The Rivalry: Lincoln vs. Douglas

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois are among the most famous in U.S. history. In listening to Norman Corwin’s The Rivalry take a front row seat as challenger Abraham Lincoln and incumbent Senator Stephen A. Douglas debate some of the time’s most controversial topics including slavery and the American concept of freedom. Douglas’ young wife, Adele will be your guide from debate to debate providing a sense of who is gaining the upper hand in this fierce rivalry.

L.A. Theatre Works offers this recording directed by Academy Award-winner Eric Simonson. It stars David Strathairn as Abraham Lincoln and Paul Giamatti as Stephen A. Douglas.

Haiti: Learning Beyond the Tragedy

On January 12 Haiti was struck by a powerful and devastating earthquake. It is the latest blow to a country that has long struggled, and its aftershocks will continue reach far across space and time. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television news have been vigilant in keeping us updated on this tragedy. By now most of us know that basic story, but how much do you know about Haitian culture and society?

Did you know that Haiti's ancestors were the first slave society to emancipate themselves? As a result of their revolution, Haiti was established: the first republic in the New World ruled by people of African descent. If you're interested in brushing up on Haiti's harrowing but inspiring history, I would recommend checking out Avengers of the New World: the Story of the Haitian Revolution by Laurent Dubois and The Black Jacobins : Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C.L.R. James. In these excellent books, you will find the historical roots of Haitian society and politics of today.

Haitian Vodou, often misrepresented, is a well-known thread in our cultural fabric. Popular culture has teased out an arguably perverse caricature from the Afro-Caribbean tradition, convenient for children's cartoons and hundreds of zombie movies. (That's not to say Zombie movies aren't totally entertaining; check out the classic I Walked With a Zombie. If nothing else, it is a revealing peek at American culture, circa 1943.) But what is the true nature of Vodou, or Voodoo, as it is more commonly called? Zora Neale Hurston's good research in this field is enhanced by her beautiful writing; see "Tell My Horse," which is in Folklore, Memoirs and Other Writings by Hurston. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown is not owned by AADL, but it is warm, enlightening and one of my favorites. You can get it through MEL. If you're feeling a little less ambitious, you can take a look at a cool DVD that we do have, Divine Horsemen, a ground-breaking (at the time) documentary about Vodou ritual.

On the lighter side, I would recommend Putomayo Presents: French Caribbean, which features music from the French-speaking islands of Guadeloupe, Haiti and Martinique. Putomayo can be counted on to put out a good mix, and this album holds true.

I am amazed by the extent to which people are getting involved in the Crisis in Haiti. Americans have broken records by contributing over $500 million to the relief effort in Haiti. Incredible, right? This is a practical, tangible way to get involved. Another important way to honor Haiti is by learning more about its rich culture and history. You can find the tools to do so here at the AADL.

A History of the Bible from Ancient Papyri to King James

14th C. CE Greek Bible Service book14th C. CE Greek Bible Service book The Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan is presenting the written history of the Bible, A History of the Bible from Ancient Papyri to King James. This exhibit includes ancient Egyptian manuscripts on papyrus, Medieval manuscripts, and early printed versions such as the 1611 King James Bible.

The exhibit is located on the first floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library, in the Audubon Room. It will run until March 31. The hours are Mon-Fri 8:30am-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 1-7pm; with shorter spring break hours beginning 2-27.

UM Library Audubon Room.

Additionally, on February 21, at 2PM, join curator Kathryn Beam, who has for two decades presented the Bible exhibit, for a talk about the history of the exhibit and her personal experiences preparing and presenting it each year.

This talk will be at the Hatcher Graduate Library, Room 100, the Gallery.

Italian Holiday?

Ever dream of going to Italy? Can't afford it? Using the library is a great alternative!

First, you can experience the sights through art books in our collection. The works of greats such as Botticelli, Bernini, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio will transport you into the culture of Italy. However, if you wanted something a little closer to the real experience, you could try this book of paintings within the Uffizi. It's basically a tour in itself!

If you want to feel like you're actually walking the streets of Italy, try a book on the architecture of Brunelleschi, the famous creator of Florence's Il Duomo, or maybe something a little broader.

Perhaps you're anxious to taste some real Italian food? Unfortunately, you'll have to cook it yourself. But books on Italian Cooking will be able to make that a bit easier for you.

In order to hear Italy, you can try your hand at speaking it yourself. With our fantastic Italian language-learning collection, you'll be able to go from a beginner's lesson, to something more advanced. Although, if you tired yourself out with all that cooking, you might just like to listen to some opera.

If you're really into this whole plan, maybe you want to get some more background? There are tons of Italian history books. There are also biographies on key figures, such as Caesar, Lucrezia Borgia, Savonarola, Garibaldi, Mussolini, and the well-known Medici family.

Maybe all of these books are too much for you, and you really need a break? Well, luckily, AADL also carries movies. Something lighthearted, like Roman Holiday might help you through your journey. Or, if you'd like something a little more thrilling, perhaps The Talented Mr. Ripley? We even have films in Italian, like La Dolce Vita!

It may not be exactly the same as climbing the Spanish Steps, but it's as close as you can get without actually going! But, if you ever decide to go, don't forget your travel book.

Michigan's Fascinating Past

It took the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 for New Yorkers and others to start moving to Michigan Territory big-time. The peninsula then filled up so quickly that Michigan statehood was achieved in 1837. Over next hundred years, endeavors like timber, mining, shipping, farming, fishing, automobiles, music and education grew apace. Learn about the people and the place that accomplished all this at 2:00 on Sun., Jan. 24 at Malletts Creek Branch, as UM-Dearborn historian Martin Hershock recounts many exciting stories from Michigan's early years.

Youth Nonfiction Finds -- Special Edition: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

MLKMLK

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day when we should look forward and backward -- backward into history to appreciate how far we have come as a country and the hard work of those who brought us here, and forward to the challenges we still have to face in order to bring about true equality. Here are some good books to help you get a good understanding of the history of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.:

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.? provides a concise biography of its titular subject and background on the issues underlying the Civil Rights Movement, such as Jim Crow Laws and the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision. My Brother Martin, written by Christine King Farris, tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood, for a more human picture of the great man. Did you know that he was quite the prankster as a child? I Have a Dream presents Dr. King's famous speech in manageable bites, accompanied by evocative illustrations.

For those who want to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement itself, Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round presents a very understandable, illustrated history of the major events of the movement. A Dream of Freedom provides a more in-depth look at the issues, from Emancipation to the Black Panther Party. In Freedom's Children activists like Claudette Colvin and Ruby Bridges share their experiences of growing up during those tumultuous times. Finally, The Civil Rights Movement for Kids combines history with activities, like skits, songs, speeches and even recipes, to really bring history home.

The Sword of Orion

SwordSwordIn honor of the upcoming Great Lakes Shipwrecks event, I'm reminded of a maritime disaster referred to in one of my favorite television shows, Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night. In episode 18, Jeremy struggles with the breakup of his family by obsessively researching the literal break up of the Sword of Orion.

The yacht was one of several boats to experience tragedy during the 1998 Sydney-to-Hobart race. 115 Boats began that race, five sank, and six crew were lost. Only 44 boats finished. You can read about it in the detailed and suspenseful book The Proving Ground.

One imagines the Sword of Orion's original owner was paying that useful constellation its due in naming the boat. The AADL offers several books on celestial navigation; it's never too early in the season to learn how to find your way home!

Intriguingly Factual Reads on the Hot- and Blue-Blooded

These are not your high school history teacher's textbooks.

Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics, and its male consort Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge, are both written by a namesake descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor Herman.

In these two luscious books, Herman outlines the auspicious--and more often ominous--adulteries of European royalty, from the middle ages up until the modern Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

As you might expect, they cover many subjects not often touched by history teachers. But, probably for that reason, they are entertaining while still being factually correct. Perhaps a guilty pleasure to read, you will nevertheless be assured that they are not simply fabricated for your enjoyment.

The two books offer intriguing insight into the act of adultery among nobility--its origins and outcomes--with a pinch of feminism and a heaping spoonful of wit. Herman explains not only political and social risings among the mistresses and lovers of kings and queens, but also the fashions and foods inspired by them. They cover nearly all of Europe, from Britain and France to the cold reaches of Russia, and they span from five to nine decades.

She also offers a book on a papal puppetry by a woman, called Mistress Of The Vatican: the True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini, the Secret Female Pope, which Publisher's Weekly called "a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading."

If you're looking for a painstakingly-researched read that delves into social and political history, but don't want to be reading yourself to sleep, take a look at these.

The Original Green Machines: Electric Trolleys of Washtenaw County

trolleytrolley

In the 1890s, electric mass transportation flourished in Washtenaw County, yet suddenly became extinct after only a few decades. What made this mode of transportation so popular and why did it die so quickly? Find out when authors H. Mark Hildebrandt and Martha Churchill join us to discuss their new book, 'Electric Trolleys of Washtenaw County' on Wed. Dec. 2nd, 7 p.m., at the Downtown Library. This event will include a book signing and books will be on sale courtesy of Nicola's Books.

The Rape of Europa

Amidst the destruction of World War II was the further devastating loss of much of Europe’s great art and architecture. The fascinating 2007 film, The Rape of Europa, tells this story based on the book of the same title by author Lynn Nicholas. Nicholas spent ten years in Belgium researching what would become a best-selling book in 1994, and the film examines the newest issues and later research since its publication.

The German Nazi party is now believed to have stolen one-fifth of Europe’s treasures during WWII. Although much was recovered by the Allies, a large amount remains missing, damaged beyond repair, or in need of restoration work that is still continuing today. Pillage and looting during war was certainly not something new before WWII, but it seems to be the systematic methods involved during WWII that made the crimes so horrific. It was a highly organized operation that not only allowed Hitler's Germany to amass a wealth of art by theft, but also involved the complete destruction of historic landmarks - such as the Royal Castle of Warsaw - to further dehumanize other cultures. The Rape of Europa is a worthwhile documentary about a subject I knew little of beforehand and was glad I took the time to watch. I highly recommend.

Syndicate content