Thursday, September 26, 2013

Be A Rebel - Read a Banned Book

The American Library Association (ALA) annually hosts Banned Books Week that celebrates the freedom to read and brings awareness to censorship. The week reveals the importance of open access to information. Or as the ALA states it, "Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular." Banned Books Week started in 1982 and has become an annual event for libraries, bookstores, and others across the country. 

Banned books was not something I had necessarily put much thought into as a youngster and, while I do "censor" what books I let my children choose to read, I was surprised once I started reading through the compilation of banned books over the years, which titles were actually there. Some of the books listed are some of my favorites! Now, does this mean there are not books I choose not to read - absolutely not. But the idea behind not banning books is exactly that - choice. I am allowed the freedom to choose what I want to read and this freedom, this open access to information, is a wonderful and staggering privilege. It is understood that "knowledge is power" (who said that anyway...G.I. Joe?) and I try to keep this in mind each time I open up a book. Books truly are "frigates" as Dickinson said, and every person should be able to choose what "lands far away" to travel to.

That being said here are some Banned Books for you to check out, if you so desire (you may recognize some of these titles...from past book clubs choices or the current class offering at SLFL):

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
6. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
7. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
8. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
9. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

If you want to learn more about Banned Books Week check out the ALA web page here: or the Banned Books Website here:

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Highlight - Mary Sharratt

I recently heard an author's name that I had never read before - Mary Sharratt. I am not sure how it works for other folks but when I hear a new author mentioned the first thing I do is go onto my local public library's web page, find the author, and request every book by that particular author that the library owns. I did the same with Sharratt. One of the bonuses of Sharratt is her affiliation with Minnesota - she is originally from Minnesota and some of her works highlight places and histories particular to Minnesota and especially the Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St. Paul). As a non-native of Minnesota who has transplanted here I thought I could get a two in one deal, read a new author and learn some Minnesota history through historical fiction.

Sharratt's work deal with women…female heroines, female protagonist, and strong women from history. She is a good writer who is able to create characters that are robust while weaving a story that captivates. The first two books I read, The Real Minerva and Summit Avenue, are historical fiction novels that, while not based on a true story, are based on historical facts and time period in Minnesota. Illuminations is based on the life of Hildegard von Bingen a Benedictine Abbess, visionary, and polymath from the Middle Ages.The Vanishing Point is also historical fiction based on England and America in the mid 1600's to the early 1700's. I also grabbed Daughters of the Witching Hill which is based on the true story of the Pendle Witch Hunt of 1612 in England. Each book develops and highlights the lives of a woman or multiple women and gives the reader a glimpse into what is was like to be a woman and oftentimes a woman of ill repute at that time.

My favorite read thus far has been Illuminations, although all have been worth the read. I am fascinated by the Saints, especially women, and the middle ages specifically. I so enjoy reading a work of fiction that also gives me historical facts I can research and build upon. Illuminations was just such a book. Hildegard von Bingen was forced to be an anchorite alongside a wealthy young woman as her serving girl and under her tutelage. An anchorite is a person who lives in seclusion for religious purposes. Hildegard was walled (literally bricked in) into a two room space within a Monastery and lived that way for around 30 years until her patronage passed away. Now, living a busy life as an introvert and lover of learning, I must confess that once in awhile the idea of seclusion with a library at my disposal sounds wonderful, but to be forced to live in two rooms for thirty years - that is unimaginable. Yet, out of such an existence came a woman who was strong and who stood up for justice. It is truly a remarkable story.

I am curious what local authors Saranac Lake has? Any that you can recommend for me to pick up? Any favorites for the community that are necessarily local? If you are interested in learning more about Mary Sharratt and her works you can find more information here:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Power of a Good Book

One of my favorite authors is Annie Dillard. I can remember reading her novel Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for the first time in college and instantly falling in love with her language and style.  Still today there are parts from that novel that I can quote and that I reread from time to time for new insight and illumination. Such as: “There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end,” or “Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock—more than a maple—a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”

Recently, I saw an article come through on Facebook about why Generation Y-ers are so unhappy and Dillard’s writing came to the forefront yet again (You can find the article here: Now don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy Facebook and what it offers: connecting and staying connected with those who are all over the world, literally. That being said I also think that Facebook can lend itself to unhappiness because Facebook is all about persona and persona is not real life. Facebook can encourage people to “make itsy-bitsy friends” and “diddle around.” This is why I love literature…why you might ask…how does literature help?

Literature challenges us to move outside of “diddling” and see and feel a world that is bigger than we are. We are faced with stories and experiences we would have never considered and known about without a story. Literature exposes us to perspectives and people we wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. Literature often opens up human nature and we see ourselves, and others, in a way we hadn’t before. Literature is beauty. It is art.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dream, and health, and quiet breathing”
                        - Keats, Endymion

All voracious readers have those works that have inspired them; works that they turn to when they need encouragement or even a sanctuary. I want to share a few of my favorites (I have many more than this!)…I would love to know some of yours. Who knows, maybe it will become my new favorite!

1. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Annie Dillard
2. The Sunday Philosophy Club Series – Alexander McCall Smith
3. The Chosen & The Gift of Asher Lev – Chaim Potok
4. Children of the Alley – Naguib Mahfouz
5. Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
6. Song of Myself – Walt Whitman
7. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
8. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bridging Cultures Initiative

How very exciting that SLFL is participating in Bridging Cultures initiative! This is an effort supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities that works to engage “the power of the humanities to promote understanding of and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives within the United States and abroad.” This effort is being provided in collaboration with the American Library Association.

          “Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys is a scholar-led reading and discussion program designed to foster opportunities for informed community conversations about the histories, faith, and cultures of Muslims around the world and within the United States.” The talk is designed around five books (you can find the list of books on the SLFL website here: and is organized into five themes. There is also Muslims Journey website that is available for participants that is devoted to enhancing understanding and generating ideas and thinking surrounding interaction with the five books. The website “offers online resources, including essays, videos, primary resources, interpretive articles, and suggestions for further reading.” The website can be found here:                      

          The introductory talk starts tomorrow, Monday, September 16th at 2pm in the Dickert room and thereafter will be held on the third Monday of the month at 2 p.m. I only wish I could be a part of this!                      

          This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. Living in Minneapolis, MN there is a very large Muslim Somali population. In fact, my next-door neighbors are Somali and it has been a wonderful blessing and full of “teachable” moments as we have interacted and learned from them. The Muslim faith includes many diverse and unique people groups that offer unique perspectives on life. It is unfortunate that much of what is known about Islamic culture in America is what is gleaned from the news, but it only paints one side of the story and is often centered on chaos and conflict. The fact is Muslims are people who live very real lives and have experiences common to all humanity. My neighbors’ lives are not centered on war. They are a culture within a culture, living out their lives and faith much like anyone else.                     

          Just the other day on 9/11 my children and I were remembering all whose lives were affected by the tragic events on that day. One story was particularly impactful for my son because of a memorial at the Mall of America (our local mall). It was the story of Flight 93 and how the actions of the passengers and crew thwarted the attack on the U.S. Capitol. My son said, “Mom, that’s what I call a hero.” A part of that conversation was the question, “why?” As I was answering that question to the best of my ability, I was very conscious of making sure my children understood the fullness of the Islamic community. I did not want them to have one, very narrow, view of Islam but to put the actions of a very small part of extremists into the larger, much richer, Islamic community. I wanted them to understand that our neighbors are peaceful people, as are the large percentage of Muslims, and that they are living their life just like us: working, going to school, loving family, creating, investing in the community, and playing. This is the kind of information I hope everyone knows and the reason I am so excited that SLFL is spreading the knowledge as a part of Bridging Cultures

Monday, September 9, 2013

Equal Access

I recently finished a book called Amy Signs written by Rebecca Willman Gernon and her daughter Amy Willman. In the synopsis of the book Rebecca Willman Gernon states, “Thirty-seven years ago, I vowed to write a truthful book about raising a deaf child.” This book goes beyond the parental perspective in that the reader is also given Amy Willman’s perspective. Amy is now a grown woman with a Master’s degree who works as a university professor, but her journey to get there was not without its trials.
I am a hearing person. It seems weird to write those words because in my limited world I have never thought of myself in those terms. My interactions with those who are deaf have been limited. Yet, after a year of working to become a librarian, my understanding of what equal access is has forced me to think and consider those who live in a world that isn’t “made” for them. I am ashamed that I haven’t considered it before, but I am so grateful for opportunity to make a difference now. Because of my education I have become determined to learn about the populations that need equal access: the elderly, the blind, the deaf, refugees, etc.
Amy Signs is a fairly quick read but full of information and at times very emotional. In reading it, I was struck by the educational struggle for parents of deaf children. The options are limited and children can be so very cruel to those who are different. I was also educated about the difference between a deaf person and a Deaf person. Overall, it is worth a read, it educates, informs, and is entertaining.

A few other possible reads on this topic are:

   As an African American woman born in 1943, Maxine Childress Brown possessed a unique vantage point to witness the transformative events in her parents’ lives. Both came from the South -- her father, Herbert Childress, from Nashville, TN, and her mother, Thomasina Brown, from Concord, NC. The oldest of three daughters, Maxine was fascinated by her parents’ stories. She marveled at how they raised a well-respected, middle-class family in the midst of segregation with the added challenge of being deaf.
Deaf-Blind Reality: Living the Life explores what life is really like for persons with a combination of vision and hearing loss, and in a few cases, other disabilities as well. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Internship

Greetings from the land of 10,000 lakes!

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Anissa Martin and I am just beginning on this journey of virtual internship with the Saranac Lake Free Library. This means that, thanks to technology, while I reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota I am able to connect with you all in Saranac Lake, New York.

Speaking of virtual, I am currently a distance education student at the University of Alabama working on my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. The library and all it holds has always been one of my favorite places. During the process of working on and completing my first Master’s degree in Missouri, I stumbled upon a part-time job working as a reference assistant in an academic library—I fell in love! It was like a light bulb went off and I discovered the perfect profession for me. I am currently in my second year and with each class and opportunity (like this internship) I am reminded again how much I love this profession and how well it fits who I am.

While not working on school, I am a wife and mother of three. My husband and I have been married 10 years and I have a daughter who is 8, a son who is 7, and another son who is 3. I also have a one-year-old German Shepherd/Malinois named Hector. They are wonderful, energetic, and keep me busy (husband included). I also teach as an adjunct professor at a local private university.

Over the course of 10 years of marriage I have lived in Michigan, South Korea, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, and now Minnesota. I grew up in Michigan and am a northern girl through and through. I love seasons, snow, cold, and all things outdoors. I have not been blessed to see Saranac or the Adirondacks, but after researching the area it is another place on my list. It is beautiful and offers great opportunity to enjoy and interact with nature. I am looking forward to learning more about the area through this internship and interacting with all of you.

I am looking forward to getting to know the Saranac Lake community through this blog and Facebook. I hope you all will come along with me on this journey.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
― C.S. Lewis (or, in my case, coffee)