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    In mid-May of 2016 we began posting Staten Island historical newspapers from old microfilm reels to their new home on the web. Staten Island historical papers currently online. When we launched there were very few digitized Island newspapers available on the web—only a few hundred pages total. We scanned over 9,000 scanned pages of the Richmond County Advance, provided by our partner Historic Richmond Town. The response since then has been gratifying. By the end of October we had 30,000 page views on the Advance alone. It has been the number one NYC metropolitan area historical newspaper on since launch, outpacing papers with more than 10 times the number of pages scanned. We also included links to the Richmond County Mirror, previously scanned by NYPL, and Island papers like the Staten Island Leader and Staten Island Magazine uploaded by other institutions.

    Now we are excited to announce that a new set of Island papers have been scanned and launched.  The largest run is the Staten Island World, about 3,000 pages of it, from our partner the Staten Island Museum.  It covers the years 1902-1920.  We also uploaded the Richmond County Democrat 1890-92 (HRT), The Daily Advance 1920 (HRT & NYPL), and The Staten Island Independent 1894-95 (HRT).  

    Our SI historical newspaper posts have garnered over 500 facebook likes.  We've added new content to the site, like  more detailed instructions and teacher activities and a reproducible flier to let everyone know about the newspapers.  There's also a new set of Staten Island Metropolitan baseball cards.  We developed the cards using old newspaper pictures and articles.  The Metropolitans, namesakes of today's NY Mets, played at the old St. George Cricket Grounds for two seasons in 1886 and 1887.

    The Staten Island World, from the collections of the Staten Island Museum.

    New York Metropolitan baseball card from historical newspaper sources.Time travelling superheroes build homes for the Staten Island homeless.

    A Staten Island Mets baseball card and a photo from the P.S. 58 "Heroes on Camera" exhibit at Todt Hill-Westerleigh Library.

    We've been busy presenting the project at local schools. There's currently a photogoraphy display by P.S. 58 summer camp students at the Todt Hill-Westerleigh branch of NYPL. The students photographed themselves as time-traveling superheroes saving the old Staten Island from the dangers depicted in theAdvance articles. The students posed in front of electronic whiteboards displaying  NYPL Digital Collections images of Staten Island as their backgrounds. We've had calls from all over the country from people researching their ancestors on Staten Island. One particularly interesting use we know of is a climate change scientist using the newspapers to research historical storm patterns on the Island.

    It's been a thrilling start to an important project. We have more historical Staten Island papers in the pipeline for upload soon so keep checking back to discover new stories. We'd love to hear how you and about the interesting articles you  discover. We may feature them in our newspaper blog series: Found Staten Island Stories.

    Funding for the digitization of Staten Island newspapers was provided through The New York Public Library's Innovation Project, which is made possible by a generous grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation.

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    At Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, we offer many resources for those with low or no vision can be inventors, designers, and builders: If you’re interested in learning to code, automating appliances in your home, building accessible measurement tools (such as light detectors and continuity testers) or devising an electronic project of your own, we welcome you to explore electronics and coding with us. Our branch is partnering with DIYAbility and the Blind Arduino Project to present hands-on workshops introducing youth and adults to nonvisual and adaptive techniques for coding and physical computing.

    More than thirty patrons—teens, adults, and seniors—with all kinds of vision, participated in our first round of workshops. They were joined by volunteers with computer science and accessibility backgrounds.

    Five people gathered around a workshop table with a laptop and an Arduino starter kit. One pair of hands guides another.
    Photo taken by author

    In these workshops, participants work in teams to build projects with a small, programmable computer called Arduino, which can be connected to an astonishing array of sensors that measure environmental variables like temperature and light, controllers like touch sensors and dials, and outputs like buzzers, servos, and vibrating motors.

    With the right tools and techniques, working with electronic components can be very accessible. Most sensors and inputs can be distinguished by touch; those that can’t can be organized into separate bags or directly labeled. The headers on Arduino boards where wires connect contain a line of small sockets which can be challenging to feel with your fingertip but become easy to navigate when you use a toothpick, the tip of a wire, or a Braille stylus. Tactile drawing tools or an old-fashioned Braille writer are great for documenting the layout of an Arduino board so you can learn how all the pins and headers are labeled. If a project calls for a light that you’re not going to see, you can just substitute a buzzer, a servo’s moving pointer, or a vibrating motor.

    Our workshop participants use Macs running Voiceover and Zoom, PCs with JAWS and NVDA, and braille displays to explore and write code in the Arduino’s IDE (Integrated Development Environment). Those who attend our introductory Arduino workshops create simple projects such as light detectors and thermometers that measured the level of light by buzzing or moving a pointer, and a USB-powered paper fan controlled by a servo.

    The table of supplies includes a Mac laptop, a refreshable braille display, and electronics, while next to the table lounges a guide dog
    Photo taken by author

    After they’re up and running, participants are ready to discover a wealth of online inspiration and guidance. For example, there’s an engaging and thorough Adafruit Tutorial that starts by explaining every part of the Arduino and moves on to inputs and outputs, wiring and much more. Assistive technology users may sometimes be discouraged by the presence of diagrams and other images amidst online learning tools. That’s where the Blind Arduino Blog comes in. Visit this blog to find detailed textual descriptions of Arduino layouts, information about accessible tools for working with Arduino, and accessible project ideas.

    We’re excited to welcome more Arduino learners in the months to come. If you’d like to explore coding and physical computing with us, please check our event calendar or email

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    Hilton Worldwide will present a recruitment  on Tuesday, December 6, 2016, 10 am - 2 pm for Room Attendant (27 Temp openings), at New York State Department of Labor, 250 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.    By appointment only.

    Basic Resume Writing  workshop on Thursday, December 8, 2016, 1:30 - 3 pm at Brooklyn Workforce 1 Career Center, 250 Schermerhorn  Street,  Brooklyn, NY 11201. Participants will learn the purpose of a resume, chronological and combination resumes and select the appropriate type for their specific needs.

    Job Postings at New York City Workforce 1.  Job Search Central

    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 December 6 become available.

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    Authors, actors, comedians, musicians, urban planners—the Bronx produces them all. Suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark, television talk show host Regis Philbin, actor Al Pacino, children's book author Jules Feiffer, singer Jennifer Lopez, elected official Ruben Diaz, Jr.... The list of kids from the Bronx goes on and on. The lives of these influential people, illustrated in Just Kids From the Bronx, were nurtured in the northernmost borough of the largest city in the United States.

    The population of the Bronx used to be largely Jewish and white. Nowadays, it is predominately Hispanic and African American. There is also a large number of people of Puerto Rican heritage in the borough—Bronx Library Center even has a Puerto Rican Heritage room.

    Locals of and visitors to the Bronx who are interested its history and cultural diversity should check out the resources, programs, and services available at the Bronx Library Center. In addition, the Bronx County Historical Society and the collections of the  Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building can provide additional insight into the famous people and changing demographics of the Bronx through time.   

    Just Kids From the Bronx: Telling It the Way It Was, an Oral History by Arlene Alda, 2015

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    Subscribe on iTunes.

    James McBride is a National Book Award winner for his novel The Good Lord Bird and an accomplished musician. He has worked as a journalist for newspapers including The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. For this week's episode of the New York Public Library Podcast, we're proud to present James McBride discussing James Brown's creative process, the politics of the musician, and New York City.

    James Mcbride

    In his newest book, Kill 'Em and Leave 'Em, McBride takes on American musical icon James Brown. Though Brown was not a trained musician, McBride described a collaborative creative process:

    "People forget or people don't know that James Brown, though he was not trained, he was an excellent musician. I mean Thelonius Monk was a terrible pianist, but he was a genius. Ira Gershwin, I can't remember George or Ira, couldn't read music. Neither could Errol Garner. So you don't have to be trained. So I mean what he did was he hired these men and women who were from the south, who had grown up listening to the blues and jazz, and he would sing what he wanted them to create. And when he sang it, they learned ways to create it, and if they couldn't create, they'd say, 'Okay, uh-huh, Mr. Brown,' and they would just do what they did and he would say, 'That's good. A little to the right. A little to the left.'"

    Discussing Brown's identity and politics, McBride pointed to the ways in which Brown was sometimes more engaged than fellow singers in the Motown scene:

    "He just said was what was safe to say. Every once in a while he would bust out and be courageous, and then he would run back to the safety of the music. Now that can't be said about most of your Motown acts and others who, while they were spectacular entertainers, didn't really represent the hopes and dreams of African-American life. And that's the difference between the Motown people and James Brown. James Brown was unquestionably black. Unquestionably strong. Unquestionably a man, so he had to at least show some of that courage, but in the end he knew the machine would gobble him up, and ultimately, I'm afraid to say he was right."

    McBride spoke of changes in New York City life and what it can tell us about the presidential election:

    "The whole business of displacement is a sad fact of African American life, even here in New York, which once had a great southern flavor to its African American population, and many of those people have gone down south. When I was growing up in New York, you had black grocery stores, black supermarkets, black-owned gas stations. That's all vanished. And now the view, the sort of societal view of black America is kind of like these kids doing hip-hop, and they obey their thirst, and they play basketball and it's completely different... New York has evolved to where it's a multiracial city, but it's not as multiracial as we think it is because it's becomes a city of haves and have-nots. And yet we scratch our heads and wonder why our family, our fellow American citizens elect someone like Donald Trump president."

    You can subscribe to the New York Public Library Podcast to hear more conversations with wonderful artists, writers, and intellectuals. Join the conversation today!

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    In the early 20th century, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $5.2 million to build more than 60 libraries throughout New York City. For many years, the Carnegie libraries were heated by coal, and each had a custodian who lived inside the branch, often with family, to keep the building warm. Raymond Clark, custodian for three decades, lived at NYPL's Washington Heights Library with his son Ronald and granddaughter Jamilah. Now, their former apartment has been renovated and will serve as a teen center. We invited Ronald and Jamilah back to Washington Heights to see the renovation and reflect on what it was like to grow up in a library.

    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.


    Ronald Clark, Jamilah Clark, who grew up in Washington Hts. Library apartment

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    The single-page applications created by the Library's Digital department rely heavily on Javascript. Developing those applications started with AngularJS and has now moved to React. Through implementing the applications we learned different programming techniques. One of the most beneficial functional programming technique has been currying to create reusable functions while developing different applications. In this post, I'll show an example of a curry function, then dive into an example that is currently being used in one of our npm packages, and ultimately illustrate how that function was further extended in the current homepage application.

    Curry Functions

    At its most basic concept, currying means creating a function that returns another function. The fun part comes when constructing functions that take in arguments. Currying allows to partially apply a function with initial arguments and return that same partially applied function that can consume other arguments.

    Let's start with a function `bookBy` that takes in an author name and a book title and outputs a simple string. The code in this blog post will be written in ES6 Javascript.

    The `bookBy` function above works great but it will get tiresome if we want to output all the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling since we will repeat her name for each function call.

    We could copy and paste the `bookBy` function multiple times and update the book title argument, but that is not a technique developers should rely on. So, instead, let's convert `bookBy` to a simple curry function.

    The curried `bookBy` function is a very simple example, but it shows the partial application of a function. `bookBy` is a function that takes in the `author` argument. Another function gets returned that itself takes an argument of `book` but uses the `author` argument from the outer function. In the example above, `const booksByRowling = bookBy('J. K. Rowling');` is equivalent to:

    If we didn't curry the` bookBy` function and we had multiple authors in the data source, we'd have to create one function for each author. Now we can reuse the `bookBy` function for multiple authors.

    Google Analytics Event Tracking Curry Function

    We recently wrote an npm package dgx-react-ga—a wrapper around the react-ga package—to expose curry functions to use in multiple applications to track page events. The react-ga module exposes an `event` method to track events.

    If we use the same category in one application, it will get written multiple times. We can simplify that process by currying the `ga.event` function statement with the category already applied. The curry function in the dgx-react-ga wrapper plugin is:

    Our React applications, at a high level, have a utility file with functions that are used throughout the app. It's in this file that we import dgx-react-ga and call the `trackEvent` function:

    Passing Curry Functions in React Components

    My coworker was recently adding Google Analytics event tracking to elements on the homepage. The different features on the homepage are broken up and contained by a React `homepage row` component, and we wanted to see if the curry functions from dgx-react-ga plugin could be extended in the `homepage row` component to use as props and passed down to the children components inside. Extending the curry function would add another level of abstraction but each row will be encapsulated in its own `action`.

    Homepage broken down into React components
    Homepage broken down into rows and components inside each row.


    Every homepage row component has two children components with elements on which to track events; one component is the sidebar, and the other component is a feature component that is passed as a prop. At first, we tracked events by passing down a curried function with `Homepage` as the category.

    The example above is a simplification, but once we start adding and tracking events on more children components, we don’t want to repeat the `action` of `Staff Picks` for multiple elements.

    Instead, we now curry the curried function and pass that function as a prop to the `HomepageRow` component:

    The `trackHomepageRow` function can be reused by other components on the homepage in a similar fashion and each row is encapsulated by the `action` indicated:

    I mentioned before that currying the `gaUtils.trackEvent` function will create another level of abstraction, but in the end, the React components that use the function don't need to worry about the overhead. The `HomepageRow` component simply calls the function and passes the `action` it wants for its container, and the children React components inside each row can call the curried function like any other function. We ended up removing complexity from the children React components in each row to adding complexity once at the high application level.

    The Future with Higher Order Components

    Currying is an advanced functional programming concept, so we make sure to code review with the team when using that technique across multiple components. It’s now easier to pick out areas in our code that can be refactored and made into more reusable code through currying. Using the currying technique is the first step into creating better and more re-useable React components since advance programming techniques like higher order components (HOC) rely on the currying concept. We haven't found a use case yet but learning about different concepts gives us more programming power when creating applications.

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    Willa Cather
    Willa Cather. Photo by Associated Press.

    It's December 7, and that means we're celebrating Willa Cather's birthday here at NYPL!  Willa Cather was a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet known for her descriptions of life on the American frontier and the immigrant experience. One of the foremost American female writers of the 20th century, Cather penned several novels from the 1910s through the 1930s that were highly popular in their time and are widely read today. They include O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and Death Comes for the Archbishop. She died in New York City in 1947, and today is her 143rd birthday.

    If you've never been introduced to Cather's work, or you somehow managed to skip reading her in high school English, then you're missing out on some truly gorgeous prose, vivid imagery, and moving, mature stories about plains living. For those of you who don't know where to start with Willa Cather, we've got a list of our favorites, all available to borrow through the Library:

    My Antonia

    1. My Antonia:

    My Antonia is Willa Cather's most famous novel and a great introduction to the world of hardscrabble frontiering and farming she explores in much of her work. The novel chronicles the lives of Jim Burden, an orphan, and Antonia Shimerda, the child of Bohemian immigrants, as they mature and become friends eking out a living in Black Rock, Nebraska. Breathtaking descriptions of the plains landscape and heartwrenching stories of lost souls coming to the frontier to build a better life make this a truly compelling novel for adults and young readers.

    O Pioneers!

    2. O Pioneers!

    The first book in Cather's "Prairie Trilogy" (which includes My Antonia and The Song of the Lark) is also concerned with the immigrant experience in Nebraska, focusing on the Bergsons, a family of Swedish settlers. After her father's death, Alexandra Bergson takes over the family farm and attempts to keep her family afloat amidst harsh winters, family conflicts, and small-town grudges and loyalties. Brutal, tragic, and spare, O Pioneers! was Cather's first big hit when it was published in 1913, and it's remained an enduring classic for over 100 years since.

    My Mortal Enemy

    3. My Mortal Enemy

    One of Cather's later works, My Mortal Enemy is the story of the marriage of Myra Henshawe, who forsakes her family's vast inheritance to marry  Oswald out of love. Painting a bleak picture of romance, Cather chronicles the couple's slide into poverty and illness through the eyes of the young, innocent Nellie Birdseye. This modernist novella on the pitfalls of marriage is one of Cather’s darkest works.

    The Song of the Lark

    4. The Song of the Lark

    The second novel in Willa Cather's prairie trilogy tells the story of Thea Kronberg, who rises from humble beginnings in a small town in Colorado to a career in opera singing. Unlike O Pioneers! and My Antonia, much of the story takes place outside of the plains as Thea's adventure takes her to Chicago, Dresden, Arizona, and New York. This lyrical novel has been described as semi-autobiographical, as Thea's journey from plains to city in pursuit of her art reflects Cather's own career path: she moved from Nebraska to Pittsburgh to New York, which became her home from age 33 to her death.

    Death Comes for the Archbishop

    5.Death Comes for the Archbishop

    This novel is based on the lives of two historical Catholic priests, Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, and their efforts to create a church in New Mexico, just after the territory was acquired by the United States. Death Comes for the Archbishop is noted for its episodic storytelling and its stark portrayal of the complicated Wild West. It's considered one of the best Westerns of all time, and has ended up on several top 100 lists, including Modern Library's list of the best English-language novels of the 20th century.

    One Of Ours

    6. One of Ours

    This book, which is about the journey of Nebraskan Claude Wheeler from unhappy farmer to proud soldier in World War I, won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1923. One of Ours was criticized by many prominent authors, including Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis, for its heroic and rosy depiction of war, but the American public disagreed, and it became one of the bestselling books of that year.

    Alexander's Bridge

    7. Alexander's Bridge

    While Alexander's Bridge is lesser known than her other books, it's unique in her oeuvre for its subject matter, focusing on high society Boston and London rather than the untamed American wilderness. Bartley Alexander, a successful construction engineer known for his grand bridge designs, begins an adulterous affair with his former lover, Hilda Burgoyne. Alexander's midlife crisis and his longing to escape his current life fuels the existential drama of this short read, which was Cather's first book.

    Got any other favorite Willa Cather books to celebrate with? Let us know in the comments!


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    Counternarratives cover

    John Keene is Chair of African American and African Studies and Associate Professor of English and AAAS at Rutgers University-Newark. A former member of the Dark Room Writers Collective of Cambridge and Boston and a Graduate Fellow of Cave Canem, he is author of the novel Annotations, the poetry collection (with artist Christopher Stackhouse) Seismosis, art book (with photographer Nicholas Muellner) GRIND, and the poetry chapbook Playland. He was a writer-in-residence in the Library’s Wertheim Study in 2013, where he researched and wrote Counternarratives, for which he received an American Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award in Fiction in 2016.

    What impact did writing Counternarratives here at The New York Public Library have on your work?

    Working at the Schwarzman Research Branch had a significant impact on my work. I benefited tremendously from the NYPL's collection; the stories draw directly and indirectly from a wide array of books, maps, and other holdings in the NYPL's collection. The opportunities afforded by the Wertheim Study Room also were numerous: the ability to keep books on the shelf for a sustained amount of time; the space's wonderful quiet; the camaraderie of fellow authors, researchers and the staff; and the general intellectual atmosphere, proved invaluable.
    Many of the short stories and novellas in this book involve historical figures or take place in the past. What were some of the items from the library’s historic archive of books, maps, and prints that helped you portray the various settings described in this diverse collection of stories?
    To take just one example, as I was writing the story "The Aeronauts," which takes place in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia during 1861, the first full year of the U.S. Civil War, I consulted books about pre-Civil War Philadelphia, free African Americans in the antebellum period (including W. E. B. Du Bois' magisterial The Philadelphia Negro), aeronautics and ballooning, the war's progression, and the U.S. Union Army balloon corps and its leading figures. I also read through newspapers from the free and slave states, and periodicals issued by the American Philosophical Society and similar organizations dedicated to disseminating 19th century scientific and cultural ideas. Lastly, I studied maps and photographs of Washington and Virginia, before and during the war. With each story that I worked on at the NYPL, I reviewed a similar array of archival texts, maps, and visual imagery.
    I’m guessing that few people have heard of Juan Rodriguez who was born on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in the late 1500s and was the first “immigrant” to move to Mannahatta (Manhattan), what inspired you to write about this early New Yorker
    I believe it was a news report a few years ago that inspired me to write the story. As often tends to be the case when I think about a figure like Juan Rodríguez/Jan Rodrigues, I was convinced that he had been the subject of numerous poems, short stories, and perhaps even a novel or two, but although I did find some fine scholarship about him and the world he inhabited, I realized this pioneering "black rascal," as I believe he is described in the Amsterdam City records, had slipped through the fictional cracks, so to speak. His story reorients our thinking about immigration and non-indigenous settlement in the US, in terms of race, ethnicity, class status, and so on, but also challenges the dominant settler-colonialist model in important ways.
    Describe your first encounter with Edward Degas’ 1879 masterpiece “Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando” and what motivated you to create a short story about the painting’s subject?
    I had seen the photo online but had not gone beyond thinking it another example of Degas' masterful oeuvre. Late one afternoon, I took a break from writing at the library, and moseyed over to the Pierpont Morgan Library, which is one of New York City's treasures, and happened upon an exhibit about the painting and Ms. La La, also known as Olga Braun (Kaira). Images of the acrobat--who I immediately saw was a Black woman--as well her performances and flyers for the circus' shows, and reproductions of Degas' preparatory sketches, pastels and various attempts in oil to capture her remarkable artistry, covered the upper floor walls of the library's exhibition space. I was transfixed with her story and Degas' struggle to paint her, in particular because despite the fact that he had African-American relatives in Louisiana and had even painted a scene set in the New Orleans cotton market, she was the only Black person he ever put on canvas. As I left the Morgan Library I was under her spell, and the outline and even words from the story started to pour into my head.
    “Persons and Places” depicts a fictional encounter between W.E.B. Du Bois and George Santayana that takes place on the streets of Cambridge, Mass. in the autumn of 1890 when the former was a graduate student and the latter was teaching philosophy at Harvard, the short story is structured to appear as two parallel journal entries written from the points of view of both men. How did your own experience as a Harvard undergrad and your current position as a professor of African American Studies inform this story?
    Like anyone teaching African American Studies I owe a huge debt to W. E. B. DuBois, who was a path blazing intellectual, political and cultural forebear, leaving his mark in fields as diverse as history, sociology, and literary studies, to name a few. I had always wanted to write a story about him, and after I read both David Levering Lewis's superlative biography about him and George Santayana's strange and haunting memoir Persons and Places, I realized that while DuBois does describe studying with Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher does not ever mention DuBois in that volume of his memories, even though DuBois was becoming famous by the time Santayana was writing it. That led me to think about proximity and opacity, the asymmetries in their relationship, and how I might imagine and represent the unequal but still respectful bond they shared. In terms of Harvard and Cambridge, so much of the material world they would have inhabited in the 1880s was still around when I was a student a hundred years later, so I had to remove anachronisms, but the physical and even intellectual landscape, especially after reading Louis Menand's brilliant study The Metaphysical Club, was not hard to recover.
    In “Rivers” you continue the storyline of three of Mark Twain’s most memorable characters Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Jim into the battlefields of the American Civil War, how has your appreciation for Twain’s fiction evolved over your lifetime?
    Twain remains one of the essential American writers. Rereading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), I feel even more strongly that with Huckleberry Finn he created one of the most iconic characters in U.S. fiction, but I could see his limits as an author in his depictions of Jim, whom he does try to humanize. Twain's blind spots around race have analogues throughout the history of American literature, though, so he is not alone in this regard. I hope my story opens up a conversation with Twain and other US writers who have come before and after him.
    How did it feel to write about a romantic encounter between literary giants Langston Hughes and Xavier Villaurrutia?
    It felt exhilarating. On the one hand, talking about Langston Hughes' sexuality is less controversial today than it might have been a few decades ago, such as when Isaac Julien made his beautiful film Looking for Langston. On the other hand, there is still silence or obfuscation about aspects of his life. I have been a Hughes fan since childhood, and became fascinated when I came across Villaurrutia's poem "North Carolina Blues," which critiques Jim Crow segregation and which he dedicated to Hughes. I also learned that he had translated Hughes' poetry years before penning that poem. The poem, Villaurrutia's letters, scholarly studies of both men, and Arnold Rampersad's biography of Hughes all offered a portal into my fictional reimagining of how they might have connected, on multiple levels, including erotically. The story also surveys Depression-era Mexico City and New York, and ends in part with them returning to what brought them together in the first place: poetry.
    How did writing Letters from a Seducer, your 2014 English translation of Hilda Hilst’s novel Cartas de um sedutor, influence your Brazil stories in this book?
    I guess it's fair to say not so much directly as indirectly. Hilst's linguistic, stylistic and thematic daring were a great spur to try out all kinds of literary approaches, but the Brazil she presents is a highly idiosyncratic one. Her native São Paulo, however, does appear in several of the stories, though, so I suppose there was some imaginative osmosis at work.
    Why did you choose to include maps of Brazil, one historic and the other modern, in the novella “On Brazil, or Denouement: The Londonias-Figueiras”?
    After finishing several drafts of that story, I realized that most US readers would not have any sense of Brazil's geography, or perhaps not know it the way I did, so I ended up including the maps as an aid of sorts. But as you probably noticed, they are small and not overly illuminative, because, like the story, they still present a challenge about how to decipher how the past and present relate, and how to understand historical coincidence, and the continuities and discontinuities within any society.
    What are some of the titles on your “to read” list?
    Here are a few:

    The Performance of Becoming Human / Daniel Borzutzky   

    Hardly War / Don Mee Choi

    The Yesterday Project / Sandra Doller and Ben Doller

    Black Lavender Milk / Angel Domínguez

    Margaret the First / Danielle Dutton  

    The Surrender / Scott Esposito

    A Collapse of Horses / Brian Evenson

    Nocilla Dream / Agustín Fernández Mallo

    Calamities / Renee Gladman

    Buck Studies / Douglas Kearney

    Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America / Ibram X. Kendi

    Olio / Tyehimba Jess

    Boy with Thorn / Rickey Laurentiis

    FBI Eyes  How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature / W. J. Maxwell,

    Cockroaches / Scholastique Mukasonga

    Fish in Exile / Vi Khi Nhao

    In the Wake: On Blackness and Being / Christina Sharpe

    Night Sky with Exit Wounds / Ocean Vuong


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    Last month when we gathered for Open Book Night, our theme was food and celebration. Oysters came up several times as well as some fictional meals that were far from celebratory. We heard about favorite cookbooks and food memoirs and a few titles readers really enjoyed that had little to do with food but fit the mood. We hope you’ll find something you’d like to read on this list and suggest your own “food and celebration” titles in the comments below.

    Open book Night at Mid-Manhattan Library meets on the second Friday of the month and you’re invited! This is a time for avid readers to get together and swap book recommendations. Our next Open Book Night meets on Friday, December 9 at 6 PM. We hope you’ll join us and share your favorite “Winter Reads.”

    Food History

    Big Oyster
    For a unique perspective on New York City history, one reader recommends The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky. He shared a number of interesting things he learned about the once ubiquitous New York oyster, available on almost any street as well as at tonier establishments like Delmonico’s, and exported by the ton to Europe until the pollution in our waters killed off the majority of the oyster beds. Our reader also appreciated Kurlansky’s earlier workCod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and two other favorite New York books: Russell Shorto’s Island at the Center of the World, which tells the story of Dutch Manhattan and the Steven Millhauser novel Martin Dressler: Tale of An American Dreamer, set in an ever expanding 19th century Manhattan.
    For more on the history of oysters in New York, including links to 19th century restaurant menus, see this post from the History Division.
    Balzac's Omelette

    New Yorkers were not the only people who loved oysters in previous centuries. The great 19th century French novelist Balzac was known for extreme coffee consumption when working, and apparently he also loved of oysters, which he consumed by the hundred when in the mood. In Balzac's Omelette by Anka Muhlstein, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter, the writer  traces the development of what we now know as restaurants and offers a portrait of French food and culture in public and in private, in the city and the country, through the penetrating works of Balzac. In a paraphrase of the gastronome Brillat-Savarin, she notes that one could say of Balzac: “Tell me where you eat, what you eat, and at what time you eat, and I will tell you who you are. ”


    Food in Fiction

    The Dinner


    Jessica recommends The Dinner by Herman Koch. A sharp-witted story of an evening meal shared between brothers and their wives at a fancy restaurant begins by analyzing the atmosphere and food, but sets the tone for how this family lives life in general. The protagonist's view will force you to look at situations from a different angle.


    Debt to Pleasure


    I recommend The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester, a deliciously dark satire of epicurean memoirs. Our narrator Tarquin first appears to be a witty, cultured, highly opinionated character with a superiority complex, but it develops that he’s a bit more than that. The revelation of his true nature makes for an enjoyable if somewhat sinister read.

    Like water for chocolate


    During our discussion, a couple of classic food fiction titles were also mentioned. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, is a beloved magical realist tale of food, family, and passion set in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century, complete with recipes. Another reader noted the importance of food as it relates to family and cultural identity in Amy Tan’s novels, The Hundred Secret Senses and The Joy Luck Club.


    Cookbooks and Food Memoirs


    Veronica recommended Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses by Isabel Allende. She appreciated this combination of recipes and memoir from a great writer. Veronica noted that Allende portrays food as a way to communicate, and she offered this summary of the book’s message:

    “Live, Love Life, and eat!”



    Another reader heard about Anthony Bourdain’s latest Appetites: A Cookbook in an interview with the author on Fresh Air. She noted the family centered aspect of the chef’s latest cookbook, which includes recipes that he cooks with and for his nine year old daughter.  



    modern art ccookbook

    Jessica also recommends The Modern Art Cookbook by Mary Ann Caws, which looks at the culture of food through the lenses of modern artists and writers. Seamus Heaney's poem Oysters is paired with Henri Matisse's Still Life with Oysters, while a recipe for Lee Miller's Sesame Chicken for Miro comes with the anecdote that "[she] wanted to amuse him by giving him dishes unknown in Spain." This book makes cooking and eating a pleasure to read about.

    Some other favorite sources for recipes that the group mentioned are”  Cook’s Country, Lidia Bastianich, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and Bon Appetit magazine, which is availble in the Library's new magazine app, Flipster

    More Reader Recommendations

    Land more kind than home

    Ilene recommendsA Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. She found the book “emotionally powerful” with characters that “weren’t all good or all bad.” She explained that “the main character was a young boy (9), who, in fear of being punished and without realizing the impact of his silence, could be seen as to blame for bad things happening.” Ilene also appreciated the setting, a small town in the southern United States, the type of place she had no personal experience of but but could witness through reading.

    Astronaut wives


    Jennifer recommends The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel, a highly readable nonfiction book that “confronts the world of women along with gender roles at the start of the space program in the United States.”




    warren buffett way

    When a practically-minded reader recommended The Warren Buffett Way by Robert G. Hagstrom, Jr., which examines the successful investment strategies of Warren Buffett, clever readers in the group noted that the words “buffet” and “stock” connected the selection to our food theme. This investor’s guide was originally published in 1994. The third edition, published in 2014, is available at NYPL as an e-book.

    Thanks to everyone who joined for Open Book Night on November 18. We had a lovely time talking about books with you and appreciate your great recommendations! Readers who come to listen and hear recommendations for books they might enjoy are also most welcome at Open Book Night. Check out these other reading lists to see books recommended at past Open Book Nights. We hope to hear your reading recommendations at an Open Book Night soon or read them in the comments below. 

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    Mr John Shaw was flogg’d in Wall Street by Col. Mansfield--the occasion of it was this -- a few days after the news of General Washington’s death arriv’d, Mr. Shaw said, in the presence of a number of gentlemen in the Coffee House, that “it was a pity, General Washington had not died five and twenty years ago”-- he repeated the expression in the evening in the Insurance Room in the presence of Colonel Mansfield, who, having serv’d under Washington, could scarce refrain from drubbing him at the time, but considering himself as only a visitor in the room, & unwilling to make any disturbance, he took no notice of it-- Mr. Shaw’s speech was soon spread about, and he was universally censur’d for it -- this evening in coming down Wall Street, he met Col. M., & stopping him, said he had understood he had been telling tales of him - Col. M. reply’d he only mention’d what he heard him say -- Mr S. said it was a d____d lie, the words were scarcely utter’d, ere Col. M had his arm up, and the great the mighty Mr John Shaw fell--some persons coming up, interpos’d, & Col. Mansfield left him, after having severely bruis’d him, & given him a pretty black eye”  —Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker, Friday, December 27, 1799.

    EDB 2
    Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker Diary, December 1799
    EDB 1
    Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker Diary, December 1799


    The melancholy news of General Washington's Death arriv’d in New York” a few days before Mansfield knocked Shaw out on Wall Street. New York was in mourning, as was the rest of the country. At first blush,  Col. Mansfield's harsh reaction to John Shaw’s insult of George Washington makes perfect sense. From his experience as Revolutionary War officer, Mansfield no doubt considered Washington’s patriotism to be unassailable. Yet Mansfield and Shaw’s fight was about much more. Debates over Washington reflected an often unacknowledged difficulty: Americans overthrew a monarch, but they had a much more difficult time ridding the nation of monarchical culture.  

    Washington had won the Revolutionary War, only to resign his command and return home to his farm (plantation) like the Roman Cincinnatus. He could have been an emperor.  Instead he showed what respect for republican principles really looked like. Again and again, he rose to the occasion when called upon by his fellow citizens.  First he oversaw, and give legitimacy to, the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia in 1787. Then he presided over the government they created, serving as the first President of the United States. In 1796, he relinquished power after two terms, setting an important precedent about the transfer of power in a republic. No political disagreements could undermine these accomplishments.

    And so New Yorkers mourned him widely. On December 21st, Bleecker noted that “The Bells of every Church were muffled and rung from twelve to one O’clock—they are to continue ringing them the same every day till the 24th inst. on account of the death of General Washington.”

    EDB 3
    Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker Diary, December 1799

    Washington, though, had also embraced some monarchical trappings. Republican critics of Washington wondered why he hadn’t explicitly objected to proposals to put his likeness on coins, or why he didn’t speak out against John Adams’ famous suggestions to give him an august title.  More damningly, throughout his two terms in office, President Washington held formal levees. Similar to receptions at a monarchical court, Washington would wear formal attire (including a ceremonial sword) and receive visitors. Washington also made a number of trips throughout the country, stopping in small towns to bring the federal government—embodied in Washington—to the people.

    What to make of Washington’s monarchical airs? For his political style, as well as for his embrace of Alexander Hamilton’s policies, Washington would come under criticism during the 1790s.  

    To many other Americans, Washington was, quite literally, indispensable to the republic. Washington was just acting accordingly.

    This presented a conundrum. A republic was a nation of laws, not men. So what did it mean that the republic depended on Washington to hold it together? In that sense, much as Washington did everything to respect republican ideals, his very prominence meant that the United States remained somewhat monarchical. The fate of the nation seemed still to rest with an individual.  

    It was in this context that Americans mourned him in 1799. What John Shaw said in the Coffee House was disrespectful.  Beyond that, the kerfuffle took place in the one of the most staunchly Federalist enclaves of New York; and Washington was a Federalist. Yet we cannot chalk this fight up to decorum or even the heated partisan political culture of the late 1790s.

    Mansfield’s reaction only made sense because of the persistent notion that Washington was above party, above politics even, despite the fact he was a Federalist and pursued policies that generated a political backlash. It only made sense because Washington had a quasi-monarchical status, somehow embodying the nation itself, even though the United States was a republic where no individual was above criticism. When Shaw spoke ill of Washington, then, he threw all of these contradictions into sharp relief.     

    EDB 5
    Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker Diary, December 1799

    A few days after getting knocked out on Wall Street, “Mr John Shaw made a public apology in the Coffee House, for the speech he had made—his excuse was, that he was in liquor—a very good come off to be sure-drunk at twelve o’Clock at noon.”  The only excuse for speaking ill of Washington was having too much to drink. That was probably a resolution that the guardians of Washington’s legacy could abide.

    Further Reading

    For more on Washington's image in the early republic, see T.H. Breen, George Washington's Journey : The President Forges a New Nation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016); Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon, For Fear of an Elective King : George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014); and Simon P. Newman, "Principles or Men? George Washington and the Political Culture of National Leadership, 1776-1801,"Journal of the Early Republic  12(Winter, 1992), 477-507.

    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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    The following titles on our Recent Acquisitions Display are just a few of our new books, which are available at the reference desk in the Dorot Jewish Division.

    book cover
    book cover








    Lingering Bilingualism: Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literatures in Contact by Naomi Brenner

    Viewing Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology by Vehinnei Rachel.

    Food in Ancient Judah: Domestic Cooking in the Time of the Hebrew Bible by Cynthia Shafer-Elliott.

    Patterns of Sin in the Hebrew Bible: Metaphor, Culture, and the Making of a Religious Concept by Joseph Lam.

    Roots in the Air: Construction of Identity in Anglophone Israeli Literature by Nadežda Rumjanceva.

    Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust byThomas Ország-Land (ed.)

    Celebrate: Food, Family, Shabbos by Elizabeth Kurtz to benefit Emunah of America.

    Primo Levi's Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy by Sergio Luzzatto

    Tales of High Priests and Taxes: the Books of the Maccabees and the Judean Rebellion Against Antiochos IV  by Sylvie Honigman.

    Hasmoneans: Ideology, Archaeology, Identity by Eyal Regev.

    Jews in Christian Europe: a source book, 315-1791 by Jacob Rader Marcus

    Jews and the Indian National Art Project by edited by Kenneth X. Robbins

    Mizrahi Era of Rebellion: Israel's Forgotten Civil Rights Struggle, 1948-1966 by Bryan K. Roby.

    Israel and the Cold War: Diplomacy, Strategy and the Policy of the Periphery at the United Nations by Howard A. Patten.

    Jews and Photography in Britain by Michael Berkowitz.

    Belzec: Stepping Stone to Genocide by Robin O'Neil.

    Goethe and Judaism: the Troubled Inheritance of Modern Literature by Karin Schutjer.

    Deciphering the New Antisemitism by Alvin H. Rosenfeld (ed.)

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    Houston Conwill's "Rivers" Cosmogram


    Tammi Lawson, Associate Curator of our Art and Artifacts Division, writes a touching tribute to late sculptor Houston Conwill, whose famous Cosmogram is one of the most asked-about pieces here at the Schomburg: 

    On November 14, 2016, Schomburg Center staff mourned the passing of sculptor Houston Conwill, whose Cosmogram on view in our Langston Hughes Lobby has attracted patrons from across the globe. Back in 1989, the Schomburg Center, along with the New York City Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program, announced the winner of an art competition that attracted 150 artists from all over the world. It was Conwill’s “Rivers” Cosmogram proposal, a memorial tribute to poet Langston Hughes and Schomburg Center founder Arthur A. Schomburg, that was unanimously selected to grace our library’s newly renovated lobby floor at the time.  He would later visit the Schomburg as a researcher or attend a public program, and he would always check on his Cosmo gram.

    The 1,150 square foot terrazzo floor is located in front of our Langston Hughes Auditorium, usually surrounded by a number of people taking pictures of its mandala shape accented with an inscription of Langston Hughes’s famous poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” Many visitors like to interpret the text of the poem and the names of the great rivers flowing like a stream from the peripheral of the wall all the way to the middle, beneath which a portion of Langston Hughes’s ashes are interred. 

    “Rivers” is a gathering place. The work is communal yet sacred. Some dance on it (as seen in this Chester Higgins photo of Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka , which is also housed in the Photographs and Prints Division), but there are those who walk around it. It’s to be admired and discussed, a piece that encourages all of us to learn and contemplate our shared cultural journey from Africa, the Caribbean and the South. It’s arguably Conwill’s most famous and recognized work with an estimated 300,000 plus people viewing it yearly here at the Schomburg.

    In his legacy, Conwill’s wife, Kinshasha Holman Conwill, who is also the deputy director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, wants us all to remember to be kind to one another. And because of the significant impact Conwill has had on the Schomburg Center, in lieu of flowers she asks all those who would wish to honor Houston to donate to the library.

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    Both and neither. Boy or girl. Coming to terms.

    After a suicidal attempt related to being gender fluid, Riley Cavanaugh heeds Doctor Ann's advice and starts a blog about the experience. At first, it is simply something to write on a lark. However, the numbers  begin to grow exponentially, and the web site's popularity is overwhelming. A few hateful posts permeate the mostly positive tenor of the blog, but Riley deletes them quickly. Riley has taken the precaution of posting under the pseudonym Alix due to fear of retaliation.

    The young person has transferred to a public school in order to avoid school bullying, only to discover that it exists in both spheres. The only difference in the new place is the lack of a school uniform. On the first day, Riley is dubbed "it" by some bigoted classmates and endures other derogatory homophobic slurs.

    Luckily, there are a few gems in the educational institution. Beautiful girl Bec is not to be missed, and a football player, Solo, seems to be a beacon in the darkness. And a mysterious club that Bec introduces Riley to that generates some hope, which is sorely needed. Riley struggles to make it in this world, forging a new life and a new way.

    Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin, 2016


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    During the week, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. On Fridays, though, we suggest kicking back to catch up on all the delightful literary reading the internet has to offer. Don’t have the time to hunt for good reads? Never fear. We've rounded up the best bookish reading of the week for you.

    Snow scene, in a New York City Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" (New York)

    We Read...

    Authors discussing the legacy of Barack Obama and tearjerker YA novels. One of our librarians visited a shelter in the Bronx. The way we see Santa Claus today is very New York. Happy birthday, Jane Austen! We love your elegant lines so much that we made a quiz for true fans to show they know which Bennet sister said them. The Librarian Is In and talking book-giving family traditions. If you think you and Will Shortz could be bosom buddies, take our library-themed crossword puzzle. It may be winter, but you can take a vacation from your cubicle with these jams. Our holiday traditions include indulging in eight nights worth of great Chanukah bookslistening to Neil Gaiman readingA Christmas Carol  and perusing Dicken's  "prompt copy" of the classic tale, the text he read aloud from at public gatherings. 

    Stereogranimator Friday Feels:

    GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator


    No need to get up! Join our librarians from the home, office, playground — wherever you have internet access — for book recs on Twitter by following our handle @NYPLrecommends from 10 AM to 11 AM every Friday. Or, you can check NYPL Recommends any day of the week for more suggestions. 

    What did you read?

    If you read something fantastic this week, share with our community of readers in the comment section below.


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    At the start of each new year, our friends at Book Riot issue a challenge: Read consciously, thoughtfully, and outside your comfort zone.

    The 2017 Read Harder Challenge lays out 24 new book tasks. They're more fun and more challenging than ever, with the added bonus of category suggestions from awesome authors like Roxane Gay and Celeste Ng.

    To support anyone tackling the challenge, our book experts here at The New York Public Library are suggesting books in each category for readers looking to fulfill the tasks—particularly readers who want to use mostly library books!

    Are you taking on the challenge? Have more suggestions for books that fit the tasks? Let us know in the comments.

    1. Read a book about sports.


    Playing Through the Whistle: Steel, Football, and an American Town by S. L. Price

    Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach

    Blacktop: Janae by LJ Alonge

    The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach


    2. Read a debut novel.

    girl at war
    german girl

    Girl at War by Sara Nović

    Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

    The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

    The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead


    3. Read a book about books.

    how heroine
    avid reader

    Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country by Louise Erdrich

    Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reasonby Nancy Pearl

    How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

    Avid Reader: A Life by Robert Gottlieb


    4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.

    under my skin

    Shantytown by César Aira

    Custody of the Eyes by Diamela Eltit

    Halting Steps: Collected and New Poems by Claribel Alegría

    The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli


    5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.


    Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbne

    Almost a Woman by Esmerelda Santiago

    Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

    The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Loveby Oscar Hijuelos


    6. Read an all-ages comic.


    Goldie Vance, Vol. 1 by Hope Larson & Brittany Williams

    Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin (the Babysitter’s Club graphic novel reboot by Raina Telgemeier)

    Jellaby, Vol. 1 by Kean Soo

    Help Us! Great Warrior by Madeleine Flores


    7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.


    The Weary Bluesby Langston Hughes

    A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

    The Dublinersby James Joyce

    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair


    8. Read a travel memoir.

    wide open

    What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

    Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell

    My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende

    Wide Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family's Lives Foreverby John Marshall


    9. Read a book you’ve read before.

    We don’t know what you’ve read before… but here are our picks for the Read Harder Challenge last year!


    10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.


    Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Queens)

    The Museum of Extraordinary Thingsby Alice Hoffman (Brooklyn)

    Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (Manhattan)

    Mona in the Promised Landby Gish Jen (Westchester)


    11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.


    Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Nigeria; 5,425 mi from NYC)

    Sightseeing: Stories by Rattawut Lapcharoensap (Thailand; 8,509 mi from NYC)

    I Have a Right to Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim (South Korea; 6,961 mi from NYC)

    The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding (Somalia; 7,508 mi from NYC)


    12. Read a fantasy novel.

    three dark crowns

    Who Fears Deathby Nnedi Okorafor

    The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

    Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

    Three Dark Crownsby Kendare Blake


    13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.


    Magic and Loss: The Internet as Artby Virginia Heffernan

    Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende

    The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr

    How to Make a Spaceship by Julian Guthrie


    14. Read a book about war.

    billy lynn

    A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldierby Ishmael Beah

    The War: A Memoir by Marguerite Duras

    Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story by Caren Stelson

    Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain


    15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.

    great american

    The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

    The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson

    We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

    Under Threat by Robin Stevenson


    16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.

    black boy


    Black Boy by Richard Wright

    Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury

    Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

    Robie Harris' children's books: Who's in My Family?, It's Not the Stork!, It's So Amazing!, or It's Perfectly Normal

    (Here's the American Library Association's list of most frequently banned and challenged books in the United States; Wikipedia has a list for many other countries.)


    17. Read a classic by an author of color.

    bend river

    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

    A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

    Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang


    18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.


    Faith by Jody Houser

    Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North

    Storm by Greg Pak


    19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey.


    for colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova


    20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.

    night watch
    two boys
    if you could be mine
    let go

    The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

    Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

    If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

    Don’t Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble


    21. Read a book published by a micropress.

    Tough to find them in the Library, but we want to hear about them! Please leave a comment if you know of a great micropress read in our catalog.


    22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.

    unknown errors

    Know the Motherby Desiree Cooper

    Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

    Family Furnishings by Alice Munro

    The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


    23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.


    Let the Words: Selected Poems by Yona Wallach, translated by Linda Stern Zisquit

    Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow

    Bright Scythe: Selected Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patricia Crane

    The House in the Sand: Prose Poems by Pablo Neruda; translated by Dennis Maloney & Clark M. Zlotchew


    24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

    lucky boy

    Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

    The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

    The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

    Don’t Let Him Know by Sandip Roy


    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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    A Merry Christmas
    "A Merry Christmas."


    With the holidays upon us, Christmas carols are everywhere, from Saks Fifth to Duane Reade to Chik-Fil-A. And while I’m as big a fan of the holidays as anyone, I must admit: not all Christmas carols are created equal. Some are just as likely to remind me why I love the holidays as they are to turn me into a total Scrooge. So I put together a list of the 18 most popular carols and ranked them, judging based on catchiness, Christmas cheer, and my willingness to hear them blared on repeat over the loudspeakers in the mall.

    Note: Christmas songs in the pop or jazz music canon, such as “Let It Snow,” “Last Christmas,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “White Christmas,” etc., don’t count as Christmas carols! A carol has to be traditional or biblical in nature.

    18. “The Little Drummer Boy”

    Sorry drummer fans, but this popular carol ranks absolute last on my list. More cloying than cute, more maddening than catchy, "The Little Drummer Boy" is the uncanny valley of Christmas carols. I’ve thought this song was a little weird ever since that episode of The Office where Angela sings it at karaoke.

    17. “Silent Night”

    I know this one is popular, but for some reason I find "Silent Night" a bit… sedate. I guess that’s because it’s supposed to be a lullaby, but it just doesn’t fill me with excitement for the holidays. A good carol should raise your Christmas spirits, not put them to sleep.

    16. “We Three Kings Of Orient Are"

    This carol, which tells the story of the Three Magi who gave Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh at his birth, is a little too dark and mournful-sounding for my taste. The three kings who are singing honestly don’t sound too jazzed about the prospect of the Nativity. I know that Christmas is a serious occasion, but "We Three Kings" just isn’t inspiring enough to rank higher.

    15. “O Come All Ye Faithful”

    "O Come All Ye Faithful" is nice, and it strikes the right tone, but it’s just way more forgettable than the rest of the carols on this list. Maybe the lyrics aren’t as memorable, or the melody just isn’t as catchy, but there’s something about it that doesn’t stick with you. However, a great arrangement does pop up by surprise in everyone’s favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York!

    14. “12 Days of Christmas”

    The “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” of Christmas carols. This one gets points for being catchy and upbeat, but there’s only so much of it one can take before getting out the holiday spirit entirely.

    13. “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

    I go back and forth between thinking this song is genuinely exciting or just a little bit annoying, but it’s hard to argue with a straightforward call for peace on Earth. This contemporary carol also avoids the corniness of more recently written songs (see “Little Drummer Boy”) while escaping the stiff tone of older carols. It’s not a standout, but Carrie Underwood's version is enough to keep it out of the bottom tier.

    12. “I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)”

    This lesser-known carol is actually pretty upbeat and tuneful, and once you hear it, it’s hard to get that springy little melody out of your head. The only reason this one isn’t ranked any higher is because I truly have no idea what these lyrics are talking about. Ships sailing in to Bethlehem, which is landlocked? I don’t know about the factual accuracy of this carol, but Sting definitely turns it into a jam in this version:

    11. “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”

    I like this traditional carol, which has the right mix of reverence, serenity, and warmth to celebrate the Nativity. It’s not the most exciting song, but darn it, it warms my heart everytime I hear the choral arrangement from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

    10. “O Holy Night”

    This carol, which was written in France to celebrate the renovation of a local church organ, is stealthily super inspiring. Weirdly enough, it’s been used in Christmas episodes on both Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock, both sitcoms about sketch comedy shows that debuted in the fall of 2006.

    9. “Go Tell It On The Mountain”

    No, not the excellent James Baldwin novel of the same name– I’m talking about the African-American spiritual about the Nativity, which has been recorded by Mahalia Jackson and James Taylor. This carol is just begging to be belted at a Madison Square Garden holiday concert, and it’s absolutely irresistible.

    8. "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen"

    Like “We Three Kings,” “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” is in a minor key, but in this case, the sadness somehow works: to me, it conjures images of icicles glistening in the winter sun, or dark streets covered in fresh snow. This carol can even get a little jazzy, almost like a tragic ballad sung in a smoky nightclub – if you don’t believe me, check out this video of Hozier singing a cover of it in the BBC1 Live Lounge.

    7. “Joy to the World”

    Of course, I had to include this traditional classic; with a rousing melody that echoes the music of Georg Friedrich Handel, it’s one of the most singable and popular carols of all time. On repeat listening, it does sound a bit square, but the pep and positivity of “Joy to the World” is downright infectious.

    6. “O Christmas Tree” (“O Tannenbaum”)

    This song is so transportative: it always makes me feel like I’m by a roaring fire, sipping eggnog, and surrounded by loved ones (conveniently, the typical family holiday stress is edited out). Those first few notes – “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree”– are so uplifting, so simple, and so celebratory that this song can get me in the Christmas spirit even if I’ve been waiting on line at Macy’s for an hour and a half. Especially when it's given the Aretha Franklin treatment:

    5. “Children, Go Where I Send Thee”

    There’s no other way to put this: “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is my jam. This gospel number is, like “12 Days of Christmas,” a cumulative song, which means each time you sing it, you add another verse. But unlike “12 Days of Christmas,” this is totally welcome, because “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is awesome.

    4. “Angels We Have Heard On High”

    I have a soft spot for “Angels We Have Heard On High;” the icy melody is gorgeous, like a clear night sky full of brilliant stars. And don’t get me started on that descending melisma in “Gloria in exelsis deo,” which falls as gracefully as light snow. “Angels We Have Heard On High” isn’t just a great Christmas carol – it's an incredible song that evokes all the beauty of winter weather.

    3. “Jingle Bells”

    Did you know that “Jingle Bells” was originally written as a song for Thanksgiving? Somewhere down the way, it became a Christmas carol, and we’re all the better for it: “Jingle Bells” is upbeat, fun, and instantly recognizable. It’s one of the most popular songs ever, and it was even the first song broadcast from space. And if it’s good enough for space, it’s good enough for me.

    2. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

    There’s something about “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” that perfectly captures the dizzy excitement and abundant goodwill of the holidays, and I think it has the most triumphant and energetic melody of any carol on this list. That’s a roundabout way of saying that this song just makes me happy, and if carolers showed up to my door crooning this, I would definitely bring them some figgy pudding.

    1. “Deck the Halls”

    There can only be one: “Deck the Halls,” a Christmas staple made iconic by that singular refrain: “Fa la la la la, la la la la.” What’s more Yuletide than that? Gracious and exuberant in its celebration of Christmas, “Deck the Halls” takes the top spot on this list because it describes the best part of the holidays: decorating, dressing up, singing, and getting a bunch of stuff you don’t need. This traditional Welsh tune is the very spirit of Christmas: lively, festive, and full of light.

    Thanks for reading, everyone! If you haven't gotten enough Christmas music yet, remember that there's a great collection of Christmas and holiday music available to borrow at the Library. And now, my bonus gift to you: Mariah Carey singing “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but each time she says “Christmas,” it gets faster:

    Happy holidays to you and yours!


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     Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel
    Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel

    Welcome to our biweekly update on events happening during the next two weeks at The New York Public Library. With 92 locations across New York City, a lot is happening at the Library. We're highlighting some of our events here—including author talks, free classes, community art shows, performances, concerts, and exhibitions—and you can always find more at If you want our round-up in your inbox, sign up here. We look forward to seeing you at the Library.

    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    Free Exhibitions at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel(closing soon): A selection of the Library's holdings related to Alexander Hamilton is on display, including his draft of George Washington's Farewell Address and other writings. Come learn all there is to know about this American revolutionary and founding father. Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Ends December 31, 2016.

    A Curious Hand: The Prints of Henri-Charles Guérard: This exhibition features the prints of Henri-Charles Guérard, one of the most skilled and inventive French printmakers of the 19th century. Close to ninety of Guérard's prints are on display at the Library, including many states and impressions that have only recently come to light and which reveal the artist's range and virtuosity. Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 3rd floor. Ends February 26, 2017.

    Protests in Print: The New York Public Library presents a display of recently collected zines and alternative press in the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room, including pieces documenting the Occupy movement, environmental justice, gender and sexuality, and other social justice movements. DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room. Ends January 18, 2017.

    Ain Gordon, co-creator of "Radicals in Miniature"
    Ain Gordon, co-creator of "Radicals in Miniature"

    The Library for the Performing Arts

    1/6: Create a Character: An Evening with Makeup Artist Joe Dulude II: Joe Dulude II, best known for his makeup designs on Wicked, comes to LPA to discuss his craft and perform a live demonstration of his creative process. LPA Cafe, 7 PM.

    1/7: New York Opera Forum Presents: Hänsel und Gretel: The New York Opera Forum presents a concert version of Engelbert Humperdinck's opera based on the popular fairy tale. Bruno Walter Auditorium, 1:30 PM.

    1/9: Radicals in Miniature: Sonic Portraits of an Alt-Culture Cabal: Ain Gordon and Josh Quillen preview their new performance work, Radicals in Miniature, to premiere at the Baryshnikov Arts Center this spring. Quillen and Gordon resurrect downtown artists and heroes who thrived between the "Summer of Love" and the onset of the AIDS crisis in this unique piece. Bruno Walter Auditorium, 6 PM.

    From Frozen in Time by Sarah C. Butler, copyright © 2016, published by Glitterati Incorporated.
    From Frozen in Time by Sarah C. Butler, copyright © 2016, published by Glitterati Incorporated.

    Mid-Manhattan Library

    1/4: The Syrian Colony on Washington Street with Linda K. Jacobs: New York-based scholar and author Linda K. Jacobs discusses her new book and the story of the first Arab immigrants to settle in New York City. Mid-Manhattan Library, 6:30 PM.

    1/5: Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why with Sady Doyle: This talk dissects the centuries-old phenomenon of the "female trainwreck": women of note who pushed against the boundaries of what it means to "behave." Mid-Manhattan Library, 6:30 PM.

    1/11: Frozen in Time: A photographic narrative chronicling a turbulent mother-daughter relationship in the serene setting of a picturesque but decrepit Maine home, Sarah C. Butler's Frozen In Time is beautiful and heart-wrenching. Butler will be joined by author and critic Vicki Goldberg for a discussion on her book moderated by editor Alison Morley. The Corner Room, 6 PM.

    Science, Industry and Business Library

    1/5: The Power of You: How You Can Make Your Next Career Move In 2017: Career coach Win Sheffield shows you how to find and harness your power in the job marketplace, so you can leverage your skills into an exciting new career next year. Conference Room 018, 6 PM.

    1/7: StartUP! 2017 Business Plan Competition Orientation: The annual StartUP! Business Plan Competition is kicking off this year, with the winner receiving $15,000 to develop their own small business. This orientation session is the first requirement for all looking to compete. Healy Hall, 12 PM.

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    More Events

    Note: Visit or call ahead for the latest information, as programs and hours are subject to change or cancellation.


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    Subscribe on iTunes.

    Michael Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction, having written several books including The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Wonder Boys, and most recently, Moonglow. Recently he visited the Library for a conversation with Richard Price, the acclaimed writer behind books like Clockers and Lush Life and television shows like The Night Of and The Wire. For this week's episode of The New York Public Library Podcast, we're proud to present Michael Chabon and Richard Price discussing plot, feeling his way toward secular Judaism, and remembering to make stuff up.

    Michael Chanbon

    Chabon spoke of his greatest challenge as a writer, plot. What was more surprising was the sentiment he expressed that plot is also his least favorite part of reading:

    "Plot is always the hardest thing for me. It's always the thing I wrestle with the most. It's a part of writing books that I hate the most, and to be honest, it's a part of reading them in a way that I hate the most because it's always because of plot that character is betrayed. Like when a book goes wrong, and you start to feel like 'He wouldn't say that, he wouldn't do that, she wouldn't do that to him.' That's when you can feel the author's wrestling to get the character onto the armature of plot, and when a book is really well-plotted, so tightly plotted, so suspenseful, I hate that the most. I can't stand suspense. I would rather never find out what happened than have to like suffer through the tension of waiting to find out."

    Asked about secular Judaism, Chabon described a long process of exploring religion:

    "It took a while. I think it was something that actually began outside of my writing for me when I was in my late twenties and after the end of my first marriage and just before I met Ayelet, my wife. I had been married to a woman who was not Jewish, and it seemed to be a total non-issue to me, and when we got married, we had a judge perform the service and I think I stepped on a glass as a token nod, but really, religion, no aspect of it, certainly not the part where you have to believe in God and stuff, none of it seemed to be that important to me. But then any time on the occasions when we got into a discussion about having children, which we didn't, and started to talk about how they would be raised, I would start to say, we couldn't have a Christmas tree in the house; I wouldn't feel comfortable with that. And I seemed to be always sort of pulling for the Jews in this marriage, in this future, imaginary children... After this marriage and not because of that, that's when I started thinking, well why does it matter to me? What about it matters to me? And so I started to attend services more frequently and I started to light candles on Friday nights and tried to feel my way back to some sort of religious practice, and right at that point is when I met my wife Ayelet who's also Jewish. And I felt like that was my reward. You know, I light a few candles, meet a great woman. That's all you gotta do. And then we moved to Berkley, California and Berkley is a place where there are a lot of interesting new ways to be a Jew."

    Both Price and Chabon have performed a great deal of research for their fiction. Price spoke of the way in which the details of research can become so powerful that he must sometimes remind himself that he is free to concoct:

    "You can fall down the well of getting everything right. One of the reasons I can never write a historical novel is I don't know how people wiped their ass in 1870. I don't know how they folded napkins... When people read my books, they go like, 'This is like being.' And I go, 'Well, you know I did my homework.' Every once in a while, I need to remind myself, 'You're a fiction writer. Your job is to make stuff up! You're not a journalist. You will not get in trouble if you make stuff up.' But then I read your stuff or Doctorow, and I feel intimidated like, 'How do you know this?'"

    You can subscribe to the New York Public Library Podcast to hear more conversations with wonderful artists, writers, and intellectuals. Join the conversation today!

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    Christmas love stories are huge, and Chanukah is getting in on the action. All the same great tropes apply: cold hands, warm hearts, candlelight, strolls down snowy streets, cozy snuggles in front of the fire... you know the drill.

    The universe doesn’t abound with Chanukah love stories and we couldn’t quite find one for each night, but we did track down a handful in our Library catalog. And if you have a favorite that isn't on this list, please let us know in the comments!

    So get ready to escape from your real-world troubles and read by the light of the menorah. Happy holidays, everyone!


    Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories by Megan Hart, Jennifer Gracen, Stacey Agdern, and KK Hendin
    Chanukah lovers hit the jackpot with this new collection. Four experienced romance authors put these short stories/novellas together into a single Chanukah extravaganza, with storylines about cute Israeli soldiers and lawyers in love.

    The Forgotten Man by Ryan Loveless
    Everything great, rolled into one: a historical LGBTQ romance with a Chanukah storyline! Sparks fly when Joshua (a World War I veteran) meets Will (a street musician), and they need to figure what their future holds.

    Burning Bright by Maggie Shayne, Anne Stuart, and Judith Arnold
    Wiccan and Jewish characters star in these three Harlequin stories — one about Chanukah, one about Solstice, and one about Christmas — all set in the same little Vermont town.

    My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, ed. Stephanie Perkins
    Big-name YA authors came together in this 2015 holiday collection, which includes a Chanukah story: “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman. Fluffy and sweet, it tells the tale of a Jewish girl and a great first kiss.

    Scenes from a Holiday by Laurie Graff, Caren Lissner, and Melanie Murray
    Laurie Graff’s short story, “Eight Dates of Hanukkah,” leads off this collection of three stories with a woman in a “Hanukkoma” after a mild concussion — hallucinating that she’s trapped in “Menorahville” on a series of terrible dates.

    Plus, don't miss this Goodreads list of Chanukah romance and this great roundup from Sarah Wendell — author of her own Chanukah romance, Lighting the Flames.


    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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