Monthly Archives: November 2013

When the World Changed

I find that I get recommended many adult fiction books by people I know, even though I have a particular love for YA (young adult) fiction. I believe some people think I just haven’t found the right type of adult book to sink my teeth into and others think that I haven’t ever read a fiction book, and therefore need to be directed to the “proper” readings for a young lady my age.

Recently my sister told me that she thought I would enjoy a book called The Age of Miracles. At first I wanted to dismiss the recommendation because it was another fiction book that she thought I should read, but might not actually be the style of book I like. However, I decided to give it a try and was thrown, not because I fell in love with the book, but because it reminded me so much of another YA book I had read. I decided to share my findings on two very good and interesting tales on how the world might end….or just change.

The Age of MiraclesSince I started this tale off with The Age of Miracles, it’ll be the first book I discuss. The story is written from the point of view of a 12 year old girl, which to some people might make it seem like a YA novel by definition. However, the writing and voice of the book make it seem written not by a 12 year old but by someone older. It tells the story of the earth slowing down, the days becoming much longer than the 24 hours that we are used to. It is a very interesting perspective and idea for a book, and seems almost realistic in the possibility. It is an enjoyable book to read because it provides a different perspective from many other books, and it still contains the details of the characters’ everyday lives, which makes it more believable and relatable.

While reading The Age of Miracles I began to remember a book I had read while I was in graduate school (only a year ago, so it’s still fresh in my mind). The book was Life As We Knew ItThe only real relation that Life As We Knew It has to The Age of Miracles is that they are both written in the point of view of a young female character and they are both about the world changing in drastic ways.

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It is written in a diary format and written from the point of view of a young girl. She begins writing in her diary before a major event changes how everyone on Earth lives but only for a day or two. Then a meteor strikes the moon, and everything becomes worse and creates major challenges for her and her family. The book is defined as a YA book, but I would definitely recommend it to any reader. It is well written and is capable of drawing the reader into the world that is being altered and lived in by the characters. In fact, while I was reading the book, I felt compelled to start stocking up on water and other essentials. The tale truly makes the reader feel like it is happening now, not in some safe storybook.

If you decide to pick up either of these books, be prepared to feel as though the world you once lived in has changed forever.

— Abbey


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Turkey Bowls Cement Link Between Football & Thanksgiving

Nobody plays baseball on Thanksgiving morning.  Seriously, I really believe that one of the ways American football usurped baseball as America’s pastime sport ties directly into the thousands of “Turkey Bowls” held on Thanksgiving morning around the country.  The phenomenon has taken root in the American consciousness, even creeping into children’s poetry, as seen in Jack Prelutsky’s excellent collection, It’s Thanksgiving.  In this book of twelve poems for my favorite holiday Mr. Prelutsky includes one entitled “Daddy’s Football Game.” Phil Bidner’s Turkey Bowl provides another excellent look at Thanksgiving day football from a nine year old boy’s perspective.

As a teenager, and even in my early 20’s, I played in my share of Turkey Bowl games.  Ours occurred at Transverse Park in the Mt. Oliver section of Pittsburgh. Jay Price conjures these sort of nostalgic images with his book, Thanksgiving 1959 : When One Corner Of New York City Was Still Part Of Small-Town America, And High School Football Was The Last Thing Guys Did For Love.  While the title is really long, Mr. Price’s nifty little book manages to get at the heart of what Turkey Bowl football games really mean.  Sometimes they involve neighborhood friends getting together, but often whole families play in these games, which by the end of November can be cold and muddy affairs, making older Pittsburgh homes and their basement “mill showers” ideal for dealing with a dirty crew of Turkey Bowl veterans.

No one can deny the power of television to change minds and shape public opinion.  That’s why the National Football League’s decision to hold and later broadcast two Thanksgiving day games every year turned into marketing genius.  You can find the history of all of the NFL’s “Turkey Bowl” tilts here.  The Detroit Lions became regular Thanksgiving hosts starting in 1950, and the Dallas Cowboys joined them as regular hosts starting in 1966.  Of course, now the NFL has added a third regular Turkey Day game, this time with a rotating host team.  You can find further insights into NFL history in The NFL Century : The Complete Story Of The National Football League, 1920-2000.

Like soccer, one of the magical things about American football is that you really only need a ball, an expanse of grass, and a few willing participants to hold a game.  No fancy equipment needed.  In my halcyon days we played murderous games of tackle football with no protective equipment.  People are smarter now, and many Turkey Bowls have become strictly touch football affairs–no tackling.  After all, who wants to eat Thanksgiving dinner with a broken drumstick?


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It All Comes Out in the Wash

My maternal great-grandmother, Mary, never learned to read, write, or speak English. According to U.S. census records (which I looked at using the library’s subscription to Ancestry), she did laundry for a living after coming to America from Serbia; I’m guessing her teenage son, my great-uncle Steven (whose English was just fine), helped her out a great deal. Great-grandma passed away when I was nine or ten, and my grandmother has since passed on, too, so hopefully my mom will be able to help me fill in some of my knowledge gaps on this point.

Over on my father’s side of the family, my great-grandfather William’s household included a servant (again, according to the census), a seventeen-year-old girl named Ellen*. Given that William’s occupation was listed as “farmer” in the 1880 census, I was a little surprised to find that, by 1900, he’d moved into the city and acquired household help. What was up with that, I wonder? A mystery to solve! And another great reason to call home and talk to dad.

I have Marilyn Cocchiola Holt to thank for starting me down the genealogy road. I haven’t made much more progress with my family tree, though, because after learning about my relatives’ personal history with service and servants, I’m kind of fixated on the topic, which has influenced my reading choices lately. Two of the books I checked out recently made for an interesting fact/fiction pairing.

servantsLucy Lethbridge  delivers an extensive look at the people most of us think of when the topic of service comes up: the British. Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times delivers just that: a meticulous look at what life was really like for the men and women who washed, cooked, scrubbed, and served the landed gentry and, later, their less formal descendants. Quoting extensively from former servants and documents written by those in service, she paints a picture of a highly contradictory life. While going into service could save you from abject poverty in a large family, it also meant giving up a lot of your personal freedom, with no guarantee that you’d be taken care of when you were sick or old, as the respect and benefits employers showed their staff varied widely from household to household.

The effects of two world wars, labor-saving technologies, and the availability of other work took their toll on service as a profession, and Lethbridge’s detailed description of how those social factors played out makes for fascinating reading. Every few paragraphs or so I would make some kind of surprised noise, because there were just so much going on that we Americans just didn’t know about… though many servants were happy to work for American employers post-WWII (apparently we paid better) in spite of our horrid manners. And Lethbridge probably could have written two separate books on the influx of Jewish refugees pre-WWII, on domestic labor visas, or the increased use of foreign household laborers.

While I was reading Servants, Jo Baker’s novel,  Longbourn, popped up on my pick-up shelf. I put everything else aside and dived longbournright in, based solely on the premise: while the Bennett sisters of Pride and Prejudice were upstairs trying to get married, the staff of their father’s estate had problems and concerns of their own. From the perspective of Sarah, the housemaid, Baker spins a tale of hard knocks and straight-jacketed circumstances, to say nothing of backbreaking work. Laundry, in particular, is Sarah’s bugbear, as it leads to cracked hands and resentment.  The story touches lightly on the main plot points of Austen’s original novel–Jane’s love for Bingley, Lydia’s flight with Wickham, etc.–while illuminating Sarah’s longing for a better life than she has, and the love triangle options that may–or may not–allow that to happen. Baker also takes some liberties with Austen’s established characters to make commentary on some of the nineteenth-century’s more unsavory characteristics (the horrors of war, to name just one). On the whole,  Longbourn does for Austen what Wide Sargasso Sea did for Bronte: highlights the unpleasant truth that upper-class women’s narratives are frequently supported by silent, invisible narratives of women with few resources, and virtually no voice.

Other books from our collection that explore the lives–fictional and factual–of servants include:

Serving Women: Household Servants in Nineteenth Century America

Thursdays and Every Other Sunday Off: A Domestic Rap

The Remains of the Day

The Book of Salt

A Life Less Ordinary

Life Below Stairs: Domestic Servants in England From Victorian Times

From Mammies to Militants: Domestics in Black American Literature

I’ll never look at Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey quite the same way ever again**, that’s for sure. Are you an amateur, armchair, or hard-core genealogist? Have you learned anything interesting in your research that sent you off onto another topic entirely?

–Leigh Anne

who definitely counts her washer and dryer amongst her blessings

*Possibly “Ella.” Whoever scanned in the record gave both options, as the handwriting was somewhat unclear. Her birth date was given as 1882, but she was listed in the 1900 census as being 47 years old, which is impossible, unless her birth year was recorded incorrectly as well. I’m researching both options.

**Obviously England and America’s experiences of servitude were very different, and the unpleasant question of slavery makes for a whole separate post. Still, representation-wise, the most visible face of the servant is still white and British, which in and of itself begs for more reading and research as to why.


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Oh Darling, Save Your Glass Pans for Me

It is a very good thing, financially speaking, that one can try out cookbooks from the library before taking the plunge and making a purchase. I recently stopped by the Main Library for a meeting with no intention of checking anything out, and I walked out with this:


List price on that stack is $160. (Thanks library card!) Now, under no circumstances would I drop that kind of money without a lot of thought, but cookbooks do nevertheless present a perfect storm of impulse buy risk for me.

Cookbooks, after all, are:

  • Aspirational: “There’s no reason I can’t learn to cook like Thomas Keller!”
  • Easy to rationalize purchasing from a cost perspective: “If I learn to cook like Thomas Keller, I’ll never have to go out to eat and will save a bundle!”
  • Easy to rationalize purchasing from an emotional perspective: “My family and friends will really appreciate my Kelleresque home cooking, and my daughter will visit frequently after she moves out because she’ll miss my cooking so much.”

The fact is, these are all beautiful books and may take a crucial place on someone else’s shelf. But I’m much better off having a three week fling with them.

Pic 4

Consider, for example, Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart’s gorgeous Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking (Gibbs Smith 2012). Southern cooking is hot right now, and this book in enough to make a Yankee like myself start to think I could start feeding my family like a grandma from Georgia. There’s a nice mix of history, culture, beautiful pictures, and stories. And then, of course the recipes — oyster stew, Coca Cola cake, cornbread, Hoppin’ John, and a whole host of everything from salads to souffles. There’s enough breadth here to justify the “Mastering the Art of…” title that makes it such a tempting volume for cooks of all stripes.

But then, I don’t really eat meat, my wife doesn’t eat fish, my daughter doesn’t eat much of either, so right there we’d be eliminating at least half of the recipes. (Who knew there was so much pork fat in Southern cooking?) And the bulk of the remainder of recipes are baked goods and desserts, and, well, with a family history of hypertension and diabetes, I probably shouldn’t cook too extensively from this volume. But reading it was a great little Southern vacation.

If you can think of cooking styles as having opposites, then you could make a great case for Timothy Ferriss‘ intense style in The Four Hour Chef (New Harvest, 2012) being Pic1the antithesis of Dupree and Graubart’s approach to gracious Southern cooking. This latest installment of Ferriss’ “Four Hour” self help series is data-driven, intentional, and chock full of strong opinions about how you should do, well, everything. These strong opinions make for a fun read, and Ferriss does present a sometimes contrarian vision of good cookery. It’s like America’s Test Kitchen on speed. Some of it is pure adventure cooking — there’s a lot of space dedicated to hunting, campfire cooking, travel descriptions, and other culinary experiences outside of most of our everyday lives.

What first appealed to me about this book was Ferriss’ confidence — this is the right way to cook, and here’s why — is what ultimately made me ready to return it after a little while. It’s an understatement to say that Ferriss is a Type A (capital A to be sure), and I’m, well, is there a Type C? I’m pretty passive is what I’m saying. I like to relax while I cook, and I don’t intend to break out the micrometer to make sure I’m grating the cheese finely enough or whatever.

Pic 2Moosewood Collective cookbooks have been a part of my life for a long time; my mom had one (it might have been the original “The Moosewood Cookbook“) and a number of my favorite comfort foods came from that. The latest, Moosewood Restaurant Favorites (St. Martin’s 2013), is a glossy, souped-up compendium of 250 recipes from the legendary Moosewood Restaurant in Ithica. These books are important to a lot of people, and they preach a simple gospel of low-risk vegetarian cookery. Who’s going to argue with cheese and white carbs?

This book is packed with recipes, which could make it a great contender for purchase for a lot of people. It’s very practical — a lot of the entrees are doable in a half hour or so, and uses ingredients that you can find at a supermarket. The recipes are proven, time tested, and popular veterans from the previous books. I’m having a blast paging through it, but I’d never buy it because it would be like buying a greatest hits album when you already have all of the records. But if you don’t know Moosewood, try this one out!

As my affinity for Moosewood might suggest, I’m not typically drawn to chef cookbooks, at least for a long-term commitment. But they are perhaps my favorite type to Pic 3check out from the library because they’re typically beautiful, exotic, and so impractical for a fair-to-middling home cook that there’s not even a little temptation to try the recipes. To me, someone like Thomas Keller is pretty much a magician. If you page through one of his books, like Bouchon (Artisan, 2004), which incidentally is supposed to be all about simple bistro-style cooking, it looks easy enough: use fresh herbs, lots of butter, cast iron cookware, the highest quality ingredients you can get, and keep things simple, and you too can have those beautifully rustic dishes captured in soft-focus closeups in the pages of the book.

It is not so! The souffle deflates, the gratin gets gooey, the vegetables are soggy, and meanwhile a pile of pots and pans takes over the sink and the surrounding counter space. I don’t even try anymore. There’s a reason chefs are chefs. I’ll stick with the couple-times-a-decade splurge at a fancy restaurant and, in the intervals between, work up an appetite by looking at chef cookbooks.

So what cookbook does merit a purchase? To tell you the truth, I haven’t bought a cookbook in a long time. I’ve actually been going steady with one cookbook for almost six years now: Mark Bittman‘s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (Wiley, 2007). And before that came out, I had worked my way through good portion of its yellow predecessor How to Cook Everything (Macmillan, 1998). My real-life cooking ambitions are modest — I want to be a competent cook who can put tasty and healthy food on the table while staying on a budget. And as unsexy as that is, Bittman’s books fit the ticket. There are no photos, only drawings (and even they aren’t very helpful, honestly) showing close-ups of how you should hold a knife, skewer vegetables, strain fresh cheese, etc. The title is obviously a little bit hyperbolic, but this is an encyclopedic cookbook; if you cook your way through this, you’ll have cooked a bunch of food and probably know how to do the things you cook most often by heart.

This is what a well-loved cookbook looks like:

Don't worry, it's not a library book.

Don’t worry, it’s not a library book.

The relationship I have with this book makes me think of the classic R&B song “Save the Last Dance for Me,” written in 1960 by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and recorded most famously by the Drifters. (I contend that Harry Nilsson’s 1974 version, which I was pleasantly surprised to see available for free download ((with library card)) from Freegal, really captured the sadness of the lyrics better than the Drifter’s “cha-cha-cha” rendition, but really I love any version of this song.)

In the song, the narrator watches his or her beau dancing at a party with a number of other partners. From the narrator’s perspective, it’s fine to have a little fun and excitement, as long as the beau comes back for the last dance, the most important one of all. I may go and have little three-week flings with fancy new cookbooks, but that beat up green volume pictured above will always be the number one in my heart.

Here’s a little original adaptation that I imagine Mark Bittman singing to me whenever I check out a new cookbook.

Save Your Glass Pans for Me

Adapted by Dan the Librarian

Sing to the tune of “Save the Last Dance for Me”

You can can,

Any pickles or jam,

You can deglaze your pan,

With any broth you like.

With your hand,

Plate the cheese in a fan,

Try your hand at a flan,

‘Neith the pale moonlight.

But don’t forget who’s sitting at home,

Showing you how to properly shuck peas;

Oh Darling, save your glass pans for me.

Oh I know,

That the sauce is fine,

When you cook with wine,

Go on and make steamed buns.

Learn to blanch and parboil,

Try truffle oil,

But don’t give your apron to anyone.

And don’t forget who’s sitting at home,

With a foolproof method for cooking dried beans;

Oh darling, save your glass pans for me.

I suspect that a lot of you home cooks out there have a similar long-term relationship with a particular tome, and I’d love to hear in comments which book you consider to be your “main squeeze.”

-Dan, who, after 5 years of trying in vain, finally figured out that to sear something, you just leave it alone in the pan for a little longer.


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Riddley Walker


Riddley Walker ,by Russell Hoban, is one of my all-time favorite books. It deserves to get more attention than it does. Have you ever heard of it?

I was assigned to read this book in a literature class as a freshman in college. It was the last book on the list, and I raced to read as much of it as I could before the end of the semester. I was going through the skimming process, but the words were “funny” and I just didn’t get it. Suddenly! A flash before my eyes! I believe it was when I came upon the phrase “gallack seas” and realized that it was galaxies to you and me, but an ocean to Riddley. I had to slow down and really look at the words, saying them out loud. Poetry! I was so excited that I reread it three times in a row, the only book to date that I have ever done this with. Riddley Walker is a coming of age story, a spiritual journey, and an exploration of a mythic past, set in post-nuclear apocalyptic England. English has evolved, the words bringing out new and deeper meanings. The book has been compared to A Clockwork Orange because both transform the English language. They are both written using the slang and dialect of their imagined time. I found this interesting essay about the language of Riddley Walker online:

I touted the book to a number of friends back in the early 80s. One friend who loved the book as much as I did breathlessly came to me after seeing Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The movie shamelessly ripped off the book, using language and imagery for the part with the tribe of children, without any acknowledgement (and I looked!).  I was shocked at the blatant plagiarism; the children are even waiting for a “Mr. Walker.” I’ve read articles which see this as a loving tribute to the novel, which seems to have had a stronger following in Australia. If so, give Mr. Hoban some credit! It is a small part of the movie, and only a superficial aspect of the book, but still…

If you cud even jus see 1 thing clear the woal of whats in it you cud see every thing clear. But you never wil get to see the woal of any thing youre all ways in the middl of it living it or moving thru it.
Riddley Walker (p. 186) (taken from website:



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It’s Time to (Fake it Till You) Make it!

I love crafting. I mean, I can’t actually knit or sew, and my competence level with most wood-working tools is spotty at best, but give me some glitter and glue and I can spend hours in a daze, making a mess and sticking things to cardboard. Most level surfaces in my house are filled with random half used but never put away craft supplies from me; I promise my husband just loves it. On a positive note it has encouraged my daughter’s creativity. She loves to ‘do crafts with you mummy’; typically that means she wants to use all the glue and all the glitter on one piece of foam, but who am I to stifle her creative process? Although it kills me to see literal mounds of the good stuff, Martha Stewart  glitter, under the table or in a house plant but…creative process, right?

This time of year is especially great for us economically stunted, wanna-be crafters, a special sub-category of crafters who love to look at websites and magazines and think “I could totally do that on my budget” before accidentally burning our house down with a forgotten, rogue glue gun. This is when I get to pull out all the stops… no holding back… use all the glitter… making gifts for my family and friends. With the last decade’s resurgence in crafting there are lots of great books coming out at all levels for the crafter in you! This is a chance to wow your friends and family this season with special items made from the heart, and on a budget!

bookcover1I always look at the beautiful jewelry at craft shows and bazaars and think “I could make that”, quickly followed by the realization that it wouldn’t actually look like something someone would want to wear if I made it. With Junk-Box Jewelry you see step-by-step EASY TO FOLLOW instructions on how to make awesome pieces with vintage flair. This is a great book for someone who always wanted to make cool jewelry but could never quite figure it out.

There are lots of great felt projects out there nowadays, from flower pins to fuzzy friends for your kids; just check it out on bookcover2Pinterest if you don’t believe me. Two great books, Felties  (which comes in Zombie form too) bookcover3and Happy Stitch, gave me a ton of ideas that I turned into little friends for my daughter, magnets for friends, and tree ornaments for family members. If you have a basic knowledge of sewing, just the mechanics but not even practical experience, then these books can help you create cool little friends that you your kids will love to play with.

Adventures in Pompom Land seemed like one of those craft books that was just. asking. too. much. of me at first. But then the West End bookcover4teen librarian, Miss Annica,  had a pompom making program and I was hooked. Suddenly the adorable little animals in the book were totally within my reach. So don’t be discouraged by the intense instructions in the front of the book; just wrap some yarn around your hand and start without all of the special tools the author talks about, because even she points out that those tools are great for the more advanced pompom fluff maker, but that you can accomplish a lot just with your hands, scissors and yarn.

Last, but certainly not least, Mod Podge Rocks! A great book that shows off all the different kinds of mod podge that exists and some nifty little projects you can do with that wonderfully versatile glue. This book is fun to look at because it gives you starting points so that your imagination can run wild in all different sticky and glittery directions.


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Bike sharing

Did you know that in 2014 a bike sharing program will be starting up in Pittsburgh?  This is exciting news for those of us who bike.  Pittsburgh’s bike culture has been growing for years, and the increasing number of bike lanes and “sharrows” throughout the city have been great steps in making the area a safer place for cyclists.  Bike sharing is another great way to promote safe cycling, primarily by getting more cyclists out on the road. Although we’re a long way from being another Copenhagen, I love that Pittsburgh has been making so many strides to help make cycling a bigger part of how we travel.

One nice thing about a bike sharing program is that you don’t have to worry about bike maintenance.  Even though bikes require far less maintenance than cars, you still to know how to do the bare minimum when you ride your own bike a lot.  However, if you do have your own bike and take it to the shop rather than work on it  yourself, you might be surprised to find how easy a lot of basic bike maintenance really is.  Books like Complete Bike Maintenance or The Bike Book can teach you what you need to know about basic bike care and repair.

If you’ve never considered commuting by bicycle instead of by car, you might be surprised to find out how easy it really is.  On days when I bike home from work, I love being able to zip past backed up traffic on the busy street where I live.  Everyday Cycling: How to Ride a Bike for Transportation (Whatever Your Lifestyle), The Enlightened Cyclist: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Transcendenceor Biking to Work are all great books to check out if you’re thinking about making the switch to even occasional bike commuting. And if you’re looking for a good way to get to work, Bike Pittsburgh’s Bike Map is a great way to find bike-friendly routes throughout the city.

Finally, I leave you with this: a new design by a Swedish company that could do away with bike helmet hair forever!


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Clean and Green

As a child, I hated cleaning day, but not for the reasons you might think. I disliked it because of the strong chemicals used to clean the house. The harshly strong scents of ammonia, starch, and chlorine bleach hurt my nose, gave me headaches, and caused skin rashes, but I didn’t connect my symptoms with cleaning products until I was an adult.

Most people don’t associate their home-sweet-homes with toxins but many homes are unknowingly filled with them. And many commonly used cleaning products are just as bad, if not worse.

For example:

  • Scented laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets

  • Mold and mildew

  • Toxic gases from: carpeting and rugs, shower curtains, sheets and towels, and dry-cleaned clothing to name a few

  • Plug-in, spray, and other air fresheners

The library has many books to help you green your house for the environment and your health.

You can clean your house with borax, baking soda, lemon juice, and white vinegar. Even old-fashioned, been-around-forever Bon Ami cleanser is non-toxic or you can buy many of the green cleaning products available everywhere now in ready-made formulas including Seventh Generation, J.R. Watkins, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day to name a few.

For more ways to detox your home of harmful chemicals that cause allergies, headaches, and skin irritations, here are a few suggestions:


Toxic Free: How to Protect your Health and Home from the Chemicals that Are Making You Sick

by Debra Dadd-Redalia


Home Safe Home: Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Everyday Toxics and Harmful Household Products

by Debra Lynn Dadd


What’s in This Stuff? The Hidden Toxins in Everyday Products and What You Can Do About Them by Pat Thomas



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Coming to a Library Near You

Image from the website:

Image from the website:

My winter stay-cation this year just happened to coincide with this year’s Three Rivers Film Festival, so for the first time since moving to Pittsburgh I’ve gotten a chance to watch a handful of the festival’s offerings. For those unfamiliar with the festival, it has been running for 32 years now and features about 80 films, ranging from experimental to independent to foreign favorites.

Most of these films will eventually be coming to the Film & Audio Department at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main, so here is a sneak peak of a few films from the festival that will eventually be coming to a library near you.

Image from:

Image from:

I was hoping to catch a comedy from the Netherlands called The Deflowering of Eva Van End, but due to technical reasons another film was screened. Luckily, we will be getting that comedy soon as part of our excellent Film Movement collection. The film that I saw instead was called Ilo Ilo, a slice-of-life drama about a family dealing with various stresses during the financial crisis of 1997. We do not own this film yet, but we have plenty of other films that take place in Singapore and surrounding countries.

Broken Circle Breakdown was probably my favorite film of the festival so far, even though it was incredibly difficult to watch at times (I believe I cried on three seperate occasions, so if you decide to check it out be prepared for that). The movie jumps back-and-forth through time to tell the story of the relationship between a sweet & funky Belgium couple, who eventually marry and have a daughter. The couple also play in a bluegrass band together, and the movie is peppered throughout with wonderful country, gospel, and bluegrass standards. It was strange seeing music I so closely associate with the United States being reimagined by a Belgium couple, but all of the songs fit the film perfectly. If you can’t catch this one in the theater but you’re in the mood for a good cry, you can always check out one of these bummer love stories. Or I dare you to listen to this RadioLab podcast without crying by the end.

Image from:

Image from:

I was also lucky enough to catch a sold-out showing of Stephen Frears’ latest film, Philomena. The film is based on the real-life story of Philomena Lee, a retired nurse who goes in search of the son she was forced to give up 50 years ago. She teams up with a cynical ex-BBC reporter and together they bicker and travel to America to track down Lee’s son. This is the kind of movie that the cliché “crowd pleaser” was invented for, and even though I tried, I could not resist its charms. It’s got Judy Dench, it’s got Steve Coogan, and it makes fun of the movie Big Momma’s Housein short, it’s going to win some Oscars. We probably won’t have this film in the library until some time next year, so I would recommend instead checking out a film on a similar topic, or another one of Stephen Frears’ great films.

There are also a couple documentaries I hope to catch before the end of the festival–Braddock, America and Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction—in edition to a special screening from the folks at the Orgone Archives.

How about you? What are you watching, or hoping to watch soon?


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Déjà Vu All Over Again

Deja Vu Book Club

First, I must apologize. I should have let you all know about this a long time ago. But hindsight is 20/20 and there’s no time like the present. (You can insert here any other belated/late and time related clichés that come to mind.)

areyoutheregodThis Saturday, November 16th at 11:00am will be the second meeting of our newest book group. The Déjà Vu Book Club will be discussing Judy Blume’s coming-of-age classic, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

The book is a tale about a young girl trying to find her place in her new school, her circle of friends, her religious beliefs and within herself. Margaret is at that age where she knows what’s to come and just can’t wait for it to get here. (Periods, boobs, boys, kissing – you know, the usual stuff!) Yet, she also would like things to stay the same. Her sounding board for all of her adolescent conundrums is her own personal God. While her extended family wants her to choose a religion, she finds it difficult because she just doesn’t feel His presence in those houses of worship the way she does when they’re alone.

Besides waxing nostalgic over this pre-teen female rite-of-passage book, we’ll be sure to discuss a bit of the “controversy” surrounding the re-writing of portions of the book by Ms. Blume, to bring certain details into the more modern age. As an aside, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is one of Judy Blume’s most challenged books.

The Déjà Vu Book Club is for people of all ages who are interested in reading, or re-reading, children’s and young adult classics. Come with your best friends, your daughter or son, or by yourself to meet other people who love and have fond memories of the same books you do.

We’ll also be deciding what titles to read next year at this Saturday meeting. If you have a favorite title from your childhood or teenage years that you’d like to read again and discuss, we’d love to know what it is!

So, if you’ve ever read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, either the original or revised version, please come and talk about it with us on Saturday morning. And for those of you who may not have read it yet, please do! We have copies available at the library. You can check it out today and be done by tomorrow. It’s a slim book and a quick read, I promise.

Also, tomorrow morning there will be doughnuts!

-Melissa M.



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