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

'Rabbit' is dead: John Updike, age 76, succumbs to lung cancer

The Associated Press reports that John Updike, the American novelist, poet and critic, died today, according to a statement released by his publisher. He was the author of more than 60 books, for decades a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Inauguration Day - Past and Present

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Since George Washington's inauguration in 1789, the transfer of presidential power has become an American tradition. If the upcoming festivities have you curious about this time-honored ceremony, check out Presidential inaugurations for a light, yet concise, history of each president and their beginnings. (This book is great for fans of presidential trivia) The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th president, will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln with the theme "A New Birth of Freedom". For related historical information check out Lincoln's greatest speech : the second inaugural from the AADL's collection. Visit Barack Obama's official inauguration website if you seek more information about Tuesday's upcoming events. If you find yourself wanting to relive history, Bartleby.com has the full text of ALL Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States from George Washington to George W. Bush. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."

January Movies

Bio pic Defiance is based on the true story of the Bielski brothers. After fleeing occupied Poland, they holed up in a forest in Belarus where they managed against terrific odds to create a coherent community which continued to fight the Nazis. Read Nechama Tec's Defiance: The Bielski Partisans (1993).

There is still time to catch the Golden Globes Award for Best Picture of the Year Slumdog Millionaire.

Part Dickensian drama, part romance and part life-affirming fantasy, this indie release follows an 18-year-old orphan as he recalls the experiences that took him from the slums of Mumbai to being just one question away from winning India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” --- all for the love of a girl.

The Spirit is adapted from the graphic novels The Spirit Series by Will Eisner.

It tells the story of a rookie cop who comes back from the dead to protect the city he loves and the many women he loves more.

To Build an Igloo

With some of the winter storms that have gone through the area this season you could almost mistake the view outside as an arctic landscape. One thing that may be missing is the traditional shelter of an igloo. Luckily this Canadian documentary will show you how one is built.

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