Older Michiganians Unite!

If I was headed to the Washtenaw County Older Michiganians Rally, I might want to at least scan the new book Meet the Next President: What you don’t know about the candidates. But that’s just me. Others may want to simply show up, as the flyer says, to learn about and respond to issues affecting seniors, find out what you can do, and maybe talk to some elected officials and local leaders. The rally is June 2, 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the St. Joseph Senior Health Building, Lower Level, 5631 McCauley Drive. It’s intended for seniors, advocates for older adults, state and local elected officials, and “anyone interested in making Michigan a great place to live!” Wait, isn’t that everyone? Presenters of the rally are Area Agency on Aging 1B, Blueprint for Aging and Senior Advocates of Washtenaw.

Talking & Singing About the Good Old Days

Ann Arbor District Library now has a dozen multi-media Bi-Folkal Kits that provide fine opportunities to remininisce with elders who have done many fascinating things in their lives. The kits work well with large or small groups if you take time to familiarize yourself with the excellent materials provided. You will be rewarded through hearing the rich stories, singing familiar songs and getting to know your group better through this activity. You can include other library materials to enhance your program. Call 734-327-8365 for more information or to reserve a kit.

"Off with her head!"

Today, May 19, is the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn who was beheaded by sword at the Tower of London in 1536. When Boleyn demanded that Henry VIII make her his wife, not his mistress, years of religious turmoil in the Catholic Church ensued because of their prohibition against divorce. Henry did have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled and wed Boleyn in 1533. But because she couldn't produce any male heirs, she was accused of adultery and executed. (Sometimes you just can't win).

There's a treasure trove of books on Anne and now, even her sister, Mary, whose story was told in the recently released film, The Other Boleyn Girl based on the book by Philippa Gregory.

"A story of quiet humanity..."

Jeff Talarigo, author of the acclaimed novel, The Pearl Diver, has given us another haunting story, The Ginseng Hunter. An unnamed narrator follows his family's tradition of finding and harvesting one ginseng root a day in the mountains of China near the border of North Korea. On a monthly trip to the nearest city to visit a bordello, he meets a young woman who is a refugee from this oppressive regime. Interwoven with his developing relationship with her is the story of a North Korean mother who is separated from her daughter and who travels miles, always in fear of being discovered, in the hopes of finding her. The author evokes the harsh climate and rugged beauty of this country as well as the suffering and compassion of people just struggling to survive.

In praise of mothers

In honor of Mother's Day, following are two books and one film that tell the stories of three remarkable mothers:

From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island by Lorna Goodison describes this local poet's mother, Doris who grew up in a privileged family in Jamaica but then married a chauffeur, moved to urban Kingston and raised nine children.

A Remarkable Mother by former President Jimmy Carter is his loving tribute to Lillian Carter, a nurse serving troops in World War I and in her later years a Peace Corps volunteer in India.

My Flesh and Blood is a documentary about Susan Tom, a single mother, who adopted eleven special needs children.

Young writer expands territory

Adam Mansbach's third novel, The End of the Jews shows the writer's growth in his ability to expand his universe, i.e., from hip-hop culture which still plays a part in this story, into other expressions of the American experience. His last novel, Angry Black White Boy brilliantly conveyed both the excitement and anger of that sub-culture.

Tristan Brodsky, one of the featured characters, is the son of Jewish immigrants and a writer who is influenced by jazz and African-American culture. His grandson, Tris, is a suburban teenager who loves hip-hop and is also a writer although not as successful. The third main character is Nina, a young and beautiful Czech photographer who has been hired by a black jazz combo to travel the U.S. with them as they perform. Mansbach adeptly moves back and forth in time to tell their stories and to articulate, often with great touches of humor, the odd dislocation of people caught at different moments in the soupy mix caused by the diaspora.

"Woman's Day" Magazine promotes libraries

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"Woman's Day" Magazine and the American Library Association are co-sponsoring a new health initiative. The magazine is asking readers 18 or older to submit stories of 700 words or less on how libraries have helped them improve their own or a family member's health. Up to four of the stories will be featured in the March, 2009 issue. Deadline for submissions is May 11, 2008. For submission guidelines, go to their guidelines page.

Is chess a game or a science?

That very question is posed in Searching for Bobby Fischer when a chess teacher talks with the father of a 7-year-old boy, Josh, who shows an amazing gift for playing chess. The teacher goes on to say that, "Bobby Fischer got underneath it like no one before and found at its center, art." And what's Josh's answer? When talking on the phone with a buddy, Josh explains, "Chess. It's a game, like Monopoly."

If you've never seen this flick, check it out. And, if you enjoy playing chess, come this Sunday, April 6 (1-4 p.m.), to Pittsfield Branch for Chesstastic. It's a chance to play a whole variety of opponents from the youngest age to senior citizens.

The power of myth

Today, March 26 marks the birth of one of our foremost mythologists, Joseph Campbell who was born in New York City in 1904. Entranced by Native American culture from an early age, he began to make associations with myths from other cultures and in 1949 published a seminal study of mythology called The Hero with a Thousand Faces which looked at the common theme of a spiritual quest. But it was only when Campbell was featured in a series of penetrating interviews with Bill Moyers in the 1980's called Joseph Campbell and the The Power of Myth that his name became known to the more general population. In the first of the series, they take on the subject of heroes who range from Buddha and Jesus to metaphors present in Jungian psychology and the movie, Star Wars. Filmmaker, George Lucas was heavily influenced by Campbell in his making of the film and the interviews were conducted at his Skywalker Ranch.

Celebrate India!

We can't wait for the India Family Cultural Celebration this Sunday, February 3 at 2:00 pm at the Downtown Library! Join us for storytelling with Rohit and Amanda Setty, Tabla and Sitar music by Meeta Banerjee, John Churchville and Dan Piccolo, delicious gulab jamoon and a colorful rangoli craft that the whole family will enjoy!

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