Book Review: There There by Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange

Though a work of fiction, Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There There, is steeped in history. And not just one kind. Entire chapters deal directly with the history of Native peoples in the Americas and their largely tragic encounters with European colonizers. It can be argued that the entire book, set in modern day, permeates with the centuries old theme of searching for identity in the face of cultural destruction. On a different level, it also explores the private histories that shape the everyday actions of all people. Orange expertly weaves together numerous personal stories into one greater tale, one where the individuals he follows, all with at least some Native lineage, make their way towards a sprawling powwow event in Oakland, California. And like much of the history that Orange touches upon throughout the novel, this book turns into a tragedy by the final pages. However, like in all tales, there are moments of beauty and sadness and humor that give the novel its soul. Individuals are the driving force of being human, and that is no different here. Eventually, these vignettes all come crashing together to create a complex story where multiple strands eventually connect into a heartbreaking tapestry.

Orange’s technique of highlighting a wide variety of characters proves to be both the strength and weakness of There There. The ones that hit truly hit. They make you feel both the huge theme of the Native American experience in the United States, particularly the one born in urban areas, while also exploring the pain that is both common and unique to all of us.  A young man named Edwin Black was one of my favorites. In his first featured vignette, he is awkward, overweight, and self-isolated, totally unsure of where he fits in the world. Which brings up a question: what is it like to feel ostracized within a larger group that is already largely excluded from the society it exists in? Eventually, though, his arc transforms into one of cautious hopefulness. He becomes deeply involved in the planning of the powwow and contacts the man he believes to be his father through his mom’s Facebook account. Another character that helps bring true emotional depth to the book is that of a woman named Jacquie Red Feather. Her devastating story of family strife, abandonment, and alcoholism is perhaps the most powerful among several worthy contenders. A speech she gives at an AA meeting led by the long-disappeared father of her first child perfectly encapsulates the struggles felt throughout the novel, those of regret and tenuous optimism for the future. Continue reading

Find a Wealth of Information in a Few Clicks with Gale eBooks on GVRL

Gale eBooks on GVRL are a one-stop shopping for all of your ready reference needs! Let’s look at an example.

Here’s a familiar scenario: an ENGL 1020 student is writing a paper about Bill Gates. They are only allowed one internet source, and need book sources. What a perfect use of GVRL!  Sure, the database is accessed via the Internet, but the sources themselves are books. Glorious, full-text reference books!

A GVRL search returns two of the full-text reference books; both of the volumes have entries for Bill Gates. The student is skeptical – the entries looks like an internet print-off and they are worried that their teacher won’t believe that it really, truly, is from a book. No worries, just click on the “View PDF” link at the top of the Bill Gates entry and the screen changes to look like the entry from the print edition, just as if the student had photo-copied the page from the book itself.

There is even a “Listen” button. Press the triangle “Play” button and listen to the entry read by a computerized voice. It’s a nice voice – not overly robotic and with excellent pronunciation (not like your incomprehensible caller ID announcer; more like a real, human voice!) It is even possible to translate articles into a variety of languages, making this a truly accessible resource. You can even download the MP3 to listen to an article offline.

Now, would the student like a citation of this source? Of course they would! Click on “Citation Tools” on the right side of the screen and choose from MLA or APA styles. You can even save the citation to one of a number of online options like RefWorks.

The student doesn’t have to check out this eBook or any eBooks. They can access University Libraries’ full Gale eBooks collection through our website, or download the “Gale eBooks” Google Chrome app. After their first login with UofM credentials, they can authenticate and login with his Google account credentials. Once logged in with Google, they can save articles or article highlights directly to Google Drive for future use.

Check out the variety of reference books available to you through Gale eBooks on GVRL. This database is an extremely practical and relevant and accessible to you 24/7.

Exploring Government Publications for Native American Heritage Month

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we here at Government Publications wanted to take some time to showcase a few documents pertaining to Native American culture. All of these items are currently available for check-out and can be found here in McWherter Library in the Government Publications department!

Written by Benjamin Clanton:

  1. The Smithsonian Institute and the Handbook of North American Indians

The Smithsonian Institute has provided a rich variety of resources that would be helpful in the historical and anthropological study of Native American tribes in North America. Perhaps the best example of their work is the Handbook of North American Indians, a multivolume encyclopedia covering a myriad of topics and fields of study. Spearheaded by ethnologist and anthropologist William Sturtevant, this proposed 20 volume work began publication in 1978 as a hope to replace other outdated studies. Sadly, the project has yet to reach completion, due largely to the combination of funding issues and the death of Sturtevant in 2007. Nonetheless, this exhaustive synthesis of Native American studies is an impressive collaboration between renowned historians, anthropologists, and linguists, among others. Growing up in Mississippi, I have always had an interest in the tribes of the Southeast such as the Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee; this made Volume 14 on North America’s Southeast region of special interest. Like the other volumes exploring specific regions, it does a wonderful job covering studies on prehistory up to modern day, while also discussing the progression of research on Native American studies over the years. Other volumes dedicate themselves to general topics such as languages, contemporary society, and the complex history of Indian-white relations. Though incomplete overall, the individual volumes that are accessible would provide a wonderful complementary piece or starting point for Native American research of almost any kind.

Continue reading

Donate to the Mid-South LGBTQ+ Archive

If you’re interested in contributing to making this project happen, donate to the MomentUM project today! The project funding ends December 4, 2019.

On October 31, 1969, Memphis hosted an event that would forever change the LGBTQ community in our city. Against the backdrop of the Guild Theatre, Bill Kendall organized a revolutionary revel where men dressed as women, women dressed in costume, and everyone gathered to celebrate the art of pageantry and camp. The result was the first public drag show and pageant that Memphis had ever seen: The Miss Memphis Review.

In the 1960s, Memphis city ordinances criminalized same sex dancing, cross dressing, and acts of “vulgar character.” So Kendall strategically chose Halloween, the one night a year where a celebration of gender bending wouldn’t run afoul of these laws. When the crowds arrived at the theatre, they were dressed in costumes as well as formal finery. It was clear that this was going to be a historic event.

Fifty years later, Memphis remembers this event. The Guild and Miss Memphis will be the subject of a historical marker at the Evergreen Theatre on Halloween 2019, the first of its kind in the city. What remains of that late night in 1969 are a few photographs, oral histories that have not yet been captured, and reels of film in critical need of preservation. The Mid-South LGBTQ+ Archive seeks funds to digitize and archivally preserve the audiovisual material from that historic Halloween night. This footage stands to tell the story of what has been called “Memphis’ Stonewall” by community historian, Vincent Astor.

To date, this footage is the oldest of its kind in Memphis and The Mid-South LGBTQ+ Archive wants to make it the cornerstone of how Pride began in the Mid-South. We want our community’s trust to tell the story of all LGBTQ+ persons that call the Mid-South home. Contributions for this project will go to preserve and digitize this and similar film footage and to continue to grow the archive to include a spectrum of narratives that make up the LGBTQ+ community.

Digital Exhibit: Enslaved People in the Southeast

Read the news announcement, and visit the digital exhibit.

From the digital exhibit’s website:

The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) announces a new digital exhibit created and curated by the ASERL Special Collections Interest Group. This collaborative online exhibit recognizes the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans sold into bondage in the English Colonies. This date, in 1619, is regarded as the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in North America.

The exhibit documents the history of the enslaved in the Southeast and includes material related to the many varied aspects of enslavement, including paper documents and records as well as images. These provide valuable information about the entire infrastructure and system of enslavement as well as the individual and group experiences of enslaved people. Items submitted include photos, letters, bills of sale, emancipation documents, insurance and taxation documents, and maps indicating segregation zones. The exhibit will also explore the legacies of slavery by including documents and images related to convict lease labor and Jim Crow in the 20th century.

Designed to illustrate the social complexity as well as the economic and human impact of the American ‘peculiar institution,’ in all its ugliness, these materials can guide the researchers in accurately depicting the institution of slavery in the Southeastern United States. The goal is to learn from our past and make our resources available to students, researchers, other institutions, and the public.”

The University of Memphis’ University Libraries Special Collections selected and provided materials contributing to this digital exhibit.

 

Halloween Book Review: From Hell by Alan Moore

The “Jack the Ripper” murders of the 1880s in London have long held the imagination of popular culture in both England, where they occurred, and the United States, where a fair number of people hold a fascination with famous serial killers. The graphic novel From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, proved to be an interesting read this Halloween season for these very reasons. It would probably be a stretch to define it as work of horror, but there are certain elements present that make it a prime example of unsettling and weird fiction.

Moore uses his fictionalized telling of the murders of several prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London to posit a theory about who Jack the Ripper may have been. It would be impossible to talk about all of the truly massive cast of characters in this graphic novel, but two certainly stand out: Sir William Gull and Fred Abberline (Spoilers ahead). Gull is the royal physician to Queen Victoria and a high-ranking member of the Freemasons in London. After her grandson has an illegitimate child, Victoria tasks Gull with essentially making the problem go away. Thus begins the action of the story, as Gull sets out to kill the women who know about the scandal in order to protect the royal family. However, he also begins to see the murders as a spiritual experience, having visions of the future during which we as modern readers know to be actual truth. Continue reading

Spooky Scary! Spend Halloween with the Films of Kanopy

Have you been looking for a few films to give you chills during this year’s spooky season? Are you wanting to put together a movie marathon in a pinch for your Halloween night celebration? Luckily, there is a wide variety of horror selections offered on Kanopy, currently available through the University of Memphis Libraries. Here are a few that I recently viewed that may be good additions to your fright night watch list. Everyone have a safe and spooky Halloween!

The Witch

The first movie on the list will satisfy any potential cravings you may have for historical scares. It follows the sufferings of an English family banished from the Puritan Plymouth Colony in New England as it struggles to survive in an unforgiving wilderness. This atmospheric gem from A24 (which has produced some excellent horror movies, several available on Kanopy right now!) is a slow burn of existential fear, but the final fast-paced act makes the payoff that much better. As the family deteriorates both mentally and physically, they must determine if there really is a witch in those dark and unforgiving woods. And, if so, who is it? And does that wicked goat Black Phillip have anything to do with the family’s impending doom? It is worth a watch to find out their fate. Continue reading

Discover an Accurate and Trustworthy Search Experience with Google Tools 

Internet information is ubiquitous. It can be overwhelming even to seasoned information professionals. We constantly question if the information provided is any good. Gale eBooks on GVRL can be your go-to research resource.

To flourish in today’s knowledge economy, people need “the capacity and disposition to learn in small, quick doses rather than wade through mounds of links and piles of data.”¹ Because GVRL is built with research in mind, it’s chock-full of features to enrich eBook searching and reading experiences. All eBook content is expertly indexed at the title, chapter, and article level, so users can zoom directly to the information they need. Continue reading

Theodore Roosevelt and the American Legacy of Conservation

Theodore Roosevelt

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

‘There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon in the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever with their majestic beauty unmarred.’ -Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, was born on October 27, 1858. In honor of his upcoming birthday, it seems proper to highlight some of his countless triumphs in the political realm and beyond, and to display his influence on the Government Publications Department here, and to others around the country. Throughout the years, both during his lifetime and following his death in 1919, Roosevelt (or “Teddy,” which he actually hated to be called!) morphed into an almost mythical character in American history. When examining just a few of his more famous accomplishments, it is not hard to understand why. He first rose to national fame during the Spanish-American War in 1898, where he formed the infamous Rough Riders military squadron, comprised of former Ivy Leaguers, outdoorsmen, cowboys, and Native Americans.

In 1901, following the assassination of William McKinley, Roosevelt became the youngest American President ever at age 42. His administration was defined by Roosevelt’s battles against big business and his efforts to protect American citizens through the idea of a “Square Deal.” However, one of the more lighthearted events during his presidency actually occurred in our southern neighbor of Mississippi. During a hunting trip in 1902 near the Delta town of Rolling Fork, Teddy refused to shoot a bear that organizers had tied to a tree, claiming it was unsporting. The story grew to nationwide fame, leading to a shopkeeper selling stuffed animals coined “Teddy Bears.” President Roosevelt also became the first American to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 due to his efforts in brokering a peace agreement ending a war between Russia and Japan. Continue reading