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    ​The city that never sleeps is the backdrop for some of literature’s best love stories.

    In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked our NYPL book experts to name their favorite romantic scenes that take place in the city, and then we mapped their locations.

    Click on the red hearts for titles and authors, and scroll down for descriptions of why we love these love stories.




    When Tito Loved Clara by Jon Michaud is a then-and-now story, tracing the relationship between a boy and a girl from the Dominican Republic who start as high-school sweethearts. As adults, Tito comes back into Clara’s life at a particularly vulnerable point, and frequent flashbacks give readers a glimpse into both the past and present of the neighborhood.






    The Cloisters


    Nancy Garden’s groundbreaking LGBT YA novel, Annie on My Mind, presents us not only with one of the most beautifully described love stories in YA literature, it also presents us with an incredible panorama of New York City cultural landmarks. For Annie and Liza, the book’s two main characters, these landmarks are immensely significant and, for readers, the inclusion of such iconic NYC locations is alluring.  I wanted to revisit all of them as soon as I finished the book, so many years ago—as much as I wanted to meet Annie and Liza for coffee at one of the magnificent (primarily Greek-run) coffee shops that could be found on almost every NYC block in the 1970s and '80s. —Jeff Katz, Chatham Square




    what they found

    There’s a lot of love in Walter Dean Myers’ collection of YA short stories, What They Found: Love on 145th Street, but Marisol and Skeeter’s story is especially poignant. Marisol: “What I liked about Skeeter was that when you talked to him you got the feeling he was really listening, really wanted to hear what you were saying.” Aw. Yes.






    Upper West Side

    new yorkers

    The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine. An Upper West Side street and multiple love stories among the residents, often set in the local cafe. Plus, a great dog on the cover... —Danita Nichols, Inwood





    What if your first kiss really was as special as you always wished it to be? In Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, 7th grader Bridge and her more-than-a-friend Sherm have that special moment on the steps of his brownstone in the Upper West Side. (Plus a perfect epilogue!) —Anna Taylor, Programming






    TheDakota, on 72nd Street and Central Park West

    time and again

    Jack Finney transports the reader from modern-day New York City to 19th-century New York City and back again in his extraordinary, thought-provoking, romantic tale, Time and Again. Incredibly, the centerpiece of the story—the time-travel launching pad—is the Dakota, on 72nd Street and Central Park West (the building that is most famous now for being the home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono). A modern classic that truly can alter one’s perceptions of the world upon completion. —Jeff Katz, Chatham Square



    The Metropolitan Museum of Art


    What about love doomed to never be realized? In Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, a novel brimming with New York’s Gilded Age high society, Newland Archer falls in love with the Countess Ellen Olenska. Archer is enthralled by Ellen and cannot help but desperately love her, an emotion that Ellen eventually admits to returning. Since they’re both married, though, any amorous relationship between them would condemn them forever. The majority of the New York locations happen around 5th Ave. between 57th and 58th Streets, but the scene where Ellen and Archer finally agree to consummate their relationship happens at the “Art Museum”, largely believed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art—Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange



    The Museum of Natural History

    rosie project

    The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is a charming book about an Australian man with (undiagnosed) Asperger’s who tries to find a wife. What he finds instead is a woman who fits none of his criteria but might be able to give him love. When these two Aussies decide to go on vacation to New York City, how can this genetics professor pass up sharing the Museum of Natural History with his potential partner? —Leslie Bernstein, Mott Haven




    The New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building


    In Truman Capote’s offbeat New York romance Breakfast at Tiffany’s, one scene is set in the main reading room of The New York Public Library; the nameless narrator, unseen, observes Holly Golightly in an unlikely environment as she “sped from one book to the next,” researching her hoped-for future life in Brazil. In the film version with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, two scenes, more romantically charged, were actually filmed in the Library. —Kathie Coblentz, Special Collections




    3rd Avenue and 37th Street


    Daniel Handler’s novel Adverbs isn’t a love story, but it is a story about the many forms love can take. It’s told as a series of interconnecting, overlapping short stories that share characters. Handler himself even makes an appearance in one chapter. In the book’s opening scene, our narrator breaks up with his girlfriend on 3rd Avenue and 37th Street and promptly falls in love with his cabdriver. It only gets weirder from there. —Charlie Radin, Inwood





    Sahara’s and 2nd Avenue


    Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment is a very sweet book about an aging, childless couple whose connection is bolstered when they need to care for their ailing dog, a dachshund named Dorothy. There’s a subplot involving the selling of their East Village co-op and another involving a tanker stuck in a Midtown tunnel. They dine at Sahara’s and a fictional 2nd avenue restaurant called Xza-Xzu’s. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market





    Union Square


    A timeless story with love floating in and out of it, Pete Hamill’s Forever is one of my favorite New York novels. Cormac O’Connor arrives in New York during the 18th century and watches (and helps) the city grow. Fast forward to the 21st century, and we encounter the woman who will change his destiny, if he can only win her heart: Delfina Cintron. —Emily Pullen, NYPL Shop




    The Strand bookstore on 12th & Broadway


    In Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges a shelf at her favorite NYC bookstore just waiting for the right guy to come along but is Dash the right guy? As they pass the notebook back & forth trading dreams, desires and dares they criss-cross New York City and wonder if their notebook connection can live up to the real thing. Who doesn’t dream of meeting a perfect stranger at Christmastime in NYC. And it all starts at bookstore. Perfect. —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street



    Greenwich Village

    princess diaries

    For a more traditional love story, there’s the Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, which starts in Greenwich Village and includes a sweet romance between Princess Mia and Michael Moscovitz. — Susie Heimbach, Mulberry Street





    East Village


    Ash and Ethan have a beautiful thread of a love story in Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. One image from their relationship that stays with me is Ethan, a cartoonist, having to wedge his drawing table beneath their loft bed because their first apartment in the East Village was so tiny. —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services




    Alphabet City

    something borrowed

    Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. Rachel is a hardworking attorney in NYC who cuts loose at her 30th birthday party thrown by her best friend Darcy. After too many drinks Rachel wakes up in bed with Darcy’s fiancé Dex, and a relationship ensues. The book is set between NYC and The Hamptons, but the first night Dex and Rachel get together they are at a bar 7B in Alphabet City and they later go back to Rachel's apartment near 73rd and 3rd. —Morgan O’Reilly, Aguilar



    Gray’s Papaya


    Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. Why is this title a winner? NYC’s indie rock scene + hipsters + teenage angst + exciting first dates + sarcasm + realistic dialogue = a recipe for one of the best, non-mushy romance YA novels of all time! —Anne Barreca, Battery Park City





    Lower East Side

    super sad

    For readers who like their dystopian sci-fi served up with a side of romance, Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story is the story of how Lenny Abramov, a pudgy book-loving schmuck, falls in love with Eunice Park, a sleek techno-file and total hottie. Much of their romance takes place in Lenny’s tiny apartment on the Lower East Side at the Vladek Houses, a housing project overlooking the East River. Other New York landmarks that form the backdrop of Eunice and Lenny’s futuristic, politically charged love affair include Central Park and the North Shore of Staten Island. —Nancy Aravecz, Jefferson Market






    Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish is a harrowing, impactful love story taking place all around the margins of NYC, but primarily Flushing. An Iraq war veteran with PTSD and an undocumented immigrant from the Uighur tribe in China meet-cute and begin a relationship. My favorite novel in years, perhaps longer. —Alexis Walker, Epiphany

    “They hiked out of Chinatown until they were far enough away to see the red lacquered Chinese eaves and the fire escapes and then kept going…by the expressway and the autorepairs whose signs were in Chinese. The road took them by a cemetery…. They fell into a rhythm, going for miles, and she lost herself, their hoofs beating the drum of the earth as they marched.

    When they made it to the rise where Jewel Avenue crossed over the fields and they could see in all directions—the old condominium towers, the sheets of water, the rooftops and the distance—they stopped and looked at it all. They were at the center of a wheel. Skinner put his arms around her.

    That’s a view, he said.”

    The 7 Train

    re jane

    Jane goes from Queens to Seoul and back in a quest to figure out her own identity as an orphan and a Korean-American young woman. Two different men play roles in Patricia Park’s Re Jane, but Jane’s real love story doesn’t involve either of them in this modern-day coming-of-age tale. —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services



    JFK Airport

    statistical probability

    Four minutes are all it takes for the ingénue to miss her flight from JFK to London in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. But the timing proves fateful when Oliver, a handsome British boy, appears on Hadley’s next flight as the two of them leave the airport and the Big Apple behind and embark on a sweet YA romance.




    The Brooklyn Bridge

    saint mazie

    In Saint Mazie, Jami Attenberg gives us the brassy Mazie Gordon, a woman who lives on the LES in the ’20s. Mazie’s too independent to ever marry so she devotes her life to the city, the people, and her friends. Like any smart young woman in the city, Mazie knows how to enjoy herself, so the passionate scene on the Brooklyn Bridge with her sometimes-lover is both realistic and romantic. —Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, Programming





    Cobble Hill, Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Flatbush 


    I believe the majority of Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn takes place in Cobble Hill, but Eilis and Tony’s love story begins at a Friday night social and takes them all over Brooklyn—trips to Coney Island; meeting Tony’s family at their house in Bensonhurst; taking in a Dodgers game at the former Ebbet’s Field in Flatbush with his brothers. —Susen Shi, Mid-Manhattan



    The Bronx

    great world

    Let the Great World Spinby Colum McCann. Corrigan fell in love with Adelita in the Bronx. That scene on the couch in her apartment, when he’s watching TV with her children and she recognizes she loves him? So beautiful. —Genoveve Stowell, Grand Central





    Yankee Stadium

    love of the game

    For the Love of the Game—Michael Shaara’s last novel, published after his death—features a major-league baseball player pitching what could be his last game in front of tens of thousands of fans at Yankee Stadium. There’s a traditional love story here too, about Billy trying to figure out why his longtime girlfriend left him, but baseball is his truest, most constant love.




    Long Island


    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Who could ever forget the lavish mansion in West Egg, Long Island and Gatsby staring off across the water at Daisy’s green light.​—Lynn Lobash, Readers Services





    Staten Island


    The Pigman by Paul Zindel. It’s 1968 on Staten Island and two troubled teens, John and Lorraine, are telling the story of how they befriended Mr. Pignati, a neighborhood man they’d previously made fun of and pranked. Mr. Pignati, a.k.a. “The Pigman,” is the first adult to give them positive attention and affection. Through this friendship John and Lorraine begin to fall for each other romantically. Written in the late 1960s, you could say this classic YA novel is one of the books that started it all, and it still stands the test of time. 

    John and Lorraine attend Franklin High School in the novel. It is said to be a stand-in for Tottenville High School where Paul Zindel was a science teacher from 1959 to 1969. The school is now located in Hugenot, but in the 1960’s, its location was 528 Academy Ave, Staten Island. —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street


    Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

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    Whenever she traveled from Staten Island to Manhattan, social worker Mona Gambardella was saddened to see the homeless people seeking shelter in the ferry terminal. Inspired to do whatever she could to help them, Mona began making scarves to give to those in need. Soon, she was leading her own group of knitters and crocheters at Mariners Harbor Library, where they have made over 150 scarves for the homeless so far.

    Library Stories is a video series from The New York Public Library that shows what the Library means to our users, staff, donors, and communities through moving personal interviews.

    Like, share, and watch more Library Stories on Facebook or YouTube.

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  • 02/10/16--08:43: Reading Wesleyan Press
  • Bright Felon

    Bright Felon by Kazim Ali

    Bright Felon contains the extreme beauty that one can get out of the English language, which is not to say that it is hyperbolic or trying, but put simply Kazim Ali can give us a travel journal in poetic form that presents us with meditations on history, family, politics, love, and aching. 
    With each poem title being a place, Paris, New York, Cairo, Corsica, Rhinebeck, and ending at Home, we are brought into Ali's life, a life that we are bound to connect with, the hum drum, the ups and downs, the minor thoughts that accompany our walks to a coffee shop. A sea of images flow before our eyes as the narrator makes his way through the cities, landmarks like Inwood Park, Marble Hill, Dia Beacon, pyramids, Washington Square, landmarks that draw us further into Ali's resonant poetry. He speaks of sexuality and religion in brief meditations, almost as if sifting out only the beauty in each.
    In the back, there is a quote that says "what it means to live the life of an artist" and while I agree with that, I'd take it a step further and say Ali achieves in writing what it means to merely live a life, at least through the eyes of someone living in the Western world. Whether Ali's representation of life is exactly how we love or feel on a daily basis, he is able to purge his own dialogues to find a basis for us all to connect, regardless of our own internal beliefs. 
    Landscapes come and go, "Cities are like my deck of cards, one line after another, one thing and then another disappear." Questioning how we receive what is history, is it a static notion, or one cemented into our fixtures, bound to be unchanging and linear he asks, "What made history into a building?/When only the outside of the structure was the same and the inside had long since been refurbished into offices with drop ceilings and fluorescent fixtures." 
    Ali does not stray from the blunt political though, he writes of bombings and of destruction o war, and the frustration we feel, when we are against such malicious destruction and powerless to stop it. Calling out President Clinton in his 1993 bombing of Baghdad for a planned attack that as far as history knows, was never being planned. A painter died, a daughter blinded, a husband died. This is the true victims of most of history, horrific and needless death. All of death has a face, and yet we are so far removed from that picture.
    Ali has written an immensely beautiful book, one that I will come back to and read as I travel within life. He is altogether professing a wisdom that we only hope comes from poetry, but rarely does. In all, Ali has crafted a must-read.
    "I am on very bad terms with space very bad terms with time. So what" "Attack on Morals"
    The title itself, Solar Throat Slashed, already mystifies the poetry that is put forth in this book by Aimé Césaire. At once, violent, dark and yet cosmic, the title does everything to create a visualization of passionately charged words and meaning, with an insistence upon death, violence and the world within a galaxy. For if we slash a throat, we kill a voice, we destroy meaning, and it is in this context that I think of the meaning of this surrealist poet's collection. 
    We learn from the introduction that this text, is the complete original edition with all of the poems unrevised and newly translated, retaining the originality that this text first sought, Césaire had cut out and revised a number of poems, with his political interest rising.  

    Though black and living in France, from a country under colonial rule, these poems are not necessarily explicitly political and are not tackling the issues of the day, but the poems are revolutionary and a flash of lightning in and of themselves. They are image after image that flash before your eyes, tear open your insides, and transport you to the cosmic trenches. Rather than a political manifesto, these poems are filled with magical, sometimes spiritual journeys that blends past and present.  In "Velocity" Césaire begins "O mountain oh dolomites bird heart under my childlike hands/oh icebergs oh ghosts old gods sealed in full glory" and ends "my dear let's lean on geological veins" Which shows his emphasis on geography as a metaphor, the world as a whole is contained in his poetry, all his words connecting our images. He is successful in transcending the locale, for a more effective poetry that is based on representation.
    This is not to say that Césaire was ignorant to the world's issues, quite the opposite, and we get glimpses of that in the poems, such as Césaire still recognizes the present day and problems within the world. In "Mississippi" "Too bad for you men who don't notice that my eyes remember/slings and black flags/that murder with each blink of my Mississippi lashes" "Too bad for you men who do not see that you cannot stop me from building to hill fill" As in  "Apotheosis" where he writes "Something shall always fall a police informer a sacristan a telephone pole a clove"
    Another poem that is slightly different than Césaire's others is "Blues" which is an aching, beautiful poem, and though shows Césaire at some of his least explosive, he writes with force and yet without forcing here and is able to revive an almost mystical sense, through a connection with the poem.   "Aguacero/beautiful musician/unclothed at the foot of a tree/amidst the lost harmonies/close to our defeated memories/amidst our hands of defeat/and peoples of a strength strange/we let our eyes hang/and native/lossing the leading-rein of a sorrow/we weep." 
    In To Africa, he writes, "Peasant strike the soil with your pick hoe" ... "there are elemental waters singing in the bends of the magnetic circuit/the hatching of earth's little shoes" In a way, Césaire's poetry hearken back to days of poetry being royal, but instead uses this royalty to diffuse meaning, and to disparage a colonial world. While Solar Throat Slashes is not explicitly political, it is a poet brandishing his pen in establishing his voice and Césaire's is an important one, back then and currently. Let's end on a line from "Chevelure" where Césaire says "are like these discordant words written by the flaming of the pyres over the sublime oriflammes of your revolt"
    Moten really hits hard when he writes poetry, and just like his book in another blog post, this one is exceptional and comes with a high recommendation. The book itself is large in comparison to most poetry books, or books for that matter, and at 75 pages is packed with music, rhythm, analysis and theory, not to mention poetry. 
    In some ways Moten uses words to form a collage, while purposeful in his wordplay, he also tries to portray a sense of improvisation. Moten challenges, while keeping his poems full of energy and passion. In it he blends vernaculars, and creates a hybridized political spark, that leads you on. And this is what The Little Edges is concerned with, the edge between audience and poet, the edges of reality and an existence made for us.
    Moten reaches out to history and to figures to keep his momentum going forward.  He juxtaposes words and phrases to capture the moments of magnitude, that pass by so easily. "We care about each other so militantly, with such softness, that we exhaust ourselves" And then in "Your body is a mixing board" "Come take a listening walk and admire your hand twisting. The listening is in watching how you move to/touch in sounding, brushing up against your friend, to see how his position sounds" he says making his rhythm and words stand out to the different sounds, the different poems and meanings we can have. Our body as a mixing board, would relate to our ability to change ourselves, to fit in to one position with a person or person(s) but to also be able to change ourselves, to style ourselves differently. 
    Like most of Moten's poetry, you need to look deep or you might miss the many references he throws at us, to mix poetics, art, resistance, and letting our guard down to live. In many instances he references music, in this one he draws on the music of Cecil Taylor,  "So now let me say something about what I want/from Cecil's music or about the way that music tells me what I want." Yet, in "Test" he gives a passage from Hannah Arendt's On Violence and a Newspaper report on what happened inside a stranded New York City subway system, and then follows with this heartbreaking notion of the everyday "this is how we never arrive, infuse what we surround to not remember. every day we cross from slave state to slave state in the barrack cars." ... "our breathing empties the air with fullness and we're in love in a state of constant sorrow" You can't beat Moten's verse. 
    Fred Moten resists being held down and continues to resist through his poetic and his non-fiction work. He can be blunt as when he makes you reason with yourself, "What gives you the right to love black music, this irruption out of and into catastrophe?"  or he can be subtle in his care "Listen to the sound in one another's skin. Preserve the sound/through membrane and water, to find our form in corresponding." His resistance and refusal goes beyond the explicit political landscape and encompasses our everyday lives as well. It is poetry like this that I like best, that you have to work for and engage with, almost let the piece be an improvisational piece for your life. For this, we can only see how our own lives inhabit forms of resistance, both outward and inward desires. 
    The Great Camouflage

    The Great Camouflage: Writings of Dissent by Suzanne Césaire

    Writings of dissent perfectly captures these 7 essays by Suzanne Césaire, was an important part of the artistic resistance that formed Tropiques, the journal created by Aimé Césaire, Rene Ménil and herself. Tropiques was their effort in fighting the French colonization of Martinique, and also added all three writers into a canon of not just Caribbean literature, but world literature. It was their way of creating a new literary history for Martinique which would be continued by Glissant, Chamoiseau, Bernabe.

    In this book we get the seven essays that Césaire wrote for Tropiques, plus essays and poems about her written by those to provide an invigorating and all around biography. In her essays, Césaire is able to articulate her vision of connecting the Martinican reality with Surrealism, historical discourse, decolonial resistance, but also the building of a new, different literature, which was varied and against a European literary mindset.  

    Her seven essays, focus on civilization, on surrealism, on esthetics, on the individual within the scarred world. For instance, her essay on Breton, focuses on love. "Love beyond all conventions, reclaims its place among the great elemental forces: Love, Mad Love." she analyzes in Breton's poetry. Her concern with love is the "integration of the human with the cosmos" and it is this love that manifests itself into freedom, in which all versions of the self is connected into an almost universality. No time restrictions, no permissions, only a direction to further our ability to realize freedom. 
    In the Malaise of Civilization she responds to the question, why is there no originality, no works of original creation from the blacks in Martinique to which she powerfully lambasts that racist thought into a short, but concise polemic that strongly goes over the after effects of slavery, as well as a post-slavery that sees blacks assimilated into the European world rather than a creation of a new self. As Césaire states though, it is not solely a return to the past, "It is about the mobilization of every living strength brought together upon this earth where race is the result of the most unremitting intermixing; it is about becoming conscious of the incredible store of varied energies until now locked up within us."  Finally, what is it to be a Martinican and what it can mean. With a powerful force she says "This land, ours, can only be what we want it to be."

    One can tell Césaire has a wit and desire to fight by educating, through the synthesis of theories, of the avant-garde into accessible starting points of knowledge. The Vichy regime banned Tropiques after seven issues, because of its want to be a revolutionizing force, to change people's perspective into one of being empowered by their Martinican self, and to break away from and yet appreciate tradition almost two-fold. Break free from the European tradition and bonds, seek out the past selves, and blend them into one with the present self. One reading Césaire has many different directions to go after Césaire and in this sense she only needed seven essays, though one is left wondering, what would happen if she had written more. 

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    If you scour the Internet this week, I'm sure you'll find plenty of lists of "great romantic movies" to watch on Valentine's Day with your significant other. I could very easily do the same thing, but I decided to do something different. How about a list of movies where love goes south, or where one (or more) of the participants ends up in a bad way? For lack of a better term, I will call them “Bad Love” films. Here are a few examples that you and your partner can watch while snuggling on the couch (and don't forget the chocolate!)

    • Leave Her To Heaven (1945, director: John M. Stahl). A gorgeously shot Technicolor film noir in which Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) falls for and marries Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) because he resembles her recently deceased father to whom she was unhealthily attached. Her insane jealousy causes her to eliminate anyone standing in between them. Glenn Close was similarly obsessed in Fatal Attraction, but Leave Her To Heaven is by far the better film.
    • Blue Valentine (2010, director: Derek Cianfrance). The dissolution of a marriage is shown through various time shifts and flashbacks. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) meet, Cindy becomes pregnant (not Dean’s baby), Dean doesn’t care because he just wants a family, they move to rural Pennsylvania where things then begin to unravel. And then Cindy’s ex-boyfriend Bobby appears—which doesn’t help the situation. A sad, sad, sad movie.
    • The Blue Angel (1930, director: Josef von Sternberg). In which Marlene Dietrich (as Lola-Lola) gets the better of Emil Jannings (Professor Rath) both in the storyline and in front of the camera. In short, Professor Rath goes to “The Blue Angel” a notorious cabaret frequented by his students, for the sole purpose of telling Lola-Lola to leave his students alone. Needless to say, Rath becomes infatuated with Lola himself and resigns his teaching position to marry her. Several years later, Lola has become tired of her husband and he is forced to debase himself crowing like a chicken on stage. The plot doesn’t quite fit my criteria as Lola doesn’t really love Rath, but the relationship is so deliciously acerbic and squirm-inducing that I couldn’t resist adding it.
    • Amour Fou (2014, director: Jessica Hausner). Based on a true story, this Austrian period drama examines the relationship that develops between Henriette Vogel (Birte Schnöink) and poet Hienrich von Kleist (Christian Friedel). Kleist is searching for that perfect someone—not someone to live the rest of his life with—but that one special person who is willing to die with him. Henriette initially rebuffs his advances, but after she is diagnosed with a fatal tumor, she reconsiders her initial decision. The film is gorgeously shot in a series of tableaus that were inspired by the paintings of Vermeer.
    • The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946, director: Tay Garnett). Based on James M. Cain’s terrifically hard-boiled novel of the same name, the film opens with drifter Frank Chambers (John Garfield) stopping at a highway diner and being hired by owners Nick and Cora Smith (Cecil Kellaway and Lana Turner). Frank and Cora soon begin having an affair and plot to kill Nick so that they start their wonderful new life together. Of course things don’t quite work out the way they planned and their criminal act (and the secret they both share) begins to eat away at their love and they eventually turn on one another.
    • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, director: Mike Nichols). George and Martha (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) invite young couple Nick and Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) over for some drinks. Over the course of the evening, George and Martha introduce games that are emotionally hurtful to one or more of the various participants. Based on the Edward Albee play, this film is a particularly difficult film to watch as any love that existed in George and Martha’s relationship has disappeared long again only to be replaced by a bitter feeling of disappointment and unrealized dreams. The cast is stellar.
    • Modern Romance (1981, director: Albert Brooks). This film came out four years before Brooks’ masterpiece Lost In America, but it is easily the second best movie Albert Brooks ever made. Film editor Robert Cole (Brooks) has an on-again/off-again relationship with Mary Harvard (Kathryn Harrold). When they are together, it’s not working so they break up. But then Robert can’t stop thinking about Mary, so he tries to get back together and really make it work. So they reconnect, and then the whole cycle starts all over again. A wonderfully droll take on modern relationships with the added treat of having George Kennedy playing himself acting in a z-grade science fiction movie.
    • Anna Karenina (1967, director: Aleksandr Zarkhi). There have been many filmed versions of Tolstoy’s doomed love tragedy, but if you haven’t seen this classic Soviet version, it’s worth watching, if only for Tatiana Samoilova's performance in the title role. (You may remember her from the better known 1957 film The Cranes Are Flying. Picasso was apparently a big fan of hers, and was purported to have said “It is easy to drown in the eyes of this Russian goddess.”)

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    Singer Me'shell Ndegeocello has been making music most of her life but came onto the scene in 1993 with her debut album Plantation Lullabies. Since that time she has managed to amass an impressive catalog of music that spans the genres of rock, funk, jazz, R&B, and even hip hop. 

    Ndegeocello, whose real name is Michelle Lynn Johnson, was born August 1968 in Berlin, Germany. Her father was in the U.S. Army but also an accomplished musician who played the saxophone, her mom was a healthcare worker. Raised in Washington D.C., she credits her love of music to her father for his skill in playing and love for jazz. Also inspired by the music collection of her brother, she picked up the bass around the age of 16 and began writing songs and music. During her teen years she began to play regularly in clubs around DC but eventually made her way to New York City after studying music at Howard University. It was there that she began going by the name Me'shell Ndegeocello, the last name which is adapted from a Swahili word which means "free like a bird". (Biography in Context)


    After auditioning for several bands, including Living Colour, Ndegeocello decided to go it alone. An accomplished musician at this point, she would often perform solo playing the bass, keyboard and drum machine. Eventually a recording of her music made its way to music execs in Los Angeles. A special showcase was arranged and she was ultimately offered a deal from Maverick Records, the record label founded by Madonna. Her debut album Plantation Lullabies was released in 1993 and was well received. It spawned the hit song "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)."  The following year saw her hit the mainstream on a duet with John Mellencamp which was a remake of the song "Wild Night" by Van Morrison. (Project Muse

    Despite not seeing the level of success of her first album and the duet, Ndegeocello has still managed to produce an eclectic mix of music. Her second album, Peace Beyond Passion, had a more spiritual feel and dealt with heavy themes most specifically critiquing homophobia in the black Christian church. 1999's Bitter was still soulful and featured a more jazzy side of her music as it charted the dissolution of a relationship. While the album received praise from critics it didn't do well commercially. This prompted criticism from the Maverick label of her music not being "black enough." (Oxford Music Online) In response Ndegeocello put out the album Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape in 2002. "No one got that it was a joke. It’s a parody of what they think black music is. They just wanted hot beats, so I did all that, though I still tried to make it an interesting record," she said in a 2014 interview with Fact Magazine.


    Comfort Woman was the final album Ndegeocello made for Maverick. The following years saw her continue with her eclectic style moving between the jazz fusion of The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel to issues of identity both personally and musically on The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams (2007) and Devil’s Halo (2009). With 2011's Weather, she returned to the sparse jazzy style of her earlier album Bitter. In 2012 she made a tribute album to one of her idols, Nina Simone entitled Pour une âme souveraine: a dedication to Nina Simone. (Oxford Music Online  Her most recent work, Comet Come to Me manages to combine rock, jazz and R&B with some reggae as well. A melange of styles that suits the singer who has described music as "layers of patterns on top of patterns". (NPR)

    Ndegeocello has long been an intriguing figure in the music industry. She has always been bold and unapologetic about both her androgynous look and sexuality (she is openly bisexual). She admitted in the past to developing a drug habit during the recording of her first album, one she eventually quit to complete it and never looked back. During her early years in New York she bore a son whose father she has chosen not to name. (Biography in Context) Over the years she has always maintained both privacy and an openness about who she is. Discussing her thoughts on identity in her Fact Magazine interview, she said "...I’ve had a lot of experiences, and the gender thing is very difficult sometimes—not because I experience bigotry towards my gender per se, but more trying to uphold ideas of what people think my gender should look like or be like or do. When I play music, it’s the only time I can let go of those things—the feeling of making music together as just humans. Which isn’t something I feel too often out in the world."


    Inspired by the music of artists like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, Ndegeocello has become a musical inspiration in her own right. Always one to break the mold she challenges mainstream concepts of what it is to be female and black in the music industry today. Despite not receiving the accolades of some of her peers, she continues to produce soul stirring music that will definitely be appreciated for generations to come.


    Works featuring Me'shell Ndegeocello

    Available for check out from The New York Public Library

    Full Discography

    • Plantation Lullabies (1993)                         
    • Peace Beyond Passion (1996)
    • Bitter (1999)                                             
    • Cookie:The Anthropological Mixtape (2002)
    • Comfort Woman (2003)                                         
    • The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel (2005)
    • The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams (2007)             
    • Devil's Halo (2009)
    • Weather (2011)                                         
    • Pour une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone (2012)
    • Comet, Come to Me (2014)


    Want to know more about Me'shell Ndegeocello? Other Resources

    Spotlight On is a special blog series I am doing for the month of February featuring African American artistry (in music, art and writing). Next up: painter Ernie Barnes. 

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    Are you interested in public service?  Have you thought of pursuing a federal career?  Would you like to gain valuable work experience in the U.S. Department of Education this summer?

    The Department of Education (ED) offers unpaid internships for students interested in government and federal education policy and administration.  Volunteers have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the Department's mission to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering education excellence and ensuring equal access.

    One American and his attempt at education

    The Department of Education is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, education law, business and finance, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all  while learning about the role federal government plays in education.

    ED interns also participate in professional development sessions and events outside of the office, such as lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and tours of the Capitol, Supreme Court and other local sights.

    One of the many advantages of interning at ED is the proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the Metro.


    In order to apply to intern at ED, students must:

    • Be at least 16 years of age.
    • Attend an accredited educational institution, including but not limited to; high school, trade school, technical or vocational institute, junior college, college, university, or graduate school. (A recent graduate is ineligible to apply unless he/she  can provide confirmed proof of future enrollment.)
    • Have permission from the institution at which he/she is currently enrolled to participate in internship program.
    • Be enrolled not less than half time in a course of study related to the work to be performed.

    International Applicants: Individuals who are not U.S. citizens, but who reside in the U.S., may volunteer (1) if they are lawful permanent residents; or (2) if they are non-immigrant aliens with F-1 or J-1 visa status, who are bona fide students residing in the U.S. solely to pursue a course of study at a recognized, approved institution of education.

    ED is accepting applications for Summer 2016 internships through March 15, 2016.

    Apply now.

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    A Significant Life

    A Significant Lifeby Todd May

    Todd May writes what is ultimately an utterly impossible task in almost 200 pages, but does so in a worthwhile and readable way. He is searching for a potential objective idea of how to cultivate meaningfulness in life. In doing so, he is able to let the reader dictate what creates a meaningful life and how they decide what that truly is. Does he succeed in giving meaning? You will have to read on, but he does succeed in a succinct analyzing of meaning versus morals and the subjectivity that is fated in between. I would assume May is focusing mostly on a Western platform, for he is drafting a thought process that focuses on the literature and behaviors of people in that realm. Furthermore, he admits that in order to figure out these values and then meanings we must focus on the community at which we are tying them to. Therefore, we will focus on Western philosophy, communities, but also have to recognize their own subtle differences in which values change how we are as humans.

    As far as style goes, I like May's writing style, he is thorough in explanations, and in giving examples. He also goes over responses he has gotten to such premises as well, he is a professor, and he gives his own life details. He goes piece by piece on how he is formulating his premise of a meaningful life focusing on narrative values of a life and yet within this premise writes without sounding dull or overly repetitive. He works in icons like Jimi Hendrix, Fannie Lou Hamer and positions their lives in which their narrative value is what creates the meaning, using ideas from Susan Wolf and her book Meaning in Life and Why It Matters. Narrative values as May says "Are not felt, they are lived." May would argue that even if you try to cultivate yourself as a specific person, that does not mean that you are indeed this person, his example his uncle who wanted to be subtle, who indeed was not. Even with this reference, I find it hard to believe that Jimi Hendrix had thought not about being extreme, and that others are actually successful in cultivating this. Surely it is a grey area in which one has to act, as they believe. This is where I find some issue in what May is contemplating, and yet overall I yearn to agree. 

    It's not that I think May is entirely successful in coming up with what having meaning is in this world, but he touches upon hallmarks of living a life. Of course, just as May wants to find the objective ideal of meaning, his ideas are just as subjective as ever, especially in a philosophical world that generally dismisses the idea of absolute meaning. With that said, May's book is neither a self-help nor a preaching to the choir book, it is his own niche in which a discussion has been started and it is up to others to continue in finding. As he says, "To have a standard of meaningfulness is to possess a tool that allows us to reflect upon our lives in a fruitful way. That tool invites us to ask whether a feeling of emptiness is characteristic only of a moment or of something larger." While you might not agree with (all of his) notions of worth and meaning, it at least starts a great discussion as to what one finds meaningful in the context of the reader's life and what she or he will do to continue in the pursuit of meaningfulness. 

    Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!!

    Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!! A Paul Scheerbart Reader, writings from Paul Scheerbart and more

    Scheerbart did it all, a true renaissance man as they say. He was an architect, theorist, author, scientist, and a peace seeker in a world that was headed for war, some of his famous stories include ideas which furthered the ideas of glass architecture and perpetual motion. Included in this piece is new artwork by editor Josiah McElheny and McElheny and Burgin do a wonderful job editing and collecting material for this book, they bring Scheerbart the madman and genius back on a platform. Inside the introduction comes my favorite line, "It is sometimes hard to know when he is joking, but one always feels the desire inside his dreams, however flabbergasting, to make sense of the world."

    Included in this work is his architecture writing force Glass Architecture and his literary foray Perpetual Motion: The Story of an Invention. We also get an array of essays and critiques by scholars, novelists and filmmakers. Reading Scheerbart is constantly discovering and finding new modes of thinking, or at the very least, new models for writing our thoughts. He was a skilled writer, and supposedly a skilled madman and this comes through in his writings. 

    Hopefully this book, and the publishing of translated works, another put out on University of Chicago and more put out by Wakefield Press and MIT Press will have Scheerbart taken in by many more people. Scheerbart was a magnanimous thinker and his way of thought sheds new light in different genres and theories. 

    The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives

    The Poetics of Ethnography in Martinican Narratives by Christina Kullberg
    A work that focuses on the literary history of Martinique in using ethnographies to both discover, empower, and critique Martinique identity, even in complete recognition of the problems and of the limitations of ethnographic studies. In this way, it is interesting to see how writers from Martinique had used ethnography as a focal point, for progressing and representing the nations' literary culture. It is through ethnography that the authors do not necessarily attach themselves to a specific society, but are exploring the realms of identity and self, in relation to the cultures, geographical locations and communities at large.

    Starting with Tropiques, the journal created by Rene Menil, Aime Cesaire and Suzanne Cesaire, Kullberg moves us through the culture, geography and politics of Glissant, Chamoiseau, Ina Cesaire, Strobel and Price. It shows how the Cesaires and Menil, were able to use ethnographic discourse to oppose colonial rule, and to provide stark contrasts to the world that they felt was being created around them. For Suzanne Cesaire, she explains how use African ethnography was a way to deeper explore themselves and references Leo Frobenius in her ideas of Africa. It is in this way that "Nature then took over, erasing the traces of the very violent cultural imprints made by colonialism. The Caribbean environment thereby suggests the existence of a harmonious Martinican self beneath layers of colonial oppression." It is the sense of poetics and writing that the authors of Tropiques are hoping will help revolutionize society against colonial force and a denial of what they see as a self outside of the white influence. The authors of the Tropiques used a mix of folk tales and oral history, with the ideas of Nietzsche, Mallarme, Rimbaud and countless other thinkers, in a way creating their own history of the other, and in a way integrating the other into themselves. 

    It is with Glissant and Chamoiseau that the self-ethnographer and writing ethnographer becomes a prevalent idea, the notion of traveling within oneself, both as a colonial subject, and as one that lives within the motherland of your colony. Though whereas Glissant writes thirty years earlier as he looks at the internal Caribbean self, Chamoiseau looks towards the role that the writer and self should be taking in this world. What Glissant does, as Kullberg identifies, is places the poetic ethnography in a way to discover the self, in relation to the world around, and is this creating a connected geographic self, that focuses on both the location that is broken and still connected to the surroundings. The self and collective identity, is therefore a process that is continually changing, rather than a concrete structure. It is Glissant who puts forward a notion of ethnographic engagement, rather than an idea of objective knowledge put forth. There cannot be one easy culture to write and have as anything more than a representation, therefore engaging with the ideas, challenging the self is important to Glissant and Chamoiseau. In this way Chamoiseau and Ina Cesaire begin engaging with Creole past and storytelling, weaving it into their narratives in an effort to explore and engage. Obviously they are not without potential problems, but both use these narratives as a way to represent other voices, to break down the mold of the other. 

    Kullberg then goes on to discuss texts by Strobel and Price, who are neither Martinican or fiction authors, but are ethnographers who have studied the French Caribbean, and in doing so are writing and engaging with and on Martinican literature, and ultimately examine this sense of the self versus surrounding. Through a theoretical and ethnographic point of view, they are able to reinforce, and also challenge notions of the ethnographic self put forward by Martinican authors of the past. Kullberg herself engages with the texts and authors to create and using ethnography as the focal point to study and capture the idea of the self in regards to the past and present community, in an ever-evolving way.
    This book is important. That could be the end of this review, as this book is a phenomenal and deep look at the notion of existential thought held within Africana thought, well before it became a Western theory. What is so important about Being Apart is that it radically alters thought on Western Philosophy while not radically changing the importance of such theories.  In so doing, Parris, also shows how black thinkers and authors, Du Bois, C.L.R. James, etc were able to capitalize on the theories of Hegel, Marx, and more, even when those thinkers either had racist or exclusionary ideas. Even though the thinkers Parris writes about are original and write philosophical ideas that are groundbreaking, they are often pushed aside both in the academy and public consciousness in favor of white thinkers who had pursued similar or the same thought.
    Being Apart begins by showing how white Western thinkers, politicians, philosophers set out to not only actively create a hierarchy of race, but try to erase the black life from thought altogether. In this way, society could be brought to justify racism, chattel slavery. Focusing on the works and words of David Walker and Frederick Douglass, Parris shows how they were two fold combating the racism that surrounded them (including slavery, which was still happening) and also justifying and proving existence, thought and the black life which was being tarnished. Parris discusses in depth the work of Thomas Jefferson, who though not an unknown fact, was an indisputable racist thinker, and his ideas had been transformed and transcended into the modern political landscape.
    Parris then elaborates on the great minds of W.E.B. Du Bois and C.L.R. James who both thought and worked within a Marxist framework to discuss the problems of slavery, capitalism and the larger place in the world in which this was taking place. Though not explicit in his racism, Marx was rather ignorant in his discussion of the African continent and slavery in general, focusing on the white proletariat. Though a noted and important theorist, Gramsci's philosophies came after that of Du Bois. Parris then goes on to discuss Frantz Fanon and Kamau Brathwaite, and Brathwaite's Nation Language Theory which poses the voice as history and the voice as an important role in obtaining ownership and self-hood. Oral history becomes a historical reality for black culture and identifies black cultures within the sphere of historical development. Parris is continually showing how the voices of black thinkers all too much are relegated to a specific space or time in history, rather than looking at these people/ideas/theories as seminal thoughts which deserve recognition in the production of philosophical advancement. 
    What Being Apart does, is portraying a culture that constantly refuses to acknowledge the works and thoughts of black people, and forces us to remember our tract of societal evolution being based on the ideas and Western canon of white, racist intellectuals. Without stopping there, Parris, calls for a recognition of the importance of black thought on person hood and life, well before noted existential philosophers, and yet the black thinkers are often and outright ignored, at least on the notion of philosophical output. What this book does, which is why I think it needs to be read by all, is it asks can we truly have a just society, when so many of our ideas are based in Western white hegemony. 
    Parris states that this is a continuation of the discursive resistance and existential probing present in the works of thinkers who have inspired me. I feel we are lucky know that Parris will continue on in this work, "It is crucial that progressive scholars continue to unite to ensure accuracy and integrity in academic knowledge production, an the society and culture at large." I can't think of a better way to end.
    Non-Plan: Essays on Freedom Participation and Change in Modern Architecture and Urbanismis to be checked out right now, if you have an interest in any of the keywords in the title. With articles that flesh out the idea of non-plan, planning that comes from the people, a movement that seriously challenged the standard mode of architecture from the architect's hand and hoped to have it be more open. With articles from Colin Ward, Cedric Price, Paul Barker, Malcolm Miles, Simon Sadler and more, we get 18 essays regarding Non-Plan and architecture that came from an idea of participation within architecture.
    A book like this is invaluable to the testament of the potential of ideas to be pushed in many different modes. Starting with Paul Barker's actual article entitled "Non-Plan" which is supposed to be questioning the town and country planning, in favor of a plan that allows people to help, if not take control of creating the environment that they want to live in. Of course much of this rests in people able to fulfill the empowerment handed to them, and not just settle for the idea of an open platform in which corporations can do as they please in an open environment. 

    A part of the book I appreciated was seeing how they went from a critique, positive and negative, about Non-Plan and the planners involved in such a way of thinking, towards ideas and practices that ultimately can be traced back to an influence of Non-Plan ideas. As Ben Highmore, Jonathan Hughes and Clara Greed dissect the notions of planning without the planners, do it yourself culture and the role of gender in these discussions, they really focus on after the idea of Non-Plan, public participation was key for any conversation carrying on. Malcolm Miles then goes on to discuss how to negotiate the giving and taking of space, and how to take without impacting and how we need to negotiate our spaces and critically think upon the impact on ourselves and community when building.  

    The ideas in this book carry into conversation past the '60s and the question is, can we have a people led architecture and, though, it has its share of issues, how can we combine this with an architect's vision. 

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    With special thanks to Chava Shervington, President of the Jewish Multiracial Network.

    Nell Carter
    Singer/actress Nell Carter in a publicity shot fr. the Broadway revue "Black Broadway." (New York) 1980. Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL Library for the Performing Arts. Image ID: swope_623301

    What do prominent legal scholar Lani Guinier, bestselling writer Walter Moseley, and renowned late singer and actress Nell Carter have in common? They are all outstanding achievers who are African American and Jewish. In honor of African American History Month, the Dorot Jewish Division celebrates African American Jewish authors and achievements.

    According to the Pew Forum’s 2014 survey, 2% of Jews in the United States described themselves as black, and a 2011 population survey by United Jewish Appeal (Federation) found significant racial diversity in the New York Jewish community, noting that “the large number of biracial, Hispanic, and other “nonwhite” Jewish households—particularly pronounced among younger households—should serve as a reality check for those who are accustomed to thinking of all Jews as ‘white’.”

    Sammy Davis, Jr.
    The late Sammy Davis, Jr., a remarkable singer, dancer, and actor, has many works in the Library’s collection. Image from Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL Library for the Performing Arts. Image ID: TH-07496

    Award-Winning Authors

    Among African American Jewish authors you’ll find numerous award winners, such as author and scholar Carolivia Herron, known for her children’s book, Nappy Hair, as well as Always an Olivia, and many other works about African American and Jewish heritage and history; author and scholar Julius Lester, whose prolific works for children and adults address topics including racism, African American history, and his path to Judaism; the Antiguan-born Jamaica Kincaid, a writer of fiction and nonfiction for adults and children; Walter Moseley, a bestselling writer of mysteries and science fiction; author and musicianJames McBride (watch his NYPL performance here); professor and memoirist Carol Conaway; author and Third Wave Feminist leader Rebecca Walker; philosophy professors Lewis R. Gordon, Naomi Zack and Laurence Thomas, cartoonist and author Darrin Bell; and professor Ephraim Isaac, pioneering specialist in African, African-American and Semitic Studies.

    Stirring Memoirs

    The Library’s collection of memoirs by African American Jewish authors includes Yelena Khanga’s Soul to Soul : A Black Russian American Family, 1865-1992 (written with Susan Jacoby); as well as her mother Lily Golden’s My Long Journey Home; Ahuva Gray’s Gifts of a Stranger: A Convert's Round-The-World Travels and Spiritual Journeys; James McBride’s The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother; Rebecca Walker’s Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, Julius Lester’s Lovesong, Rain Pryor’s Jokes My Father Never Taught Me: Life, Love, and Loss with Richard Pryor (written with Cathy Crimmins), several books by and about Sammy Davis, Jr.; Carol Conaway’s essay "Journey to the Promised Land: How I Became an African-American Jew Rather Than A Jewish African American" (Nashim, no. 8, Fall 5765/2004) and filmmaker Lacey Schwartz’s Little White Lie.

    Water image, by Julius Lester
    Water image, by Julius Lester. NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Image ID: 1107240

    Identity Studies

    Use the subject heading “African American Jews” in the Library’s catalog to find scholarly explorations of of African American, Jewish and multiracial identity, including Joslyn C. Segal’s Shades of Community and Conflict: Biracial Adults of African-American and Jewish-American heritages; Black, Jewish, and Interracial: It's Not the Color of Your Skin, but the Race of Your Kin: and Other Myths of Identity by Dr. Katya Gibel Mevorach (Katya Gibel Azoulay) and Black Jews: A Study of Malintegration and (Multi) Marginality by Jacqueline C. Berry.

    Outstanding Rabbis

    African American rabbis of today and tomorrow are making a difference through groundbreaking leadership: Rabbi Alysa Stanton, a professional counselor who worked with students in the wake of Columbine, is the first African American female Reform rabbi, ordained in 2009 at Hebrew Union College; Rabbi Gershom Sizomu is leader of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, and the first black rabbi from sub-Saharan Africa to be ordained at an American rabbinic school (Conservative movement, 2008); Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum (formerly Gordon) was ordained at Hebrew College in 2013, and now leads Congregation Shir Hadash in Milwaukee and is on the board of the Jewish Multiracial Network.

    Georgette Kennebrae, a rabbinical intern at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah and Selah Leadership Program member at Bend the Arc, and Sandra Lawson, a rabbinic intern at Meadowood Senior Living and Golden Slipper Center for Seniors, as well as a personal trainer, are both openly lesbian rabbinical students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, with ordination set respectively for 2017 and 2018.

    Rabbi Capers Funnye, famously a cousin of First Lady Michelle Obama, heads Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago and is the first African American member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. Funnye underwent a Conservative conversion and hopes to unite the Hebrew Israelite community, of which he is the also the new chief rabbi, with the major denominations of American Judaism.

    Community Leaders

    These inspiring leaders are making a difference through advocacy and public service: Chava Shervington is President of the Jewish Multiracial Network and a legal professional specializing in corporate governance and non-profits; Jonah Edelman runs Stand for Children, an education reform group ; Dr. Ada M. Fisher is a retired doctor and GOP committeewoman; Reuben Greenberg is a retired Charleston police chief; Mona Sutphen is an author and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President Obama, Professor Michelle Frankl (formerly Stein-Evers) is an author and founding member of the Alliance of Black Jews; and Robin Washington is a newspaper editor, columnist, media personality and producer.

    Artistic Achievements

    Given the incredible contributions of African American and Jewish heritage to American culture, it’s no surprise to find amazing creative professionals including the comedian and Comic Torah author Aaron Freedman, the teacher, writer, diversity consultant and performer Yavilah McCoy; the Afroculinaria specialist and kosher Jewish foodie Michael Twitty, and Erika Davis, blogger at Black, Gay, and Jewish and board member of the Jewish Multiracial Network.


    Celebrated actors include TV and movie star Lisa Bonet; sisters Kidada Jones, a film actress and model, and Rashida Jones, the Parks and Recreation actress; model and TV actor Borris Kodjoe; actor and writer Yaphet Kotto; model and actress Lauren London; actress and producer Tracee Ellis Ross (of TV’s Blackish); comic actress and musician Maya Rudolph, and rising young film actor Khleo Thomas, to name just a few.


    Outstanding musicians include rapper Nissim Black, genre-bending singer and songwriter Goapele; Grammy-winning rock, folk and blues artist Ben Harper; multi-talented rock star Lenny Kravitz (another Grammy winner); jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman; Yiddish opera bass and openly gay Sidor Belarsky revivor Anthony (Mordechai Tzvi) Russell; rapper Shyne, guitarist Slash; jazz great Willie “The Lion” Smith; singer and songwriter Justin Warfield; rock and roll singer Andre Williams; hit songwriter and soul singer Jackie Wilson; and openly gay, Orthodox rapper Y-Love (Yitz Jordan).


    Sports stars include basketball’s David Blu; Jordan Farmar, Aulcie Perry, Alex Tyus; and Jamila Wideman—and even Amar’e Stoudemire is exploring his family connections to Judaism—plus baseball’s Elliott Maddox and football’s Taylor Mays and Andre Tippett.

    For more African American Jewish celebrities, check out Ma Nishtana’s Black Jews You Should Know, and lists from BET, HipHopWired, and Huffington Post.

    Want to learn more?

    Organizational Resources

    Visit the Jewish Multiracial Network for book recommendations and attend their Jews of Color Convening (co-hosted by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice) on May 1-3, 2016 in NYC.

    Visit Bechol Lashon for events, speakers, and research resources on the diversity of the Jewish people.

    Just For Fun

    Black and Jewish” music video by by Kali Hawk and Katerina Graham.

    Monologue by humorist, filmmaker and stage artist Gina Gold.

    Further Research

    Baer, Hans and Singer, Merrill. African American Religion: Varieties Of Protest And Accommodation. Knoxville : University of Tennessee Press, c2002.

    Baskin, April. "How to Help Combat the ‘Perpetual Stranger Status’ of Jews of Color." Union Of Reform Judaism. February 1, 2016.

    Berger, Graenum. Black Jews In America. New York: Commission on Synagogue Relations, 1978.

    Chireay, Yvonne, and Deutsch, Nathaniel. Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters With Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

    Gillick, Jeremy. "Post-racial Rabbis." July-Aug. 2009. Moment Magazine.

    Gordon, Lewis. "Jews were all people of color: Center for Afro-Jewish Studies" (Philadelphia). pp. 172-181. in The Colors Of Jews: Racial Politics And Radical Diasporism. ed. Melanie Kaye/kantrowitz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.

    "In Jewish Color" (Forward column).

    Kaufman, Ilana. Waking Up And Showing Up For Our Jewish Youth Of Color – Because Our Community Is At Stake. January 11, 2016. E-Jewish Philanthropy.

    Landing, James E. Black Judaism: Story Of An American Movement. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2002.

    Manishtana. "Black Jews You Should Know." Part 1. Tablet. Part 2

    Markow, Lauren. "Meet Sandra Lawson, Who May Soon Be One Of Judaism's First Black, Openly Lesbian Rabbis"Huffington Post. June 1, 2016.

    Shervington, Chava. "For Black Orthodox Jews, Constant Racism Is Exhausting". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. July 16, 2015.

    Spivack, Miranda C. "Jews Of Color In America: A Growing Minority Within A Minority." B’nai B’rith Magazine. Spring 2016.

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  • 02/12/16--07:35: Who's the King of Ohio?
  • Stephen King mobilized the Twitter armies on Wednesday with a single question:

    He got a flurry of responses from authors like Jodi Picoult and journalist James Fallows, and an avalanche from regular Twitter users who were quick to point out their favorite Buckeye State books.

    A few responses from Twitter are below, but first, here are three of our own Ohio-centric recommendations. (It's tough to say whether a book is truly about Ohio or any particular place, really, but all three of these novels feel like they couldn't possibly take place anywhere else.)

    bluest eye

    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Morrison set her first novel in her own real-life hometown of Lorain, Ohio. A tragic story of incest, rape, and heartbreak, the novel uses flashbacks to show Lorain both before and after the Great Depression.






    everything i never told you

    Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
    An immigrant family from China brings an outsider perspective to a small Ohio town, which stands at the forefront of this novel about identity and loss.







    Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan
    Residents of Kingsville, Ohio, comb every inch of their small town looking for a missing 18-year-old girl. Kingsville is scrutinized, from its woods to its houses to the gas station where Kim worked, and the novel is as much an examination of life in Ohio as it is a missing-person story.

    Honorable mention:The Odds by Stewart O’Nan
    OK, so this O'Nan book is really about escaping Ohio. But when the middle-aged couple at the center of the book runs away to Niagara Falls, their life in Ohio follows them like a third character nipping at their heels.



    And a bunch of people tweaked the bestselling author by calling out one of his own books, published under his "Richard Bachman" pseudonym:

    Disclaimer: We don't know these Twitter users! Their inclusion in this post is based solely on their book recommendations.

    Have trouble reading standard print? Many NYPL titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

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    Enrollment Now Open.  SAGEWorks assists people 40 years  and older in learning relevant, cutting-edge job search skills in a LGBT-friendly environment.  This 2 week training takes place from Monday - Friday, 3/21/16- 4/1/16 - 9:30 am to 2:00 pm at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10001. 

    Miller & Milone PC will present a recruitment on Wednesday, February 17, 2016, 9:30 am - 12 pm, for Clerical Assistance (1 opening), Bill Collector (2 openings), at Flushing Workforce 1 Career Center, 138-60 Barclay Avenue, Flushing,NY 11355.

    CAM Search and Consulting will present a recruitment on Thursday, February 18, 2016, 10 am - 2 pm, for Work-At-Home Customer Service Representative (50 P/T openings), at NYC Workforce 1 Career Center, 215 West 125th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10027.

    Spanish Speaking Resume Writing Workshop on Thursday, February 18, 2016, 12:30 - 2:30 pm for all interested jobseekers to organize, revise and update resumes, at Flushing Workforce 1  Career Center, 138 60 Barclay Ave. 2nd Floor, Flushing, NY 11355.

    affiche le pour

    Job Postings at New York City Workforce 1.

    Apprenticeship Opportunities in New York City.

    Brooklyn Community  Board 14:  Available jobs

    The New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCE&TC) is an association of 200 community-based organizations, educational institutions, and labor unions that annually provide job training and employment services to over 750,000 New Yorkers, including welfare recipients, unemployed workers, low-wage workers, at-risk youth, the formerly incarcerated, immigrants and the mentally and physically disabled. View NYCE&TC Job Listings.

    Digital NYC is the official online hub of the New York City startup and technology ecosystem, bringing together every company, startup, investor, event, job, class, blog, video, workplace, accelerator, incubator, resource, and organization in the five boroughs. Search jobs by category on this site.

    St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development provides Free Job Training and Educational Programs in Environmental Response and Remediation Tec (ERRT). Commercial Driver's License, Pest Control Technician Training (PCT), Employment Search and Prep Training and Job Placement, Earn Benefits and Career Path Center. For information and assistance, please visit St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development or call 718-302-2057 ext. 202.

    Brooklyn Workforce Innovations helps jobless and working poor New Yorkers establish careers in sectors that offer good wages and opportunities for advancement. Currently, BWI offers free job training programs in four industries: commercial driving, telecommunications cable installation, TV and film production, and skilled woodworking.

    CMP (formerly Chinatown Manpower Project) in lower Manhattan is now recruiting for a free training in Quickbooks, Basic Accounting, and Excel. This training is open to anyone who is receiving food stamps but no cash assistance. Class runs for eight weeks, followed by one-on-one meetings with a job developer. CMP also provides Free Home Health Aide Training for bilingual English/Cantonese speakers who are receiving food stamps but no cash assistance. Training runs Mondays through Fridays for six weeks and includes test prep and taking the HHA certification exam. Students learn about direct care techniques such as taking vital signs and assisting with personal hygiene and nutrition. For more information for the above two training programs, email:, call 212-571-1690, or visit. CMP also provides tuition-based healthcare and business trainings free to students who are entitled to ACCESS funding.

    Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) trains women and places them in careers in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance trades. It helps women achieve economic independence and a secure future. For information call 212-627-6252 or register online.

    Grace Institute provides tuition-free, practical job training in a supportive learning community for underserved New York area women of all ages and from many different backgrounds. For information call 212-832-7605.

    Please note this page will be revised when more recruitment events for the week of February 14 become available.


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    Live from the Reading Room: Correspondence is a podcast series that aims to share interesting and engaging letters written by or to key historical figures from the African Diaspora.

    Each episode highlights a letter from popular collections housed in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

    Today’s episode features a memorable love note from leading Harlem Renaissance painter, illustrator, and graphic artist Aaron Douglas to his wife and life partner, Alta Sawyer Douglas, an esteemed educator and Harlemite. 

    Aaron Douglas Love Letter
    Art © Heirs of Aaron Douglas/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

    Aaron Douglas Papers, Box 1, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

    *Special Note: All text is represented as originally written by the correspondent.  

    Image: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art and Artifacts Division, The New York Public Library. "Aspects of Negro Life: Song of the Towers." Image ID: psnypl_scf_003. The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1934.

    Today’s correspondence is read by Linden Anderson, Library Technical Assistant III in the Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

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  • 02/12/16--11:33: NYPLarcade: Spring 2016
  • NYPLarcade is an opportunity to play, watch, and discuss independent, experimental, and thought-provoking games in a library setting. Think of it as a book club, but for video games.

    Our spring series is primarily targeted at students, teachers, and librarians, but anyone with an interest in playing, watching, or discussing games is welcome.

    All events listed below will take place at Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village (in the first floor Willa Cather Community Room). Admission is free and open to the public.

    Each event will start with a brief introduction to the game, followed by a chance for participants to play the title from 6 to 7 p.m., and finally a guided discussion from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

    Date Game Developer Year
    February 23, 2016 That Dragon, Cancer Numinous Games 2016
    March 29, 2016 The Witness Thekla, Inc. 2016
    April 26, 2016 TBA TBA TBA

    May 31, 2016


    Please feel free to contact Thomas Knowlton at if you any questions. You can also follow us on Twitter (@nyplarcade) or join our mailing list for updates on upcoming NYPLarcade events.

    This NYPLarcade series was made possible through a 2015 NYPL Innovation Award.

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    Subscribe on iTunes.

    In 1983, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin co-founded Def Jam, one of the most prominent hip-hop labels in the American music industry today. At Def Jam, Rubin produced myriad artists, from Run-D.M.C. to the Beastie Boys. For this week's episode of the New York Public Library Podcast, we're proud to present Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin discussing music and meditation.

    Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons LIVE from the NYPL
    Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons LIVE from the NYPL

    To Simmons, music and meditation go hand in hand, two ways of making experience more immediate:

    "Music is one of the most transformative things in terms of happiness or presence—you want the world to move slow so you can watch it unfold, and music does that. The notes, in between spaces there are notes. There’s this awareness, all the other shit disappears, it’s just the music. And making that great record, there’s no thoughts of, 'Wait till I get this money, I’m gonna get this payback, I’m going to do this shit.' It’s like, 'Wow, music.' It awakens you. People use it as a transformative thing. That’s why music is so powerful, it brings you to the present. Meditation is a practice that brings you to the present, it’s the same thing. You want the world to go—you drive your car, you see every flower, every cute butt, everything, you see it. And that’s what meditation is for, is so you can see the world unfolding, a miracle."

    Simmons framed hip-hop not simply as not simply a musical genre but as a countercultural expression. Early experiences of hip-hop were couched in clubs outside the mainstream and attracted a different crowd:

    "The hip-hop explosion was people who didn’t want to join the mainstream, or really weren’t accepted anyway. That’s why downtown Rick experienced hip-hop before they let hip-hop into those kind of mainstream clubs that we were starting to frequent, you know, the Bentley’s and Leviticus and Justine’s. There was all these black clubs where guys would have like Louis Vuitton clutch bags and shit and shoes with no socks, and it was a different kind of dude. So we did something, and it was counterculture to the extent that we wanted to do our shit and we like had disdain for—. And I think even the music we produced—and Rick did the same from a rock example, I think, but he’ll tell you about that—I felt the records I produced, I didn’t want to hear anything that sounded like—because there was now developing an R & B trend as I started to make records, and that R & B trend was all that soft, happy, and it was really something... [T]he records we made, we didn’t use any instrumentation on any of our records that were anything to do with black radio, so there was a counter thing, but it was ours, I didn’t feel—it was counter to them, but it was ours, and it was us intentionally, you know, being young."

    Rubin spoke about his goal for Run-DMC's "Walk This Way." He viewed it as an opportunity to connect with listeners who hadn't yet been moved by hip-hop:

    "Up until that point, rap music was so alien to anyone who wasn’t in the hip-hop culture. I remember I was in California and talking to these people at this record company who were fans of what we did because of the success we were having, and they said, you know, 'Why do people like this?' These were people who were being nice to me, they said, 'Why do people like this? It’s not music.' And I realized, you know, there’s a pretty big gulf between how we felt about this and how people perceived it other than our small little world. And I wanted to find a song that would help bridge that gap so that people understood it really wasn’t that different, it really wasn’t. And the Aerosmith song, 'Walk This Way,' that was just the Run-D.M.C. version of it, is very close to a rap song already in its Aerosmith version. And I thought if Run-D.M.C. did a cover of that song, as Run-D.M.C., just like Run- D.M.C. would do it, people would make the connection like, 'Oh, well, I’ve heard Aerosmith do this and now Run-D.M.C. are doing it.'”

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    Find the Grammy Winning albums at the Library #GrammyAwards:


    Record of the Year: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"

    Album of the Year: Taylor Swift, 1989

    Best New Artist: Meghan Trainor

    Best Rock Performance: Alabama Shakes, "Don't Wanna Fight"

    Best Musical Theater Album: Hamilton

    Song of the Year: Ed Sheeran, "Thinking Out Loud"

    Best Country Album: Chris Stapleton, Traveller

    Best Rap Album: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

    Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"

    Source: Grammys 2016 Winners: The Complete List

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    I was happy to attend a kid lit salon on the visual elements of reading at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. I always learn a tremendous amount of information from these gatherings. Karen Ginman, Youth Materials Selector for the New York Public Library, introduced Michael Arndt. He is a graphic designer and also the author of Cat Says Meow. He gave a Power Point presentation about linguistics: in terms of how people process information and how it relates to children's picture books. He previously gave this presentation at a library conference in Syracuse.

    Letters and Characters in Language

    The author pointed out many things of interest. For example, Braille letters look somewhat like letters of the Roman alphabet. "A" and "e" have the simplest representations because they occur often in our language. Also, surprisingly enough, Italian gestures carry specific meanings. He discovered this during the course of four years that he spent in Italy. Korean, Japanese and Chinese use the same characters (called Kanji), but they have different sounds to indicate the same symbols. We do this in English, too. For instance, some capital letters are quite different from their lower-case counterparts, and we use different font styles, sizes and type and background colors to evoke various meanings and emotions. The Japanese symbol for book is similar to the symbol for tree because books are made from paper.

    How Do You Find Your Train?


    The New York City subway system uses circles of different colors with numbers or letters inside to effectively group together similar train lines. Concrete poetry is when the words of a poem are arranged into an image. Initial caps (first letter capital, followed by lower-case letters) are more legible to read than all caps because we read the shapes of words more than the individual letters. All caps form identical rectangular blocks, whereas initial caps form different shapes. The word ampersand (&) comes from the Latin word for "and."

    Genius of Advertising

    Lastly, Arndt launched into a discussion of logos, which dovetails with much-talked about commercials that air during the Superbowl during this time of year. As a graphic designer, he creates logos. H & R Block has a simple green square next to the company's name. This is a logo that the company could pay $50,000 for. He is a fan of the Nike logo because it connotes aerodynamics, sports and competition. Nike is the Winged Goddess of Victory. 

    Join us for the next amazing kid lit salon, and you may be able to pick up some free galleys, too!

    Future Children's Literary Salon

    Saturday, March 5 from 2–3 PM
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
    Meet the Founding Editors of the CBC Diversity Committee

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    This week's list features a mix of heart-pounding thrillers and heart-warming romance.


    #1 Recommendations for readers who enjoyed Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb, more police series starring women detectives:

    The Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen

    The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels by Laurell K. Hamilton

    The Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George





    #2 Recommendations for readers who enjoyed Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman, more L.A. mysteries:

    The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

    The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

    Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child




    me before you

    #3 Recommendations for readers who enjoyed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, more British love stories:

    Other People's Children by Joanna Trollope

    One Day by David Nicholls

    The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell




    The Choice

    #4 Recommendations for readers who enjoyed The Choice by Nicholas Sparks, more small town living and surprise romances:

    The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans

    The Flood Girlsby Richard Fifield

    Come Walk With Meby Joan A. Medlicott





    NYPD Red 4

    #5 Recommendations for readers who enjoyed NYPD RED 4 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp, more New York City crime series:

    Lawrence Block

    S.J. Rozan

    Jim Fusilli

    Reggie Nadelson

    Ed Dee


    Have trouble reading standard print? Many NYPL titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

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    Family historian Julia Bruno has lost both of her parents in the past five years. Looking for ways to process her grief and connect with her Italian ancestry, Julia turned to the St. George Library Center on Staten Island. With the help of the Library's genealogy classes, Julia was able to uncover the narratives of her ancestors. These resources opened up a world of discovery about Julia's family, inspiring her to forge a lifelong connection with the Library.

    Ep. 17 "I Was Driven" | Library Stories

    "Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and within the last five years I have lost both of my my grief recovery journey has had many designs over the last few's a huge undertaking. Doing genealogy is not like it looks on need a great deal of patience." - Julia Bruno, Family Historian

    Posted by NYPL The New York Public Library on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

    Library Stories is a video series from The New York Public Library that shows what the Library means to our users, staff, donors, and communities through moving personal interviews.

    Like, share, and watch more Library Stories on Facebook or YouTube.

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    Amanda writes letters to her dead father. She tells him about her dreams and aspirations. She informs him of her challenges. She lets him know about how her life and her mother's are falling apart.

    Mandy is tormented at school by a group of mean girls. She finds some solace in Lobo, a dog that she is fostering for Rogelio, a boy across the street. Like Amanda, Rogelio and Paloma do not quite fit in with the crowd at school. Paloma teaches the other two yoga, and they luxuriate in Paloma's garden. Outside of school and outside of her house, peace and light coalesce with her friends. 

    Luckily, the girl's grandmother gives her all the love and support that she has. She comforts Amanda in the stark absence of her mother. She essentially takes over the parenting role when it becomes crystal clear that grief has completely overtaken Amanda's remaining living biological parent. 

    Can You See Me Now? by Estela Bernal, 2014

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    Предлагаем нашим читателям новые поступления в библиотеку Mid-Manhattan. 

    Zhenikh i Nevesta

    Жених и невеста : роман / Алиса Ганиева

    Остросюжетный роман Алисы Ганиевой можно прочитать за один вечер. За романтичным заголовком скрывается очень курьезная ситуация -  родители срочно выбирают невесту сыну к назначенному свадебному банкету. 






    Покорность : роман / Мишель Уэльбек ; перевод с французского Марии Зониной

    Действие книги происходит во Франции 2022 года. Президент Франции мусульманин и женщины носят скромную одежду. Преподавание в университетах доверено только тем , кто принял Ислам. 




    Роман Вера стал лауреатом премии Русский Букер.
    Жизнь типичной русской женщины Веры ,без надежды и любви. 

    Роман  о зарождении российского бизнеса в новых условиях русского капитализма.

    Oypusk s papoi

    Oтпуск с папой / Дора Хельдт

    Если  вы когда либо вынудили себя съездить в отпуск с родителями, то вам будут знакомы бурные эмоции испытанные героиней книги Отпуск с Папой. 

    Пожилой , но прыткий и суетливый папа , охраняет взрослую дочь от недостойных женихов. При появлении любовного интереса дочки на куроте,  папа  вербует группу пенсионеров в помощь в сложной операции по поражению очередного Дон Жуана. 



    Главный герой нового романа Петра Алешковского «Крепость» — археолог Иван Мальцов, фанат своего дела, честный и принципиальный до безрассудства. Он ведет раскопки в старинном русском городке, пишет книгу об истории Золотой Орды и сам — подобно монгольскому воину из его снов-видений — бросается на спасение древней Крепости, которой грозит уничтожение от рук местных нуворишей и столичных чиновников. 

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    The Supreme Court is once again front and center in American partisan politics. We often bemoan the recent politicization of the federal courts and especially appointments to the Supreme Court, but this has been a source of political strife since the creation of the federal judiciary. It would not be unreasonable to say that the issue defined domestic politics during Thomas Jefferson’s first term as president. In fact, the judicial politics of the Jeffersonian era help explain why the Supreme Court remains such a charged issue in our own time. As part of the ongoing Early American Manuscripts Project, NYPL has recently cataloged and imaged some important sources that help tell this story. But first, some background.

    The Creation of the Federal Judiciary

    What will undoubtedly become clear over the coming months is how little the Constitution actually says about the judicial branch. Article III is much skimpier than the Constitution’s first two articles, which define the legislative and executive branches. The Constitution provides that there will be a supreme court, it grants Congress power to create “inferior courts,” and declares that judges shall have life tenure, but little else. From the beginning, it was clear that Congress would have significant power to shape the structure of the federal court system.

    SCOTUS 1
    Jeremiah Wadsworth to Pierpont Edwards, July 26, 1789

    The first Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789. It established district courts in each state and a six-member Supreme Court. The Act also created three circuit courts—the forerunners to the federal Court of Appeals—that oversaw a number of the district courts. The judicial branch was a politically-volatile issue from the outset. In a letter to Pierpont Edwards—a lawyer, merchant, future U.S. Attorney and federal judge—congressman Jeremiah Wadsworth of Connecticut worried that “the bill for Establishing a Judiciary system will be attacked on all sides.” He also passed on information about whether James Madison, the powerful Virginian, would support the bill. Edwards also received intelligence from Oliver Ellsworth—another well-connected Connecticut lawyer, who served as a senator and the chief justice of the Supreme Court—that Judge Richard Law of Connecticut “thinks favorably of the judiciary system proposed.” Ultimately, the act passed without much fanfare.

    SCOTUS 2
    Oliver Ellsworth to Pierpont Edwards, August 4, 1789

    The Judiciary Act of 1801

    Both George Washington and the second president, John Adams, belonged to the Federalist Party. As a consequence, one party had appointed every member of the federal judiciary. Yet the judiciary became a much more charged political issue in 1800, when the Jeffersonian Republican Party won majorities in the House and the Senate. They also won the presidency for the first time--though it took until February of 1801 to decide that Thomas Jefferson would be president, and Aaron Burr his vice president.

    At the beginning of Jefferson’s first term as president, Federalists’ strength in national politics was confined entirely to the judiciary. After the elections of 1800, the lame duck Federalist President, House, and Senate had clearly passed the Judiciary Act of 1801 to stack the federal courts with Federalists and entrench their power in the judiciary as a bulwark against the growing political clout of the Jeffersonians. The Act established sixteen new circuit court judgeships, all filled with Federalists. Perhaps most brazenly, it changed the number of Supreme Court justices from six to five, to take effect when the next sitting judge left office. In effect, this meant that two justices would need to retire, die, or be removed from office before the next president would have the chance to make an appointment to the court. The Act also created a number of local justice of the peace for the new District of Columbia, again all filled by Federalists.

    Done so late in Adams’s term, the men appointed under this Act came to be known as the “Midnight Judges.” It is an apt moniker. Indeed, the outgoing administration did not even have time to deliver commissions--which made the appointments official--to all the appointees. A lawsuit over these undelivered commissions led to the famous Supreme Court case, Marbury v. Madison (1803), decided by Chief Justice John Marshall, the most influential of Adams’ midnight appointees.

    The Jeffersonian Reaction

    Federalists feared the Jeffersonians would attempt to undermine the Federalist hold on the judiciary when they took the reins of power in 1801. In a revealing letter to Noah Webster, William Cranch—one of the Midnight Judges, appointed to the D.C. circuit court—bemoaned that the “bolder spirits” among the Jeffersonians wanted to “warp and bend [the Constitution] to their view” by making “the judiciary ... dependant[sic] upon the legislature.” In essence, with “a majority of both houses, and the Executive, on their side,” the Jeffersonians needed to take some control over the legislature to prevent it from stymieing their legislative agenda.

    SCOTUS 3
    William Cranch to Noah Webster, December 21, 1801

    The Jeffersonians opted to repeal large portions of the Judiciary Act of 1801, including the new system of circuit courts. Though Federal judges held these offices for life, the Jeffersonians claimed they simply eliminated the office itself.

    The Jeffersonians were not finished. Led by a contingent from Virginia, they tried to impeach a Supreme Court justice, Samuel Chase. An unabashed Federalist, Chase did not hide his partisanship. As Cranch wrote in another letter to Webster, Chase’s “great crime was in declaring the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801 unconstitutional” and a threat to liberty and judicial independence, during a tirade against the Republicans he made from the bench.

    SCOTUS 4
    William Cranch to Noah Webster, March 3, 1805

    The Jeffersonian-dominated Senate, though, voted to acquit. Nevertheless, Cranch maintained that the impeachment proceedings, would offer “the future historian a strong fact to elucidate the spirit of the times, and to estimate the virtue of the majority [Jeffersonians].” But his own experience in the coming years suggests otherwise. In 1806, Jefferson promoted Cranch to chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court.

    The Legacy

    The Chase impeachment had revealed cracks within the Jeffersonian Republican Party, between National Republicans, who valued judicial independence, and “Old Republicans” willing to sacrifice it on the altar of politics. Moving forward, the National Republicans would oversee one of the most important eras in the Supreme Court’s history.

    The most consequential outcome of the Federalists’ machinations--unaffected by the Jefferson reaction--was the appointment of John Marshall as chief justice of the Supreme Court. In 1803, Marshall issued his most famous decision. Though the implications of the case were not clear at the time, Marbury v. Madison established the principle of judicial review--that the Supreme Court determined the constitutionality of federal laws. Marshall grew increasingly bold during the administrations of James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams, offering a string of rulings that continue to shape American jurisprudence today. In the most significant case, McCullouch v. Maryland (1819), Marshall ruled that the Constitution provided Congress with broad authority to pursue its enumerated powers.

    To a certain extent, modern American politics turns on differing interpretations of the legitimacy of McCullouch, and the Supreme Court wields significant power over that conversation thanks to Marbury. We might even say that one reason the federal bench is so politicized now, is because of the institutional weight it gained under the leadership of its most politicized appointee, John Marshall.

    Further Reading

    For more on the judicial politics of the early republic era, see Richard E. Ellis, The Jeffersonian Crisis: Courts and Politics in the Young Republic (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971); and Ellis, Aggressive Nationalism: McCulloch v. Maryland and the Foundation of Federal Authority in the Young Republic(New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). The manuscript sources in this post come from the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection and the Noah Webster Papers.

    About the Early American Manuscripts Project

    With support from the The Polonsky Foundation, The New York Public Library is currently digitizing upwards of 50,000 pages of historic early American manuscript material. The Early American Manuscripts Project will allow students, researchers, and the general public to revisit major political events of the era from new perspectives and to explore currents of everyday social, cultural, and economic life in the colonial, revolutionary, and early national periods. The project will present on-line for the first time high quality facsimiles of key documents from America’s Founding, including the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Drawing on the full breadth of the Library’s manuscript collections, it will also make widely available less well-known manuscript sources, including business papers of Atlantic merchants, diaries of people ranging from elite New York women to Christian Indian preachers, and organizational records of voluntary associations and philanthropic organizations. Over the next two years, this trove of manuscript sources, previously available only at the Library, will be made freely available through

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