One of History's Mysteries Solved?

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Who has been buried in Berlin’s Freidrichsfelde Cemetery all this time? Rosa Luxemburg? Not so, according to Michael Tsokos, a pathologist at Berlin’s Charite Hospital. He told Der Spiegel that an unidentified corpse found in the basement of a Berlin hospital is most likely her.

Rosa Luxemburg, a revolutionary hero to many, helped to found the Communist Party in both Poland and Germany. Highly educated with a doctorate in both law and politics, she became a Marxist who advocated for violent revolution to achieve socialism in Germany. She fought against more moderate factions that thought their aims could be achieved through trade union activities and political action.

Spring Books to Movies

The Soloist is based on The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music - an emotionally soaring drama in which Journalist Steve Lopez discovers Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a former classical music prodigy, playing his violin on the streets of L.A. As Lopez endeavors to help the homeless man find his way back, a unique friendship is formed, one that transforms both their lives.

Published in 1995, Bret Easton Ellis' The Informers is "a collection of loosely connected short stories that captures a week in L.A. in 1983, featuring movie executives, rock stars, a vampire and other morally challenged characters in adventures laced with sex, drugs and violence", now adapted as a major motion picture. Read more about Ellis and his interview about the movie.

Directed by Ron Howard, the much anticipation Angels & Demons will be in theaters on May 15th. Based on Dan Brown’s (2000) novel, Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard religious expert Robert Langdon (in The Da Vinci Code) who finds that the Illuminati -- the most powerful underground organization with ancient roots is willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance its goals.

The Times of Harvey Milk

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Sean Penn’s Oscar winning performance as Harvey Milk in last year’s Milk is phenomenal. He truly captured the spirit of the late Harvey Milk. Milk, AKA The Mayor of Castro Street, was the first openly gay man elected to public office and he became an inspiration for many. He was later assasinated by Dan White in a truly high profile case for that time. The film chronicles how Milk got into politics and tells the story of what eventually became of him.

To see more on the story, and see the real Harvey Milk in action, I highly recommend the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, which originally aired in 1984 and won an Oscar for Best Documentary. Finally, for some page turning biography action, check out The Harvey Milk Story.

Happy Birthday Marvin Gaye!

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Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., better known as Motown legend Marvin Gaye, was born April 2, 1939. Celebrate this singer/songwriter's birthday by checking out some of his music from the AADL. Try Blue Velvet: The Ultimate Collection by his early R&B band The Moonglows, or pick up some of his solo classics like the 1971 release What's Going On, his 1973 release Let's Get It On, Love Songs, or the Marvin Gaye Concert Anthology.
To learn more about this Grammy winning musician and his tragic personal life, check out the biography Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye, Trouble Man: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye, or What's Going On? : Marvin Gaye and the Last Days of the Motown Sound. Many Marvin Gaye fans also recommend reading Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, which isn't terribly well-written, but is largely based on interviews for a projected autobiography that was cancelled after Gaye's death in 1984.

Invisible Wall

At the age of 93, Harry Bernstein started writing a book about his childhood in a mill town in Northern England, where an "Invisible Wall " seemed to separate the Jewish and Christian families. At the age of 96, Invisible Wall: a Love Story that Broke Barriers was published and filled with the memories of Harry's absent alcoholic father, hardworking loving mother, characters from both the Christian and Jewish side of the street, and of course the forbidden romance between his older sister Lily and a Christian boy, Arthur, that lived on the other side of the "wall". Berstein describes the neighborhood with vivid recollection and makes you feel as if you are walking the cobblestone roads with him. If you read and enjoy this book, you might try Bernstein's later memoir The Dream centering around his family's journey to America when he was 12.

Happy Birthday Diane Arbus!

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March 14, 1923 was the birthday of one of my favorite photographers, Diane Arbus. Born in New York City, she ran a fashion photography studio with her husband for many years before starting the work which she is best known for - portraits of people outside of the mainstream, often on the fringes of society (think families, giants, creepy socialites, circus freaks, and normal people in unusual and/or disturbing situations). Here at the AADL we have several options for you to investigate the world of Diane Arbus. Check out Diane Arbus:Revelations for a hefty retrospective of her work. You can also try Untitled/Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus:Family Albums, Diane Arbus or Hubert's Freaks:the rare-book dealer, the Times Square talker, and the lost photos of Diane Arbus for a glimpse into her offbeat photography.
For a fictional account of Diane Arbus, check out the DVD Fur:An imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus, which stars Nicole Kidman as Arbus and is loosely based on Patricia Bosworth's Diane Arbus : A Biography.

Smashed

Recently, my friend literally tossed this book in my lap. Smashed is a very interesting take on the excessive drinking of middle class girls in America and how it affects their lives and futures. In this memoir, Koren Zailckas delves into the reasons and motivations behind her excessive drinking which she believes is the reason so many girls decide to drink...unhappiness. Zailckas talks about how at whatever age you start drinking, that is the age you act when you emerge from the disillusionment of drinking. When Zailckas quit drinking she felt wholly unprepared to take on the role of responsible adult because alcohol had allowed her to stay at the maturity of the 14 year old who started the habit. She also explains that while kids are taught that drugs are always dangerous, alcohol is perceived as an acceptable rite of passage. Her book reveals the dangerous truths of excessive/binge drinking and the effect it has on girls today.

If you like this book, other recommendations are Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors and also Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.

Happy Birthday Art Spiegelman!

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"Art Spiegelman... to the comics world is a Michelangelo and a Medici both, an influential artist who is also an impresario and an enabler of others." (The New York Times Magazine). Born February 15, 1948, Art Spiegelman is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus, based on his parents' survival of the Holocaust. If you have never read the Maus series, you should definitely add them to your "must read before I die" list. Spiegelman's hauntingly simple black and white drawings depict Jews as mice, Nazis as cats, Poles as pigs. If you think of graphic novels or comics as "fluff", Spiegelman's powerful work will change your mind.

Here at the AADL you can also find In the Shadow of No Towers, Spiegelman's account of life after the September 11th attacks (Spiegelman and his family bore witness to the attacks in their lower Manhattan neighborhood: his teenage daughter had started school directly below the towers days earlier, and they had lived in the area for years). We also have many other Spiegelman works like Breakdowns : Portrait of The Artist as a Young %@&*!, and the offbeat Little Lit : It Was a Dark and Silly Night for children, featuring comics by Lemony Snicket, William Joyce, and Neil Gaiman, to name just a few.

Happy Birthday Alice Walker!

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Happy Birthday to one of my favorite writers, Alice Walker. Born February 9, 1944, she is best known as the author of The Color Purple, which won her a Pulitzer Prize. A self-proclaimed "womanist", she is politically active in several different areas that often surface in her work: civil rights, the anti-nuclear movement, the environment, the women’s movement, and the movement to protect indigenous peoples. Her fight to end female circumcision in Africa is discussed in Warrior Marks : Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women, as well two of her fictional works The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing the Secret of Joy. Walker was the editor of I love myself when I am laughing ... and then again when I am looking mean and impressive : a Zora Neale Hurston reader and was instrumental in bringing Hurston's work back into print. She has published an impressive amount of her own work as well, including novels, short story collections, poetry, children's books, essays, and autobiographical reflections. Click here to watch Alice Walker share a poem she wrote to mark the inauguration of Barack Obama, and to see her speak with legendary 93-year-old civil rights activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs.

Happy Birthday Langston Hughes!

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Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902. He traveled all over the world - to Europe, Africa, Mexico, the USSR - but his heart and home were in Harlem, where he was one of the most versatile writers of the artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Known primarily as a poet, Hughes also wrote plays, essays, novels, short stories, and books for children. Check out the AADL's large collection of Langston Hughes materials and enjoy his rich, vibrant portrayal of black American culture.

With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man's soul.
O Blues!
- from "The Weary Blues", Langston Hughes, 1926

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