Books

Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In

March 14, 2013

Since 2011 Matrix Winner Sheryl Sandberg launched her new book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" this Monday, people have received it with both praise and criticism. Sandberg's somewhat feministic manifesto on women in the workplace examines the relationship women have with their professional life, focusing how they can grow their career and lives by taking ownership and "leaning in."

Sandberg attests that "we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in," and because of this, "men still run the world." To summarize her position: though there are still deep gender biases in the workplace, excuses and justifications aren't going to help you. Instead, believe in yourself, give it your all, speak up and get it done.

Sandberg is trying to show women how to be self-aware, to understand how they are judged more harshly than men and to not let the anticipation of children detract from their course for advancement. To have a plan for themselves-to take care of business.

It's hard to not get a Jerry Maguire mission statement feeling when you read about the "Lean In" campaign, written for her people (women), yet that is exactly one of the biggest reasons this book is drawing ire-some suggest it is written for her people-mid to high-level executives looking to scale the corporate ladder, not the everyday woman, and not a one-size-fits-all commentary on gender biases and issues women face today. Naysayers feel Sandberg misses a great population of women in her movement because her brand of gender equality is privatized; only considering the employer/employee relationship which misses a large sector of the female population.

Some also feel Sandberg puts the blame on women for their career stalemates, blaming other women for not trying hard enough, shifting the responsibility completely to them, letting corporations and the bias issue off the hook, thus putting the onus on them alone to make progress in a broader culture issue-it's our fault we are not seen as equals in the workplace.

No one can doubt Sheryl Sandberg is a savvy and incredibly intelligent woman with an intense work ethic. She has broken so far above the glass ceiling that she probably cannot see it below her. Regardless of which side one takes, her "feminist movement" keeps the discussion going about a gender issue that is still so prevalent today, yet so hard to navigate clearly.

We ask our Hot Sheet Panel:

  • What are your thoughts on "Lean In"?
  • Do you think the message is too myopic when offering advice on gender issues?
  • What advice do you have for women to advance in a top heavy male workplace?

I must confess to not having read Sandberg's book yet. I'm too busy working, leading and trying to pave the way for the next generation of professionals through NYWICI Foundation Scholarships.  In Sandberg's TV interviews, however, I have heard her say that a woman has to work harder to get as far as a man.  Well, I don't think women should work any less hard - because women are doing amazing work.  Rather, I think that there are a good number of men who should be working as hard as women.  Think of the possibilities!  As for Sandberg's "Lean in" platform specifically,  my perception is that she thinks women who don't strive to be at the top of an organization are inadequate.  I want to tell women who are number 2, number 22 or number 200 in their organizations that there is no shame in doing your job well, finding satisfaction in your work, being proud of your success at every level, and being happy.  Something I read on a friend's blog recently rings true for many: "Follow the colonels.  They always know more than the generals."  
Joan Cear
Vice President, Kellen Communications
Immediate Past President, NYWICI Foundation 

First of all, as a PR professional, my hat's off to Sandberg for generating so much visibility and conversation on the broader topic even before her book's publication.

My initial impression was mixed - perhaps influenced by Maureen Dowd's column, which painted Sandberg as elitist and self-interested. But my admiration grew as I heard more.

I agree with Sandberg that what we used to call the women's movement is stalled. And it's clear that many younger women don't find "feminism" relevant to their lives and careers, or they have a dated idea of what it means. Good for Sheryl Sandberg for restarting the conversation about women reaching our full potential in the workplace, and for being willing to "lean in" herself even amidst criticism and controversy. Best of all, she proposes to extend the book's message by creating a social movement to keep it alive through a marriage of social media and social persuasion. I think that's leadership. 

It seems to me that her main message is that even though employers and government bear responsibility for creating and protecting opportunities for women, we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have now. And in a nutshell, you need to push yourself to reach your full potential. That's a message and a movement that almost anyone - rich or poor, young or old, educated or not - can benefit from.
Dorothy Crenshaw
CEO/Creative Director, Crenshaw Communications
NYWICI Foundation Board of Directors

Years ago I learned how to "lean in" without knowing the name of that concept. I broke ground in TV news at ABC in the 60's when I became their second woman correspondent. This was after learning the ropes in local news in the mid 50's - the early start of TV news. No one told me how to do it. I was ambitious and confident and figured it out. And I supported the feminist movement in broadcasting in the 70's. My career lasted 35 years... ABC was followed by CBS News, then ch. 13, then work for HBO. I now encourage young women to "go for it" in my Advanced TV Reporting class at NYU. 
Marlene Sanders
Adjunct Prof. of Journalism, New York University
New York Women in Communications President, 1973-1974

I've been an activist for women for decades, so I'm thrilled that a top female corporate leader has declared her intention to energize a new wave of women's advancement. But the inevitable backlash is a troubling diversion. For one thing, why is this a women's discussion? Who ever judged a man for not being home to cook his child's dinner or wipe her nose? Or opting not to take paternity leave? Why this incessant drumbeat about women and the work/life choices they make?
Gloria Feldt
Co-Founder/President, Take the Lead and Author of  "No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power"
Read more about Gloria Feldt's opinion in her CNN article:  Why Women Must Seize This Moment. 


What are your thoughts on “Lean In”? Sheryl Sandberg and her book Lean In are reinvigorating the conversation about women’s equality in the workplace. And, any conversation that centers on women’s success can be productive and valuable. 

Do you think the message is too myopic when offering advice on gender issues? Sandberg isn’t single handedly responsible for leading this conversion.

Just a few of the other voices involved: Ms. Magazine celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the on-going PBS MAKERS series aims to commend women’s history, Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie magazine addresses a generation of young women who claim feminism as their own in adolescence, and MORE magazine reaches women in mid-life with a balanced discussion about the culture we live in and ways we can reinvent ourselves and that space. These media present the voices, opinions, and wisdom of hundreds of accomplished women. 

Nonetheless, notice that “with such a dearth of women at the tippy-top, we want to—no, we insist that we—own them. We assume their every move and utterance symbolizes the advancement (or denigration) of our own cause….[and] are horrified when they don’t behave exactly as we would wish them to,” wrote Lesley Jane Seymour in her latest opinion piece on More.com.

Sandberg is not speaking for me or you, per se. She’s being who she is, speaking from what she knows (from her lived experience), and taking an active part in the conversation and movement to advance the role of women. 

Women’s success takes many forms. And Sandberg, rather than advocating for a common denominator or singular identity among women, is using her role to express and foster one perfectly valid form of professional women’s achievement.  

What advice do you have for women to advance in a top heavy male workplace? With a degree in Automotive Technology, my professional life began in a “male workplace.” The motto I adhered to then and offer now, regardless of who’s in leadership: Use your unique talents and attributes to stand out in authentic and valuable ways. Choose to be outstanding in your field.
Deanna Utroske
Content Producer, Digital Book World.
NYWICI Integrated Marketing Communications Committee Member, Aloud Blog Co-Editor

Lucy Lippard's "Materializing Six Years" at the Brooklyn Museum

January 14, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I set off on an excursion to the Brooklyn Museum to see the Lucy Lippard “Materializing Six Years” exhibit. Lucy has enjoyed a long career as an art critic, curator and writer with several published titles. Lucy’s 1973 reference book Six Years is a catalogue of her exhibits of conceptual artists’ work from 1966-1972. To this day, it is considered the definitive resource on conceptual art of the period. The front cover of the book includes a lengthy description of the exhibit, which is a collection of text, films, photographs and catalogs of the ideas behind the conceptual art movement. (See image below)

"Materializing Six Years" is not a primarily visual exhibit, but is rather designed to present artists’ ideas in the context of the anti-establishment sentiment prevalent in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In an essay in Brooklyn Museum's 2012 catalogue, co-curator Catherine Morris writes: “The artists…wanted to…upset the status quo of the art world, and what could be more radical than asserting that the most significant component of the visual arts is not a thing you see, but an idea that makes you see differently?”

Questioning authority was the backbone of feminism, civil rights, antiwar protests, student activism, environmentalism and gay rights. Conceptual art took form as an expression of this rebellion against the establishment. 

In the preface to the Brooklyn Museum’s 2012 catalogue, Lucy writes: “Conceptual strategies were designed to bypass the paternalistic mainstream, which infantilizes artists, making them dependent on dealers, critics and curators, sapping their energies with the effort to enter and hang on to the status quo.”

Conceptual art has been described as a historical precursor to graphic design, but it also has its detractors. It has been criticized as not accessible, pretentious even. "Materializing Six Years" requires some work on the part of the museum visitor. Lucy is not inviting us to view and appreciate aesthetic works of art, but rather to think and reflect on the ideas the artists wanted to communicate. My overall impression was that of witnessing very vivid, specific moments in time of wildly disparate thoughts and ideas. The wit and intelligence behind some of the pieces was amusing, while others evoked  a more visceral response. 

Some of the most memorable pieces in the exhibit include:

—On Kawara’s “I Got Up,” a collection of postcards recording the times he got up every day. On sent the postcards to Lucy’s Soho address daily for four months.

—Vito Acconci’s “Following,” a series of photographs documenting random people that Vito followed on the street until they entered a building. 

—Eleanor Antin’s “100 Boots,” photographed to portray hardship, antiwar sentiment and in other various settings. Eleanor printed the photos on postcards and mailed them to several people over two years and four months. All fifty-one postcards were eventually displayed at the Museum of Modern Art.

—Lee Lozano’s “No Title (Grass Piece),” a performance work documenting her attempts to stay on marijuana for a 30-day period. (Seeing her handwritten notebook pages made me think of typography and hand lettering.)

—Art for Change’s anti-Vietnam-war poster titled, “Q: And Babies? A: And Babies,” created in response to the My Lai massacre. This is perhaps the most accessible piece in the exhibit and provoked a strong feeling of outrage and sadness in me, as it was meant to.

 

The “Materializing Six Years” exhibit is on display in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum until February 17, 2013.

Note: If you haven’t been to the Brooklyn Museum, it is easily accessible on the 2 or 3 subway line, with a stop right outside the museum’s front door. The Center for Feminist Art is also home to Judy Chicago’s complex, brilliant “The Dinner Party.” This permanent installation is large-scale triangular banquet table with thirty nine place settings for archetypal, historical and mythological women. Each place setting reflects the unique legacy of the achievements of the woman being honored. Internationally acclaimed, this exhibit was created to address the paucity of feminist art in the 1970s.

 

Further reading and resources

Brooklyn Museum 

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art 

NY Times exhibit review

Brooklyn Rail art book review

Artists and the My Lai massacre 

Conceptual art 

 

Posted by: 
Giuliana Lonigro
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Edith Wharton's New York City: A Backward Glance

July 22, 2012

A couple of months ago I downloaded The New Yorker’s app "Goings On." Naturally, the “Above and Beyond” listing caught my eye, which includes an exhibit at The New York Society Library (NYSL) titled “Edith Wharton's New York City: A Backward Glance.” The exhibit opened in March 2012 to celebrate the 150 year anniversary of Edith’s birth.

It’s no secret that Edith is my favorite author, and although I haven’t made my way through her entire oeuvre, over the years I have found myself rereading some of her most celebrated novels, including The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. (I’ve also seen Martin Scorcese’s film version of “Innocence” and Terrence Davies’ version of “Mirth” more than once.)

I also enjoy reading short stories, and Edith’s collections have always captivated me, especially the “Old New York” collection, and the highly amusing “Xingu.”

In other words, I’m a fan of all things Edith Wharton.

I also have a thing for libraries, especially well preserved athenaeum types that recall genteel eras gone by. My first work/study assignment as a freshman in college was at the Michigan State University library, and I liked it so much I returned to a job there my senior year, albeit in a different department.

As you can well imagine, it wasn’t tough to extricate myself from my daily routine and schedule a field trip to the Upper East Side to learn more about Edith, and to visit what sounded like a lovely historical building housing a library.

While I was walking up to NYSL, who should walk out but an elderly man in a seersucker suit and straw hat with a grosgrain ribbon, looking like he just stepped out of an Edith Wharton novel! This was clearly an auspicious beginning for my field trip. I mean, people just don’t dress like that in the sixth borough (Jersey City) where I live.

I walked in and talked to one of the receptionists, letting her know I was writing a blog piece about the exhibit and asking if pictures were allowed. (They aren’t, because the items in the exhibit are on loan.) I walked up an elegant staircase to the second floor, catching a glimpse of a well-appointed members' reading room to the left. The exhibit consists of a few glass vitrines containing photographs, letters, books and other memorabilia. Some of the items are on loan from Edith’s extended family, including Jonathan LeRoy King, whose father was Edith’s cousin Frederic Rhinelander King; from The Mount, Edith’s estate in the Berkshires; and beautiful first editions of The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, recently donated to the Library.

Head of Exhibitions Curator Harriet Shapiro stopped by to provide some helpful background on the exhibit. From Harriet, I learned that many items in the exhibit had never been seen before. Examples include a portrait of Edith as a child and several letters on loan from Rhinelander King. Edith’s sister-in-law, Mary (Minnie) Cadwallader Jones, also figures prominently in the exhibit. Minnie served as Edith’s close friend, researcher and literary agent.

The exhibit includes copies of the charging ledgers of the time periods when Edith’s father George Frederic Jones borrowed books. The logs reveal that Jones borrowed several novels, many in French, and that he enjoyed poetry.

Founded in 1754, the Library is the oldest cultural institution in New York City. It also functioned as the Library of Congress when New York was the capital of the United States. President George Washington, Vice President John Adams, Chief Justice John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and several members of Congress all borrowed books.

As its collections grew, the NYSL moved several times over the years. In 1937, it moved from 109 University Place, not far from Edith’s childhood home on West 23rd Street, to its current location in a 1917 Italianate Townhouse on 79th Street, between Park & Madison Avenues.

While compact, the NYSL’s exhibit provides a chance to delve deeper into Edith Wharton as a person, beyond her extraordinary talent as a writer. An exhibit catalogue with additional information is available for purchase. If you haven’t been to NYSL, the New York Times describes it best: "If old bookstores intoxicate you, you’ll need smelling salts when you walk down aisles of biography, history, fiction, art and other topics, average age measured not in years but decades. It is a temple to the hands-on book lover."

This exhibit will be on view until Dec. 31, 2012.

 

Further Reading

NYSL first charging ledger
Xingu
Edith Wharton’s obituary in The New York Times
Edith Wharton’s Autobiography: A Backward Glance
Where Fusty Is Fabulous, The New York Times

 

Posted by: 
Giuliana Lonigro
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Remembering Geraldine Ferraro

March 26, 2011
Today Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for national office on a major party ticket, died at age 75 after a long battle with multiple myeloma. We first published the profile below on March 23, 2010 for Women's History Month. The  author, Linda Levi, is a long-term admirer and a former constituent from Geraldine's days in Congress representing Queens.
 

Geraldine Ferraro, born in 1935 and raised in working-class Bronx and Queens neighborhoods, was the first in her family to graduate college. She attended Marymount Manhattan College, on a scholarship no less, where she was the editor of the school newspaper. While working as a schoolteacher by day, she went on to earn a law degree at night from Fordham Law School in 1960; she was one of only two women in her class and told she “was taking up a space for a man.” But that attitude didn’t stop Geraldine and was just the beginning of some of the “firsts” she was to achieve.

To begin, Geraldine kept her maiden name professionally after marrying her husband, John Zaccaro, in 1960, hardly the custom then. But Geraldine says she did it in honor of her mother, who always encouraged Geraldine to get a college education even when an uncle questioned why it was necessary. After all, he said, “she was a girl and would get married.”

Unable to get a job at any of the law firms she interviewed at because, as one law firm partner admitted, “You’re terrific but we are not hiring any women this year,” Geraldine worked part-time as a civil attorney in her husband’s real estate firm while giving birth to and raising three children. Her first full-time job, beginning in 1974, was as an Assistant District Attorney in Queens, where women prosecutors were uncommon and she earned less than her male colleagues because she “was married and had a husband.” But she made a name for herself in the Special Victims Bureau prosecuting cases of rape and child and spousal abuse.

Frustrated she couldn’t deal with root causes behind crimes she was prosecuting, she ran for Congress in 9th District of Queens, then known as Archie Bunker’s district (and this blogger’s childhood Congressional District). This largely blue-collar district was conservative, but Geraldine’s campaign slogan — “Finally, a Tough Democrat” — and her humble Italian-American roots helped her win a tough three-way primary and then the general election. The first Congresswoman from Queens, Geraldine quickly found prominence on Capitol Hill and focused her legislative attention on equity for women in the areas of wages, pensions and retirement plans; she co-sponsored the 1981 Economic Equity Act.

But it was in 1984 that Geraldine made history, 64 years after women gained the right to vote, when she became the first woman to be on a major political party’s national ticket as a VP candidate, with Walter Mondale.

Female delegates at the Democratic Convention that year were joyous and proud, and the party thought Geraldine would help exploit the gender gap of that era. While she and Mondale did not win that election, Geraldine feels “every time a woman runs, women win” and that she “opened a door for women in national politics.”  

The seasoned politician next became a bestselling writer when Ferraro: My Story was published in 1985. She also used her fame and communications skills when she hit the lecture circuit and began doing TV commentary. Her second book, Changing History: Women, Power & Politics, came out in 1993. In 1996, she co-hosted CNN’s Crossfire, where her rapid-fire speech and prosecutorial style played well against her co-host, Pat Buchanan. 

She left CNN to run for the Senate but lost. That defeat may have ended Geraldine’s career in politics, but not her place in history or in the world of communications. Her next book, Framing a Life: A Family Memoir, came out in 1998, and she joined the Fox News Channel as a commentator in 1999. Since then she has worked tirelessly to make workplaces more amenable to women. At age 75, she still works part-time saying, “If I fully retired, I’d go nuts.” But perhaps the true measure of her historical impact is that Geraldine Ferraro has forever changed the political future for women — even if her own political career was cut short. 

On November 13, 2008 Geraldine took part in a NYWICI panel titled "The Spin Room: Gender, Politics and Media in the 2008 Election." Below, a few photos from that discussion. Photos: maryannerussell.com

Left to right: Panelists Marie Wilson, Lesley Jane Seymour, Arianna Huffington and
Geraldine Ferraro, with moderator Carol Jenkins.
 
 
 
Click here to read the New York Times obituary of Geraldine Ferraro.
 
Additional sources and reading:
 
 
Posted by: 
Linda Levi
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Black History Month Profile: Mary Church Terrell

January 30, 2011

Throughout February, Aloud will celebrate Black History Month with profiles of history-making African-American women. We begin with Mary Church Terrell.

Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954) was a child of former slaves who became a teacher, author, orator, suffragist and founder of the NAACP.

The website of the Library of America (LoA) recently wrote about Ms. Terrell and published a remarkable 1906 speech she gave to a Washington, D.C., women's club. As LoA's introduction to the speech notes, "Terrell’s remarkable career culminated when, at the age of 86, she led a three-year campaign of court actions, boycotts, and picketing that in 1953 ended the segregation of restaurants in Washington, D.C. — a practice that had been introduced (in defiance of the city’s integration laws from the 1870s) at the very start of her career." We excerpt the speech here.

"What It Means to be Colored in the Capital of the United States"

by Mary Church Terrell

"Washington, D.C., has been called 'The Colored Man’s Paradise.' Whether this sobriquet was given to the national capital in bitter irony by a member of the handicapped race, as he reviewed some of his own persecutions and rebuffs, or whether it was given immediately after the war by an ex-slave-holder who for the first time in his life saw colored people walking about like freemen, minus the overseer and his whip, history saith not. It is certain that it would be difficult to find a worse misnomer for Washington than 'The Colored Man's Paradise' if so prosaic a consideration as veracity is to determine the appropriateness of a name.

"For fifteen years I have resided in Washington, and while it was far from being a paradise for colored people, when I first touched these shores, it has been doing its level best ever since to make conditions for us intolerable."

To continue reading, click here.

 

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Remembering Our Veterans

November 10, 2010

Emmy-winning television correspondent Rita Cosby never knew about her father's experiences in World War II until 2 years ago, when she discovered a battered leather case containing his POW tag. Finally they began to talk, and the result was Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past, the book Rita wrote about her father that was published earlier this year. For Veteran's Day we asked Rita to share some of what she learned.

As we honor and celebrate veterans this week, I am honored to celebrate the father I never really knew until recently when we began an incredible journey of discovery together.

Although as a journalist I have interviewed many difficult and renowned people, getting my own father to finally talk about his wartime experience was my toughest interview yet, and the most important story of my life. My father had a secret past, and like many of the Greatest Generation, he was “simply doing the right thing.” But the pain of war ran deep, and for my father, so buried was the trauma of war that he left his homeland of Poland, came to America and changed his name from Ryszard Kossobudzki to Richard Cosby, and decided to lock his harrowing teenage years up in a memory vault never to be opened again…especially with his own family.

I always wondered about the visible scars etched across my father’s body. When I was 8 years old on a camping trip with my family, I remember asking my mother about the scars, wondering like a curious child, if my father had gotten into a fight. Now I have learned that he was fighting for his life when he got each of those scars, and that in addition to the ones obviously strewn across his body, there were many more unseen scars that tore my father emotionally and left him distant and mentally removed from his own family, his own daughter.

When I questioned my mother about his scars, she pointedly replied, “Your father went through tough times growing up. We don’t talk about it.” The door was closed. It was clear it was a topic that was off limits. I wonder if I became a journalist, known for grilling others with questions, because I was not able to ask them in my own home…until now.
Everything changed after my mother died when I discovered an old suitcase in a storage locker, which essentially contained my father’s past. There was a rusty POW tag emblazoned with a prisoner number and Stalag 4b, a bloody and worn Polish Resistance armband and a card with someone’s secret codenames. My father had left my mom and basically the family when I was a teenager, yet when I saw these powerful pieces of history and heroism I knew it was time to learn who my father really was, and I nervously called him.

The next few months were spent drawing him out and discovering a story of a young man who grew up quickly fighting for his country against the Nazis, covertly joining the Resistance, escaping through the Warsaw sewers in sheer darkness and terror, and ultimately being seriously wounded and thrown into a massive POW camp about an hour from Dresden.

This Veteran’s Day I am deeply grateful to the U.S. military. After escaping from the POW camp, weighing only 90 pounds and 6 feet tall, my dad was saved by the U.S. military. My new book, Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past, is a reminder of the cost of freedom and a tribute to those who fight on the front lines to defend it. It is also a reminder that no matter how hard it is to draw these stories out from truly humble men and women, it is important we do it now before it’s too late. More than 1,000 WWII veterans are dying every day, and we must capture these stories for history.

It has been the greatest assignment of my career and I am truly thankful to now have an extraordinary father in my life who will never forget the young American GIs who hugged him and told him he was finally free.

Click here for more information about Quiet Hero. Below, see Rita talk about her father and how much her discovery means to her.

Posted by: 
Rita Cosby
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Banned Books Week Starts September 25

September 22, 2010

September 25 marks the start of Banned Books Week 2010. Given the recent threats to burn the Qur'an, this annual event, which brings attention to the importance of the First Amendment and the freedom to read what we choose, is particularly well-timed.

As the American Library Association points out, "Banned Books Week stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them." Every year, the sponsors  — an assortment of organizations including booksellers, publishers, journalists and libraries — schedule events including readings at libraries, schools and even churches all over the country. You can find a list of events here.

 

The Banned Books Week website has the list of this year's 10 most challenged titles. They range from Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson's And Tango Makes Three — a true story about two male penguins that became a couple and raised an egg — to perennial book-banning targets To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye and The Color Purple. The mind reels.

Censorship is a danger that never really goes away and increases when people are polarized and afraid. Some quotes to think about and share:

"You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. Yet in their hearts there is unspoken — unspeakable! — fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts! Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home, all the more powerful because they are forbidden. These terrify them. A little mouse — a little tiny mouse! — of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic."
~ Winston Churchill 

"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."
~ Thomas Jefferson

“Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.”
~ Heinrich Heine

 “Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.” 
~ George Bernard Shaw 

“All books can be indecent books, though recent books are bolder.
For filth, I'm glad to say, is in the mind of the beholder.
When correctly viewed, everything is lewd. 
I could tell you things about Peter Pan,
And the Wizard of OZ, there's a dirty old man!”
~ Tom Lehrer

 

 

Posted by: 
Michele Hush
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Summer (Reading) in the City

July 12, 2010

With the humidity hovering at hellish levels, it's a great time to stretch out in air-conditioned splendor and pop open a good book (either on Kindle, iPad, Nook or even dead trees). With everyone looking for some good summer reads, here are some suggestions of titles and resources that have caught our attention.

What are you reading this summer? And where are you finding new book ideas? Please post your comments below.


What to read….

Books to get away from it all: Try the well-crafted, entertaining novels of Sarah Waters, who made her name with melodramas set in Victorian times (Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet) and has now expanded her repertoire into 20th century England with The Night Watch and The Little Stranger.

Books about books: Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl, a writer so beloved by other librarians she has her own action figure, offers plenty of off-the-beaten-path ideas in Book Lust and More Book Lust. Her super-short essays pack in many ideas on different themes and highlight the “best authors you’ve never heard of.”

Great reads about NYC: The World in the City by Joseph Berger is a fascinating collection of pieces about the constantly evolving neighborhoods of New York City, especially those outside increasingly homogenized Manhattan. And for a look back at New York before the Gap arrived and the city lost a little bit of its otherness, check out New York Stories: Landmark Writing from Four Decades of New York Magazine.

…and where to find it

Best NYC indie bookstore you may not have heard of: Word bookstore in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint offers a small but eclectic collection of top-notch fiction and nonfiction, amazing events and friendly service. Worth a trip to the land of the G train to check out, and there’s even a La Gamin down the block if you need a café au lait fix, or a park across the street to relax with your new purchases.

Best NYC literary institution you may not have heard of: The Center for Fiction  in midtown Manhattan is a private library founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library. For a very reasonable annual membership fee, you’ll have access to a blissfully quiet, old-school sanctuary of fiction, as well as free admission to regular readings. Non-members can check out the small bookstore in the front of the library, Lit 47, with an interesting selection of both used and new books.

Buy books on Amazon, and do good for New York Women in Communcations at the same time: Use this link to do your shopping on Amazon.com, and a portion goes to NYWICI’s Foundation, which raises money for student scholarships.
 

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Two Women Who Changed the Literary World

June 24, 2010

Every year on June 16 people all over the world celebrate Bloomsday, the day on which James Joyce’s great novel Ulysses takes place. Here in New York, for example, Symphony Space hosts a reading of Ulysses excerpts by bold-face names from many fields. This year’s event — the 29th Bloomsday on Broadway — included Stephen Colbert, Ira Glass, Colum McCann, Marian Seldes, John Shea, Tony Roberts, Dana Ivey and Malachy McCourt, among others.

Twitter was abuzz with wonderful Joycean posts, including a particularly moving one by Jessa Crispin (“@thebookslut” on Twitter and a blogger for Bookslut.com). Writing for the Barnes and Noble Review, she discussed Sylvia Beach and Margaret Anderson, two American literary visionaries who ferociously championed Joyce’s work, defying both criticism and prosecution to ensure that Ulysses was published. (That’s Sylvia Beach with Joyce at left.)


Want a little inspiration? Read the excerpt from Jessa Crispin’s article below and then click on the link at the end for more. (Used with permission of Barnes and Noble.)

Two Women's Modern Odyssey

By Jessa Crispin

My friend Manan Ahmed, a professor at Freie Universität in Berlin, is giving a lecture called "Situating a Universal: Liminal Sindh in Medieval and Early Modern South Asia." I am in the back, but my brain is in 1920s Paris, with Manan's maps of the 11th-century Middle East layered in the background. I have been gorging on the letters of Sylvia Beach and the memoirs of Margaret Anderson so when Manan pauses and asks, "What does it mean to situate yourself in the frontier?," instead of port cities and conquerors on horseback, I think of these two women, joined by a mad love for James Joyce's Ulysses, exploring the world of modernism and bringing its treasure to the empire's doorstep.

Because when Manan says "frontier," he means in opposition to the empire. To be in the frontier means to be in exile from the kingdom's purview, to hack through uncharted territory rather than walk the paved streets of the capital city. Both Beach and Anderson felt drawn to the world of letters, but lacking a smoldering desire to put pen to paper, and without an introductory letter that might lead to a publishing job, each planted her flag in her own plot of literary land. Anderson transformed herself from a small-town Indiana girl to founder and editor of the incomparable Little Review, the whole start-up funded by a friend's pawned wedding ring. Beach flung herself into the arms of Paris, after realizing she could never afford to open a bookstore in New York; with a small storefront, the help of fellow bookstore owner Adrienne Monnier, and one telegram to her mother — "Opening bookshop in Paris. Please send money" — Shakespeare & Company was born. Anderson wrote in her memoirs that there was "something cosmic in the air, a feeling of worlds in the making." (Above, a photo of Margaret Anderson taken by artist Man Ray.)

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"Her antiquity in preceding and surviving succeeding tellurian generations: her nocturnal predominance: her satellitic dependence: her luminary reflection: her constancy under all her phases, rising and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning: the forced invariability of her aspect: her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation: her potency over effluent and refluent waters: her power to enamour, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency: the tranquil inscrutability of her visage: the terribility of her isolated dominant resplendent propinquity: her omens of tempest and of calm: the stimulation of her light, her motion and her presence: the admonition of her craters, her arid seas, her silence: her splendour, when visible: her attraction, when invisible."
— James Joyce (Ulysses)?

 

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Mighty Morphin' Bronte Sisters

May 12, 2010

Last December writer James Chartrand of Men with Pens attracted both support and criticism when she revealed that she was actually a she, not a he. The shock was not that she'd done it — many women writers have used male pseudonyms over the years — but that, even now, using a man's name had such a dramatic impact on her income.

In the past week, a very funny video about those most famous women writers in male disguise, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, has been making the rounds on the Internet. I'm not sure what triggered it, since the video (a fake commercial) was made 12 years ago by writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose latest creation is the film adaptation of the popular children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. But it's definitely worth a look.

Bring on the Brontësaurus!
 

 

Posted by: 
Michele Hush
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