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One Shot Harris

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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

oneshotPittsburgh owes much appreciation to one man for documenting the city’s African American urban life during the Jim Crow era—specifically, this sharp lensman concentrated on the Hill District and a once-thriving social life that has long-since passed and faded to memory.

The Hill District during its heyday was a vibrant place, the city’s cultural center—where people of all ethnicities lived alongside each other, and where independent businesses and Pittsburgh’s Jazz scene thrived.  Who is this man?

We’ll give you a couple hints: He’s had numerous exhibitions of his photographs over the years in Pittsburgh and nationally (the Carnegie Museum of Art showcased his work in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011), has an archive devoted to his work of over 80,000 negatives and worked for the Pittsburgh Courier.

The answer: Charles “Teenie” Harris.

Harris was born in 1908 and was an avid baseball player in his youth, later becoming a semi-pro athlete, and among other things, playing for the Negro league Pittsburgh Crawfords. It wasn’t until the early 1930s that he bought his first camera. He proved to be a natural, and within a few years opened his own photography studio (earning the nickname “One Shot” because he rarely made his subjects sit for long) and became the main photographer for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of America’s leading black newspapers during the 1930s and Civil Rights eras.

tharrisThis working class beat photographer snapped well over 100,00 images for The Courier during his years at the paper (1936-1975). And he did it in a unique way, shooting the important and influential people of his day, with the city’s everyday life. Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and John F. Kennedy were all photographed by Harris, alongside Pittsburgh’s weddings, nightlife and little-league games. He found them all equally important and celebrated and portrayed the dignified lives of African American people that became even more influential during the 1960s. You can learn more about this fantastic man at the Library. Just a few of the titles we have for you to peruse:

-Whitney

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Stacking ‘Em Up: Our Favorite Reads From 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a library blog in possession of a good staff must be in want of a best books post. Library workers are frequently their own best customers, passing titles back and forth with reckless abandon, buttonholing colleagues in stairwells to insist they check out the book that kept us up late swooning (or shivering). Nothing brings us more joy, however, than turning those efforts outward and sharing our favorites with you.

The Eleventh Stack team consumed a mountain of reading this year (probably taller than Richard, and he’s pretty tall). Here are some of the ones we enjoyed most.

Maria:

turncoatThe Turncoat by Donna Thorland

Though labeled historical fiction, this book has a passionate and sizzling romance at its heart, so I would call it historical romance as well. The first book in the Renegades of the Revolution series, I loved this dangerous romance set amid the intrigues of Revolutionary War Philadelphia. Quaker country-girl-turned-rebel-spy Kate Grey falls for British officer Peter Tremayne despite their opposing allegiances. I especially enjoyed its life meets fiction aspect as George Washington, John Andre, General Howe, and Peggy Shippen all make appearances here. I look forward to reading more in the series from this debut author. Thorland, who is also a filmmaker, made a fascinating book trailer; I think it would make a great movie.

detroit

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

My poor hometown. Native metro-Detroiter and award-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff writes a raw and thoroughly readable portrait of the Motor City’s state of emergency, from its abandoned neighborhoods, horrible city services, double-digit unemployment rates, and rampant crime to the die-hard residents who refuse to give up. A moving and frightening account of the decline of a great American city.

Melissa F.

I spent most of 2013 hanging out with some questionable, unreliable, but incredibly memorable characters from the Gilded Age.  You don’t get much more eyebrow-raising than Odalie from The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell’s debut that has been described as “part Hitchcock, part Patricia Highsmith, and part Gatsby.” It’s a phenomenal, can’t-put-down read that I’ve been recommending all year long.  Also of note is The Virgin Cure , Ami McKay’s historical fiction story of a twelve year old orphan in 1870s New York that is based on the true story of one of her relatives.  

The OrchardistAnd then there was benevolent Talmadge from The Orchardist. I adored Amanda Coplin’s luminous debut novel with its grand, overlapping themes of morality and religion, of being one with the earth and the eternal struggle of good versus evil. It’s been compared to The Grapes of Wrath (this one is way better). Like Steinbeck, Amanda Coplin joins the list of authors who have given us a true American classic.

(Other highly recommended books in case the Gilded Age isn’t your thing: Tenth of December and In Persuasion Nation, both by George Saunders; Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan; Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, The Bird Saviors, by William J. Cobb, When It Happens to You, by Molly Ringwald (yes, THAT Molly Ringwald!), Still Life with Oysters and Lemon and Dog Years by Mark Doty (listen to the audio version); Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon, and Songdogs, by Colum McCann.)

What can I say? In the words of Sinatra, it was a very good year.

JessBurial Rites, Hannah Kent

If you’ve had good experiences with Alice Hoffman and Geraldine Brooks (Kent even gives a shout out to Brooks as a mentor in her acknowledgements), then this is for you.

In rural Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir has been tried and accused of murder – and now must await execution in her home district. No prison means she’s forced upon a family who obviously wants nothing to do with her. Over the next months, Agnes is put to work on the farm. She slowly begins to open up about her messy past to a young priest, chosen for a long ago kindness, and to the wife of the household, who begins to see a Agnes as woman who has been worn down by a harsh life. Based on true story of one of the last two executions in Iceland, Kent deftly blends some amazing research with strong prose to weave a story about woman who was truly a victim of her circumstances.

SuzyTraveling Sprinkler, Nicholson Baker. Suzy really enjoyed this book a lot, but is not here to tell us about it because she is off riding her bike someplace not currently buried under several feet of snow. We are extremely jealous of very happy for Suzy, and hope she comes home soon to tell us more about the book.

Leigh Anne

Much to my surprise, the two books I’ve enjoyed most this year were both set during World War II. I’ve never been much of a war buff, but that’s a testament to how the power of good fiction can make you more interested in history. In this case, the novels were Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity.

Life After Life –the tale of an Englishwoman who keeps reincarnating as herself and trying to kill lifeafterlifeHitler–has cropped up on a number of best/notable lists this year, including the New York Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and I’ve already reviewed it earlier this year, so let me just say this: what an ending. When I read the last few sentences, and the light bulb over my head finally went on, I was amazed at how cleverly Atkinson had made her point: no matter how hard we strive as individuals, we can never act out of context. We always need other people to help us achieve our objectives, even if we are strong and clever.

verityCode Name Verity takes us behind enemy lines as Verity the spy and Maddie the pilot tell their stories in alternating sections. The crux of this novel–which I also reviewed earlier this year–is truth: who’s telling it, who’s hiding it, and how flexible it can be depending on how high the stakes are. For Maddie and Verity, the stakes are very high, indeed, and I loved that the book, while intended for a teen audience, didn’t shy away from the horrors of war…or deliver a tidy happy ending. If you want a great portrait of what it must have been like to be a teenager during WWII, pick up this novel….but be prepared to have All Of The Feelings. If you adore Wein as much as I do after you’re done, you’ll want to move on to her 2013 release, Rose Under Fire, in which pilot Rose Justice is captured and sent to the concentration camp Ravensbruck.

It was really hard to pick my favorites from what turned out to be an amazing run of excellent reading this year. Some other books I devoured include Letters From Skye (historical romance), Longbourn (historical fiction), and The Son (epic southwestern family saga). And now I must stop, before I blog your ear off…

bookcover Joelle 

I do love fantasy books! My favorites for this year were The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Both of these books have already achieved positive critical acclaim, but I will add mine:

The Golem is created by a mysterious and mischievous Rabbi as a bride for a young man who is set to travel to New York from Poland. The Jinni had been trapped for centuries in a lamp which also made its way to New York City. They both try to fit in to society with their separate supernatural talents, but recognize each other as different right away. It is interesting to see these magical beings from two different cultures coming together. The author creates characters with unusual and distinctive personalities.

ocean Neil Gaiman is the master of creating fantasy worlds that do not follow any specific cultural tradition, yet are somehow universal. A man journeys back to his old home town, and is drawn to a place only half remembered. The reader is transported to the mind of a seven year old, a time in a person’s life when one is very vulnerable, and when one can accept magic as a matter of fact.
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Holly
Nestled behind the International Poetry Room on CLP-Main’s second floor, you’ll find one of my favorite places in the Library.  The Oversize Book Room is home to volume upon volume of giant, gorgeous books. These are books that are graphic-heavy, photo-heavy, and often really heavy in weight, and therefore they do not fit on our regular book shelves/make great impromptu weapons.  Fashion, art, landscape photography, crafts and home repair are some of the subjects that you can find here.   One day while helping a patron find another book in this section, I stumbled upon the splendid  Jack London, Photographer. This is my favorite book of 2013 because it exemplifies what I love most about the Library and the serendipity that lives here.  I had no idea that Jack London was a photographer, and a talented one at that!  This gem contains somewhat disparate, at least in terms of location, photo collections.  They are a fascinating  look at early 20th century history through the eyes of a classic author.  Chapters have titles like ” The People of the Abyss,”  which is a stark look at impoverished Londoners in 1902. Battlefields are a subject as well, such as  those of  the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and the Mexican Revolution of 1914.  I loved this book because it was a rejuvenating break from my usual reading of text-heavy new fiction and new nonfiction.

Don

For me this was an unusual year, and my reading reflected all the strangeness. I found myself reading old (Kim by Rudyard Kipling), new (A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki), rereads (The Final Solution by Michael Chabon and The Fall by Albert Camus), pastiche (The Mandela of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu), Buddhist fiction (Buddha Da by Anne Donovan), science fiction (Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian MacDonald), and the truly, wonderfully bizarre (Duplex by Kathryn Davis).

Part of the unusual nature of all this is the fact that, thematically, there is a great deal these books have in common. There are all kinds of connections between them, come to think of it. And really, there is not a book listed above that you can go wrong with, but, since we are picking favorites, here we go…

My favorite book of the year turns out to be a tie between the first two listed: A Tale for the Time Being, and that hoary old chestnut, Kim. Both of these books surprised, in different ways. I was frankly stunned by how good Kim (and Rudyard Kipling) is. I’d always thought of Kipling as just another dead old white guy, with a penchant for British colonialism and simplistic stories, who might easily be ignored for, oh, 50-plus years or so. And was, by me.

It really is delightful to wake up every day and realize how very, very wrong you can be.

timebeing

Ozeki’s book is difficult to describe, so I’ll let the author speak for herself (from her website):

A Tale for the Time Being is a powerful story about the ways in which reading and writing connect two people who will never meet. Spanning the planet from Tokyo’s Electric Town to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and connected by the great Pacific gyres, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a diary, washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

Kim is part quest–for self and for meaning–, part old-fashioned adventure via the time-honored motif of the journey, and, consistently, a fine, penetrating story on what it means to be human.

Yes indeed, how very good it is to wake up each and every day.

Melissa M.

5In5Of course my favorite book this year was a cookbook, specifically Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. I’ve watched this man on television so many times now that as I was reading the recipes I could hear them, inside my head, being read to me in his voice. Now, Michael does cheat the five ingredients rule a little because he uses items from his pantry that are not part of that total number. The first section of the book, after the introduction, is a list of what items should be in your pantry at all times. These include things like extra virgin olive oil, a variety of vinegars, pasta, canned beans, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and other spices. You probably already have most of those in your kitchen cupboards, so no worries there. The recipes are not complicated; most have only 3-4 steps. This is food you could cook on a weeknight and would want to eat. Plus, who wouldn’t love a cookbook with a chapter called “On a Stick”? Foods on a stick rule!

There you have it! Your turn. What were your favorite reads of 2013, whether new finds or old favorites?

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Another Wordless Wednesday

So the day before the huge hustle and bustle of another family holiday, I thought it might be nice to observe a silent wordless Wednesday. Actually it may not be so silent, as I think these photographs speak volumes.  The pictures today are selected from the public archives collection on The Commons.

And because many of us will be traveling for the holidays, our theme for today is Getting from Here to There…

Taxi bij Schiphol / Taxi at Schiphol airport from the Nationaal Archief collection

 

Travel Air 2000 courtesy of the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

 

Cary Bay Zoo, Lake Macquarie, NSW, 1954 / Sam Hood from State Library of New South Wales collection

  

Op reis met de trein / Traveling by train from the Nationaal Archief collection

  

Favorittbilde #12. Ukas bilde courtesy of National Archives of Norway

 

Trip for fatherless children from The National Library of Wales

 

The Hartlepool Old Ferry by Museum of Hartlepool

 

May your holiday journeys be short and your travels be safe.

-Melissa M

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Wordless Wednesday

Many blogs observe “Wordless Wednesday,” weekly posts of silent, colorful musings with or without themes. Today’s Wordless Wednesday theme is Round Things. All photographs are from public archives on The Commons.

A participant carves a watermelon in the Food Culture USA program at the 2005 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

"Untitled," Smithsonian Institution

Coloured illustrations of meat and poultry piled onto elaborate silver serving stands, 1901

"Coloured illustrations of meat and poultry piled onto elaborate silver serving stands, 1901," State Library of Queensland, Australia

[Cat posed with Mexican serape]

"Cat posed with Mexican serape ," Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries"

Ceiling Fixture, Rockefeller Center, New York City

"Ceiling Fixture, Rockefeller Center, New York City," Smithsonian Institution

Closeup of a Fence Constructed of Tire Rims in New Ulm Minnesota...

"Closeup of a Fence Constructed of Tire Rims in New Ulm Minnesota...," The U.S. National Archives

Hubble Reopens Its Eye on the Universe

"Hubble Reopens Its Eye on the Universe," NASA

You don’t have to be an institution to contribute to the wealth of Creative Commons images  online. Get started with your own archives.

–Renée

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The Joys of Summer

I have vacation on the brain, but I don’t leave for a week.  At this rate, it’s going to be very hard to get any work done.  So this post is dedicated to all the things I love about summer.

It’s the height of the growing season, and right now your garden might be a little hard to keep up with.  To stay focused, check out Keeping the Garden In Bloom: Watering, Dead-heading, and Other Summer Tasks, by Steven Bradley. Once that produce starts rolling in, you’ll want to read The Summer Cook’s Book: A Guide to Planting, Harvesting, Storing, Canning, Freezing and Cooking Popular Fruits and Vegetables by Brenda Cobb.  And if you’re unable to garden, you can still reap the benefits – visit the library’s CSAs, Farms and Farmer’s Markets page.

Of course, there’s more to summer dining than just produce.  If you want to put together a quick, satisfying, and in-season meal so you can spend more time having fun, try Summer Gatherings : Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends, by Rick Rodgers.  If your interests lie in taming the flames, and wielding your skills everywhere from the stadium parking lot to  the middle of nowhere, check out How to Grill, by Steven Raichlen (of PBS fame).

Many people spend the summer hiking on trails all over the Pittsburgh area.  Whether you’re looking to get started, or you want new trails to explore, there’s something for you in Best Hikes Near Pittsburgh by Bob Frye.  You can even take your buddy, with Doggin’ Pittsburgh : the 50 best Places to Hike With Your Dog in Southwest Pennsylvania by Doug Gelbert.

Birdwatching is a fun summer hobby in both backyards and state parks.  If you want to develop your own personal wildlife habitat, there are many ideas in North American Backyard Birdwatching For All Seasons: Feeding and Landscaping Techniques Guaranteed to Attract Birds You Want Year Round by Marcus H. Schneck.  Once you’ve found the birds, you’ll want to know what you’re looking at – and hearing!  Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky is unique among bird guides, in that it contains a little computerized gizmo that will play the sound of each bird.  It’s definitely worth trying out if you have even the most passing interest in birds, or if you own cats.

Great vacations usually make great photos, but brushing up on your skills doesn’t hurt either.  Take a look at Digital Nature Photography Closeup by Jon Cox, or the National Geographic Photography Field Guide to Landscapes : Secrets to Making Great Pictures by Robert Caputo.

And if none of these ideas tickle your fancy, visit the Carnegie Library’s Outdoor Activities page.  You’ll find general and local resources on everything from camping to caving to water activities.  Or you can always come into the library to browse the collection, maybe take in a free event, and soak up some air conditioning.

– Denise

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Vibrant Hues at CLP

Everyone has a passion for something outside of his or her job,  and it’s often something completely unrelated.  For many, especially among the staff here at the Carnegie Library, their passion lies somewhere on the creative spectrum.  The Annual CLP Staff Art Show here at Main is a living testament to this. The hallway across from the Large Print Room currently features magnificent pieces of artwork, all made by the staff in the Carnegie Library system.  The display will run throughout the month of April, partially in honor of National Library Week.

Do you have a creative outlet, or some other passion that you love to indulge in outside of your normal routine?   Is there any craft or medium that you’ve wanted to dabble in but never dared to try?  Allow me to recommend a few useful resources to get you on your way:

Stitch n’ Bitch:  The Knitter’s Handbook is by far my favorite book when it comes to learning how to knit.  It has some of the best illustrations and descriptions, which really come in handy.  It is also filled with a variety of patterns to try after you get the basics down.

The Happy Hooker:  Stitch n’ Bitch Crochet is in the same series as the one listed above, and is likewise just as useful for the crochet newbie. 

If you have tried books to learn how to knit and/or  crochet, but still find yourself at a loss, you can always come to Carnegie Knits and Reads at Main.  It’s on the first and third Wednesday of every month and is chock-full of yarn masters who can aid you in your crafty quest.

A Short Course in Photography is a great book for people who want to take their photography to the next level.  This book will give you plenty to think about when it comes to perspective and personal style.  Definitely a must for anyone who wants to progress beyond taking merely a “nice photo.”

Glass Blowing: A Technical Manual is an excellent source for explaining the overall process of glass blowing by using an array of completed pieces as examples.   It provides a stellar overview of the basic techniques as well as gives the reader plenty to ponder when it comes to color and personal style.

Art Class: A Complete Guide to Painting is a marvelous book for anyone who wants to learn how to paint.  The author, with the help and advice of several artists, provides the reader with insight on everything from choosing a medium to deciding on a subject.  An absolute must for those who yearn to add some extra brush strokes to their days.

The New Artist’s Manual is essentially four years of art school without the hassle of expensive loans and college applications.  A hands-on art text, it is a great resource for beginners and advanced artists alike.  One of my favorite books.

The Big-Ass Book of Crafts is one of the most fun books you can have on your creative shelf.   Ever wonder what to do with all that extra silverware you obtained from your dorm room days?  Or how about all those clothes pins or subscription cards that fall out of your magazines?  This book offers fun-filled, imaginative and creative solutions to such problems.  A great book for anyone who wants to dabble in the creative world, but has no preference when it comes to medium.

Happy creating!! 

MA

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shutterbug

I recently splurged on a digital camera, and must confess I’ve caught the shutterbug.  Admittedly, the subject of most shots is one of my oh-so-photogenic feline compadres, but plants, Mt. Dub,  and absurd amounts of closeups of the Monongahela’s surface also sneak in. 

Pittsburgh frequently stars, too.  (See below, please and thank you.)  Our very own Pennsylvania Department is probably the expert when it comes to getting the ‘burgh’s good side, though.  They house the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, a collection of over 50,000 prints and negatives relating to Pittsburgh’s history.  You can even buy prints, or browse the exhibit Bridging the Urban Landscape, or learn more.

  

The fun part of photography is that it forces you to look around you and observe daily surroundings as though they were art.  But the best part of digital photography is sharing the results online.  And I’m not the only library worker who feels that way.  In addition to the Prints and Photographs Reading Room available on their website, the Library of Congress recently created a Flickr account in hopes that good citizens would participate and tag their huge catalog of pictures that span an incredible range of subjects.

Are there any other photographiles out there?  Want to share your pictures?  What are your favorite subjects or locations?  Are there any photographers–amatuer or professional–you really enjoy?

–renée

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