Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is one of the best books I have read this past year. Although a little over a year old now, it is well worth spotlighting. The title was a National Book Award Nominee for non-fiction in 2010.

The country of North Korea, sometimes called “The Hermit Kingdom”, seems like another world. When journalists are allowed access into the country, they are only shown what the government wants them to see, not the real problems of the failed communist regime. The reality for most citizens is that there is little food, little to no electricity and little knowledge of the "outside world." Journalist Barbara Demick knew she was not going to get a real story from visiting North Korea, and instead interviewed six North Korean defectors that risked arrest and imprisonment to leave. Their stories are amazing and also heartbreaking. They are survivors. Told in a narrative style, what makes the book so captivating is that you are enveloped in the detail of “everyday lives” – stories that the North Korean government would rather not have you hear. Highly recommended. You can also click here to listen to Demick's original interview on NPR.

Take Part in Art -- Marvelous Masks

image by C. P. Storm, Flickr.comimage by C. P. Storm,
From masquerade balls to dramatic performances, from exuberant carnivals to solemn ceremonies, people all over the world love wearing masks. Why are masks so popular? Maybe because wearing a mask lets us transform ourselves into anything we can imagine!

If you love masks, you can come to the art table in the downtown youth department to make some with us. Or you can join in at home:

Niño’s Mask – A young boy is told that he is too young to wear a mask in his village carnival. Won’t everyone be surprised when he makes a mask and becomes el perro – the dog – all by himself!
Behind the Mask – Kimin wonders what to wear for Halloween. When he discovers a mysterious mask among his grandfather’s things, he learns more about his own past.
The Art of African Masks – Discover how different cultures make and use masks in Africa.

Masks – Make masks from all over the world! has tons of ideas for making masks from egg cartons, plastic jugs, paper plates and all sorts of other stuff!
At PBS you can learn more about African masks, or you can make your own!

Try a mask today – they work for superheroes and luchadores, so you know they've gotta be good.

It's Go Time!

by hatdow, Flickr.comby hatdow,
Time to play the ancient strategy game, that is! Saturday February 5, 2011 from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm at Traverwood Branch, Michael Zhang of the University of Michigan Go Club and his super-crew will offer an introduction to Go -- at the same time the simplest and the most complex game of strategy on Earth.

As Iwamoto Kaoru -- a 9-dan professional Go player -- said "Go uses the most elemental materials and concepts -- line and circle, wood and stone, black and white -- combining them with simple rules to generate subtle strategies and complex tactics that stagger the imagination." Need I say more?

If you're interested in learning more about Go before coming to play it with us, check out Go by Charles Matthews, Go Basics by Peter Shotwell, or, perhaps the most entertaining introduction, Hikaru no Go -- a manga series about a young teen haunted by the ghost of a Go master.

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet


Eaarth? That is not a typo. That is the name Bill McKibben proposes for the planet we are living on now, which is somewhat familiar, but mostly quite different from the one we have inhabited for the previous 10,000 years of civilization. It’s a whole new world, in other words, where massive change is underway and where new rules of behavior need to be learned.

McKibben is a devoted spokesman for the planet, whichever way you spell it. A long-time environmental activist and a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College in Vermont, his message is terrifying and hopeful at the same time, if that is possible. He doesn’t gloss over the central theme of the book: we have made a mess of things and we have to wake up and do things differently. Now. Yesterday. There is no time left to equivocate. He desperately wants to rock the foundations of our complacency and inspire us with a way we can maintain our home “lightly, carefully, gracefully”.

Barbara Kingsolver’s advice about Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet: “What I have to say about this book is very simple: Read it, please... Whatever else you were planning to do next, nothing could be more important.” I agree.

Literacy Series -- Multicultural Literacy

by neokainpak, Flickr.comby neokainpak,

"Multicultural literacy" means an understanding of the similarities and differences between cultures, along with the understanding that one's values, customs and beliefs are influenced by one's own culture. The U. S. has been a multicultural nation since its birth. With cultural and ethnic diversity projected to rise over the next 50 years, and technology and business increasingly connecting the U. S. to other countries, now is the time for young people to become culturally literate!

Fortunately, reading can be a great way to explore the world through the eyes of people who are very different from you. Here are some suggestions for multicultural reading:

1. Read books in other languages (if you can!) -- check out our World Language collection. Of course, if you don't already speak another language, you can learn one!

2. Read books about other countries.

3. Read folktales from other cultures -- you can learn a lot about another culture from their folklore. And folktales are fun to read!

4. Read about America's immigrants -- Try the World Book of America's Multicultural Heritage to learn the long history and contributions of immigrants in America.

Multicultural books for young readers:
Check out "Books With a View", a list of books for children and young adults featuring characters from around the world.
Across Cultures: A Guide to Multicultural Literature for Children
Breaking Boundaries With Global Literature
Crossing Boundaries With Children's Books
The New Press Guide to Multicultural Resources for Young Readers
The World Through Children's Books

Multicultural Resources for Parents:
Multicultural Manners
A Parents' and Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism
Raising the Rainbow Generation


Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand is the story of a young man named Bakha, an “Untouchable”. As an Untouchable, Bakha is of the lowest caste in Indian society and works as a sweeper and latrine cleaner. But Bakha longs for a life free from the daily abuses inflicted by the higher classes. He must walk down the street announcing his presence because he cannot touch – by accident or no – a member of the higher classes, for they shall be “polluted.” He may not enter a temple or a school, for the building shall then be polluted as well. Bakha endures insults such as “pig” and “filth” day to day, and he and his family live in utter poverty. There seems to be no end in sight, but there is a glimmer of hope in one man might inspire change in India. A beautiful book.

Untouchable, a work of historical fiction, was first published in 1935, during the British Raj (reign) before the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Today, many Untouchables are now self-described as “Dalits”, and integrate less noticeably into urban areas, having more employment and education opportunities. Although the Indian Constitution outlaws caste discrimination, in rural areas, some discrimination still survives. The following are some non-fiction titles relating to India and the caste system in history:

Untouchables: One Family's Triumphant Journey Out Of The Caste System In Modern India

Caste: At Home In Hindu India

The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives In The Victorian Raj

The Hindus : : An Alternative History

Norwegian cartoonist Kim Holm Discusses Comics Publishing in the New Media Century

Kim HolmKim Holm

Join us Monday, November 22 from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm at the Malletts Creek Branch for a fresh view on the debate over the future of copyright during this interactive discussion with Norwegian cartoonist Kim Holm. Does copyright law ensure innovation and personal creativity, or does it steal from the public domain? While digital piracy is claimed to be an inevitability by some and a threat to capitalism by others, Kim has embraced the distribution methods used by pirates to broaden his audience. He has explored publishing models that altogether eschew the use of copyright, releasing his work into the public domain as a digital edition while simultaneously selling print editions on his website. During this presentation Kim will raise some provocative counter-arguments to commonly-held beliefs about current copyright law, exploring some of the ways it may be improved, if not discarded altogether.

Pack Your Bags! Book Lust To Go

Nancy Pearl, America's "rock star librarian", is at it again with a brand new collection of recommended reading. This time she takes us global with both fiction and non-fiction books relating to more than 120 destinations around the world. Book Lust To Go : Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers offers an incredible selection of reader's advisory, covering too many locations to list in this small blog: Albania, Botswana, Corfu, Detroit, Ethiopia, Finland, the Galapagos, Hawaii...I could go through the entire alphabet several times. Whether you're prepping for a vacation or looking for an armchair adventure, this wealth of reading ideas will send you on your journey. Not familiar with the cult of Nancy Pearl? Visit her website, take a peek at her action figure (yes, action figure!), listen to her recent NPR interview about Book Lust to Go, or check out some of her other books offered here at the AADL. Bon Voyage!

Médecins Sans Frontières

msf in haitimsf in haitiWhat would you do if your child was on the edge of death and you had no way to contact a doctor? What would you do if a natural disaster or war had left you and your neighbors injured and homeless?

Médecins Sans Frontières (known in the U.S. as Doctors Without Borders) is an international medical humanitarian organization devoted to supporting and aiding people in lands crippled by poverty, violence or catastrophic events. They have brought medical aid and public health services to places such as Rwanda, Kosovo, the Congo region, and Haiti. MSF was created in 1971 and has been saving lives all around the world ever since.

Dr. James Orbinski is a well known humanitarian activist and a former President of MSF. He accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize on the organization’s behalf. His book, An Imperfect Offering, recounts his experiences in Somalia and Rwanda, while asking tough questions about one's responsibilities to the suffering. Triage is a documentary that follows Dr. Orbinski as he returns to Africa. This powerful film questions the ability of one individual to effect change in the face of political forces we cannot control. Triage “celebrates the best in the human spirit while staring unblinkingly at the worst.”

For several perspectives of what it is like to enter a crisis zone to save lives, see Writing On The Edge: Great Contemporary Writers On The Front Line Of Crisis, a collection of essays from 14 different authors.

The Photographer is an award winning account of one man’s journey into Afghanistan with MSF during its war with the Soviet Union. This moving graphic novel uses photographs taken during the journey to help the reader understand the mental and emotional pressures felt by the author.

Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders is a recently released Oscar-nominated documentary focusing not on the work of MSF, but on the lives of doctors and volunteers who have chosen to live in the most dangerous places on Earth and devote themselves to helping the needy. The film has not been released on DVD yet, but I look forward to seeing it in AADL’s collection soon.

German Park is This Saturday, July 31st!

If you want some real German food traditional German music and dancing and to relax with friends or family outside, then German Park is the place for you! I attended my second German Park last month and had a lot of fun. There is plenty of space with picnic tables and shade. The food is deliscious from the Spätzle to the German potato salad, sauerkraut to the sausages.

If you can't get enough German food, here are a few cookbooks here at the library to get you started. Culinaria Germany , The German Cookbook; A Complete Guide To Mastering Authentic German Cooking, Recipes Of The Old German Restaurant : And Other Traditional German Recipes.

Do you want more German folk music? The library has that too! Here are Songs for Oktober Fest and Folksongs from Bavaria to get you started.

German park is the last Saturday of June, July and August. The remaining dates for 2010 are Saturday July 31st and Saturday August 28th. For hours, directions and prices please see the The German Park Website.

German ParkGerman Park

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