Alison Bechdel's Bittersweet Biography

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, is one of the most poignant and touching memoirs I have ever read. Her autobiographical graphic novel centers on her relationship to her father, the discovery of his homosexuality (and her own), and his death. The name of the book refers to the family home, a funeral home run by Bechdel’s father, Bruce. Bechdel spent seven years writing and illustrating Fun Home and it's packed with detail, allusions, and pop culture references. The novel pulls off the difficult feat of being simultaneously a quick and easy read and a complexly layered piece of literature. Fun Home was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, in the Autobiography/Memoir category, and won the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work.

Alison Bechdel is also the author of the popular comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

Happy Birthday Earl S. Tupper!

earl tupperearl tupper

American manufacturer Earl S. Tupper, inventor of Tupperware, was born July 28, 1907 in New Hampshire. In the 1930's, Tupper invented a flexible, lightweight material that was used to make plastic gas masks during World War II. He then turned his attention to consumer products and created Tupperware - a line of plastic, airtight food storage containers. Sales languished in stores until it was discovered that home demonstrations better proved the value of the product, and thus, the Tupperware Party was born. It has since become a global institution in more than 100 countries. Find out the history behind the Tupperware empire by checking out Tupperware : The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America by Alison J. Clarke or by watching the PBS home video Tupperware!, which offers an interesting look at the quirky, and often bizarre, history of this household name.

Le Photographe (The Photographer)

The French graphic novel Le Photographe (The Photographer) by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, and Frederic Lemercier has finally been published in the U.S. by First Second with translation by Alexis Siegel. It is the late photographer, Didier Lefevre's, story of his travels with Medecines Sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) to Afghanistan in 1986. Guibert incorporates Lefevre's photos (he went through some 4000 taken in the 2 months he was there) as well as his own artwork to tell the harrowing story of which Lefevre barely survived. More importantly the novel is about the daily life of the people of Afghanistan who face disease, famine, brutal weather and of course the brutality of war. The courage of the MSF when going into war ravaged areas to perform major surgery or having to ask the Russian doctors for assistance for instance is a big part of this story. All in all an incredibly gripping story with the photos and artwork only adding to the intensity of each scene. Guibert is a well-known French artist. His Alan's War (also just recently published in the U.S.) is an Eisner nominee for best new graphic novel and yet another excellent biography.

Happy Birthday Yul Brynner!

yul brynneryul brynner

I will always have a crush on the exotic actor Yul Brynner. Help celebrate his birthday, July 11, 1920, by checking out some of his classic movies from the AADL. Watch the musical The King and I (1956) to see his portrayal of King Mongkut of Siam, for which he won an Academy Award as Best Actor. Watch the epic Cecil B. DeMille film The Ten Commandments (1956) to see Brynner as a sexy Pharaoh Ramses II. Check out Anastasia (1956) for Brynner starring with Ingrid Bergman. See Yul Brynner as a gunslinger in the western The Magnificent Seven (1960), or check out one of our other Yul Brynner selections including Taras Bulba (1962), Morituri (1965), Cast A Giant Shadow (1966), Villa Rides! (1968), or Westworld (1973). For more information on this legendary actor and his family, grab a copy of his son Rock's book Empire & Odyssey : The Brynners in Far East Russia and Beyond.

Hidden Gems: Books Unjustly Dusty #1

rembrandt's sea of galileerembrandt's sea of galilee

Four books with a nautical theme in the AADL Catalog are calling out for attention.

Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper by Peter Hill is a well-written account of his time in the 1970s as a lightkeeper on the west coast of Scotland. Spending time alone to contemplate life and in close quarters with an older generation of lightkeepers that can only be described as "salty" makes for some memorable stories. Strange, but everyone was obsessed with the Watergate Hearings and migrating birds.

Cherish the Sea: A History of Sail by Jean de la Varende, a history of sailing beginning with the Egyptians up to the clipper ships, is beautifully illustrated by the author. Translated from the French by Mervyn Savill, it is obviously a work of love that took many years to complete.

She Captains: Heroines & Hellions of the Sea by Joan Druett is a fun read about Grace O'Malley, the Irish pirate queen of the 16th century, Caribbean buccaneers Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and Cheng I Sao, a woman who organized a confederacy of pirates that controlled the China Sea in the 19th century.

Before the Wind: The Memoir of an American Sea Captain 1808-1833 by Charles Tyng is a journal discovered by one of his descendants that chronicles pirates, storms, shipwrecks, mutinies, and other near-death adventures at sea.

We Remember

American CemeteryAmerican Cemetery

The 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy known as Operation Overlord is June 6th, 2009.

The sheer size of the invasion and the planning involved will astound you. If you want to learn more about D-Day and the beginning of the end for the Nazis, here are some great books and movies. All are available at the Ann Arbor District Library.

BOOKS
Decision in Normandy by Carlo D’Este (one of the best), The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (made into a great movie, too), D-Day : 6 June 1944, The Normandy Landings by Richard Collier, Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life also written by D’Este, The Americans at Normandy by John McManus, Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose and finally, Beyond Band of Brothers written by Colonel Dick Winters who led Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division.

FILMS

One of History's Mysteries Solved?

Rosa LuxemburgRosa Luxemburg

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.

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