While a few Black documentary film directors like Ava DuVernay (“13th“) and Spike Lee (“When The Levees Broke“) have achieved celebrity status, many more are flying under the mainstream radar. Given a lack of representation, people have called out #OscarsSoWhite every year since 2015. Acknowledging that audiences want to see diversity both on screen and behind the camera, 2018 became a boom for Black filmmakers and film festivals like Sundance and our local True/False are more intentionally playing and recognizing work by Black directors. In celebration of Black History Month, check out these documentaries by black directors: Continue reading “Behind the Camera: Docs by Black Directors”
As the recipient of a charmed life, my dreams generally bring me glad tidings (normal stuff like a time lapse of cinnamon rolls baking or a dog pushing a stroller filled with kittens, etc.). Like most folk, I have the occasional nightmare (again, typical dream content: dogs and cats aggressively defending their territory from each other or an endless void suffused with the howls of the damned, etc). Add it up, and I’m enthusiastically pro-dream, but I can understand why one wouldn’t be if their slumber was consistently corrupted by visions of atrocities in which they participated. What I cannot understand, and what I will not abide, is the desire to replace everyone’s dreams with propaganda designed to advance the agenda of the state. This is one of many ways in which I am at odds with the protagonist of “China Dream” by Ma Jian (translated by Flora Drew).
Ma Daode has earned his terrible dreams by spending portions of his youth killing people while they tried to kill him, denouncing his parents as traitors (shortly before they killed themselves), and abandoning his home for the spoils of corrupt power before eventually participating in its destruction. As the head of China Dream Bureau, he is leading the effort to insert a chip into people’s brains that will regulate their dreams. His attic is overflowing with bribes, and his phones are constantly chiming with messages from an array of mistresses. One understands why he might find himself pelted with trash now and again.
After being suspended from his job for buffoonery, aiming to erase his past, he seeks out a notable guru type and obtains the recipe for what sounds like a truly disgusting beverage. This drink, famous for being what’s imbibed shortly before reincarnation so that one doesn’t bring too much of their past into the future, has ingredients such as ginger that’s been sucked by a corpse and a wolf heart. He drinks this foul concoction, and tries to sell others on it’s benefits. They are not convinced, and food is thrown at him. The book ends with a satisfying crescendo before an afterword that elaborates on the author’s anger at the Chinese government.
It is the time of year set aside for recognizing black history and culture. The Columbia Public Library has a lobby display set up throughout February for this purpose. Much of the early history of black people in the United States is a horrible reminder of how cruel a society can be. We must never forget, and live with determination for a better future for our country as a whole. To this end, several slavery and Civil Rights books are on display.
Much of the display, however, celebrates the triumphs and joy of black people in America. Contributions are evident in music, science, art, sports, literature, business, and the list goes on. Here are a few items I hope you will enjoy from our collection:
I am no physicist but I still enjoy hearing Neil deGrasse Tyson speak about just about anything. He is witty and sharp as a tack. Thankfully, he has written a book right at my level, entitled “Astrophysics For People In a Hurry.” (He means it, too, as it is a very small book.) Continue reading “Celebrating Black Culture”
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Playing last year at Ragtag Cinema, this fictional film by director Bong Joon Ho is a pitch-black modern fairytale of class conflict. The film is a story of two families: one, the Parks, the picture of aspirational wealth; and the other, the Kims, may be rich in street smarts but little else. Through chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and one senses a golden opportunity. Continue reading “New DVD List: Parasite, Cobra Kai & More”
About halfway through February, we take a day to celebrate the special people in our lives. That day is February 13th — Galentine’s Day! While Valentine’s Day is great and romantic love is definitely worth celebrating, there are a million other kinds of love that are equally special! There’s the love you have for your pets, your family, your coworkers, and for your best friends, just to name a few. Parks and Recreation protagonist Leslie Knope, in recognition of the value of friendship, created her own holiday: Galentine’s Day. To quote her description,
“Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
More than 2,400 years ago, Aristophanes complained about the youth of his community, “…they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders …” In the intervening centuries, the world has seen many changes, but the propensity of adults to complain about younger generations has remained constant. Of course, there are always teens showing up to prove them wrong — the Marquis de Lafayette serving as a general in George Washington’s army at 19, young Mary Shelley creating a new genre of literature with her science fiction masterpiece, “Frankenstein,” or Barbara Johns fighting school segregation. Continue reading “Literary Links: Terrific Teens”
“Terra Nullius” is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of colonization. Realistic multiple perspectives? Check. Accessible, concrete language? Check. Timelessness? Check. Interesting, original plot line? Check. Written by someone with skin in the game, not just a research project? Check. One of the things I most appreciated about this book was it avoided the simple “cry for the poor victims” or “rage against the oppressor” or “bear ALL the guilt” approaches — it addressed all of those things, but the aftertaste of this book is acknowledgment of the problems and HOPE for finding improvements now.
Three words that describe this book: soulful, active, hopeful
You might want to pick this book up if: You can’t decide if you want to feel things or you want a fast-paced story– have both!
Check out below to learn more about a few popular titles coming out in February! For a more extensive list of new nonfiction coming out this month check out our catalog.
“The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” by Eric Larson
On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next 12 months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally — and willing to fight to the end. In “The Splendid and the Vile,” Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people ‘the art of being fearless.’ It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports — some released only recently — Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s ‘Secret Circle,’ to whom he turns in the hardest moments. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: February 2020”
I grabbed “You Are Here” spur of the moment off a recommendations shelf at the library, and every time we opened it, the whole family, from age 45 down to age 7, were mesmerized. Every page or two I said, “Wow.” And then again, “Wow.”
Chris Hadfield took photos from the International Space Station, but not just big visions of a grand earth. He zoomed in to small(ish) geographical features and applied whimsy and imagination to what he saw, creating shapes out of them the way we do with clouds.
It’s a picture book accessible to all ages and a book I may just have to buy for my coffee table (assuming I ever have one again!).
Three words that describe this book: Wonder, beauty, nature
You might want to pick this book up if: You’re fascinated by photography and space.
Here are some of the most talked about books by debut authors that are coming to shelves near you this month. Place your holds now! And please visit our catalog for a more complete list.
“The Unspoken Name” by A.K. Larkwood
What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does. She will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. On the day of her foretold death, however, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Csorwe leaves her home, her destiny, and her god to become the wizard’s loyal sword-hand — stealing, spying, and killing to help him reclaim his seat of power in the homeland from which he was exiled. But Csorwe and the wizard will soon learn — gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due. Continue reading “Debut Author Spotlight: February 2020”