Evicted offers an intimate view of poverty and inequality in America

Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond’s new book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City changes the way we look at poverty in our country. Desmond tells the stories of eight different families living in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee, all of whom have spent everything they have to try and keep roofs over their heads… and now they’ve fallen behind. These families are at the mercy of two landlords, one of whom owns inner city apartments, while the other runs one of Milwaukee’s worst trailer parks. Desmond paints a fascinating, complex picture of these two people in particular, and of the circumstances that lead them to evict their tenants. It’s amazing to hear the different situations that lead the families in Evicted to be kicked out of their homes. One man was a nurse who loved his job before he fell prey to a heroin addiction. Another man with no legs tries to work his way out of debt, but can’t physically do many jobs. A single mom has only $20 left a month with which to raise her two sons after she pays the rent on their decrepit apartment.

Evictions have historically been fairly rare in American cities, but they have been on the rise in the past decade, as poor families spend more than half of their already meager incomes on housing. Little is left for other necessities, especially when families are large. Desmond’s intimate, behind-the-scenes view into this issue (he spent months amongst the poor families of Milwaukee) presents readers head-on with the inequality that exists in America today.

You can read Desmond’s recent article from The New Yorker, which discusses the same issue as Evicted, here. Desmond is also the author of On the Fireline, an in depth exploration into the lives of wildfire firefighters.

Join the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues

If you are an advocate for equal opportunity for people with physical, mental, and/or emotional disabilities you may want to serve as a commissioner on the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues. Public meetings are held at City Hall on the third Wednesday of every month starting at 3:15pm. Meetings are open to the public and can also be viewed on Community Television Network (CTN)-Comcast Cable Channel 16. You can also view CTN videos On Demand by going to a2gov.org.

If you would like an application to apply for a seat on the Commission contact the Mayor’s Office 734-794-6161 or visit our Resource Page. If you desire more information about being a commissioner e-mail us at a2disabilityissues@gmail.com

A new collection of essays from Marilynne Robinson: The Givenness Of Things

Marilynne Robinson is known for her award-winning series of Iowa-set novels Gilead, Home and Lila, which are underpinned by questions of religion and faith. In her latest collection of essays, which follows her 2012 collection When I Was a Child I Read Books, Robinson dives fully into intellectual and moral queries.

Titled The Givenness of Things, the themes of this philosophical collection are diverse. Robinson discusses neuroscience and metaphysics, and analyzes the affect of the Reformation on how humans learn. She also makes clear her disillusionment with contemporary society, yet cautions readers and humans in general not to give in to “joyless urgency.” Her deep love and reverence for humanity, and for what we as humans can produce and create, permeates her writing. The essays in this collection total seventeen in number, many of which investigate and reference the work of philosophers of old: Calvin, Locke, and Shakespeare to name a few. Robinson manages to weave political opinion into these pieces too, denouncing “unashamed racism,” “incarceration for profit,” and gun violence, along with “cynicism and vulgarism.” Despite the vast array of subjects touched on in this collection, it flows naturally and well from one essay to the next, and Robinson’s strong voice is clear, composed and slightly witty for all three hundred pages. Booklist gives The Givenness of Things a starred review, commenting “These… profoundly caring essays lead us into the richest dimensions of consciousness and conscience, theology and mystery, responsibility and reverence.”

Always Lost: A Meditation on War

Now through February 24, 2016 -- Downtown Library: 3rd Floor Exhibit

In 2008, Western Nevada College (WNC) sociology Professor Don Carlson was stopped in his tracks by The New York Times’ Roster of the Dead. “Four thousand faces of American military who had perished in Iraq stared at me,” he said, “and I realized that this war has been perhaps one of the most impersonal wars the U.S. has ever fought.” Carlson and English Professor Marilee Swirczek envisioned a literary and visual arts exhibition to personalize Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Kevin Burns, Major, USMC (Ret.) titled the exhibition Always Lost: A Meditation on War from an observation by American writer Gertrude Stein: “War is never fatal but always lost. Always lost.”

The heart of Always Lost is the Wall of the Dead: individual photographs with names of the more than 6,870 U.S. military war casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. The Always Lost project team is committed to keeping the Wall of the Dead current in honor of those who gave their lives and those who made it home.

Included in the exhibition, courtesy of The Dallas Morning News, is the 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of Iraq War combat photographs (Breaking News Photography) by photojournalists David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer, embedded with Marine units in Iraq in 2003. Accompanying each combat photograph is original literary work by WNC creative writers, veterans and their family members, and others from the Nevada writing community. Observations about the nature of war, from ancient philosophers to modern-day generals, offer thought-provoking meditations about the effects of war on each of us and our obligations to those who serve in harm’s way on our behalf. Interviews of WNC student veterans, representing service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, remind us of the hidden wounds of war. Army SPC Noah C. Pierce, who took his life after two combat tours in Iraq, represents the tragedy of military suicides through his personal story and original poetry.

The exhibition has evolved into a powerful meditation on the effect of war on each of us. It has become a sacred space in which to contemplate the personal costs and collective sacrifice of these particular conflicts, and consequently, of all wars. Always Lost: A Meditation on War is dedicated to those who gave their lives and those who made it home.

This exhibit contains graphic images and depictions of war that some viewers may find disturbing. It is not recommended for unsupervised children and viewer discretion is advised.

Always Lost is made possible through the generosity of The National Endowment of the Arts, The Dallas Morning News, Pfizer VIP: Veterans In Pfizer, Western Nevada College, Art Works and many more.

Image Credit: Photo (left): Courtesy of The Dallas Morning News/David Leeson

NPR's Best Books of 2015

NPR recently released its Best Books of 2015 list, an in depth yearly endeavor where critics and NPR staff choose their favorite books of the year and compile them into a genre-spanning list of several hundred titles. I love that, along with the expected books on the list that are getting accolades from numerous publications and organizations, NPR’s list always contains more obscure titles that many readers likely missed over the course of the year.

You can view all of the titles from the list that we have available in our catalog here.

So what’s on this list of nearly 300 books? Here’s a preview:

In Speak, by Louisa Hall, a young Puritan woman travels to America with her unwanted husband, while in other time and place Alan Turing writes letters to his best friend’s mother and a Jewish refugee tries to reconnect with his distant wife. Elsewhere in time and space, a lonely young girl speaks with an intelligent software program and a formerly celebrated Silicon Valley entrepreneur is imprisoned for making illegal lifelike dolls. How does Hall tie all these characters together? As they all try somehow to communicate across gaps, Hall connects their stories, creating an amazing book that is a blend of historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy.

V is for Vegetables offers more than 140 simple recipes for cooking vegetables in unique and unexpected ways at home. Author and chef Michael Anthony has cleverly divided the chapters of the book by vegetable, so if you ever find yourself staring at kohlrabi or tomatillos in the grocery store, curious about how one cooks such things, this is the book for you! And even expert cooks will be refreshed by Anthony’s new ideas for ways to use common vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, carrots and squash.

The Battle of Versailles tells of a little-known event that took place at the Palace of Versailles: as a fundraiser for the restoration of the palace, the world’s elite gathered in the grand theater there for a “fashion competition” of sorts: five American designers (including Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein) faced off against five French designers considered to be the best designers in the world—Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy and others. The American clothes were expected to be a laughingstock but instead, the garments and the energy of the models who wore them wowed the crowd. By the end of the evening, American fashion in the world had transformed from a footnote to an enormous influence, not only on style itself but also on the way race, gender, sexuality and economics were treated in fashion in the years to come.

$2.00 a day

In $2.00 a day: living on almost nothing in America, Kathryn J. Edin and University of Michigan professor H. Luke Shaefer, illuminate a population of America that endeavors to survive, out of necessity, on little to no cash, $2.00 per day per person, or less, “what many of us spend on a cup of coffee each day.” Alex Kotlowitz, There are no children here : the story of two boys growing up in the other America.
This alarming narrative weaves together personal stories and recent economic history to show how these Americans got to this point, and who, exactly is suffering. Edin and Shaefer narrow their focus on four areas of America; one that represents the "typical" American city, one a rural locale that has been deeply poor for more than half a century, the third, a place where deep poverty is a newer phenomenon, and finally, a place that had been very poor in recent decades but is experiencing economic recovery. Their book takes us to Chicago, Cleveland, Johnson City, Tennessee in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and several small, rural hamlets in the Mississippi Delta, to get at the heart of what daily life is like for individuals struggling with deep poverty, and the means they go through to survive. The first hand accounts of children going without food for weeks at a time and parents who sell whatever they can (rides in their cars, plasma, social security numbers) to alleviate this hunger are unforgettable. This is an eye opening and important read.

“Affluent Americans often cherish the belief that poverty in America is far more comfortable than poverty in the rest of the world. Edin and Shaefer’s devastating account...blows that myth out of the water.” Barbara Ehrenreich author of Nickel and dimed : on (not) getting by in America

It's Banned Books Week! Sept. 27 - Oct. 3

Banned Books Week 2015 posterBanned Books Week 2015 poster

What is Banned Books Week, you may ask? It's an event put on by the American Library Association every year to celebrate the freedom to read! The ALA does not believe in censorship, and celebrating banned or challenged books draws attention to the harm potentially caused when access is restricted. If you haven't already, come check out our Banned Books Week display in the Downtown Youth Department and take a peek at the books we've chosen to highlight - some of them may surprise you!

What does it mean if a book is challenged or banned? Well, it simply means that someone doesn't like it! It could be a parent who doesn't agree with their child's assigned reading list for school, or a teacher who doesn't believe a particular title should be allowed in his/her district's curriculum. Books are challenged with the best intentions - to protect others, most commonly children, from difficult ideas and information. However, banning a book goes far beyond simply expressing a point of view or exercising beliefs. Removing material from a school's curriculum or the public library restricts the access of others who may not hold those same beliefs.

If you've had a chance to look at the display or check out the list of titles that are in it, you're probably wondering why some great books have been challenged or banned. Well, hold onto your hats and find some pearls to clutch, because we're about to tell you!

City Of Ann Arbor 2016 Sustainable Ann Arbor Forum: Looking to the Future: Ann Arbor in 2025

Thursday April 7, 2016: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event will be recorded

Join the conversation about sustainability in Ann Arbor as the City and the Ann Arbor District Library host their annual Sustainable Ann Arbor series. The series will include four events (held monthly through April) with each focusing on a different element of sustainability from Ann Arbor’s Sustainability Framework.

The last event in this series centers on Ann Arbor in 2025, including conversations about local challenges and solutions on Ann Arbor’s path to a more sustainable future.

A think tank of local stakeholders including representatives from community organizations, staff from both the City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County will join the public to discuss local sustainability efforts and challenges in our community. Each program will include a series of short presentations followed by a question and answer session.

The forums offer an opportunity to learn more about sustainability in the community and tips for actions that residents can take to live more sustainably.

Speakers include:
- Moderator, Josie Parker, Director of the Ann Arbor Library;
- Teresa Gillotti, Communication and Policy Specialist, Washtenaw County Department of Community and Economic Development;
- Xuan Liu, Manager of Research, SEMCOG;
- Susan Pollay, Executive Director, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority;
- Sue Zielinski, Managing Director of SMART at the U-M Transport Research Institute.

Details of this series will be posted online on The City of Ann Arbor's Sustainability site. For information and videos from current and past Sustainable Ann Arbor Forums, please visit the City’s Sustainability website.

Opiates & Medicine: Where are we, America?

Dawn Farm kicks off their Education Series this year by presenting on the topic of opiates & medicine which has been deemed an "epidemic" by CDC Director Thomas Frieden. Local and national leaders and media headlines echo & highlight this concern. How did we get this way? What drives this “epidemic?” This presentation will be a historically based look at the medical use of opiates, especially in American society. It will focus on the development and use of narcotic medications against the background of the three opiate epidemics in America. The presenter will discuss the history of opiates in medicine, opiate addiction as a brain disease, issues in the use of opiates to treat chronic pain and the medical treatment of addiction. The session is September 22 from 7:30-9:00 PM at the SJMH Education Center.

Money Smart Week: Creative Crafting

Sunday April 24, 2016: 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm -- Traverwood Branch: Program Room

This event is intended for grades K-6

Using play money, kids will have the chance to "purchase" various craft supplies from the library "store" to create their own unique masterpiece!

This is a fun way to learn about budgeting and money usage!

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