrance.  …  Moreover contemporary with this change was one in his own interests.  Trained in the old school of linguistics, he gradually turned to the interpretation of Latin literature and allied phases of classical antiquity. 

William Francis Gill – A faculty Memoire. Trinity Alumni Register. Vol. 3, p. 261-263.  1918.

The death of Professor Gill happened very suddenly, from a class on Monday October 14th to Watts Hospital in three days. Newspaper articles across the State, President William P. Few’s speech at his Memorial on campus, collective remembrances by faculty in 1918, all attest to the esteem of his colleagues, students, friends and family and their deep loss. As a high officer among the Masons, the order was responsible for the burial ceremony in Henderson.  In 1925 Alumnus Linville L. Hendren (T 1900) described his fellow as “that high minded gentleman and friend to all students..”

Alumni Address of Linville L. Hendren.  Trinity Alumni Register . Vol. 11, p. 327.  1925.

Another testimonial to his character and his extensive influence on the college ethos, is also from the faculty Memoire, describing his scholarship and kindness.

In our deliberations he was uncompromising in his conceptions of right and wrong, always devoted to high standards of scholarship and conduct.  In the estimation of moral and intellectual values the loss of his counsel and influence will be seriously felt by his colleagues. 

Distinctive as were these traits of character, they were overshadowed by another quality, his capacity for friendship.  All members of the community were subjects of his thoughtfulness.  His was that rare degree of kindliness which never waited for, but sought, opportunities to do service.

Gravestone
Gravestone Fuller Family Cemetery, Vance County

An article in his hometown newspaper, written on October 19th, notified the local communities of his death.

Trinity College is bereaved, and the day’s work, hopefully planned, ended in a mission of gloom.  The flag floats at half mast, and all class activities were suspended for today and tomorrow.  The body lies in state at the East Duke building, with guards of honor from college organizations on watch.  Chapel exercises tomorrow morning will be dedicated to the review of the life of the college professor and man.

Professor of Trinity is Dead. News and Observer.  October 19th, 1917

The text on his gravestone reads:

ONLY WHEN LIFE’S TAPESTRIES ARE  ALL

FINISHED CAN THE GOLDEN THREADS OF HIS

INFLUENCE BE WOVEN INTO A MASTERPIECE TO

BE JUDGED BY THE MASTER ARTIST HIMSELF

 

Professor Gill is buried next to his mother in the Fuller Family Cemetery in Vance County.  A life size portrait hangs in the Classical Studies Conference Room in the Allen Building on West Campus.


Many thanks to Mr. Allen Dew, and Ms. Betty King, both of Granville County, North Carolina.  Mr. Dew coordinated the search to locate Professor Gill’s gravesite.   Ms. King kindly and generously shared her personal research on Professor Gill.  Archivists Ms. Ani Karagianis (Duke University Archives) and Ms. Brooke Shilling (Special Collections, Johns Hopkins University) were invaluable in their research assistance.

DUL Creative Writing Awards

Are you an undergraduate who enjoys creative writing?  You could win an award for your talents!

The Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award

The Rosati Creative Writing Prize is awarded each spring in recognition of an outstanding work of creative writing.  All Duke first year or sophomore students are eligible to submit work for consideration.  Projects may be any genre and take any form (audio/video, digital media, etc.), but must include a substantial creative writing component.

Deadline: June 15th, 2024

Prize: $1500

For more details: https://library.duke.edu/research/awards/rosati

The William Styron Creative Writing Award

 The Styron Creative Writing Prize is awarded each spring in recognition of an outstanding work of creative writing. All Duke juniors and seniors (graduating spring 2023) are eligible to submit work for consideration. Projects may be any genre and take any form (audio/video, digital media, etc.), but must include a substantial creative writing component.

Deadline: June 15th, 2024

Prize: $1500

For more details: https://library.duke.edu/research/awards/styron

Eligibility for both awards:

  • You must be a Duke undergraduate student
  • You may submit multiple, different projects in a given year but each project should be submitted individually with an accompanying application cover sheet
  • Submitted projects must have been written during the current academic year
  • Projects are judged based on quality and originality of writing
  • At this time submissions must be written in English
  • No minimum or maximum length required

Contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Librarian for Literature, at arianne.hartsell.gundy@duke.edu, if you have questions.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club Reads Remote Control

Join Low Maintenance Book Club as we read Hugo Award-winning novelist Nnedi Okafor’s novella, Remote Control. Our discussion will take place over Zoom from noon-1pm on Tuesday, March 26th. Copies of the print and ebook are available from Duke University Libraries and many public libraries.

As always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read. Just RSVP to receive the Zoom link the morning of the meeting. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

Unraveling the Mysteries of the Renaissance: My Unexpected Journey in the Medieval/Renaissance FOCUS Cluster

Guest post by Gabe Cooper, a first-year student from Columbia, SC. He intends to major in Economics with maybe a French minor and an Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate.


18th-century illustration of a caiman holding a false coral snake in its mouth.
A dynamic scene of a caiman holding a false coral snake in its mouth, from Maria Sibylla Merian’s Surinam Album.

What drew you to sign up for Scientific Revolutions: Music, Medicine, and Literature the Renaissance FOCUS program? And specifically Professor Tom Robisheaux’s class “Renaissance Doctors, Engineers, and Scientists”?

I discovered this FOCUS cluster almost completely by accident. I came up to Duke to visit during Blue Devil Days and chose to attend a lecture about unraveling the secrets of Leonardo da Vinci, knowing I had enjoyed learning about the Renaissance in the past but also not really knowing what I was getting myself into. When I walked into the lecture room, I was greeted by an eccentric, wise person; the epitome of a college history professor—this is when I met Professor Robisheaux.

Gabe Cooper

I was expecting the mini lecture to be simple—a lecture where Professor Robisheaux talked to us about Leonardo da Vinci. Instead, he tasked the class of newly accepted Duke students to unravel the mystery of Leonardo ourselves. How was the world connected for Leonardo da Vinci? What did his artwork, architectural designs, and a piece of music have in common? All these questions Professor Robisheaux asked us, and all that we had to answer were primary materials and each other. Suddenly, I was in the position to be the one who investigated and be the historian; Professor Robisheaux was just a guide.

This experience during Blue Devil Days drew me to sign up for this MedRen FOCUS cluster because Professor Robisheaux’s teaching style was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and the lecture made me rethink everything I knew about Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. I wanted to explore this cluster further, and I am so glad I did.

As a student interested in the sciences, what did studying the Renaissance in a humanities program like the MedRen Focus teach you?

The MedRen FOCUS taught me that the distinctions we make today between different subjects in the sciences and the humanities are not as strong as I previously believed. Almost all the figures we studied with Professor Robisheaux were polymaths: Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, scientist, engineer, and courtier; Maria Sibylla Merian was an artist, biologist, and explorer; Paracelsus was a physician who understood medicine and the human body through art and his religious beliefs. Everything was interconnected during the Renaissance, and by studying this period in history, I’ve been better able to see the interconnectedness of the world around me.

18th-century illustration of spiders crawling on plant branches
A busy scene of Huntsman spiders, pink toe tarantulas, leaf-cutter ants, and a ruby-topaz hummingbird, from Maria Sibylla Merian’s Insects of Suriname.

What was it like encountering early printed books from the Renaissance for the first time?

It was stupefying to encounter early printed books because time seemed to have collapsed. These books were a physical representation of time—they had survived centuries before me and would likely survive centuries after me. But at the same time, the books were just books. They looked ordinary and you could still understand their pictures and sometimes even what they were saying. It was a weird dichotomy between awe and ordinariness, and I would highly encourage anyone to explore the Rubenstein Library’s collection.

What was your topic for the final paper in Professor Robisheaux’s class? What did you choose to write about and why?

My topic for my final paper in Professor Robisheaux’s class was centered around the question “How did art become the pinnacle of subjectivity that we know today?” I came up with this question because throughout Professor Robisheaux’s course, a key theme that emerged in our discussions was the fact that art was viewed as mainly objective during the Renaissance, with very set guidelines and procedures. However, while looking at De europische insecten at the Rubenstein Library during class one day, Maria Sibylla Merian seemed to stand out as an outlier. All of her work had very little commentary, a sense of chaos, and focused on the subjective, individual experience of nature.

And perhaps the most exemplary in accomplishing this switch to subjectivity is Merian’s Surinam Album, which masterfully displaying the wildlife of Surinam in the eighteenth century. This album, full of vibrant colors, intricate details, and dynamic scenes, gives the impression that Merian is tasking the viewer with making sense of what these scenes in nature mean, as if she is rendering them the scientist. I wanted to dive deeper into these themes in my final paper, using everything I had learned throughout the course to try to become a historian.

18th-century illustration of butterflies and caterpillar
Two Menelaus Blue Morpho butterflies fluttering around its caterpillar form on a Barbados Cherry, from Maria Sibylla Merian’s Insects of Suriname.

Any other things you would like others (especially future students!) to know about the FOCUS program or the Libraries?

One of the most valuable aspects of FOCUS is the relationships you make with fellow classmates and your professors. Meeting with Professor Robisheaux, Professor Kate Driscoll, Professor Roseen Giles, Dr. Heidi Madden, Ms. Rachel Ingold, and all of your classmates every week for dinner and field trips allows you to really get to know everyone in your FOCUS program. This is truly invaluable because when you take FOCUS as a first semester freshman, you are dealing with a lot of uncertainty. Who will be your friends? Are you going to achieve the same amount of success you did in high school? How do you deal with being on your own? Having a tightly-knit community that is provided by FOCUS makes the entire college transition much easier because you have professors and librarians that want to help you succeed and classmates who are going through the same challenges you are.

What to Read This Month: February

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!

Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward. From two-time National Book Award winner and MacArthur Fellow Jesmyn Ward comes a haunting masterpiece–a reimagining of American slavery that takes the reader on a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation. Sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, Annis struggles through the miles-long march and seeks comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take.  Shortlisted for the 2024 Carnegie Medal for Excellence, Let Us Descend leads readers through Annis’s descent in a story of rebirth and reclamation. Don’t miss NPR‘s review and Barnes & Noble’s Poured Over Podcast interview with Jesmyn Ward.

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. From the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia and Code Name Hélène comes a gripping historical mystery inspired by the life and diary of Martha Ballard, a renowned 18th-century midwife who defied the legal system and wrote herself into American history. Maine, 1789: When the Kennebec River freezes, entombing a man in the ice, Martha Ballard is summoned to examine the body and determine cause of death. As a midwife and healer, she is privy to much of what goes on behind closed doors in Hallowell. Her diary is a record of every birth and death, crime and debacle that unfolds in the close-knit community. Months earlier, Martha documented the details of an alleged rape committed by two of the town’s most respected gentlemen–one of whom has now been found dead in the ice. But when a local physician undermines her conclusion, declaring the death to be an accident, Martha is forced to investigate the shocking murder on her own. Clever, layered, and subversive, Ariel Lawhon’s newest offering introduces an unsung heroine who refused to accept anything less than justice at a time when women were considered best seen and not heard. The Frozen River is a thrilling, tense story about a remarkable woman who left an unparalleled legacy yet remains nearly forgotten to this day. “Fans of Outlander’s Claire Fraser will enjoy Lawhon’s Martha, who is brave and outspoken when it comes to protecting the innocent. . . impressive.” —The Washington Post. See what NPR had to say about this masterfully woven novel.

The Status Revolution: The Improbable Story of How the Lowbrow Became the Highbrow by Chuck Thompson. How did rescue dogs become status symbols? Why are luxury brands losing their cachet? What’s made F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous observations obsolete? The answers are part of a new revolution that’s radically reorganizing the way we view ourselves and others, that “will be hard for pop-culture readers to put down” (Booklist). Status was once easy to identify–fast cars, fancy shoes, sprawling estates, elite brands. But in place of Louboutins and Lamborghinis, the relevance of the rich, famous, and gauche is waning and a riveting revolution is underfoot. Chuck Thompson–dubbed “savagely funny” by The New York Times and “wickedly entertaining” by the San Francisco Chronicle–sets out to determine what “status” means today and learns that what was once considered the low life has become the high life. Thompson tours the new world of status from a small community in British Columbia where an indigenous artist uses wood carving to restore communal status; to a Washington, DC, meeting of the “Patriotic Millionaires,” a club of high-earners who are begging the government to tax them; to a luxury auto factory in the south of Italy where making beautiful cars is as much about bringing dignity to a low-earning region than it is about flash and indulgence; to a London lab where the neural secrets of status are being unlocked. With his signature wit and irreverence, Thompson explains why everything we know about status is changing, upends centuries of conventional wisdom, and shows how the new status revolution reflects our place in contemporary society. Check out what Kirkus Reviews has to say about this thought-provoking read.

Judas Goat: Poems by Gabrielle Bates.  Gabrielle Bates’s riveting debut collection Judas Goat plumbs the depths of intimate relationships, and as the Chicago Review of Books hails, “Bates wields brevity so sharp it leaves one breathless, with layers of meaning appearing like invisible ink under a lightbulb with each re-reading.” The book’s eponymous animal is used to lead sheep to slaughter while its own life is spared, and its harrowing existence echoes through this spellbinding collection of forty poems, which wrestle with betrayal and forced obedience, violence and young womanhood, and the “forbidden felt language” of sexual and sacred love. These poems conjure encounters with figures from scriptures, domesticated animals eyeing the wild, and mothering as a shapeshifting, spectral force; they question what it means to love another person and how to exorcise childhood fears. All the while, the Deep South haunts, and no matter how far away the speaker moves, the South always draws her back home. With Judas Goat, Bates establishes herself as an unflinching witness to the risks that desire necessitates. Learn more about this electrifying debut collection in a discussion with the author on Keep the Channel Open podcast.

Tomb Sweeping: Stories by Alexandra Chang. From the award-winning writer of Days of Distraction comes this playful and deeply affective short story collection about the histories, technologies, and generational divides that shape our relationships. With her debut story collection, Chang further establishes herself as “a writer to watch” (New York Times Book Review). Set across the US and Asia, Alexandra Chang immerses us in the lives of immigrant families, grocery store employees, expecting parents, and guileless lab assistants. A woman known only to her neighbors as “the Asian recycling lady” collects bottles from the streets she calls home… a young college grad ponders the void left from a broken friendship…. an unfulfilled housewife in Shanghai finds a secret outlet for her ambitions in an undercover gambling den…. two strangers become something more through the bond of mistaken identity. Tomb Sweeping brims with remarkable skill and talent, keeping a definitive pulse on loss, community, and what it means to feel fully alive. Read the USA Today review.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club Reads Romancing Mister Bridgerton

Grab your dance card and a glass of ratafia and join the Low Maintenance Book Club as we read Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the inspiration for the third season of Bridgerton. Our discussion will take place from noon-1pm on Tuesday, February 20th over Zoom. We have access to a physical copy and an audiobook on Overdrive. Also check your local public library for copies.

As always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read. Just RSVP to receive the Zoom link the morning of the meeting. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

What to Read this Month: January

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!


The Cat’s Meow: How Cats Evolved from the Savanna to Your Sofa by Jonathan B. Losos. The domestic cat– your cat–has, from its evolutionary origins in Africa, been transformed in comparatively little time into one of the most successful and diverse species on the planet. Jonathan Losos, writing as both a scientist and a cat lover, explores how researchers today are unraveling the secrets of the cat, past and present, using all the tools of modern technology, from GPS tracking (you’d be amazed where those backyard cats roam) and genomics (what is your so-called Siamese cat . . . really?) to forensic archaeology. In addition to solving the mysteries of your cat’s past, it gives us a cat’s-eye view of today’s habitats, including meeting wild cousins around the world whose habits your sweet house cat sometimes eerily parallels. Humans are transforming cats, and they in turn are transforming the world around them. This charming and intelligent book suggests what the future may hold for both Felis catus and Homo sapiens. To learn more, check out this Washington Post review or watch this interesting presentation he did for The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center.


Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer. ASSISTANT WANTED: Notorious, high-ranking villain seeks loyal, levelheaded assistant for unspecified office duties, supporting staff for random mayhem, terror, and other Dark Things In General. Discretion a must. Excellent benefits. With ailing family to support, Evie Sage’s employment status isn’t just important, it’s vital. So when a mishap with Rennedawn’s most infamous Villain results in a job offer—naturally, she says yes. No job is perfect, of course, but even less so when you develop a teeny crush on your terrifying, temperamental, and undeniably hot boss. Don’t find evil so attractive, Evie. But just when she’s getting used to severed heads suspended from the ceiling and the odd squish of an errant eyeball beneath her heel, Evie suspects this dungeon has a huge rat…and not just the literal kind. Because something rotten is growing in the kingdom of Rennedawn, and someone wants to take the Villain—and his entire nefarious empire—out. Now Evie must not only resist drooling over her boss but also figure out exactly who is sabotaging his work…and ensure he makes them pay. After all, a good job is hard to find. If you haven’t already discovered this story on TikTok, you can read a review on Reactor Magazine.


A History of Fake Things on the Internet by Walter J. Scheirer. Computer scientist Walter J. Scheirer takes a deep dive into the origins of fake news, conspiracy theories, reports of the paranormal, and other deviations from reality that have become part of mainstream culture, from image manipulation in the nineteenth-century darkroom to the literary stylings of large language models like ChatGPT. Scheirer investigates the origins of Internet fakes, from early hoaxes that traversed the globe via Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), USENET, and a new messaging technology called email, to today’s hyperrealistic, AI-generated Deepfakes. An expert in machine learning and recognition, Scheirer breaks down the technical advances that made new developments in digital deception possible, and shares behind-the-screens details of early Internet-era pranks that have become touchstones of hacker lore. His story introduces us to the visionaries and mischief-makers who first deployed digital fakery and continue to influence how digital manipulation works–and doesn’t–today: computer hackers, digital artists, media forensics specialists, and AI researchers. Ultimately, Scheirer argues that problems associated with fake content are not intrinsic properties of the content itself, but rather stem from human behavior, demonstrating our capacity for both creativity and destruction. To learn more you can read a review in the Washington Post or in The New Yorker.


The Absent Moon: A Memoir of a Short Childhood and a Long Depression by Luiz Schwarcz (translated by Eric M.B. Becker). A literary sensation in Brazil, Luiz Schwarcz’s brave and tender memoir interrogates his ordeal of bipolar disorder in the context of a family story of murder, dispossession, and silence–the long echo of the Holocaust across generations. When Luiz Schwarcz was a child, he was told little about his grandfather and namesake, Láios–“Luiz” in Hungarian. Only later in life did he learn that his grandfather, a devout Hungarian Jew, had defied his country’s Nazi occupiers by holding secret religious services in his home. After being put on a train to a German death camp with his son André, Láios ordered André to leap from the train to freedom at a rail crossing, while Láios himself was carried on to his death. What Luiz did know was that his father André, who had emigrated to Brazil, was an unhappy and silent man. Young Luiz assumed responsibility for his parents’ comfort, as many children of trauma do, and for a time he seemed to be succeeding: he blossomed into the family prodigy, eventually growing into a groundbreaking literary publisher in São Paulo. He found a home in the family silence–a home that he filled with books and with reading. But then, at a high point of outward success, Luiz was brought low by a devastating mental breakdown. The Absent Moon is the story of his journey to that point and of his journey back from it, as Luiz learned to forge a more honest relationship with his own mind, with his family, and with their shared past. Check out this NYT review or this Forward review for more details.


Investing in the Era of Climate Change by Bruce Usher. A climate catastrophe can be avoided, but only with a rapid and sustained investment in companies and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To the surprise of many, this has already begun. Investors are abandoning fossil-fuel companies and other polluting industries and financing businesses offering climate solutions. Rising risks, evolving social norms, government policies, and technological innovation are all accelerating this movement of capital. Bruce Usher offers an indispensable guide to the risks and opportunities for investors as the world faces climate change. He explores the role that investment plays in reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, detailing how to finance the winners and avoid the losers in a transforming global economy. Usher argues that careful examination of climate solutions will offer investors a new and necessary lens on the future for their own financial benefit and for the greater good. Companies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions will create great wealth, and, more importantly, they will provide a lifeline for humanity. You can find out more in this Publisher’s Weekly review or this Author Talks.

What’s Streaming at Duke Libraries: Celebrating MLK Day 2024

To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these ten documentary films champion the ideals of freedom, social justice, and equality. The King Center’s strategic theme for 2024 is ‘Shifting the Culture Climate through the Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence.’ The movies listed here are all available to the Duke community, complements of Duke Libraries. Let’s watch, interrogate, contemplate, and celebrate!

Poster for film, King, a Filmed Record
King, A Filmed Record

KING: A FILMED RECORD… MONTGOMERY TO MEMPHIS
(dirs. Ely Landau & Richard Kaplan, 1970)
Presented in two episodes, and constructed from a wealth of archival footage, King is a monumental documentary that follows Dr. King from 1955 to 1968. Rare footage of his speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause, punctuated by heartfelt testimonials. King was originally presented as a one-night-only special event on March 20, 1970, at an epic length of more than three hours. Since that time, the film has only occasionally been circulated in a version shortened by more than an hour. Newly restored by the Library of Congress, in association with Richard Kaplan, and utilizing film elements provided by The Museum of Modern Art, the original version of King can again be seen in its entirety.

BROTHER OUTSIDER: THE LIFE OF BAYARD RUSTIN (dirs. Nancy Cates and Bennett Singer, 2002)
On November 20, 2013, Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Who was this man? He was there at most of the important events of the Civil Rights Movement – but always in the background. Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin asks “Why?” It presents a vivid drama, intermingling the personal and the political, about one of the most enigmatic figures in 20th-century American history. One of the first “freedom riders,” an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph, organizer of the march on Washington, intelligent, gregarious and charismatic, Bayard Rustin was denied his place in the limelight for one reason – he was gay.

Still from film, The Loving Story
The Loving Story

THE LOVING STORY (dir. Nancy Buirski, 2011)
On June 2, 1958, Richard Loving and his fiancée, Mildred Jeter, traveled from Caroline County, VA to Washington, D.C. to be married. Later, the newlyweds were arrested, tried, and convicted of the felony crime of miscegenation. Two young ACLU lawyers took on the Lovings case, fully aware of the challenges posed. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor on June 12, 1967, which resulted in sixteen states being ordered to overturn their bans on interracial marriage.

SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME (dir. Sam Pollard, 2012)
Based on Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, the film tells how even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Tolerated by both the North and South, forced labor lasted well into the 20th century. For most Americans this is entirely new history. Slavery by Another Name gives voice to the largely forgotten victims and perpetrators of forced labor and features their descendants living today.

Still from film, Spies of Mississippi
Spies of Mississippi

SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI (dir. Dawn Porter, 2013)
In the spring of 1964, the civil rights community is gearing up for “Mississippi Freedom Summer,” during which hundreds, if not thousands, of mostly white student activists from the North will link up with mostly black freedom workers to accomplish what the Mississippi power structure fears the most: registering black people to vote. For the segregationists, Freedom Summer is nothing less than a declaration of war. Mississippi responds by swearing in hundreds of new deputies, stockpiling tear gas and riot gear, and preparing the jails for an influx of summer “guests.” But the most powerful men in the state have another weapon to fight integration. They have quietly created a secret, state-funded spy agency, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, answering directly to the Governor. During the height of the civil rights movement, sovereignty commission operatives employed a cadre of black operatives who infiltrated the movement, rooting out its future plans, identifying its leaders, and tripping up its foot soldiers. By gaining the trust of civil rights crusaders, they gathered crucial intelligence on behalf of the segregationist state.

AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS
(PBS, 6-part series, 2013)
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is an award-winning six-part Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television series written and presented by Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The series is lauded for its extensive look into African-American history  with the filmmaker collaborating with 30 historians for this project. It won an Emmy award in 2014 for Outstanding Historical Programming-Long Form.

Photograph from film, Through a Lens Darkly
Through a Lens Darkly

THROUGH A LENS DARKLY: BLACK PHOTOGRAPHERS AND THE EMERGENCE OF A PEOPLE
(dir. Thomas Allen Harris, 2014)
The first documentary to explore the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present, Through a Lens Darkly probes the recesses of American history by discovering images that have been suppressed, forgotten and lost. Bringing to light the hidden and unknown photos shot by both professional and vernacular African American photographers, the film opens a window into lives, experiences and perspectives of black families that is absent from the traditional historical canon. These images show a much more complex and nuanced view of American culture and society and its founding ideals. Inspired by Deborah Willis’s book Reflections in Black and featuring the works of Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Anthony Barboza, Hank Willis Thomas, Coco Fusco, Clarissa Sligh and many others, Through a Lens Darkly introduces the viewer to a diverse yet focused community of storytellers who transform singular experiences into a communal journey of discovery – and a call to action.

THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES (dir. Brett Story, 2016)
An examination of the prison and its place — social, economic and psychological — in American society. Excavates the often-unseen links and connections that prisons and our system of mass incarceration have on communities and industries all around us– from a blazing California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires to a Bronx warehouse that specializes in prison-approved care packages to an Appalachian coal town betting its future on the promise of new prison jobs to the street where Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson. Includes interviews with ex-convicts, prisoners and people who live near prisons.

BREAKING THE SILENCE: LILLIAN SMITH (dir. Hal Jacobs, 2020)
Lillian Smith (1897-1966) was one of the first white southern authors to speak out against white supremacy and segregation. A child of the South, she was seen as a traitor to the South for her stance on racial and gender equality. A friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr., she used her fame after writing a bestselling novel (“Strange Fruit”) to denounce the toxic social conditions that repressed the lives and imaginations of both blacks and whites. With her lifelong partner Paula Snelling, she educated privileged white girls at her summer camp in north Georgia and tried to open their minds to a world of compassion and creativity.

Still from film, American Justice on Trial
American Justice on Trial

AMERICAN JUSTICE ON TRIAL: PEOPLE V. NEWTON
(dirs.. Herb Ferrette & Andrew Abrahams, 2022)
American Justice On Trial tells the forgotten story of the death penalty case that put racism on trial in a U.S. courtroom in the fall of 1968. Huey P. Newton, Black Panther Party co-founder, was accused of killing a white policeman and wounding another after a predawn car stop in Oakland. Newton himself suffered a near-fatal wound. As the trial neared its end, J. Edgar Hoover branded the Black Panthers the greatest internal threat to American security. Earlier that year, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy rocked a nation already bitterly divided over the Vietnam War. As the jury deliberated Newton’s fate, America was a tinderbox waiting to explode. At his trial, Newton and his maverick defense team led by Charles Garry and his then rare female co-counsel Fay Stender, defended the Panthers as a response to 400 years of racism and accused the policemen of racial profiling, insisting Newton had only acted in self-defense. Their unprecedented challenges to structural racism in the jury selection process were revolutionary and risky. If the Newton jury came back with the widely expected first-degree murder verdict against the charismatic black militant, Newton would have faced the death penalty and national riots were anticipated. But Newton’s defense team redefined a “jury of one’s peers,” and a groundbreaking diverse jury headed by pioneering Black foreman David Harper delivered a shocking verdict that still reverberates today.

 

Two Events to Launch a New Book Series: Studies in the Grateful Dead

Join us for two author talks this semester and the launch of a new book series from Duke University Press, Studies in the Grateful Dead, exploring the iconic rock band’s lasting impact on American culture and the “long strange trip” their music is still taking today. 

Edited by Nicholas G. Merriweather, Executive Director of the Grateful Dead Studies Association and former Grateful Dead Archivist at the University of California–Santa Cruz, the new book series explores the musical and cultural significance, impact, and achievement of the Grateful Dead while reinventing the academic and popular discourse devoted to the band.  

According to the Duke University Press website, Studies in the Grateful Dead “establishes the Dead as an anchor for the 1960s counterculture, which proved to be the source of key historical moments that have shaped music, art, film, literature, politics, and philosophy in America ever since. In this way, books in the series will deepen understandings of postwar American culture while providing a full examination of the ‘afterlife’ of the Grateful Dead, with all the seriousness and joy their work deserves.” 

Each event will feature a Q&A with the author, light refreshments, and enough obscure band trivia (and deep analysis) to satisfy Deadheads of all ages. Copies of the books will be available for purchase.


Date: Friday, February 2 
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (Rubenstein Library 153) 

Get Shown the Light: Improvisation and Transcendence in the Music of the Grateful Dead, by Michael Kaler, Associate Professor at the Institute for the Study of University Pedagogy, University of Toronto Mississauga.

 


Date: Friday, April 5 
Time: 6:00 p.m. 
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (Rubenstein Library 153) 

Live Dead: The Grateful Dead, Live Recordings, and the Ideology of Liveness, by John Brackett, an independent scholar and author of John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression, and coeditor of The Routledge Companion to Popular Music Analysis: Expanding Approaches. 

 


Duke has several notable connections with the Grateful Dead. Last April marked the 45th anniversary of the jam band’s 1978 concert at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, widely regarded as one of their best shows of the decade and one of five times they performed at this university. The Duke community celebrated the event with an engaging panel discussion and performance at the Rubenstein Arts Center. You can also watch a recording of the historic concert online. 

Co-sponsored by Duke University Press, Duke University Libraries, and Duke Arts 

Happy Birthday to Jane Austen!

A Page from Jane Austen’s handwritten music book

Today (December 16th) is Jane Austen’s birthday! Every year I like to write a blog post to celebrate. This year I’m going to focus on music. Her whole family loved music, and she made a point to practice the piano every day.

You can see the Austen Family Music Books because they have been digitized by the Library Digitisation Unit, University of Southampton. They consist of eighteen printed and manuscript music books owned by members of the family, including Jane herself.

If you want to learn more, you can listen to performances of many of the songs found in these music books or mentioned in her letters or novels.  We also have several scholarly books that discuss the importance of music in Jane Austen’s life and work.

Performances 

The Jane Austen Companion

Jane’s Hand: The Jane Austen Songbooks

Entertaining Miss Austen

Jane Austen’s Songbook

You can also listen to a Spotify playlist, and you may be interested in the ongoing Jane Austen Playlist project.

Books

The Innocent Diversion: A Study of Music in the Life and Writings of Jane Austen

The Routledge Companion to Jane Austen (see chapter 17)

A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and Her Characters Went to the Ball

‘Yes, yes, we will have a Pianoforte, as good a one as can be got for 30 Guineas — & I will practise country dances, that we may have some amusement for our nephews & neices, when we have the pleasure of their company.’
Jane Austen to Cassandra, 28 December 1808, Chawton

What to Read this Month: December

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Since many people will soon be traveling, this month we are focusing on audiobooks.


Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo is the second in a series (see the first one). Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory—even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale. Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.


The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off six years ago and now reads tarot cards for a traveling carnival. One June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller who purchased it on speculation. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned—always on July 24, which is only weeks away. As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. You can listen to an excerpt here.


Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen. Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home—she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point. Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business—someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences. To learn more, you can read this NYT review or this Asia Media website review.


Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin. The seven houses in these seven stories are strange. A person is missing, or a truth, or memory; some rooms are enticing, some unmoored, others empty. But in Samanta Schweblin’s tense, visionary tales, something always creeps back inside: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child’s first encounter with darkness or the fallibility of parents. In each story, twists and turns will unnerve and surprise: Schweblin never takes the expected path and instead digs under the skin, revealing surreal truths about our sense of home, of belonging, and of the fragility of our connections with others. Find out more at Harvard Review or by reading this NYT review.


Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

What’s Streaming at Duke Libraries: Native American Culture and History

Duke Libraries’ streaming video offerings have been growing by leaps and bounds. Today we’re featuring Native American films, available from a variety of streaming platforms that the Libraries provide to the Duke community. We hope these works will surprise, delight and enlighten you. Check them out using your Duke NetID and password!

Lakota Nation vs. United States
(dirs.  Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli, 2022)

Streaming on AVON

Movie poster, Lakota Nation

A provocative, visually stunning testament to a land and a people who have survived removal, exploitation and genocide – and whose best days are yet to come.  The film “interleaves interviews of Lakota activists and elders with striking images of the Black Hills and its wildlife, historical documents and news reports, clips from old movies and other archival footage to extraordinary effect, demonstrating not only the physical and cultural violence inflicted on the Lakota but also their deep connection to the Black Hills, the area where Mount Rushmore was erected.” —New York Times, 7-13-2023.


 

Being Thunder (dir. Stéphanie Lamorré, 2021)Movie poster, Being Thunder
streaming on PROJECTR

At the annual regional powwow of New England tribes, there is no formal rule to prohibit Two Spirit Genderqueer people from competing in a category different from their birth gender. Sherenté dances with joy and beauty, but is blindsided by ongoing dishonesty and insensitive behavior by judges and tribal leaders. Sherenté’s enduring courage and dignity are ultimately met with an outpouring of support from family, powwow attendees, and fellow competitors.


 

Inhabitants: Indigenous Perspectives on Restoring Our World 
(dirs. Anna Palmer & Costa Boutsikaris, 2021)

streaming on DOCUSEEK

Film poster, Inhabitants

Inhabitants follows five Native American communities as they restore their traditional land management practices in the face of a changing climate. The five stories include sustaining traditions of Hopi dryland farming in Arizona; restoring buffalo to the Blackfeet reservation in Montana; maintaining sustainable forestry on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin; reviving native food forests in Hawai’i; and returning prescribed fire to the landscape by the Karuk Tribe of California. As the climate crisis escalates, these time-tested practices of North America’s original inhabitants are becoming increasingly essential in a rapidly changing world.


 

Once Upon a River (dir. Haroula Rose, 2019)
Streaming on Kanopy

Movie poster, Once Upon a River

Based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Once Upon a River is the story of Native American teenager Margo Crane in 1970s rural Michigan. After enduring a series of traumas and tragedies, Margo sets out on an odyssey on the Stark River in search of her estranged mother. On the water, Margo encounters friends, foes, wonders, and dangers; navigating life on her own, she comes to understand her potential, all while healing the wounds of her past.


 

The Warrior Tradition (PBS series,  2019)
Streaming on Films on Demand

Movie poster, Warrior Tradition
The astonishing, heartbreaking, inspiring, and largely-untold story of Native Americans in the United States military. This program chronicles the accounts of Native American warriors  and explores the complicated ways the culture and traditions of Native Americans have impacted their participation in the United States military.

Movie poster, Smoke Signals

Smoke Signals 
(dir. Chris Eyre, 1998)

Streaming on Swank Digital Campus

Smoke Signals is recognized as being the first feature-length film written, directed, and produced by Native Americans to reach a wide audience both in the US and abroad.
With a screenplay by Sherman Alexie, based on his short stories, this coming-of-age story with a light, comedic heart, was added to the National Film Registry in 2018 for its cultural significance to film history.


Powwow Highway 
(dir. Jonathan Wacks, 1989)
Streaming on Kanopy
Movie poster, Powwow Highway

Two Cheyenne Indian friends with very different outlooks on life set off on a road trip. Philbert Bono is a spiritual seeker trying to find the answers to life’s questions; his pal, Buddy Red Bow, is a realist who sees the world in black-and-white terms. Filming was done on location on Native American reservations in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.


 

The Exiles (dir.  Ken Mackenzie, 1961)
Streaming on AVON

DVD cover, The Exiles

The Exiles (1961) is an incredible feature film by Kent Mackenzie chronicling a day in the life of a group of twenty-something Native Americans who left reservation life in the 1950s to live in the district of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, California. The structure of the film is that of a narrative feature, the script pieced together from interviews with the documentary subjects. Despite (or because of) the fact that no other films at the time were (and still very few now are) depicting Native American peoples (aside from the overblown stereotypes in Westerns) let alone urban Native Americans, The Exiles could not find a distributor willing to risk putting it out theatrically, and so over the years it fell into obscurity, known and loved by cinephiles and admired for its originality and honesty. Selected  by the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2009, Milestone Films first premiered The Exiles in theaters in 2008, and critics and audiences were stunned by the film’s harsh beauty and honesty.

 

 

What to Read this Month: November

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Living Resistance: An Indigenous Vision for Seeking Wholeness Every Day by Kaitlin B. Curtice. In an era in which “resistance” has become tokenized, Indigenous author Kaitlin Curtice reclaims it as a basic human calling. We each have a role to play in the world right where we are, and our everyday acts of resistance hold us all together. Curtice shows that we can learn to practice embodied ways of belonging and connection to ourselves and one another through everyday practices, such as getting more in touch with our bodies, resting, and remembering our ancestors. She explores four “realms of resistance”–the personal, the communal, the ancestral, and the integral–and shows how these realms overlap and why all are needed for our liberation. Readers will be empowered to seek wholeness in whatever spheres of influence they inhabit. To learn more about Curtice’s work, you might want to watch this Reader Meet Writer video from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.


Bad Cree by Jessica Johns. In this gripping, horror-laced debut, a young Cree woman’s dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery that ultimately forces her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community and the land they call home.
Night after night, Mackenzie’s dreams return her to a memory from before her sister Sabrina’s untimely death: a weekend at the family’s lakefront campsite, long obscured by a fog of guilt. But when the waking world starts closing in, too—a murder of crows stalks her every move around the city, she wakes up from a dream of drowning throwing up water, and gets threatening text messages from someone claiming to be Sabrina—Mackenzie knows this is more than she can handle alone. What really happened that night at the lake, and what did it have to do with Sabrina’s death? Only a bad Cree would put their family at risk, but what if whatever has been calling Mackenzie home was already inside?  To learn more check out this excerpt from CBC, or this BookPage review.


The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History by Ned Blackhawk. The most enduring feature of U.S. history is the presence of Native Americans, yet most histories focus on Europeans and their descendants. This long practice of ignoring Indigenous history is changing, however, with a new generation of scholars insists that any full American history address the struggle, survival, and resurgence of American Indian nations. Indigenous history is essential to understanding the evolution of modern America. Ned Blackhawk interweaves five centuries of Native and non‑Native histories, from Spanish colonial exploration to the rise of Native American self-determination in the late twentieth century. Blackhawk’s retelling of U.S. history acknowledges the enduring power, agency, and survival of Indigenous peoples, yielding a truer account of the United States and revealing anew the varied meanings of America. Ned Blackhawk just won the National Book Award for nonfiction!


A Minor Chorus by Billy-Ray Belcourt. In the stark expanse of Northern Alberta, a queer Indigenous doctoral student steps away from his dissertation to write a novel, informed by a series of poignant encounters: a heart-to-heart with fellow doctoral student River over the mounting pressure placed on marginalized scholars; a meeting with Michael, a closeted man from his hometown whose vulnerability and loneliness punctuate the realities of queer life on the fringe. Woven throughout these conversations are memories of Jack, a cousin caught in the cycle of police violence, drugs, and survival. Jack’s life parallels the narrator’s own; the possibilities of escape and imprisonment are left to chance with colonialism stacking the odds. A Minor Chorus introduces a dazzling new literary voice whose vision and fearlessness shine much-needed light on the realities of Indigenous survival. To learn more, check out this excerpt from CBC, or this review from Colorado Review.


Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones. December 12th, 2019, Jade returns to the rural lake town of Proofrock the same day as convicted Indigenous serial killer Dark Mill South escapes into town to complete his revenge killings, in this riveting sequel to My Heart Is a Chainsaw from New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones. Four years after her tumultuous senior year, Jade Daniels is released from prison right before Christmas when her conviction is overturned. But life beyond bars takes a dangerous turn as soon as she returns to Proofrock. Convicted Serial Killer, Dark Mill South, seeking revenge for thirty-eight Dakota men hanged in 1862, escapes from his prison transfer due to a blizzard, just outside of Proofrock, Idaho. To learn more, check out this review from Tor, or this interview in Esquire.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club Reads Tiny Beautiful Things

In November Low Maintenance Book Club will be reading selections from Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. We will be reading “Like an Iron Bell, “How You Get Unstuck,” “The Future Has an Ancient Heart,” “Tiny Revolutions,” and “Tiny Beautiful Things.” Some of the themes and topics in this collection are very heavy, so feel free to skip or substitute an essay. We will be meeting on Wednesday November 29th at noon. You are welcome to read either the 2012 or 2022 edition. We have several copies available in our library, and it should be available in most public libraries.

The meeting will be held over Zoom, so make sure to RSVP to receive an invitation link the morning of the 29th. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

What to Read this Month: October

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Against Technoableism is a manifesto exploding what we think we know about disability, and arguing that disabled people are the real experts when it comes to technology and disability. When bioethicist and professor Ashley Shew became a self-described “hard-of-hearing chemobrained amputee with Crohn’s disease and tinnitus,” there was no returning to “normal.” Suddenly well-meaning people called her an “inspiration” while grocery shopping, or viewed her as a needy recipient of technological wizardry. Most disabled people don’t want what the abled assume they want—nor are they generally asked. Why do abled people frame disability as an individual problem that calls for technological solutions, rather than a social one? In a warm, feisty, opinionated voice and vibrant prose, Shew shows how we can create better narratives and more accessible futures by drawing from the insights of the cross-disability community. To learn more, you might want to read this NYT review or this excerpt published in Wired.


When British poet Amy Key was growing up, she envisioned a life shaped by love–and Joni Mitchell’s album Blue was her inspiration. ” Blue became part of my language of intimacy,” she writes, recalling the dozens of times she played the record as a teen, “an intimacy of disclosure, vulnerability, unadorned feeling that I thought I’d eventually share with a romantic other.” As the years ticked by, she held on to this very specific idea of romance like a bottle of wine saved for a special occasion. But what happens when the romance we are all told will give life meaning never presents itself??Now single in her forties, Key explores in Arrangements in Blue : Notes on Loving and Living Alone the sweeping scales of romantic feeling as she has encountered them, using the album Blue as an expressive anchor: from the low notes of loss and unfulfilled desire–punctuated by sharp, discordant feelings of jealousy and regret–to the deep harmony of friendship, and the crescendos of sexual attraction and self-realization. You can read reviews in New City Lit and Chicago Review of Books.


Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (and translated by by Eric Ozawa) is about a young woman who loses everything but finds herself–a tale of new beginnings, romantic and family relationships, and the comfort that can be found in books. Twenty-five-year-old Takako has enjoyed a relatively easy existence–until the day her boyfriend Hideaki, the man she expected to wed, casually announces he’s been cheating on her and is marrying the other woman. Suddenly, Takako’s life is in freefall. She loses her job, her friends, and her acquaintances, and spirals into a deep depression. In the depths of her despair, she receives a call from her distant uncle Satoru. To learn more, there’s an NPR review.


The automobile was one of the most miraculous inventions of the 20th century. It promised freedom, style, and utility. But sometimes, rather than improving our lives, technology just makes everything worse. Over the past century, cars have filled the air with toxic pollutants and fueled climate change. Cars have stolen public space and made our cities uglier, dirtier, less useful, and more unequal. Cars have caused tens of millions of deaths and injuries. They have wasted our time and our money. In Carmageddon, journalist Daniel Knowles outlines the rise of the automobile and the costs we all bear as a result. Weaving together history, economics, and reportage, he traces the forces and decisions that normalized cars and cemented our reliance on them. Knowles takes readers around the world to show the ways car use has impacted people’s lives–from Nairobi, where few people own a car but the city is still cloaked in smog, to Houston, where the Katy Freeway has a mind-boggling 26 lanes and there are 30 parking spaces for every resident, enough land to fit Paris ten times. With these negatives, Knowles shows that there are better ways to live, looking at Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Tokyo, and New York City. To learn more, you can read this Washington Post review or this Climate Pod recording with the author.


The Ramirez women of Staten Island orbit around absence. When thirteen‑year‑old middle child Ruthy disappeared after track practice without a trace, it left the family scarred and scrambling. One night, twelve years later, oldest sister Jessica spots a woman on her TV screen in Catfight, a raunchy reality show. She rushes to tell her younger sister, Nina: This woman’s hair is dyed red, and she calls herself Ruby, but the beauty mark under her left eye is instantly recognizable. Could it be Ruthy, after all this time? What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is a vivid family portrait, in all its shattered reality, exploring the familial bonds between women and cycles of generational violence, colonialism, race, and silence, replete with snark, resentment, tenderness, and, of course, love. To learn more, you can read this review from Latinx In Publishing or this article from Shondaland about the book and the author’s journey to get it published.

Lilly Collection Spotlight: Bad Houses

Movie still from Amityville Horror

GUEST POST BY STEPHEN CONRAD

Duke Libraries’ resident aficionado of off-beat and oft-frightening films is back to cast a horror-ful look at houses both embodying and encasing evil. Enjoy this spine-tingling Lilly Library Collection Spotlight, curated every Halloween by Stephen Conrad, Team Lead of Monographic Acquisitions (and most importantly–movies), and enter his warped world of BAD HOUSES!

DVD cover of Old Dark House

The Old Dark House – This pre-code chiller from director James Whale (‘Frankenstein’, ‘Invisible Man’ etc.) is a startling and also chuckling early-talkies take on the scary house theme. Five motorists seek shelter from a deluge in the titular Old Dark House, occupied by the cranky and bizarre Femm family. Boris Karloff gets his first top billing playing the servant Morgan, a brutish and hirsute drunk prone to rages. But beware, the biggest threat might be locked away upstairs…

 

DVD cover, The Innocents

The Innocents – Truman Capote co-wrote the screenplay for this 1961 adaptation of Henry James’s ‘Turn of the Screw’, directed by Jack Clayton. Deborah Kerr plays a young governess hired to take care of two young charges in a spooky and sprawling country estate. There is a haunting afoot though, with the house playing no small part in the mood and atmosphere. Brilliant cinematography by Freddie Francis really sets off the black & white scene, with truly effective use of candles and shadows.

 

DVD cover, The Sentinel

The Sentinel – You’ll be gobsmacked by the stellar cast but then utterly horrified by the proceedings in this frightening 1977 evil house terror from Michael Winner. A young fashion model named Alison moves into a brownstone (at 10 Montague Place, in Brooklyn Heights, btw) also occupied by a blind priest. Soon after moving in things turn very strange and sinister for Alison, and her presence there is more intentional than expected, for “there is evil everywhere and the Sentinel is the only hope”.

 

DVD cover, Hausu (House)

House (Hausu) – For sheer, nightmarish, what-the-what-ness, there may not be a better movie than Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s 1977 Hausu. A schoolgirl takes six of her classmates on a summer trip to her Aunt’s country house which is, yes, haunted. One by one they vanish, in an utterly brilliant, wacky and deranged series of happenings and scenarios. Some of the wildest and weirdest effects possible are employed, including hyper-wild uses of colors. Watch and discover that it is possible to view something slack-jawed while laughing and also being freaked out and thoroughly amazed.

 

Dvd cover, House of the Devil

House of the Devil – An early directorial effort from modern genre master Ti West, this 2009 throwback shocker is set in the ‘80s (complete with ample Walkman usage). A college student takes a strange babysitting gig at a large house on the outskirts of town on a lunar eclipse (tip: DON’T do that) and all hell breaks loose. The slow burn leads to a gruesome and graphic final chapter, making hash of whatever nerves you had left. Could it be…..Satan?

Dancing skeletons

Do you recognize the movie that’s pictured at the top of this post? Test your trivia skills and see if you can Name that Film.

Bone-chilling postscript: the Libraries offer hundreds of streaming movies to watch (with Duke netid/password authentication) from platforms like Swank Digital Campus (“Horror” category), Projectr (“Haunted Arthouse” category), Films on Demand World Cinema (check out Roger Corman’s Bucket of Blood) and Kanopy (Horror & Thriller category) plus DVDs to borrow along with external DVD drives to play them. Very scary! External dvd drive with dvd displayed in open slot

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads Edgar Allan Poe

Low Maintenance Book Club gets spooky with the original master of macabre Edgar Allan Poe. We will be reading the following stories and poems: “Ligeia,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “Annabel Lee” (we promise these are mostly quite short).  We will be meeting on Monday October 30th at noon. As always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read. You are welcome to read any edition of Poe’s work. You should be able to find these works in Project Gutenberg, and we have several different copies in the library, including Selected Tales and Poetry, Tales, and Selected Essays.

The meeting will be held over Zoom, so make sure to RSVP to receive an invitation link the morning of the 30th. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

Let Freedom Read During Banned Books Week 2023

Banned Books Week is taking place this week from October 1st-7th. LeVar Burton is the honorary chair. He will headline a live virtual conversation with Banned Books Week Youth Honorary Chair Da’Taeveyon Daniels about censorship and advocacy at 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 4. The event will stream live on Instagram (@banned_books_week).  Here are some other online events that might be of interest if you are interested in learning more:

From How to Now: Book Bans in the U.S. on Tuesday October 3rd at 9pm EST. Moderated by Ipek Burnett with appearances by Nic Stone, Becky Calzada, Leela Hensler, and Summer Lopez.

Authors and Advocates on Fighting Book Bans on Wednesday October 4th at 1:00pm EST. Join author John Green, writer and illustrator Mike Curato, librarian and Texas FReadom Fighters co-founder Becky Calzada, and Banned Books Week Youth Honorary Chair Da’Taeveyon Daniels for a conversation about the impact of book bans.

LIVE from NYPL and The Atlantic . Banned: Censorship and Free Expression in America on Thursday October 5th at 7:00pm EST.  join The New York Public Library and The Atlantic for a discussion with authors Ayad Akhtar and Imani Perry, moderated by Atlantic executive editor Adrienne LaFrance, about the danger of book banning and limits on freedom of expression.

We also have quite a few books about censorship and book banning if you want to learn more:

Book Banning in 21st-century America by Emily Knox

Censored: A Literary History of Subversion and Control by Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis

Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times by Azar Nafisi

Young Adult Literature, Libraries, and Conservative Activism by Loretta M. Gaffney

Book Banning and Other Forms of Censorship by Carolee Laine

Censorship Moments: Reading Texts in the History of Censorship and Freedom of Expression edited by Geoff Kemp

Silenced in the Library: Banned Books in America by Zeke Jarvis

Literature and the New Culture Wars: Triggers, Cancel Culture, and the Teacher’s Dilemma by Deborah Appleman

If you know someone impacted by book bans, there are several efforts to make these books available, including The Digital Public Library of America’s Banned Book Club project and the Brooklyn Public Library’s  Books UnBanned project.

What to Read this Month: September

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Murder your Employer: the McMasters Guide to Homicide by Rupert Holmes. Who hasn’t wondered for a split second what the world would be like if a person who is the object of your affliction ceased to exist? But then you’ve probably never heard of The McMasters Conservatory, dedicated to the consummate execution of the homicidal arts. To gain admission, a student must have an ethical reason for erasing someone who deeply deserves a fate no worse (nor better) than death. The campus of this “Poison Ivy League” college–its location unknown to even those who study there–is where you might find yourself the practice target of a classmate…and where one’s mandatory graduation thesis is getting away with the perfect murder of someone whose death will make the world a much better place to live. To learn more, you may enjoy this Barnes & Noble sponsored conversation between the author and Neil Patrick Harris.


Jezebel by Megan Barnard. Jezebel. You’ve heard the name. But you’ve never heard her story. “Historical fiction at its finest,” (Louisa Morgan) this propulsive novel is a stunning reimagining of the story of a fierce princess from Tyre and her infamous legacy. Jezebel was born into the world howling. She intends to leave it the same way. When Jezebel learns she can’t be a king like her father simply because she’s a girl, she vows never to become someone’s decorative wife, nameless and lost to history. At fifteen she’s married off, despite her protests, to Prince Ahab of Israel. There, she does what she must to gain power and remake the dry and distant kingdom in the image of her beloved, prosperous seaside homeland of Tyre, beginning by building temples to the gods she grew up worshipping. As her initiatives usher in an era of prosperity for Israel, her new subjects love her, and her name rings through the land. Then Elijah, the prophet of Yahweh and her former lover, begins to speak out against her. Bitter at having been abandoned by Jezebel, he lashes out, calling her a slut. Harlot. Witch. And the people, revering their prophet’s message, turn on her. A stunning revision of a notorious queen’s story, Jezebel is a thrilling lyrical debut about a fierce woman who refuses to be forgotten. Check out this essay “Why the Rise of Morally Gray Women In Fiction Is Good For All of Us” by the author.


The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms that Sustain Life by Johan Eklöf. How much light is too much light? Satellite pictures show our planet as a brightly glowing orb, and in our era of constant illumination, light pollution has become a major issue. The world’s flora and fauna have evolved to operate in the natural cycle of day and night. But in the last 150 years, we have extended our day–and in doing so have forced out the inhabitants of the night and disrupted the circadian rhythms necessary to sustain all living things, including ourselves. Swedish conservationist Johan Eklöf urges us to appreciate natural darkness, its creatures, and its unique benefits. He ponders the beauties of the night sky, traces the errant paths of light-drunk moths and the swift dives of keen-eyed owls, and shows us the bioluminescent creatures of the deepest oceans. As a devoted friend of the night, Eklöf reveals the startling domino effect of diminishing darkness: insects, dumbfounded by streetlamps, failing to reproduce; birds blinded and bewildered by artificial lights; and bats starving as they wait in vain for insects that only come out in the dark. Here’s a NYT review and a review from the Geographical Magazine.


American Mermaid by Julia Langbein. Broke English teacher Penelope Schleeman is as surprised as anyone when her feminist, eco-warrior novel American Mermaid becomes a best-seller. But when Hollywood insists she convert her fierce, androgynous protagonist into to a teen sex object in a clamshell bra, strange things start to happen. Is Penelope losing her mind, or has her fictional mermaid come to life, enacting revenge against society’s limited view of what a woman can and should be? American Mermaid follows a young woman braving the casual slights and cruel calculations of a winner-take-all society and discovering a beating heart in her own fiction: a new kind of hero who fights to keep her voice and choose her place. A hilarious story about deep things, American Mermaid asks how far we’ll go to protect the parts of ourselves that are not for sale. You can read a review in the Chicago Review of Books or this blog post by The Bossy Bookworm.


Appalachia on the Table: Representing Mountain Food and People by Erica Abrams Locklear. When her mother passed along a cookbook made and assembled by her grandmother, Erica Abrams Locklear thought she knew what to expect. But rather than finding a homemade cookbook full of apple stack cake, leather britches, pickled watermelon, or other “traditional” mountain recipes, Locklear discovered recipes for devil’s food cake with coconut icing, grape catsup, and fig pickles. Some recipes even relied on food products like Bisquick, Swans Down flour, and Calumet baking powder. Where, Locklear wondered, did her Appalachian food script come from? And what implicit judgments had she made about her grandmother based on the foods she imagined she would have been interested in cooking? Appalachia on the Table argues, in part, that since the conception of Appalachia as a distinctly different region from the rest of the South and the United States, the foods associated with the region and its people have often been used to socially categorize and stigmatize mountain people.  The question at the core of Locklear’s analysis asks, How did the dominant culinary narrative of the region come into existence and what consequences has that narrative had for people in the mountains? To learn more, check out this review from the Southern Review of Books.

Open Scholarship in the Humanities: Ann Chapman Price

The following is one of four profiles of researchers who have engaged in open scholarship at Duke. Please join us on October 5 for Open Scholarship in the Humanities — an in-person panel discussion with these current and former graduate students, who will explore their approaches to engaging in open humanistic scholarship. You can learn more about this ScholarWorks Center event in this blog post, and you can register at https://duke.libcal.com/event/11159787. The event qualifies for 200-level RCR credit. We hope to see you there!

Meet Ann Chapman Price

Photo of Ann Chapman Price.Ann Chapman Price is a historian of Christian spirituality, with a focus on medieval and early modern European theology and society. She is interested in the development of Christian mysticism throughout the tradition, the theology of medieval women’s religious texts, and the intersections of Christian spirituality with issues of race, sex, and gender. Ann’s research in the digital humanities primarily focuses on the study of texts and their representation and scholarly editing in the digital realm.

About Ann’s Digital Editing Work

Ann writes, “I was first inspired to learn the art of scholarly digital editing when I encountered the Exploring Medieval Mary Magdalene Project. In this project, eleven manuscript witnesses to the medieval Mary Magdalene conversion legend (including Latin and Vernacular manuscripts) were collected into a single digital corpus, transcribed, and made digitally available for comparison and research. I was impressed by the visualization tools that allow users to interact productively with the manuscripts and their transcriptions. While I was motivated by the Exploring Mary Magdalene Project to learn how to create similar scholarly digital editions, I was also encouraged in my efforts by Fragmentarium, a Laboratory for Medieval Manuscript Fragments. This database, which enables the digital collection and study of thousands of dispersed manuscript fragments, suggested to me the value of creating scholarly digital editions even of discrete fragments since these can be collected or connected digitally for analysis and exploration. 

“I created a scholarly digital edition of a Latin manuscript fragment in the holdings at David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. This fragment is a single leaf from a twelfth-century liturgical document (a breviary, which gives directions for the celebration of the various services on specific hours of specific days). The edition was enabled by the support of Duke University’s Program in Information Science and Studies, and images of Latin MS 005 have been made available for this project by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Excerpt of a page of Latin handwritten text from the twelfth century.
Twelfth-century breviary fragment, housed in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University, that Ann Chapman Price has incorporated into a digital edition.

“My aims were two-fold. First, I wanted this digital edition to be a resource for the study of Latin paleography. Thus, my edition is a contribution to the publicly available materials for examining medieval Latin abbreviations, letter forms, and conventions for marking out sections of the text. This could be helpful for students beginning to learn Latin paleography. In creating a digital edition that could be examined in connection to others, I also imagined that my work could contribute to larger studies of paleography, such as variations across geographical regions or shifts between scripts over time. Secondly, I provided copious references for the liturgical elements of this breviary fragment, such as chants in the Cantus index, scriptural allusions, and comparable breviary fragments, with the hope that this digital edition could aid scholars of medieval liturgy in developing more robust understandings of liturgical culture and ritual.”

On the Invisible Work of Digital Scholarship

“One of the most important concepts that I needed to understand early on was the distinction in digital editing between, on one hand, the final product that is considered the ‘visualization’ of the edition and, on the other hand, the data that makes up the edition itself. In other words, we could think of the ‘edition’ as simply the XML document that holds the transcription and annotations (i.e., ‘tags’ or ‘markup’). This is distinct from the media that make the edition available to users, whether in the form of a website or PDF document. A separate language, XSLT, is needed to take an XML document and process it into a format that is ideal for presentation and use. Not knowing XSLT, I chose to create a visualization of my edition by using an open-source software called EVT (Edition Visualization Technology), which has been developed by numerous scholars under the coordination of Roberto Rosselli Del Turco. I also relied on other tools developed by digital humanists, such as the Image Markup Tool from the University of Victoria. 

“For this reason, what might be unexpected for users of my scholarly digital edition is simply the collaborative nature of the work that goes into such an edition. In addition to learning the ‘nuts and bolts’ of using an XML editor, aligning with TEI’s standards, and using Unicode characters to represent medieval Latin, a significant amount of the work that I invested in this edition was focused on researching other scholarly editions and related projects. Secondary research into the work of scholars engaged in similar pursuits yielded numerous helpful suggestions from tools to processes to practical solutions. I would say that this kind of research is a ‘must’ for those embarking on scholarly digital editing.”

Learn More

To explore Ann’s work, we invite you to visit the resources below.

The links below provide some context for Ann’s scholarship, including software, projects, and scholarly databases mentioned above.

Come meet Ann and learn about her work at the ScholarWorks Center’s Open Scholarship in the Humanities panel discussion on October 5 (12:00-1:00 PM, Bostock Library 127; lunch is provided). Please take a moment to register and learn more about the event. We’ll see you there!



Congratulations to Our National Book Collecting Contest Winner!

Recent Duke doctoral graduate Joshua Shelly (Ph.D., 2023) won second prize in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. (Image courtesy Joshua Shelly/Carolina-Duke German Studies Program)

Congratulations to Joshua Shelly, a newly minted Ph.D. from the Carolina-Duke German Studies Program, who just won second place in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest!

In recognition of his bibliophilic brilliance, he will receive a $1,000 cash prize (presumably to spend on more books!) and a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent Duke at a special awards ceremony on September 22 at 5:00 p.m. at the Library of Congress’s Whittall Pavilion. As his home institution, the Duke University Libraries also receives $500.

The National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest is the Final Four of book collecting competitions, bringing together the winners of more than three dozen local competitions at colleges and universities across the United States, including Duke. It is sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), the Center for the Book, and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

Joshua’s collection was inspired by an essay he came across while in an archive working on his dissertation. “Alte Bücher in Haifa” (Old Books in Haifa), published in Paris in the 1930s, captures the experience of a German-reading Jew seeking to rebuild his library through Haifa’s used book market. Joshua’s collection focuses on works important to German Jews in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He notes, “Whether clicking through internet pages on the path to that one title, browsing Bücherschränke (little libraries) in Berlin, or else leafing through physical pages in a book shop in Jerusalem, my decision to add a book to my collection is shaped by factors such as the book’s physical condition, price—where relevant—and my own idiosyncratic literary taste.”

Earlier this year, Joshua took first place in the graduate category of the Andrew T. Nadell Book Collectors Contest, sponsored by the Friends of the Duke University Libraries, for his collection “Alte Bücher in Haifa: (Re)building a German Jewish Library in the 21st Century.” That earned him a $1,500 cash prize and the eligibility to compete on the national level.

Duke has been well-represented in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Competition. Past winners include:

  • 2021 Winner, Essay Prize: Joseph E. Hiller, Como un detective salvaje: Gathering Small Press, Experimental, and Untranslated Latin American Literature
  • 2015 Winner, Essay Prize: Anne Steptoe, Look Homeward: Journeying Home through 20th Century Southern Literature
  • 2013 Winner, 2nd Prize: Ashley Young, New Orleans’ Nourishing Networks: Foodways and Municipal Markets in the Nineteenth Century Global South
  • 2011 Winner, 1st Prize: Mitch Fraas, Anglo-American Legal Printing 1702 to the Present

Look for the announcement of the applications for the 2025 Nadell Book Prize in Spring 2025!

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads American Born Chinese


Join us for our first Low Maintenance Book Club of the fall! We’ll be reading and discussing Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (now a Disney+ original series) at our next meeting on Tuesday September 26th at noon. As always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read. Copies of the book are available through Duke University Libraries, on our Overdrive, and at your local public library.

The meeting will be held over Zoom, so make sure to RSVP to receive an invitation link the morning of the 26th. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

What to Read this Month: August

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Swipe Up for More! Inside the Unfiltered Lives of Influencers by Stephanie McNeal. If you’re anything like journalist Stephanie McNeal—aka, a millennial woman—you spend hours every day indulging in Instagram’s infinite scroll. The influencers on the platform aren’t just providing eye candy; these tastemakers impact how we cook, consume, parent, decorate, think, and live. But what exactly is going on behind the curtain of the perfectly curated Instagram grids we obsess over the most? Through intimate, funny, and vulnerable reporting, McNeal takes us through the looking glass and into the secretive real world of three major influencers: fashion and lifestyle juggernaut Caitlin Covington of Southern Curls & Pearls, runner and advocate Mirna Valerio, and OG “mommy blogger” Shannon Bird.  This audiobook is narrated by the author, and you can read an excerpt on Glamour.


American Inheritance: Liberty and Slavery in the Birth of a Nation, 1765-1795 by Edward J. Larson. New attention from historians and journalists is raising pointed questions about the founding period: was the American revolution waged to preserve slavery, and was the Constitution a pact with slavery or a landmark in the antislavery movement? Leaders of the founding who called for American liberty are scrutinized for enslaving Black people themselves: George Washington consistently refused to recognize the freedom of those who escaped his Mount Vernon plantation. And we have long needed a history of the founding that fully includes Black Americans in the Revolutionary protests, the war, and the debates over slavery and freedom that followed. We now have that history in Edward J. Larson’s insightful synthesis of the founding. To find out more, read this NYT review or watch this discussion with the author hosted by the National Archives.


This Bird has Flown by Susanna Hoffs. Jane Start is thirty-three, broke, and recently single. Ten years prior, she had a hit song–written by world-famous superstar Jonesy–but Jane hasn’t had a breakout since. Now she’s living out of four garbage bags at her parents’ house, reduced to performing to Karaoke tracks in Las Vegas. Rock bottom. But when her longtime manager Pippa sends Jane to London to regroup, she’s seated next to an intriguing stranger on the flight–the other Tom Hardy, an elegantly handsome Oxford professor of literature. Jane is instantly smitten by Tom, and soon, truly inspired. But it’s not Jane’s past alone that haunts her second chance at stardom, and at love. Is Tom all that he seems? And can Jane emerge from the shadow of Jonesy’s earlier hit, and into the light of her own? In turns deeply sexy, riotously funny, and utterly joyful, This Bird Has Flown explores love, passion, and the ghosts of our past, and offers a glimpse inside the music business that could only come from beloved songwriter and Bangles co-founder Susanna Hoffs. You can read this NPR review or this Los Angeles Times review.


Fire Weather: A  True Story from a Hotter World by John Vaillant. In May 2016, Fort McMurray, the hub of Canada’s oil industry and America’s biggest foreign supplier, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster melted vehicles, turned entire neighborhoods into firebombs, and drove 88,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Through the lens of this apocalyptic conflagration–the wildfire equivalent of Hurricane Katrina–John Vaillant warns that this was not a unique event, but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world. With masterly prose and a cinematic eye, Vaillant takes us on a riveting journey through the intertwined histories of North America’s oil industry and the birth of climate science, to the unprecedented devastation wrought by modern forest fires, and into lives forever changed by these disasters. John Vaillant’s urgent work is a book for–and from–our new century of fire, which has only just begun. You can find out more with this Washington Post review or this Guardian review.


Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs. In this spellbinding debut novel, two estranged half-sisters tasked with guarding their family’s library of magical books must work together to unravel a deadly secret at the heart of their collection–a tale of familial loyalty and betrayal, and the pursuit of magic and power. For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements–books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect. All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna’s isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they’ll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries. Read an interview with the author or read this review to learn more.

What to Read this Month: July

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


An Admirable Point: A Brief History of the Exclamation Mark! by Florence Hazrat. Few punctuation marks elicit quite as much love or hate as the exclamation mark. It’s bubbly and exuberant, an emotional amplifier whose flamboyantly dramatic gesture lets the reader know: here be feelings! Scott Fitzgerald famously stated exclamation marks are like laughing at your own joke; Terry Pratchett had a character say that multiple !!! are a ‘sure sign of a diseased mind’. So what’s the deal with ! ? Whether you think it’s over-used, or enthusiastically sprinkle your writing with it, ! is inescapable. An Admirable Point recuperates the exclamation mark from its much maligned place at the bottom of the punctuation hierarchy. It explores how ! came about in the first place some six hundred years ago, and uncovers the many ways in which ! has left its mark on art, literature, (pop) culture, and just about any sphere of human activity–from Beowulf to spam emails, ee cummings to neuroscience. You may enjoy this Word Processing podcast interview with the author!


You are Here by Karin Lin-Greenberg. The inhabitants of a small town have long found that their lives intersect at one focal point: the local shopping mall. But business is down, stores are closing, and as the institution breathes its last gasp, the people inside it dream of something different, something more. In its pages, You Are Here brings this diverse group of characters vividly to life–flawed, real, lovable strangers who are wonderful company and prove unforgettable even after the last store has closed. Exploring how the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are inextricably bound to the places we call home, You Are Here is a keenly perceptive and deeply humane portrait of a community in transition, ultimately illuminating the magical connections that can bloom from the ordinary wonder of our everyday lives. You can read reviews in the Asian Review of Books and Publisher’s Weekly.


Death of a Dancing Queen by Kimberly G. Giarratano. A female Jewish P.I finds herself involved in a deadly gang war while looking for a murder suspect in this new own voices crime novel. After her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Billie Levine revamped her grandfather’s private investigation firm and set up shop in the corner booth of her favourite North Jersey deli hoping the free pickles and flexible hours would allow her to take care of her mom and pay the bills. So when Tommy Russo, a rich kid with a nasty drug habit, offers her a stack of cash to find his missing girlfriend, how can she refuse? At first, Billie thinks this will be easy earnings, but then her missing person’s case turns into a murder investigation and Russo is the detective bureau’s number one suspect. Suddenly Billie is embroiled in a deadly gang war that’s connected to the decades-old disappearance of a famous cabaret dancer with ties to both an infamous Jewish mob and a skinhead group. Toss in the reappearance of Billie’s hunky ex-boyfriend with his own rap sheet, and she is regretting every decision that got her to this point. Becoming a P.I. was supposed to solve her problems. But if Billie doesn’t crack this case, the next body the police dredge out of the Hudson River will be hers. Read a review in Foreword or at Crime Fiction Lover.


Number One is Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions by Steve Martin with drawings by Harry Bliss. An illustrated memoir of Steve Martin’s legendary acting career, with stories from his most popular films and artwork by New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss. He has never written about his career in the movies before. In Number One Is Walking , he shares anecdotes from the sets of his beloved films– Father of the Bride, Roxanne, The Jerk, Three Amigos, and many more–bringing readers directly into his world. He shares charming tales of antics, moments of inspiration, and exploits with the likes of Paul McCartney, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, and Chevy Chase. Martin details his forty years in the movie biz, as well as his stand-up comedy, banjo playing, writing, and cartooning, all with his unparalleled wit.


My Nemesis by Charmaine Craig. Tessa is a successful writer who develops a friendship, first by correspondence and then in person, with Charlie, a ruggedly handsome philosopher and scholar based in Los Angeles. Sparks fly as they exchange ideas about Camus and masculine desire, and their intellectual connection promises more–but there are obstacles to this burgeoning relationship. While Tessa’s husband Milton enjoys Charlie’s company on his visits to the East Coast, Charlie’s wife Wah is a different case, and she proves to be both adversary and conundrum to Tessa. Wah’s traditional femininity and subservience to her husband strike Tessa as weaknesses, and she scoffs at the sacrifices Wah makes as adoptive mother to a Burmese girl, Htet, once homeless on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. But Wah has a kind of power too, especially over Charlie, and the conflict between the two women leads to a martini-fueled declaration by Tessa that Wah is “an insult to womankind.” As Tessa is forced to deal with the consequences of her outburst and considers how much she is limited by her own perceptions, she wonders if Wah is really as weak as she has seemed, or if she might have a different kind of strength altogether. For more details, check out this NYT review and this review in the Boston Globe.

ONLINE: Big Books Edition: “The God of Small Things”

It’s almost summer, and that means it’s time for the Low Maintenance Book Club Big Books Edition! This year, we’ll be reading Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997.

The last meeting of three is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26th from noon-1pm over Zoom. At this meeting, we’ll discuss chapters 15-21.

The second of three meetings was scheduled for Wednesday, June 28th. At this meeting, we discussed chapters 8-14.

The first meeting was scheduled on Wednesday, May 25th.  At this meeting, we discussed chapters 1-7.

Print, ebook and audiobook formats can be found at Duke University Libraries and most public libraries.

Although the readings are longer, the low maintenance attitude is the same. Join as you like, discuss as much as you want–or just hang out and enjoy the company. Everyone is welcome. Just RSVP so we know how many to expect, and we’ll send out a Zoom link the morning of the meeting.

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

What to Read this Month: June

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Pageboy by Elliot Page. With Juno’s massive success, Elliot became one of the world’s most beloved actors. His dreams were coming true, but the pressure to perform suffocated him. He was forced to play the part of the glossy young starlet, a role that made his skin crawl, on and off set. The career that had been an escape out of his reality and into a world of imagination was suddenly a nightmare. As he navigated criticism and abuse from some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, a past that snapped at his heels, and a society dead set on forcing him into a binary, Elliot often stayed silent, unsure of what to do, until enough was enough. Full of behind the scenes details and intimate interrogations on sex, love, trauma, and Hollywood, Pageboy is the story of a life pushed to the brink. But at its core, this beautifully written, winding journey of what it means to untangle ourselves from the expectations of others is an ode to stepping into who we truly are with defiance, strength, and joy. Read The New York Times Book Review to learn more.


Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters. Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form an unconventional family–and raise the baby together? This provocative debut concerns what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us with a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel. Read this The New Yorker book review to learn more.


Couplets: A Love Story by Maggie Millner. A dazzling love story in poems about one woman’s coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming undone. A woman lives an ordinary life in Brooklyn. She has a boyfriend. They share a cat. She writes poems in the prevailing style. She also has dreams: of being seduced by a throng of older women, of kissing a friend in a dorm-room closet. But the dreams are private, not real. One night, she meets another woman at a bar, and an escape hatch swings open in the floor of her life. She falls into a consuming affair–into queerness, polyamory, kink, power and loss, humiliation and freedom, and an enormous surge of desire that lets her leave herself behind. Maggie Millner’s captivating, seductive debut is a love story in poems that explores obsession, gender, identity, and the art and act of literary transformation. In rhyming couplets and prose vignettes, Couplets chronicles the strictures, structures, and pitfalls of relationships–the mirroring, the pleasing, the small jealousies and disappointments–and how the people we love can show us who we truly are. Learn more in this book review by The Washington Post.


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying, and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris, tracking down her estranged daughter, who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finally grapples with how AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness amid disaster. “A page turner . . . An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it’s like to live during times of crisis.” –The New York Times Book Review. Read more about this historical novel in the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Real Life by Brandon Taylor. A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice. Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he works uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his circle of friends–some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But throughout a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community. Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds and at what cost. Read The Guardian Book Review to learn more.


 

What to Read this Month: April

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


The Skin and Its Girl by Sarah Cypher. In a Pacific Northwest hospital far from the Rummani family’s ancestral home in Palestine, the heart of a stillborn baby begins to beat, and her skin turns vibrantly, permanently cobalt blue. On the same day, the Rummanis’ centuries-old soap factory in Nablus is destroyed in an air strike. The family matriarch and keeper of their lore, Aunt Nuha, believes that the blue girl embodies their sacred history, harkening back to when the Rummanis were among the wealthiest soap makers and their blue soap was a symbol of legendary love. Decades later, Betty returns to Aunt Nuha’s gravestone, faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay in the only country she’s ever known, or should she follow her heart and the woman she loves, perpetuating her family’s cycle of exile? Betty finds her answer in partially translated notebooks that reveal her aunt’s complex life and struggle with her sexuality, which Nuha hid to help the family immigrate to the United States. But, as Betty soon discovers, her aunt hid much more than that.


Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton. A landslide has closed the Korowai Pass on New Zealand’s South Island, cutting off the town of Thorndike and leaving a sizable farm abandoned. The disaster presents an opportunity for Birnam Wood, an undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice. For years, the group has struggled to break even. To occupy the farm at Thorndike would mean a shot at solvency at last. But the enigmatic American billionaire Robert Lemoine also has an interest in the place: he has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker, or so he tells Birnam’s founder, Mira, when he catches her on the property. A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize–winning author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its drama, Austenian in its wit, and, like both influences, fascinated by what makes us who we are. Learn more about this novel in The New York Times Book Review.


The Trackers by Charles Frazier. Hurtling past the downtrodden communities of Depression-era America, painter Val Welch travels westward to the rural town of Dawes, Wyoming. Through a stroke of luck, he’s landed a New Deal assignment to create a mural representing the region for their new Post Office. A wealthy art lover named John Long and his wife Eve have agreed to host Val at their sprawling ranch. Rumors and intrigue surround the couple: Eve left behind an itinerant life riding the rails and singing in a Western swing band. Long holds shady political aspirations but was once a WWI sniper—and his right hand is a mysterious elder cowboy, a vestige of the violent old west. Val quickly finds himself entranced by their lives. One day, Eve flees home with a valuable painting in tow, and Long recruits Val to hit the road to track her down. American writer Charles Frazier conjures up the lives of everyday people during an extraordinary period of history that bears an uncanny resemblance to our own. Read The Washington Post book review to learn more!


The Only Survivors by Megan Miranda. A decade ago, two vans filled with high school seniors on a school service trip crashed into a Tennessee ravine—a tragedy that claimed the lives of multiple classmates and teachers. The nine students who managed to escape the river that night were irrevocably changed. A year later, after one of the survivors dies by suicide on the anniversary of the crash, the rest make a pact: to come together each year to commemorate that terrible night. Their annual meeting place, a house on the Outer Banks, has long been a refuge. But by the tenth anniversary, Cassidy Bent has worked to distance herself from the tragedy and the other survivors. This year, she is determined to finally break ties once and for all. But on the reunion day, she receives a text with an obituary attached: another survivor is gone. Now they are seven—and Cassidy finds herself hurling back toward the group, wild with grief—and suspicion. A propulsive and chilling locked-box mystery filled with the dazzling hairpin twists that are the author’s signature.


A Living Remedy by Nicole Chung. Nicole couldn’t hightail it out of her overwhelmingly white Oregon hometown fast enough. As a scholarship student at a private university on the East Coast, no longer the only Korean she knew, she found community and a path to the life she’d long wanted. But the middle-class world she begins to raise a family in – where there are big homes, college funds, and nice vacations – looks very different from the middle-class world she thought she grew up in. When her father dies at only sixty-seven, killed by diabetes and kidney disease, Nicole feels deep grief and rage, knowing that years of precarity and lack of access to healthcare contributed to his early death. Exploring the enduring strength of family bonds in the face of hardship and tragedy, A Living Remedy examines what it takes to reconcile the distance between one life, one home, and another – and sheds needed light on some of the most persistent and grievous inequalities in American society. Listen to Nicole discuss her work in this Fresh Air NPR interview!


 

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “All Systems Red”

Need some escapism this time of the semester? Join Low Maintenance Book Club in sci-fi paradise with All Systems Red,  the first novella in Martha Wells’ beloved Murderbot Diaries series (it’s not as morbid as it sounds!). We’ll discuss the work in its entirety at our next meeting on Tuesday April 25th at noon.

As always, you’re welcome to attend regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read. Copies of the book are available through Duke University Libraries and your local public library.

The meeting will be held over Zoom, so make sure to RSVP to receive an invitation link the morning of the 25th. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu).

Celebrate the 45th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead at Duke


On April 12, the Duke community will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Grateful Dead concert at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Widely regarded as a top show that year, the band delivered smoking renditions of “Jack Straw,” “Bertha,” “Good Lovin’,” and “Eyes of the World,” as you can hear for yourself in the video above.

To commemorate this historic show, join us for a special panel discussion, selections from the remastered video recording, live music, and refreshments on Wednesday, April 12, at 6:00 p.m. in the Ruby Lounge of the Rubenstein Arts Center.

The event is free and open to the public, but please register to help us estimate attendance.

A panel of Dead experts will share their interpretations of the show, including Professor Eric Mlyn; show volunteer and former Duke University Union coordinator Peter Coyle; and John Brackett, author of the forthcoming book Live Dead: The Grateful Dead, Live Recordings and the Ideology of Liveness, coming out next fall from Duke University Press. The book will be the first in a new Duke University Press series, Studies in the Grateful Dead, in the fall of 2023.

Bridget Booher, Director of Duke WIN, will moderate the panel. Footage featuring selected songs from the concert will be screened. After the program, local Dead cover band The Loose Lucies will perform for an hour. Refreshments will be served.

Professor Mlyn teaches a first-year seminar about the Grateful Dead. His students researched the band’s performances at Duke from 1971 to 1982 and curated an exhibit in Perkins Library. According to Mlyn, “4/12/78 was a raucous and animated performance and has been widely recognized by Deadheads as one of the best shows that year. The band was preparing for a trip to Egypt and it was the last full year of shows for keyboardist Keith Godchaux and his wife Donna whose unforgettable vocals punctuated shows during that era.”

See the Rubenstein Arts Center website for information about parking.

Co-sponsored by the Duke University Libraries, Duke Arts, and Duke University Press.

Solarities 1: Asiya Wadud and Roberto Tejada

There’s a poetry reading happening on campus this Thursday, and if you are interested in reading some of the poets ahead of time, the library can help!  Here are some details about the two poets and links to their works in our library.

Asiya Wadud is the author of several poetry collections, most recently No Knowledge Is Complete Until It Passes Through My Body and Mandible Wishbone Solvent (forthcoming in 2024). Her recent work appears in e-flux journal, BOMB Magazine, Triple Canopy, POETRY, Yale Review and elsewhere. Asiya’s work has been supported by the Foundation Jan Michalski, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Danspace Project, Finnish Cultural Institute of New York, Rosendal Theater Norway, and Kunstenfestivaldesarts among others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York where she teaches poetry at Saint Ann’s School and Columbia University.

Other works include Syncope, Crosslight for youngbird, and A filament in gold leaf.

Roberto Tejada is an award-winning poet and author of art histories that include National Camera: Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment (Minnesota, 2009) and Celia Alvarez Muñoz (Minnesota, 2009); a Latinx poetics of the Americas, Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness (Noemi, 2019), and catalog essays in Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980 (Hammer Museum, 2011) and Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon (The Menil Collection; Yale, 2021), among others. His poetry appears in the collections Why the Assembly Disbanded (Fordham, 2022), Full Foreground (Arizona, 2012), Exposition Park (Wesleyan, 2010), Mirrors for Gold (Krupskaya, 2006), and Todo en el ahora (Libros Magenta, 2015), selected poems in Spanish translation. Tejada’s writing spans method, discipline, and form to address the political imagination and impurity of time in shared image environments; configurations of art, life, and language inclined to the future. Committed to poetics and open sites of cultural inquiry—regional, transnational, and diasporic—his research and creative interests involve the language arts and image worlds of Latin America, especially Mexico, Brazil, the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, and other sites of U.S. Latinx cultural production. Awarded The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Poetry (2021), Tejada is the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor at the University of Houston where he teaches Creative Writing and Art History.

 

Solarities 1: Asiya Wadud and Roberto Tejada

 Hosted by Tessa Bolsover and Michael Cavuto, Duke English

Thursday 3.30, 7:30PM

Nelson Music Room, East Bldg., 2nd Floor

Duke University, East Campus

Solarities is a new contemporary poetry reading series bringing established and emerging visiting writers to Duke. The series seeks to emphasis experimental literary writing as a unique mode of thought that engages and expands scholarly fields of inquiry.

Tackling the Law of Text and Data Mining for Computational Research

Guest post by Dave Hansen, Executive Director of the Authors Alliance (and a former Duke Library staff) and co-PI of “Text and Data Mining: Demonstrating Fair Use,” a project supported by the Mellon Foundation. 


Over the last several years, Duke, like many other institutions, has made a significant investment in computational research, recognizing that such research techniques can have wide-ranging benefits from translational research in the biomedical sciences to the digital humanities, this work can and has been transformative.  Much of this work is reliant on researchers being able to engage in text and data-mining (TDM) to produce the data-sets necessary for large-scale computational analysis. For the sciences, this can range from compiling research data across a whole series of research projects, to collecting large numbers of research articles for computer-aided systematic reviews. For the humanities, it may mean assembling a corpus of digitized books, DVDs, music, or images for analysis into how language, literary themes, or depictions have changed over time. 

The Law of Text and Data Mining

The techniques and tools for text and data-mining have advanced rapidly, but one constant for TDM researchers has been a fear of legal risk. For data-sets composed of copyrighted works, the risk of liability can seem staggering. With copyright’s statutory damages set as high as $150,000 per work infringed, a corpus of several hundred works can cause real concern. 

However, the risks of just avoiding copyrighted works are also high. Given the extensive reach of copyright law, avoiding protected or unlicensed works can mean narrowing research to focus on extremely limited datasets, which can in turn  lead to biased and incomplete results. For example, avoiding copyright for many researchers means using very old,  public domain sources materials, which skews their scholarship to focus on works written by authors that do not represent the diverse voices found in modern publications. 

Thankfully, there is a legal pathway forward for TDM researchers.  Unlike the situation in most other nations, where text and data-mining has benefited from special enabling legislation,  the United States has instead relied on fair use, the flexible copyright doctrine that has been key to US innovation policy. While fair use has the reputation of being nebulous  and confusing (you might recall hearing it described as the  “right to hire a lawyer”) there are good reasons to believe that with appropriate safeguards, non-commerical academic research is reliably protected by fair use.  Only a handful of recent efforts have focused on helping researchers better understand the scope of these fair use rights for TDM research. For example, UC Berkeley spearheaded an NEH-funded project to build legal literacies for text and data mining in 2020. I’m happy to say that Authors Alliance, a nonprofit that supports authors who research and write for the public benefit,  is working to further advance understanding of fair use as applied to TDM research through new resources and direct consultation with researchers under a new Mellon Foundation supported project titled “Text and Data Mining: Demonstrating Fair Use.” 

Unfortunately, fair use isn’t the only legal barrier to text and data-mining research. For researchers who seek to use modern digital works–for example, ebooks available only in ePub format, or movies only available on DVDs–a whole series of other laws can stand in the way. In particular,  under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA,” a creature of late-90s copyright and information policy), Congress created a special set of restrictions on users of digital materials, seeking to give copyright owners the right to place digital locks on their works, such as DRM, to prevent online piracy. The DMCA imposes significant liability for users of copyrighted works who circumvent technical protection measures (e.g., content scramble for DVDs) unless those users comply with a series of complex exemptions promulgated by the U.S. Copyright Office. 

In 2021, Authors Alliance, the Association of Research Libraries, and the American Association of University Professors joined together to successfully petition the US Copyright Office for such a DMCA exemption for text and data mining in support of academic research. That exemption now allows researchers to circumvent technological protection measures that restrict access to literary works and motion pictures. Like other exemptions, it is complicated, containing requirements such as the implementation of strict security measures. But, it is not impenetrable, especially with clear guidance. 

An Invitation to Learn with Us About Legal Issues in Text and Data Mining

To that end, I’m pleased that Duke University Libraries, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and others units at Duke are working with Authors Alliance to take the lead in supporting researchers to overcome legal obstacles to TDM. Together, this spring we will host a series of workshops for faculty, librarians, and others at Duke as well as other Triangle area universities. On March 23, we’ll host a workshop focused on legal issues in TDM using textual materials, and then on April 4, another workshop on TDM with visual and audio-visual materials. Each workshop will give an overview of the state of law as applied to TDM – practical tips and guidance, as well as substantial hands-on discussion about how to address particular challenges. We also plan to use these workshops to gather feedback: about where the law is confusing,  or in its current state, inadequate for researchers. That work is done with an eye toward identifying ways to improve the law to make computational research using TDM techniques more accessible and efficient. 

All are invited to join. You can register for these workshops below.

Legal Issues in Text and Data Mining: Literature and Text-Based Works

Thursday, March 23
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Lunch Provided)
The Edge Workshop Room (Bostock Library 127)
Register to attend

Legal Issues in Computational Research Using Images and Audiovisual Works

Tuesday, April 4
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall (Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, C105)
Register to attend

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads selections from “Disability Visibility”

In honor of National Disability Awareness Month, the Low Maintenance Book Club is reading selections from Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Centuryedited by Alice Wong, founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project. Our discussion will take place over Zoom on Wednesday, March 22 at noon.

The readings include:

  • Introduction by Alice Wong
  • “When You are Waiting to be Healed” by June Eric-Udorie
  • “Canfei to Canji: The Freedom of Being Loud” by Sandy Ho
  • “How a Blind Astronomer Found a Way to Hear the Stars” by Wanda Diaz-Merced
  • “The Beauty of Spaces Created for and by Disabled People” by s.e. smith

Attendees are also encouraged to read other essays in the book (they’re all bite-sized, we promise!) and bring a favorite to discuss with the group. As always, though, anyone is welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read.

Copies of the book and audiobook are available through Duke University Libraries and your local public library.  Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link the morning of the event.

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu)

Duke Libraries Receives Significant Gift from Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies

International and Area Studies at Duke University Libraries

This post was contributed by Matthew Hayes, Librarian for Japanese Studies and Asian American Studies in the International and Area Studies Department of Duke University Libraries.

Duke University Libraries is pleased to announce the receipt of a large-scale gift from Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies Paul Groner. Dr. Groner received his PhD from Yale University, where he trained under Stanley Weinstein, and spent the majority of his career teaching at the University of Virginia. His research has largely focused on the Japanese Tendai school of Buddhism, which rose to prominence during the 10th century and encourages combinatory practice based on the Lotus Sutra, one of the preeminent scriptures in East Asian Buddhism. Dr. Groner has written prolifically even beyond this focus and has also conducted significant studies on disciplinary precepts and ordination, the status of nuns in medieval Japan, and later Buddhist educational systems in Japan. Dr. Groner’s donation to Duke Libraries reflects not only his rigor exercised across a career of scholarship, but also his ongoing support of the future of scholarship in Buddhist Studies and East Asian Studies.

Dr. Groner inaugurating the 2023 APSI Spring Speaker Series on February 16, 2023 with a talk on the observance of precepts in medieval Japanese Buddhism. Image: Renate Kwon for APSI.

Part I of Dr. Groner’s donation was physically received in March 2022 and consisted of nearly 1,200 English volumes, 600 Japanese volumes, and more than 100 Chinese volumes. Among the contents of this donation are biographical works focused on the lives and works of major figures across the Tendai, Zen, and Shingon schools of Japanese Buddhism, especially during the early medieval period. There are commentarial and expository works focused on concepts important to the study of East Asian Buddhism, such as emptiness, non-self, the nature of the mind, and disciplinary ethics. Likewise, while regional coverage of Dr. Groner’s donation is generally confined to East Asia, there are dozens of works related to religion in South and Southeast Asia. Part II of this donation will arrive in two years, once Dr. Groner has completed the last of his projects. This second portion will be similar in scale, though will contain far more Japanese volumes than in Part I and will focus more acutely on early medieval Japanese Tendai Buddhism.

From top: Saichō to Tendai no kokuhō: Tendaishū kaishū 1200-nen kinen 最澄と天台の国宝: 天台宗開宗: 一二〇〇記念, an exhibition catalog focused on images of Saichō, the founder of the Japanese Tendai tradition and focus of one of Dr. Groner’s major monographs, titled Saichō: The Establishment of the Japanese Tendai School (University of Hawai’i Press, 2000); Shōbōgenzō Eihei kōroku yōgo jiten「正法眼蔵」「永平広錄」用語辞典, a reference dictionary focused on key terms found in two seminal works by Sōtō Zen founder Dōgen; Sho, gaten sakuhinshū 書・画展作品集, an anthology of exhibit images showcasing religious calligraphy in various Asian languages. These and other selected items from Dr. Groner’s donation are currently on display in an exhibit on new arrivals to the East Asian Collection. The exhibit is located on the second floor of Bostock library, across from the International and Area Studies (IAS) suite. Images by author.

Taken together, both portions of this donation fill a significant chronological and sectarian gap in Duke’s current holdings and will help to elevate Duke Libraries as a major repository of East Asian Buddhist materials in the American Southeast. On behalf of Duke University Libraries, we look forward to future scholars benefitting from Dr. Groner’s generous bibliographic support of East Asian Buddhist Studies, and the study of East Asian religion more generally, for decades to come.

 

 

ProQuest One Literature

Proquest One Literature brings together one of the most comprehensive collection of primary texts, ebooks, reference sources, full-text journals, dissertations, video and more, for access to historical and contemporary content by and about celebrated and lesser-known authors from around the world. The international literature focus is especially useful!

After you search, the results are helpfully divided in to categories such as criticism, primary texts, reference works, dissertations, book reviews, etc. You can also limit results by aspects like peer reviewed, publication date, subject, and language.

Another nice search feature of this resource is that you can find both literary criticism and primary texts for poetry, drama, and prose. If you specifically search the primary texts, you can search by author nationality, author ethnicity, literary movement or period, or gender.

I also really enjoyed the Poets on Screen collection that is part of this database, where you can watch clips of poems being read aloud, sometimes by the poet.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day

If you need to do research about a literary text, author, literary movement, or genre, this is a great resource to begin your search!

The Work of Charles Simic

Pulitzer-Winning Poet and U.S. Laureate Charles Simic died this week. If you want to learn more about his significance to the world of poetry, you can read this Washington Post obituary or watch this short PBS News Hour video. The Poetry Foundation website also has an accessible biography and a place to start with some of his poems.

If you want to dive in deeper to his work, we have you covered. Here’s just a selection of what we have:

Scribbled in the Dark

The Lunatic

A Wedding in Hell

Hotel Insomnia

The Voice at 3:00 a.m.: Selected Late & New Poems

Selected Poems, 1963-1983

Charles Simic: Selected Early Poems

The Monster Loves his Labyrinth: Notebooks

The Uncertain Certainty: Interviews, Essays, and Notes on Poetry

Charles Simic: Essays on the Poetry edited by Bruce Weigl

Charles Simic and the Poetics of Uncertainty by Donovan McAbee

Let me leave you with “Tattoed City” from Poetry Vol. 163, No. 1 (Oct., 1993), p. 8 

 

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “Mr. Malcolm’s List”

Suffering from romance withdrawal while waiting for the third season of Bridgerton? Low Maintenance Book Club is here for you.  We’ll be reading and discussing Suzanne Allain’s Mr. Malcolm’s List at our next meeting on Thursday, February, 9th at noon. As always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read. Copies of the book are available through Duke University Libraries and your local public library.

The meeting will be held over Zoom, so make sure to RSVP to receive an invitation link the morning of the 9th. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu)

What to Read this Month: January

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. On a bitter-cold day in December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees Sadie Green amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform. He calls her name. She pretends she hasn’t heard him for a moment, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts. Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Read or listen to NPR’s delightful review of this novel here!


The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by Shehan Karunatilaka. Maali Almeida―war photographer, gambler, and closet queen―has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira Lake, and he has no idea who killed him. In a country where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers, and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster around can attest. But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to the photos that will rock Sri Lanka. Ten years after his prize-winning novel Chinaman established him as one of Sri Lanka’s foremost authors, Shehan Karunatilaka is back with a “thrilling satire” (Economist). Read what The Guardian wrote about this novel: “The scenarios are often absurd – dead bodies bicker with each other – but executed with a humour and pathos that ground the reader. Beneath the literary flourishes is a true and terrifying reality: the carnage of Sri Lanka’s civil wars. Karunatilaka has done artistic justice to a terrible period in his country’s history.”


Acne: A Memoir by Laura Chinn. From the creator and star of Florida Girls comes a hilarious and profound memoir about family, happiness, and really aggressive acne. Despite having dirty-blonde hair and fair skin, Laura Chinn is mixed-race: the daughter of a Black father and a white mother, which on its own makes for some funny and insightful looks at identity. Laura’s parents were both Scientologists and nonconformists in myriad ways. They divorced early in Laura’s childhood, and she spent her teen years ping-ponging back and forth between Clearwater, Florida, and Los Angeles (with an extended stint in Tijuana for good measure). This is not a sad story. There is Jell-O wrestling. There is an abnormal amount of dancing. There is information about whether you can drink gallons of sangria while taking unregulated Accutane acquired in Mexico. But mostly there is love, and ultimately there is redemption. Laura explores her trauma through anecdotes riddled with grit and humor, proving that in the face of unspeakable tragedy, it is possible to find success, love, and self-acceptance, zits and all. Read a review from Oprah Daily to learn more.


The Dream Builders, by Oindrila Mukherjee. After living in the US for years, Maneka Roy returns home to India to mourn the loss of her mother and finds herself in a new world. The booming city of Hrishipur, where her father now lives, is nothing like the part of the country where she grew up, and the more she sees of this new, sparkling city, the more she learns that nothing—and no one—here is as it appears. Ultimately, it will take an unexpected tragic event for Maneka and those around her to finally understand how fragile life is in this city built on aspirations. Written from the perspectives of ten different characters, Oindrila Mukherjee’s incisive debut novel explores class divisions, gender roles, and stories of survival within a constantly changing society and becoming increasingly Americanized. It’s a story about India today and people impacted by globalization everywhere: a tale of ambition, longing, and bitter loss that asks what it really costs to try and build a dream.


The Family Izquierdo by Ruben Degollado. The tight-knit Izquierdo family is grappling with misfortunes none of them can explain. Their beloved patriarch has suffered from an emotional collapse and is dying; eldest son Gonzalo’s marriage is falling apart; daughter Dina, beleaguered by the fear that her nightmares are real, is a shut-in. When Gonzalo digs up a strange object in the backyard of the family home, the Izquierdos take it as proof that a jealous neighbor has cursed them-could this be the reason for all their troubles? As the Izquierdos face a distressing present and an uncertain future, they are sustained by the blood that binds them, a divine presence, and an abiding love for one another. Told in a series of soulful voices brimming with warmth and humor, The Family Izquierdo is a tender narrative of a family at a turning point. Read more about this book in The New York Times Book Review here!

Happy Birthday, Jane!

Chawton House

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday! As always I like to celebrate with a blog post highlighting interesting things to read and new books that have been published about her. If you are seeing this post early enough, you can sign up for a virtual birthday event at the New York Public Library that takes place at 2:00pm EST today: What is it About Jane? Celebrating Jane Austen’s Birthday 

Here are some new books that we own:

The Routledge Companion to Jane Austen edited by Cheryl A. Wilson and Maria H. Frawley

Jane Austen: A Companion by Laura Dabundo

Lady Susan ; The Watsons ; and, Sanditon : Unfinished Fictions and Other Writings by Jane Austen ; edited with an introduction and notes by Kathryn Sutherland.

What to Read this Month: December

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender by Kit Heyam. Today’s narratives about trans people tend to feature individuals with stable gender identities that fit neatly into the categories of male or female. Those stories, while important, fail to account for the complex realities of many trans people’s lives.  Before We Were Trans illuminates the stories of people across the globe, from antiquity to the present, whose experiences of gender have defied binary categories. Blending historical analysis with sharp cultural criticism, trans historian and activist Heyam offers a new, radically inclusive trans history, chronicling expressions of trans experience that are often overlooked, like gender-nonconforming fashion and wartime stage performance. Before We Were Trans transports us from Renaissance Venice to seventeenth-century Angola, from Edo Japan to early America, and looks to the past to uncover new horizons for possible trans futures. Read this The New York Times review to learn more.


Becoming Eve: my journey from ultra-Orthodox rabbi to transgender woman by Abby Stein. The powerful coming-of-age story of an ultra-Orthodox child who was born to become a rabbinic leader and instead became a woman. Abby was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, isolated in a culture that lives according to the laws and practices of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, speaking only Yiddish and Hebrew and shunning modern life. Stein was born as the first son in a dynastic rabbinical family, poised to become a leader of the next generation of Hasidic Jews. But Abby felt certain at a young age that she was a girl. She suppressed her desire for a new body while looking for answers wherever she could find them, from forbidden religious texts to smuggled secular examinations of faith. Finally, she orchestrated a personal exodus from ultra-Orthodox manhood to mainstream femininity-a radical choice that forced her to leave her home, her family, and her way of life. Powerful in the truths it reveals about biology, culture, faith, and identity, Becoming Eve poses the enduring question: How far will you go to become the person you were meant to be? Learn more in this review by The Humanist.


Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan. Fairest is a memoir about a precocious boy with albinism, a “sun child” from a rural Philippine village, who would grow up to become a woman in America. Coping with the strain of parental neglect and the elusive promise of U.S. citizenship, Talusan found childhood comfort from her devoted grandmother, a grounding force as others treated her with special preference or public curiosity. As an immigrant to the United States, Talusan came to be perceived as white. An academic scholarship to Harvard provided access to elite circles of privilege but required Talusan to navigate the complex spheres of race, class, sexuality, and her place within the gay community. She emerged as an artist and an activist questioning the boundaries of gender. Talusan realized she did not want to be confined to a prescribed role as a man and transitioned to become a woman, despite the risk of losing a man she deeply loved. Throughout her journey, Talusan shares poignant and powerful episodes of desirability and love that will remind readers of works such as Call Me By Your Name and Giovanni’s Room. Learn more about Talusan’s memoir in a review from The New York Times.


Sorted Growing up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place: A Transgender Memoir by Jackson Bird. When Jackson was twenty-five, he came out as transgender to his friends, family, and anyone with an internet connection. Assigned female at birth and raised as a girl, he often wondered if he should have been born a boy. Growing up in Texas in the 1990s, he had no transgender role models. In this “soulful and heartfelt coming-of-age story” (Jamia Wilson, director, and publisher of the Feminist Press), Jackson chronicles the ups and downs of growing up gender-confused. With warmth and wit, Jackson recounts how he navigated the many obstacles and quirks of his transition–like figuring out how to have a chest binder delivered to his NYU dorm room and having an emotional breakdown at a Harry Potter fan convention. From his first shot of testosterone to his eventual top surgery, Jackson lets you in on every part of his journey, explaining trans terminology and little-known facts about gender and identity along the way. Sorted demonstrates the power and beauty in being yourself, even when you’re not sure who “yourself” is. Learn more in this LGBTQ Reads guest post by Bird.


The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara. A gritty and gorgeous debut that follows a cast of gay and transgender club kids navigating the Harlem ball scene of the 1980s and ’90s, inspired by the real House of Xtravaganza made famous by the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning. It’s 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city’s glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ball scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and has a yearning to help create a family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit. But when Hector dies of AIDS-related complications, Angel must bear the responsibility of tending to their house alone. Told in a voice that brims with wit, rage, tenderness and fierce yearning, The House of Impossible Beauties is a tragic story of love, family, and the dynamism of the human spirit. Learn more here.


 

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “A Room of One’s Own”

 

For the final Low Maintenance Book Club of 2022, we’ll be reading and discussing the entirety of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own on Thursday, December 8thAs always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read. Copies of the book are available through your local public library and Duke University libraries in both print and ebook format.

The meeting will be taking place over Zoom, so make sure to RSVP to get an invitation link the morning of the 8th.  We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (aah39@duke.edu)

 

What to Read this Month: November

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old. Our Missing Hearts is an old story about how supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact. Learn more here, The New York Times Book Review.


Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is a story of a boy born to a teenage single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damage to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion and, above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Read more in The Washington Post’s book review.


Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld. As a homeless teenager writing college essays in her rusty Toyota Corolla, Emi Nietfeld was convinced that the Ivy League was the only escape from her dysfunctional childhood. But upward mobility required crafting the perfect resilience narrative. She had to prove that she was an “overcomer,” made stronger by all she had endured. The truth was more complicated. Emi’s mom was a charming hoarder who had her put on antipsychotics but believed in her daughter’s brilliance—unlike the Minnesotan foster family who banned her “pornographic” art history flashcards (of Michelangelo’s David). Emi’s other parent vanished shortly after coming out as trans, a situation few understood in the mid-2000s. Both a chronicle of the American Dream and an indictment of it, this searing debut exposes the price of trading a troubled past for the promise of a bright future. Told with a ribbon of dark humor, Acceptance challenges our ideas of what it means to overcome. Read this NPR review to learn more.


Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen. Jensen is a Métis woman, and she is no stranger to the violence enacted on Indigenous women’s bodies on Indigenous land. In Carry, Jensen maps her personal experience onto the historical, exploring how history is lived in the body and redefining the language used to speak about violence in America. In the title chapter, Jensen connects the trauma of school shootings with her experiences of racism and sexual assault on college campuses. “The Worry Line” explores the gun and gang violence in her neighborhood the year her daughter was born. “At the Workshop” focuses on her graduate school years, during which a workshop classmate repeatedly killed off thinly veiled versions of her in his stories. In prose at once forensic and deeply emotional, Toni Jensen shows herself to be a brave new voice and a fearless witness to her own difficult history–as well as to the violent cultural landscape in which she finds her coordinates. Read more about Jensen’s debut book here and an interview with Clemson University here.


Dog Flowers: A Memoir by Danielle Geller. A daughter returns home to the Navajo reservation to retrace her mother’s life in a memoir that is both a narrative and an archive of one family’s troubled history. When Geller’s mother dies of alcohol withdrawal while attempting to get sober, Geller returns to Florida and finds her mother’s life packed into eight suitcases. Most were filled with clothes, except for the last one, which contained diaries, photos, letters, a few undeveloped disposable cameras, dried sage, jewelry, and the bandana her mother wore on days she skipped a hair wash. Geller, an archivist and a writer uses these pieces of her mother’s life to try and understand her mother’s relationship to home and their shared need to leave it. Geller embarks on a journey that will end at her mother’s home: the Navajo reservation. Dog Flowers is an arresting, photo-lingual memoir that masterfully weaves together images and text to examine mothers and mothering, sisters and caretaking, and colonized bodies. Read more about this story in the Southern Review of Books.


Extended Deadline: Apply for Spring Archival Expeditions by 11/14

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Spring 2023 Archival and Digital Expeditions

Are you interested in developing your skills in designing learning experiences for students? Interested in engaging students with digital and physical primary source materials? Consider participating in Archival and Digital Expeditions!

Archival and Digital Expeditions is a unique opportunity for graduate students to work with a faculty member to design a learning module involving archival materials. The collections can be physical materials in Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, or any variety of digital collections available at Duke or elsewhere. There are numerous possibilities.

Eligibility: Any Duke PhD student who has completed one academic year at Duke.

Stipend: $1,500 for designing the module. An additional $500 is available to students who teach their module in a subsequent semester.

Expected time commitment: 70-75 hours over the course of the semester to be spent consulting with their sponsor, library staff and other experts and researching, developing and testing the module.

Timeframe: Spring 2023

To learn more and apply: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/instruction/archival-expeditions

Applications are due November 14th, 2022.

For more information contact Brooke Guthrie (brooke.guthrie@duke.edu) or Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (arianne.hartsell.gundy@duke.edu)

Mobile Apps: Research, Read, and Watch on the Go


Have you wondered if there are mobile apps that could assist you in conducting research from a smartphone or tablet? We did, and here are the ones we’ve tried and verified. These apps are accessible to you as a student, researcher, or faculty member affiliated with Duke. Each application was easy to download, authenticate, sign in, and begin using! Follow the hyperlinks for step-by-step instructions on uploading and using.


The Ebsco Mobile App is designed for library users to access library resources for scholarly research on the move. What can you do? Download and read EBSCO eBooks™., listen to your PDF articles via audio play, save articles for later reference, pull up your previously viewed or searched results, stay organized with access to the items you’ve saved across devices, and share articles or links with your peers easily. Imagine you’re on the C-1 bus thinking about that one research question you need to find peer-reviewed literature to answer. With the Ebsco app, you can type in your question and pull up relevant articles before you reach your stop!


The Ask a Librarian App is a hands-down winner. After you set up Duke University Libraries as your default library (instructions here), you can reach out via email or phone, but most importantly by chat, and a real-live librarian (no bots here!) will support you in answering all of your research questions. Chatting is as easy as texting! We love the convenience of this app and being able to help you find the resources you need in real-time. Hours of operation are here.


The DukeMobile App is an excellent shortcut for getting to the library catalog on the go. When you go to the menu bar, you’ll see an open book icon that says “Library” click on that, and then you’ll be taken straight to Duke University Libraries, where you can access all our digital resources. If you’re like us, sometimes our aha moments come when we’re away from the desk. If you’re walking between classes and think of a book or journal article you’d like to locate, you can instantly do so from your DukeMobile app without missing a step!


The Zotero App is a great research assistant that helps organize and manage your citations (and annotations), and now you can update references on the go. And if you prefer Endnote for your citation needs, there’s an app for you too! The Endnote Mobile App allows you to collect, collaborate, and create bibliographies anywhere. The benefit of both citation apps is that wherever you are, you can pull up your synced references and bibliographies, and if you are browsing an article on your phone that you want to save, you can quickly add it to your list.


What about library resources for research and pleasure? Forget Netflix; we recommend the Kanopy Mobile App for streaming educational documentaries, great films, and movies! Kanopy provides access to independent and documentary films ─  titles of unique social and cultural value from The Criterion Collection and Media Education Foundation. The beauty of the Kanopy app is that you can watch films on your phone or tablet regardless of where you are. Loung in the comfort of your dorm room while streaming that documentary you’ve been assigned for class!


Have you added the Libby by Overdrive Mobile App to your phone yet? Do it today, and start listening to popular fiction or nonfiction as an audiobook or curl up with a great eBook wherever you are. Libby offers offline access, which means when you download your selection, you can read or stream when you’re offline. The Libby app audiobooks are a great way to mix up your next gym workout and get to that booklist you’re dying to read!


We are always looking for mobile-friendly research resources that make your life easier. Please comment below the post if you have apps you use for research you’d like to share!


 

What to Read this Month: October 2022

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi. This winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize and national bestseller is “an innovative reimagining of the family saga.” In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth. The first novel originally written in Arabic to ever win the Man Booker International Prize, and the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English. Read more about this striking novel in a thoughtful review by The New Yorker.


Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir by Erika L. Sánchez. From the New York Times bestselling author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, an utterly original memoir-in-essays that is as deeply moving as it is hilarious. Growing up as the daughter of Mexican immigrants in Chicago in the nineties, Erika was a self-described pariah, misfit, and disappointment–a foul-mouthed, melancholic rabble-rouser who painted her nails black but also loved comedy, often laughing so hard with her friends that she had to leave her school classroom. Twenty-five years later, she’s now an award-winning novelist, poet, and essayist, but she’s still got an irrepressible laugh, an acerbic wit, and singular powers of perception about the world around her. Raunchy, insightful, unapologetic, and brutally honest, Crying in the Bathroom is Sánchez at her best–a book that will make you feel that post-confessional high that comes from talking for hours with your best friend. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Erika’s poignant memoir, and listen to her interview with NPR to learn more.


I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life. In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants. Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair. Read more in this review by The Atlantic.


The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison. Here is the Nobel Prize winner in her own words: a rich gathering of her most important essays and speeches, spanning four decades that “speaks to today’s social and political moment as directly as this morning’s headlines” (NPR). These pages give us her searing prayer for the dead of 9/11, her Nobel lecture on the power of language, her searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., her heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin. She looks deeply into the fault lines of culture and freedom: the foreigner, female empowerment, the press, money, “black matter(s),” human rights, the artist in society, the Afro-American presence in American literature. And she turns her incisive critical eye to her own work and that of others. An essential collection from an essential writer, The Source of Self-Regard shines with the literary elegance, intellectual prowess, spiritual depth, and moral compass that have made Toni Morrison our most cherished and enduring voice. Learn more in Morrison’s candid interview with Bitch Media.


The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings. Reminiscent of the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Octavia Butler–a piercing dystopian novel about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her mysterious mother. Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother’s disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behavior raises suspicions and a woman–especially a Black woman–can find herself on trial for witchcraft. But fourteen years have passed since her mother’s disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30–or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At 28, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. When she’s offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother’s will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time. Read the LA Times Book Review to learn more.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “Night of the Living Rez”

Get spooky with the Low Maintenance Book Club! At our October 27th meeting, we’ll discuss selections from the award-winning short story collection Night of the Living Rez: “Burn,” “In a Jar,” “The Blessing Tobacco,” and “Night of the Living Rez.” As always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read!

Copies of the book are available through your local public library, on our Overdrive, and soon through our print copies. This meeting will be taking place over Zoom, so make sure to RSVP to get a invitation link the morning of the 27th!

Date: Thursday, October 27, 2022

Time:12:00pm – 1:00pm

If you have any questions, you can contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy at aah39@duke.edu.

What to Read this Month: September 2022

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here is a selection of books you will find in these collections!


The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan. Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Until Frida has a very bad day. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion. Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good. An “intense” ( Oprah Daily ) page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic. Watch Chan discuss her novel on the Today Show and listen to her on the Lit Hub Radio podcast.


Nuclear Family by Joseph Han. Things are looking up for Mr. and Mrs. Cho. Their daughter, Grace, is busy finishing her senior year of college and working for her parents, while her older brother, Jacob, just moved to Seoul to teach English. But when a viral video shows Jacob trying—and failing—to cross the Korean demilitarized zone, nothing can protect the family from suspicion and the restaurant from waning sales. Struggling with what they don’t know about themselves and one another, the Chos must confront the separations that have endured in their family for decades. Set in the months leading up to the 2018 false missile alert in Hawaiʻi, Joseph Han’s profoundly funny and strikingly beautiful debut novel is an offering that aches with histories inherited and reunions missed, asking how we heal in the face of what we forget and who we remember. Learn more in The New York Times Book Review and NPR’s Book of the Day podcast interview with Han.


Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse is the mesmerizing story of a landmark sexual assault investigation and the female private investigator who helped crack it open. In the fall of 2002, Erika accepts a new contract job investigating lawsuits as a private investigator. Erika knows she should turn the assignment down. Her own history with sexual violence makes it all too personal. But she takes the job anyway. Over the next five years, Erika learns everything she can about P. I. technique, tracking down witnesses and investigating a culture of sexual assault and harassment ingrained in the university’s football program. But as the investigation grows into a national scandal and a historic civil rights case, Erika becomes increasingly consumed. When the case and her life both implode simultaneously, Erika must figure out how to help win the case without losing herself. Read The Washington Post review and listen to her Colorado Public Radio interview to learn more.

 


We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold on to its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom. This New York Review of Books article asks the hard questions about oil extraction, climate change, and the intersectionalities in Mbue’s visionary novel.


Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after a tragedy. In twelve striking, luminescent stories, a boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs. Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction. Listen to Talty, a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation discuss how these stories came to be in his NPR interview.

A course to change the face of philosophy

Philosophy is a discipline whose historical canon is dominated by European males (despite active and influential contributions of women in the field’s formation) and that typically attracts fewer women to its college classrooms. Want to change the face of philosophy?

This fall, Duke undergraduate students can contribute to a global initiative to reform philosophy while learning about and taking part in open scholarly publishing. Project Vox, a collaboration between Duke University Libraries and the Department of Philosophy, is the basis for a new tutorial course, ISS 395T. In this course students will learn and apply skills in researching primary and secondary sources and images and in writing for Project Vox’s audience — teachers, students, scholars, and interested members of the public.

The two graduate instructors leading this course, Dana Hogan and Yasemin Altun, are alums of the Project Vox team. Their recent posts to its “Behind the Scenes” blog series offer insight into the skills and experience they’ve acquired as well as the kinds of work students will do in this course:

This tutorial course is hosted through the Information Science + Studies program and supported by an award from Bass Connections. To learn more about the course and to enroll, contact projectvox@duke.edu. Drop / Add for Duke undergraduates ends September 9.

Low Maintenance Book Club Reads The Memory Librarian

The Low Maintenance Book Club is starting off the semester with a bang—our first in-person meeting since 2020 and a superstar reading selection (if we do say so ourselves)! Join the Low Maintenance Book Club on Wednesday, September 21st at 5:30pm for a discussion of selections from Janelle Monáe’s The Memory Librarian: the introduction, “The Memory Librarian” and “Timebox.” We’ll be meeting outdoors at the tables near the breezeway between Perkins & Bostock. In case of inclement weather, we’ll send a rain location to participants who have RSVP’d.

Copies of the book can be found at Duke University Libraries (audiobook, ebook and print) and most public libraries.

Low Maintenance Book Club reads selections from The Memory Librarian

Wednesday, September 21st, 5:30-7:00pm

Tables near Perkins-Bostock breezeway

Light snacks will be served, so please RSVP if you plan to attend. We hope to see you there!

What to Read this Month: August 2022

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy! Here are a selection of books you will find in these collections!


Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander. Josephine N. Leary is determined to build a life of her own, and a future for her family. When she moves to Edenton, North Carolina from the plantation where she was born, she is free, newly married, and ready to follow her dreams. As the demands of life pull Josephine’s attention- deepening her marriage, mothering her daughters, supporting her grandmother- she struggles to balance her real estate aspirations with the realities of keeping life going every day. She teaches herself to be a business woman, to manage her finances, and to make smart investments in the local real estate market. But with each passing year, it grows more difficult to focus on building her legacy from the ground up. Moving and inspiring, Josephine Leary’s untold story speaks to the part of us that dares to dream bigger, tear down whatever stands in our way, and build something better for the loved ones we leave behind. If you’d like to learn more about Josephine N. Leary’s life, we have some of her papers in the Rubenstein Library.


Sticker by Henry Hoke. Stickers adorn our first memories, dot our notebooks and our walls, are stuck annoyingly on fruit, and accompany us into adulthood to announce our beliefs from car bumpers. They hold surprising power in their ability to define and provoke, and hold a strange steadfast presence in our age of fading physical media. Henry Hoke employs a constellation of stickers to explore queer boyhood, parental disability, and ancestral violence. A memoir in 20 stickers, Sticker is set against the backdrop of the encroaching neo-fascist presence in Hoke’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, which results in the fatal terrorist attack of August 12th and its national aftermath. We have other books in the Object Lessons series, if you are interested in exploring the cultural context of everyday objects.


In The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of our World, Riley Black walks readers through what happened in the days, the years, the centuries, and the million years after the impact, tracking the sweeping disruptions that overtook this one spot, and imagining what might have been happening elsewhere on the globe. Life’s losses were sharp and deeply-felt, but the hope carried by the beings that survived sets the stage for the world as we know it now. Picture yourself in the Cretaceous period. It’s a sunny afternoon in the Hell Creek of ancient Montana 66 million years ago. A Triceratops horridus ambles along the edge of the forest. In a matter of hours, everything here will be wiped away. Lush verdure will be replaced with fire. Tyrannosaurus rex will be toppled from their throne, along with every other species of non-avian dinosaur no matter their size, diet, or disposition. They just don’t know it yet. Check out this New Scientist book review to learn more.


Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde. In the bustling streets and cloistered homes of Lagos, a cast of vivid characters–some haunted, some defiant–navigate danger, demons, and love in a quest to lead true lives. As in Nigeria, vagabonds are those whose existence is literally outlawed: the queer, the poor, the displaced, the footloose and rogue spirits. They are those who inhabit transient spaces, who make their paths and move invisibly, who embrace apparitions, old vengeances and alternative realities. Eloghosa Osunde’s brave, fiercely inventive novel traces a wild array of characters for whom life itself is a form of resistance: a driver for a debauched politician with the power to command life and death; a legendary fashion designer who gives birth to a grown daughter; a lesbian couple whose tender relationship sheds unexpected light on their experience with underground sex work; a wife and mother who attends a secret spiritual gathering that shifts her world. As their lives intertwine–in bustling markets and underground clubs, churches and hotel rooms–vagabonds are seized and challenged by spirits who command the city’s dark energy. Whether running from danger, meeting with secret lovers, finding their identities, or vanquishing their shadowselves, Osunde’s characters confront and support one another, before converging for the once-in-a-lifetime gathering that gives the book its unexpectedly joyous conclusion. To learn more, you can read an NYT review and a Guardian review.


Pandora: A Novel in Three Parts by Susan Stokes-Chapman. A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young antiquarian scholar. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore the shop to its former glory, and to escape her nefarious uncle. But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realize that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason. Here’s a review from the Guardian.  You might also enjoy this YouTube video where the author discusses the Greek mythology that inspired this book.

What to Read this Month: July 2022

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!


Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen. How do we take stock of a life–by what means, and by what measure? This is the question that preoccupies Alice, a Taiwanese immigrant in her late thirties. In the off-hours from her day job, Alice struggles to create a project about the enigmatic downtown performance artist Tehching Hsieh and his monumental, yearlong 1980s performance pieces. Meanwhile, she becomes the caretaker for her aging stepfather, a Vietnam vet whose dream of making traditional Chinese furniture dissolved in alcoholism and dementia. As Alice roots deeper into Hsieh’s radical use of time–in one piece, the artist confined himself to a cell for a year; in the next, he punched a time clock every hour, on the hour, for a year–and his mysterious disappearance from the art world, her project starts metabolizing events from her own life. Moving between present-day and 1980s New York City, with detours to Silicon Valley and the Venice Biennale, this vivid debut announces Lisa Hsiao Chen as an audacious new talent. To learn more, check out this San Francisco Chronicle review and this NYT review.


Noisy Autumn: Sculpture and Works on Paper by Christy Rupp. Christy Rupp emerged as an American artist and activist in Manhattan in the late 1970s, using commodified materials to construct three-dimensional, sculptural works imbued with a dynamic sense of life. Noisy Autumn contains her recent sculptures and works on paper anticipating the dawn of late capitalism, and the Anthropocene. Rupp is primarily concerned with humans’ perceptions of nature: where do the borders of the “natural” emerge? The work aims to deconstruct harsh divisions that separate humans from our environment, while addressing the intersection of geopolitics, culture, and economics, as they impact the vulnerabilities of ecosystems. Her sculptures and works on paper alike leave readers pondering human engagement with the natural world amid rampant consumption–and how they may take action. Check out her website to learn more about Christy Rupp.


Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black. As Jacob lies dying, he begins to write a letter to his only son, Isaac. They have not met or spoken in many years, and there are things that Isaac must know. Stories about his ancestral legacy in rural Arkansas that extend back to slavery. Secrets from Jacob’s tumultuous relationship with Isaac’s mother and the shame he carries from the dissolution of their family. Tragedies that informed Jacob’s role as a father and his reaction to Isaac’s being gay. But most of all, Jacob must share with Isaac the unspoken truths that reside in his heart. He must give voice to the trauma that Isaac has inherited. And he must create a space for the two to find peace. With piercing insight and profound empathy, acclaimed author Daniel Black illuminates the lived experiences of Black fathers and queer sons, offering an authentic and ultimately hopeful portrait of reckoning and reconciliation.  There’s an interesting review in Southern Review of Books. You might also be interested in this video from the Georgia Center for the Book that shows a conversation between Daniel Black and Julian Winters.


Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter. “This is not a coming-out story. It’s not a down-low story either. I never could have passed for straight, even if I’d wanted to, and so I never had the dubious luxury of living a lie.” From the incomparable Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner, a powerful and revealing autobiography about race, sexuality, art, and healing It’s easy to be yourself when who and what you are is in vogue. But growing up Black and gay in America has never been easy. Before Billy Porter was slaying red carpets and giving an iconic Emmy-winning performance in the celebrated TV show Pose; before he was the groundbreaking Tony and Grammy Award–winning star of Broadway’s Kinky Boots; and before he was an acclaimed recording artist, actor, playwright, director, and all-around legend, Porter was a young boy in Pittsburgh who was seen as different, who didn’t fit in. At five years old, Porter was sent to therapy to “fix” his effeminacy. He was endlessly bullied at school, sexually abused by his stepfather, and criticized at his church. Porter came of age in a world where simply being himself was a constant struggle. Billy Porter’s Unprotected is the life story of a singular artist and survivor in his own words. This audiobook is also narrated by Billy Porter himself!


The Invisible Kingdom : Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’Rourke.  Drawing on her own medical experience as well as fifteen years of interviews with doctors, patients, researchers, and public health experts, O’Rourke’s incisive new work speaks to an urgent subject: the epidemic scale of autoimmune disease in America (even greater with the advent of ‘Long Covid’) and where we go from here. O’Rourke reveals crucial, subtle complexities about the American struggle with chronic illness and autoimmune conditions, and offers new reasons for hope, as well as a new framework for thinking about infectious disease and autoimmune response going forward. You can read reviews in Slate and the Los Angeles Times.

Ada Limón Named the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States

Ada Limon standing in a gardenAda Limòn was recently appointed the United States poet laureate. If you want to learn more about her and her work, NYT Books did a nice profile in May right before her most recent book was published. You might also find this brief bio helpful.

If you want to read some of her work, we have most of her books:

The Hurting Kind

The Carrying

Bright Dead Things

Sharks in the Rivers

We also have access to a short segment on PBS News Hour called #IMHO. A poet’s take on looking to language for ‘radical hope’:

On a local note, Durham has recently appointed its first poet laureate, DJ Rogers.

ONLINE: Big Books Edition: One Hundred Years of Solitude

 

It’s almost summer, and that means it’s time for the Low Maintenance Book Club’s Big Books Edition! This year, we’ll be reading “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez over three months.

The third and final meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20th from noon-1pm over Zoom. For this meeting, we’ll discuss the chapter beginning with the sentence “The war was over in May.” through the end of the novel.

The second meeting will take place on Wednesday, June 22 from noon-1pm over Zoom. For this meeting, we discussed pages 133-315 in the Harper Collins edition.

The first meeting took place on Wednesday, May 25th from noon-1pm over Zoom We read pages 1-31 in the Harper Collections edition.

Although you may read any edition, we recommend the Gregory Rabassa translation. Hard copies and audiobooks may be found at Duke University Libraries and most public libraries. Currently, there are no ebook editions available.

Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link the morning of the meeting. We hope to see you there!

What to Read this Month: June 2022

Looking for something new to read?  Check out our New and Noteworthy, Current Literature, and Overdrive collections for some good reads to enjoy!


The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America by Deepa Purushothaman. A deeply personal call to action for women of color to find power from within and to join together in community, advocating for a new corporate environment where we all belong—and are accepted—on our own terms. Women of color comprise one of the fastest-growing segments in the corporate workforce, yet often we are underrepresented—among the first, few, or only ones in a department or company. For too long, corporate structures, social zeitgeist, and cultural conditioning have left us feeling exhausted and downtrodden, believing that in order to “fit in” and be successful, we must hide or change who we are.  Deepa Purushothaman  met with hundreds of other women of color across industries and cultural backgrounds, eager to hear about their unique and shared experiences. In doing so, she has come to understand our collective setbacks—and the path forward in achieving our goals. To learn more, watch this interview or read this article outlining five key insights.


Taste: My Life through Food by Stanley Tucci. From award-winning actor and food obsessive Stanley Tucci comes an intimate and charming memoir of life in and out of the kitchen. Stanley Tucci grew up in an Italian American family that spent every night around the kitchen table. Taste is a reflection on the intersection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about his growing up in Westchester, New York; preparing for and shooting the foodie films Big Night and Julie & Julia ; falling in love over dinner; and teaming up with his wife to create meals for a multitude of children. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burned dishes, is as heartfelt and delicious as the last. You can read reviews here and here.


The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird by Jack E. Davis. The bald eagle is regal but fearless, a bird you’re not inclined to argue with. For centuries, Americans have celebrated it as “majestic” and “noble,” yet savaged the living bird behind their national symbol as a malicious predator of livestock and, falsely, a snatcher of babies. Taking us from before the nation’s founding through inconceivable resurgences of this enduring all-American species, Jack E. Davis contrasts the age when native peoples lived beside it peacefully with that when others, whether through hunting bounties or DDT pesticides, twice pushed Haliaeetus leucocephalus to the brink of extinction. This book is a cultural and natural history that demonstrates how this bird’s wondrous journey may provide inspiration today, as we grapple with environmental peril on a larger scale. You can learn more through this review and and this review.


The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections: A Novel by Eva Jurczyk. A stunning debut following a librarian whose quiet life is turned upside down when a priceless manuscript goes missing. Soon she has to ask: what holds more secrets in the library–the ancient books shelved in the stacks, or the people who preserve them? Liesl Weiss long ago learned to be content working behind the scenes in the distinguished rare books department of a large university, managing details and working behind the scenes to make the head of the department look good. But when her boss has a stroke and she’s left to run things, she discovers that the library’s most prized manuscript is missing. Liesl tries to sound the alarm and inform the police about the missing priceless book, but is told repeatedly to keep quiet, to keep the doors open and the donors happy. What Liesl discovers about the dusty manuscripts she has worked among for so long–and about the people who care for and revere them–shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life. If you want to visit a real-life rare books and special collections, make sure to check out our Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.


Joan is Okay: A Novel by Weike Wangoan. Joan is a thirtysomething ICU doctor at a busy New York City hospital. The daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States to secure the American dream for their children, Joan is intensely devoted to her work, happily solitary, successful. She does look up sometimes and wonder where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own cultural and social expectations. Once Joan and her brother, Fang, were established in their careers, her parents moved back to China, hoping to spend the rest of their lives in their homeland. But when Joan’s father suddenly dies and her mother returns to America to reconnect with her children, a series of events sends Joan spiraling out of her comfort zone just as her hospital, her city, and the world are forced to reckon with a health crisis more devastating than anyone could have imagined.  You can read an interview here and a review here.

What to Read this Month: April 2022

Congratulations on making it through another academic year! Now that we’re just about done with final exams, why not catch up on some reading? As always, our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections are waiting for you!

On a somewhat sadder note, this will be my final What to Read post, as I will be leaving Duke next week. I’ve had such a fun time curating this series for the past couple of years, so I’ve decided to leave you with some of my favorite titles I’ve selected for this series. Enjoy, and have a great summer! What to Read will be back soon with a new author.


My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir | IndieBound.orgMy Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland. In this genre-bending memoir (not a biography, though it contains elements of one), Shapland comes to understand facets of her own life as a queer and chronically ill person while studying the life of Carson McCullers, the renowned 20th-century Southern Gothic novelist, and herself a queer and chronically ill person. McCullers, perhaps best known for her novels The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding, empathetically wrote of outsiders in her fairly short lifetime, drawing on a personal experience that Shapland finds to have been largely overlooked by her biographers. Her experience with McCullers begins with an internship at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, an archive in which she discovers a number of McCullers’ love letters to another woman. What follows is a strong investigation into McCullers’ life as a lesbian in the mid-twentieth century, interspersed with Shapland’s personal anecdotes about coming to terms with her own sexuality. Throughout this intense discussion of McCullers’ life, Shapland readily questions her own perception of the author, and her personal identification with her, making for an engaging and self-aware read. You can read reviews here and here.


The State Must Provide: Why America's Colleges Have Always Been  Unequal--and How to Set Them Right: Harris, Adam: 9780062976482:  Amazon.com: BooksThe State Must Provide: Why America’s Colleges Have Always Been Unequal–and How to Set Them Right by Adam Harris. In this book, Atlantic staff writer Harris takes an incisive look at the resource-related disparities that often exist between historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly white institutions, focusing particularly on the policy decisions–historical and current–that underpin them. Harris reveals that so many HBCUs were essentially set up to fail from their inception, with federal and state governments working to maintain segregation in American higher education while also deliberately underfunding predominantly Black institutions. These issues of chronic underfunding persist to this day, leaving many HBCUs egregiously lacking in resources. In chronicling this history, Harris also provides compelling portraits of the many Black scholars across generations who have worked to rectify these imbalances, and also weighs the benefits of many potential solutions to this systemic problem. You can read a review here and listen to an interview with Harris here.


The Disaster Tourist: A Novel: Ko-Eun, Yun, Buehler, Lizzie: 9781640094161:  Amazon.com: BooksThe Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun (translated by Lizzie Buehler). In this dark satire of late-stage capitalism, originally published in South Korea in 2013 but published in English for the first time in 2020, Yun tells the story of Yona, an employee at a travel company that specializes in disaster tourism, arranging tours to locales devastated by all kinds of momentous crises for the perceived moral betterment of their customers. Yona has worked for the company for 10 years, coordinating tours and assessing what locations would bring in the most clients, but is on the brink of quitting after facing the sexual harassment of her boss and getting demoted for no clear reason. In a last-ditch effort to keep her in the company, she is directed to travel to an island called Mui, the company’s least popular destination. There, Yona discovers a seemingly ludicrous plot being carried out by the company: to bring in more clients, the company will create a disaster on the island, one that will surely kill a significant number of its inhabitants. From here, Yona must make some critical decisions, and Yun portrays her subsequent period on the island in a terrifying and yet darkly humorous way. You can read reviews here and here.


Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: 9780525657743 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: BooksCrying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. In this memoir Zauner, founder of the band Japanese Breakfast, depicts her often complicated relationship with her mother Chongmi, as well as her grief following Chongmi’s death from cancer in 2014. Though Zauner describes a childhood and adolescence in which she attempts to distance herself from her and Chongmi’s Korean heritage (Zauner’s father Joel is white American), she finds that her ties to her mother always remain in some form, and often hinge upon their shared love of Korean cuisine. Just when Zauner begins to increasingly reconnect with her mother in her twenties, Chongmi is diagnosed with cancer. Zauner describes the futility of the treatments and her mother’s slow death, and spends the rest of the book depicting the ways in which her intense grief shaped her life and musical work. In describing these emotionally wrought events, the memoir serves as a unique meditation on the relationship between food and identity, as well as grief. You can read reviews here and here.


Chouette: Oshetsky, Claire: 9780063066670: Amazon.com: BooksChouette by Claire Oshetsky. Oshetsky’s debut novel tells the otherworldly story of Tiny, a cellist living with her reliable–if somewhat boring–husband, who inexplicably has an affair with a female owl and even more inexplicably becomes pregnant with a hybrid owl-human baby, the eponymous Chouette. Despite the child’s obvious strangeness, which isolates Tiny from others in her life and evokes dire warnings from nearly every doctor who sees her, her mother immediately loves her unconditionally. She is fully supportive of Chouette and seeks not to change her, even as she is forced to give up her career and even as Chouette’s undeniably owl-like behavior completely upends all normalcy in her life. She faces a tough battle in this determination as her husband seeks exactly the opposite, pursuing “cures” for Chouette at every turn. In tracing Tiny’s pregnancy, Chouette’s early childhood, and her later independence, Oshetsky, who is herself autistic and a mother, offers a unique meditation on the nature of neurodivergence, pregnancy, and motherhood, the fantastic elements of her story providing a unique lens through which to view and understand these massive topics. You can read reviews here and here.

Celebrate National Library Week!

April 3-9, 2022 marks National Library Week. Celebrate libraries and librarians by “checking out” (get it?) one of these excellent films in Duke Libraries’ collection:

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dir. Alain Guillon, 2020

Chut…! 
Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis. In a society where everything is commercial, where time is limited, where transmission is devalued, there is a place of gratuitousness and encounter where all kinds of people, cultures, practices meet, where we constantly fight inequalities and social violence, a place of sharing, a refuge, an island. Quietly, joyfully, something important is being made here, invisible to the hurried or accounting gaze: the development of a new social contract.

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dir. Frederick Wiseman, 2017

Ex Libris: New York Public Library
“I’ve always loved and used public libraries for what I can learn and discover and for the surprises and stimulation they offer. I was not familiar, before I made the film, with the depth, scope and range of the New York Public Library and the wide range of services they provide to all classes, races and ethnicities in the main library and its 92 branches.” — Frederick Wiseman

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dir. Vivienne Roumani-Denn, 2013

Out of Print
Every aspect of the written word is changing—from publishing to writing and selling to reading. If books are the foundation of civilization, how does that change the world of ideas? And how does it change us? With the unique perspective gained as a director at the Library of Congress and the UC Berkeley Library, filmmaker Vivienne Roumani tackles the questions confronting today’s word industry and shows that much more is at stake than how quickly we can access the latest byte. Out of Print is narrated by Meryl Streep and features Jeff Bezos, Scott Turow, Ray Bradbury, Jeffrey Toobin, Robert Darnton, Jane Friedman, Alberto Manguel, booksellers, cognitive scientists, architects, educators, parents, and students.

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dir. Megan Rossman, 2018

The Archivettes
For more than 40 years, the Lesbian Herstory Archives has combated lesbian invisibility by literally rescuing history from the trash. The Archivettes provides a comprehensive look at the history of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the personal lives of the women involved in it, and the materials it protects and the challenges arising as the founders face their final years. The Lesbian Herstory Archives began in 1974, when a group of women involved in the Gay Academic Union realized that lesbian history was disappearing as quickly as it was being made. It is now home to the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities.

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dir. Julian Samuel, 2004

Save and Burn
The first half of the film discusses the history of libraries and how they have facilitated the cross fertilization of ideas from one culture to another throughout history. The second half switches focus towards libraries in the political realm, including a discussion of the fate of libraries and their collections during periods of social unrest. Topics in this portion include the Patriot Act, the destruction of Palestinian libraries by Israeli soldiers, and the fate of Iraqi libraries during the country’s “liberation.”

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dir. Terry Sanders, 1987

Slow Fires: On the Preservation of the Human Record
This award-winning documentary tells the unforgettable story of the deterioration and destruction of our world’s intellectual heritage and the global crisis in preserving library materials. Sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources. Millions of pages of paper in books, photographs, drawings, and maps are disintegrating and turning to dust. This remarkable film provides a comprehensive assessment of the worldwide situation, demonstrates methods of restoration and preservation and suggests ways to prevent new documents from facing ultimate destruction.

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dirs. Sawyer Broadley, Jill Baron, Óscar Rubén Cornejo Cásares and Melissa Padilla, 2019

Change the Subject
No human being is illegal. When Dartmouth College students challenged anti-immigrant language in the Library of Congress, their activism sparked a movement–and a cataloging term became a flashpoint in the immigration debate on Capitol Hill.

Films curated by Danette Pachtner, Librarian for Film, Video & Digital Media and Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies

The Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award

Jumbled letters (photo by Laineys Repetoire – CC-BY)

What is the Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award?

The Rosati Creative Writing Prize is awarded each spring in recognition of an outstanding work of creative writing. All Duke undergraduate students are eligible to submit work for consideration. Projects may be any genre and take any form (audio/video, digital media, etc.), but must include a substantial creative writing component.  The Rosati Prize was established in 1978 by Walter McGowan Upchurch in honor of Rudolph William Rosati “to encourage, advance and reward creative writing among students at the University and particularly among undergraduate students.”

Prize: $1500

Is my paper eligible?

  • You must be a Duke undergraduate student
  • You may submit multiple, different projects in a given year but each project should be submitted individually with an accompanying application cover sheet
  • Submitted projects must have been written during the current academic year
  • At this time submissions must be written in English
  • No minimum or maximum length required

How do I apply?

To be eligible for the Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award, email the following to Arianne Hartsell-Gundy by June 15, 2022:

  • application cover sheet (see form)
  • The creative work (send written projects as either a Word document or pdf.  If it’s a multimedia project, please send URL of the project or email Arianne Hartsell-Gundy for alternative means of delivery)
  • A faculty signature of support (see form)
  • The faculty member should e-mail the signature of support in a separate file to Arianne Hartsell-Gundy

How is a winner chosen?

  • The selection committee, consisting of two Libraries staff members and two faculty members, judges the papers
  • Projects are judged based on quality and originality of writing
  • The committee reserves the right to split the award among more than one author, or to award no prize

For More Information

Contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies (arianne.hartsell.gundy@duke.edu), for more information.

Collection Spotlight: Asian American Studies

Contributed by Matthew Hayes, Japanese Studies and Asian American Studies Librarian

Asian American history is part and parcel of American history. Asian American experiences emerge within an American context and in relation to the many other cultural, institutional, and political aspects that comprise contemporary life in the United States. And yet, beginning with the initial moments of immigration to the United States by people from Asia, large swathes of white Americans have deemed these histories and experiences as somehow un-American. Several historical moments have laid bare this tendency to distinguish Asian Americans as separate from or, in some cases, a threat to non-Asian Americans: the Exclusion Act of 1882 that barred citizenship, as well as the future entry, of Chinese immigrants; the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during WWII; the post-9/11 prejudice and profiling of Arab and Muslim Americans; and sweeping incidents of anti-Asian hate, especially of East Asian Americans, following the emergence of the global COVID-19 health crisis. This is to say nothing of the countless examples of racism, prejudice, and exclusion that punctuate history between these more visible and widespread examples.

“An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to the Chinese, May 6, 1882”; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789-1996; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives

San Francisco, California (1942). Japanese Americans appear for registration prior to evacuation. Posted instructions for “all persons of Japanese ancestry” appear on the wall behind. Public domain (Wikimedia Commons).

This collection spotlight offers a glimpse into the spectrum of Asian American experiences in the contemporary United States. There are four interrelated genres of writing represented here and all of them are meant to amplify one another. The first is historical writing, which captures not only the movements and moments that comprise Asian American social, political, and economic histories in several regions of the United States, but also traces the emergence of Asian American Studies as a crucial academic discipline that helps us to better understand American history. The second is social science, which provides several key theoretical frameworks for thinking through intersectional, postcolonial, and racial aspects of experience and meaning-making within Asian American communities. These titles ought to serve as theoretical tools for exploring how cultural relationships, bodies of knowledge, and identities form the basis of Asian American subjectivity, and how this subjectivity is continually undermined by policies and systems that seek to delimit the experience of these (and other) ethnic communities within the United States. The third genre is memoirs and personal writing, which captures that very subjectivity. As a complement to the first two genres, both of which provide a largely impersonal or abstract view of Asian American communities and their experience across time, memoirs allow experiences within those communities to emerge first-hand. The reader is therefore allowed a personal glimpse into how some of these historical and theoretical mechanisms operated within lives and experiences of Asian American authors. Finally, literary titles by Asian American authors offers a few examples of how the experiences and perspectives of Asian American writers translate to fiction, which often tackles the very social and historical motifs brought to light in the other genres included here.

Cover image for Moustafa Bayoumi’s How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (2008)

Cover image for Paula Yoo’s From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement (2021)

This collection spotlight comes on the heels of a very exciting development within Duke’s Asian American and Diaspora Studies (AADS) Program, which has very recently announced a new minor degree option for undergraduate students. After decades of student activism pushing for a curriculum that reflects America’s broad range of diverse backgrounds and histories, students are now able to engage in a full course of study as part of their long-term education. Through the introduction of this new minor degree, the value of Asian American Studies has finally been formally recognized at Duke.

Cultivating a cultural literacy—especially of the domestic cultures with which we interact nearly every day—is crucial for the development of future American generations. This collection spotlight is a great place to start for anyone interested in learning about Asian American communities and the important role they’ve played in the course of American history.

You can find these titles in our Collection Spotlight rack near our Perkins Library Service Desk on the first floor of Perkins starting on April 11th.

Also, consider joining us on April 11th at noon in Perkins 217 to explore our Asian American Collection.

 

What to Read this Month: March 2022

Hello again from the library! I know what you’re probably thinking: it’s getting close to the weekend, and you’ve got absolutely nothing scheduled,  so now’s the perfect time to pick up a new book (what do you mean, there’s a huge game this weekend???). If that’s you–or even if you do have plans to watch something this weekend–I’ve come to help with some suggestions! I’ve personally been on a memoir kick, as you’ll see with these titles I’ve picked out, but if that’s not your thing, never fear. All of these titles come from either the Libraries’ Overdrive ebook collection, or the New & Noteworthy collection. These collections contain all sorts of popular reading, so do check them out! I can guarantee you’ll find something that grabs your interest.


Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School: James, Kendra:  9781538753484: Amazon.com: BooksAdmissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James. In this memoir, writer James recounts her time at the Taft School, an elite Connecticut boarding school. Despite graduating in 2006, James was the school’s first Black legacy student (her father attended the school and was a trustee during her time there), and much of her account details her experiences as one of the school’s only Black students in the early to mid-2000s. James describes an institution with near-countless opportunities for scholarly enrichment and connections to prestigious colleges and universities, but despite these features, she struggles socially due to the racism of her primarily white peers, despite arriving at the school eager to form lasting ties. Although the experiences she describes are markedly difficult, James frequently punctuates her account with humor, and thoughtfully examines the ways her time at Taft has shaped her present-day life. You can read reviews here and here.


Lost & Found: A Memoir: Schulz, Kathryn: 9780525512462: Amazon.com: BooksLost & Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz. In this memoir, journalist Schulz recounts two major personal events that have impacted the trajectory of her life over the past decade: the death of her father and the formation of her relationship with her current partner. Although Schulz’s account of this former event is often fittingly sober and steeped in grief, it is also quietly hopeful and grateful in its contemplative tone; Schulz notes that her father was largely able to live a happy and intellectually stimulating life, as he so wished. She also meditates on the ways his life influenced her own, and finds solace in the fact that her relationship with him was both healthy and very much mutually beneficial. Shortly before her father’s death, Schulz met the woman who would become her partner, and the beginnings of this relationship form the backbone of the memoir’s second half. Here, Schulz discusses the serendipity of meeting her partner, and marvels at the chance circumstances under which the two were able to build such a meaningful relationship. You can read reviews here and here.


Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia: Catte, Elizabeth:  9781948742733: Amazon.com: BooksPure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia by Elizabeth Catte. In this book, author Catte traces the often obscured history of the eugenics movement in Virginia, contextualizing it within the broader history of eugenics in the United States, and centering a number of historical events and locations throughout the state, from which she hails. Writing that eugenics “is everywhere and nowhere,” Catte focuses both on the 20th-century initiatives undertaken by the state with directly pro-eugenics motives–including the history of Western State Hospital in Staunton, in which many disabled Virginians were forcibly confined, as well as the Virginia-based US Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, which sanctioned involuntary sterilization throughout the United States–and events that had indirectly eugenicist outcomes, including the forced uprooting of Appalachian families during the formation of Shenandoah National Park, and Charlottesville’s destruction of its most prominent historically Black neighborhood. Importantly, Catte also emphasizes the dangerous systematic erasure of these events, and calls on her readers to learn from the fraught history she discusses. You can read a review here and read an interview with Catte here.


The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness: O'Rourke, Meghan:  9781594633799: Amazon.com: BooksThe Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’Rourke. In this book, writer O’Rourke makes the case for a radical reframing of chronic illness in both the medical profession and broader American culture, centering her argument in both extensive research and an account of her own experiences with chronic illness. Developing an unnamed autoimmune condition in her adulthood, O’Rourke painstakingly chronicles a near decade-long search for a medical practitioner who can accurately diagnose and address the complicated and troubling array of debilitating symptoms she faces, with many dismissing her outright when the tests she takes are repeatedly inconclusive in their results. O’Rourke likens this period of inadequately addressed suffering to being invisible, and she details how this experience of invisibility is distressingly common, with many chronically ill people taking, on average, several years to receive a correct diagnosis. Although O’Rourke eventually does receive the treatment she needs, she notes that she is still not completely well, and she urges her readers to understand the everyday complications of existing with chronic illness. You can read reviews here and here.


Amazon.com: Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful  Recommendations on How to Become American: 9780393867978: Ali, Wajahat:  BooksGo Back to Where You Came From and Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become an American by Wajahat Ali. In this memoir, author Ali recounts both his coming-of-age as a child of Pakistani immigrants, and his complex reckoning with American identity as an adult. Growing up in California’s Bay Area, Ali describes a 1980s-90s childhood in which he bears witness to his family and other members of the area’s Pakistani immigrant community as they chase the American dream, which Ali closely aligns with typical markers of whiteness. Ali more directly confronts his own racial and national identity in college after 9/11 happens, an event which, as illustrated by Ali’s observations, drastically changed white American society’s perception of Middle Eastern and South Asian people, particularly Muslims. Faced with a sudden swell of islamophobia, Ali feels driven to artistically make sense of his complicated feelings, but struggles until his college mentor, renowned playwright Ishmael Reed, encourages him to write a play. In the rest of the memoir, Ali discusses how his eventual work, The Domestic Crusaders, both launched his eventual writing career and assisted in his understanding of identity in the face of bigotry. You can read reviews here and here.

ONLINE: Meet Threa Almontaser, Rosati Visiting Writer

ONLINE: Meet Threa Almontaser, Rosati Visiting Writer

Please join us as the 2021-22 Rosati Fellow and award-winning poet Threa Almontaser reads from her recent work. Maha Houssami, Interim Arabic Program Director & Lecturer in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department, will host a Q&A following the reading.

Duke University Libraries is pleased to welcome Ms. Almontaser to Duke and Durham as the recipient of the 2021-22 Rosati Fellowship. Ms. Almontaser holds an MFA and TESOL certification from NC State University and is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her first full-length book of poetry, The Wild Fox of Yemen, was published by Graywolf Press in 2021 and has received widespread national recognition, including the Maya Angelou Book Award, the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize, and the Walt Whitman Prize from the American Academy of Poets, as well as being longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry and the PEN/Voelcker Award for a Poetry Collection.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022 from 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Please register here to attend.

Zoom details to participate will be sent to all registrants prior to the event. This event will NOT be recorded.

Co-sponsored by Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Duke Islamic Studies Center, and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads selections from “Dubliners” by James Joyce

To continue the St. Patrick’s Day mood, the Low Maintenance Book Club will be discussing selected stories from James Joyce’s Dubliners during our March meeting: “The Sisters,” “Araby,” and “The Dead.” Join us on Tuesday, March 29th at noon over ZoomPlease RSVP to receive a Zoom link the morning of the meeting. As always, you’re welcome regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read.

You can find copies of Dubliners at Duke University Libraries and your local public library.  We hope to see you there!

Though the exhibit is no longer up, you might also be interested in reading about our recent ReJoyce exhibit that was on display last month to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Ulysses.

What to Read this Month: February 2022

We hope you all had a good February! While we at the library know full well that this is a busy time in the semester, we also realize that you might want to spend your limited free time in the company of a good book, or maybe pick up a new title just in time for spring break. If that describes you, then look no further! Here are some interesting titles from our New & Noteworthy collection. On the off chance none of these titles grab your attention, however, then don’t worry. We’re always adding new popular titles to both our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive ebook collections, so we encourage you to take a look at both of them. Happy reading!


Amazon.com: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Oprah's Book Club Novel  (Oprahs Book Club 2.0): 9780062942937: Jeffers, Honoree Fanonne: BooksThe Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. This debut novel by poet Jeffers, nominated for last year’s National Book Award for fiction, chronicles the multigenerational and multicultural history of the African American Garfield family, anchored by the late 20th century events surrounding its protagonist, Ailey Garfield. Interspersed with the main narrative thread of Ailey’s educational experiences and family research, in which she divides her time between an unnamed city and her family’s ancestral hometown in rural Georgia, are segments, referred to as songs, that delve into the histories of her individual ancestors of African, Creek, and Scottish origin. As Ailey learns more about these ancestors, so too does she come to understand her present-day family. As the title suggests, too, the works of W.E.B. Du Bois play a prominent role, informing both the content of the novel as well as its very structure. You can read reviews here and here.


Loot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes: Phillips, Barnaby: 9781786079350:  Amazon.com: BooksLoot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes by Barnaby Phillips. In this book, journalist Phillips offers a comprehensive and compelling history of the Benin Bronzes, metal plaques and ivory artworks dating from the 13th through 18th centuries in the Edo Kingdom, located in what is now southern Nigeria. Prior to 1897, most of the bronzes were kept in the royal palace of Benin City for the kingdom’s rulers, but this changed when British forces invaded, an act that ultimately led to the downfall of the Edo Kingdom and the establishment of the British Southern Nigeria Protectorate. During the invasion, the bronzes were sacked by the British and taken back to England as loot, where many remain today. Although Phillips notes that the Nigerian government has repeatedly called for the repatriation of the bronzes since 1974, this has largely been ignored. Today, most remain in Europe (specifically the UK), with still others scattered across Canada and the United States. In addition to relaying this fraught history, Phillips also makes his own case for repatriation and delves into the mindset of many of the institutions still possessing the bronzes in Europe. You can read more here and here.


Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch: A Novel: Galchen, Rivka:  9780374280468: Amazon.com: BooksEveryone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen. This novel, Galchen’s second, tells the story of Katharina, a German woman accused of witchcraft in 1615. Based on historic events–several hundred women were executed for alleged witchcraft throughout the Holy Roman Empire in the seventeenth century–Katharina finds herself the object of suspicion in her small town for a confluence of seemingly ridiculous reasons: she is a widow, perceived to be too independent by those around her, and is not particularly well-liked. Most importantly, she has been accused of poisoning a local woman. Though the accusation itself is baseless, Katharina finds that many people in her community are all too eager to testify against her, seemingly determined to portray her as a malicious witch bent causing harm to anyone and everyone. Though the novel is peppered with dark humor (often in the form of Katharina’s dry mental observations about those around her), the subject matter, and the course of the story, prove to be rather harrowing. You can read reviews here and here.


How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across  America: Smith, Clint: 9780316492935: Amazon.com: BooksHow the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith. In this book, Atlantic staff writer Smith studies the way the history and legacy of slavery in the United States has been dealt with at nine historic sites (eight in the US, and one abroad). As Smith observes, each site reckons with the subject quite differently—he contrasts, for example, the centering of enslaved people’s lives at Louisiana’s Whitney Plantation with the glorification of the Confederacy at Virginia’s Blandford Cemetery—reflecting the contradictory and tumultuous understanding of slavery present in American culture at large. Smith’s depiction of these sites is multi-faceted and richly described, in no small part because he interviews such a wide range of people, including tourists and tour guides, historians and other experts, and formerly incarcerated people. In presenting such a complex picture of historical reception in the contemporary United States, Smith offers a compelling and extremely relevant read. You can read reviews here and here.


Amazon.com: I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness: A Novel: 9780593330210:  Watkins, Claire Vaye: BooksI Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins. This novel, Watkins’ second, traces the story of one fictional writer named Claire Vaye Watkins as she travels away from her husband and newborn child in Michigan for a book event in Nevada (despite the character having the same name and a number of characteristics as Watkins, the novel is fictional). In the throes of postpartum depression, Claire finds herself in crisis, and she takes the time away from her orderly life in Michigan as an opportunity to reassess the decisions she has made, to confront a variety of personal issues she has been avoiding, and, more unfortunately, to unravel somewhat. Having grown up in the west, her travels reunite her with several relics from her past, including a group of living college friends as well as a dead ex-partner. As Claire grapples with her own grief and reckons with her own life, she acts a witness towards those around her who are struggling with similar issues. Though the novel is often disorienting, it remains a cogent examination of grief, depression, poverty, drug addiction, and a host of other themes. You can read reviews here and here.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “A Psalm for the Wild-Built”

Never read solarpunk? Neither have we! Join the Low Maintenance Book Club for a discussion of  Becky Chambers’ novella, A Psalm for the Wild-Built, the first in her Monk & Robot duology. We’ll meet on Thursday, February 24th at noon over Zoom. As always, you’re welcome to join regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read.

Low Maintenance Book Club reads A Psalm for the Wild-Built
Thursday, February 24th, noon-1pm
Zoom (link to be sent the morning of the meeting)

You can find copies at Duke University Libraries (ebook, audiobook, print) and through your local public library.

Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link the morning of the meeting. We hope to see you there!

What to Read this Month: January 2022

Welcome back! As we’re beginning to settle into a new semester, we at the library wanted to recommend yet another set of titles from our Overdrive and New & Noteworthy collections. These collections are excellent places to look if you’re trying to find a new read, and these five books represent only a tiny fraction of all that you’ll find there. So by all means, if any of the below highlights don’t grab your attention, click either of the above links. You’ll be sure to find something!


Intimacies: A Novel: Kitamura, Katie: 9780399576164: Amazon.com: BooksIntimacies by Katie Kitamura. This novel, Kitamura’s fourth, tells the story of an unnamed woman who travels from the US to The Hague shortly after the death of her father. There, she works as an interpreter for the International Criminal Court, developing a strange yet compelling dynamic with an accused war criminal in her professional life and a series of confusing relationships with some of the city’s inhabitants in her personal life. She forms an unsatisfying romantic attachment with Adriaan, a man midway through a divorce, as well as a complicated friendship with art historian Eline and her brother, Anton. The titular intimacies refer to these inscrutable relationships, as well as the intimacy inherent in the protagonist’s work as an interpreter. Ultimately, though often puzzling and mysterious, the novel deftly tackles a bevy of complex themes, ranging from interpersonal relationships to neocolonialism. You can read reviews here and here.


The State Must Provide: Why America's Colleges Have Always Been  Unequal--and How to Set Them Right: Harris, Adam: 9780062976482:  Amazon.com: BooksThe State Must Provide: Why America’s Colleges Have Always Been Unequal–and How to Set Them Right by Adam Harris. In this book, Atlantic staff writer Harris takes an incisive look at the resource-related disparities that often exist between historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly white institutions, focusing particularly on the policy decisions–historical and current–that underpin them. Harris reveals that so many HBCUs were essentially set up to fail from their inception, with federal and state governments working to maintain segregation in American higher education while also deliberately underfunding predominantly Black institutions. These issues of chronic underfunding persist to this day, leaving many HBCUs egregiously lacking in resources. In chronicling this history, Harris also provides compelling portraits of the many Black scholars across generations who have worked to rectify these imbalances, and also weighs the benefits of many potential solutions to this systemic problem. You can read a review here and listen to an interview with Harris here.


Velvet Was the Night: Moreno-Garcia, Silvia: 9780593356821: Amazon.com:  BooksVelvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This noir adventure, set in the midst of the Mexican Dirty War, centers on Maite, a young Mexico City secretary who unexpectedly stumbles into intrigue after her neighbor Leonora goes missing. Though an enthusiast of wild and romantic stories, Maite herself is not a natural investigator, and she only embarks on the case because she had been cat-sitting for Leonora and wants to get paid for her efforts. The reader learns very early on that Maite is not the only one looking for Leonora; so is Elvis, a 21-year-old member of a paramilitary group targeting leftist university students and journalists throughout the city. Moreno-Garcia tells the story from both of their perspectives, and things ultimately come to a head when Maite and Elvis finally cross paths. You can read reviews here and here.


Doomed Romance: Broken Hearts, Lost Souls, and Sexual Tumult in  Nineteenth-Century America: Heyrman, Christine Leigh: 9780525655572:  Amazon.com: BooksDoomed Romance: Broken Hearts, Lost Souls, and Sexual Tumult in Nineteenth-Century America by Christine Leigh Heyrman. In this book, Heyrman documents a unique episode in the history of American evangelicalism, telling the story of Martha Parker. A young woman in 1820s New England, Parker ignited a series of tensions between prominent members of the local evangelical community, despite harboring an earnest desire to serve as a Christian missionary abroad. Fatefully Parker, in pursuit of her dream, broke her engagement to her influential second cousin, Thomas Tenney, to accept the proposal of missionary Elnathan Gridley. Heyrman chronicles Tenney’s subsequent efforts to ruin Parker’s name, including enlisting the help of another one of her former suitors and inciting an investigation into her character by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Ultimately, Tenney’s handiwork leads to the dissolution of Parker’s new engagement, and she eventually agrees to set aside her missionary ambitions and marry him. In relaying this sordid tale, Heyrman makes several cogent connections to the history of gender relations in evangelicalism, connecting this seemingly isolated event to much larger, more systemic problems within the movement. You can read reviews here and here.


Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith: 9780812993325 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: BooksBuild Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith. In this debut novel, Kupersmith fashions a mysterious and supernatural tale anchored in the experiences and eventual disappearance of Winnie, a young American woman who travels to Saigon in 2010 in order to teach English and better understand her Vietnamese roots. Winnie’s time in Saigon is exceedingly difficult for her; her general unhappiness is exacerbated by her inability to form meaningful connections with those around her, and her work suffers. Eventually, she forms a relationship, predicated more on mutual survival than romance, with Long, who works at the same school as she does. It is Long who initially discovers that Winnie is missing, and the subsequent events in the novel adopt a grotesque and often fantastical path, one that connects Winnie’s story to the stories of seeming strangers in Saigon, spanning the days and years leading up to and following her disappearance. You can read reviews here and here.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “Cyrano de Bergerac”

Want help with your resolution to read more in 2022? Join the Low Maintenance Book Club for our discussion of Cyrano de Bergerac: A Play in Five Acts, a classic play that inspired the new movie Cyrano, starring Peter Dinklage. We’ll meet on Wednesday, January 26th at noon over Zoom. As always, you’re welcome to join regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read.

Low Maintenance Book Club reads Cyrano de Bergerac: A Play in Five Acts
Wednesday, January 26th, noon-1pm
Zoom (link to be sent the morning of the meeting)

We do not have a recommend translation or edition, but you may find this one to be especially readable: https://find.library.duke.edu/catalog/DUKE009632684.

Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link the morning of the meeting. We hope to see you there!

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Every year I write a blog post to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday where I highlight books and resources related to her writing and her life. One of my highlights this year was attending Jane Austen & Co.‘s Race and Regency series. You can see the recordings of these talks at their website. In honor of those great programs, I’m going to share some resources related to the speakers and the topics they covered.

 

 

Sanditon by Jane Austen

 

Britain’s Black Past edited by Gretchen H. Gerzina

 

 

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano written by himself with related documents

 

 

Slavery and the British Country House edited by Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann

 

 

 

 

Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip

 

 

Belle directed by Amma Asante

 

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

 

The Woman of Colour: A Tale edited by Lyndon J. Dominique (on order)

 

Finally Devoney Looser’s recent article about the Austen family’s complex ties to slavery is well worth the read.

What to Read this Month: December 2021

As the semester begins to wind down, we at the library hope you’ll have some time to rest and potentially cross some books off your list! If you’re looking for new books to add to your reading list, look no further. One of these five titles, from our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections, just might do the trick! If not, though, don’t worry; new titles are being added to these collections all the time, so you’re guaranteed to find something that catches your eye. Have a happy and restful winter break!


The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story: Hannah-Jones, Nikole, The New York Times Magazine, Roper, Caitlin, Silverman, Ilena, Silverstein, Jake: 9780593230572: Amazon.com: BooksThe 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones. In the two years since Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project first appeared in the pages of the New York Times Magazine, it has become a household name, praised by numerous historians for its compelling and thorough reframing of the United States’ origin story while also igniting a vitriolic backlash among rightwing figures both within the US and beyond. This first book edition of the project includes the content of its original New York Times appearance while also expanding upon its aims with the inclusion of more details, notes, and seven additional essays. Although the Project was always sweeping and comprehensive in its examination of several centuries of American history, this edition builds on that, resulting in the fullest and most vivid iteration of the Project to date. You can read reviews here and here.


Amazon.com: Alec: A Novel: 9780374102609: Canzio, William di: BooksAlec by William di Canzio. Di Canzio’s novel is both a reworking and a continuation of E. M. Forster’s Maurice, which was originally written in the 1910s but remained unpublished until 1971 owing largely to the happy ending Forster provides to his gay protagonist, Maurice Hall. In this original novel, Maurice, a member of the English upper-class, ultimately finds himself able to forge a successful romantic relationship with the gamekeeper Alec Scudder, despite the rampant homophobia and classism permeating English society during this period. Di Canzio expands on Forster’s story in two major ways: first, he retells the events of Maurice from Alec’s point-of-view, which differs significantly from Maurice’s, and secondly, he confronts Forster’s original ending with the realities of World War I: in this telling, Maurice and Alec’s relationship is threatened when the two, now soldiers, are stationed apart from each other across Europe. With the addition of Alec’s perspective and these new events, di Canzio’s novel is an excellent complement to Forster’s. You can read reviews here and here.


Amazon.com: How Beautiful We Were: A Novel: 9780593132425: Mbue, Imbolo: BooksHow Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue. Mbue’s second novel, which was recently named by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of the year, focuses on Kosawa, a village in an unnamed West African country that has long been beset with troubles inflicted by Pexton, a massive American oil corporation. The year is 1980, and although Pexton has repeatedly attempted to placate Kosawa’s residents with periodic, unproductive visits by their representatives, it remains obvious that their operations in the area have caused the egregious levels of pollution and illness to which they are subjected. Things come to a head when, over the course of the corporation’s latest visit, the residents decide to take the Pexton delegates hostage, spurred on by Konga, who is known as the local madman. Witnessing these events is a young girl, Thula, on whom the novel eventually focuses. As Thula grows, she becomes determined to seek justice for her community, and her journey eventually takes her to the US, where she gains undergraduate and graduate degrees. Upon her eventual return to Kosawa, she seeks to mobilize her peers into fighting Pexton and the dictatorship leading her country, facing numerous barriers along the way. You can read reviews here and here.


Amazon.com: Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath eBook : Clark, Heather L. : Kindle StoreRed Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark. Clark’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated biography of Sylvia Plath recounts her life and legacy with both details and a level of care that have hitherto not been seen in the many previous accounts of the poet’s life. A lot of the work she undertakes in relaying the events of her life involves dismantling the mythologization surrounding Plath and her death, offering a fresh reexamination of her poetry, her mental health, and the numerous figures that influenced her, ranging from her parents to mentors to friends. All of these details contribute to one of the most exhaustive portraits of Plath published to date, one that appears astonishingly unscathed by the longstanding, often prurient public fascination with her personal life and death, making it an exceedingly satisfying and sensitive read. You can read reviews here and here.


Chouette: Oshetsky, Claire: 9780063066670: Amazon.com: BooksChouette by Claire Oshetsky. Oshetsky’s debut novel tells the otherworldly story of Tiny, a cellist living with her reliable–if somewhat boring–husband, who inexplicably has an affair with a female owl and even more inexplicably becomes pregnant with a hybrid owl-human baby, the eponymous Chouette. Despite the child’s obvious strangeness, which isolates Tiny from others in her life and evokes dire warnings from nearly every doctor who sees her, her mother immediately loves her unconditionally. She is fully supportive of Chouette and seeks not to change her, even as she is forced to give up her career and even as Chouette’s undeniably owl-like behavior completely upends all normalcy in her life. She faces a tough battle in this determination as her husband seeks exactly the opposite, pursuing “cures” for Chouette at every turn. In tracing Tiny’s pregnancy, Chouette’s early childhood, and her later independence, Oshetsky, who is herself autistic and a mother, offers a unique meditation on the nature of neurodivergence, pregnancy, and motherhood, the fantastic elements of her story providing a unique lens through which to view and understand these massive topics. You can read reviews here and here.

What to Read this Month: October 2021

As the leaves are finally changing and the temperatures are finally resembling those of autumn, you might find yourself looking for a new book to read with your PSL or otherwise seasonally appropriate hot beverage. Well, look no further! Here’s a quick sampling of some recently added titles in our Overdrive and New & Noteworthy collections. Remember, we are always adding new titles to both of these collections, so be sure to frequently check back with each of them!


The Wrong End of the Telescope: Alameddine, Rabih: 9780802157805: Amazon.com: BooksThe Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine. Alameddine’s sixth novel tells the story of Mina Simpson, a middle-aged Lebanese-American physician who volunteers to treat migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos in the midst of a refugee crisis. The experience is very emotionally taxing for Mina, in no small part because her patients and their lives remind her so much of her painful childhood growing up in Beirut, clashing with the conservative culture in which she was raised—along with her abusive parents—before eventually attending Harvard, becoming a doctor in Chicago, undergoing gender transitioning, and adopting her current name. While dealing with these connections, she serves as a vivid narrator of all the people she encounters, painting detailed portraits of her patients to an unnamed Lebanese writer, and wryly criticizing the Western journalists and others who have come to Lesbos to gawk at the crisis as it unfolds. Indeed, the novel offers a thorough examination of Western attitudes toward the Middle East and the refugee crisis in particular, as Mina and the writer contemplate how her stories might be received in the United States. You can read reviews here and here.


Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence: Hill, Anita: 9780593298299: Amazon.com: BooksBelieving: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence by Anita Hill. In this book, Brandeis law professor Anita Hill discusses the current state of gender-based violence in the contemporary United States, describing its general pervasiveness and inextricable connection to other forms of bigotry, including racism and transphobia. Reflecting on her own allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and her subsequent testimony against him during his confirmation hearings thirty years ago, Hill remarks upon how little the myriad difficulties facing people alleging gender-based violence against those in power have changed, comparing her experience with that of Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged sexual assault by, and testified against, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, as well as that of Tara Reade, who alleged that now-President Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993. In describing all these events, as well as several others, Hill focuses primarily on the numerous barriers facing those who experience gender-based violence, as well as the way this violence affects everyone all of ages, races, and social classes. With its informative—though often difficult—details, Hill’s book is a compelling read. You can read reviews here and here.


My Monticello: Fiction: Johnson, Jocelyn Nicole: 9781250807151: Amazon.com: BooksMy Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson. In this debut collection, Johnson tells numerous stories, most of which feature Black characters in contemporary Virginia (Johnson’s home state) reckoning with experiences of racism and their own racial identities, with the heavy history and culture of the state serving as a kind of omnipresent backdrop. The titular novella of the collection, which takes up the most space in the book and also arrives at the very end of the collection, sets itself in a near-future Charlottesville undergoing organized racial violence perpetrated by white supremacist militias (with Johnson’s imagery heavily alluding to the events of the 2017 Unite the Right rally that took place in the city). In this story, UVA student Da’Naisha leads a group of fleeing Black and brown Charlottesville residents (including her own grandmother) to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation located just outside the city; having previously interned there, Da’Naisha knows it to be a potentially effective hideout. As the characters hide there, they are continuously confronted with the links between the plantation’s history and their current circumstances as refugees from racial violence. For Da’Naisha, this link is particularly acute, as she reveals to her grandmother that they are both descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. You can read reviews here and here.


Americanon by Jess McHugh: 9781524746636 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: BooksAmericanon: An Unexpected U.S. History in Thirteen Bestselling Books by Jess McHugh. In this nonfiction debut, journalist McHugh traces the history of common cultural values and ideas of success in American society by examining thirteen bestselling books, all of which serve as instructional texts of some kind (with many resembling modern-day self-help books, despite preceding the advent of the formal genre). Ranging from The Old Farmer’s Almanac to Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, McHugh offers up a comprehensive overview of each title, explaining the varying cultural contexts and publication histories surrounding them. In so doing, she creates a fascinating work on the ways commonplace American values have changed—and not changed—over the past three centuries, and also offers a thorough examination of whose voices and values have been (and currently are) the most present and privileged in the popular market of didactic books. You can read reviews here and here.


Arsenic and Adobo (A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery Book 1) - Kindle edition  by Manansala, Mia P.. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @  Amazon.com.Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala. Manansala’s debut, the first entry in a new mystery series, tells the story of Lila Macapagal, a young woman who has moved back to her Illinois hometown following the emotionally-wrought breakup of her engagement. While she intends simply to assist her aunt in the running of her Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen, things quickly take a turn when her embittered ex-boyfriend from high school, restaurant reviewer Derek Winter, abruptly dies in the middle of a meal there. While these circumstances are enough to cast suspicion on Lila, making matters worse is the fact that Derek was dining with his stepfather, the restaurant’s landlord with whom Lila’s aunt had been having financial difficulties. Lila is quickly pinned as the primary suspect in Derek’s apparent murder, leaving her no recourse but to try to clear her name, which she does with the assistance of her friend Adeena and Adeena’s brother Amir, an attorney who also serves as Lila’s love interest. Though this mystery deals with a number of dark elements, the tone remains generally light throughout, and the events of the novel are brightened by Manansala’s detailed descriptions of food and the many ways it figures into the lives of the book’s characters. You can read reviews here and here.

Powerful Documentary Films Honoring Indigenous Peoples

The Docuseek streaming video platform  provides a window into subjects and content from around the world and across disciplines. Here is a selection of titles that examine indigenous peoples of North America. Available through Duke Libraries with netid/password authentication, explore new cultures and topics through the lens of award-winning filmmakers.

Ama  Stream Online
A powerful look at the untold story of the involuntary sterilization of Native American women conducted by the Indian Health Service and lasting  well into the 1970s.
(Bullfrog Films, 2019, dir. Lorna Tucker)

 

Awake : a dream from Standing Rock Stream Online or Lilly DVD 31281
Moving from summer 2016, when demonstrations over the Dakota Access Pipeline’s demolishing of sacred Native burial grounds began, the film documents the story of Native-led  fight for clean water and the  environment. The film is a collaboration between indigenous filmmakers: Director Myron Dewey and Executive Producer Doug Good Feather; and environmental Oscar-nominated filmmakers Josh Fox and James Spione.

nipawistamasowin: We Will Stand Up Stream Online
The story of the killing of young Cree man Colten Boushie and his family’s pursuit of justice weaves a profound narrative encompassing the filmmaker’s own adoption. (National Film Board of Canada, 2020, dir. Tasha Hubbard)


Paulette
Stream Online
Follows the historic campaign of Paulette Jordan, the first Native American candidate — as well as the first woman — to win the Idaho Primary for Governor. (Women Make Movies, 2020, dir. Heather Rae)


Sisters Rising Stream Online
Native American survivors of sexual assault fight to restore personal and tribal sovereignty against the backdrop of an ongoing legacy of violent colonization. (Woman Make Movies, 2021, dir. Willow O’Feral)


Tribal Justice Stream Online

Anne Makepeace documents an effective criminal justice reform movement in America: the efforts of tribal courts to return to traditional, community-healing concepts of justice. (Bullfrog Films, 2017, dir. Anne Makepeace)


Without a Whisper Stream online

The untold story of the profound influence of Indigenous women on the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States. (Women Make Movies, 2020, dir. Katsitsionni Fox)

 

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

Take a seat at the round table for a discussion of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a delightfully creepy Arthurian tale (and the inspiration for the new movie The Green Knight, starring Dev Patel). We’ll meet on Wednesday, October 27th at noon over Zoom, and the link will be mailed out the morning of the meeting. Register here to join us. As always, you’re welcome to join regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read.

Although you may choose to read any edition (including some freely available online), we especially recommend the Burton Raffel and J.R.R. Tolkien translations.

What to Read this Month: September 2021

Hello again! We at the library hope your semester has gotten off to a good start, and that you’re enjoying the great weather we’ve been having lately. I myself have been so excited about the apparent start of fall (we’ll see if it sticks this time) that I’ve nearly forgotten to recommend some great new reads for the month. Whoops! Fortunately, since our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections are adding new titles all the time, it’s easy to find something new to read, even on short notice. Here are just a few of these new selections!


Amazon.com: Harlem Shuffle: A Novel: 9780385545136: Whitehead, Colson: BooksHarlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. In this latest novel by Whitehead, winner of last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, furniture salesman Ray Carney finds himself at the center of a heist gone wrong in early 1960s Harlem. Specifically covering the years 1959 to 1964, the reader watches as Ray attempts to balance his slightly doubled life as an upstanding entrepreneur who occasionally fences stolen goods for thieves, a balance that is slowly unraveled by a heist at the locally renowned Hotel Theresa perpetuated by his cousin Freddie in the first act. Freddie, who is far more of a career criminal than Ray, arranges for him to fence the products of the heist, and this intrusion into his work has consequences that run the course of the book. Along the way, Ray also plans revenge against an unscrupulous banker, and this act brings with it its own host of various and sundry characters and events. As the story takes shape, too, it meaningfully engages with the contemporary history of Harlem, all the while maintaining its humor and gentle parody of 20th century crime fiction. You can read reviews here and here.


Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America: Washington, Kate:  9780807011508: Amazon.com: BooksAlready Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America by Kate Washington. In this book, Washington chronicles her own experiences of caregiving from 2016 to 2018 while linking them to the extensive, collective struggle of unpaid family caregivers in the contemporary United States. With often devastating detail, she describes the way in which her husband Brad’s sudden lymphoma diagnosis completely upended the lives of herself and her family, his rare illness repeatedly evading treatment and requiring Washington to devote all her time to learning how to care for him at the expense of her career and relationships, including with Brad himself. Washington deftly contextualizes these experiences by discussing how systemic barriers play out in caregiving situations, noting, among other things, how unpaid caregivers—who are disproportionately women—are routinely denied any kind of meaningful support in modern-day American society. Though she ends her account by discussing Brad’s general improvement after a stem-cell transplant (which it is by no means a full recovery), she uses her experience to call for increased structural support for caregivers. You can read a review here and listen to an interview with Washington here.


Afterparties: Stories: So, Anthony Veasna: 9780063049901: Amazon.com: BooksAfterparties by Anthony Veasna So. This short story collection, So’s posthumous debut (he died in December 2020 at the age of 28), tells the stories of numerous Cambodian-American characters, young and old alike, in California’s Central Valley. The stories primarily concern themselves with generational and cultural differences between the characters as they each reckon with their Cambodian identity in various ways. At a donut shop, a wedding, a car repair shop, and still many other settings, So’s characters interact and clash over what this identity should mean and how it manifests in their lives. In all, the stories touch on themes of sexuality, the cultural importance of food, generational ties, and the enduring legacy of the Cambodian genocide, among other topics. You can read reviews here and here.


Craft: An American History: Adamson, Glenn: 9781635574586: Amazon.com: BooksCraft: An American History by Glenn Adamson. In this exhaustive survey, stretching some four centuries, curator Adamson covers the importance of craft in American history, emphasizing its universal presence in all the cultures that form the modern-day United States. In defining craft as “whenever a skilled person makes something with their hands,” too, Adamson’s reach is quite broad, studying everything from the effect of the industrial revolution on American craft to the much more recent impact of e-commerce and social media. Throughout this lengthy discussion, Adamson is quick to discuss the long and fraught relationship between craft and capitalism, noting the repeated tendency of American culture to characterize craft as unserious and lacking in value, and to characterize crafters—particularly those of marginalized identity—in exploitative, demeaning, and fetishistic ways. In all, the book is a nuanced and fascinating read. You can read reviews here and here.


The Disaster Tourist: A Novel: Ko-Eun, Yun, Buehler, Lizzie: 9781640094161:  Amazon.com: BooksThe Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun (translated by Lizzie Buehler). In this dark satire of late-stage capitalism, originally published in South Korea in 2013 but published in English for the first time last year, Yun tells the story of Yona, an employee at a travel company that specializes in disaster tourism, arranging tours to locales devastated by all kinds of momentous crises for the perceived moral betterment of their customers. Yona has worked for the company for 10 years, coordinating tours and assessing what locations would bring in the most clients, but is on the brink of quitting after facing the sexual harassment of her boss and getting demoted for no clear reason. In a last-ditch effort to keep her in the company, she is directed to travel to an island called Mui, the company’s least popular destination. There, Yona discovers a seemingly ludicrous plot being carried out by the company: to bring in more clients, the company will create a disaster on the island, one that will surely kill a significant number of its inhabitants. From here, Yona must make some critical decisions, and Yun portrays her subsequent period on the island in a terrifying and yet darkly humorous way. You can read reviews here and here.

2021 Banned Books Week

This post was written by Sydney Adams, current practicum student in the Research and Instructional Services department at Duke and second year graduate student in the School of Information and Library Science at UN Chapel-Hill.

This week (September 26th-October 2nd, 2021) is Banned Books Week, which is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. The theme for Banned Books Week this year is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” While censorship creates barriers between us, sharing stories allows us to forge connections with one another.

This year, we have compiled a collection of commonly banned and challenged books for Mystery Date with a Banned Book. Below is a list of books that were either banned or challenged during 2020, but instead of telling you the book titles, we’ve provided a summary of each book and the reason(s) why it was banned or challenged. If any of these books sound interesting to you, click on the “Mystery Book” link to check out that book from Duke University Libraries.

  • Mystery Book 1: In this novel, two teens—one Black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.
    • Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism and because it was thought to promote antipolice views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
  • Mystery Book 2: Japanese animation is more popular than ever following the 2002 Academy Award given to Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It confirmed that anime is more than just children’s cartoons, often portraying important social and cultural themes. This book will be the authoritative source on anime for an exploding market of viewers who want to know more.
    • Reasons: Challenged because it includes pornographic content in a chapter that explores the subject of bodies in hentai, a sub-genre of anime.
  • Mystery Book 3: This is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove—a Black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
    • Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  • Mystery Book 4: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
    • Reasons: Challenged in North Carolina for being “anti-Christian” and on the grounds that the school’s use of the novel violates constitutional safeguards against government endorsement of religion.
  • Mystery Book 5: This autobiography charts the author’s journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.
    • Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content.
  • Mystery Book 6: The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons their love, their sacrifices, and their lies.
    • Reasons: This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
  • Mystery Book 7: Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas—and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
    • Reasons: Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.

Summaries courtesy of Syndetic Solutions, Inc. Reasons for ban or challenge courtesy of the American Library Association and the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Witness to Guantanamo Interviews Now Online

Post by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Screenshot of a video interview with Mourad Benchellali, a French national who was detained in Guantanamo from January 2002 until July 2004, when he was returned to France. One of 153 interviews now available in the Witness to Guantanamo Digital Collection.

As the nation prepares to mark the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Duke University Libraries are excited to announce the launch of the Witness to Guantanamo Digital Collection. Witness to Guantanamo includes 153 video interviews with former detainees and other individuals—attorneys, chaplains, guards, interrogators, interpreters, government officials, human rights advocates, medical personnel, and journalists—who witnessed the impact of the Guantanamo Bay detention center in the post-9/11 years. An additional 346 short clips from the full-length interviews are also included. English language interviews are accompanied by transcripts, and we are working to transcribe those in other languages as well.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, became the site of the detention center for suspected al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. Peter Jan Honigsberg, professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, began Witness to Guantanamo (WtG) in fall 2008, after realizing that no one was collecting and preserving the voices and stories of “Gitmo.” He modelled the project after grassroots truth commissions and the Shoah Foundation’s collection of Holocaust survivor testimonies. Professor Honigsberg’s book, A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantanamo, narrates many of the extraordinary, powerful, and rare stories he filmed over the course of a decade and across 20 countries. His book is a tribute to the humanity we all share.

The full set of interviews are now archived at the Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive and available through the digital repository. Witness to Guantanamo is unique. No one else has done this work. While there are many collections and projects dispersed around the world containing documents, case files, and data about Guantanamo and the U.S. War on Terror, WtG is the only collection that foregrounds the voices of the individuals detained there and whose lives were forever changed by the experience. The video interviews cover a wide range of topics, including physical and psychological torture, lawlessness, religious faith, medical care, interrogations, interminable detentions without charges, sham hearings, women at Guantanamo, and acts of courage.

In one interview, former detainee Mourad Benchellali reflects on his efforts to turn his imprisonment from 2002 to 2004 into something positive, in the hope that by hearing his story, young people will not join ISIS or participate in suicide attacks. “I simply tell them my story, telling them, ‘This is what I found out. This is what I saw in Afghanistan,’” Benchellali says. “I tell them about being tortured. I tell them about bombings. I tell them how groups enlist you… I tell them all of this, and I say, ‘Be careful, here are the dangers you may run into over there, as I did. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to you, but you have to decide for yourself.’”

In another interview, detainee attorney Alkha Pradhan discusses the process of trying to defend her client, Ammar al Baluchi. At one point in her interview, she reflects on how the CIA deployed its classification policy to control her client: “You know, even though these are his memories, these are his experiences, the government continues to classify them and continues to prevent him from being able to tell the world about them… by virtue of being him, by virtue of being again, brown, non-citizen, Muslim detainee in the CIA system, everything he says is classified. Everything he thinks is classified.”

These first-hand testimonies reveal the physical, emotional, and political scars inflicted by Guantanamo. They also underscore how the treatment of detainees and the use of extra-legal procedures hobbled rather than enabled the rule of law and the quest for truth and justice. They are an invaluable resource for students, scholars, and people around the world to reflect on the path taken by the U.S. in the years following 9/11. The Human Rights Archive is planning an exhibit based on the Witness to Guantanamo collection for January 2022 at the Power Plant Gallery in downtown Durham to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the first detainees arriving at Guantanamo in 2002. More information about the exhibit will be coming soon.

Online: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “Persepolis”

To get in the back-to-school spirit, we’ll be reading and discussing Persepolis, a newer addition to many middle and high school reading lists. Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel describes her experience growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. As always, you’re welcome to join regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read the book!

Low Maintenance Book Club reads Persepolis
Tuesday, September 28th, noon-1pm
Zoom (link to be sent the morning of meeting)

Copies of the book can be found at Duke University Libraries and at all local public libraries. Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link the morning of the meeting.

If you have questions, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy at aah39@duke.edu

What to Read this Month: August 2021

Welcome to the fall semester! We at the library know that this is a busy time for everyone at Duke (including ourselves), but if you have time to read, here are some new recommendations from our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections! The titles below represent only a tiny fraction of these collections, so be sure to follow those links to explore them in more depth. For the first time in a long time, too, you can visit our New & Noteworthy collection on the first floor of Perkins, inside the lobby by the Perk. Just be sure to wear a mask!


Amazon.com: The Aeneid: 9781984854100: Vergil, Virgil, Bartsch, Shadi: BooksThe Aeneid by Vergil, translated by Shadi Bartsch. Though there are numerous English translations of Vergil’s epic, Bartsch’s, which was published in the US earlier this year, sets itself apart by striving to be as close to the original Latin as possible in its content and presentation. Unlike most English translations, Bartsch largely preserves Vergil’s rhythm, resulting in often clipped English that starkly contrasts with other high-profile translations of the poem. Accompanying the translation is her introduction, in which she discusses the Aeneid’s continuing political resonance today, over 2000 years after it was originally written. In all, this new translation offers an innovative look at the poem, one that keeps close to Vergil while also rendering the poem accessible to modern-day readers. You can read a review here and an excerpt here.


How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across  America: Smith, Clint: 9780316492935: Amazon.com: BooksHow the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith. In this book, Atlantic staff writer Smith studies the way the history and legacy of slavery in the United States has been dealt with at nine historic sites (eight in the US, and one abroad). As Smith observes, each site reckons with the subject quite differently—he contrasts, for example, the centering of enslaved people’s lives at Louisiana’s Whitney Plantation with the glorification of the Confederacy at Virginia’s Blandford Cemetery—reflecting the contradictory and tumultuous understanding of slavery present in American culture at large. Smith’s depiction of these sites is multi-faceted and richly described, in no small part because he interviews such a wide range of people, including tourists and tour guides, historians and other experts, and formerly incarcerated people. In presenting such a complex picture of historical reception in the contemporary United States, Smith offers a compelling and extremely relevant read. You can read reviews here and here.


Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: 9780525657743 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: BooksCrying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. In this memoir Zauner, founder of the band Japanese Breakfast, depicts her often complicated relationship with her mother Chongmi, as well as her grief following Chongmi’s death from cancer in 2014. Though Zauner describes a childhood and adolescence in which she attempts to distance herself from her and Chongmi’s Korean heritage (Zauner’s father Joel is white American), she finds that her ties to her mother always remain in some form, and often hinge upon their shared love of Korean cuisine. Just when Zauner begins to increasingly reconnect with her mother in her twenties, Chongmi is diagnosed with cancer. Zauner describes the futility of the treatments and her mother’s slow death, and spends the rest of the book depicting the ways in which her intense grief shaped her life and musical work. In describing these emotionally wrought events, the memoir serves as a unique meditation on the relationship between food and identity, as well as grief. You can read reviews here and here.


Amazon.com: Hearing Homer's Song: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman  Parry: 9780525520948: Kanigel, Robert: BooksHearing Homer’s Song: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman Parry by Robert Kanigel. In this biography, Kanigel tackles the life of classicist Milman Parry, who died young but proved to be monumentally influential on the field of Classical studies. Though some previous Classical scholars had proposed the idea that Homer, legendary author of the Iliad and Odyssey, was not in fact a real person, it was Parry who first fully fleshed out the idea that the epics were the products of generations of storytelling by countless performers. Kanigel discusses at length how Parry came to this conclusion, including his pointed observations about language and meter in Homer’s poems, as well as his travels to Yugoslavia, where he closely studied the oral traditions of the region’s singers and performers. In the midst of this discussion, Kanigel talks about the often difficult circumstances of Parry’s personal life, including his dysfunctional marriage and untimely death: Parry shot himself at the age of 33 in 1935, but whether this was a suicide, an accident, or a murder at the hands of his wife remains unclear. You can read reviews here and here.


Revival Season: A Novel: West, Monica: 9781982133306: Amazon.com: BooksRevival Season by Monica West. In this novel, West tells the story of teenager Miriam Horton as she accompanies her family on a summer-long tour of Baptist revivals in the South. Her father Samuel, once an exceptionally popular preacher and faith healer on the revival circuit, finds his audience evaporating as word gets out about his physically assaulting a pregnant teenager during the previous summer. This disappointment heightens preexisting tensions between the volatile Samuel and his family, but things get even more complicated for Miriam when she discovers that, unlike her father, she has a genuine ability to heal others. What follows is Miriam’s gradual coming-of-age, and the discovery of her individual spirituality, as she navigates her relationships with her father, mother, sister, and various others. In bringing Miriam’s story to life, West offers a thoughtful and enjoyable—though sometimes intense—meditation on African-American evangelicalism, patriarchy, and general spirituality. You can read reviews here and here.

What to Read this Month: July 2021

Looking for something new to read?   Check out our New and Noteworthy, Overdrive, and Current Literature collections for some good reads to enjoy!


Chatter: The Voice in our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross. Tell a stranger that you talk to yourself, and you’re likely to get written off as eccentric. But the truth is that we all have a voice in our head. When we talk to ourselves, we often hope to tap into our inner coach but find our inner critic instead. When we’re facing a tough task, our inner coach can buoy us up: Focus–you can do this. But, just as often, our inner critic sinks us entirely: I’m going to fail. They’ll all laugh at me. What’s the use? Ethan Kross explores the silent conversations we have with ourselves. Interweaving groundbreaking behavioral and brain research from his own lab with real-world case studies–from a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, to a Harvard undergrad negotiating her double life as a spy–Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships. You can read reviews here, here, and here.


The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix, author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. Lynette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre. For more than a decade, she’s been meeting with five other final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, working to put their lives back together. Then one woman misses a meeting, and their worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to rip their lives apart again, piece by piece. But the thing about final girls is that no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up. Read a review here, and an interview here.


How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones. In the tradition of Zadie Smith and Marlon James, a brilliant Caribbean writer delivers a powerful story about four people each desperate to escape their legacy of violence in a so-called “paradise.” In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister. It’s a cautionary tale, about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers and go into the Baxter’s Tunnels. When she’s grown, Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. The book is an intimate and visceral portrayal of interconnected lives, across race and class, in a rapidly changing resort town, told by an astonishing new author of literary fiction. You can read reviews here and here.


I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum. From The New Yorker ‘s fiercely original, Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic, a provocative collection of new and previously published essays arguing that we are what we watch. In this collection, including two never-before-published essays, Nussbaum writes about her passion for television, beginning with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show that set her on a fresh intellectual path. She explores the rise of the female screw-up, how fans warp the shows they love, the messy power of sexual violence on TV, and the year that jokes helped elect a reality-television president. More than a collection of reviews, the book makes a case for toppling the status anxiety that has long haunted the “idiot box,” even as it transformed. Through it all, Nussbaum recounts her fervent search, over fifteen years, for a new kind of criticism, one that resists the false hierarchy that elevates one kind of culture (violent, dramatic, gritty) over another (joyful, funny, stylized). It’s a book that celebrates television as television, even as each year warps the definition of just what that might mean.


The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights by Dorothy Wickenden. In the 1850s, Harriet Tubman, strategically brilliant and uncannily prescient, rescued some seventy enslaved people from Maryland’s Eastern Shore and shepherded them north along the underground railroad. One of her regular stops was Auburn, New York, where she entrusted passengers to Martha Coffin Wright, a Quaker mother of seven, and Frances A. Seward, the wife of William H. Seward, who served over the years as governor, senator, and secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln.  Through richly detailed letters from the time and exhaustive research, Wickenden traces the second American revolution these women fought to bring about, the toll it took on their families, and its lasting effects on the country. Riveting and profoundly relevant to our own time, The Agitators brings a vibrant, original voice to this transformative period in our history. You can read review here, and the US National Archives has a video (starts at about the 10 minute mark) of a virtual book discussion with the author.

LMBC Big Books Edition: Middlemarch (final discussion)

Duke University Library’s Low Maintenance Book Club (Big Books Edition) goes provincial this summer with George Eliot’s Middlemarch, discussed over three monthly meetings.

  • The third will take place on Zoom, Tuesday, August 10, noon-1pm EST and cover book seven through the end of the novel.
  • The second took place on Zoom, Tuesday, July 13, noon-1pm EST and covered book four through book six. A link to the Zoom meeting will be sent out the morning of the 13th.
  • The first meeting took place on Tuesday, June 15, noon-1pm EST and covered the prelude through book three.

Frequently named as one of the greatest British novels, Eliot’s work explores issues of class and gender through the residents of the fictional town of Middlemarch. Does it live up to its reputation? Is it still relevant in the present age? Let’s discuss!

Print and online versions of Middlemarch can be found through Duke University Libraries and most public libraries. Project Gutenberg also provides multiple ebook formats for free.

Although the readings are longer, the low maintenance attitude is the same. Join as you like, discuss as much as you want–or just hang out and enjoy the company. Everyone is welcome. Just RSVP so we know how many to expect, and we’ll send out a Zoom link the morning of the meeting.

What to Listen to this Month: June 2021

Normally we highlight books from our New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections for this monthly post, but this month we will be showcasing audiobooks from our Overdrive. Protip: make sure to also check out Durham County Public Library’s Overdrive collection!


Just as I Am: A Memoir written and narrated by Cicely Tyson. “Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. Here, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” –Cicely Tyson


The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel. With The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with her Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage. This book is read by Ben Miles, who played Thomas Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and includes a bonus conversation between Ben Miles and Hilary Mantel.


Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe. You’re told that if you “do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Whether it’s working for “exposure” and “experience,” or enduring poor treatment in the name of “being part of the family,” all employees are pushed to make sacrifices for the privilege of being able to do what we love. Sarah Jaffe, a preeminent voice on labor, inequality, and social movements, examines this “labor of love” myth — the idea that certain work is not really work, and therefore should be done out of passion instead of pay. Told through the lives and experiences of workers in various industries — from the unpaid intern, to the overworked teacher, to the nonprofit worker and even the professional athlete — Jaffe reveals how all of us have been tricked into buying into a new tyranny of work. You can read reviews here and here.


The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. Quick-witted, ambitious Ji Lin is stuck as an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dancehall girl to help pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts. But when one of her dance partners accidentally leaves behind a gruesome souvenir, Ji Lin may finally get the adventure she has been longing for. Eleven-year-old houseboy Ren is also on a mission, racing to fulfill his former master’s dying wish: that Ren find the man’s finger, lost years ago in an accident, and bury it with his body. Ren has 49 days to do so, or his master’s soul will wander the earth forever. As the days tick relentlessly by, a series of unexplained deaths wracks the district, along with whispers of men who turn into tigers. Ji Lin and Ren’s increasingly dangerous paths crisscross through lush plantations, hospital storage rooms, and ghostly dreamscapes. Narrated by the author. You can read a review here, and check out this NPR interview.


The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren. Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist, a brilliant writer, a passionate teacher, and one of the seven billion people with whom we share this earth. In The Story of More, she illuminates the link between human habits and our imperiled planet. In concise, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions—from electric power to large-scale farming to automobiles—that, even as they help us, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like never before. She explains the current and projected consequences of global warming—from superstorms to rising sea levels—and the actions that we all can take to fight back. At once an explainer on the mechanisms of global change and a lively, personal narrative given to us in Jahren’s inimitable voice, it is an essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it. You can read reviews here and here.

What to Read This Month: May 2021

Welcome back to What to Read This Month! Quick confession: since the semester ended, I’ve been so busy catching up on my reading list that I’ve nearly forgotten to recommend a fresh batch of books for May. Fortunately, I have a number of great titles to choose from, as you’ll see below. Of course, these five books represent only a miniscule fraction of the titles we’re continually adding to our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections, so if you’re in need of some additional summer reading, head over there!


How to Order the Universe: Ferrada, María José, Bryer, Elizabeth:  9781951142308: Amazon.com: BooksHow to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada (translated into English by Elizabeth Bryer). In this novel, Ferrada tells the story of M and D, a father-daughter duo of traveling salespeople peddling hardware in Pinochet-era Chile. M, who is seven years old, begins her foray into entrepreneurship when D realizes that his daughter has a knack for attracting customers. Though M has to skip school and deceive her mother to join D on his sales, doing so is fairly easy owing to her mother’s general emotional distance, which has been exacerbated by recent personal losses related to the Pinochet regime. As M travels with her father, she begins to grow up, and her increased realizations and understanding of the world around her are shaped by her business and familiarity with the products she hawks with D. Though she adores her father and her ability to travel with him, over the course of the novel M is frequently forced to come to grips with staggering loss and political tumult as the Pinochet dictatorship upends her life and the lives of those around her. You can read reviews here and here.


Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain: 9780241445297:  Amazon.com: BooksEmpireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain by Sathnam Sanghera. In this book, journalist Sanghera discusses the general reluctance of modern-day British society to reckon with its imperialistic history, and the reasons why this reluctance has taken the form that it has. Arguing that empire is still a highly influential force in the United Kingdom today, Sanghera focuses both on the history his country is willfully choosing to forget, and the ways in which this refusal has enabled contemporary racism in Britain and has justified attempts to reject its present-day status as a multicultural nation. In writing his account, Sanghera cites the general erasure of brutality committed by British imperialist forces, such as its 1903 invasion of Tibet, as well as the contributions of imperial citizens to British society at large. He also links the content of the book to his own personal experience, contextualizing the racist violence he witnessed as a child of Indian Punjabi immigrants growing up in 1980s Wolverhampton. In all, while the book is often a heavy and disturbing read, it is also moving in the way it highlights these often overlooked elements of British history. You can read a review here and listen to a discussion with Sanghera, presented by Amandeep Kaur Bhangu and hosted by the UK Punjab Heritage Association, here.


Nobody's Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness: Grinker,  Roy Richard: 9780393531640: Amazon.com: BooksNobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness by Roy Richard Grinker. In this book, anthropologist Grinker discusses the ways in which cultural ideas of normalcy have given rise to an entrenched and pernicious stigma surrounding mental illness. He traces the history of terms that have been extensively used to stigmatize mentally ill people, such as “mad,” and discusses how these terms have historically been used to stigmatize marginalized populations in particular; those in power, he notes, have largely been able to avoid being branded with such terms. Though the exact nature of the stigma surrounding mental illness has changed, he writes that this inequality is still certainly present in modern-day perceptions of mental illness, discussing how some of the most stigmatized mental illness diagnoses today are disproportionately applied to marginalized people. Ultimately, Grinker argues that this development of stigma is inextricable from capitalism, colonialism, and the influence of Western religious thought. You can read reviews here and here.


The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women  and Women to Medicine: Nimura, Janice P.: 9780393635546: Amazon.com: BooksThe Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women—and Women to Medicine by Janice P. Nimura. In this biography, historian Nimura takes a detailed look at Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, as well as her sister Emily Blackwell, herself a physician whose legacy is often overshadowed by Elizabeth’s. Nimura emphasizes Elizabeth’s unusually tenacious character and her determination to obtain a medical degree, a threatening prospect to a medical establishment that feared women doctors would prove to be too successful with women patients. Emily followed with her medical degree, and together, the two eventually opened the first hospital to be staffed by women. While Nimura includes numerous fascinating stories about Elizabeth’s life, she is also quick to point out her serious flaws of character that are often erased in her status as a cultural icon: for instance, she is unflinching in her discussion of Elizabeth’s lifelong opposition to women’s suffrage. The biography is also unique in its vivid portrait of Emily, whom Nimura describes as a generally more effective doctor compared to Elizabeth, and as a woman who navigated multiple same-gender partnerships in the 19th-century US. You can read reviews here and here.


Meltdown: Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis - Kindle edition by  Funabashi, Yoichi. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.Meltdown: Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis by Yoichi Funabashi. This year marks ten years since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, and in this new book, journalist Funabashi offers an exhaustive account of the disaster itself, its continuing aftermath, and its implications for Japan and the world at large. Funabashi has been chronicling the disaster since it occurred in 2011, and the book is the result of his interviews with hundreds of people, including Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant personnel, members of the Japanese military, and Japanese government officials. Though one leaves the book with a strong impression of the factors leading up to the disaster and its occurrence, much of the book is focused on the present and future, as Funabashi dwells on present cleanup efforts, the complications surrounding the long-term management of the disaster site, and the future of energy policy in Japan. Ultimately, in his depiction of the disaster, Funabashi argues that, although Japan is in need of sustainable energy sources, it has proven to be unprepared for harnessing nuclear energy, citing the mismanagement of evacuation during the disaster as well as the role that insufficient safety regulations played in the disaster itself. You can listen to two interviews with Funabashi here and here.

What to Read This Month: April 2021

Congrats on making it through another unusual semester here at Duke! We at the library realize that you’re probably busy with end-of-semester projects and finals (and remember, we’re always here to help!), but if by chance you’ve got the time to pick up a new book to read, here are some great selections from our Overdrive and New & Noteworthy collections. As always, these picks represent just a tiny fraction of what’s available, so be sure to follow the above links to see what else we have!


Your House Will Pay: A Novel: Cha, Steph: 9780062868855: Amazon.com: BooksYour House Will Pay by Steph Cha. In this thriller, Cha tells the story of Grace and Shawn, two Angelenos whose lives unexpectedly intersect when Grace’s mother is injured in a drive-by shooting. It is the summer of 2019, and as tensions in the city come to a head following the police shooting of an unarmed Black teenager, Grace is shocked to learn an egregious family secret: in 1991, a member of Grace’s family murdered a teenage girl named Ava, believing her to be stealing from the family’s convenience store, and received no jail time for the crime. The event ignited tensions between Los Angeles’ Black and Korean communities, and in 2019, the investigation surrounding the shooting of Grace’s mother resurrects some of these tensions at the family level. It also exacts a heavy toll on Shawn, Ava’s brother, who has been haunted by sister’s death for 28 years. As he becomes involved in the investigation, he must confront his own grief as well as the very family responsible for Ava’s murder. Cha derives much of the story from the real-life 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins, and in so doing, offers a tense exploration of race, grief, and justice. You can read a review here and an interview with Cha here.


Troubled: The Failed Promise of America's Behavioral Treatment Programs:  Rosen, Kenneth R.: 9781542022118: Amazon.com: BooksTroubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs by Kenneth R. Rosen. In this book, journalist Rosen traces the fraught history of American behavioral treatment programs, most of which have historically taken the form of spartan residential camps and schools. The book is partially a memoir, as Rosen describes at length his own experience with such programs: as a teenager with behavioral issues in the mid-2000s, Rosen was sent against his will to three separate institutions throughout the United States, all of which treated him brutally while also having little positive effect on him; despite (or perhaps because of) his years in these programs, his young adulthood proved to be a dysfunctional and often unstable one. Rosen also interviews a number of other graduates from similar institutions, and their testimonies strongly bolster Rosen’s argument that the American industry of behavioral treatment programs is one built not only on precarious conclusions about mental health and behavioral therapy, but also on abject cruelty to children. The book is undoubtedly a heavy read, but nonetheless an important one. You can read a review here and listen to an interview with Rosen here.


Klara and the Sun: A novel: Ishiguro, Kazuo: 9780593318171: Amazon.com:  BooksKlara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. In this novel, Nobel Prize winner Ishiguro explores issues ranging from the myriad difficulties of adolescence to questions surrounding the nature of emotional artificial intelligence. At an unspecified future date, Klara exists an “Artificial Friend,” essentially a robot designed to serve as an empathizing and socializing companion, in an era where technology has upended many facets of everyday human life. She lives in a department store, spending her days making human—and somewhat superhuman—observations about the world around her, until one day she is purchased for a sickly teenage girl named Josie. Josie is the result of “lifting”—genetic editing, which in this universe has become rather commonplace for wealthy people—and is intelligent beyond her years. This has come at a personal cost; normal schools have proven inadequate for her, and her homeschooling has caused her socialization to lag behind. Worse, the side effects of the editing have rendered her ill and will possibly even kill her. Klara fills a serious void for Josie, and as the two develop their relationship, Ishiguro explores heavy themes of love, intelligence, and loneliness. You can read reviews here and here.


Of Women and Salt: A Novel: Garcia, Gabriela: 9781250776686: Amazon.com:  BooksOf Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia. In this novel, Garcia tells the collective and intergenerational tale of two families living in contemporary Miami. There are two pairs of mothers and daughters that anchor the story: Jeannette and her mother Carmen, and Ana and her mother Gloria. Carmen and Jeannette’s relationship is marked by tumult, with their political and cultural disagreements (Jeannette was raised in Miami and comes to question the perspectives of her mother, a wealthy Cuban immigrant) exacerbated by Jeannette’s struggles with addiction. The two live in close proximity to Ana and Gloria, both of whom are undocumented immigrants from El Salvador. After Gloria is detained by ICE, Jeannette briefly takes Ana in, and things come to a head when Carmen fatefully convinces Jeannette to call the police over the situation. In the midst of these current events, Garcia also focuses on Jeannette’s relationship with her family in Cuba, exploring both her interactions with her living family members as well as her understanding of the family’s past generations. In all, Garcia poetically portrays issues of identity and family in a heated political atmosphere. You can read reviews here and here.


The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song: Gates Jr., Henry  Louis: 9781984880338: Amazon.com: BooksThe Black Church: This Is our Story, This Is Our Song by Henry Louis Gates Jr. In this book, which serves as a companion piece to a recently-aired PBS documentary series of the same name, renowned historian Gates offers a near-exhaustive history of the Black church in the United States, as well as its significance and profound influence on American culture at large. Beginning with the subject of praise houses, churches used by enslaved people in the South, Gates explicates the manifold spiritual and theological roots of the modern-day Black church, and relays the evolution of its many denominations. He makes the compelling case that the Black church has proven to be a highly elastic institution, adapting to the varying needs and plights of Black Americans throughout history, while at once serving as a powerful shaper of Black culture and political movements. Ending his account in the modern era, he brings in the voices of a number of scholars, and these contributions only further enrich his telling of this complicated and often controversial history. You can read a review here and learn more about the accompanying PBS documentary here.

National Poetry Month 2021

This year is the 25th National Poetry Month. The Academy of American Poets has 30 ways to celebrate on their website.

This year I want to honor Lawrence Ferlinghetti who died this year at the age of 101. You can read a nice bio and overview of his work at the Poetry Foundation. We of course also have many of his works in our library:

Little Boy

Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems

How to Paint Sunlight: Lyric Poems & Others (1997-2000)

These are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993

Starting from San Francisco

He was also the founder of City Lights, a bookstore and a publisher in San Francisco. This 2013 blog post “A Literary Meeting Place: The History Behind City Lights Bookstore” is a good place to start to understand the legacy of City Lights. Here is a selection of titles that they have published:

City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology

City Lights Anthology

Every Day We Get More Illegal by Juan Felipe Herrera

Funeral Diva by Pamela Sneed

Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman

Heaven is All Goodbyes by Tongo Eisen-Martin

And Then We Became by Devorah Major

Save Twilight selected poems of Julio Cortázar ; translated by Stephen Kessler

What to Read This Month: March 2021

Hello again! As spring arrives and we start to progress through the latter part of the semester, now might be a good time to find a new book to read. This month’s post can help you get started on that! As always, though, this selection of five books is just a sampling of the new titles we continually add to the library. If you want to check out more, be sure to visit our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections!


Amazon.com: The Committed (9780802157065): Nguyen, Viet Thanh: Books The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen. In this novel, Nguyen continues the winding, action-packed, and often terrifying story of his protagonist, a unnamed undercover Vietnamese communist agent who continually reinvents himself as the world around him remains in constant flux. We last saw him in Nguyen’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, in which, among several other memorable events, he fled Vietnam with a South Vietnamese general to the United States following the fall of Saigon, consulted on a Hollywood film about the war (think Apocalypse Now), and ultimately returned to Vietnam on an ill-advised mission led by the general, only to be captured and interrogated in a reeducation camp. The Committed sees him leave Vietnam a second time, this time settling in 1980s France, where he quickly becomes entrenched in the world of organized crime. As in the first novel, the narrator provides a constant commentary in which he not only richly describes the events unfolding around him, but also meditates on personally complicated issues of identity, empire, and colonialism. You can read reviews here and here.


Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir: Carroll, Rebecca: 9781982116255: Amazon.com: BooksSurviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll. In this memoir, Carroll discusses her coming of age as the only Black person in her rural New Hampshire community during the 1970s and 80s. Though she portrays her white adoptive parents as empathetic and loving, Carroll describes a childhood in which she felt isolated from her Black identity, and emphasizes the events in her life, leading into her adulthood, that ultimately allowed her to understand herself as a Black woman. Among these events are her first relationship with another Black person, her childhood ballet teacher Mrs. Rowland, her fraught dealings with her biological mother, Tess, a white woman who deliberately seeks to undermine Carroll’s identity as a Black person, and her simultaneously affirming yet difficult experiences as a young adult. Ultimately, Carroll focuses on the peace she is able to find in the family she builds for herself, and reflects on her later life as a parent. You can read a review here and listen to a conversation between Carroll and actor Zoe Kazan, hosted by the New York Public Library, here.


Fake Accounts: Oyler, Lauren: 9781948226929: Amazon.com: BooksFake Accounts by Lauren Oyler. In this debut novel, Oyler tells the story of a young woman who, shortly after the 2016 presidential election, discovers that her boyfriend has been living a secret online life as a rightwing conspiracy theorist. Though the relationship has been unsatisfying and she has no qualms about leaving him following this discovery, she finds that the next chapter in her life—leaving New York City to go live in Berlin—is equally rife with various forms of digital deception and manipulation. Over the course of her journey in Berlin, as she dates and works, she is forced to confront the narcissism, vapidity, and performativity that plagues both her own social media use, and the social media use of those around her. Ultimately, the novel serves as an unusually rich depiction of life in the age of social media, and as an effective satire. You can read reviews here and here.


Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia: Healy, Thomas: 9781627798624: Amazon.com: BooksSoul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia by Thomas Healy. In this book, Seton Hall law professor Healy relays the often overlooked story of Soul City, a community planned in 1970s northeastern North Carolina to embody racial integration and the myriad other gains of the Civil Rights Movement. The community was the brainchild of Floyd McKissick, a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) leader and the first Black law student at UNC-Chapel Hill. McKissick, as Healy tells, secured a 5000-acre plot of land in Warren County, a $14 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the support of the Nixon administration, but despite his efforts, the project never truly took off, and today, little remains of the community. Healy dives into all the reasons why the initiative ultimately floundered, including opposition by the media and local white residents, racism in the bureaucratic process, and the virulent campaign against the project by US senator and noted North Carolina racist Jesse Helms. In so doing, he paints a vivid picture of American society in the 1970s, and its complicated racial politics. You can read reviews here and here.


Bonnie | Book by Christina Schwarz | Official Publisher Page | Simon & SchusterBonnie by Christina Schwarz. In this novel, Schwarz offers a fictionalized biography of Bonnie Parker, famed 1930s outlaw and accomplice of Clyde Barrow. Special attention is paid to Parker’s difficult, impoverished upbringing outside of Dallas, where she develops a talent for and love of poetry that is unfortunately discouraged by an uncharitable teacher. Dropping out of high school, Parker marries but soon leaves her husband, meeting Clyde Barrow and eventually joining him on an initially successful but ultimately fateful crime spree. Schwarz of course devotes much of the novel to this final chapter of Parker’s life, detailing the crimes of the pair, their accomplices, and their eventual deaths at the hands of the law. But where Schwarz deviates from other fictionalizations of the duo, and where the novel makes for a unique and especially insightful work of historical fiction, is in its commitment to realism and lack of romanticization. Other works, most famously the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, have relied on the popular imagining of the pair as romantic outlaws, a perception fueled by contemporary media coverage of their crime spree, but Schwarz offers an unflinching portrayal of the numerous hardships Parker faced as a poor woman on the run in the midst of the Great Depression. You can read reviews here and here.

What to Read this Month: February 2021

Hello again! I don’t know about you, but for me, February went by in a flash and I can’t believe we’re now inexplicably near the mid-point of the semester! If you’re looking for something new to read in this last little slice of February, look no further. Or actually, do look further: as always, our New & Noteworthy collection and our Overdrive collection are adding new titles all the time. I also recommend checking out our new 5 Titles series, which highlights the works of underrepresented authors and titles related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our collection. This month’s post, featuring memoirs by African-American men, was written by RIS head Kim Duckett, and last month’s inaugural post, featuring nonfiction on neurodiversity, was authored by yours truly. Now, on to the books!


Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her  Roots: Jerkins, Morgan: 9780062873040: Amazon.com: BooksWandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins. In this memoir, essayist Jerkins documents her tracing of her family’s heritage, a journey involving several locales in the United States, the investigation of multiple missing pieces in her family line, and the contributions of various historians and archivists. Along the way, Jerkins grapples with the many complexities of African-American identity, placing her personal family history in the larger context of Black American history. Some particular facets of this history that Jerkins touches upon in her investigation include the Great Migration, the development and preservation of Gullah culture, the fraught history of tribal citizenship for Black indigenous Americans, and the experiences of free people of color in Louisiana. In so doing, Jerkins also thoroughly interrogates the culture of white supremacy underpinning each piece of her family’s history, both past and present. Ultimately, her deeply personal investigation also serves as a compelling illustration of African-American history and culture. You can read reviews here and here.


The New Wilderness: Cook, Diane: 9780062333131: Amazon.com: BooksThe New Wilderness by Diane Cook. In this novel, shortlisted for last year’s Booker Prize, Cook tells the story of Bea and Agnes, a mother and daughter living a harsh life of hunting and gathering in a rough wilderness left frighteningly unbalanced by climate change. Three years prior to the story’s events, Bea and Agnes, along with Bea’s husband Glen, had been living in a deeply polluted metropolis referred to only as “the City,” but Agnes’ respiratory problems drove the family to participate in a study on human-nature interactions that moved them to a place known as the Wilderness State, understood to be the last wild region left in the world. There, they live with the study’s other participants, roaming the land and learning survival skills lest they perish. Though the group is subject to the demands of the study’s “rangers,” tensions begin to flare between them, driving many of the novel’s core events. In the midst of all this, Cook focuses on the mother-daughter relationship between Bea and Agnes, exploring how it changes as Agnes regains her health and develops a strong attachment to the wilderness. You can read reviews here and here.


Trans America: A Counter-History | WileyTrans America: A Counter-History by Barry Reay. In this book, historian Reay seeks to correct the sidelining of transgender history in the US by providing readers with a thorough, compelling, and far-reaching account of the way transgender identity has developed over the centuries. His inclusive approach identifies several periods in this history, beginning with a broader survey of gender flexibility in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following this discussion is an examination of the rise of transgender visibility in the 1960s and 70s, including the degree of persecution that accompanied it, and the more recent history of transgender people in the US leading up to the present. Reay populates his account with rich depictions of several transgender historical figures, many of whom have been hitherto ignored by the mainstream historical record. There is also a great deal of discussion devoted to the particular history of transgender culture within the Black and Latinx communities, as well as an exhaustive account of the history of medicalization (the book resists the medical model in its approach). You can read interviews with Reay here and here.


Self Care: A Novel: Stein, Leigh: 9780143135197: Amazon.com: BooksSelf Care by Leigh Stein. In this novel, novelist Stein offers ripping satire of corporate, Girlboss-style feminism in her portrayal of Richual, the fictional online women’s wellness company created by her fiercely ambitious, yet ultimately nihilistic protagonists Maren and Devin. The two hatch a plan to market a sanitized, monetized combination of social justice and self-care to their audience of primarily white, thin, middle-class women, and all goes well until a string of scandals forces the two to come to grips with exactly what it is that they have created. As Maren faces backlash for a misguided tweet, the duo also finds itself woefully unprepared to deal with a board member accused of sexual misconduct, one who happens to be involved with Devin and is largely responsible for the company’s funding. Amidst all this, Stein also focuses on Khadijah, a pregnant employee of the company who finds herself in the peculiar predicament of being afraid to ask for maternity leave from her nominally feminist bosses. In all, the novel, in its own darkly funny way, serves as a sharp criticism of white, lean-in feminism, one that’s difficult to look away from. You can read a review here and a Q&A with Stein here.


Amazon.com: Just as I Am: A Memoir eBook: Burford, Michelle: Kindle StoreJust as I Am by Cicely Tyson with Michelle Burford. In this memoir, iconic actress Cicely Tyson tells the story of her life and her decades-long career. She first recounts early her life pre-show business, including a difficult account of the domestic abuse she witnessed as a child and her first marriage and divorce as a young woman, before describing her discovery as a model in the early 1950s at the age of thirty. From here, Tyson describes her experiences working in film and television as a Black woman in the mid- to late-twentieth century, offering a personal perspective on some of her most well-known projects, including Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. She is unflinching in her descriptions of the difficulties she has faced, both in her professional and personal life, offering a full account of her long and often difficult relationship with Miles Davis. With Burford, she also reflects on the legacy of her career, her influences, and her many accolades. In this way, the memoir serves as a satisfying, full account of Tyson’s life, as well as something of an epilogue—Tyson died just days after its release last month. You can read reviews here and here.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “A Year in Provence”

Missing spring break? Take a literary trip with this month’s Low Maintenance Book Club reading, Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. This classic memoir chronicles the author and his wife’s first year after moving to France’s Provence region. As always, you’re welcome to join regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read the book!

Copies of the book can be found at Duke University Libraries (hard copy), Durham County Library (hard copy and audiobook), Wake County Public Libraries (hard copy), Orange County Public Library (hard copy) and Chapel Hill Public Library (eBook) and as an eBook through Open Library (you’ll just need to set up a free account to borrow).

Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link the morning of the meeting.

Love, Unconventionally

When Valentine’s Day approaches many of us conjure images of chocolate and flowers.  However 2021 has been anything but a conventional year. As Duke Libraries’ Librarian for Film, Video & Digital Media I would like to highlight three movies that reveal an unconventional side of love.

Image from film
My Name is Khan 2010, ((dir. Karan Johar)

Rizvan Khan is an Indian Muslim man with Asperger’s Syndrome who falls in love with a Hindu woman in the United States, post-9/11. This feature film depicts the resentment that ordinary, law-abiding Muslims felt about their treatment by fellow Americans and delivers a strong message that Hindus and Muslims should work together against the common enemies of extremism and intolerance. With a running time of 245 minutes, settle in for a long night of viewing pleasure. (Lilly DVD 17475 and streaming online for Duke users)

Image of film
Invitation to Dance (2014, dirs. Simi Linton and Christian von Tippelskirch)

At age 23, Simi Linton was injured while hitchhiking to Washington, D.C. to protest the war in Vietnam. As a young college student, newly disabled, she confronted unimaginable discrimination. Years before the Americans with Disabilities Act was conceived, Linton emerges in Invitation to Dance as a resourceful activist, and in time realizes that love, sexuality, and dance can once again become a part of her life. (Lilly DVD 27418 and streaming online for Duke users)

 

Image from DVD cover
CinemAbility: the Art of Inclusion (2018, dir. Jenni Gold)

 

Directed by Jenni Gold, the first female wheelchair-using member of the Directors Guild of America, CinemAbility explores how disability has been portrayed on screen in Hollywood over the past 120 years. Nearly all characters in film and television have been played by abled actors, leaving our collective perception of disability skewed. Gold interviews abled and disabled people from in front of and behind the camera to dissect and examine the history of representation. (Lilly DVD 32937 and streaming online for Duke users)
Code of the Freaks (2020, dir. Salome Chasnoff) is another compelling  documentary that focuses on these  issues.
(Streaming online for Duke users)

 

What to Read this Month: January 2021

Welcome back! If you’re looking to ring in the new year and the new semester with some new reading material, we at the library have got you covered. This month, as always, we’re highlighting a selection of titles from our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections. The below titles represent only a very small sampling of what these collections hold, however, so we encourage you to explore them in full to discover your next read.


Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu: 9780307948472 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. In this novel, Westworld writer Yu tells the story—in the format of a screenplay—of Willis Yu, an aspiring Hollywood actor who continually finds himself limited to menial, racist roles such as “Background Oriental Male” and “Delivery Guy.” Frustrated with the entertainment industry’s pigeonholing of Asian actors, Willis is determined to land a more glamorous part, striving to eventually be cast as “Kung Fu Guy” even though such a role still easily falls under Hollywood’s stereotypical envisioning of Asian characters. Interspersed with Willis’ work as an actor are scenes in which he interacts with a number of other compelling characters, including his father Sifu and his fellow actors. Through the character of Willis, the characters surrounding him, and the screenplay format, Charles Yu crafts a searing and exceedingly humorous satire of the modern-day entertainment industry and its racism, one which ultimately won last year’s National Book Award for Fiction. You can read reviews here and here.


Administrations of Lunacy: Racism and the Haunting of American Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum: Segrest, Mab: 9781620972977: Amazon.com: Books

Administrations of Lunacy: Racism and the Haunting of American Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum by Mab Segrest. In this book, activist Segrest describes her investigation of the records of Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia, a psychiatric hospital that opened in 1842 and closed in 2010. While the hospital has developed a notorious reputation for its well-known history of patient mistreatment, Segrest focuses on its particularly egregious abuse of Black patients, who were first admitted into segregated quarters of the hospital following the end of the Civil War. In addition to drawing attention to the inferior conditions these patients endured relative to white patients as a result of de jure and later de facto segregation, Segrest also delves into the records of individual Black patients to contextualize their various diagnoses and treatments with the long history of racism in American psychiatric research and practice. She discusses at length the way in which disability and mental illness diagnoses were weaponized against Black patients in particular, as well as the disturbing frequency with which they were subjected to forced sterilization and other treatments influenced by the burgeoning eugenics movement. In all, the book serves as an important study of the intersection of white supremacy and ableism, and proves highly relevant to the way this intersection plays out today. That said, much of the book’s content is decidedly graphic, something potential readers should consider. You can read reviews here and here.


Monogamy: A Novel: Miller, Sue: 9780062969651: Amazon.com: Books

Monogamy by Sue Miller. In this novel, bestselling author Miller focuses on Annie, a middle-aged photographer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who has suddenly lost her husband of 30 years, bookstore owner Graham. When Graham was alive, he and Annie often appeared be an odd couple to those around them, with Annie’s small size and reserved character contrasting quite sharply with Graham’s vast physical presence and bon vivant personality. Yet Annie herself was generally happy in the marriage, despite occasional tensions, but her love and mourning for Graham following his passing is quickly marred by the sudden realization that he had been having an affair before his death. In what follows, Annie finds herself reassessing their relationship, and embarks on a journey to find peace with what they had—and did not have—together. While the examination of the marriage makes for a fascinating story on its own, Miller supplements Annie’s perspective with the insightful perspectives of key side characters, such as Annie and Graham’s adult daughter, Sarah, and Graham’s first wife, Frieda. You can read reviews here and here.


Amazon.com: My Baby First Birthday (9781947793811): Zhang, Jenny: Books

My Baby First Birthday by Jenny Zhang. In this poetry collection, poet and essayist Zhang examines issues of identity—and being born into a specific identity—that prove to be long-lasting, and essentially timeless, in a given person’s life. Over the course of the collection’s 97 poems, Zhang touches on several iterations of these identities, such as her mother’s womanhood and her own life as an Asian woman in a world that values whiteness, the suffering that derives from the perennial expectations placed upon these identities, and the desired and sometimes attainable liberation from such suffocating expectations (“be the baby ppl didn’t let u be / for once in yr life / & see what happens”). Zhang’s observations on identity are not entirely interior, however, as she also casts a light on the reader, inviting them to make the same considerations she is making about herself. Though this focus on identity is present throughout the whole of the collection, there are a number of interesting intersections with other subjects, most notably Zhang’s conception of her own sexuality. Through its use of overwhelming emotions, the collection makes for a memorable read. You can read reviews here and here.


The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World, Postrel, Virginia I., eBook - Amazon.com

The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World by Virginia Postrel. In this book, journalist Postrel puts forth the argument that each and every piece of fabric produced in human history reveals key information about the life, experiences, and desires of the person who made it, and that, when assembled together, all of the textiles and fabrics ever produced form an invaluable tapestry that tells the story of human history. In making this assertion, Postrel writes an engrossing account of the history of fabric, one that is occasionally overwhelming in its scope, but always compelling. Beginning in Bronze Age Crete and ending with the modern-day US, the examination of this history—which also accounts for the individual histories of different fabrics like wool and linen—extends to a myriad of cultures and places, including Egypt, China, Mexico, England, and Italy, among others. In the midst of this survey are several close-ups on individual processes and people, and these sections, along with the many helpful diagrams that Postrel employs, help enliven and personalize the broad account that she conveys. Overall, the book provides a vivid history of an often overlooked—yet essential—element of the human experience. You can read reviews here and here.

ONLINE: Low Maintenance Book Club reads “The Duke & I”

Join the Low Maintenance Book Club for a very special Valentine’s-themed meeting on Tuesday, February 16th at noon. We’re delving into romance with The Duke and I by Julia Quinn, the basis for the hit Netflix series Bridgerton.  As always, you’re welcome to join regardless of how much (or whether) you’ve read the book!

Copies of the book are available through Duke University Libraries (ebook), Durham County Library (book and audio CD | downloadable audiobook | ebook), and Wake County Public Libraries (book and downloadable audiobook | ebook).

Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link on the morning of the meeting.

What to Read this Month: December 2020

Hello again! We at the library hope you’re enjoying the long winter break. If by chance you find yourself in need of new reading material, here are some recommendations of ours for this month. As always, these books come from our New & Noteworthy and Overdrive collections, and we highly recommend checking them out whenever you want something new to read – these collections feature new material all the time.


Burnt Sugar: 9780241441510: Amazon.com: Books

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi. In this debut novel, shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, Doshi tells the story of an intensely fraught mother-daughter relationship. Antara, a prosperous woman living in modern-day Pune with her husband and infant daughter, reflects on and grieves the difficult childhood she faced with her mother, Tara. When Tara became swept up in the teachings of a charismatic guru, she abandoned her marriage to live at the ashram where he resided. Though she took the young Antara with her, she was neglectful and sometimes overtly abusive towards her, leaving Antara with psychological wounds that continue to fester in her adulthood. Complicating Antara’s present understanding of Tara is her decision to take her in after she develops dementia. Though Tara’s condition does much to superficially soften the relationship between the two women, it also seriously complicates Antara’s necessary search for closure. Amidst this portrayal of a difficult relationship, Doshi also provides a searing satire of the wealthy and privileged in contemporary India through her portrayal of Antara’s entitled and often vacuous social circle. You can read reviews here and here.


My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir | IndieBound.org

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland. In this genre-bending memoir (not a biography, though it contains elements of one), Shapland comes to understand facets of her own life as a queer and chronically ill person while studying the life of Carson McCullers, the renowned 20th-century Southern Gothic novelist, and herself a queer and chronically ill person. McCullers, perhaps best known for her novels The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding, empathetically wrote of outsiders in her fairly short lifetime, drawing on a personal experience that Shapland finds to have been largely overlooked by her biographers. Her experience with McCullers begins with an internship at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, an archive in which she discovers a number of McCullers’ love letters to another woman. What follows is a strong investigation into McCullers’ life as a lesbian in the mid-twentieth century, interspersed with Shapland’s personal anecdotes about coming to terms with her own sexuality. Throughout this intense discussion of McCullers’ life, Shapland readily questions her own perception of the author, and her personal identification with her, making for an engaging and self-aware read. You can read reviews here and here.


Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership (Justice, Power, and Politics): Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta: 9781469653662: Amazon.com: Books

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. In this book, a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in history, historian Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor takes a clear look at the long history of housing discrimination and segregation in the modern-day US. While she begins her study in the early twentieth-century, in the age of the Great Migration and legally-sanctioned redlining, she particularly focuses on the late 1960s and later, when the Fair Housing Act was passed by Congress. While this act, along with related legislation passed as a part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative, outlawed de jure housing discrimination and was designed to create paths toward homeownership among the marginalized, Taylor argues that these measures actually preserved housing inequality among Black Americans, and enabled its existence into the present day. Highlighting the public-private nature of these measures (noting how the federal government largely relegated the task of guaranteeing mortgages to the private sector), Taylor writes of how they ultimately created a system of predatory lending, enriching the real estate industry while providing little concrete relief to Black homeowners, an issue only exacerbated by the succeeding Nixon administration. Throughout this vivid telling of history, Taylor emphasizes the accounts of Black families affected by these policies, driving home the personal ramifications of the flaws in the system. You can read an interview with Taylor here and a review here.


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The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. In this novel, Hargrave builds on the historic 1621 witch trials that unfolded in the Norwegian town of Vardø, and, through the characters she creates, crafts a compelling commentary on what lies at the root of witch trials and cultural suspicion more broadly. In 1617, an intense storm overtakes the region of Finnmark, leaving many dead, including 20-year-old Maren’s father, brother, and fiancé. For a few years, the survivors of the storm cope as best as they can—two women rise up as leaders in the village, while Maren’s sister-in-law turns to her traditional Sami beliefs—but their way of life is threatened when the infamous Scottish witch hunter Absalom Cornet arrives at the behest of local authorities. He brings with him a timid young wife, Ursa, whom he met and wed in the Norwegian city of Bergen. Maren ends up taking Ursa under her wing, and the love that develops between the two women centers the novel, even as the witch hunter sows an increasing path of violence. He targets any woman who fails to conform to the religious or social norms of Vardø, and eventually, he sets his sights on Maren, spelling serious trouble for both her and Ursa. You can read reviews here and here.


A World Beneath the Sands: The Golden Age of Egyptology: Wilkinson, Toby: 9781324006893: Amazon.com: Books

A World Beneath the Sands: The Golden Age of Egyptology by Toby Wilkinson. This fascinating study takes a critical look at the so-called Golden Age of Egyptology, which the historian Toby Wilkinson defines as taking place roughly between the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. The rush on the part of Britain and France to learn about and produce scholarship on Ancient Egyptian civilization—processes which often took the form of plundering antiquities for the British Museum and the Louvre, respectively—is argued by Wilkinson to be the result of a kind of imperialist arms race between the two nations, as they each attempted to prove their might as colonial powers. Wilkinson discusses at length the consequences of this rush, noting that the insights learned about Ancient Egypt came at a severe cost, including the oppression of the Egyptian people and the destruction of many historical sites and artifacts. In particular, Wilkinson asserts that the occupation and widespread theft of the British and French had the unintended consequence of mobilizing the Egyptian people into developing a national identity for themselves, built both on the history of Ancient Egypt and the intense desire for self-government. In relaying this history, Wilkinson is quick to punctuate his account with vivid descriptions of the major figures who brought it into being. You can read reviews here and here.

Happy Birthday to Jane Austen!


Every year I like to write a blog post to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday.  This year I’m going to celebrate with titles related to Emma since this new version of Emma (watch online through our library) was the last movie I saw in movie theaters this year.

If you want to see other film versions of Emma, we have several you can watch through the library, including this 2010 Masterpiece Theatre version, this 2004 BBC  version,  the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow, and what some people (me) would argue is the greatest adaptation of them all, Clueless.

If you want to read the book, we of course have you covered with multiple versions, including this one on Overdrive.

For a special treat, check out Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s first edition. Put this on your list to check out for a future in person visit, or check it out on Internet Archive.

And let me end with some of the fun Jane Austen related things that came out of this year.

https://twitter.com/LibraryLydia/status/1244723932722343942?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1244723932722343942%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.marieclaire.com%2Fculture%2Fa32699248%2Fdating-during-covid19-jane-austen-novel%2F)
I saw many memes comparing our experience of staying home, taking long walks, and social distancing to Jane Austen’s world, many of them outlined in this May Marie Claire article and this recent New Yorker humor column. I found a lot of enjoyment from this twitter account called Pride and Plague. I was also fortunate to be able to attend many online Jane Austen related talks this year, hearing scholars and enthusiasts I probably normally wouldn’t have been able to see live. I especially enjoyed the Jane Austen & Co. virtual series, sponsored by our UNC neighbors.  You can find videos of the recorded events on their website. I also attended the Virtual Jane Austen Mini Fest hosted by the Glendale Public Library.

What to Read this Month: November 2020

Congratulations on finishing this semester! This fall was certainly unusual and challenging for all of us here at Duke, but we now have a long break ahead of us. Why not reward your hard work with a good read? This month’s selections, as always, represent a mix of books in our New & Noteworthy Collection and our Overdrive collection. In addition to taking a look at these particular books, we also encourage you to regularly check on each of these collections – new books are being added all the time.


How Much of These Hills Is Gold: A Novel: Zhang, C Pam: 9780525537205: Amazon.com: Books

How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang. In this debut novel, told in the style of a fable, a nameless Chinese family settles in the American West, hoping to reach prosperity in a gold rush. This dream is quickly soured, however, as the gold rush proves illusory and the father, Ba, dies after attempting a hard living as a coal miner. This event follows the death of his wife, Ma, and as a result, their young children, Lucy and Sam, are left on their own. They ultimately embark on a journey to find the silver dollars they believe necessary to lay their father to rest, all the while carrying his body with them. Over the course of their quest, Zhang creates a portrait of the American West that deconstructs its romantic myths and archetypes, while at once drawing attention to the often overlooked role played by immigrants in shaping its history. In so doing, the grim adventure of these children makes for a gripping and oftentimes moving read. You can read reviews here and here.


A Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel: Allende, Isabel, Caistor, Nick, Hopkinson, Amanda: 9781984820150: Amazon.com: Books

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende. Allende, who has retained a decades-long following owing to her literary treatment of history with magical realism, also reckons with journeys in her latest novel. In this book, Roser and her deceased husband’s brother Victor, two refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, settle in Chile, where they gradually fall in love following a marriage of convenience. What follows is a further examination of history, as the decades in Chile pass and Roser and Victor must cope with another flare-up of political unrest, this time taking the form of Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup d’état. While the novel is quite exhaustive in this relaying of Spanish and Latin American historical events, reviewers have been quick to assure readers that it is all evenly anchored by the love story at the novel’s heart. You can read reviews here and here.


American Contagions: Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19: Witt, John Fabian: 9780300257274: Amazon.com: Books

American Contagions: Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19 by John Fabian Witt. Witt’s book, which began life as a course he taught at Yale Law School in the spring of this year, offers a thorough and engaging history of the way epidemics have shaped American law over the centuries. In identifying two major legal impulses—the more civilly-minded sanitationism and the more authoritarian quanrantinism—Witt describes how legal engagements with the epidemic have simultaneously brought about some the most beneficent and some of the cruelest legislation in American history. Of course, engaging with pandemic-related reading material during this difficult fall and winter may be challenging for some, but for those who gravitate towards the study of disasters as they unfold, Witt’s book offers fresh insight not just into the history of disease in the US, but into its larger history of inequality, as well. You can read reviews here and here.


New Waves: A Novel: Nguyen, Kevin: 9781984855237: Amazon.com: Books

New Waves by Kevin Nguyen. In his debut novel, Nguyen tells the story of Lucas, who works at a tech startup in 2009 Manhattan. His friendship with one of the startup’s most talented programmers, Margo, takes an interesting turn when she is unjustly fired. The two, in retribution, steal sensitive data from the company, but their plan goes awry when Margo is suddenly killed in an accident. Lucas is left to deal with her absence, not only having to make sense of their plot together, but also having to make sense of their relationship as a whole. In his personal grapplings with their time together and the company for which they both worked, Nguyen offers a searing satire of startup culture in the late 2000s and early 2010s, drawing attention to the casual racism endemic to many startups (Lucas, who is Asian, and Margo, who is Black, originally bond over their marginalization by the company) and to the general cluelessness of their leadership. Despite this element of satire, the story is also quite moving, as Lucas reckons with his relationship with Margo and his own personal shortcomings. You can read reviews here and here.


Beheld: Nesbit, TaraShea: 9781635573220: Amazon.com: Books

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit. In this novel, Nesbit brings to life one Alice Southworth, a woman known in the footnotes of history as the second wife of William Bradford, famed governor of the Puritan Plymouth Colony in 17th-century Massachusetts. Alice was Bradford’s second wife, their marriage beginning following the somewhat odd death of his first wife, Dorothy, who fell off the docked Mayflower in Cape Cod Bay and drowned. Nesbit alludes to the mysteriousness of this death while primarily focusing on the events of Alice’s life in Plymouth Colony, events which often highlight the varying hypocrisies of the Puritans, and the contentiousness of their presence in Massachusetts more generally. Much of the plot is marked by Alice’s ongoing tension with her Anglican indentured servants, Eleanor and John Billington, and some of the story is told from Eleanor’s perspective. The deceased Dorothy also voices a section of the novel, and, in speaking through the voices of these women, Nesbit offers a unique perspective on the history of the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony. You can read reviews here and here.

Reading and Voting

This is the last week for early voting! Did you know that Duke has an early voting location? It’s at the Karsh Alumni Center. You can learn more about your voting options at Duke Votes. If you want to learn more about what will be on your ballot, a good tool to use is vote411.org. To get you excited about voting, I wanted to share some titles about the history of voting and voting rights!

Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman.

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones.

Why Vote?: Essential Questions about the Future of Elections in America by Daniel M. Shea.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement edited with an introduction by Sally Roesch Wagner ; foreword by Gloria Steinem.

Voting in Indian Country: The View from the Trenches by Jean Reith Schroedel.

Fragile Democracy: The Struggle over Race and Voting Rights in North Carolina by James L. Leloudis and Robert R. Korstad.

Citizenship beyond Nationality: Immigrants’ Right to Vote across the World by Luicy Pedroza.

Selma’s Bloody Sunday: Protest, Voting Rights, and the Struggle for Racial Equality by Robert A. Pratt.

Institutions and the Right to Vote in America by Martha E. Kropf.

Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in the United States by Gilda R. Daniels.

Ballot Blocked: The Political Erosion of the Voting Rights Act by Jesse H. Rhodes.

Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Susan Ware.

Oh and if you’re looking for something fun to do, there’s the recent The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. In fact Book Riot had a whole list this year of YA books about elections.

What to Read this Month: October 2020

This month, as we enter into the throes of spooky season (midterms), we at the library would like to offer up another selection of new additions to our collection to check out. These picks represent a mix of books in our New & Noteworthy Collection, as well as our Overdrive collection. Books are being continually added to both of these collections, so as always, we encourage you to explore them to discover new and interesting reading material.


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. Alam’s novel, which was released earlier this month, has already been hailed as one of the best novels published this year by the likes of the New York Times and NPR. At once a suspenseful thriller and biting satire, it tells the story of two households who unexpectedly end up sharing a space during what is quite possibly the apocalypse. Amanda and Clay, a middle-class white couple from New York City, decide to take a summer vacation in a remote corner of Long Island, renting a home there. Things take a strange turn when the home’s owners, a wealthy Black couple named George and Ruth, suddenly arrive, taking refuge from what initially seems to be a citywide blackout. What follows is a suspenseful commentary on issues ranging from race to disaster response in contemporary American society, as the two families gradually begin to realize that a much larger and much more dire occurrence is unfolding before their very eyes. You can read/listen to reviews here and here.


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The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland. In this nonfiction study of home DNA test kits, Copeland, a journalist, explores the myriad unintended yet far-reaching consequences that often come with spitting into a vial to discover one’s genetic origins. What is often perceived to be a harmless novelty, Copeland argues, can be anything but, and the harm caused by these kits wreak havoc both on the individual and societal level. Copeland discusses this harm at length, sharing accounts of people making startling familial revelations, including several discoveries about parentage and adoption. But even more gripping is the commentary on the cultural ramifications of commodifying the human genome: our conceptions of race and identity, the use of genetic data to solve crimes, and the troubling relationship between the practice of DNA testing and eugenics. You can read a review here and here.


The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry

The Mirror of My Heart: a Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women, introduced and translated by Dick Davis. This anthology of Persian-language poems, many of which first appear in English here, abounds with epigrams and elegies. As the title suggests, the chronological period covered by this work is extremely broad, beginning in the Middle Ages and ending in the 21st century. While Persian poetry has been studied at length for centuries, the voices of women poets have often been overlooked, by academics and other readers alike, mainly due to systemic issues in both Persian and non-Persian culture. But Davis, in translating these works, makes clear for his audience that women have played an invaluable role in the history of Persian poetry, with their works often asserting perspectives and concepts hitherto largely unseen by English-speaking audiences. The poems offer unparalleled insight into the lives of Persian women from century to century, and even the oldest poems represented in this anthology are quite accessible to a modern audience, owing to their beautiful and careful coverage of timeless issues, such as love and loss. You can read reviews here and here.


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Who Gets in and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions by Jeffrey Selingo. In this book, education journalist Jeffrey Selingo seeks to break down the overarching factors in college admissions decisions by offering a behind-the-scenes look at the process at three selective colleges and universities. His ultimate conclusion is that the factors controlling the process are largely outside the individual applicant’s control, but his journey in making that somewhat disheartening point makes for a compelling read, as Selingo offers an effective deconstruction of the concept of meritocracy, while also providing commentary on its seemingly inextricable place in contemporary American culture. The book also serves as an interesting complement to another recent journalistic work on college admissions, Melissa Korn’s and Jennifer Levitz’s Unacceptable: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal, which is currently available as an audiobook in our Overdrive collection. You can read a review of Selingo’s book here and here.


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Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin. In this book, Talia Lavin, a freelance writer known for her works in publications such as the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, relays her in-depth investigation of online and offline white supremacist culture. Long the target of online far-right trolls for her Jewish identity and antifascist writings, Lavin describes her effort to infiltrate white supremacist spaces as a journey to find out what draws people—largely young, disaffected white men—into online, far-right culture. Over the course of this journey, Lavin adopts false identities to achieve this end, and the book proves to be a harrowing account of this dangerous movement and what makes it run. And throughout, Lavin provides a compelling story with the many insights she makes. While the book is often darkly humorous thanks to Lavin’s entertaining voice, it nonetheless contains a great deal of disturbing content related to violence and hatred, something readers should keep in mind. You can read a review here and watch an online discussion with Lavin hosted by New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage here.

ONLINE: A Very Spooky Low Maintenance Book Club

Get in the halloween spirit with the Low Maintenance Book Club! For our next meeting on October 21st at noon EST, we’ll discuss selections from the short story collection Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enriquez. Named a Best Book of the Year by: Boston GlobePASTE Magazine, Words Without BordersGrub StreetRemezccla, and Entropy Magazine, these disquieting stories draw regular comparisons to Shirley Jackson.

We’ll discuss the following stories during the meeting:

  • “Things We Lost in the Fire”
  • “Adela’s House”
  • “The Inn”

This book is available online and in print from Duke University Libraries and print and audio at Durham County Library.

Please RSVP to receive a Zoom link to the meeting the morning of the event. If you have any questions, you can contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy at aah39@duke.edu.

2020 Banned Books Week

This week (September 27th-October 3rd, 2020) is Banned Books Week, which is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. This year I am going to focus on books by and about African-Americans that have been challenged or banned because they are often more likely to experience a challenge.

As explained in an American Library Association webpage about diversity and banned/challenged books: “While ‘diversity’ is seldom given as a reason for a challenge, it may in fact be an underlying and unspoken factor: the work is about people and issues others would prefer not to consider. Often, content addresses concerns of groups who have suffered historic and ongoing discrimination. For instance, a book that often recurs in previous years’ top ten challenges is Toni Morrison’s Beloved. While it has sex in it, and that’s often the complaint, many other books also have sex, and are not challenged. Is the underlying motivation for the challenge racism? Sometimes, it surely is. In other cases, of course, a complaint genuinely may be about precisely what the challenger says it is.”

Here are some examples of titles that we have in our collection that have faced challenges over the years (books are drawn from Banned Books Written by African Americans and Top 10 Banned Books that Changed the Face of Black History).

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin. Baldwin’s blunt prose rubbed people in New York and Virginia the wrong way, it appears. “Go Tell It on the Mountain” was banned in both states for being “rife with profanity and explicit sex” and including “recurring themes of rape, masturbation, violence and degrading treatment of women.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. After a parent’s public complaint at a school board meeting, the superintendent of Katy (TX) Independent School District removed the multiple award-winning book from all the school libraries in the district. Teachers and librarians argued against the censorship, which produced overwhelming media uproar. A Katy ISD student circulated a petition gathering over 3,700 signatures to urge reinstatement of the book. The Superintendent held firm in his claim that the book was pervasively vulgar and he was legally right to censor the book. Three months later the critically acclaimed novel about a black teen dealing with the aftermath of witnessing a police shooting that killed her unarmed friend was returned to the district’s high school libraries, available to students only with parental consent.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Challenged as a summer reading assignment in the Knoxville (TN) high school system because a parent claimed the nonfiction book “has too much graphic information.” Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells – taken without her knowledge in 1951 – became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Banned in North Carolina prisons in February 2017 because it was considered “likely to provoke confrontation between racial groups.” The book was later removed from the list of prohibited books after the American Civil Liberties Union sent NC Department of Public Safety officials a public letter in 2018.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Though Time Magazine included the novel on its list of 100 best English-language novels published since 1923, not every English-language reader agrees. In 1997, parents in Brentsville, Virginia attempted to ban the novel from the Advanced English curriculum for “sexual explicitness.” Thankfully, the ban was overturned.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Winner of the National Book Award and ranked nineteenth on Modern Library’s list of 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man has nonetheless been challenged for its lack of “literary value.” In 2013, NCAC sent a letter to Randolph County Public Schools in North Carolina after they banned the book because of a complaint that it “is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers.” Ten days after the original ban, the board held a special meeting to reconsider their actions and voted 6-1 to return the book. One member of the board expressed his shift after considering his son’s military career: “He was fighting for these rights. I’m casting a vote to take them away. Is it right of me? No.” Such reflections would even give the Invisible Man reason to step into the light of day.