Happy Birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama!

Today, July 6, Tibetans around the world are celebrating the 75th birthday of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet. Born in 1935, he was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. As the world's foremost Buddhist leader, he is the author of numerous books including The Art of Happiness : A Handbook for Living, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths : How the World's Religions Can Come Together, and An Open Heart : Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life. Those not familiar with this amazing man should check out Freedom In Exile : The Autobiography Of The Dalai Lama or watch Dalai Lama: The Soul Of Tibet. For a look at the culture behind the man, check out Dalai Lama, My Son : A Mother's Story which provides an honest, and often unsettling, look into the life of his late mother, Diki Tsering, and the harsh reality of Tibetan life.

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AADL Screencast: Browsing World Languages

If you are interested in reading books in languages other than English, check out the Ann Arbor District Library’s World Language collection. There are books for adults and children at all branch locations with a Teen World Language collection available at the Downtown Library. Currently there are 24 languages represented from A to V (Arabic to Vietnamese) with the most recent additions in the Greek, Persian/Farsi, and Polish languages. There are fiction and non-fiction books, and even some graphic novels in various languages. If you are at our Downtown Library, the collection for adults is located on the 3rd floor, with youth and teen on the 1st floor. Below you will find a short video that explains how to locate these books in our catalog.

Thursday: Fabulous Documentary!

The remarkable Oscar award nominated documentary Encounters At The End Of The World will be screened 7-8:45 p.m. Thursday at the downtown library. Directed by Werner Herzog, the film reflects life in very cramped quarters of 1,000 men and women pursuing advanced science in Antarctica. This 2008 Oscar-nominated documentary is rated G for general audiences. Bring a friend and learn about science, human nature, and Antarctica.

The Best Best of Fela Kuti

Allow me a moment to expound on the music of one Fela Kuti. This is Afrobeat par excellence, with endless grooves so dank they even make the drum kit sweat. The horn section cuts harder than Louis vs. Schmeling, playing lines so funky they could make Maceo Parker do the electric boogaloo. If James Brown had Kuti's rhythm section, he wouldn't have been the hardest working man in show business; he'd simply have laid back and worked on his head nod while they shook the worldwide tours. A caution to those throwing on a Kuti record who are afraid to dance until the sun rubs the dawn from its eyes: you might not make it through the work day. Some might say they've heard the finest in smoldering jazz/funk fusion whenever Hugh Masekela's "Grazin' in the Grass" comes on, but prepare to have this notion rectified when Fela Kuti's "Lady" drops in. Fela Kuti? Oh, indeed.

Brush Up on Your Rusty World Language

As a student of applied linguistics, I often find myself in the language learning section of our collection. Here at AADL, we have a variety of language learning tools, which employ books, CDs, DVDs, or a combination of these. I have always learned languages in the classroom or by immersion, so I was intrigued by the audio-only courses. I wondered: how well could you learn a language in your car, by yourself? I investigated with the Pimsleur courses.

I have had a fair amount of exposure to Egyptian Arabic, and that Pimsleur course was just what I needed to dust off my basic conversation skills. Every language learner is different, but I personally had less success with the Mandarin Chinese course. The reason for that, I believe, is that I have no experience whatsoever with that language. I lacked basic knowledge of the writing and sound system, which I have in Arabic. I found myself wanting more context and visual input as I listened to the Mandarin lessons. Auditory learners may have more success at learning a totally new language with this method than I did, being a visual learner.

I think anyone with at least some rudimentary knowledge of a language, however, could be successful with the Pimsleur courses. I would recommend it to anyone who needs to refresh their memory of a language once learned, and has some time to kill in the car.

Crazy Like Us, Sharing More Than Cultural Trends

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche is a book about how not only does America export modern cultural trends such as strip malls and fast food chains, but it's prevalent maladies from anxiety disorders and depression to anorexia and schizophrenia. The author Ethan Watters is an anthropologist who went to research medical trends in several countries around the world. Watters noticed the re-occurrence of anorexia in Hong Kong, schizophrenia in Zanzibar and depression in Japan. He also discusses how the treatment of these illnesses, whether experimental or otherwise, clashes with the local cultures that fall prey to these trends. Watters feels that the American medicalization of other societies threatens traditions of these cultures: "We should worry about the loss of diversity in the world's differing conceptions of treatments for mental illness in the same way we worry about the loss of biodiversity in nature."

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.

Arab American Book Award

Arab American Book AwardArab American Book Award

On November 7, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn presented the third annual Arab American Book Awards, celebrating "the publication and excellence of books that preserve and advance the understanding, knowledge, and resources of the Arab American community by celebrating the thoughts and lives of Arab Americans." This is the only award of its kind in the nation. The winning books for 2009 include:

In the fiction category, "A Map of Home" by Randa Jarrar -- presents the story of Nidali, a rebellious young woman, and her family's journey from Kuwait to Egypt, and ultimately, to Texas.

In the nonfiction category, "How Does It Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America" by Moustafa Bayoumi explores the titular question through seven real-life accounts of young Arab American New Yorkers. Honorable mention "Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation" by Saree Makdisi depicts the everyday life of the thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Finally, in the young adult category, "Honeybee", a book of poems by Naomi Shihab Nye explores themes of love and cooperation.

Get a new perspective on the world, and on the Arab American experience. Don't miss these award winners!

Persian Family Culture Celebration!

Our next world cultures in Ann Arbor family event focuses on Persia. Young families with grandparents and everyone else are welcome to dance with Pouya Entezami and the Persian Student Association. Then we will mingle and enjoy delicious cookies made by Giti Sadeghi, followed by a craft using Persian rug designs for the children and their grown-ups in the Youth Dept. It's an hour and a half of learning and fun, so please join us at the Downtown Library lower level multi-purpose room, 2-3:30 pm on Sunday, October 11.

The World in Ancient Times

Recently, the library has acquired a collection of youth non-fiction books entitled "The World in Ancient Times," which delves into the history of past cultures using archaeology: material culture, skeletal remains, as well as ancient legends and myth, and archaic texts. We have books on ancient Egyptian, South Asian, African and Middle Eastern, American, and even more cultures. These books are filled with vivid pictures and maps of past civilizations and contain some great information for homework/papers or just for fun!

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