by Heidi Lauritzen on June 17th, 2014
I believe most of us remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when four planes were turned into weapons and crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania countryside. I was already at work here at the Library when I became aware of a group of staff clustered around a television in our audiovisual services area. When we realized the magnitude of what was happening we opened our big meeting room to the public, showing the ongoing news coverage on the big screen there. In the Library’s annual report for that year, Director Susan Craig described what it was like: “It was incredible to sit in the darkened room and watch the news with strangers, some in small groups, most just individuals. When I was there no one actually spoke, but I felt a connection with everyone in the room.”
The Stories They Tell: Artifacts from the National September 11 Memorial Museum reconnects us to the events that day and the long recovery process that followed. The Museum is part of the September 11 memorial site where the Twin Towers once stood. The pictures in this book are simple but evocative. The essays which accompany them—more like letters to the reader—are written by staff members of the Museum.
Many of the artifacts in the Museum are from the crash sites; others include the transcripts from phone calls from people on the planes, missing-person posters that blanketed New York City, and the Memorial Urn, with the names of the 2,977 victims on it, created by ceramicist Tom Lane.
It is difficult to choose just one or two examples to tell you more about. Should it be the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s hijack report? Or Karyn’s flight attendant wings, or the Last Column at Ground Zero, or patrol dog Sirius’s leash, or the wreckage of Engine 21 of the Fire Department of New York?
Each story brought goose bumps or tears, and often both. The professionalism of the flight attendants on the planes and the emergency responders on the ground, the many expressions of compassion and generosity during the tragedy and in its aftermath are unforgettable reminders of the prevailing goodness in humanity. If you are unable to visit the Museum in person, this book is the next best way to witness that.
by Brian Visser on June 16th, 2014
Console Wars by Blake J. Harris is a narrative account of the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo, the two video game behemoths of the nineties. The book mainly focuses on the meteoric rise of Sega and the man behind it: Tom Kalinske. Tom became the CEO of Sega of America in the late eighties, and turned Sega and its 16-bit console the Genesis from underdogs to market leaders. Console Wars details how he pulled this off. The history of Nintendo is also delved into, but, for the most part, they’re portrayed as the enemy. As someone who owned a Genesis, I was surprised and interested in the inner workings of the video game industry. I highly recommend Console Wars to gamers and anyone who grew up during the nineties.
by Kara Logsden on June 9th, 2014
I discovered this wonderful book when someone described it as being similar to Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society and The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I don’t think I would compare it to those books (which I’d highly recommend) but I’m also not sure how I would describe it. Is it a love story? Is it a coming of age story? Is it a mystery? Is it a book with strong characters? Does it have a strong sense of place? I could answer yes to all of the above.
A quick look at the subject headings reveals these entries:
Indeed, this is a book about all of these things. But it is also so much more. A.J. Fikry owns a book store and he loves books. He’s not just any bookseller, though. He is picky, contrite, a wee bit arrogant, and has poor customer service skills. Despite all these faults, he has a passion for books. A.J. Fikry also has a capacity to love. When his life takes turns he never imagined, and A.J. Fikry finds himself in the depths of despair, his redemption is his capacity to love. And love is what makes this book so wonderful. A love for people, community, literature, and most of all, a love of family.
If you are looking for a great summer read, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is recommended.
by Anne Mangano on June 3rd, 2014
Set in Washington State during the turn of the century, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist gently unfolds the consequences of trying to make up for the past. Two teenage girls, both pregnant, appear on William Talmadge’s apricot and apple orchard looking for food. The girls remind Talmadge, a middle-aged, lonely, withdrawn man, of his sister, who disappeared as a teenager while foraging in the forest. The loss and love of his sister pushes him to provide for the girls, Della and Jane, and they take the help as long as it is provided from a distance. As Della, Jane, and Talmadge slowly become more at ease with each other and find themselves somewhat dependent on one another, armed men from the girls’ shared past show up at the orchard looking to collect the girls. Their appearance sets in motion another tragedy for William Talmadge. The majority of The Orchardist is how Talmadge, and those around him, cope with the consequences of what happens on that day.
It is a beautiful book, well-written with interesting characters. And the narration and the setting allow you to get really lost in the story–a perfect book for the start of the summer. However, if you want to start reading The Orchardist now (and you should!), I recommend reading inside. The gnats are horrible this time of year and they bite!
by Maeve Clark on May 28th, 2014
I really like to watch documentaries. Independent Lens, American Masters, POV are some of my favorite programs on PBS and the documentary track at film festivals is what I find myself not wanting to miss. I don’t know that I can even explain why I like them so much, but I do and when I watch ones that are really good, I like to talk about them. And I just watched two that were exceptional.
The first, “Twenty Feet From Stardom”, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2014. Director Morgan Neville takes us inside the world of backup singers and gives voice to those who sing behind the stars. Neville interviews backup singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Tata Vega and Lisa Fischer about what it was like to sing with artists such as Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones. The singers tell their stories through interviews and clips from five decades of recording history.
The second, “Muscle Shoals“, explores the creative genius of Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios, one of two competing recording studios, (Muscle Shoals Sound is the other), in the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals. Songs recorded at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound include “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Patches,” “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You,” “Brown Sugar,” “Kodachrome,” “Freebird,” “Mainstreet.” Hall brought black and white musicians together in the segregated south beginning in 1961. Through interviews with Hall and recording greats, first-time director Greg Camalier chronicles the sound that formed the backdrop of much of the last half-century. Camalier weaves the beauty of the region with the magic of music made in this remote southern locale.
The Iowa City Public Library has a fantastic collection of documentaries. There are documentaries that will make you laugh, some that will make you weep, others that will make you angry. “Muscle Shoals” and “Twenty Feet from Stardom” made me sing out loud.
by Melody Dworak on May 27th, 2014
True Blood fans waiting for the final season to start on June 22 have lots of other vampire works they can explore. The recent spate of popular vampire stories has a rich past, and the curious can learn all about it in How to Kill a Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film, and Fiction by Liisa Ladouceur. Read the rest of this entry »
by Maeve Clark on May 17th, 2014
The Iowa City Public Library just added a fantastic new collection to the Digital History Project. Post Cards from Early Iowa City is a collection of 94 postcards from Bob Hibbs, one of Iowa City’s citizen historians. One of my favorite postcards from the collection is from 1910 and is of Klondike Bill and his team of eight dogs and a cart in front of the Pentacrest. Why was Klondike Bill in Iowa City with a team of dogs and where were they going?
I immediately googled Klondike Bill and found several of the Iowa City cards for sale on eBay, one for $99. The next hit was to a book by Iowa City author, Lyell Henry, Was This Heaven: A Self-Portrait of Iowa on Early Postcard. Henry writes that “When Klondike Bill, a colorful transcontinental itinerant, and his dog team reached Iowa City, a photographer snapped them standing next to the University of Iowa campus.” Well that was a start. I continued my search and found other postcards of Klondike Bill in other cities. One in Ortonville, Minnesota and another at the McKinley Monument in Colorado and another in Sioux Falls, South Dakota all with his team of dogs and a cart.
The next step of my search took me to newspapers of that time period. There were many stories of Klondike Bill passing through towns on his way east, but few with specifics. One article in the Escanaba Daily Press from January 12, 1912 in what must have been a wire story, tells of Klondike Bill arriving in Chicago on January 11, 1912 “with a combination of wagon and sleigh and seven dogs traveling from Nome, Alaska to Washington, D.C., on a wager… “Klondike Bill” refused to tell much of his trip, but said he would win considerable money if he reached the capital by a certain date, and added that he was several days ahead of his schedule. Another article from the El Paso Herald from January 26, 1912 sheds more light on Klondike Bill. We see Klondike Bill with what looks to be a very unhappy dog and learn that his name was William Buchanan and that the wager was for $100,000.00, a mighty sum for 1912. Also included is a photograph of his possible fiance, Miss Rose Maegerin.
But there the trail grew cold, at least for now.
by Kara Logsden on May 15th, 2014
Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series, is set to release a standalone historical fiction novel on July 1. I had the privilege of reading an advanced reader copy. The Library has five copies on order, so place your hold soon so you will be at the front of the hold queue.
The Care and Management of Lies is set in rural England in 1914 and on the battlefields of France during World War I. Young bride, Kezia Brissenden, is left to manage the family farm as her husband (Tom) and his sister (Thea), who is Kezia’s best friend, head to fight in France. Tom feels honor-bound to serve while Thea, who was a teacher and suffragette in London, volunteered to serve as an ambulance driver in order to escape incarceration for her political work. Kezia transforms from an educated city-girl to an experienced farmer who expertly manages her land and livestock.
Winspear is an expert storyteller who captures the personal anguish and struggles with a backdrop that contrasts agrarian life with the life experienced by soldiers on the battlefront in France. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and especially enjoyed reading the commentary from Jacqueline Winspear on her webpage. I look forward to more novels from Jacqueline Winspear and the historical fiction stories she weaves.
by Kara Logsden on May 13th, 2014
Let the SUMMER begin in Downtown Iowa City! Summer of the Arts’ “Friday Night Concert Series” kicks off this Friday May 16 with The Fez.
The Fez is a 15-piece Steely Dan jazz/rock-fusion tribute band composed of many awesome local musicians. Bring your lawnchair and head Downtown to the Weatherdance Fountain Stage to enjoy summer sounds from 6:30-9:30 PM. If there’s a chance of bad weather, check the Summer of the Arts webpage for schedule and location updates.
Can’t wait until Friday night for some local music? Check out the Library’s Local Music Project at http://music.icpl.org/ or click here to listen to Fez musician Saul Lubaroff and his quartet play “Blues for Zane and Will.”
For a full Summer of the Arts schedule, navigate to: http://www.summerofthearts.org
We’ll see you Downtown this summer!
P.S. Don’t forget the Library is open until 8:00 PM on Fridays
by Candice Smith on May 6th, 2014
Cinco de Mayo has come and gone, but don’t worry, there is still reason to celebrate this week…today is National Teacher Day! The National Education Association urges folks to take the time to thank a teacher today, and I think it’s a great idea! Of course, I might be a little biased due to the fact that I am married to a teacher, but I am also wise enough to recognize that I wouldn’t be here today, with a great job and an active mind, if I hadn’t had the support of dedicated teachers through all my years of schooling (or, as my Mother is fond of saying, my many, many years of schooling). This is something to be thankful for.
I think it’s especially important now, when there is so much talk about what is wrong with the education system, and long lists of ‘schools in need of assistance,’ to remember what our individual teachers do. They put in a great deal of effort to provide students with life skills and reasoning capabilities, and they prepare their students to go out into the world. It can be a stressful and very time-consuming job, but teachers keep teaching because they find value in it, and because they care.
I think many people who go into teaching do it because they had a teacher who made a great impact in their life. Maybe there is a teacher in your past who made a difference, or maybe your child has a teacher right now who does their job really well…thank them if you can!
If you want to take a look at what some of our teachers are doing in their classrooms to make a difference, check out American Teacher: Heroes In the Classroom. It’s a beautiful book, and very inspiring.