Category: Nonfiction

Back to School: A Lesson in the Forgotten History of Civil Rights

By , August 28, 2015

The March on Washington book coverA. Philip Randolph was an activist who spoke out about inequality and labor rights in the early part of the 20th century, helping to pave the way for civil rights even before Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X. He spearheaded the original 1941 March on Washington movement before organizing the now famous 1963 event in which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. He was also the leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters – the first African American led union to be accepted into the American Federation of Labor. His passion for equality even caused the Wilson administration to label him “the most dangerous negro in America” in 1919.

Tuesday marked the 90th anniversary of the first meeting of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters – “the greatest labor mass meeting ever held of, for and by Negro working men,” according to the Amsterdam News. If you’re an educator, consider incorporating A. Philip Randolph into your civil rights curriculum. Below we’ve compiled a list of key dates and resources available through the library.

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH (1889 – 1979)


Co-founded radical civil rights publication, The Messenger, with Chandler Owen and became involved in labor organizing.

Organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union and with the help of new amendments to the Railway Labor Act, successfully re-negotiated worker contracts with the Pullman Company in 1937.

Pullman Porters Union Meeting Final 2“Pullman Porters May Form Union.” Afro-American 29 Aug. 1925: 15.

Started the March on Washington movement with Bayard Rustin and A.J. Muste, resulting in the Fair Employment Act (Executive Order 8802) which prohibited employment discrimination in the national defense industry.

Organized the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training (which would later become the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation) with Grant Reynolds, resulting in Executive Order 9981 which abolished racial segregation in the Armed Forces.

Organized the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, a nonviolent demonstration urging the government to abide by the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, with Bayard Rustin and other civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., who gave his “Give us the Ballot” speech at this event.

Organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with Bayard Rustin and other key civil rights and labor leaders. This is the event where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Reading List

A. Philip Randolph: Messenger for the Masses*
A. Philip Randolph, Pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement
A. Philip Randolph: Union Leader and Civil Rights Crusader*

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter*
Marching Together: Women of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
Miles of Struggle, Years of Struggle: Stories of Black Pullman Porters
The Pullman Blues: An Oral History of the African American Railroad Attendant
Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class

March on Washington Movement
The March on Washington: A Primary Source Exploration of the Pivotal Protest*
The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights
When Negros March: The March on Washington Movement in the Organizational Politics for FEPC

Tie-ins with Tennessee History
The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History

Other Resources
A. Philip Randolph Institute
Pullman Porter Museum

* Children’s or young adult book

Back to School with the Wilson Collection!

By , August 24, 2015
"The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

This is a favorite time of the year for parents but not so much for kids – that’s right, school is back in session. Summer flies by when you’re having fun, kids! BUT that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in school. Think of all the awesome books you get to read – both for fun and required. While schools are aspiring to remain modern with their pick of required reads such as Enders Game or The Book Thief, there are still several classics that are both required-reads and must-reads. AND the Wilson Collection at NPL is the perfect place to find almost every required read throughout the last century (and more…)

Currently, several of the most popular required reads such as The Great Gatsby and Brave New World are on display in the Wilson Room, including a few you may be unfamiliar with that were on the Limitless Libraries’ Summer Reading List this year (or a few I was unfamiliar with).

Here’s a sample:

LEC_All Quiet on the Western Front_1969

All Quiet on the Western Front
Author: Erich Maria Remarque
Artist: John Groth
Published by the LEC: 1969

McGavock High School included this book on their summer reading list, along with a few contemporary books such as Divergent and Code Name Verity. It’s required for the German III class because the author is a German veteran of World War I. A real thriller you might say, the story describes the extreme stress that the soldiers went through during and after the war.

The story was first published in 1928 in a German newspaper, Vossische Zeitung. It came out in book form later in January 1929. There was a sequel written in 1930 as well - The Road Back. Both books by Remarque were banned and burned in Nazi Germany. So there’s your reason if you’ve never heard of it.

"Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

Author: Franz Kafka
Artist: José Luis Cuevas
Published by the LEC: 1984

As a part of McGavock’s German IV & V curriculum, Metamorphosis is an even more thrilling story among college students. A classic novella originally published in 1915, Kafka’s story is also commonly known as “The Transformation” due to its content. The story begins with the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into a large, insect-like creature. No reason is given or alluded to, but the rest of the story follows Gregor’s life as he adjusts to his new condition and the response he receives from his family.

And now for a few that you might know…

LEC_Scarlet Letter_1941The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Artist: Henry Varnum Poor
Published by the LEC: 1941

I remember when I read this one in high school and it was definitely unprecedented to anything else I had ever read. And to be honest, CliffsNotes was a big help to me when I read this as well because at that age, the content and language was a little advanced for me. But I don’t regret reading and encourage others to check it out if you haven’t, because it is a compelling story that speaks volumes about human nature, especially during that time frame (roughly during the years 1642 and 1649).

Considered Hawthorne’s most popular work, The Scarlet Letter tells the story of young Hester Prynne. Hester finds herself in a troubling situation when she becomes pregnant and has a daughter from an affair. I will not spoil the story by revealing the man in which she has an affair with because that is part of the plot, but it is a shocker. Hester is shamed and punished for her adultery and forced to wear the scarlet letter “A” on her clothing. Without revealing anymore details, I will say that this is a must read whether you are required to or not.

Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Artist: Balthus (really talented artist that has illustrated several other books for the LEC)
Published by the LEC: 1993

Though I’ve never read this book because it was not required in any of my classes, it is on my to-read list on Goodreads. But from what I can interpret from reviews and descriptions of the story, it is a frustrating and passionate love story between the characters Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. I say frustrating because if you’ve ever read anything by Jane Austen, you’d identify her love stories as well, frustrating…and maybe that’s love. But the story and language is very much similar. A good summary of this love story based on my research is that love is not easy. So how’s that for vague.

But this was Emily Brontë’s only novel, so it makes it even more inviting to sample. It was written sometime around 1845 and 1846, then published in 1847 under her pseudonym “Ellis Bell.” Brontë then passed away a year later at the young age of 30. Emily’s sister, Charlotte (famously known for her book, Jane Eyre), edited the manuscript of Wuthering Heights and republished a second version in 1850.

I love this version of the book by the LEC because the illustrations by Balthus are extraordinary. They really bring out the angst and general atmosphere of the story. This is one of my favorite books in the Wilson Collection so I definitely recommend coming to check it out!

More Pictures! 

White Fang by Jack London. Published by the LEC in 1973

White Fang by Jack London. Published by the LEC in 1973.

The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. Published by the LEC in 1961.

The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. Published by the LEC in 1961.

Emma by Jane Austen. Published by the LEC in 1964

Emma by Jane Austen. Published by the LEC in 1964.

If you are interested in viewing more books from the Wilson Collection individually, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more next month!

Summer Vacation, 1962

By , August 10, 2015

Cover of 1962 mapCome enjoy a waterfall. Waterski. Catch a whopper or lounge by the pool. Ride horses. Enjoy relaxing in the comfort of an inn, or set up your pop-up camper. It’s summertime, 1962 – and it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors at a Tennessee State Park!

Some Things Never Change

Summertime fun with friends or family never goes out of style, and as the recent award for “Best in the Nation” proves, Tennessee State Parks are still a favorite for vacationers near and far.

This 1962 brochure lists twenty parks. Though Tennessee now boasts over 40 parks, a time traveler from 1962 would have little difficulty joining in on a round of golf, or paddling along a river in a canoe.

But that’s where the similarities might end.


Our time traveler would no doubt get some ribbing for their out-of-date fashion and hairstyles. Tank tops were for men; women wore sleeveless blouses with a wide shoulder area. Shirt colors were kept simple, and men tended toward horizontal stripes or plaids; women had floral or simple designs. Jeans were favored by boys, but were not ubiquitous among men. Women rarely wore jeans or long pants, preferring instead to wear capris or shorts.

Four young women in canoe

Modest two-piece suits were still in fashion for these camp counselors in 1966. Nashville Banner photograph by Tim Hardin.

It was acceptable for ladies to reveal their skin from thighs to feet, and midriff and upper chest, but it was considered racy to show too much close to their bosom or of the upper thigh. Short shorts and mini-skirts had not yet come into fashion. Few men bore tattoos on their body, and for women, it was unheard of. Piercings were exclusive to women’s ears—one piercing only, on the lower lobe of each ear. In fact, ear piercing was still a novelty, and most women wore clip-on earrings.

Hairstyles would be one of the more obvious differences between 1962 and our time. Women’s hairstyles were often “puffy” or in a bouffant style and they would often wear light scarves on their head, even on the hottest days, to keep their hair in place in the wind.

Men, as well as boys, still kept to crew cuts or other very short styles. The Beatles, with their long mops, had yet to make their American debut. However, much to their parents’ chagrin, young men would start letting their hair grow longer to follow this trend in just a few years. Men were usually clean-shaven —- again, a clear contrast to the long sideburns, beards, and mustaches their sons would sport later in the decade.

Fees for park inns, 1962

Overnight Fees

Most parks provided the opportunity to stay overnight, and presented several options: cabins, campsites, and in some cases, inns. In 1962, the going rate for any of these facilities started at less than $10/night. Today, even a camping spot runs $20; a stay at an inn is about $70; and cabins rent for as high as $150 – all of these are comparable rates to commercially-operated hotels or cabin rentals.


In 1962, the interstate highway system was more envisioned than real. Only a small section of I-24 was complete near Cowan and Monteagle, for instance. The highway was not even projected to go north of Nashville. A short section of I-40 went from Nashville west to the Harpeth River, but did not even reach as close as Dickson. For the vacationer of 1962, travel would be along state highways. But even a long road trip along these routes, with the family packed into the station wagon, could still be economical with gasoline costing just 28 cents per gallon. Today’s gasoline prices, gridlocked traffic, and 70 mph speeds on the interstates would no doubt be shocking for a visitor from 1962.

Close up of 1962 map

Note the dotted lines indicating projected construction of interstate highways, and the location of Booker T. Washington State Park in the lower right.


The most noticeable difference experienced by our fictional time traveler would undoubtedly be the dramatic changes in race relations and the wide diversity of our state and city today.

In 1962, segregated parks were the norm. There were just two parks in the state designated for use by African-Americans: Booker T. Washington State Park near Chattanooga, and T.O. Fuller State Park near Memphis. The illustrations on the map hint at this situation, with African-American families portrayed at both of these locations, while whites cover the rest of the map.

Although there had been serious discussions during the 1940s and 1950s of adding more parks for African-Americans, the state was stymied by trying to satisfy “the desires of the Negroes as well as the prejudices of the whites.” In 1954, segregation was upheld by State Parks Director E.C. Tayloe, citing state law: “‘I have no alternative other than to refuse colored citizens the use of our white parks and refuse white citizens the use of our colored parks.’” A few years later, a proposal to sell a portion of T.O. Fuller park land met with dismay from Memphis and State officials, who were concerned that it could upset race relations in Memphis. Apparently the sale was tabled.

Finally, and very quietly, in 1962, Tennessee State Parks were desegregated by executive order of Governor Buford Ellington. No formal written order has been found; apparently Ellington informed the Director of Parks verbally. Superintendents were directed to not interfere if blacks showed up to white parks or vice versa. This change in policy was not announced to the press, in order to “avoid racial incidents.” It may be that this map is the last of its kind, showing state parks in a segregated world.


Original materials from the Special Collections Division:

Parks Ephemera Subject Files (the source of the featured brochure)

Nashville Room Map Collection

Books (Reference Only in Special Collections Division):

A History of State Parks in Tennessee by Bevley R. Coleman, (Ph.D. dissertation, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1963). [Source for information in this post about segregation.]

Joyous Vacation Days in Scenic State of Tennessee, Division of State Information, 1938.

Books (Available for check-out):

Tennessee: A Guide to the State by Federal Writers’ Project (NY: Viking Press, 1939). And a reprint of the same under a different title: The WPA Guide to Tennessee (Knoxville: Univ. of Tenn. Press, 1986).

Browse Tennessee recreation guides at call number 917.68

Travel Tennessee keyword search

Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations by Susan Sessions Rugh (Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2008.)

– Linda


Two Days in Hemingway’s Cuba

By , August 8, 2015

Ernest HemingwayErnest Hemingway spent much of the 1940s and 50s in Cuba, where he penned The Old Man and the Sea. This summer, my sister and I spent several days in Cuba and visited some of Ernest Hemingway’s haunts.

Until recently, visiting Cuba has been prohibited due to travel restrictions for Americans, passed in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Those travel restrictions have been lifted. Take a literary journey and retrace our steps.


Sloppy Joe’s (Freddy’s Bar)

Sloppy Joe's Exterior

One block from our room at Hotel Parque Central, mosaic tiles appeared beneath our feet, announcing that we had found Sloppy Joe’s. Commemorated as Freddy’s Bar in To Have and Have Not, Sloppy Joe’s was renovated and reopened in 2013, after 54 years of neglect. Dark wood paneling and display cases filled with rum bottles line the walls. Large square columns showcase photographs of mobsters and Hollywood celebrities who have visited, including a shot of Hemingway with Noel Coward and Alec Guinness. At the 59 foot bar, the longest bar in the city, we nibbled Spanish peanuts and ordered the Sloppy Joe, a cocktail made from brandy, Cointreau, Port and pineapple juice. With the 1950s Cuban music playing in the background, It was as if Hemingway could be there today.

The Floridita

Floridita Exterior

Our next stop was the Floridita, established in 1817. It was Hemingway’s favorite haunt and was featured in his novel Islands in the Stream. Inside, a life-sized bronze statue of Hemingway leans against the mahogany bar in his favorite corner. He often ordered what is now known as the “Hemingway Special” or “Papa Doble”- a double shot of rum and no sugar. They have the best banana chips we’ve ever tasted (thin and crispy and salted), free at the bar, and the best daiquiris in town. A blue ceiling, heavy red curtains, and Art Deco furnishings evoke an elegant time and place. We had our first taste of live music in the city at the Floridita, where a 4-piece combo played on the miniature stage.

Room 511, Hotel Ambos Mundos

Hotel Ambos Mundos Interior

We made our way through the concrete rubble of a ripped up street to the pink Hotel Ambos Mundo, built in 1924. We took the original Otis screened cage elevator to the 5th floor to see Room 511, a small tidy room, kept as a museum. Hemingway stayed here off and on during the 1930s, when he began writing For Whom the Bell Tolls. The room contains a bed, a small bathroom, and is decorated sparsely with fishing rods, old magazines and other memorabilia. A Royal typewriter sits on a desk in the center of the room. Next to the typewriter is his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in 1954, typed in Spanish. The rooftop bar, with its cooling breezes and views over tiled rooftops of Habana Vieja, is not to be missed.

La Bodeguita del Medio and Hemingway’s Mojito

Quote reading My Mojito in La Bodeguita

Of all the bars we visited, La Bodeguita del Medio had the most authentic atmosphere and was excellent for people watching. It opens right onto the street and has just enough room for the bar itself, a few seats, and the uniformed 4-piece combo crammed in the corner, just an arm’s length away from my stool. The blue walls were covered in signatures, the most famous of which is attributed to Ernest Hemingway and reads: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.” My mojito appeared, mint leaves uncrushed, and it was delicious. If you go, buy one of the stogies they have for sale and smoke it for me – it is my one regret of the whole trip.

Cojimar and The Old Man and the Sea

Red car

The next morning, we headed out in the back seat of a red 1955 Cadillac El Dorado convertible with our guide, Roosevelt. Our destination was Cojimar, a small, former fishing village, and the setting of The Old Man and the Sea. Cojimar was also home to Gregorio Fuentes, Hemingway’s friend, and skipper of Pilar, Hemingway’s sport-fishing boat. When Hemingway died, all the fishermen in the town donated brass fittings from their boats to be melted down to create the Monumento Ernest Hemingway. This bust of the writer looks out to sea from a rotunda, near the 1649 Spanish fortress, El Torreón. Two shirtless men fished from the wooden pier, one without a pole.

We stopped at La Terazza, a clean and breezy restaurant with dark wood and beautifully tiled floors. The bartender charged my phone and camera while I read The Old Man and the Sea at Hemingway’s favorite corner table. I ordered the Coctel Fuentes, turquoise blue like the sea, and drank it while being serenaded by a trio of musicians, who I tipped with a pack of guitar strings and CUC$5.

Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Home

From 1939 to 1960 Hemingway lived at Finca Vigia in the suburb of San Francisco de Paula, 8 miles east from the city center. Here he wrote Islands in the Stream, Across the River and into the Trees, A Moveable Feast and The Old Man and the Sea.

Four story tower where Hemingway wrote

The house and grounds were opened to the public in 1994 as Museo Ernest Hemingway. We drove up the long, shady drive, through the lush grounds to the one-story Spanish colonial, built in 1887. We weren’t permitted to enter the house, but were able to clearly see the interior through the open windows and doors. The rooms are filled with 9,000 books, mounted animal heads, and replicas of the original bullfighting paintings by Picasso, Miro, and Klee, that used to hang here. In the bathroom, tour guides pointed out where Hemingway recorded changes in his weight on the wall. There was also a jar in the bathroom that contains a preserved lizard that one of his cats had killed.

Hemingway's Typewriter

We climbed the steps of the four-story tower to see his first typewriter, a portable Corona #3, given to him by his first wife Hadley, in 1921. He wrote standing, it was explained, due to a war injury. Then, we followed a palm-lined path leading to a concrete swimming pool, where Ava Gardner once swam naked. Nearby, two small buildings serve as display rooms for photographs of Hemingway and his guests relaxing and smiling on pool-side furniture. His wooden boat, Pilar, is nearby, as are graves of four of his dogs. Many of his 57 cats were buried in the terraced garden behind the house, overlooking the city of Havana.

Learn more about Ernest Hemingway:

- Linda

Savor Summer: Nashville Brews

By , August 2, 2015

Nashville Beer coverThirty years before William Gerst entered into Nashville history, the city’s first brewery, the Nashville Brewery, opened on South High and Mulberry Streets at what would become the Gerst Brewing Company’s future home.

Gerst came from a brewing family in Bavaria and after coming to the United States in 1866, found employment at the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Gerst and Moerlein acquired the old Nashville Brewery property in 1890 and in 1893, Gerst became the sole owner.

When the state got ready to celebrate its centennial in 1897, Gerst saw an opportunity to market his product. He became involved in the exposition’s planning and made sure Gerst beer was available for purchase at local restaurants. His beer also won the gold medal at the exposition’s competition in which it was the only local brew.

Even though the brewery’s been out of business since 1954, today you can experience a taste of history with Yazoo’s Gerst Amber Ale – a brew made possible by a partnership between the local brewery and owners of the Gerst Haus Restaurant. In fact, folks can enjoy a variety of local craft beers from Yazoo to Jackalope to Fat Bottom to Black Abbey and many more. One of my personal favorites is the May Day Brewery in Murfreesboro. If you’re over 21, pick one, take a tour, and treat yourself to a tasting! Friday just happens to be International Beer Day.

If more knowledge is what you’re thirsting for, Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing and Nashville Brewing offer a spectacular look into the city’s rich brewing history including tons of great photos and ads, some of which come from the library’s Special Collections.

Other heady resources:
Encyclopedia of Beer
Drink: A Social History of America

Gerst Color

Brittingham, John. “Gerst Beer Heyday: 1890-1917.” Nashville Banner 6 Apr. 1976: 16-D.

Wm. Gerst Brewing Comp page29, 1st fl and 2nd fl

Nashville in the Twentieth Century. 1900: 29.

Savor Summer: Nashville Food Trucks

By , July 28, 2015

Nashville Food Trucks: Stories and Recipes from the Road
By Julie Festa

We’ve had a lot of fun this month Savoring Summer, but now I’m actually going to take our library culinary tour on the road.

Working downtown like I do it’s hard…no, nigh unto impossible to ignore the existence of the food truck phenomenon. A few of them even park directly in front of the library on 6th Avenue. I considered hiring a bunch of food trucks for my wedding reception instead of catering (which in hindsight might have been a better idea).

And yet…I’ve never officially eaten at one. I’ve seen The Grilled Cheeserie on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, but I’ve never had one of their fabulous grilled masterpieces.

I know it’s horrible. I’ve tried. In the summer, Thursdays on Deadrick usually become Food Truck Row, but the times I’ve tried they ended up not setting up until the evening for the downtown concerts. So this summer I am making it my goal to eat at at least one food truck. In order to pick the best option I need to do my homework, and what better way than with this book. Author Julie Festa started Nashville’s first food truck blog at in 2012 and she keeps tabs on all her favorite trucks.

Festa’s book starts off with some basic food truck knowledge and advice. Then she jumps in with stories about the individual trucks – complete with recipes! Yummy!

Here is my Top 5 List for the Food Trucks I’d Like to Visit First:

The Grilled Cheeserie (because everybody does)
Biscuit Love
Bradley’s Curbside Creamery (for the White Trash Experience specifically)
Hoss’ Loaded Burger
Tie: Crepe A Diem & The Waffle Boss

I don’t really eat out much, but after reading about all these great taste sensations, I’m glad I’ve been saving my pennies so I can go explore Food Nirvana. And if you don’t work downtown, don’t worry. Nashville Food Trucks are mobile and they do A LOT of traveling to the different parts of Middle Tennessee, so check out their websites and make a date to try one.

The library has Festa’s book in both book book and ebook forms, so check one out today and begin your culinary adventure.

Happy Trails to Food…see you at the trucks (fingers crossed)!

:) Amanda

The Wilson Collection is music to my eyes and ears

By , July 27, 2015

Music notes

“The drums come in on the beat of one to lift my soul.” ~ Maya Angelou, Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul

Like other forms of art, music represents an expression that’s free, open-to-interpretation, and loved in its many variations. It also has an advantage among other forms of art – its intangible presence allows it to be weaved throughout the rest of the art world (and for that matter, the rest of the world in general). Like many others and many of my fellow staff members, I am an avid fan of all types of music. Without getting too sentimental about what music means to me, I can simply say that if I go a day without listening to music, you know something is wrong. I use it to think, chill out, calm down, get excited, read a book, get work done, to get cleaning done faster, go on road trips, ponder meaning in the world…you get the idea.

So I’m going to combine my love for music with my passion for books, and discuss a few books from the Wilson Collection that are either music-related or musically inspired. I’ve discussed this first book before if you recognize it, but because it’s such a unique part of the collection, it’s worth mentioning again…

Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul 

"Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul" by Maya Angelou

“Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul” by Maya Angelou

by Maya Angelou
LEC, 2003

Of course anything by Maya Angelou is going to be well worth the read, but this one is significant because it is a first edition book created strictly for the LEC. And what about music, you say? Everything about the poem and book is rooted in music. Angelou links joy and pain and music all in one, not as her own but as humanities pain as well. 

An original jazz composition was created by Wynton Marsalis just for the book, as well. The disc includes a 30-minute composition of Angelou reading the poem, with Marsalis on trumpet and a few more instruments in the background. This added feature helps bring the poem alive, along with the 6 colored etchings by Dean Mitchell.

It’s an amazing all-in-one package for the LEC subscribers and even more valuable because only 400 copies were printed, and the book was signed by the author, artist, and musician.  

"Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul" by Maya Angelou

"Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul" by Maya Angelou

A Lie of the MindA Lie of the Mind
by Sam Shepard
Arion Press, 1993

One might say that the author of this play has “The Right Stuff” when it comes to writing. Hahaha, I realize I am probably the only one chuckling at this one so let me explain. Though he is a man of many talents, having won a Pulitzer Prize for a previous play in 1979, Sam Shepard is more commonly recognized as an actor. And more specifically, you can find him playing Chuck Yeager in the movie, The Right Stuff. If you haven’t seen that, then maybe you’ve seen him in Black Hawk Down, Swordfish, August: Osage County, The Notebook, Steel Magnolias…ladies. But if you are still clueless, clearly you don’t watch much tv. Just kidding, just IMDB him.

But anyway, he’s a talented playwright as well, with this play being named the best new play of the season by the New York Drama Critics Circle in 1986. The story is a heavy one following two families as they struggle to deal with a severe incident of spousal abuse. Now for the musical relation – along with the book, subscribers to the Press also received a CD recording by the Red Clay Ramblers from the first production of the play. Actually, the current tapping of my toe is due to that soundtrack, it’s quite catchy being an “Old Crow Medicine Show”-type sound.

A Lie of the Mind     A Lie of the Mind


"Requiem" by Anna

“Requiem” by Anna Akhamatova

by Anna Akhamatova
LEC, 2000

The power of this poem can certainly be felt in the music that accompanies it. Requiem is a group of short poems written by Anna Akhamatova, a Russian poet whose work was officially prohibited during the Stalin era. The years were tough for Akhamatova and remained that way until the dictator’s death in 1953.

Eventually, the Writer’s Union paid tribute to “the great Soviet poet who for more than half a century devoted herself to the noble service of Russian poetic speech, of the homeland, and of Soviet society building a new world” (LEC newsletter).

Though love was primarily her focus, Requiem focuses on her experiences during the siege of Leningrad. The poems combined include her work between 1935 and 1943. This passionate piece of work focuses on love, shame, and hatred. Subscribers to the LEC received a treat when the CD including Sir John Tavener’s musical rendering of Requiem was included with their book. This recording is from the 1981 rendering played at London’s Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time that the LEC included a musical recording with its books.



Other musical tidbits:

Outside of the good music mentioned above, the Library has other means of providing good tunes. For example, the variety you can find if you use Freegal and Hoopla. Freegal is a great service because you can download the music for you to keep (only 7 songs a week, please). And Hoopla is also cool because you can listen to an entire album that was recently released, and then purchase later as I usually do. For example, some of the albums you see below are found on Hoopla

"The Fool" by Ryn Weaver

“The Fool” by Ryn Weaver










If you like the Glass Animals, you will like this girl. Her song “Octahate” came across my radar when I was listening to a Glass Animals Itunes station. The album is solid and full of variety. Also look for “Pierre” and “Promises”.

Marina and the Diamonds

“Froot” by Marina and the Diamonds










Also another similarity to Glass Animals and Ryn Weaver, Marina has several more albums out prior to this one which I plan to listen to when I get the chance. But to speak for this one, it has a fun, somewhat ‘poppy’ feel to it but infused with Florence-like tones.

"Drones" by Muse

“Drones” by Muse









Though I have not listened to this album fully as of yet, I love the band and all of their previous albums. A friend and co-worker recommended this one to me, explaining that it is possibly the best thing that he has ever heard. I don’t doubt him.

The Wilson Room is open during regular library hours. If you are interested in viewing any of the Wilson Collection books individually, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for a special Off-the-Shelf post about school next month!


Book List: Genre-Bending Authors

By , July 25, 2015

We all have our favorite type of fiction – for example, I tend to read science fiction and fantasy more than anything else. We also tend to have our favorite authors that are our go-to reads in those genres. So what do we do when our favorite science fiction author puts out a romantic comedy novel set in current times? Or our favorite historical fiction writer suddenly gets the idea to write a science fiction thriller?


The Bourbon Kings, J. R. Ward1.First on our list is J.R. Ward. Her Black Dagger Brotherhood series features vampires, romance, and horror – good combinations for those guilty-pleasure reads that have a little bit more…ahem…bite to them. People typically group J.R. Ward with authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon and Charlaine Harris, and her books have a huge following. However, her latest novel moves away from the vampire-loving crowd, and into the exploits of a rich Southern family at the heart of the bourbon empire in a novel called The Bourbon Kings. There is a distinct class division in this – the upper-crust family and their hired help. When lines are crossed between the two, chaos and heartbreak ensues. Changes are coming, in the return of the prodigal son of the family. This novel presents a shift for J.R. Ward and her fans. The novel comes out on July 28th of this year, and coincidentally, she will be at the Nashville Public Library to promote it as part of the Salon @ 615 series! For more information (and tickets) please check out the link here.


Cry to Heaven, Anne Rice2. The next author on the list is Anne Rice. Many people know her for the Vampire Chronicles featuring the adventures of the vampire Lestat, as well as the Mayfair Witches books. She also wrote the book Cry to Heaven which is a historical fiction novel based on the lives of 18th century Italian castrati (male sopranos who were both revered and loathed in Italian society). Under another name, A. N. Roquelaure, she wrote a trilogy of erotica novels (simply called the Beauty series) that rivals 50 Shades of Grey. Under the name of Anne Rampling, she wrote two more novels, Belinda and Exit to Eden. Belinda is strongly reminiscent of the novel Lolita, with a bit more dimension in the characters. Exit to Eden seems to be yet another erotica, but this one takes place in the Caribbean, at a very exclusive club. There was a movie made out of it (starring Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O’Donnell) that came out in 1994.


The Casual Vacancy, J. K. Rowling3. Anyone who has access to books in the past decade or so has probably run across the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The series about the Boy Who Lived was one many people grew up with. Each book that came out showed Harry and his friends a year older, a year wiser (sometimes), and facing new challenges in their wizardry careers. After the final book in the series, J.K. Rowling wrote an adult novel called The Casual Vacancy. It was a dark novel,  following the aftermath of the death of a member of a parish council, and the ensuing war for his place. Conflict seems to be at the center of this novel – husband against wife, teenager against parent, rich against poor, and the ending is far more depressing than anything seen from her previously. J.K. Rowling also wrote mystery novels under the name Robert Gilbraith. When the first one came out (before she was revealed as the author), demand for the books exploded. The Cormoran Strike series is expecting a new addition (Career of Evil) sometime this year.


Naked In Death, J. D. Robb4. Speaking yet again of authors and pseudonyms, Nora Roberts typically writes contemporary romance novels, that sometimes have a hint of the paranormal to them. Several of her novels have an Irish angle to them – either in the characters or location. Her novels regularly have a long hold list on them at the library – but so do her science fiction hardcore cop dramas (called the In Death series) written under the name of J.D. Robb. In these novels, Detective Dallas is a hardcore detective in the homicide department, in New York City. It is the future, and guns have (for the most part) disappeared.  Homicides take place in interesting ways, and the novels are spent with Detective Dallas and (later) her husband Roarke, as they solve them.


On, Off by Colleen McCullough5. Last on our list is Colleen McCullough. Although she typically wrote historical fiction (she has series entitled Masters of Rome which chronicles the life and times of various important figures and wars in Roman history), she also had a series of five books that were murder mysteries (called the Carmine Delmonico series), focusing on forensic science and suspense. These books were a bit more sensational – with murders, sexuality, and detailed descriptions of forensic science. Looking at other people’s reviews of this book, it is obvious to see people who were surprised to see someone who wrote such detailed historical fiction diving into the murder mystery genre.

Express Yourself: Activism through Zines

By , July 24, 2015

Girls to Grrlz coverBECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways. – Excerpt from the original Riot Grrrl Manifesto

*     *     *

The concept of the zine dates back to the 1930s when science-fiction fans started producing do-it-yourself magazines containing news, reviews, and tributes to the latest sci-fi and fantasy literature. These small-run publications were called fanzines.

Eventually the idea spread to other genres and areas of interest, including what was to become known as the Riot Grrrl Movement. The term “Riot Grrrl” was coined by punk bands Bikini Kill and Bratmobile with Bratmobile members Allison Wolte and Molly Neuman releasing the first Riot Grrrl zine in 1991.

In Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist & Queer Activism in the 21st Century, Jenna Freedman notes that “punk rock and riot grrrl community ethos are fundamental to zines, not just as the cultures that birthed them…but also as what separates them from other self-publications,” continuing on to say “that zine producers are not only people who have been relegated to the margins but also people who have chosen to claim the margins.”

The Riot Grrrl movement, for example, empowered young women to speak up against sexism and as author Trina Robbins explains, “one of the first Riot Grrrl actions was to protest violence in a traditionally feminist collective way, by reclaiming the mosh pit, that crushing and frightening all-male area in front of the band at concerts. To make a space for themselves, the girls formed packs and forced their way to the front en masse, each protecting the other.”

Today, many communities use zines as a form of self-expression and activism. Check out the POC Zine Project and the Queer Zine Archive Project online. Locally you can explore the Watkins Zine Library and the Brainfreeze Comics & Zines shelf in The Groove. And if you’re up for a road trip, the Fales Library Special Collections at NYU houses The Riot Grrrl Collection.

Inspired to tell your own story? Make a Tiny Zine!


  • 1 letter size (8.5 x 11) sheet of paper
  • Markers, scissors, glue, old magazines, scrap paper, etc.


  1. Construct – Fold and cut paper to make a book (see infographic below).
  2. Personalize – Write, draw, paint, cut, glue, and decorate your zine.
  3. Distribute – Make photocopies and share / trade with friends and family!

Make a Tiny Zine Infographic

Histories & How-tos:
Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl
Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive
From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Comics from Teens to Zines
Make a Zine!
Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist & Queer Activism in the 21st Century
Stolen Sharpie Revolution: A DIY Zine Resource

Savor Summer: The Art of Cooking

By , July 23, 2015

The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star.” ~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

You know what really goes together…summer time and food…and books, of course. There’s nothing better than sitting poolside (or beach side) with something sweet and a good book. Maybe you’re reading a classic like Fahrenheit 451 out of inspiration from the weather. Or you’re reading the newest book by Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman. Or even better, you’re reading a book ABOUT food. That sounds yummy to me. Allow me to make a few recommendations based on some books from the Wilson Collection:

"The Physiology of Taste" by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

“The Physiology of Taste” by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Originally Published: Dec, 1825
Published by LEC: 1949
Translated and annotated by M.F.K. Fisher
Arion Press published their own copy in 1994 but that version is not included in the Wilson Collection.

This was one of his most famous works and was published in 1825, two months before his death. Arguably one of the most famous books ever written about food, The Physiology of Taste was first published in 1825 and continuously has been in print ever since. It is a classic because it is a combination of recipes, anecdotes, reflections, and general musings about anything gastronomical by Brillat-Savarin. He was a French Lawyer and politician prior to publishing the book, and also famous for the statement: “Tell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you are.”

In the author’s preface, Brillat-Savarin says that it was not a lot of work to prepare this book because he only needed to organize the material that he spent so long collecting. “It was an entertaining task, and one which I did well to save for my old age.”



I think my favorite part of the book – Under Meditation 6: On Food in General, #47: Chocolate and its Origins

My mouth was watering as I read: “we have come to think of chocolate as the mixture which results from roasting together the cacao bean with sugar and cinnamon: such is the classic definition…And when we add the delicious perfume of vanilla to this mixture of sugar, cacao, and cinnamon, we achieve the ne plus ultra of perfection to which such a concoction may be carried.” Excuse me while I go hunt down a candy bar…

Other fun tidbits:

  • The book begins with “Aphorisms of the Professor” that serves as a preamble to the following work and as a foundation for the science of Gastronomy. The first “aphorism” is “the universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives, eats.”
  • I recommend reading the chapter about Truffles (pg. 96 under On Food in General), he pretty much hits the nail on the head with the description of Truffles. Mmmm, chocolate…
  • There is also a brief chapter about death and how your appetite relates to that; this man really does discuss every aspect of gastronomy. It’s a good thing the chapter is brief.
A Commonplace Book of Cookery by Robert Grabhorn

A Commonplace Book of Cookery by Robert Grabhorn

A Commonplace Book of Cookery by Robert Grabhorn
Published by Arion Press: 1975
Preface by M.F.K. Fisher

This is a rather unconventional book because it is not one that follows a specific plot or anecdote. Prior to Arion Press, Grabhorn Press was one of the best and most successful presses in California. Robert Grabhorn was one of the owning brothers of the press and was very good at what he did. He also had a hobby of clipping and collecting quotations throughout his life. So essentially what we have here is about 170 pages of quotes – all kinds of quotes about food in every form, context, and opinion, that he collected throughout his life.

A few reflect an ancient way of thinking while others are rather amusing. Here’s a sample…

  • “All things require skill but an appetite.” ~ George Herbert, 1593-1633, Outlandish Proverbs
  • “Old meat makes good soap.” ~ Italian Proverb
  • “When beer goes in wit comes out” ~ German Proverb
  • “A grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it.” ~ Author unidentified
  • Heavenly Father, bless us, and keep us all alive, there’s ten of us to dinner, and not enough for five.”         ~ Anonymous, Hodge’s Grace, c. 1850

This book was originally published by Arion Press and then later republished by North Point Press as a trade edition, in 1985. If you’re curious to read more from this collectible, be sure and come by the Wilson Room and check it out.

I’m not the first blogger to mention The Physiology of Taste, or food writing for that matter. Talented fellow blogger, Amanda, recently discussed MFK Fisher and and her book, The Art of Eating in her July 14th blog post. Be sure to check it out too!

And now for food…raiding through some of the recipes in the 1966-67 edition of Southern Living, I wonder that people survived the 60′s eating some of this stuff. No offense to the people that like this stuff, but Cheese Meat Loaf? Franks and Cheese Casserole? Really?! To each their own I guess…

But here’s a recipe from that same magazine that I tried and though it turned out well, be aware that it is incredibly sweet!

Seven-Layer CookiesSeven-Layer Cookies

1/2 stick butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 can (1-1/2 cup) coconut flakes
1 (6-ounce) package chocolate chips
1 (6-ounce) package butterscotch chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in a 9 x 12-inch baking pan (I used an 8 x 8 and it was fine). Add ingredients by layers, in order listed. Bake at 325 degrees about 30 minutes (I went the full 30 minutes). Let cool in pan, then cut into small squares.

These were incredibly easy to make, and even better, hard to mess up because as I told the man bagging my groceries at the store, you’d be surprised how easy it is to mess up a recipe. Word of advice – ALWAYS read the recipe and the box you’re opening. But this was easy, turned out well, the only warning is to eat them in small bites, they are incredibly sweet but flavorful. Enjoy!

Seven-Layer Cookies


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