Kumu Hina: a Place in the Middle

Please join us at the Main Library on Tuesday, June 16th at 7 PM for a special free screening of the award-winning documentary Kuma Hina: a Place in the Middle.

Kum Hina banner, used with permission.

Kumu Hina is a powerful feature documentary about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the Westernized society of modern day Hawaiʻi. It is told through the lens of an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident māhū, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader.

Imagine a world where a little boy can grow up to be the woman of his dreams, and a young girl can rise to become a leader among men. Welcome to Kumu Hina’s Hawai’i. During a momentous year in her life in modern Honolulu, Hina Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian māhū, or transgender, teacher uses traditional culture to inspire a student to claim her place as leader of the school’s all-male hula troupe.

But despite her success as a teacher, Hina longs for love and a committed relationship. Will her marriage to a headstrong Tongan man fulfill her dreams? As Hina’s arduous journey unfolds, her Hawaiian roots and values give her the strength and wisdom to persevere, offering a new perspective on the true meaning of aloha.

ReelQ logoThis screening of Kumu Hina will be co-hosted by the Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society. Come join us!

Can’t make it on Tuesday? You can still borrow Kumu Hina from our LGBTQ collection.

– Amy E.

(Kumu Hina logo, description, and trailer used with permission.)


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Labels, Love … Whatever

This week the Eleventh Stack blog is celebrating Pittsburgh’s Pride Week with a series of posts about the Library’s LGBTQ/QUILTBAG resources. Although any time of year is a good time to read LGBTQ literature and history, this week is very special to many of our readers and patrons. We hope you enjoy our efforts.


Sometimes, when one is an avid reader, life coincides with the written word. Such has been the case this past week, when my book of choice reflected a few local events playing out here in Pittsburgh as well as those on the national scene.

I’ve fallen in deep love with Maria Bello’s just-published memoir, Whatever … Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves

Whatever-...Love-Is-LoveWith a refreshing writing style that is personal, approachable and oftentimes funny, Ms. Bello shares quite a bit about her relationships with significant people in her life. While most names she shares are those who have been strong influences in her life, this is not your typical celebrity name-dropping, reality-television-esqe tome. That’s not Ms. Bello’s agenda here. Instead, she offers a chance for reflection about how one’s life experiences define the labels we place on people, especially ourselves.

To peel back the typical labels, Ms. Bello goes beyond the bedroom to explore the deeper questions of self: Am I a feminist? A humanitarian? A good enough mother? A writer?

The answers are yes, yes, yes and hell to the yes.

~ Melissa F.


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Pride, Love, Hope

This week the Eleventh Stack blog is celebrating Pittsburgh’s Pride Week with a series of posts about the Library’s LGBTQ/QUILTBAG resources. Although any time of year is a good time to read LGBTQ literature and history, this week is very special to many of our readers and patrons. We hope you enjoy our efforts.


I spent most of this past spring book-talking Beautiful Music for Ugly Children to anyone who would stand still for five seconds. It’s a wonderful novel about music, friendship, and being openly transgender in an urban/suburban environment. The protagonist, Gabe, has a radio show, two terrific best friends (one of whom might be something more), and the chance to show off his DJ chops at a summer music festival contest. Because it’s not a perfect world, he’s also got the same kinds of problems real transgender folks have outside of novels: consistent misgendering, bigotry, bullying (IRL and cyber), and hate crime attacks.

Normally a book reviewer would put a “but” there, as in “but it all works out in the end” or “but Gabe’s tormentors have a change of heart.” Kirstin Cronn-Mills, the author, gets bonus librarian points for saving me from those “buts,” neither of which are realistic. And when I’m not reading about vampires, werewolves, or selkies, I prefer my fiction realistic.

Maybe that’s because I (mostly) read fiction to give my empathy muscles a good workout.  It’s a real thing that can happen, says science. Besides, it gets old reading stories about people who look like me, and who have had experiences like mine. I want to know what life is like for the people in my neighborhood: what lifts them up, what their struggles and stories are,  and so on. I don’t think I can grow if I’m staring in the mirror all the time, and I’d like to grow as much as possible.

Fiction almost always leads me back to non-fiction, because I want to see how the things I learn from novels play out in the real world. And what a wonderfully wide, inclusive world it is. Examples:

Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders (biography)

Redefining Realness (memoir)

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community (consumer health)

A People Stronger: The Collectivization of MSM and TG Groups in India (political activism)

“You’ve Changed”: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity (scholarship)

Transgender History (history)

Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (personal essays, including the voices of people of color)

From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ (religion)

Queering the Popular Pitch (musicology)

Troubling the Line (poetry, on order – keep an eye on the catalog!)

There’s also a lot of material available for family, friends, and neighbors who would like to understand the trans community better. Here’s a small sample:

Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue

Transgender Explained: For Those Who Are Not

Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender Non-conforming Children

Transgender Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy

Helping Your Transgender Teen: A Guide for Parents

It’s a beautiful thing, all that information at your fingertips.

I’m proud that Pride can last all year long, with the right reading material. I love that the power to expand our view of the world around us is in our own hands. And I hope that you will consider checking out one of these titles, and/or asking your local librarian for other suggestions. We like meeting new people, and we want to make sure that everyone in our community feels respected, represented, and–most importantly–welcome to walk through our doors anytime.

–Leigh Anne


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Florence + The Machine return with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful


WARNING: The video for “What Kind of Man” is NSFW (Not Safe For Work) because of some nudity.

It’s been almost four years since Florence + The Machine released their sophomore album, Ceremonials. This week, the indie pop band released their third studio album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. I think that this is the perfect title for this album because the tracks on it are indeed big, blue, and beautiful.

The band first released a video for the title track on the album a few months ago. The second single “What Kind Of Man” was released not too long after that along with a music video. The storyline for the video is the lead singer Florence Welch’s emotional rollercoaster of a relationship with her boyfriend.  The third single released was “Ship to Wreck”. Although the song makes me want to dance the song is actually quite sad. “Delilah” is the current single and it was released a few weeks ago. This song deals with Welch singing about being betrayed by her beloved. According to song annotator site Genius, the title for this song was inspired by the biblical story of Samson and Delilah.

“Third Eye” is a great track. On it, Welch sings about seeing things differently and about how she wants to change. “Various Storms and Saints” is another great track. In this song, Welch sings about being caught in different storms and how it makes her feel. “Long & Lost” deals with Welch singing about how she would feel if her beloved left her. A huge theme of this album is love. My interpretation of the meaning behind the album title is how big, how blue, and how beautiful love can be.

If you’re going through a break up or a rough patch in your current relationship, then this album is for you. Or if you’re a fan of the band like me and are practically salivating for new music from them, then this album is also for you. There is currently one copy on order of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful in our system. In the meantime, Florence + The Machine’s previous studio albums, Lungs, and Ceremonials are available in our catalog.  Happy listening!

~ Kayla


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Great Movie Chases

A couple of weeks back the blog writers had a phenomenal email exchange regarding suggested movie titles for a post.  We batted around titles of action movies with “smart” plots. The first movie that came to my mind was John Frankenheimer’s brilliant 1998 thriller, Ronin. What do you get when you combine the director of The French Connection II and Robert De Niro? Movie magic. With De Niro still at the height of his powers, Ronin explores the dark underside of European terrorism and the deeds of a CIA agent gone rogue. It also features an amazing car chase. It easily matches Gene Hackman’s epic chase scene in The French Connection.

Of course, thinking of suspenseful and thrilling chases also brings to mind the incredible foot chase from the opening minutes of Casino Royale, where a distinctly chiseled Daniel Craig as James Bond pursues a bomb maker through, over, and around a construction site. It features breathtaking parkour stunts and action.

Thelma & Louise will resonate with many readers. It does with me. The extreme pursuit scene that serves as the movie’s climax ranks as one of the great exits in movie history.

If you’re anything like the Eleventh Stack blog team, you’ll have your own opinions on your top movie chase scenes–we’d love to hear about them!

–Scott P.



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A Summer Extravaganza of Heroic Proportions

SR banner

Here we are again at the start of another summer of reading. Where did the past year go? Hopefully yours was spent reading, learning about and investigating this wonderful world of ours through books, library related programming and the ton of free resources at your local public library. But if for some bizarre reason that didn’t happen, there’s no better time than the present to dive into all that your library has to offer.

This Sunday, June 7th, is the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 15th Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza!!  Library-loving reading-enthusiastic mobs will gather out front of the Main Library in Oakland to enjoy a variety of activities that the library staff and volunteers have planned for this exciting event. The fantastically fun theme for this year’s summer reading is “Every Hero Has a Story.” We’re hoping that you, your family and friends will learn about, meet or become your own heroes this summer with the help of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

What to look forward to this Sunday, beyond meeting some of your library staff, volunteer and Eleventh Stack blog heroes?! There will be a variety of tents and activities, including but not limited to:

  • The CLP Music Tent, where you can make your own instrument with the superheroes of The LABS
  • The CLP Tech Tent with robotics, 3D printing and iPads for display and hands-on experimentation
  • The CLP Readers Tent, where there will be Reading Games for all ages
  • The CLP Wellness Tent with Gardening Thyme planting activities and cooking demonstrations
  • The CLP Languages Tent, where you can listen to read-alouds of children’s books in non-English languages or try out a few simple phrases in a new language

We’ll also have some of the favorite regular features of our Extravaganza:

  • Library Card Sign-Up
  • HUGE Used Book Sale

And we will be joined by some of our great community partners: Eat’n Park, Balloonatic Fringe, Animal Friends, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Puppet Works, Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Timbeleza, Geeks Danz, Larry Berger of SLB Radio Productions, Inc., WYEP and Citiparks.

Of course it wouldn’t be a summer celebration without food and drinks, would it? We’ll have snacks on hand, provided by Giant Eagle, and Franktuary, Oh My Grill, Polish Pierogi, and Rob’s Awesome Italian Ice food trucks will be there!

Be a Summer Reading Hero and stop by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Main in Oakland this Sunday from 12-5.


-Maria J (whose summer reading goal is to get away from the historical fiction and non-fiction she tends to read, and curl up with some cozy mysteries)

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How to Cope as a Reader During Mercury Retrograde

Exploding Book - Getty image

Photo Credit: Getty Images (click through for source)

Yes, my friends. This nonsense again.

I speak, of course, of the special hell on earth that is Mercury Retrograde. If you didn’t get the memo (do people still say that and know what it means? should I say “didn’t get the text” instead?), we are currently doing the Mercury Retrograde backstroke until June 11.

There are some people who ridicule this phenomenon. I may or may not work with a few of them here at the Library. I may be married to one.

There are others who believe fervently that Mercury Retrograde is, indeed, A Thing, and that every computer glitch or random ex-someone who shows up in my Facebook feed is directly connected.

I am quite proudly in the latter camp, so very much a believer that I have the Mercury Retrograde times scheduled on my Outlook calendar, my personal calendar, and the project management whiteboard in my office. My job involves a lot of figurative moving parts; I like to plan ahead for big projects happening during such a cycle and thwart them off if I can. As a public service announcement, Mercury Retrograde will occur again from September 17-October 9 this year.

(You’re welcome.)

One realization I had during this particular Mercury Retrograde was how beneficial this cycle can be for one’s reading life. Really. If we think about the emphasis on going backwards during a retrograde and focus on words with the prefix “re,” there are some strategies we can use to at least make our reading life smoother. Because nobody needs a bumpy ride reading-wise during a retrograde, amiright?

Here are a few ways I’m trying to cope as a reader during these three weeks.

I am one of those power library users who often has the maximum allotment of books, audiobooks, and other materials out at any given time. (That limit would be 50 such items here at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.) During this retrograde, I put myself on a moratorium. No going to meetings and returning with five books. No leaving the library for the day and deciding to take “just a quick peek” at the new arrivals. Easier said than done? Absolutely. Does this work for me every day? No way. But maybe I limit myself to checking out one or two books that particular day instead of—oh, I don’t know—maybe ten.

A Mercury Retrograde would seem to be a nice time to reacquaint oneself with an old favorite, yes? I wouldn’t know about this as I’m not much of a re-reader. (See “Restrain” about how I can’t limit myself to 50 books.) I will say that in my pile I do happen to have an updated version of a book I read a decade ago. So, that definitely counts.

Yeah, one could interpret this to mean that I should actually return some of those library books—and I do. Reluctantly. But during this retrograde, I’m hoping to return to reading some books that I haven’t yet finished.

Like most avid readers, I have a few bulging bookcases at home with titles I know I will never read. Here at the Main Library, we have a bin where we accept used books and the proceeds benefit Library operations. Other Library locations like CLP – Squirrel Hill have ongoing book sales. As hard as it may be, I need to remind myself to periodically reduce my quantity of books and donate them to my employer. (And then remember not to buy them back.)

I like making reading goals. I enjoy participating in several of the many reading challenges out there on the Internet. But sometimes I need to remind myself of what I’ve signed up for or committed to doing. Read 50 classics? I’m all in. Read more historical fiction and world fiction, as was my resolution in reading for 2015? Sure, that sounded great in December … but how are things processing now that we’re almost halfway through the year? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Looking over this list, Mercury Retrograde almost seems manageable. Something I can handle.

Just as long as I have a good book.

~ Melissa F.


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