September 20, 2021
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Award-Winning Horror Authors Visit for National Dessert Day

Flyer for National Dessert Day EventThe JKM Library is excited to be working with CAB and the University Archives on an event this coming October 14th for National Dessert Day. The event will include fall and Halloween themed dessert snacks, the screening of short film “Chatham University Ghost Stories,” directed by student Tess Weaver, the telling of a recent ghostly encounter on campus, and readings from award-winning local horror authors. The University Archives will also have items from Chatham’s past that connect back to popular ghost stories on campus.

The event is from 7:00pm-9:00pm on Thursday, October 14th in the Carriage House. Registration is not required.

Below is the lineup for the evening. Keep scrolling to read bios and find links to our guest authors.

  • 7:00pm- Welcome, mingle, view the archive materials
  • 7:20pm- Nelson Pyles
  • 7:40pm- Sara Tantlinger
  • 8:00pm- Video of ghost stories
  • 8:15pm- An Occurrence at Thomson House (told by Jocelyn Codner)
  • 8:20pm- Douglas Gwilym
  • 8:40pm- Michael A. Arnzen

Sara Tantlinger is the author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and the Stoker-nominated works To Be Devoured, Cradleland of Parasites, and Not All Monsters. Along with being a mentor for the HWA Mentorship Program, she is also a co-organizer for the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter. She embraces all things macabre and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraTantlinger, at saratantlinger.com and on Instagram @inkychaotics.

Nelson Pyles is the critically acclaimed author of the novels Spiders in the Daffodils and Demons, Dolls, & Milkshakes, a collection of short works entitled Everything Here is a Nightmare, as well as multiple short stories in various anthologies. His work has appeared alongside Harlan Ellison, F Paul Wilson, Tim Waggoner, Michael Arnzen, Jonathan Maberry, and Jack Ketchum. His next collection of short stories All These Steps Lead Down will be available in 2022

Nelson is the creator  of The Wicked Library, a horror fiction podcast, where he also served as host for seasons 1-5, and collaborated as Executive Producer for seasons 6-10. He has also been a contributing writer to the popular audio-drama podcast, The Lift. Nelson is also an audiobook narrator and stunt vocalist for the progressive rock band, Novus.

Douglas Gwilym is a writer and editor who has also been known to compose a weird-fiction rock opera or two. If you aren’t lucky enough to have caught him performing his stories and music at venues around Pittsburgh, you can find him at douglasgwilym.bandcamp.com or follow him on twitter at @douglasgwilym. Check out his Amazon page. Befriend him on facebook.

Michael Arnzen is the four-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Grave Markings and Play Dead. Arnzen teaches fulltime in the MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, PA.  Known particularly for his experiments in minimalist horror, in such books as 100 Jolts and The Gorelets Omnibus, he invites readers to subscribe to his newsletter at gorelets.com, where they can get free short-shorts delivered to their inbox when they least expect them.

 

September 16, 2021
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Collaboration on Constitution Day Display

This fall the JKM Library is teaming up with the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics to bring you an in-library display in honor of Constitution Day, also know as Citizenship Day.

Constitution Day is regularly observed on September 17th to commemorate the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in Philadelphia. It is a day to recognize the history and importance of the Constitution, and to celebrate being a citizen of the United States of America.

In addition to the display, the PCWP is hosting a screening of the documentary Surge (2020) on Thursday, September 16th at 11:15am in the Eddy Theater. From the documentary’s website:

Surge is a feature documentary about the record number of first-time female candidates who ran, won and upended politics in the historic, barrier-breaking 2018 midterm elections. Surge follows three candidates in Texas, Indiana and Illinois who each running in uphill battles to flip their deep red districts to blue, including Lauren Underwood, the youngest Black woman to ever be elected to Congress.

Some items included on the JKM Library’s display are:

  • You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe
  • African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn
  • The Unwinding An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
  • Iron Jawed Angels (feature film)
  • Selma (feature film)
  • Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life by Roger Daniels
  • Eyes On the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement (PBS docuseries)
  • The Oxford Handbook of the U.S. Constitution
  • Women’s Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles by Dorothy E. McBride and Janine A. Parry
  • Representation and the Electoral College by Robert M. Alexander

All library items can be checked out by Chatham community members, with the exception of the pocket Constitutions. Those were provided by the PCWP and are free to take and keep.

September 10, 2021
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“Eden Hall Farm: A Visual History from the Chatham Archives” on View in the JKM Library

The Chatham University Archives & Special Collections is pleased to present “Eden Hall Farm: A Visual History from the Chatham Archives” in the lobby of the JKM Library.

Media Player and Signage in JKM Library

A presentation of compelling images accompanied by contextualizing ephemera, the video surveys the founding, the purpose, and the experience of Eden Hall Farm guests before the site was donated to Chatham in 2007.  Students, faculty, and staff can expect to see familiar Eden Hall Farm landmarks, like the Lodge, as they were enjoyed by farm guests in the 1930s through the 1960s.  During those years, the farm was a vacation and retreat center for female employees of the H. J. Heinz Company.

Collage of photographs featuring Sebastian Mueller, Elizabeth Heinz Mueller, guests at Eden Hall Farm in front of a bus, eating in the cafeteria, and playfully rolling down a hill.

Following a brief introduction describing the impetus for founding Eden Hall Farm, the video presents photographs of farm guests alongside textual snippets from a brochure about the farm produced in the 1940s.  All materials in the video are part of the Eden Hall Farm Collection, which is housed in the Chatham University Archives and includes records ranging from guest books and paintings to land deeds and ephemera.

Those interested in exploring the collection more fully are invited to visit the online photograph collection, to review the collection finding aid, or to contact the Archivist for information or to schedule a research appointment (virtual or in-person).

September 8, 2021
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Subscribe to the JKM Library’s Newsletter!

https://bit.ly/JKMNews

Subscribe: https://bit.ly/JKMNews

The JKM Library has recently begun a new monthly newsletter that sends the goods directly to you inbox! That is, if you’re subscribed…

What you can expect to find in this new newsletter of news includes (but is not limited to): information about upcoming events, ways you can find textbooks for free, announcements about the library building and services, updates from the University Archives, highlights of library resources, secrets of the universe, and more! Faculty can expect important information about critical resources and services, like course reserves, in-class library instruction, and incorporating library digital resources into Brightspace course modules.

We really aren’t joking about the secrets of the universe thing. We do actually include those. But you’ll have to subscribe to learn what they are.

February 22, 2021
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Judge a Book By Its Cover Bracket 2021

We’re back with our second year of the Judge a Book By Its Cover Bracket! No one should be surprised that there are still many more delightfully goofy library book covers in our collection to judge and enjoy. We all know how outdated and silly some book covers can be to us now, and this bracket is all about embracing and enjoying everything these covers have to offer! We have selected 16 of our most ridiculous covers for you to compare and vote for the best/worst. Each book featured in the bracket is from our collection and is available for check-out by Chatham community members.

While we are clearly encouraging you to put on your judgment caps for this activity, don’t forget that the old saying is true: never judge a book by its cover…unless your librarians are demanding that you do it in the name of fun. But in all seriousness, some of the best books out there have been saddled with covers that just don’t fit what’s inside. So while we all love a beautiful book cover, don’t let the outdated covers discourage you from picking up what might end up being your next favorite book.

Now that the disclaimer is over, let’s get to the judgment. Feel free to download a bracket to fill out for fun prior to the voting. You can access the ballot HERE and on Instagram and Facebook. Make sure to follow us on social media to see which covers advance and how to vote in round two! Keep scrolling for a preview of the round one matchups and to help you fill out your brackets.

2021 Matchups

January 27, 2021
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The Chatham-Hampton University Exchange and the Civil Rights Movement

Student newspaper article about Hamtpon Institute Seminar

Student newspaper article announcing seminar at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University)

The 1960s is recognized as a pivotal era in American history, when activists in the Civil Rights Movement worked to remove barriers to equality in the voting booth, the workplace, in banking, and more. But, how involved were Chatham students in these efforts? Some might recall that Chatham students joined the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and organized a campus visit by John Lewis in 1964, but when did they begin to participate in the movement? Using the recently digitized Chatham Student Newspapers Collection from the University Archives, we can explore how a student-initiated exchange program with Hampton University, a historically black college in Virginia, created opportunities for students to better understand racism in American culture and to engage more closely in efforts to dismantle Jim Crow segregation laws in the early 1960s.

In March of 1961, the Chatham student newspaper (then called The Arrow) ran a front-page article about a seminar to be held at Hampton University (then known as Hampton Institute) on “African Nations in the World Community,” an event that invited interested students and faculty from other schools to attend[1].  Chatham students Dina Ebel `63, Helen Moed `63, and Janet Greenlee accepted the invitation and, upon their return, remarked that they were impressed by the “generosity shown by the students at Hampton” and “their keen interest in international affairs, even with a problem of their own race.”[2]

Portraits of four Chatham students involved in the initiation of the Chatham-Hampton Institute exchange program

 

The three students were highlighted in an article in The Arrow by Stephanie Cooperman `63 as a counterpoint to a sense of general apathy that she felt was affecting the Chatham student population.  Cooperman wrote that more opportunities like the seminar at Hampton Institute would help to engage students in the world beyond the campus.  She wrote, “Why not allow more of us to learn from actual experience the pain and courage it takes to live as a minority?  Why not institute an exchange program, perhaps a week’s duration, with a Southern Negro college?”[3]  Ebel, Moed, and Greenlee likewise supported the exchange program idea and wrote, “We had the opportunity and we want others to share our experience.  You can’t just talk and write about it; you must live it.”[4]

Clip from The Arrow 02/16/1962

Clip from article by Stephanie Cooperman `63 published on 2/16/1962 “[6]

By the spring of 1962, an exchange program between Hampton Institute and Chatham College was in place.  Those who were unable to travel to Hampton were invited to serve as hostesses for the Hampton Institute guests.  This was the first such exchange program at Chatham and a variety of campus events, including dorm parties, a student-faculty tea, and a “folk sing at the Snack Bar” were planned to welcome the visiting students.  The Hampton guests were encouraged to attend classes, student governance meetings, and on- and off-campus events of their choice.[5]

Phyllis Fox`64, one of the five Chatham students to visit Hampton Institute in 1962, wrote in The Arrow that she hoped the program would “help bridge the wide gap of misunderstanding between beings of the same species.” Using poetry to express her thoughts, Fox wrote:

“Every face has known joy and pain;Group of Chatham and Hampton students gathered at Hampton in 1962
Every face is wet with the same rain;
The face is only the mask of life
That hides the real human strife.
A person is not a face, but a spirit and a mind
So what matter if his skin is of a different kind?”[7]

Winter of 1963 saw the Hampton-Chatham exchange program promoted in the student newspaper with an article describing it as an opportunity for “discussions on segregation with students who had led or participated in sit-downs and other integration movements in the South” and for insight into “one of the foremost problems of today, that of racial relations.”[8]

After visiting Hampton Institute that year, Carol Sheldon `66 wrote about participating in a protest  and learning about segregated lunch counters and employment discrimination.  She wrote, “There is a certain unity about a group of fifty Negroes and three whites who walk into downtown discrimination-ridden Hampton on a Sunday afternoon; perhaps we were partners in fear, since many of us had not picketed anything before and were slightly apprehensive.”[9]

 

Chatham and Hampton students gathered in front of what may be the Emancipation OakArticles in the student newspaper about the program document a range of responses, with students expressing interest in extending the exchange for a whole semester and also insinuating that the Hampton visitors were given a less than welcome reception on campus.[10]

Philip A. Silk, an Assistant Minister from the First Unitarian Church, submitted a letter to the editor to The Arrow in which he describes the potential for the exchange program to create “intelligent follow-up projects as aiding groups such as the NAACP or the Urban League.” He continues, “But it can also lead to a feeling that you have done your part, having proved your liberalism in this brief event.”[11]  At the start of the 1963-1964 year, The Arrow announced plans to host a bi-monthly exchange column with the Hampton Institute newspaper[12] and efforts to help organize an exchange program between Hampton and a nearby men’s school, Washington and Jefferson College.[13]

The exchange that occurred in the spring of 1965 seems to be the last.  Following the exchange that year, Leslie Tarr `68 reported that there was little discussion of civil rights on Hampton Institute campus because the administration “frowned” on student engagement in civil rights demonstrations.[14]  That administrators discouraged student participation in civil rights demonstrations is surprising, especially considering that Hampton Institute President Dr. Moron arranged, in 1957, an on-campus position for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks after her demonstration sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and she was fired from her job.[15]  Tarr also said that Hampton Institute students agree that “It’s the parents who are causing the trouble, and there’s hope for our generation.”[16]

Newspaper Clipping Civil Rights ForumThough it is unclear from the student newspapers exactly why the exchange program ended, it seems that Chatham students remained interested in discussing racism and civil rights issues with members of the Hampton Institute community.  In 1966, the Chatham chapter of the National Student Association organized a week-long Civil Rights Forum with an aim to “broaden the exchange of ideas between Chatham students and students of other campuses.” Panelists included students from Hampton Institute, Howard University, Tuskegee Institute and Central State University as well as speakers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).[17]

Illustration from The Arrow published on 4/9/1965 [18]

By exploring the newly digitized student newspaper collection, a more vivid picture of the early 1960s on Chatham campus emerges.  However, lots of questions—like why the exchange program ended and how the participants continued to engage in efforts to dismantle race-based discrimination—remain unanswered.  This period in Chatham history evokes enduring questions that are critical to the fight for equality, including questions of authenticity and performativeness that circulate within contemporary anti-racist efforts.  Though materials in the Chatham University Archives can’t answer all of these questions, they present an opportunity to examine how activism on campus has—and has not—changed over the years.  The Chatham University Archives welcomes questions about using the collections; more information can be found at library.chatham.edu/archives.

Notes

  1. “Hampton Institute Holds Conference on Africa,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), March 17, 1961, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168715.   
  2. Dina Ebel, Helen Moed, and Janet Greenlee, letter to the editor,  The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), May 12, 1961 on 05/12/1961, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168720.
  3. Stephanie Cooperman, “Student Slams Do-Nothings,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), April 28, 1961, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168718.
  4. Ebel, Moed, and Greenlee, letter to the editor, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168720.
  5. “Chatham Welcomes Eight from Hampton,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), April 13, 1962, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168875.
  6. Stephanie Cooperman, “Chatham Arts On Integration,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), February 16, 1962, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168871.
  7. Phyllis Fox, “People Are People From Va. To Pa.,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), April 27, 1962, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168876.
  8. “Hampton, Chatham Trade Students for Weekend,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), February 22, 1963, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168895.
  9. Carol Sheldon, “Chathamites at Hampton,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), April 12, 1963, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168899.
  10. “NSA Board Requests Reply From You,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania),May 10, 1963, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168901.
  11. Philip A. Silk, letter to the editor, The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), March 9, 1962, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168874.
  12. “Arrow States Policy,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), September 27, 1963, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25168903.
  13. “Seven to Travel to Hampton, Va.,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), March 13, 1964, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25169448.
  14. “Five Students Visit Hampton College On Annual 4-Day Exchange Program,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), April 9, 1965, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25169477.
  15. William Harvey , “Hampton University and Mrs. Rosa Parks: A Little Known History Fact.” Hampton University Website. Hampton University. Accessed January 28, 2021. www.hamptonu.edu/news/hm/2013_02_rosa_parks.cfm.
  16. “Five Students Visit Hampton College,” https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25169477.
  17. “NSA to Sponsor Forum on Rights,” The Arrow (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), February 4, 1966, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25169521.
  18. “Five Students Visit Hampton College,” https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.25169477.

 

January 21, 2021
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Book Review: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Image from Goodreads

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was a wonderful book. At several points in the book I found myself wondering what the next twist would be. The Da Vinci Code is about a symbologist named Robert Langdon. One night, while staying in Paris, he is called to the Louvre to help out on a murder investigation. The victim is in a peculiar pose with instructions to find Langdon scrawled on the floor. Little to his knowledge, Langdon is being investigated as one of the criminals. Now to clear his name, Langdon must solve the mystery himself using his knowledge of symbols.

I enjoyed how the author tied symbology into his novel. I learned things that I was not expecting to in a way that did not feel like I was in a class. I also feel that the action-packed novel kept me engaged with the characters. I often found myself sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next piece of the puzzle to be revealed. I highly recommend The Da Vinci Code to any who love mysteries or even to those looking for an adventure.

You can put a hold on The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown today through the JKM Library catalog and pick the book up at the library! Click here to get started.

Nerice Breen Lusen is an English Major here at Chatham University with a minor in Creative Writing. They have been working at the Jenny King Mellon Library as a student worker since their freshmen year, starting in 2018. Following their time at Chatham they plan to gain their master’s degree in Library and Information Science and become a librarian themself.

December 22, 2020
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You Need to Read This: The Best Inclusive Titles of 2020

2020 has truly been a year of turmoil and adversity, but that doesn’t mean it stopped the literature industry from producing new gems. Our shifting cultural climate has been met with a new wave of prose and poetry that addresses issues of injustice on a deeper level, and now more than ever, books are providing us with an outlet for the powerlessness we’re feeling due to the effects of this year’s chaos. In order to be culturally responsible literary citizens, we need to expand our horizons and develop as wide of a cultural canon as we can. I’ve compiled a list of 2020’s best inclusive titles and while the JKM Library is currently closed for the winter season before the next semester, upon our reopening, patrons can utilize E-ZBorrow and Interlibrary Loan to request newer titles that we may not have on our own shelves.

Best Fiction

The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich is known for her impressive blend of historical and literary fiction, highlighting the struggles of Native Americans suffering the effects of colonialism. The Night Watchman is loosely based on Erdrich’s grandfather’s experience working as a night watchmen during the Native dispossession era. One of the novel’s protagonists, Patrice, desires a life outside of the reservation and rejects the matriarchal roles that are set out for her, longing to move to Minneapolis to follow the lead of her older sister. The second hero, Thomas, is a night watchman and Chippewa council member on their North Dakota reservation, fighting against Congress’ new “termination” bill to eradicate Native communities. Erdrich does not romanticize life on the rez–rather, she paints a colorful cast of characters that encapsulates the essence of the Native struggle, one that is poignant, witty, and tender.

The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi

Powerhouse newcomer Akwaeke Emezi third novel addresses the intersection of African identity with queer identity, highlighting otherness, isolation, and the feeling of finding home. A deep, complex mystery that finds itself in the middle of political reform in the 1990s Nigeria, The Death of Vivek Oji forces the reader into complicated literary disorientation. The titular protagonist Vivek struggles with dissociation and a sense of belonging, befriending the mixed-race children of immigrant mothers to Africa and struggling with what he considers a “sinful” relationship. Emezi’s swirling prose coupled with the layered cultural narrative present in the novel creates a tension that is so hard to achieve in literary fiction, but when attained, is incredibly significant.

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, by Julian K. Jarboe

This is my personal favorite title of 2020, and for good reason. Jarboe’s debut fiction collection covers everything from cyberpunk dystopia, body horror, mythical lore, subtle romance, and stories of abusive religious institutions. All of these vastly different narratives share a common thread, though: the constant threat of being stripped of our individuality, whether it be our culture, our community, our physical vessel. Jarboe’s literary voice is spectacular from segment to segment and the pacing never falls flat. I particularly enjoyed the stories “I Am a Beautiful Bug!,” which is part love letter to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and part transgender allegory, and “Self Care,” an antiestablishment stream-of-consciousness narrative that highlights the end of times at the hands of ostentatious religiosity and greed.

Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar

Loosely inspired by Akhtar’s own experiences as an Arab-American following 9/11, Homeland Elegies tells the story of a family struggling with feelings of national dispossession. While the story is fictional, the content is autobiographical in nature, drawing directly on the oppression that Akhbar felt in the field of the humanities. He makes you long for an America that never truly existed, one that could have hyperbolized peace and unity. Rather, we’re exposed to a more complex, pessimistic America whose racial bias and detestment of immigrants bleeds through to our everyday life whether we’re cognizant of it or not.

Best Nonfiction

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, by Mikki Kendall

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that racial injustice has always been a reality, it has only become more apparent in the media because we have more access to the struggles of others. Kendall discusses the overwhelming power of white feminism, and how so often gender overpowers other facets of identity. The crux at which true allyship happens includes race, class, ability, and sexuality, and Kendall’s thesis statement enforces that all issues of denial to access are issues of feminism. The critique of mainstream feminist scholars is biting and well-written, tackling issues like food insecurity, education, medical care, and more in its analysis. Kendall truly reminds us that it’s not feminism unless it’s inclusive and intersectional.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, by Cathy Park Hong

Part immigration memoir, part critical cultural studies, Hong’s essays directly confront modern-day racial consciousness here in America with a twist. What she calls “minor feelings” are stand-ins for the grief, shame, and internalized notions about race that we face in a society that is so inherently whitewashed. Hong works to unpack this implicit bias of self and others in a way that is both intellectual and entertaining, peppering in stories from her youth to punctuate the more theoretical elements of the text. Park discusses the stereotypes typically inscribed upon Asian Americans; she manages to blend the educational with the conversational in a way that even the newest of allies can process.

Me and White Supremacy, by Layla Saad

What started as an Instagram challenge to encourage white people to address their implicit biases became one of the year’s best tools for white allies to use to confront their implicit biases surrounding race and ethnicity. Saad creates a resource that elevates BIPOC people and teaches white people about their levels of privilege and unconscious engagement in the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy without forcing people of color to exert their emotional labor. So often, communities exploit the emotional and mental work of its scholars of color and assume they will be educators for white people without providing compensation. This book can provide that insight for white allies to understand that they must use their power to support people of color, and that with privilege comes a special position to support others.

The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

DACA recipient Villavicencio decided to start writing this collection in response to the 2016 election results, and in it paints a beautiful depiction of undocumented immigrants in the United States. She meets with immigrants all over the country and learns their stories in order to come up with some semblance of her own. It is a touching, unrestrained take on refuge and sanctuary, how with citizenship comes privilege, and the denial to access that goes hand-in-hand with undocumented status. Rather than living in the shadows of her own identity, Villavicencio advocates on behalf of other undocumented people in an unflinching critique on how our society treats those simply seeking solace in the world.

Best Poetry

Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine

A spiritual successor to her collection Citizen, Rankine tackles the big issues of white supremacy in a jarring collection of poems, short prose, and art. Just Us highlights the microcosms of Americana, a nation divided, and how indifference has made even liminal spaces hostile for nonwhite individuals. Rankine dives into the politics of politeness, calling attention to the way that privilege often encourages the majority to turn a blind eye to oppression and marginalization. Her poetic voice is blatant and urgent while still providing a strong aesthetic flow, a varied poetic voice that has cemented itself as one of the most striking of the 21st century.

Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems, by Wanda Coleman.

Poetry spanning a forty-year body of work, Wicked Enchantment is a consciously anti-racist collection that confronts marginalization with humor, ennui, and sometimes anger. Coleman’s legacy on the poetry community is insurmountable, and with an introduction and edits from the great Terrence Hayes, she so rawly and honestly depicts the progression of racism in America. The poems in this collection are not about being pretty or being pleasing. They are about feeling and filling a void where society has failed us. In addition to the overarching theme of racial injustice, Coleman also tackles concepts like mental illness, wealth inequality, and the failings of the healthcare system particularly against Black women. This is a dense read, but a very worthwhile one.

Music for the Dead and Resurrected: Poems, by Valzhyna Mort

Belarusian poet Mort discusses the traumatic intergenerational legacy of war and propaganda in this heart-wrenching collection of love letters to the dead. She weaves historical elements like World War II, Soviet labor camps, and tyrannical dictatorships throughout the text, tracing the timeline of her native country’s development to her and her family’s experiences in these toxic, violent environments. Tethering her own coming-of-age with the mythology of a fragmented nation, Mort creates a lyricism of ghosts, an existence that will always be permeated by the atrocities committed against or by our ancestors. Music for the Dead and Resurrected confronts the American historical myths and forces the reader to take an uncomfortable but nonetheless poetic look at how they got to where they are.

Inheritance, by Taylor Johnson

A recent release, Taylor Johnson asserts the precariousness of poor Black identity in a nation that constantly surveils our most at-risk populations in this collection. They elaborate in their poems about the intrinsic link of capitalism to the exploitation of bodies of color, and with broad lyricism, Johnson opens a dialogue as to what a world without the boundaries of class and financial standing would look like. Cynicism of cultural monoliths permeate the text as Johnson conveys their theories through the lens of radical love and sex. There is a stark juxtaposition of lightheartedness with the prison industrial complex, pleasure against poverty. This jarring dichotomy conveys the meaning of the collection: suffering will always plague us so long as we allow ourselves to adhere to oppressive cultural rules.

Best Children’s and Young Adult

You Should See Me in a Crown, by Leah Johnson

Johnson’s debut novel is one that is sweet and fun, typical of YA, but tackles the very real issues of growing up a minority in small-town America. Protagonist Liz Lighty views herself as being “too Black, too poor, too awkward” to be taken seriously in her rural, conservative community, and she desires nothing more than to break out of this restrictive town and attend a prestigious university. Johnson highlights the very real threat of financial insecurity that plagues teens and young adults, and Liz’s reluctant journey to attain prom royalty to assure financial aid is an interesting subversion of the traditional high school narrative. It’s so important to see young, empowered Black girls in stories where they have agency and dreams, and where their hardships are not fetishized–Johnson creates a new kind of Black hero in Liz, one in which many young viewers can see bits of themselves.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, by Hank Green

The follow-up to Hank Green’s bestseller An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is just as stunning as its predecessor, a science-fiction tale that tackles concepts like colonization, decimation of lands, and class consciousness. Green’s social commentary is presented in a youth-friendly way, fast-paced and action-packed. The elements of mystery and eclectic cast of characters is what will draw you in, but the interesting theories surrounding technology, reality, and virtuality will keep you coming back for more. Considering Green’s science background, there’s validity to the scientific elements of the text, but it’s not so academic that it’ll go over the head of the readers.

Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

In a similar style to her bestseller The Poet X, Acevedo crafts a novel-in-verse that ties together the notions of togetherness and grief in an incredibly touching testament to the power of familial love. Camino, who lives in the Dominican Republic, and Yahaira, who lives in New York City, are sisters who are totally unaware of one another’s existence until a horrible tragedy brings them together. Their intrinsic connection forces them to think about the boundaries between their cultures and what sorts of secrets lurked within their families. The blend of poetry and prose makes for an easy reading experience and the content helps to show the subtle differences between groups of Latinx identity.

The Degenerates, by J. Albert Mann

Disability is a subject of intersectionality that we don’t see too often in modern fiction, or at least when it’s not portrayed in the unfortunate genre of “inspiration porn.” The Degenerates does not glamorize the disabled experience in the case of mental, physical, and learning disabilities. Taking place in an institution for the mentally ill or disabled, these girls are not portrayed as weak, simple, or naive. Instead, they are empowered and fierce young women, dedicated to escaping the system that oppresses them. The Degenerates also doesn’t shy away from the severity of institutionalization–the interactions are coarse, belittling, and show the reality of living with a disability in a world that does not provide access or accommodations.

Carina Stopenski is the Access Services Associate at Chatham University’s Jennie King Mellon Library. They started out as a student worker while getting their creative writing degree at Chatham, and received their Master’s of Library Science at Clarion University in summer 2020. They enjoy games of both the board and video persuasion, vegan baking, and reading graphic novels. They also teach cultural studies and “cartoon theory” classes on the platform Outschool.

December 14, 2020
by library
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Book Review: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Image from Goodreads

The book Carmilla is an 1872 English novella by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Carmilla can be downloaded as a PDF from the library’s website or it can also be requested in tangible form through E-ZBorrow (when E-ZBorrow is accessible). The novella features the first appearances of a female vampire in English gothic literature. Carmilla served as an inspiration for Brim Stoker’s Dracula, which was published about twenty-five years later in May of 1897.

The novella begins with a prologue from a doctor’s assistant explaining that the tale that follows is a recounting of events that befell one of the doctor’s patients. It is told from a young woman named Laura’s point of view. She begins by telling the reader of her first encounter with Carmilla when she was just six years old, saying that it is her oldest memory. She is left scared and scarred from this encounter.

The story picks up years later as Laura explains the castle she and her father have come to live in. Together with Laura’s governess and “finishing governess” – as Laura calls her – Laura and her father live in Syria but are originally from England. One day Laura and her father receive a letter from one General Spielsdorf. He has unfortunately cancelled his visit to them because his niece and ward had died, claiming that she was killed by a monster. On a walk shortly after, a carriage crashes in front of Laura and her father. The riders of the carriage consist of an elderly woman and a younger woman the elder claims as her daughter.  The young woman is hurt in the crash but seeing as her mother is on an important journey, she leaves her daughter in the care of Laura’s father. The girl is introduced as Carmilla, and Laura is excited to have a friend to spend the foreseeable days with.

I thought the novella was well written, though the dialect – being that of the 1800’s can be a bit confusing for the modern reader. While I was reading there were passages that I read twice to make sure I understood them, but I don’t think this detracted from the story that was being told. Carmilla, the character, was not forth coming with details about herself. This gripped me as a reader and made me want to read onwards.

Vampires are often characterized in stories with alluring and mysterious airs. Carmilla is no exception. There are often times in the story where either Carmilla speaks to Laura, vice versa, or even when Laura describes Carmilla to the reader that shows an attraction between the girls – romantically and even physically. It is not explicit in the novel that Carmilla and Laura are together in any sense, but it creates a dynamic between the two characters that made me want to read more. It made me what to learn more about the mysterious Carmilla just as Laura wished to.

The story is not one of grand fights or intense dramas like novels or novellas of today, but I felt that Carmilla was a great book. It is a quick read and holds themes and motifs that are ahead of its time.

Nerice Breen Lusen is an English Major here at Chatham University with a minor in Creative Writing. They have been working at the Jenny King Mellon Library as a student worker since their freshmen year, starting in 2018. Following their time at Chatham they plan to gain their master’s degree in Library and Information Science and become a librarian themself.

November 12, 2020
by library
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2020 El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Celebrations

Screenshot from the first Zoom event. Provided by Professor Mildred López.

El día de los muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a special international celebration practiced throughout many Spanish speaking countries. Its rituals and traditions can be traced back to both indigenous cultures and European Christian practices. As a holiday, it demonstrates the blending of these countries in Central and South America, and it is now celebrated in many countries across the world including the United States and some parts of Asia. Although it is celebrated differently in each country and culture, at its heart it is intended to be a celebration of life and a way to honor and remember loved ones who have passed.

The JKM Library was proud and excited to partner once again with Modern Languages, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Counseling Services to host Chatham’s third celebration of el día de los muertos as part of the Latinx Heritage Month celebrations. This year, to keep everyone safe, we hosted our event series virtually via Zoom. This meant lots of compromises concerning activities and programming during each event, but we were pleased to be able to bring this event series back to Chatham despite such difficult times. There were 34 total participants between both virtual events.

Screenshot from the first Zoom event. Provided by Professor Mildred López.

On Tuesday, October 27th we offered “¡Celebremos el día de los muertos!”, an educational presentation on el día de los muertos. Students from Professor Mildred López’s Spanish LNG161 and LNG261 classes led a presentation on the history and culture of the holiday. After the presentation, we watched a video, got a tour of JKM Library resources on the subject, and played a spirited game of el día de los muertos trivia.

The second event was hosted on Thursday, October 29th and featured a discussion led by Dr. Elsa Arce and Susan Kusmierski from Counseling Services on how to cope with grief, celebrate life, and honor both. Attendees shared personal losses they experienced in their lives, what those losses meant to them, how they handle their grief, and how they remember and honor those they have lost. Attendees also discussed the place that a holiday like el día de los muertos could have in the United States, and what communal grieving could offer them personally. Professor Mildred López also walked attendees through an event in Piura, Peru that helps women cope with the loss of children. The entire community comes together through a very touching and emotional ritual that asks mothers to share their children with the women who have lost theirs. This event allows individuals to heal both communally and across generations. Professor López also discussed the significance of Monarch butterflies, which are used as both a metaphor for immigration and a symbol of the souls of loved ones coming back to visit their families.

Because we were unable to offer the usual crafting projects as part of this year’s event series, templates and instructions for multiple engaging crafts were made available on the JKM Library’s resources page. Participants were encouraged to try the crafts at home. Recipes for the traditional refreshments were also made available for those who wanted to try their hand at making the pan de muerto or indigenous hot xocolatl (chocolate) themselves.

Thank you to all sponsoring departments, to Mildred López and her Spanish classes, to Dr. Elsa Arce, Susan Kusmierski, and to everyone who attended. We look forward to continuing to celebrate el día de los muertos in 2021.

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